Monday, August 31, 2009

Group dynamics

Saturday was the Sanpete Classic, a race I first heard about a year ago after Kris did it. At the time I thought “that sounds like a cool race. I wish there were more events like that in Boise.”

Since then I’ve moved. I’ve also learned I have ties to the host town of Spring City, a place I had never been but that my ancestors helped settle back in the 19th century. And thus I completed my tour of small Utah towns I have ties with and that one would never peg for hosting a road race but do anyway.

As we lined up for the start, Eric from Skull Candy, with whom I had carpooled to the race, said “there’s a few guys from Canyon who are planning to make our lives miserable today.”

And how. One of them, Alex (not that Alex), went on a break at the opening gun, er, cannon (they start the race with a cannon blast, which is really annoying after the first one). My plan, since I had no teammates, was to let solo breaks go, go with a break of three or more, and unless I was in a break that had a chance of success, stay out of the wind.

It didn’t take very long for someone to bridge. Then Eric bridged. They were up to three, so I went. And everyone followed.

Once Alex was back in the fold, he went again. This time he had one guy with him from the outset. Then another. Then everyone followed the fourth.

I figured the guy was tired of this by now, but no. He went yet again. Another guy was right on him, so I jumped again. And again, everyone was on my wheel, and we were all back together.

He wasn’t in the field five minutes before he went one more time. This time, he just hung out there alone for a while, not making any ground, and not losing any. Then a Simply Mac guy went, followed by Will from Spin Cycle, and a guy from Cyclesmith. They were about 40 seconds up the road when we hit some rollers and they disappeared. For a long time.

The waiting game began. Some Canyon guys got on the front and soft pedaled at a whopping 18 mph. The break was going 24-25. Nobody gave chase. Each of the guys in the break had at least two teammates back. With 31 starters, that left about 20 of us with nobody in the break. You’d think it wouldn’t take much to get us organized. But if you thought that, you’d be wrong.

Two things were clear: 1) The break would never be caught if nobody got serious about a chase; 2) Nobody would do anything about chasing until somebody did something. So I threw my race strategy out the window and got on the front. I had very little help for about 15 miles.

Then something good happened: the Cat. 5’s caught us. Even though it’s the furthest thing from the truth, every single Cat. 4 thinks he’s faster than every single Cat. 5. Or at least he wants to believe it enough that he’s willing to put in some effort to not be behind the Cat. 5 field that started five minutes back.

We got ahead of the Cat. 5’s but still weren’t moving real fast. I got back in the pack and figured I couldn’t do it alone, so I’d wait for someone else or sprint for fifth. Then Eric drifted back and told me he had four guys willing to chase, so I went back to the front and worked, this time with help.

Some Simply Mac and Canyon guys tried to get in the rotation to slow it down, but we just elbowed them out of the way. I didn’t watch the speed, but it was fast. Just before we caught the break, I was blown and had to drift back. Once we were in sight, though, the guys in the break sat up. Turns out Will (Spin) and Alex (Canyon) were the only guys working; Cyclesmith and Simply Mac were just sitting in.

Nobody did much until about 2K to go. We knew it was going to come to a sprint, and everyone was jittery. But instead of a team getting on the front and pushing the pace to set up their man, things slowed.

With 1K to go, a Simply Mac guy went on a solo flier. He had two teammates on the front blocking. Nobody chased. I knew if I went, I’d bring the whole field with me and ruin my chances in the sprint. We were now racing for 2nd place.

I had recovered a little but knew I didn’t have much in the legs, so I didn’t want to sprint too early. We crossed 200 meters to go and nobody moved. 150 to go and finally it went. I gave it what I had but was boxed in and couldn’t get around. 2nd, 3rd, and 4th all beat me by two bike lengths or less. 5th place beat me by less than half a wheel.

I don’t think any of those guys spent more than a minute or two on the front all race, so I was actually happy with the results. 6th place was in the points, albeit barely, and I'm quite certain nobody, except perhaps two of the four guys in the break, did as much work as I did. It was a good confidence boost that even when I’m tired, I can still hold my own in a sprint. Plus I never felt under any pressure on any of the short climbs.

We’ll see if the form holds for Lotoja. I hope it will. As weary as I am from a long season, I find myself wishing there were a few more races in the fall. Hopefully the motivation will carry through to next year.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Back to school night

I've never known any strippers. I heard rumors that one of my sister's friends took it up after high school to pay her way through college. But since I was 14 at the time, I had no way to legally verify this.

After high school, a bunch of guys pitched in to hire a stripper for another friend before he shipped off to Navy boot camp. I wasn't actually present, though, because the girl I had a crush on at the time asked me before the "show" began whether I was actually going to stick around.

"Of course not," I said. And sat in the hotel lobby with her (hi, Kim!).

I bring this up simply as context for what I'm going to say next. Because I have no basis for my assertions, being wholly unfamiliar as I am with the behavior of strippers.

However, if I were to imagine how strippers are when they're not on the job, I imagine them being a certain way. And perhaps dressing a certain way. And that way is not how my wife or mom or sisters or most of my neighbors (except for one) typically dress.

So imagine my surprise when I take my son to his first day of kindergarten yesterday, and several of the moms were dressed how I imagine strippers dress on their days off. Maybe I'm uptight or prudish, or maybe that's how it is these days, or maybe it's just a Utah thing, because the moms certainly did not dress that way when we dropped our older daughter off for kindergarten in Idaho.

I went off to work thinking that it was an aberration, a fluke, an oddity of that particular morning and that particular kindergarten class. And then last night I took the kids to back-to-school night. I know the economy is bad and all, but if all these moms are supplementing the family income by working at a strip club, I'm trying to figure out where. Night Moves in Boise had "dancers wanted" on the marquee on our way to the trailhead Saturday. But last I checked, there were no strip clubs in Highland, Utah. Either that, or I just don't know about them. Maybe I should go on more of these night rides everyone is talking about.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lab rats and cowboy boots (straight from brokeback mountain)

Yesterday afternoon, I picked up Steve from his house to go down to UVU for our last round of testing with Pat. We’ve been guinea pigs for some research Pat has been doing on the recovery benefits of compression tights. For our troubles we’ve been able to get our VO2 max tested as well as some power testing.

As I arrived at Steve’s house he mentioned that his boss had gotten into it during 1,000 Warriors with a guy in UVU team kit. Since Pat is President of the UVU cycling club, we figured he’d know who it was.

