Friday, December 31, 2010

Meaningless data for 2010

New Year's Eve

Jennifer recently wondered “why do rides seem so meaningless when your powertap doesn’t work?” I feared that my miles for the year were therefore all meaningless since I have none of the data that a powertap captures for any of my excessive miles. Z, however, reminded me I am just as fixated by the numbers I generate at the end of each year as Jennifer is by the display that mesmerizes her for every inch she travels on a bike. True enough, although I prefer to think of my habit in a category I heard described on the radio today: the need to make lists at the end of the year. Maybe it’s a way of proving to myself that the last 365 days were not without meaning or merit or some sort of accomplishment.

What I really meant in response to Jen’s question was that every mile on a bicycle should be meaningful with or without data, even if you don’t know that it was a mile you just traveled or 300 seconds of your life that it consumed. My most memorable moments on a bike in 2010 were these:

Riding along the John Day River with Mick and Terri on a May afternoon. The temperature was perfect, we were all the traffic there was, the river is always beautiful, the riding was easy on the legs, and it was all just incredibly peaceful.

Riding the long climb up from Clarno (located elsewhere on the John Day) on the tandem with Mick. Again, there was no traffic, you feel like you’re climbing up the side of the world with views to everywhere—and there was Christy Moore on my iPhone to keep us moving along.

Riding from Newhalem to Mazama and back. I just don’t get tired of that ride or those views. I made the trip 5 times this year. I passed someone walking his bike, I passed someone who was riding so slowly I thought he would tip over onto his paniers, I just missed the boulder the size of a house falling into the roadway, and I reveled in all 120 miles every single time. And I found a quarter on the shoulder of the road on 3 of the trips, and on the last trip I found decals for the letters M and W (like you'd put on your driveway signpost) on the shoulder--just those 2, no other letters.

Hearing a lot of gunfire as I approached the turnaround at the WA State TT Championship. Even in my oxygen-deprived state, it was unnerving, to say the least. Seems the locals were getting in some target practice. There was also that horrific downpour in the last 10K of the Ravensdale Road Race where you could not see the road in front of you. The finish line was about the bleakest and loneliest I've ever seen.

Really, though, the most memorable moment was the day and a half of watching my husband get to the Race Across Oregon finish powered solely by determination. The heat took its toll on the Irish lad, and his stomach rebelled (over and over again), so the last 200 miles were fueled by willpower alone.

So here’s the data for my year in review:

Total bike miles on the road: 13,012 (2009: 12,333; 2008: 12,693).

Month with the most miles: January 1,383. (My biggest month in 2009 was May, with 1,653 miles; May was No. 2 in 2010, with 1,336.)

Month with least miles: November again, with 671 (down from last year’s low of 757).

19 rides of 100 miles or more, up from 16 in 2009. Longest rides were 193, 181 (tandem), 144, and 136 miles.

First day in the year that I did not ride my bike: May 30 (that tells you something about the mild winter we had). Also missed 3 days while crewing for my husband at RAO, 2 days in the snowpocalypse in November, plus 9 more days. So 15 days of no cycling out of 365. (The figure was 29 in both 2009 and 2008.)

Most miles in one week (7 days): 451 (down from 599 in 2009).

Number of times I rode a trainer: 106. That’s up from just 9 in 2009. Different training program. I thought I would learn to spin more on the road, but I think I just do all my spinning now on the trainer.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Holiday base miles

St. Stephens Day

Just a quick follow up on my pledge to ride 1,000 miles between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The weather cooperated (no snow or ice) and I beat my goal. A short ride on Christmas Eve pushed my total to 1,111 (couldn't have hit THAT figure if I'd tried!). I also ran 30 miles during that period.

Fairly early in the process I decided to make the National Park Service the beneficiary of this little challenge: every mile in excess of the goal would be worth $1, and every mile short of the goal would be worth $2. I chose the Park Service because (1) it needs support and (2) I made 10 passes through the North Cascades National Park this year without having to pay a penny for the priceless experience. I'll be sending my check to the NPS superintendent in Sedro Woolley this week.

Time to organize my next training targets.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Flash mobbing

Saturday, 11 December

Today the flagship Nordstrom store hosted a flash mob performance of the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's Messiah by the Seattle Symphony Chorale and a host of other local choirs. It was not very "flash," but it was definitely "mobbed." The non-event was supposed to be top secret, but I'm sure each of the 500+ singers told 10 people (thanks, Brandon, for the tip!).

