Friday, December 04, 2015

Life - Music, emotion, and, well, "life"

A while ago my brother pointed out that music can get "worn out". A song's searing emotional effect can fade if you listen to the same song too often. In fact there is one of his songs that I've never used in a cycling clip because it's just too much for me. I want to keep that song precious for me and I actually rarely listen to it at all because its powerful effect on me.

The clip below is a song that I'm trying to save a bit for later (meaning for myself, not for a cycling clip), if that makes sense. Still fresh for me right now, even though it's a commercial top hit. Although I haven't made any clips using commercial music, I have thought of particular projects using particular songs. I was into one moderately commercial song in 2006 when I read and heard about a special pro race in Europe (so it ended noon or so our time, while I was at work). I was so pumped after the race ended, and it tied in so well with the music, that I could see the whole clip in my head before I drove home. Unfortunately I never finished the clip and it's not timely at all so it'll linger for a long time.

Having said that now I have another inspiration - I'd love to make a cycling clip using this music, inspired by the lyric video linked below.

For me music has a lot of power. It tugs at my emotion strings, as much as a hint of a scent, a sample of someone's voice, all those human emotion things. Music evokes in me what I'm sure is a measurable physiological response.

Back in the day, on emotionally charged rides, I found myself feeling unstoppable. In the times before heart rate monitors and power meters I didn't have an objective metric, but the climbs I did in the big ring all over the place, trembling with adrenaline, all while humming particular songs… there had to be something there.

Based on those kinds of rides I tried to conditionally train myself to have adrenaline rushes. I would grip my bars a certain way before doing any major effort, trying to get the adrenaline flowing just by returning to that "sprint only" grip.

This worked for many years. I'd intentionally stay away from the "sprint grip" (basically on the drops but just a touch higher than normal so my forearms were a bit flatter) during races so that at 1 or 2 to go, when I finally went to it, I was well into the adrenaline boost mode.

In my younger racing years I had plenty of opportunities for spiky emotions, like any young person experiences. As I got older I realized that the spikes were flatter but more robust. As a teen, or in my early twenties, I'd be super high and super low within the space of a day or two (usually related to stuff like girls and such). As I got older the spikes seemed a bit blunted but the breadth of the emotion felt more expansive. Instead of feeling a week or three of intense "crush" emotions, they went on for months, even years.

The emotions could be triggered by anything. When I was racing the track in 2009 I'd drive up feeling the normal pre-race excitement.

But on the way back?

I felt like a kid again.

I had no idea why. I felt totally inspired, I felt that crazy rush for whatever reason, it was all I could do not to drive like a nut. I'd crank the music (which only increased the adrenaline thing), drive in the summer heat with the AC on (chilled air seems to amplify said adrenaline thing), and, well, just revel in the rush I felt.

It wasn't even like I was racing well at the track. It was something else, I don't know what it was.

Back in 2000-2003 my mom was battling cancer. It was a super emotional time for me, and I think I emotionally "used up" much of the music I listened to then. I spent a lot of time driving with the music cranked loudly, burning through the music's power over me. I'm just now starting to listen to that music now, and it's still a bit burnt emotionally. Most of those songs I listen for 10 or 20 seconds and I click to skip it; a few I listen for a minute or two, but there are none that I listen and listen and suddenly it's the end of the song.

Now it seems it's my dad's turn. He's physically healthy but other than that… He stopped recognizing me early this year, maybe around the Spring Series time. He has difficulty getting up. He hasn't spoken a word in years because he hasn't been able to say anything.

My SPS ("significant personal stuff"), a term I mentioned before, is to take care of my dad.

The plan is to move him into our house, for me to look after him. It'll be hard, for sure, but I feel compelled to do this.

My Pops, me, and Junior, when Junior was a day old.
I had just returned from the second 2012 Bethel Spring Series race.

I remember his vibrancy when I was a kid. We'd rake leaves, shovel the driveway, cut wood for the fireplace. When I was a little kid he couldn't afford gravel for the driveway so he'd break rocks with a hammer. There's a picture of me sitting in my diaper on our driveway, hammer in hand, rocks in front of me.