Not long after arriving, we got talking about 1,000 Warriors. We didn’t need to ask. Pat told us about how some fred (Pat's words, not mine) wearing an ipod nearly wrecked him on the climb up from Sundance, and when Pat said something to him, the guy smacked him in the face. Pat was pretty wound up but saw that karma took care of things before he could when the guy crashed on the descent (not that crash, thankfully). Steve’s boss has a torn AC joint in his shoulder but otherwise is OK. We’ll see if he continues wearing the ipod in races…

The testing itself was pretty cool. Other than getting actual VO2 max numbers, though, I don’t know if it told us anything we didn’t already know. During our TT effort, we each pushed exactly the same average wattage for the 20 minutes, but how we got there was a bit different. Steve was fairly steady throughout with a solid push for the final minute. My output was generally a little below Steve’s throughout and more variable, but my final push was enough higher than his to level our averages. We’ve always known that Steve burns diesel, as it were, and I burn gasoline, the test just confirmed it.

We did one hour on the bike, rested three hours, then did a 20 minute TT effort. We did this on two occasions, one with compression tights during the recovery period, one without. Here’s Steve during his 60 minute effort. One of Pat’s teammates doing VO2 max testing is in the background, with Pat at the controls.

As for the benefits of compression tights, as far as power output goes, Steve did better after wearing them, I did better after not wearing them. One thing I did notice, though, is that I tend to retain water and gain weight after a hard effort. The day after the test when I used compression tights during recovery, I weighed a pound less than I did the day before. The day after the test when I didn’t use compression tights, I weighed three pounds more than I did the day before. My legs also “felt” better the day after wearing compressions tights, so I think there’s some benefit there, even if it didn’t show up in the TT.

In completely unrelated news, Steve’s daughter and my son (as well as another cousin) started kindergarten today. Both kids were very excited. Starting school meant new shoes, or in my son’s case, boots. My son can’t tie shoes yet, so he usually wears crocs when it’s warm and cowboy boots in the cooler months. Over the weekend, he and I went boot shopping.

For the past two years, we’ve bought him the same boots with brown split-grain leather uppers and lugged soles. There’s nothing feminine about them. And yet when I asked for the same boots again, the salesman told me “that’s a girl's boot.”

“How do you figure?”

“Look at the sole, it’s the same as on these women’s boots.”

I just ignored him and asked if he had them in a 12.

As we finished up the boot shopping, undeterred and settling on the same style as years past, I admit the salesman’s comments had me feeling like a bit of a dandy.

Matters weren’t helped in the slightest when I pulled my son’s socks off only to discover that the toenail polish his aunt applied while we were in Leadville was still there. Thank goodness the salesman wasn’t.

Does he (or more importantly, do his boots) look feminine to you?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Transfer markets

August is both an exciting and not very exciting time in my two favorite spectator sports, cycling and football (EPL, not so much NFL). It’s not very exciting in terms of the actual competitive action, with the exception of the Tour of Utah, which passes through my neighborhood, and the Champions League qualifying matches and first few matches of the Premier League season, which can make or break the rest of the year.

The real excitement is in the transfer market and corresponding rumor mill. Football has until the end of the month to finalize rosters until the transfer window opens again in January. This is always a frustrating time for Arsenal fans, because team manager Arsene Wenger is a notorious tightwad when it comes to signing new players.

Wenger’s problem is that in addition to having a great eye for talent, he also has a masters degree in economics, so he can’t bring himself to even pay market value for a player who’s at or slightly past his prime. Instead, his M.O. is to find young, underappreciated players with great potential, sign them on the cheap, and then sell them to a more spendthrift type of club, such as AC Milan or Barcelona (he rarely sells to EPL rivals, Adebayor and Toure going to Man City this summer being notable exceptions), when they’re at their peak and can command top dollar.

It’s also not unheard of for Wenger to buy players when they’re past the point that the big clubs want to keep them around. William Gallas and Mikael Silvestre are prime examples here, as was the rumor that never came to pass of former captain Patrick Viera returning to the squad. I still have hope, mostly in vain, of Viera signing before midnight Monday.

This approach is great for the club’s shareholders and why you’ll never hear about Arsenal being overburdened with debt. It’s lousy, however, for fans like me who have no financial interest in the club and just want them to win trophies. Wenger’s transfer behavior and other football phenomena that can be analyzed with econometric methods are explored in the book Why England Lose. Haven’t read it (but if you’re looking for Christmas gift ideas…), but I imagine it’s quite a bit like Moneyball, which is a fascinating read, as well as a source of deep frustration for Oakland A’s fans.

Unlike football, which has to wrap things up by August 31, cycling can’t officially announce signings until Sept. 1. So all we have to go on are rumors. Recent news of note is that the Feillu brothers will not be joining team Radio Shack but Gert Steegmans will. Also, Jens Voigt, at age 38, will be returning from his horrific crash for another year with Saxo Bank. More will come to light in September, but the way the teams are shaping up, I’m already looking forward to the 2010 campaign.

A campaign I’m not looking forward to is the coming one in American football. With the Broncos giving away Jay Cutler and having that idiot Josh McDaniels at the helm, it’s going to be a long season. When are people going to realize that despite what he says, it’s Belichick and not the assistants that make New England great? Not one of the assistants has done crap as a head coach. The only team more stupid than the Broncos is Notre Dame for signing Charlie Weiss to a ten year contract extension. Michigan, unfortunately, is saddled with a six-year deal for Rich Rodriquez. Let’s just hope this year is less of a disaster than last and pray that Les Miles has a change of heart sometime soon.

As for me, I guess I’m kind of a free agent too. Steve and I have come to the realization that we’re going to need to be on a real team (of more than two) next season, we just haven’t decided which one. Skull Candy is an obvious choice, as they have a strong Cat. 4 presence and an affiliation with Revolution, a shop I’m loyal to and already ride for on the MTB side. Spin Cycle is also attractive, especially should we manage a Cat. 3 upgrade, since we could race with Alex. The Cat. 3 upgrade is almost a foregone conclusion for Steve, as his 3rd place finish in the 1,000 Warriors race has him already more than halfway there. Podium at Lotoja, and he’s got it. I, on the other hand, am yet to earn an upgrade point but hoping that will change at Saturday’s Sanpete Classic.

If you race or are familiar with road racing on the Wasatch Front and have a suggestion regarding who we should race with next season and why, please let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Guilty pleasures

I am not fat. I have at various (most) times in my life been so, but I am not presently fat. Some have wondered aloud how such a state is possible considering the skill with which my wife renders butter, sugar, chocolate, flour, nuts, and fruit into some of the most tempting and enviable culinary creations imaginable.