I got there at T minus 25 minutes and you could hardly walk around the main floor of the store. Since I average less than one trip downtown per year, I thought maybe this was normal for a Saturday in the Christmas season. Until I heard people asking "is there some star here?" and "are they all standing in line for something?"

Exactly on time and according to the described plan, the piano tinkled out an upper-register version of "Deck the Halls." Out came cameras and phones--and sheet music. With absolutely no ado, the pianist moved into Handel's work and the singers sang. From the spot I staked out, I could not see maestro Gerard Schwarz (he's featured in the video in the Seattle Times link below). What I could see, though, were singers going up and down on the escalators (which you don't see in the pro video link), some poor shoppers just trying to go about their shopping with no clue what was going on, and of course all the phones and cameras raised above the mob.

The work iself is pretty short. The singers got nice applause when it was done, and that was it. No un-ado. Good thing no one invited the Seattle Fire Department--it took ages for the mob to dissipate. One poor guy working his way into the store was so disappointed to see us all moving toward the doors and said "I'm too late?!"

In the Irish idiom, it was brilliant. It was art, religious art, in a highly commercialized setting. It was a cooperative, voluntary effort of the music community. Maybe it was disappointing that so many of the people there were not surprised by what happened (the missing "flash" part), but how amazing that they all wanted to be there. The Messiah is Easter music, but this was definitely a Christmas experience.

Here's the professional report:

And here's a clip of my iPhone video:

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sibling rivalry, or how many miles to Christmas?

Black Friday

During Thanksgiving festivities, my brother revealed that he is participating in something called the Jenny Challenge. (No, it has nothing to do with Jenny Craig.) The goal is to run 100 miles between Thanksgiving and Christmas (Jenny challenged her uncles and siblings to do this one year). Somehow it's a fundraising function, but he didn't get to those details. A laudable goal, but 25 miles a week seems a bit brutal to me. So I wished him luck without taking up the challenge.

But in the thinking time I had on my bike ride today when I wasn't dodging slushy patches on the road, I realized that setting some sort of goal to counter the fudge factor of December would not be a bad thing. So I am embarking on the Jenny Gamble. My goal is to ride 1,000 miles between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's a gamble because that target is not an enormous challenge (for me) except for the gamble of December weather. Last year I rode 954 miles during that period, but there were some icy days when I could not ride. I will make it a little less easy by stipulating that trainer time and indoor time trials do not count; these should be "real" miles.

So I have 29 days to cover 1,000 miles. Just 34.5 miles a day. I got in 73 today, so I'm off to a good start. If I get desperate near the end, there's always the solstice ride (ride from sunset to sunrise through the longest night of the year), but I hope it doesn't come to that! I'll keep a total on my Facebook wall so you can hold me accountable. Join me?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Double Trouble

Monday, October 18

The Double Trouble double century on Saturday was my second-longest ride ever on the tandem: 181 miles. Lots of things were learned.

If you’re thinking of trying your hand/legs at ultra racing or riding, try something in nice cool fall weather. While I complained about the lack of toasty sunshine, really it was nice to not worry about dehydration (I drank maybe 3 bottles during the 13 hours we were out) or heat exhaustion or sunburn or excruciating hot spots on my feet.

If you think tunes would be a nice distraction on your way up an 8-mile climb and hold your iPhone out to the side of the bike in your left hand so your captain can hear the music too, be prepared for your left arm to be even more tired than your right arm the next day.

If you really dread the high-speed descents more than the climbs, pick a number to represent how many tight, fast turns you have to survive and then count on your way down the hill. There will be a lot fewer alarming moments than you think. I chose 20 for the drop after Fossil down to the John Day fossil beds and there turned out to be more like 2.5. (Sometimes I was a good descender and sometimes not; flying into Condon I was in full tuck position out of the wind, but in a few places I was sitting up as tall as I could to try to slow us down.)

If the sun goes down and you’re panicked because the road ahead tips down and disappears into black way too fast for comfort, or even moderate discomfort, and you think the captain is absolutely overdriving the headlight on his helmet, take off your dark glasses. (That was a real “ah ha” moment.)

I don’t wear trousers. At least that’s what one gentleman at the retirement home in Fossil told me as he figured out why our pants didn’t get caught in the two chains on the tandem.

