Thursday, December 30, 2010

Help a brother out

For all the things I love about living in Draper, today isn't the happiest day of my residency. For starters, I need to go get some new shear pins for the auger on my snowblower. Which reminds me that the first one I broke was because I sucked the steel cap over my water main into my snowblower because the city had (has) failed to bolt it down. I thought I was going to die and my snowblower was going to be destroyed.

But the thing that really has my goat is that it's my responsibility to keep the road clear between the edge of where the road is plowed and my mailbox. Which wouldn't be so bad except the guy in the giant snowthrower that they bring in for occasions like today's snowmageddon when just pushing the snow around isn't going to cut it has been down my street three times now, the last time just driving through without even running the auger. This is as close as he got to my mailbox.

Could you maybe give me something more to work with?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy Holidays…is what terrorists say

Happy Holidays…
…is what terrorists say.
Merry Christmas from Jack and Avery

So reads the Christmas card being sent by Jack Donaghy and Avery Jessop on 30 Rock. And in a season dominated by “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings,” it’s an unusual sentiment. The fictional Jack and Avery celebrate Christmas, and they don’t care who knows.

I celebrate Christmas. My view of it is somewhat nuanced and complex, though. I don’t believe the 25th is the calendar date on which an eight pound, six-ounce, newborn infant Jesus, with his golden fleece diapers, don’t even know a word yet, just a little infant and so cuddly, but still omnipotent, came into this world.

But I do celebrate the message of peace, tolerance, and compassion attributed to Jesus, even if I view the account in Luke 2 as more mythology and allegory than history. Nevertheless, if someone sends me a Christmas card depicting an infant in a manger on a winter night with shepherds and wise men standing watch, I don’t consider it cause to start an argument.

Moreover, if someone doesn’t celebrate Christmas at all but wishes me a happy Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, Winter solstice, or anything else, I’m happy to embrace the good in whatever message is associated with that celebration and wish the same upon them in return.

A free and open discussion of one another’s beliefs increases understanding and mutual respect and decreases the narrow-mindedness that leads to hate, bigotry, and violence. The irony is that we may publicly demur from using specific words for the sake of political corectness, while in private (or not) take actions that are in reality far more harmful.

A Christmas or other holiday card for many is the most public statement they make all year. It’s the vehicle for reaching out to distant friends and family to wish them well and to remind them that they are cared for. Such a gesture, regardless of whether the sentiment expressed is consistent with the recipient’s belief system, is no cause for offense. Instead, it’s an opportunity to share the good of whatever belief system we espouse, whether it’s divine or humanistic at its core. And as the recipient of such a message, it may prompt us to learn about others, what they believe, and what motivates them to be better people.

As we read, write, speak, and listen, may we use our words to open minds, to enhance understanding, and to foster mutual respect. And through our actions may we be merciful, comfort those who mourn, and be peacemakers. Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

What Ricky Bobby can teach us about skiing

For those named Rachel or otherwise averse to coarse, chauvinistic, or misogynistic language, I suggest reading something else.


You're probably wondering what this video has to do with skiing. Not much actually. I just think it's hilarious and was looking for a good reason to post it. There is one line, however, that's applicable. After the prayer is over, Walker says, "Dad, you made that grace your bitch."

And if you want to ski well, you need to do the same thing with your skis that Ricky Bobby does with the grace: you need to make them your bitches. Or at least show them who's in charge.

JunkieBoy and I were skiing at Solitude, his first day of the year, and his first day on new equipment. The skis are 110s, whereas last year he was on 87s. He was struggling to make turns and keep them under control. His confidence wasn't there.

So the next time up the lift, I asked him "do you want to know the secret to skiing well?" He of course answered in the affirmative. So I told him. Except I didn't actually tell him to make his skis his bitches because a) he wouldn't have understood what that meant, and b) anything you tell a first-grader is bound to be repeated at school. (He'll eventually learn the phrase and what it means, but I can wait. And I'm even OK if he doesn't learn it from me.)

Next run, he showed them who was the boss. He skied great, probably as well as he was skiing last year. So on the lift I asked him, "what happens when you show the skis who's in charge?"

"They do what you tell them to."

"And what happens if you don't show them who's boss?"