And yet my wife is somehow complicit in my not-fatness. She’s very good about cooking healthy meals most days. On the occasions when she makes brownies or pie or cookies or other things against which I am powerless, she kindly allows me a small portion and gives away any leftovers.

Being fat is the entropy state for me. I am not fat only for the exertion of a great deal of will derived from my desire to ride a bicycle or hike uphill on skis as fast as the abnormally fit people I hang out with. And yet I know, because I have a vague inclination as to what the word “entropy” actually means, that all of this energy applied towards the present not-fat state will somehow someday collapse spectacularly in a cascading rush of donuts and ice cream and french fries that will culminate with me eating myself to death. One simply can’t fight entropy; doing so will only accelerate its occurrence.

The sad thing is that I could bring upon myself this fate even without my wife’s involvement. I present to you as evidence the guilty pleasures I would indulge on a regular basis if I had no self control.*

*Note that none of these things taste as good as Rachel’s brownies or pie or chocolate chip cookies or any other pastries for that matter, but since those can’t be had at the Maverik or 7-eleven or a fast food joint, my inability to resist their siren song is moot.

  1. McDonald’s Oreo McFlurry: You know something that’s under-rated? McDonald’s ice cream, that’s what. The only thing that could possibly make it better is to stir a big handful of crushed oreos into it. At 550 calories, it’s actually not the worst thing you could eat either. Number of McFlurries I typically eat per year: 4.
  2. Dunford double chocolate donut: Dug was the first to introduce me to these wonders. At first I thought “it’s good, but no big deal.” I’m sure a lot of junkies felt the same way about heroin the first time. These are 500 calories each. They sell a smaller one that’s only 290 calories, but as far as I know only in boxes of six. Number of Dunfords I typically eat per year: 10.
  3. Utah milk shakes: Milkshakes in Utah are very different from milkshakes in the Eastern half of the country. Specifically, they have very little milk and therefore more ice cream. In fact, they’re basically just soft-serve with whatever flavor you requested mixed in. Sort of like a McFlurry on steroids. They are also death in a cup. Best approximation I found for nutrition information is a DQ Blizzard—1140 calories!?! Number of shakes I usually eat per year: 4 (and I usually share with Rachel or one of the kids).
  4. Greek Souvlaki: A gyro and fries at Greek Souvlaki is good every time. But it’s about 1,000 calories before the fry sauce. And there’s no point in eating it if you skip the fry sauce. Number of times per year I typically eat at Greek Souvlaki: 3.
  5. Cheeseburgers: I thought about getting specific here, but I realized I really like burgers from just about anywhere. Five Guys and In-n-Out are the cream of the crop for fast food, but I’ll even eat Whoppers or Big Macs on occasion. The small regional places seem to have these dialed, notably Ray’s Tavern in Green River. The best, though, seem to be those I make and eat at home. Homemade cheeseburgers take the guilt out of guilty pleasure. Number of cheeseburgers I eat in a typical year: 25, at least half at home.
  6. White cheddar popcorn in a bag: You know how I quit going to that one 7-eleven? Well I’ve backslid. First Maverik raised their prices and 7-eleven didn’t. Then I felt guilty that I could be walking four blocks instead of driving ten. Then I discovered the 79 cent bags of white cheddar popcorn. 230 calories, so I don’t even feel guilty about it. I’ve been having 2-3 per week since I discovered them about a month ago.
  7. M&M’s: I like all varieties, but lately the plain have been my favorites. I don’t know why. The chocolate is cheap and not particularly compelling. The candy coating is nothing but hard sugar with die in it. I bought a five ounce bag of them for our drive to Boise, thinking I’d share with the kids. I ate most of them. I probably buy and eat a regular small bag myself 4 times a year.
  8. Twizzlers: I’m pretty sure they have an addictive chemical in them. Thankfully the kids like them almost as much as I do, so I don’t eat them all myself. I buy them once or twice a year but am at a loss to resist them when someone else offers. Even during church. Not that Dug would ever do that.
  9. Animal Cookies: the company that makes the pink and white ones filed for bankruptcy and they were temporarily off the market. Thankfully, someone else bought the brand and brought them back into production. I think the pink ones taste better. The unfrosted animal cookies are a great snack for a bike ride. Rachel keeps a tub of the unfrosted in the pantry at all times. She knows better than to do that with the frosted ones.

I’ve listed my favorites. Leave a comment and let me know yours. Let’s keep it limited to food, though—my dad reads this thing.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Emergency rations

Remember in We’re No Angels when they first start pretending to be monks and Sean Penn’s (or maybe it was DeNiro’s and I have it backwards) character is panicking a bit because he doesn’t even know how to cross himself? And DeNiro says something to the effect of “it’s easy, just remember spectacles, testicles, wallet, and watch?”

Never having been Catholic and therefore never having learned to cross myself, I thought this was useful information. Though the only practical use I’ve had for it was on the handful of occasions in my life when I’ve entered a Catholic church and wanted to avoid having holes burned in my chest by the glare of the old Italian woman who spends six hours a day there praying for the soul of her Mafioso son.

Being quite absent-minded, however, I do have practical use for a similar routine, which I use to check that the four elements are in my pockets before I leave the house: chapstick, wallet, keys, and phone.

Anytime I deviate from my routine, dire consequences may result. For instance, this morning I didn’t drive to work (Rachel picked me up from work on the way to Boise for the weekend—my car stayed in the parking garage). So I rode my bike to a point along Mark N.’s commute and caught a lift with him.

Since I don’t typically take my wallet when I go for a ride and therefore didn’t check for it until it was too late, the wallet got left at home. And since I didn’t pack a lunch, I had no wallet and no food.

A little before 1:00 I realized I wasn’t going to make it through the day with no food. A search of my car yielded ninety-seven cents in the ashtray and a salted nut roll in the glove box.

Blowing nearly all the cash on a 44 ounce diet coke with negative nutritional value probably wasn’t the wisest move I’ve ever made, but old habits die hard. If the 240 calories in the nut roll prove insufficient, there’s always microwave popcorn in the break room.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

You should at least look good

My motto on the bike is that if you can’t be fast, you should at least look good. But looking good is a subjective thing, what with beauty being in the eye of the beholder and all that. Hence our runaway victory with the best-looking crew at Leadville (the podium presentation was awesome, and you should see the trophy). Here I thought Ricky and Dug were holding us back, when in fact they were scoring huge with the judges, even the not-very-fastidious, slightly-overweight, male Russian judge (who knew?).

