Wednesday, December 21, 2011

UTCX Finale

Saturday wrapped up cyclocross season. After a decent result in UTCX #1, my results were pretty lackluster, and "success," as it were, was limited to occasionally finishing ahead of my friends. In the last race of the season, I managed my best result of the year. In fact, my fifth place finish was my best result in a UTCX race ever.

That result was a by-product of a certain amount of luck. I was fifth into the first turn. Trying to hang with the four fast guys in front of me seemed a surefire way to guarantee an implosion, so I let them go. Peter, Seth, and I were bunched up together and took turns on the front for the first several laps until Peter decided to attack and split us up.

Finishing order probably would have been Peter, Seth, then me, except that Peter had a flat, so I passed him in the pits. Then when he caught up, I sat on his wheel and got a free ride back to Seth. On the last lap, Peter stumbled in the barriers, so I got a gap that I managed to hold to the end.

Fifth place was good enough to move me up a couple spots in the season standings from 11th to 9th (thanks in large part to a couple guys not showing up for the last race, which was double points). And I should be happy with 9th, except that 8th would have meant a callup at the first race next year. Seth got 8th, by a two point margin. The number of points I dropped when Rick beat me to the line two weeks ago? Three. Which makes Seth's comment about that race all the more poignant: "sometimes you're the hammer, sometimes you're the nail."

I am already making plans for next year.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Timberline Middle School Choir Christmas Concert

Last night was my daughter's Christmas concert. A few observations since then have stuck with me.

Middle school can be a tough age when kids with any reason at all to feel awkward are made to feel more so, and it was a highlight of the evening to see an autistic student in the girls choir clearly welcomed into the group. It was a credit to the students and to the choir director to see her up there performing.

A neighbor of mine recently lost his wife to cancer. He was there, alone, watching his daughter sing. When I got home from the concert, I learned that another friend just lost his dad to cancer. That insidious disease is no respecter of persons or season. I am grateful to have seen Jen and Matt make it through treatment and begin racing again. My heart breaks for the families of those whose treatment wasn't successful.

While learning the songs for the concert, my daughter said they were learning a Christmas song in Hebrew. I laughed and told her there was no such thing as a Hebrew Christmas song, which prompted a discussion about various belief systems and cultural traditions. Further dialogue revealed that it was a song for the "festival of lights"--a Chanukah song. And while the selection of this number may very well have been prompted by the almost entirely one-sided feeling of kinship the local majority has towards Judaism, multiculturalism on any level is a good thing.

Perhaps this is a by product of growing multiculturalism, but as I have read various reactions today to the death (also to cancer) of Christopher Hitchens, I've been pleased by how positive the comments have been. I'm a Hitchens admirer, but I suspect the list of people who agree with everything he has said or written is quite short. Perhaps his polarizing dialogue was a tool to get people to think. Perhaps he was that adamant about his viewpoints. Regardless, he was a great thinker, a great writer, and yes, a great human being. Humankind would have been better off had Hitch been afforded more time to contribute to our intellectual traditions.

I'll wrap up this post with what is my favorite Christmas song at the moment. Regardless of the significance you ascribe to this season, I suspect you'll agree with the message.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The one true burrito

Saturday's Clammy Cross #4 was my last chance to win anything on the bike this season, and I came up short. I didn't win the race, and I didn't beat Ben Brutsch, which I needed to do to take the season points competition. Congrats, Ben.

I won't whine and complain about going through a season without winning anything. That's just the nature of bike racing. For most racers, victories are elusive and rare. Perhaps that's part of the draw. And unlike running, a PR isn't really a relevant yardstick in most cases, not that I set any of those, either.

Instead, I'd like to turn your attention to helping me win something that's not nearly as fleeting as success in a bike race. Specifically, I'd like to win free burritos for a year. Of course, I'd share the spoils with my collaborators*, Aaron and Chris. Please take a moment to click on through to the Mountain West Burrito page on Facebook and show this photo some love. Or rather some "like." I think it's deserving.

*Honestly, I'm not sure what my contribution was. Aaron came up with the idea; Chris executed it. I just posted it to Facebook. But if they're cool with that...

And if you live or work in the UC and haven't been to Mountain West Burrito, you should correct that forthwith.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

On the righteousness of winning football games

Tim Tebow prays before each game that Jesus will help him win. He apparently believes this is a righteous request because Tim, after all, believes in Jesus, and because Tim is a high-profile believer, his own belief will presumably lead others also to believe. Tim goes on to win football games because he is a feakishly good athlete and a uniquely determined competitor. But because Tim prayed to win, he attributes the victory to Jesus rather than his own remarkable result in the DNA lottery. Because Tim believes Jesus helped him win the last time, he prays again that Jesus will help him win the next game. When he wins again, his belief that it's Jesus helping him and that his request that Jesus will help him is indeed a righteous request is reinforced.

This pattern of belief is an example of the logical fallacy, post hoc ergo propter hoc.

To be clear, I am not claiming, nor is it even necessary to prove, that Jesus is not helping Tim Tebow win football games. This is a logical fallacy even in the absence of contrary evidence. (As an aside, in no way do I believe Jesus helps anyone win football games.) The logical fallacy exists when a claim is made that because one event occurred after another, it's because of the preceding event that the subsequent event occurred. If there is no control, there is no way to prove causality one way or another, therefore a logical conclusion cannot be reached.

Tangent: When Tim Tebow is interviewed after the game and gushes about his lord and savior before answering a question, there's nothing a journalist can do about it. When journalists take non-stories that are examples of the same thing and put them on the front page, however, especially when there's no alternative plausible explanation offered, that's simply irresponsible. The irony here is that most people in the United States don't trust the media, but I somehow doubt it's these sorts of supernatural stories that sow the seeds of mistrust.

Of course you can't ignore the placebo effect. If believing that Jesus is helping him causes Tim Tebow to perform better, it doesn't matter whether Jesus (however you like to imagine him) is actually helping or not. And that's good enough for me. Because when the division standings are calculated at playoff time, Jesus-assisted wins count the same as non-Jesus-assisted wins. Go Broncos!

Monday, December 5, 2011


Saturday was state CX championship. Fort Buenaventura with hero dirt, so I figured we all may as well skip the race, give T$ the medal, and drink a beer to celebrate. But that's not really how racing works. Besides, Seth, Adam, Rick, and I had to sort out who was the state champion amongst us.

Turns out it was Seth. He dropped the rest of us on lap one. Adam made it clear he wasn't going to let it come down to the end about halfway through and opened a gap I thought I could close but couldn't. I managed to stay away from Rick until he caught me on the last lap. I figured if we were together at the end, I could outsprint him.

I figured wrong. Rick made a move going into the last turn, and there wasn't enough room between the last turn and the line to do anything about it. Not sure I had the legs to do anything about it anyway. Well played. I would have done the exact same thing.

So the race was an utter failure. I didn't beat any of the guys I can reasonably expect to beat. I didn't do anything remarkable. I don't particularly enjoy that course. And yet, I still had a blast. Racing cyclocross is perhaps the most sisyphean thing I have ever done. Week after week I train, I compete, I do no better, and I somehow still come away anxious to do it again. Go figure.

Congratulations to cross-obsessed friends Daren, Rico, and Sara for winning their respective categories. Nicely done.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sign the petition

Talisker Corporation, parent company of The Canyons ski area, is trying to make an end run around the public approval process for ski area expansion with the support of Utah's congressional delegation. Please click the link and sign the petition to tell Congress to stop.

If you want a little more in-depth about what's going on, Andrew McLean has a thoughtful description. Save our Canyons have also offered their perspective.