"They run away from you."

It's as simple as that.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cyclocross Nationals 2010

Not sure what to really talk about in this post, because it’s a race report, but the point of going to nationals, for me at least, wasn’t really to race. I just wanted the experience. I pretty much suck at cross, so I was never going to win.

So why go? Good question. First, it was in Bend, and I had friends going, which meant lodging and travel costs could be shared, so it would be a cheap trip. Second, next two years it’s in Madison, WI. In January. Average low in Madison in January is 5 degrees F. And Madison is three times farther away than Bend. Not happening. The two years after that, it will probably be on the East Coast. Farther to travel, more challenging logistics getting bikes there. This was my chance, so I took it.

I raced, twice in fact. On Wednesday I did the non-championship race. Which is basically a B flight race, as the big dogs don’t bother with it. It was a chance for a decent result. Except that callups were in random order. I started on the last row, 31st called up of 39 racers.

I raced OK, picking off quite a few riders in front of me and was in or near the top ten when I burped a tire. Ordinarily I’d keep riding and hope it didn’t go flat because I had no other choice. But Daren brought one of Tanner’s bikes as a B bike for me. It was a 56, I ride a 52, but it was faster than running with my bike on my shoulder. I came in for a bike change and lost a few places. Steve told me a while back that if I ever considered racing on a tubeless setup again, he would just kick me in the nuts and save me the disappointment. Next year I’m gluing up tubulars for sure. Only brought one racer back after the bike change and ended up 16th. Not embarrassing.

Thursday, Daren’s brother Doug raced in the 60-64 age group. Doug was on the podium last year, so he got a first row callup, and finished eighth.

I had chatted with Doug at the races before the trip but hadn’t spent a great deal of time with him. I will admit to a bit of apprehension about spending a week with a guy who’s my dad’s age and has had some pretty important jobs in the LDS church* (stake president, among other things, for those that are curious). Shouldn’t have worried. Don’t know if he was faking or not, but Doug followed the surefire approach to make me think highly of you: he laughed at my jokes.

*Maybe this wouldn’t have been cause for a potentially awkward situation in the past, but not quite a year ago, we stopped attending the LDS church. The short version of the story is that Noah’s Ark and Jonah and the whale weren’t the only miracle stories my rational mind could no longer accept as fact.

Next we watched Kris Walker win. Again. She is fast. It was also one of the closer races of the week, with Kris getting out to an early lead, being brought almost all the way back by Marilyn Ruseckas (who won this group last year—Kris won 45-49 last year), then accelerating on the last lap for a gap she held to the line. Great stuff.

Following Kris’s race, Daren had his qualifying time trial*, and then we watched Ned “the Lung” Overend put on a clinic en route to another title.

*For age group races, the front row callups were based on last year’s top eight. The rest of the start order was based on a short, one-lap time trial held on a separate course the day before the championship race.

Then we watched the single speed race. Adam Craig lit it up, wearing cutoffs and a BMX lid, no less.

Bo Pitkin made the locals proud with an impressive 11th place finish. I was wishing Rick and Brad could have been there—they would have had a blast.

Friday was my TT, wherein I proved that my time trialing ineptitude knows no bounds. I was 67th out of 87, which meant starting on the tenth row in my championship race. After my TT, we watched Daren race, where he had a season’s worth of bad luck in an hour. I don’t have any pictures because I was in the pits and busy trying to get a pedal fixed after he rolled in on lap two with a spindle and no body attached to his crankarm.

The Rev was also in Daren’s race, but his luck was the good kind, and his fitness was even better. He finished seventh. He had to hurt himself pretty bad to do it, and it was an amazing performance to watch. Locals Tim and Steve Briley and Shane Dunleavy were also in that race. I yelled so much that as of today, a week later, I still have no voice.

Saturday was my main event in the afternoon. 50 meters in, there was a crash in front of me. About 20 guys were piled up in the road, so I hit the brakes and stopped just short. Just in time for the 20 guys behind me to cove over the top of me like a wave. I was in the middle of the pile, literally the last guy to get my bike untangled. I straightened out my bars and passed about five guys running to the pits. Then I got on Tanner’s bike and passed ten more on lap one. Laps two and three, I passed another five or so each time around, but that was all the time I was going to get. The leader was gaining on me, so I got pulled.