Anyway, as we all know, style is much more about how you wear something than what you wear. It’s like the kid who picks his nose and eats it but whose mom dresses him up in designer clothes to try and help him make friends when he gets to middle school. Does it work? No. The kid’s image doesn’t change, despite being dressed just like or better than the cool kids.

Likewise, people that are, by all objective standards, ugly and poorly-dressed may have members of the opposite (or same, depending on their preference) sex falling all over them. Case in point: Tommy Lee.

Another great example of the importance of how you wear stuff is a long-time friend, let’s call him “Curtis.” I’ve long joked with Curtis that his MO for selecting a new shirt is to just go pick the ugliest one on the rack. Yet when he puts it on, he’s so confident that he’s a stylish guy (Curtis is in film and has always been a bit artsy-fartsy—you could never have convinced him he wasn’t stylish, even when his mom was dressing him), that the shirt somehow looks good on him.

What you wear on the bike is really no different. I mean, there’s only so much you can do with brightly-colored lycra. So if you walk around as if you’re embarrassed to be seen so attired, that attitude will transcend the pre-and-post-ride moments and into the ride itself. You’ll never look good, because you never felt like you looked good. And since winning is irrelevant, looking good is all that matters (which is why, when friends and family are spectating, you should always sprint to the front of the pack as you pass them, even if it leaves you completely blown for the rest of the race).

Of course, we aren’t all born confident, and some of us need some reassurances that what we’re wearing really does look good in order to confidently wear it. With that in mind, here are a few pointers:

  1. Never wear yellow. Sure, yellow is the color of the race leader in The Tour and countless other events. You’re not the race leader. Don’t wear yellow—it puts a target on your back, and unless you really are the race leader, you’ll never have the confidence to pull it off. Besides, very few of us have a complexion that looks good with yellow. Same is true for polka dots.

  1. Never wear pro team kit unless you are fast enough to back it up. Some people (mistakenly) think that as long as it’s not yellow, it’s OK to wear pro team kit. It’s not. If you wear Caisse D’Epargne kit in a road race, for example, you don’t even need to violate the centerline rule or hit the brakes in the middle of the bunch for people to know you’re a wreck waiting to happen. And I’ve only ever seen the “unless you’re fast enough to back it up” clause applied once. That was a kid who showed up to the Mt. Harrison hill climb last year with hairy legs and full Rock Racing team kit. He purchased a one-day Cat. 5 license and proceeded to take third overall, beating some very fast riders in the process.
  2. Shave. Speaking of hairy legs, if you’re going to show your legs, make sure they’re smooth. Baggy shorts mostly cover your legs, so if you’re on a MTB trail ride and wearing baggies, you get a pass. Otherwise, get rid of that stuff.
  3. Don’t mix genres. Baggies are OK anytime you’re on the MTB. They can be the difference between blending with the crowd and making a statement. Nobody remembers who won last year’s Draper I-Cup race, but who can forget how good Sleepy and Dug look in their plaid shorts on a trail ride (or digging around in the bushes for a lost ipod during the trail ride)? Baggy clothing is OK on dirt, and even required by the UCI in gravity events (no skinsuits allowed, even though they’re faster), which is why if you’re wearing the protective armor favored in gravity events, you should make sure and wear baggy shorts when you do. Likewise, you should never wear baggy shorts on the road, unless you’re riding a ‘cross bike or a fixie. If you can keep up with Lycra-clad roadies, especially going uphill, while wearing baggies on your ‘cross rig, that is the embodiment of style.


  1. Helmets are not invisible. Most of us have one helmet that we wear with every kit until we crash and break it, at which point we replace it. But if you haven’t crashed and broken your helmet since 2001, you probably aren’t riding hard enough. Even if you’re just that lucky, you should probably buy a new one anyway, because helmets have changed (for the better) since then. The exception to this is if you haven’t broken your helmet since 1994, and you’ve still got the Specialized/Mtn Dew team issue brain bucket ten years after that team disappeared. In that case, it becomes cool again in a retrogrouch/core/I’ve-been-doing-this-a-long-time sort of way.
  2. You don’t need to match. Rick sums this up, as far as dirt rides are concerned, rather nicely here. I’ll only add that for roadies, there’s a huge temptation to match everything—helmet, jersey, bibs, socks, shoes, bike. Fight it. If you’re wearing team colors because you’re part of a team, that’s expected. But it should end with team socks. Socks are a place to shout out to a friend or sponsor or show some personality. Same for arm warmers. For instance, I always race in Smartwool, or occasionally, Fat Cyclist socks (nevermind that pretty much all I own are Smartwool and Fat Cyclist socks, and I wear them to work and church as well). On dirt, as expected, one has even more latitude, and knee-high socks are a nice way to tell anyone passing you “I don’t care that you’re faster, because I’m better-looking.” Matching in a not-matching way is also a nice touch. Kevin from the Skull Candy team rides a red and black Tarmac festooned with bright green bar tape. The tape doesn’t match his bike at all, but it’s a perfect match with his kit. It’s a nice touch. And of course, a Fat Cyclist jersey, especially in pink, goes with everything. Even when it doesn’t.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sour grapes

Todd Wells, a guy who has never raced Leadville, is shooting off his mouth about how sick he is of hearing about it.

I'm so tired of hearing all this banter about the marathon race in Colorado this weekend that none of the top guys even did. A guy who retired 10 years ago has won it for the past however many years. Not to take anything away from Wiens, he was a great rider when he was competing in the early 90s, too bad he didn't get to win his local race again this year.

None of the top guys? Wiens, Alex Grant, Tinker, Travis Brown, Matt Shriver, Max Taam aren’t top guys? Really? Guess what, Todd, I’d have had no idea you even won the Short Track XC series title if you hadn’t included it in this blog post that so many people are making fun of. In fact, I don’t even know what Short Track XC national title entails, and I don’t give enough of a rip to find out.

If you’re sick of Leadville getting all the press, or someone other than a “top guy” winning it, then sack up and do the race or shut your pie hole. But don’t assume that people who weren’t doing the race you got a sweet sixth place finish in aren’t top guys. The boys on the other side of the pond would look askance at your “title” and your assertion that you’re a top guy anyway.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Leadville Pictures

Rachel took a bunch of pictures in Leadville. 216 to be exact. You can look at all of them here. I posted a few along with some commentary below.

Elden at the start.