Bruschetta is very nice to eat at a sag stop in the middle of a double century. Cookies get tiresome after the first dozen or so. Unfortunately, it is possible to ride 181 miles and gain weight. I heard from other riders that beer is not such a good thing to drink on a long ride, although the only other woman to finish the whole route thought the swig of whiskey for the last 5 miles was the best way to get down a very fast, twisty descent in the pitch dark.

From my captain’s perspective, towing me along on the climbs was as good as having 400 miles in his legs. Our speed up the Clarno climb was the same as his on that stretch of road during Race Across Oregon…in mid-summer heat…after pedaling mostly nonstop for about 30 hours….

Thanks to Mick and to George and Rob for an amazing day (and to a couple of FB peeps for the pix I borrowed here)!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Training tribulations, Ring of Fire wrap-up

Monday, September 27

I’ve gotten myself into a bit of a training conundrum. I’m signed up to do a double century on the bike on October 16 and a 10K run the weekend after. Normally this is a good time of year for a longer run because you can let the bike miles slide. The challenge here is to keep up the bike miles and climbing (there’s probably 15,000 feet of elevation in this double) and to ramp up both speed and distance in my running (I run--pretty slowly--a couple times each week to help preserve bone density).

There are the days before and after the ride that I should rest and therefore cannot be doing a nice, long prerace run. There are other conflicts, like a team meeting and related hoopla, that fill most of a weekend training day. And then there’s the wild card of the weather, which can make a 100-mile training ride seem mighty unnice if you try to actually schedule it into your training plan. Oh yeah, and it’s the time of year to start hitting the weights in the gym again.

There are other conflicts too, like the fact that I should spend every dry waking hour painting the house. Or two evening meetings. Or the fact that I refuse to get up in the morning at an hour that starts with a 4 to train. Or the fact that the city DOT closed a key arterial on my shortest route to work so that I cannot spend more of my prework time training instead of commuting.

I think I need to discover how to chart the dimension of time because right now my two-dimensional training schedule is pretty full. How do I access the 3D version of the spreadsheet?

Ring of Fire Wrap-up: It was good. I had my nutrition dialed in, talked myself out of skipping one installment in the interest of time, and had a minor meltdown (ALWAYS carry a spare gel in your pocket!) that utterly demoralized me (funny how lack of food and water plays with your brain!) for about 90 minutes. But it was a perfect day in a gorgeous location and I was on my bike. Best part of the night shift (supporting the 24-hour racers) was an 8-inch telescope brought by the wife of one of the 24s. I got to see Jupiter and 4 of its moons in all their glory while they were the closest to earth they’ll be in a long time, plus we saw the nebula that is the sword on Orion’s belt and the Andromeda galaxy. Yeah, it’s dark in Maupin at night!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Shrine, meet fiery ring

Thursday, 9 September

What serendipitously coincidental timing for the blog Muse to visit! Last post: ultra race failure. This post: next ultra race coming up.

Saturday is this year’s incarnation of the Ring of Fire 6/12/24 hour time trial. As ever, I’ll be pushing my envelope with the 12-hour version. There’s been virtually no specific training or planning for this event (OK, 6 rides over 100 miles in 2 months would be most people’s idea of ultra training), so I guess I am relying on the shrine to the ultra gods (see previous post) to propel me to the finish. I have tended it faithfully over the summer and offered up various tokens (4 championship medals and other trinkets) in the hope of keeping them happy.

Last year’s ROF featured temps over 100 degrees; this year we’ll be lucky to see 70—and lucky not to see 35. I’ll want heated water bottles, not frozen ones. I started piling up food to take and thought, “really, how much do you need for just 12 hours?” I can’t eat two bars every hour for 12 hours; I can only drink so much protein/energy drink; electrolyte drinks get to be icky after about 4-5 hours. So I bought a couple Cokes, a 6-pack of Oreos, and a bag of Ritz Bits Made With Real Peanut Butter. Throw in some grapes and pretzels, and that should be good. Beer and sweet potato fries come after (as soon as) I get off the bike. I don’t plan to follow the Mick Walsh Nutrition Plan (150 miles on 0 calories) but there’s no point in packing a 4-course lunch, either.

The other competitors in my division are (so far) two: Karen Armstrong, climber extraordinaire and amazing ultra cyclist (I’ve already said my goodbyes to my course record here), and Beatrix Kiddo. Since there are no bike racers in the WSBA or OBRA membership databases with that name, I guess it really must be her. I think I’ll schedule a pee stop deep in the woods and out of sight when she’s about to pass me.