He drove carefully. I could tell when he was serious because all of his shifts were so methodical, his motions to use the turn signal perfect, no wasted energy, everything "just so". When he was distracted he'd let things slip a bit but then he'd catch himself and become more deliberate again.

He was always methodical about what he did. He tried to have back ups, when he understood what he needed to have a back up. As a chemical engineer he was appalled by one manager's response to a non-functioning eye wash station in a huge plant. The fix? They hung a sign that said, "Out of order".

He'd rake or chop wood or whatever like a machine. Even as recently as 10 or so years ago the tree guys would joke that my dad would put them out of business, he was clearing so much stuff (the tree guys would get the high stuff; he got the low stuff).

He worked really hard for the kids, and, really, for the grand kids. He felt a duty to provide for them, and I never understood even a little bit of it until now, and I honestly am still coming to terms with just how powerful this urge is for me. At times it was tough, but I think that's the case with anyone. He went from growing up in war torn Japan to being able to provide for his family in the US. After traveling all over the world, living on three continents, in the end he adopted the US as his home, choosing to live here instead of anywhere else in the world.

My dad can't care for himself any longer. My brother has been caring for my dad for many years but is reaching the end of his tether. My other brother and I both volunteered to take over, and, for mainly logistical reasons, my dad will be moving in with the Missus, Junior, and myself, toward the end of the year.

This means I'll be his 24/7 caretaker for the foreseeable future.

My brother told me that it's hard to explain just what it'll be like. It's like having a kid - you can explain and demonstrate and all that but until you experience it you just don't know. Likewise, this will be an unfathomable thing until I do it. I just hope to be up for it.

In preparation for this I've mentally written off 2016. I really can't leave the house much so no racing, no training outdoors. No real dinners out, no trips, etc. I'm trying to figure out a way to make the Aetna Spring Series a reality - it's still in the forefront of my mind, definitely more important than my own riding. I have strong hopes of pulling it off, although I'll be physically absent from the actual races.

The Missus, also, has accepted this, supporting my urge to care for my dad. It'll really disrupt her life but she's behind this 100%. She's always supported what I've done - the racing, the promoting, job stuff - and she's once again throwing herself into the effort. So to her, a thank you in advance, and many more to come I'm sure.

My last day working at the car place is next Wednesday - I have three work days left. After that it'll be a frantic two weeks to get the house ready, and then we'll bring my dad here for what we think will be the rest of his life.

I have no idea what that means, to tell the truth. I've written off a year already. A second year seems distant but possible, in terms of both caring for him as well as him continuing on. After that I may need help, and it may be that my dad will need more than I can provide. Whatever happens, we'll see when we get there. For now it'll be me taking care of him.

In the meantime?

I'll listen to music and I'll revel in this special thing called life.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Life - It's Been A While

So it's been a while since I posted, so much so that I actually forgot what I've posted about other than races.

I haven't posted in a while because life has gotten busy. I'm consciously putting away the computer for much of the time Junior is up (both to pay attention to him as well as to encourage me and him to do more "regular" play). Between the two (life, Junior) the blog sort of fell into a comatose state.

I'm going to present some sweeping things; later, I hope, I'll drill down into some of those broad statements and dissect them a bit. I think there will be stuff that I hope will help a variety of people. Some stuff is bike stuff, and perhaps people can learn from that. The other is life stuff and I think that's stuff that people will experience, are experiencing, or will experience. Hopefully someone gets something out of that as well.


First off, we have Junior, our now 3 3/4 year old son. He's been great, we love him to pieces, and we want the best for him. Part of that means making some changes for his benefit. One of those things has been to cut down dramatically on computer use, at least for me, on the days I'm with him. Before I used to still fiddle around on the computer while he was running around. Now I'd rather interact with him, or do "real life" stuff (chores or whatever). Also, once the computer comes out, he wants to watch whatever - YouTube (toys and such), Netflix (kid stuff), and, sometimes, my own bike race clips (his favorite is "When the racer turns green", my Zwift clip. The computer often sits off to the side now, to avoid distracting both him and me.