Rick smiling at another human being. He claims not to like people, but I don’t buy it. I understand how he feels, though. It’s not so much the crowd, it’s the individuals in the crowd I don’t like.

Rick and Tony.

Wiens and Armstrong, along with some of the other elite riders.

1500 people starting all at once has disaster written all over it. I kind of enjoyed it, though. Not nearly as bad as 16,000 starters like at the Marine Corps Marathon.

Watching the pit crew in action at Twin Lakes feed zone.

Kenny was right behind. He races on nothing but slim fast and water. It seems to work.

Rick was the next one through. Here he is pounding a soup. Amazing how well that stuff keeps the cramps away.

Sam doing the “how fast can I fill my pockets” dance. Check out the mud on his vest. I was told conditions weren’t ideal. Dunno how Rick stayed so clean. But Rick always seems to be clean. I’m pretty sure he’s coated with teflon and doesn’t sweat.



Jonnie J. We didn’t know Jon and Gina lived across the street when we bought our house. In fact, I hardly knew Jon and didn’t know Gina at all. Now we think they’re about the best things about where we live. Our son and their daughter couldn’t agree more. But the son and daughter are five and three, so we’ll see whether we continue to think it’s cute in the coming years. As long as it doesn’t progress beyond holding hands on the way to church…

Erik made it easy for the crowd to cheer for him by name.

Jilene, my RAWROD cheerleader, is a former women’s overall winner at Leadville.

Steve, not quite half way through his second mountain bike ride of the year. Aaron and Elden are about as cool as friends get for setting us up on matching Superflies.

Eber. The irony of endurance racing: your body needs food so bad, but absolutely nothing tastes good. Nothing.

Tyler. Booth babes Cicily and Chelle are in the foreground. Were it not for Dug and Ricky, we’d have had far and away the best-looking crew at Leadville. I think we still won that category, but it wasn’t quite so decisive. But then again, I’m not gay or female, so maybe we ran away with it and I just didn’t realize.


DT. The camera is focused on the wrong spot but it’s the only photo I’ve got of him, and the dude deserves huge props for grinding it out all day and getting the 12 hour buckle.

More than just a pretty face, Rachelle can also fit her fist in her mouth. Apparently there was much mirth during the eleven and a half hours when they weren’t swapping bottles and force-feeding exhausted racers.

Not to be outdone, Dug shows that he can fit a ginger snap in his mouth sideways. Nice try, Dug.

I was certain when I rolled into Twin Lakes the second time that there would be a mad scramble to find chain lube. The conditions were destroying my, er, Elden’s drivetrain. Instead, I pulled up and JDub hands me some Rock and Roll before I even asked for it. The “rag” is Dug’s shirt. Good thing he wasn’t wearing the Mexican Wedding Shirt.

Here I am rolling into Pipeline the second time. That look of concentration on my face has nothing to do with riding the bike.

Sam’s a two-fisted drinker: muscle milk and red bull. I don’t know how he does it.

Tony knows the Powerline climb is just ahead.

Jon and LJ, along with a Carmichael client. There were a LOT of Carmichael clients there wearing the kit. Wonder if they got refunds if they didn’t get a sub 9. Apparently the main man himself felt like one was enough because he rolled in well after 10 hours. At the finish, the announcer said LJ was the first former NFL player to complete Leadville.

Gina’s shirt says it all. To be successful as an amateur bike racer, you either need to be single or have one of the best wives in the world. Thanks, Ladies.

Ryan from the Bachelorette. That dude has a motor.

Mike Young rolling in with yet another sub 9. His brother Steve may have a Super Bowl MVP, but Mike’s got a fine collection of big belt buckles.

Brandon took a two hour nap last year. This year he killed it and got a sub 9 and a top 100 finish.

The ugliest kit in the race is rolling in behind him. It’s nice to have a kit that’s easy to spot, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be ugly. Hub of Aspen could learn a lot from Twin Six.


Kenny crossed the line for another single speed podium.

At this point I had looked at my watch and knew I would make it.

I love getting on a bike, but sometimes I love getting off the bike even more.

Cicily and Holly anxiously waiting for Eber and Sam.


Bros before buckles. Jamie, Sam, Vince, and Tony finish together.

Steve on the red carpet.

Back row: Steve, Banks, Jdub, Dug, Erik, Tyler, Eber, Sam, me.

Front row: Rick, Jon.

After 30 minutes of oxygen and a couple diet cokes, I felt good enough to smile. Almost. Steve recovers faster than I do.

I know you saw it yesterday, but I’ll admit I’ve looked at it more than once. I haven’t called it “precious” yet, though.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

You can't kill the Rooster

Thursday afternoon Rachel and I picked up Steve from his house to make the seven plus hour drive to Leadville. I may have mentioned before that I like listening to audiobooks during my commute, so Rachel decided to get some for us to listen to on the way to Colorado.

One of her selections, based on our mutual appreciation of David Sedaris from having heard him several times on This American Life, was Barrel Fever and Other Stories. What we didn't realize was that while Sedaris's humor is pretty well sanitized for NPR, when not constrained by the FCC, his vocabulary ranges a bit further afield.

The autobiographical essay You Can't Kill the Rooster, about his younger brother Paul, was greeted with histerical laughter by Steve and me and a few vain requests to skip to the next track by Rachel. She was in the backseat and away from the controls and therefore forced to endure more F-bombs than she's heard since she worked in a restaurant kitchen.

This story and some of the words in it would prove a recurring theme throughout the weekend. If you don't care to listen to the whole thing, and I certainly wouldn't fault you for that, allow me to summarize by providing the origin of the appelation "the Rooster." David's brother Paul explains how he gave himself the name as follows: "Certain [individuals] think they can [mess] with my [crap], but you can't kill the Rooster. You might can [mess] him up some of the time but...nobody kills the...Rooster, you know what I'm sayin'?" I'll get back to this later.

We arrived a little after midnight, slept until 7:30 or so, then went downtown for packet pickup, which was, er, amusing. We then sat through the mandatory pre-race meeting before grabbing lunch at Subway. The guys in front of us in line were adamant that no lettuce be put on their sandwiches. They talked amongst themselves about the danger of having that "roughage" the day before a race. Nevermind that they put cucumbers, green peppers, onions, and tomatoes on their sandwiches, which were on whole wheat bread, I might add. It was that roughage in the lettuce that was bound to "plug them up" the next day. Between the lettuce incident and the pre-race meeting, I came away convinced that 85% of the population has below average intelligence.