Mostly I’m hoping to slay the demons still bedeviling me from last year’s fail at ROF and this year’s bad luck at Lewis and Clark. Extras would be beating my old course record (even if Karen beats it by a lot more) and the glorious views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, and the Columbia Plateau. And lots of great camaraderie, which I know I can count on above all else.

And as if an ultra race isn’t a geeky enough thing for one weekend, the day after my race I get to go to the Wool Gathering. If you find a knitted hat in your mailbox in the next few months, it’s probably because I couldn’t resist buying more yarn than I knew what to do with.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Shrine of the times

Memorial Day

Saturday was the Lewis and Clark 12/24. I've done this race (12-hour version) twice before on my single bike, and the goal this year was to do it on the tandem. We didn't aspire to any enormous distance in our allotted 12 hours, just log some fun miles and establish a tandem course record (there isn't one).

The weather forecast was grim all week, and I announced that it if was raining, I wasn't going. Climbing and descending a mountain pass in the rain--after 4 hours on the bike--didn't sound like any kind of fun. Funny enough, it was not raining at the start. The promoter's bribes to the weather gods had paid off. Briefly. Within 15 minutes, the drizzle started and my captain was saying "I thought you said you wouldn't race if it was raining." Yeah, well, I'm here now, let's go. Sadly, the bike had other notions. When we started up after a "nature break," the front shifter snapped off inside the brake hood. The derailleur was about halfway between the small and middle chain rings. Eventually we found a screwdriver and got it to run well enough on the middle ring, but it was pretty clear that we were neither going to climb any steep hills nor have much fun on anything even slightly downhill with that gearing. So we limped our way to Stevenson, found a nice coffee shop, watched the Gorge winds, and caught up on Facebook. And then we turned around and rode the 46 miles back to the start. 50 rpm uphill on a tandem when you can't swing the bike or mash the gears is absolutely brutal.

DNF. Boo. For a bike racer, my competitiveness is down at the low end of the spectrum. But DNFs really leave me disappointed. It was worse than suffering through the rain and cold; it was a flat feeling of being let down. It was a no-fault DNF, and there was no one to blame, not even myself. And it compounded the lingering feelings I had from the Ring of Fire 12/24 last September where hot temps did me in (that one was more my own fault, and I learned from the experience, but the disappointment was palpable).

What to do? Yes, plan and train even more and better and smarter for Ring of Fire. But I had so many eggs in that basket last year that my performance was devastating. Then I noticed Gina's sage advice to Jennifer about setting up a shrine to the crit gods to induce them to treat her better and realized that maybe I need my own shrine of the times, this one for the ultra (so far defined in my book as 12 hours) gods. So now it is set up, and in a spot where I will see it often. In addition to appeasing the ultra gods, it will remind me of Gina's wisdom and Jennifer's competitiveness--and hopefully some of each of those will rub off on me.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Kamikaze squirrel

Monday, 25 May

Spoiler alert! This will not spoil the outcome of a bike race for you, but it might spoil your lunch. Do not read this if you are ultra-sensitive about the fate of animals.

It finally happened. I ran over a squirrel. Bad karma, mea culpa, oy vey.

I was riding down the Old Woodinville-Duvall Road (a quiet detour off the busy W-D Road, and a nice little climb besides), not paying too much attention to wildlife, and suddenly there was a squirrel shooting under my bike. It happened very fast, but I do remember time to think “this is not good” (usually the vocabulary I come up with in such situations is not repeatable). I fully expected that it would be about like trying to run over a brick. Since I was going 20-25mph, definitely not good.

Who knew? Squirrels are soft.

I kept the bike going in a straight line, stayed upright, and did not stop. What could I do? While I would like to know how the squirrel came out of it, I don’t think I improved its wellbeing (I’m pretty sure I ran over more than its tail). If I stopped to inspect the damage, I was neither going to save the squirrel’s life (call PAWS?) nor dispatch it into the next if it was maimed (grab it by the tail and fling it high into the woods?). Don’t get me wrong. I could not have harmed the animal intentionally. I was quite distraught for the fate of the poor little creature, but—honestly—how could I have helped it? (To be really cruel about it, eastern grey squirrels are an invasive species here anyway.) Hopefully it at least managed to get out of the road so that all the Tour de Cure riders who had to go up that road on their century ride didn’t have to look at it lying there. When I did stop at the next intersection about a mile down the road, there were no traces of squirrel on my bike, just the usual worms and slugs that accumulate from wet roads.

