Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Proctor Crit 2009

Cat 4 Crit (IL State Crit Championships), 45 min + 3. 4th/40?

This was a really tough race. The field and conditions colluded to ensure that whoever emerged state champ had earned it. I’ve always been contented with my results knowing that I left it all out there, or made mistakes that I would avoid next time – but yesterday hurt watching the podium. I clapped for the guy, he (and his team), had earned it. But I felt the want for that jersey.

What conditions made it so tough? The wind was the main factor, while the sun and heat were secondary. I don’t race well in the heat, I don’t know that my body responds so well to it (perhaps I need more race intensity training in it?) but during the race I used a water bottle to spray my chest and back to cool off. I think it mitigated the heat rather well. The wind, however, could not be obliged with an extra bidon. You know it’s a stiff wind when the little cycling cap brim is folded over after turning a corner! I don’t know that I’ve had that happen before, even in all my riding around Chamflat county. The downtown Peoria buildings created channels for the wind to whip through in a fierce way. The back stretch of the course was the worst as we had a stiff headwind in the main, yet gaps in the buildings introduced instantaneous side drafts. Hardmen would jump around the corner into the wind and the pack was usually strung out there; snaking about to avoid pavement cracks as we recoiled from the blows of the wind. This was a massive departure from last year in the 5’s where the field would be contented to settle down during this stretch. Not so in the 4’s. Full speed ahead!

My thanks go out to my teammates during this race, as they worked at the front for me in the closing laps. With 2 to go (usually the fastest part of the race), Luke went to the front with Tom on his wheel and drilled it for the entire lap to try and bring two xXx racers back (they stayed away to go 1-2!). His monster pull did string the field out and protected me in the top 10, but couldn’t bring back the escapees. After he and Tom pulled, nobody else came to the front to chase (on behalf of themselves or a teammate) during the final lap so we slowed and the “swarm” came. Losing several positions into the last pair of turns to the swarm was not my idea of a good sprint setup. Oh well. I know it’s coming and so I will be better prepared next time. At that point (last lap, 200 meters to go) it was time to go all in. I went and nabbed fourth. I would really like to see some pictures or video, but it would probably only feed my (already stuffed) ego.

Two quick things for my competitors (who probably won’t read this, but I should write it anyway). First, to the dude I (likely) spat on during the second half of the race, sorry man. I raised my hand to acknowledge my fault, but I never did get a look at you so I couldn’t help you towel off afterwards. Note to self: spit downwards if you have to, don’t spit “out!” Second, to the rider at the start with me, you may have thought my teammate’s pre-race breakaway scheming was in poor taste, but be a decent fellow and just say “you can’t plan it dude” or something. Nobody needs the cocky wayne’s world “sha-ah” eye roll. Really. In so doing you prove yourself as lame as the guy you look down on.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sunday Salad

Shel threw this together for lunch today; the greens, berries, and cheese are local. The olive oil and walnuts are from who knows where. Regardless, delicious!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Canari Tights

Evaluating tradeoffs are often difficult. Is this performance worth that cost? Is that weight suitable in this usage with this power? They can be fun studies, but sometimes you make the wrong decision. The Canari cycling tights are the wrong decision. There is no reason to buy these tights. You may only have $30 in the budget for some tights, but friend, spend $10 on embrocation, $20 on knee warmers, and save up until you have $60 or more, cuz the Canari’s aren’t going to cut it.

This morning’s commute required something more than shorts due to the light rain and temps in the mid 50’s. I elected the canari tights from the closet – big mistake. Here are some of the features that endear these babies to me:

· Ankle Elastic: they come with ankle elastic, and if you’ve got kankles, they’ll probably fit you. I have rather slender ankles (a girl in my club said my legs were “skinny” – not necessarily a complement to a cyclist…), and so they flap in the wind when they should be tight.

· Chamois Pad: they do come with a shammy. Unfortunately for me, I do not have a ghetto booty. Why would one need a ghetto booty? The chamois is positioned such that for the sit-bones to be supported by its cushion, it must be rotated from its normal resting position back (about an axis that runs through your pelvis horizontally). So I am hypothesizing that if my ass was 2 to 4 times its current (already generous) size, the chamois would potentially be stretched into place. I will say that it provides plenty of padding in the front of the crotch region but: A) I try not to sit on those parts – I suggest you avoid it too and B) I don’t do crotch-smashing-top-tube fixie skids in these tights…I save those for the women’s jeans. ;) So basically the chamois pad is completely worthless beyond making this grown man look like he’s wearing a diaper when I waddle by in my cycling shoes.

· Lycra/Spandex/Stretchy Material: they are constructed from this material. Like the other product I’m hoping to review soon (Nashbar Performance Bib Shorts), this material falls into that half-assed middle ground of low-grade cycling clothing: too tight to be socially acceptable and too loose to be comfortable for cycling. You know what I’m talking about, when shorts or tights fit tight, they are comfy to ride in and provide some compression for those massive leg muscles you enjoy flexing in the mirror. When the fabric is too loose it’ just… gross. To the outsider it may look the same but for the practitioner, it sucks.

So, like I said, save your money or better yet, inherit a small fortune so you can afford some Assos or Rapha tights. And when you try something like Canari’s on at the store with your underpants still on, pay closer attention to the chamois location! Sheesh Frenchy. Oh, and in case you were wondering, I have ridden them more than once (or thrice for that matter) so I don’t think I’m “taking it out” on my pants for an uncomfortable commute. And besides, the commute was rather nice this morning.