Friday afternoon, we rode around Turquoise Lake with Elden, Dug, Kenny, and some other friends, as well as a small handful of folks who accepted Elden's invitation to meet up for a ride. It was the calm before the storm. The singletrack was buff and fun. There was no real climbing, and the pace was leisurely, with frequent stops to regroup. In short, it was nothing like what was in store for Saturday.

After tossing and turning most of the night and sleeping only in 40 minute increments, Saturday morning we arrived at 5:00 a.m. for the 6:30 start. This seemed excessive, but Rick assured us it was the right move. It was. After the shotgun start, it took us 15 seconds to actually cross the start line. It took the people in the back over two minutes.

The real issue, though, was the mass of riders all trying to get close to the front before the first climb up St. Kevins. This is where crit racing came in real handy, as we were able to navigate our way about as far forward as we wanted to be before the climb began in earnest. I felt good all the way up to the top, and was able to get around a number of people on the first climb.

I assumed Steve was on my wheel the whole time, but when I got to the top, I turned to look, and he wasn't there. Kenny quickly caught up to me, and I asked if he'd seen Steve. He hadn't. I didn't expect us to get separated this early, but I was racing the clock and had to go.

I still felt good up Powerline but got a glimpse of what was to come on the way back. Powerline gets its name because it's the trail underneath the power lines. And as you would expect, there are no switchbacks, zigs, zags, or bends. It just goes straight up the hill. Or in this direction, straight down. It's rocky, rutted, and nasty. Nothing you would ever ride for fun in either direction.

As I rolled through the first feed zone, I checked my watch. I had written down a range for splits for where I needed to be to finish under nine hours. I was two minutes ahead of my early estimate. Things were going well.

Then I hit a bump while descending and felt my saddle slip. The nose was pointing up. Not so much that I couldn't keep riding, but I would definitely have to fix it. I decided to wait until the Twin Lakes feed zone, the first place I planned to stop for more food.

The gang at the feed zone worked like an Indy pit crew. Rachel emptied and refilled my pockets and bottle cages. Dug said "you're flying. You're the first one in." While scrambling to find a tool, I noticed that the bump hadn't just tilted my saddle, but it also knocked my CO2 cannister off my seatpost. There were spare cartridges at the tent, but no nozzle. I could no longer afford a flat.

I left the Carbo Rocket tent feeling good. Really good, in fact. The lower section of the Columbine climb felt fine. I was doing well on time, me legs felt good, and I was still feeling the buzz from the hundreds of people who were shouting, clapping, and ringing cowbells for me as I crossed the Twin Lakes dam. It wouldn't last.

Maybe 1/3 of the way up the climb, I asked one of the spectators how far ahead the leaders were. He said we'd see them any time, and that we'd see Lance well before we saw anyone else. Just a couple minutes after that, a guy in Mellow Johnny's kit came screaming around the corner and saw a half dozen of us making our way up the climb. He must hang out with the Rooster a lot, because instead of yelling "rider up" or something polite to let us know he was coming, he yelled one word--it starts with "F" and rhymes with truck. I thought it was kind of funny that I'd only ever seen Lance Armstrong in person one time, and I'd only ever heard him say one word, and that was the word.

About 2/3 of the way up the climb, I became the Rooster. Specifically, I told myself over and over "you can't kill the Rooster." The climb was definitely messing with me, but it wasn't going to kill me. Even if I had to walk my bike, which I did. I actually walked more than I needed to, not wanting to burn too many matches. Kenny passed me, looking strong. I wondered if I'd see him again but was pleased that we were this close so near the turnaround.

Then the wind started to blow, like 60 mph kind of blow. And then it started to hail. It was pricking my skin, and I was cold. Between the altitude and my asthma, I could barely breathe. I kept pushing. I finally made it to the top. Clock showed 4:35, five minutes before my outer limit for target split times. I turned around, and began my descent. I saw Brandon right behind me, looking strong.

Suddenly I felt good again. And shocked. Because there were so many people still coming up the climb behind me. I had lost some time on the climb but was still in good shape. I shouted encouragement to the friends I saw but mostly just focused on staying upright through the rough, rocky, and crowded two track.

As I descended I felt something bump my leg before falling to the ground. I figured it was one of my bottles. No big deal, as I was on my way to the feed zone. Then I looked down and saw both bottles. I didn't need to look to know I'd lost my tool bag with multitool, spare links, and tube in it. Not only couldn't I flat, I couldn't have any mechanicals at all.

I pounded a soup and as much of a coke as I could get down at the feed zone, filled my pockets, and kept pedaling. After about ten minutes, though, my stomach hurt, and I couldn't eat or drink. I was going to need to stop and couldn't clear my head of the thoughts of Jan Ullrich's teammate holding open his cycling cap while Big Jan dropped a deuce in it. Jan went on to win not only the stage but the tour. Unfortunately I didn't have a willing teammate and was already out of contention for the win. But I did have a cap if I needed it. I was trying to decide between the cap and an arm warmer when the feed zone and its blessed blue boxes came into view.

Time lost at the honey pot = about four minutes. Weight lost = about two pounds. Time saved over the rest of the race for having stopped = about an hour, maybe two. The clock said 6:20 when I left the feed zone. This was my last split, and I was right at my outer limit. I couldn't make any mistakes.

Powerline was worse than I imagined. It has so many false summits that it gets into your head. "You can't kill the Rooster," I told myself and just kept grinding. I remembered that most of the descent from St. Kevins was on the road, which meant we'd climb up the road on the way back. I hoped my memory was correct.

It mostly was, for which I was grateful. My watch said 7:23 when I passed the 20 miles to go sign. I had a short dirt climb remaining, followed by a long descent and about ten mostly flat miles. I did the math in my head. I could make it, but it would be close.

Shortly after the summit, I saw a rider in the trail, just laying in the dirt and breathing laboriously. There was blood on the ground coming from his face. I stopped and asked if he was OK. No response. What do I do? I can't move him. He's not answering questions. If I leave him here will he die? Is it worth ruining my race to stay until help arrives? I decided the best thing for both of us was if I kept descending and notified the course marshalls to send help. And I was racked with guilt thereafter thinking how stupid and meaningless a sub nine was if this guy was really hurt and I was the difference between him being OK and not.

At this point in the race, my lungs were shot. I would cough violently if I took full breaths, so I was taking quick, short, half breaths knowing it wasn't getting near the oxygen to my muscles that they needed. My heart rate was at 145 and wouldn't go higher. My legs still felt OK, though, and I wasn't cramping, so I figured I'd just give it what I could.