Maybe next time you ride down that road you’ll see a gimpy but otherwise healthy squirrel? Maybe my bad karma is dissipated by the squirrel’s own Darwinian behavior?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thursday thoughts

Thursday, 13 May

I seem to have been on the receiving end of a lot of pity aphorisms today. Many are remarkably relevant to my work and personal lives, and some nudge me away from dour thoughts that overtook me on my early morning ride. Here are the best of 'em:

If you’re old, and you wake up in the morning and nothing hurts, you’re dead.

They found out what’s at the end of the tunnel: another tunnel.

It's good to have guardian angels, mentors, and people that push you to do MORE.

A dollar’s worth of jelly beans can change your day.

Little things can make such a difference; a little smile, a little treat, a little extra.

Do something new every chance you get and make it fun.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Loup Loup mystery unwound

Thursday, 29 April

Out in the middle of nowhere on my Loup Loup loop from Chelan (see previous post), not too long before the pavement ended, I rode past a complex of what looked like satellite dish thingies. They were out on a ridge maybe a half mile from the road I was on, and the sign on the gate was some made-up telecom sounding moniker. I puzzled for a while about what they might be or do, but then I rode past some other curious thing to wonder about and then the pavement ended. And then I forgot about them altogether.

This morning's Seattle Times reveals that the site houses a deep space telescope, akin to the Hubble. It's one of ten in the Very Long Baseline Array. "This system is so good that it has the ability to see fine detail equivalent to standing in New York City and reading a newspaper in Los Angeles. It peers through clouds and dust into other galaxies, into regions where planets are being formed. It has produced images that go to the very beginnings of the universe, and helped discover a black hole in the center of the Milky Way."

It seems pretty cool to me that it sits out there in our amazing resource of fruit orchards, that it takes only two technicians on site to keep it going, and that Erik Lacitis happened to write about it while it was fresh(ish) in my mind. I must try to follow up on more of the curious things I see on long rides in the boonies!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Wenatchee roubaix and Loup Loup loop

Sunday, April 18

Today's ride was the short little jaunt that is the road race at the Wenatchee omnium. However, there is rather less road than there needs to be. In places, the potholes and missing pavement stretch across the entire road, on both uphill and downhill sections. The phone camera photos don't really demonstrate the depth of the problem. And sure, most of the road is fine (if you don't ride anywhere near the right edge). But some of the road is just not there. I like paved road beneath my road bike, thanks very much.
Some of the holes are full of sand from a winter of road "maintenance." When you're riding by yourself, these are a challenge (picking them out of the shadows, finding a line). In a group of more than 2 riders, they could be treacherous. Although the course cries out for superlight carbon wheels, it could be their last hurrah. The problems start about 200 meters after the left turn at the church and continue on and off for several miles.

Yesterday was the long-miles day. I racked up 136 miles in the saddle and somewhere in the neighborhood of 6000 feet of climbing, finishing with 50 miles into a significant headwind. But only 3 stop lights and 1 WalMart. And not a single other soul did I see upon a bicycle. I rode from Chelan to Okanogan, then over Loup Loup Pass to Twisp. I stopped to take a picture (or three) at the top of the pass and reveled in the silence. Nothing to hear but birds and trees swaying in the wind. And I discovered a great bakery in Twisp, which will induce me to ride through that town again. The scariest moment was encountering a "pavement ends" sign after a string of "road work ahead" signs. Happily, the missing pavement on this road (Old 97) was replaced by oiled dirt (I didn't know they did that anymore) with only a tiny bit of gravel. It was almost as good as the paved road--and a whole lot better than the Stemilt loop above Wenatchee!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Numbers and comparisons

Monday, 12 April

130 miles of road racing for me this weekend. That’s a lot, for me. Kings Valley Road Race in Oregon, Olympic View Road Race in Washington. Similar, but not the same. 31 cat 1-2-3 women at KVRR, 29 I think at OVRR. 18-mile circuits; lots more climbing (and wind) per lap at KV. Pace was faster at OVRR, but at KV the field was lined out single file a lot more often.

Full disclosure: I admit I didn’t do much racing. I was mostly hanging on, getting in some "speed work." My average speed for nearly 3.5 hours at OVRR was about 25% faster than I ride on my own. But I also learned and observed.