Junior, doing a fitting for his cousin's hat (that the Missus knit).


The big thing for me was starting work, back in the summer. I tried not to make a big deal out of it because it was a sales job, and anything I wrote about the job could be construed as trying to sell stuff through my blog.

One thing that I'd never experienced is the massive "parental block" in place at work. Pretty much any streaming video, any motion gif, and anything with "blog" or "forum" or "news" or "mail" in it is blocked. Work specific sites are allowed, local competitors (but a couple manufacturer's sites were blocked for some reason, forcing me to view local competitors' sites to gather data), but overall it slashed any internet browsing down to virtually zilch. This meant no chipping away at blog posts or whatever.

I generally don't post about work and such but the picture below tells you about the job at least.

This car sat next to my desk for months.
Sort of karmically (is that a word?) I sold it yesterday.

Spring Series

Part of the reason for working was to pay for the Aetna Nutmeg Spring Series for this year. The races lost a lot of money, and I was still paying stuff off a few months later. I had to start working, partially to pay those bills.

This brings me to another major thing in my life - the Spring Series. I've been debating internally whether or not I can hold them in 2016. The big question is affordability - if I can't afford to hold the races then it doesn't make much sense holding them. I did a quick and dirty survey to see if racers would pay more (they would). I've promised to do my best to hold them in 2016. Based on the idea of a higher entry fee and the promise to hold the Series, I've informally secured two venues, the third is available (but nowhere near secured), allowing for five weeks of racing. 

Joel stepping into the trailer, 2014 Bethel Spring Series.


Then another life factor came into play. I'm sure I'll go into this a bit more later but for now I'm just labeling it "significant personal stuff" or SPS. It's significant because my expectation is that the SPS will do the following:

1. Make it realistically close to impossible to race for the foreseeable future, because I won't be able to get to the venue.

2. Make it realistically close to impossible to be at a venue to promote a race, because I won't be able to get to the venue.

3. Make it impossible to hold a job, because I won't be able to get to the office, or, if I'm working from home, I may not be able to get to the computer here.

4. Force me (and the Missus) to make some wholesale changes to our house, something we're starting to do already.


If you look at those things it appears that, first, I have to quit my job, because the race things have to do with next year, not right now, and we're already making changes to our house.

I tendered my resignation a couple weeks ago, effective a week from tomorrow.

I gave them as much notice as possible. Depending on how things go, it's possible that I return there, I don't know. I'd at least like to keep the option open. Plus it's the right thing to do.

(This also means that if you want a Cadillac, Fiat, Alfa, Maserati, Jaguar, or VW, let me know now. I can't promise anything deal wise but at least you'll have a friendly data point on pricing, you can learn about the cars, etc)

Next, it makes it seem virtually impossible to hold a Spring Series. I'm trying to make it possible to do the Series, I just need to figure out how. I'm working on it.

Finally, it's apparent that I won't be racing much this year. This I accept and I've already planned on doing, at most, one race next year. I hope to do that one race (whatever race, even a Tuesday Night training race would be fine) so that I can say I raced in 2016, but it'll be very, very tough to do.

In the meantime I'll have interim racing-related goals - return to my April 2015 weight (or lower), try to ride the trainer semi-regularly, and do some core/other stuff to keep my back okay. I also want to spend some time returning my second bike (the black one) back into working order. I spent the last two years without a real back up bike, and to me that's not good.


In a future post I'll do some stuff on Zwift. Basically, for 2015, I managed to avoid training outdoors the entire year. Zwift was a big part of this, motivating me to do some big efforts on the trainer and keeping me fit enough to do some solid racing in the 2015 season. Before Zwift I never did sprints on the trainer and I rarely did "big efforts" longer than than a sprint.

So that's what's been going on here. I'd like to start posting a bit more regularly, perhaps with shorter but more frequent posts. I don't know.