I pushed across the flats and was surprised at the pace I was able to maintain. I picked up another rider on the way, who thanked me for the draft because he'd been cramping and didn't have much left. I dropped him at the boulevard, a short, rocky climb just before getting back into town, and he shouted words of encouragement.

Once up the boulevard, I asked everyone I saw how much further. "Just a couple of miles." "You're almost there." "Just over a mile."

Then I saw the football field and knew I was close. I turned onto sixth street, and the spectators offered encouragement. I just kept turning the cranks, scared to look at my watch. When the finish line was in view, I finally did and knew I had made it. I rolled down the red carpet and crossed the line at 8:55. I got off my bike, someone hung a medal around my neck, and then I collapsed in Rachel's arms.

I sat in the grass and felt something cold against my arm. I turned and saw Dug holding a Diet Coke, straight out of the cooler. It was the only thing I could get down for the next hour. I heard the cheers as KC Holley crossed the finish line, sub nine and on the women's podium (KC and I have the exact same VO2 max, so it stands to reason our times would be similar). Then I saw Elden, and my heart sank. He had crashed out--his first ever DNF in any race. I wanted to cry.

After sitting in the grass for a while, still not breathing right and with the coughing fits coming more frequently and severely, Elden and Rachel walked me over to the medical tent where I sat sucking on some rare and blessed oxygen for the next half hour. I got out in time to see Steve and most of the rest of the gang finish.

Steve had some mechanical problems but still finished a very respectable 10:12. Pretty good for a roadie on his second mountain bike ride of the season (his first was RAWROD--we joked he can't be bothered with knobby tires unless it's going to be a 100 mile ride). At the end, we were all smiles and all VERY happy to be finished. Without question the toughest race I've ever done.

Saturday night I could barely sleep, I was still so excited. For the first time ever, I had a race where I would not have done anything differently. Sure, losing my tools and air and having to cast off ballast were less than ideal, but in terms of the decisions I made on course, I have no regrets.

Oh, and Sunday morning I went and picked up this:

That's right, it's the BIG one. I joined the club, along with Sam, of Leadville rookies with big buckles. A club which, by the way, does not include former Olympian and Tour de France veteran Chris Carmichael. Just thought I'd throw that in there. Not that it matters or anything.

Time to go shopping for a belt to put it on. Because you're absolutely correct I'm going to wear that thing. You can't kill the Rooster.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

You can pick her up at eight

Steve and I are off to Leadville today, both of us on borrowed bikes. I wasn’t planning it that way, but Elden was pretty keen on the idea of me riding his geared Superfly. How could I turn that down?

Aaron was equally gracious in letting Steve, who doesn’t own a MTB, borrow his Superfly. I was hesitant to even approach the question, as I know borrowing bikes is a sensitive thing for many cyclists. So I phrased it something along the lines of “I realize this is kind of like asking to take your wife out on a date, but can my brother borrow your bike this weekend?”

Aaron responded: “Forget about the bike. You can pick her up at eight.”

The Superfly weighs about five pounds less than the bike I was going to ride (23 lbs versus 28), a difference I would describe as “material” over a 100 mile course with 14,000 feet of climbing. Just how material, I didn’t realize until plugging some estimates in at analytic cycling*.


Apparently those five pounds will save me somewhere around 453 seconds. Or seven and a half minutes if you can’t divide 453 by 60 in your head. Put another way, when I finish I’ll be 2km ahead of where I would have been on my bike.

We’ll see if the seven and a half minutes is enough to get me under nine hours.


*If you get really nerdy and dig into my numbers, you’ll realize the distance I entered, ~80km, is equal to only ~50 miles. This is because it’s an out and back course, so we’ll only be ascending half the distance and descending—where weight reduction doesn’t help—everything we went up for the other 50 miles. Of course we don’t climb 14k feet all at once and there are even some flat sections, which further complicates my dumbed-down analysis. Certainly one could get much more precise about it and analyze each climb independently, which would yield a much more accurate answer, but there are so many other variables in a race like this, why bother? Besides, I really have no idea how I’ll do, since this is my first attempt at this event.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Conference call roulette

We’ve all been there—you’re in a public restroom, minding your own business, when someone walks in and starts talking to you, seemingly trying to engage you in a topic you know nothing about. And then you realize he’s not talking to you, he’s on the phone. In the bathroom. Where people fart openly and do other stuff that makes embarrassing noises.

Is the phone call that urgent or the business at hand that pressing that one of the two couldn’t be put off for just a couple minutes? I really don’t get it. The person on the other end of the line is talking to you. And whether it’s your flatulence or someone else’s, they’re going to think it was yours. To say nothing of the gushing and flushing noises.

I guess if you’re on a conference call with lots of people, they wouldn’t necessarily know it was you. But if that’s the case, couldn’t you find a lull in your required participation and use the mute button instead of talking along as if peeing during a meeting were a perfectly normal thing to do?

This phenomenon is most disturbing when you’re at McDonald’s or the airport and you can most certainly find an excuse not to be on the phone for at least 45 seconds.

At the office, it’s another matter. I mean if you’ve got back-to-back conference calls all day and you’re, oh, I don’t know, getting ready for a bike race or something and trying to stay hydrated, then chances are you might feel a sense of urgency at an inopportune moment.

Still, wearing your headset into the lieu and talking while peeing is not the solution. One alternative, best employed only if you have a private office with blinds, is to use the receptacle with which you’ve been putting liquid into your body as a place to drain some of it out. Savvy campers and mountain climbers everywhere will tell you that a “night bottle” saves one from many a cold moment when nature’s call comes at a time when getting out of the tent is not convenient. I really don’t see how a “conference call bottle” is any different.

In fact, mountaineers, who have to consider with skepticism the necessity of every piece of gear they bring, will tell you that the only distinction between night bottle and day bottle is whether it’s being filled or drained. There’s not room in the pack for a dedicated flask. And besides, urine is sterile.

If you don’t, however, have a private office with blinds, then the solution is quite different and best employed only when the conference call involves more than one party on the other end (though Steve tells me it still works with only one party so long as that party is a hyper-talkative girlfriend). It’s a little game I call conference call roulette.

Simply place your phone or headset down on the desk without disconnecting, get up, walk to the restroom, take care of business, come back, pick the phone back up, and hope no questions were directed to you while you were gone. If the figurative pin happened to strike a full chamber while you were absent, you can: a) say “sorry, someone just came by my desk;” b) pretend you were having connection problems; or c) just tell the truth.