Not the way I wanted things to go, but that’s racing. I would have liked to have had a fair shot of at least racing to not get pulled, and I think maybe I could have done it without the crash, but by no means did it ruin my week. I was racing for fun, and the three laps I was out there driving through 10cm of mud were a riot.
Rico was up right after me, and he was racing to win, with a legitimate shot of doing it. He led lap one, and we got very excited. But he just didn’t have enough to hold it longer than that. With all the mud on the course, there was no place to recover.

With the racing out of the way, Sunday was for fun. We got to check out the pros’ bikes, watch them warm up, and generally act like little kids. We bumped into Chris Horner sitting on the side of the road, playing with his kids. I won’t go into the race detail, because you can read about it elsewhere. I had one of the best seats in the house, though, as I was in the pits for Eric during the elite race—right next to the Cannondale guys—and got up close and personal with the contenders as they came through. Way cool.



To paraphrase Alex, the only thing any of us really has is time. The secret of life is figuring out what to do with it. Regardless of how the racing turned out, taking a week to go to cyclocross nationals was time well spent. Even if it did mean doing some pretty nasty laundry when I got home.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Vote for justice

Just got back from Cyclocross Nationals yesterday. Raced lousy but had a great time. I’ll pull together a report shortly. Until then, here’s a thought-provoking video appropriate for this season when we celebrate compassion, mercy, and peace.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

On personal morality and the existentialism of cyclocross racing

A couple weeks ago, I got a new issue of VeloNews in the mail. Being the cycling nerd that I am, I usually read every issue cover-to-cover, including the reader letters. One reader letter that stood out was written in response to an article about giving Floyd Landis a feed bag at Tour of Battenkill earlier this year. The writer felt some angst about feeding an admitted doper. The reader letter read as follows:
Concerning Andrew J. Bernstein and his conflicted feelings surrounding the feeding of Floyd Landis--I had the privilege of standing roadside during this year's Cascade Cycling Classic, where I cheered for a post-confessional Floyd Landis. I have never been a doper. I have never tried marijuana, nor do I wear high waters and ride a fixed gear. I don't drink coffee like so many road buddies who don't consider caffeine a performance-enhancing drug. I have never tried beer and don't understand why so many cyclocross riders think it helps their performance. I try not to judge those people. There are so many things we could get hung up on regarding others, so lighten up and hand a guy his lunch.

-James Ford >>Eugene, OR

I respect the sentiment of the letter. Floyd served his suspension. And while I don't like that he chose to dope and then chose to deny it for so long after testing positive, I do like that he's come clean and has finally broken the omerta in an effort to bring more accountability to the sport. I would feel honored to hand Floyd a musette.

The thing that struck me about the letter was the phrase (emphasis mine) "I try not to judge those people." Perhaps I'm reading more into it than the author intended, but the self-righteousness of the assertions "I don't drink coffee," and "I have never tried beer," coupled with the statement "I try not to judge" left me wondering what exactly there was to judge about these actions.

Yes, caffeine is a performance enhancer. It happens to be a legal one. Getting plenty of sleep, eating apples, and doing intervals are also performance enhancers. They are also legal. The thing that separates these activities from using EPO or HGH is that EPO and HGH are against the rules and therefore against the spirit of fair play. Some may deem the use of EPO or other blood boosters necessary to complete a three-week stage race and for that reason suggest they should be legalized. While I don't think they are necessary to complete the race, they may be necessary to compete at the level we as fans are accustomed to enjoying. But until the day comes that such methods are legalized, they are cheating. And until the day comes that coffee (or Rock Star) or getting plenty of sleep or eating apples are banned, they are legal and consistent with fair play. There is nothing to judge if an athlete chooses to employ these legal methods. So I'm not sure what Mr. Ford is "trying not to judge" in this situation.