Singin' in the Rain

It's a rainy day today, but I wasn't as down about it as usual. Instead of rain keeping the girl and I indoors (read "no park, slides or swings"), it now gives the opportunity for her to wear her ladybug raingear. We went out to lunch on the local campus with her in this garb, and judging by the number of comments she received, I'm not the only one who thinks she is cute in it. Hope you enjoy, too. PS She serenaded me with her own version of "Rain rain go away" and it was all captured on video. Available for your viewing upon request. : )

Monday, June 1, 2009

His Name Was Robert Paulsen

Last night Shel and I watched Fight Club, that standard of post-modern masculinity. This was partly motivated by the recent comparison between cycling clubs and the fictitious “fight clubs” in the film as noted by the CyclingTipsBlog. This similarity is explicit in the coining of the Wednesday night ride the “Wednesday Night Fights” by many of the club riders here in CU.

The last time I watched the film was in the fall of 2000 (- it might have been spring 2001) as a freshman at Purdue. That feels like a lifetime ago – almost 9 years now – and I am certainly a different person sitting on the couch taking it in. Back then the “post-consumerism” appealed to me, as well as the uniting of diverse men for a common cause. Perhaps this is something built into all men, not a mob mentality (though it could quickly become that), but a desire to be part of something bigger, greater, and beyond ourselves.

Yesterday the film struck me by its honest critique of consumerism. The stinging lines (“white collar slaves”, “the things you own end up owning you”, “what kind of furniture defines me as a person?”, “I was almost complete (as a person by having a this wardrobe and those furnishings)”, “you die a little every minute” or something like that…) ring true in our culture, and as we all probably know - it is quite easy to get caught in a cycle of seeking fulfillment in stuff.

A fascinating thing about leaving consumerism is that it isn’t as simple as having some oddly clothed street fighter shout at you to “snap out of it.” In the film the clubbers participate in fights as a form of release from their monotonous soul suffocating jobs (whether waiting tables or in the other modern serfdom: the cubicle). The challenge, pleasure, and pain (in large doses) are all more real than their “real lives,” dominated by custom and societal expectations. The link between the consumerist, facile, and self-obsessed culture (“self improvement is masturbation”) and the 8-5 set is implicit in the film. The modern cycle of work-stress-buy to manage ourselves is not explicitly named but is conspicuous by its absence when the men depart from society and enter the monastic paper company/project mayhem. Thus the fight clubs provide the outlet the men need from the chains of everyday life. As Jack floats among terminal illness support groups for self-coddling early in the film, Fight Club takes over as the film progresses. There is a shared experience in the community that is more powerful and compelling than that of society which is the platform for their freedom.

The value of human life was affirmed in the film (no, really!). The repeated (seeming) carelessness of several characters (Marla’s walking indiscriminately through traffic, Tyler’s car crash, the “human sacrifices”, even Jack’s discharging a pistol in his mouth-!) all underscore the value of life by taking it seriously and living “the way I ought to” rather than “waiting” for tomorrow to start “really living”. The “Carpe Diem” ethos is based on the seriousness of death and the fundamental goodness of life. Ironically, in the film as in life, getting past the fears of failure, pain, the opinions of others, and death are all prerequisite to living fully and freely (as an adult). These elements reminded me of Jonathan Edwards’ famed resolutions (while redundant at times, worth the time).

The life of the mind is quite deceptive and the difference between perception and reality is brought to the fore by Jack’s schizophrenia. Shel’s reaction to it after the film was: “That makes me overwhelmingly sad for schizophrenics.” My response: “But they live such interesting lives.” Oh well.

It struck me that the goal of project mayhem, the cause that the burnt out post-moderns united around, was the destruction of the American Capitalism that gave force to their movement. The crowning achievement of Mayhem was the backdrop of the film’s closing: the destruction of several credit card corporate headquarters. No doubt this would wreak havoc on the companies but even in 2000 near the time of the film’s release we were safely into the “information age” and equipped with off-site backups for something like credit card information. The means to their goal of “erasing the debt and creating chaos” is inherently destructive, temporary, and symbiotic. Surely the daily lives – much less the paradigm – of the masses would not be changed by this event, although many would be inconvenienced which is the irony of the film’s statement; the petty lifestyle of Americans would simply be interrupted yet perpetuated, not revolutionized by this action. Furthermore, consider that the destruction of buildings in rebellion against the hated material system does not accomplish the ideological and “spiritual” goals pursued – they fought fire with fire, which didn’t build a new Heaven and Earth. What would be much more compelling (IMO) is a new way of life that built something grander than the current system. The desire for equality, freedom, and “reaching one’s potential” (or whatever you want to call it) is good and should be encouraged, not hindered. Would the anarchist, legalistic (“the first rule…the second rule…”), exclusively male monastic mayhem movement not do better if it embraced both genders, built instead of tore down, and allowed the flourishing of individual expression (rather than the conformity and anonymity of the bee hive – “you are not special, you are part of the same compost heap…”)? Would not the Kingdom of God do just those things and be a more compelling community to work amongst? Doesn’t the Church last and grow where Mayhem will end in irrelevance?