Learned: Sue Butler is sublime on a bike. Most of us ride a bike; she is just there among us, effortlessly. You would not know she was pedaling to watch her in the pack. It’s beyond having a smooth pedal stroke. It’s being at one with the bike. A pleasure to behold. More practically, I learned from watching Tina how to get through the worst crosswind section at Kings Valley. On the first lap, that was a couple miles of hell for me, and I barely made it. Then I saw where and how Tina was riding, and by copying her example, the second and third laps went much better for me. My arms ended up being tired from the death grip I had on the bars to hold my position, but the legs were much happier.

Observed: A cat 2 team leader who flagrantly violated the centerline rule to get to the front to be with her peeps, apparently oblivious to the fact that others in the pack were commenting on her poor example. A cat 1 who forgot that you don’t cross the centerline into the left lane when you have a mechanical and expect service from the wheel car. A cat 2 who didn’t know where the finish line was when she started to sprint (and who was disappointed when her legs gave out before she got to the line). Cat 3s who can’t get out of the saddle and keep the bike in a straight line. A cat 2 with a pedal stroke that looks like her left ankle is unhinged.

Also observed: A lot of selfless teamwork. Active racing. And some new cat 3s who surprised themselves. Two days of good racing.

Oh yeah, race numbers. OBRA riders understand what the purpose is behind two jersey numbers. One is for the finish line, the other is for the official in the follow car. So at KV, one number sideways on your left side, one horizontal across the pockets. I wasn’t absolutely 100% certain the camera was on the left, and we got to the start less than 30 minutes before the first race went off, so I had just prepinned one number on each side. I was the oddball in the pack (OK, in more ways than one). Next day, at OVRR, I got my act together: one number on the left, one on the pockets. Everybody else had their second number pinned for the nonexistent camera on the right side of the road. We are stuck with the requirement for two jersey numbers because the officials want them, but that second number is just about useless when it’s pinned sideways in your other armpit. Sit in a follow car sometime and see for yourself.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Eight days a week

Tuesday, 16 February

Eight days a week
Is not enough.

I’ve been thinking about the content of this post for two weeks but can’t ever find the time to finish it up.

I really need eight days in a week to get everything done. Housecleaning, rest day, blogging, gardening—there just isn’t time to squeeze everything in. Watch a movie? Read a book? Ha.

Along came the Presidents Day holiday, and I thought “aha, the perfect extra day.” Unfortunately, I always try to accomplish more things on a holiday than there is time for and so end up feeling even farther behind and/or more tired than if there hadn’t been a holiday. I didn’t start out yesterday with ambitious plans, but somehow the 4-hour bike ride consumed 5.5 hours, the eating/recovery/laundry afterward took time, and poof! the day was just about gone with hardly time to do all the normal Monday tasks.

God got everything done in six days, but I can’t manage in seven. Maybe life has gotten more complicated?

Friday, January 29, 2010

It's not about the watts

Friday, 29 January

I am blue today.

This weekend marks the tenth anniversary of the death of two family friends in a preventable plane crash and the celebration of life/memorial service for another friend who recently lost a long battle with cancer. None was what you’d call a close personal friend, and yet they were all intertwined with my life and who I am and what I treasure in ways I come to appreciate more as time passes. Remembering them makes me realize how trivial the pursuit of watts, power, and speed really are in the big picture. That doesn’t mean I won’t be out training on my bike this weekend, but it does mean I will be using that time to enjoy the friends I’m riding with, the things I see, and the things I learn. Whether the end result is greater speed is not the most important thing in the world.

If I am, at lucky best, a mediocre bike racer, it’s not because I don’t care, it’s because other things are important to me. After one particular thread of whining listserv email this week, a friend commented that you had to take but one look at Haiti to put all our bike racing quibbles--nay, our priorities--into perspective. I hope not to get so focused on my own goals and desires that I fail to cherish the people who make up my life. Sure, I’ll miss 350 watts when I can no longer pedal that hard, but not like I miss the people who’ve shaped whoever I am.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Bleak midwinter: NOT

Friday, 15 January

"In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone."

So goes one of the lesser known Christmas carols. But we aren't even to midwinter yet (barely three weeks into winter) and already things are breaking out in fragrant blossoms, which can only mean full-on spring is just around that corner. All of these plants are blooming outside my office today (okay, the daphne and lily of the valley are still not quite in full bloom, but the witch hazel and the super-fragrant white stuff make this midwinter anything but bleak):