If you ignore my advice and wear your headset into the head, I promise to fart or grunt or sigh heavily as soon as you walk in. Call my bluff at your own risk.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Why religion doesn’t matter

It’s still cycling season, but today’s post is about religion. I don’t usually get into religion. I don’t really try to hide mine, but I don’t dwell on it either. Because, as the title states, I don’t think it should matter. If you’re interested in knowing more about why I feel this way, read on.

Although I’m “from” Utah, I’ve spent a lot of time in other places, too. Washington, Maryland, California (twice), Hawaii, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Idaho to be exact. I don’t exactly struggle to make friends, so I’ve known a lot of people with a lot of different attitudes about religion over the years. The one thing I’ve learned from this is that someone’s professed religion has absolutely no bearing on the kind of person they are.

Before I moved to Utah, there were Lutheran or Jewish moms who didn’t want their kids to play with me because they thought I had horns or my dad had more than one wife. When I moved to Utah, there were certain moms in the neighborhood who wouldn’t let their kids play with non-Mormon kids for fear of the negative influences these non-Mormon kids would bring. This is utterly ridiculous. I learned to swear from Mormon kids (and my Mormon mother—hi mom!) and was first exposed to alcohol, drugs, and pornography by Mormon kids. If anything, the non-Mormon kids respected my beliefs and tried to keep me away from that stuff.

Mormon or not, civilized, reasonable people recognize that there’s a difference between right and wrong and that people should act a certain way for no other reason than it’s the right thing to do. We don’t need religious texts or leaders to tell us these things—we just know them. In fact, religion as often as not is used as a crutch or to justify questionable behavior. “My religion doesn’t forbid it, therefore it’s OK.”

Never has this been more apparent than when I lived in Indiana. We lived near an Amish community. In general, the Amish are honest, hard-working people who help their neighbors and do the right things. Their religion, however, requires them to eschew certain modern conveniences such as cars, phones, and electricity.

Which is not to say they don’t use cars, phones, or electricity. If you travel through an Amish community, you’ll notice that it’s dotted with little shacks—phone booths. Lately these have fallen out of fashion, but cell phone sales are brisk. The homes don’t have electricity, but if there’s a carpenter’s shop adjacent to the home, you can bet it does. And my father-in-law has a pickup truck titled in his name that he paid a dollar for and never drives. His Amish friend paid the balance and has one of his employees drive it for him.

Mormons are no better. Coffee and alcohol are forbidden, but you should see the rate at which we (inclusive) consume Diet Coke. Utah has the highest per-capita consumption of ice cream in the nation. As one of my B-school friends put it when I wanted to stop for ice cream while following him to the bar, “we all have our vices, they’re just different vices.”

The LDS church teaches that there are certain ordinances or sacraments that one must receive in order to obtain certain rewards in the afterlife. Wikipedia goes into way more detail than I have time to here. Suffice it to say I believe in these ordinances and their necessity.

But even more than I believe in these ordinances, I believe in a just, merciful God. A God who loves his children and is anxious to reward them for a life well-lived. A God who will sooner glorify an agnostic who does the right things for the right reasons than exalt a believer who never did anything “forbidden” but never bothered to discern right from wrong, let alone act accordingly.

I’ve had the pleasure of being friends with several people who were agnostic or atheistic. The thing that strikes me most about these friends is the moral code that they live by. For many religious people, the motivation to do what’s right is the promise of a reward or fear of a punishment in the hereafter. But for one who claims no such belief, from whence comes the drive to do what’s right?

And yet, it’s there. And it’s unshakable. Perhaps it’s because they don’t believe in repentance. Or they believe that as human beings we’ve evolved to a higher order than other life forms and as a result we’re supposed to exhibit certain behaviors. Or they believe in Karma. Or they know that all we take with us from this life is the legacy of how we’ve treated other people. Regardless, on more than one occasion, how to respond in a morally ambiguous situation has been made perfectly clear to me by a friend who believes what’s after this life is nothing more than organic matter rotting in a box.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The third horseman

Of all the yummy things Rachel makes, her pies have to be her crowning achievement. She's been perfecting her crust recipe for ten years and takes a leave-nothing-wanting approach to the fillings. They are divine.

And so last night I took it as a sure sign of the apocalypse that offers of pie were turned down by neighbors not once, but twice. Some drivel about "just hit my target weight" or whatever. This is not normal. If Leadville weren't on Saturday, I'd be very concerned.

Not wanting a third strike, we gave it to some friends that don't ride bikes.

Friday, August 7, 2009

In order to defeat a monster

In summer 2007, I was on my way home from a long, hot training ride. With about 15 miles left to get home, I was suffering--dehydrated, hungry, exhausted. I wanted to quit.

I was listening to my ipod shuffle on this ride, and as I was suffering along, barely moving, the song Miss Sarajevo came on. Listening to the lyrics, I couldn't help but be inspired. Miss Sarajevo is a song about the Miss Sarajevo beauty contest held in 1993 during the siege of Sarajevo, Bosnia. The contest was held in a basement because of the threat of sniper fire above ground. The contestants carried a banner onstage reading "don't let them kill us."

Amidst all the pain and ugliness and suffering of the war, the pageant organizers and participants found time to celebrate beauty. To have the courage to go on living their lives despite the destruction and violence and pain around them.

The version I listened to that day was a live performance from Milan in which Bono introduces the song by saying, "We'd like to turn our song into a prayer. And the prayer is that we don't become a monster, in order to defeat a monster. That's our prayer tonight."

As I heard these words, I was energized as I thought of Susan and her struggle--the pain she was going through with chemotherapy and radiation and surgery and everything else. The words echoed in my head: that we don't become a monster, in order to defeat a monster.

Since then, I have thought of Susan whenever I hear this song, which is often, as it's one of my favorites. I thought of the beauty she brought to her fight against this monster. I thought of the courage of her family and those around her. I think now of the beauty of team Fatty, fighting like Susan to raise over a half million dollars in this fight. That to me is the embodiment of beauty and courage and hope. After all, why would we give, why would we put energy towards this fight, if we had no hope?

Last night as my youngest daughter's bedtime approached, she began to cry for her mommy. Rachel was gone shopping, so I tried to comfort her, telling her mommy would be home soon. I held her and hugged her and rocked her and tried to calm her, but she continued to cry. I began to sing to her "Sleep, sleep tonight. And may your dreams be realized. If the thundercloud passes rain, so let it rain, rain down on me..."

As I sang to her, and she began to calm, I realized she was not the only one in need of comfort.