As for 'crossers drinking beer, it's part of the culture of the sport. Nobody would tell you with a straight face that it improves performance, it's just something that a subset of the racers enjoy. (There's a good case to be made that beer diminishes performance, since beer is basically empty calories with little nutritional value, and it's taboo enough amongst pro roadies that a certain team manager threw a fit when his athletes were drinking it.) Some may say beer helps them race better, but their tongues will be firmly embedded in cheeks when doing so. However, provided the person drinking the beer is of legal drinking age, again, there's nothing to judge. If one person chooses not to drink beer, that's his choice made according to his values and judgment. But those values are his alone and are not a benchmark against which to judge another.

Actually, the one case that can be made for beer as a performance-enhancer in cyclocross is that it numbs the inevitable post-race pain, perhaps enough that one might forget the anguish sufficiently to keep lining up race after race, suffering beat-down after beat-down, until he has finally done it enough to actually have some degree of skill at this cursed and sadomasochistic sport. If beer is the only thing that allows someone to persist as a cyclocross racer, then yes, it's a performance enhancer. But it's still legal.

Which brings me to my present existential crisis with regard to cyclocross racing. The existential dilemma we all face is that no matter how much we do to improve ourselves and others, eventually we will deteriorate and die. So the question becomes, why not shorten the suffering and commit suicide? According to some schools of existential thought, the greatest victory is accepting the absurdity of life and persisting, choosing not to take the suicide shortcut.

As bike racers, our lives are even more absurd than normal. The inherent suffering that's part and parcel of the human condition is not enough for us, so we inflict more. Either we have not only accepted the absurdity of life but embraced it to the point of trying to one up humanity in the suffering department, or we're just so stupid we haven't yet realized just how absurd it is to deprive ourselves of food, free time, and disposable income so that we can race our bikes, in many cases racing with no hope whatever of actually winning. And just as in life, no matter how much we improve, not only will we eventually deteriorate and die, but there will always be someone faster. Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

I got into cyclocross for fun. I got into it because of the laid-back atmosphere. I enjoy competing, I enjoy pushing myself as hard as I can go. I enjoy a challenge. I prefer to be the slow guy in a fast group so I can watch myself improve, and cyclocross certainly affords that.

But Saturday's race was not fun. The mud was challenging, the race was challenging. I pushed myself. It had all the makings of a good day on the bike, but it wasn't. On the first lap while we were riding a stretch of pavement, I accelerated to go to the front of the group I was with. It was the type of pass I've made 100 times without incident in road races. But as I came upon the lead rider, we made contact. I thought I was riding straight, I'm sure he thought the same, but we somehow got tied up at the elbows, and he went down.

I felt bad about it. It certainly wasn't intentional, but whose fault it was is immaterial because there's no way for him to uncrash. Let's just say that his reaction was a far cry from Jeremy C. saying "rubbing is racing" when he and I bumped shoulders in a crit a while back. It sucks he went down, but he got back on, bike and body both still in racing condition. Not too bad as crashes go, but you'd never guess that from his response--it was everything cyclocross racing is not supposed to be. At least I avoided Adam Myerson's fate, and he didn't punch me. So I've got that going for me. Which is nice.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Only a flesh wound

If you live in SLC, go check out the Elliott’s Angels’ Holiday Boutique fundraiser for cystic fibrosis at 2066 Hubbard. It will be running today until 6:00 and tomorrow from 10:00 to 5:00. Lots of cool stuff for a great cause, including some delectable comestibles from my lovely wife. I stopped by earlier and saw only women in attendance, but seriously, guys, head over there if you’re looking for stocking stuffers for the women on your list.

This Dawn Patrol movie is generating a lot of buzz. So much that the producers have seen fit to make a second trailer for it. Check it out.

I got out again this morning, but conditions weren’t quite so good. On the descent I hit a buried stump and thought I had broken my ankle. It hurt. Substantially. The week before cxnats, no less. I thought my trip was over. I managed to ski out, but turning left was a problem since I couldn’t weight my right ski. My apologies to any groups that came after us for the 181cm wide sideslip down the lower 1/3 of Scotties.

After some ice and vitamin I, it seems OK. Just another sprain. How you can sprain an ankle with a ski boot on, I have no idea, but I managed to do it. Still not the best way to start the day. Then Rachel hit a piece of debris on the freeway and smashed her bumper and flatted a tire. Oh well. We’ve had worse.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Juan Grande Productions

Jon put together a highlight reel from yesterday morning. As the city sleeps, indeed.