Wednesday, 30 December 2009

New Year's Eve Miscellania

I stopped by the video store after spinning to pick up a movie, and noticed this in the Comedy aisle:

Also, as I was packing my board this evening, I noticed that the skiier hitman tore the beejeebus out of the tail. Ouch. That's going to cost me. DAMN YOU, SKIIERS!!

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Man Down

I'm Hit! Today I was a casualty in the Great Skiier vs. Snowboarder Holy War. Last run of the day, and the guy plows into me from nowhere. Never saw him coming. Thank god for the helmet, because I went down hard. Whiplash is already creeping in. In retaliation, I plan on tripping a skiier as we get off the lift tomorrow.

Seriously, I'm done with snow and ready for road. With idle time on my hands, I've been spending way too much time trolling through the interwebs for all things bikely, and can't wait to get back in the saddle. Check this site out for really well produced mini-docs on the Cervelo Team over the 2009 season. Witness: scary driving/sandwich eating by their DS, the biggest watches you've ever seen, racy shots of Heinrich Hausler on the massage table, and the narrator's cute Canadian accent. I really liked the Flanders episode.

Tomorrow I can look foward to another extended spin session at the rec center. So sweaty.

Routine. When I snowboard alone I sometimes get in my own head. Today, I began to notice the little chair lift routine that I repeat on every run:
  1. Hockey stop.
  2. Unstrap back leg.
  3. Loosen front buckles.
  4. Get on lift.
  5. Pull down footrest/safety bar.
  6. Pull up gaiter to cover mouth and nose.
  7. Pull hood over helmet.
  8. Draw fingers out of mitts and clench thumbs for warmth.
  9. Sit and plan my next run.
  10. Re-insert fingers in mitt.
  11. Push off hood.
  12. Push up safety bar.
  13. Get off lift.
  14. Pull down gaiter.
  15. Strap in back foot
  16. Tighten front buckles.
  17. Rip shreds to the extreme!!!!
This pattern somehow made me feel all warm inside - literally and figuratively. I am a self-admitted creature of habit, and take odd satisfaction from learning and internalizing a system that works efficiently and consistently. I have routines for getting out the door to go snowboarding, taking a shower in the gym after spin class, and prepping for a bike ride. Oddly, the Rain Man routine of prepping the bottles and food, laying out the clothes, getting out the bag, and packing the gear is part of what I enjoy about riding bikes.

I'm not alone in this. See Joe Parkin's description of pre-race prep in Belgium. I love that post.

Sunday, 27 December 2009


Since arriving in Whistler, I've been on the slopes three times, and done two indoor cycling sessions at the local rec center, which is more decked out than most high-end gyms. They even have legit spin bikes with SPD pedals. Given the mediocre snow conditions, I'll probably put in another 90 minute spin tomorrow.

I don't mind too much. I've got a ton of podcasts to keep me company, and started Born to Run by Christopher McDougall on audiobook. I'm only 20 minutes in, but give it a big thumbs up so far. For me, running was never more than an efficient workout, a means to an end, even before my foot problems started. But I can still appreciate the stories of athletic achievement, and sympathize with the author's struggle with injuries over the years.

Another book review: Ten Points, Bill Strickland. My sister sent it to me for Christmas. The book draws parallels between Strickland's relationship with his wife and daughter, his desperate bid to win points at the local crit, and the gut-wrenching abuse suffered at the hands of his father.

Strickland is the editor-at-large for Bicycling magazine, so it's no surprise that he successfully evokes the rush of the pack at 30 miles an hour - better than any other book I've read, actually. His feelings for his wife and daughter are also nicely drawn, if a bit mawkish.

I wonder, though, can a memoir be too personal? Strickland lays bare his soul in this book, and at times I felt like I had to turn away. Rape, physical abuse, animal cruelty, Russian Roulette (!) - it's all there. While writing about these events in unflinching detail requires real courage, at times the pieces seemed gratuitous (do we really need half a page on what it's like to literally eat shit?).

My biggest issue with the book, though, is that the links between Strickland's childhood, his family, and bike racing are often ham-fisted. The best writing appears seamless; in this book the nails and glue are just a bit too apparent. Strickland regularly uses images from his current life to trigger flashbacks to some terrible experience with his dad. This device begins to feel like a literary crutch after a few times.

So in the style of Bicyling's product reviews....
Buy it if: You crave the thrill of the pack - from the safety of your armchair.
Don't buy it if: Oversharing makes you squirm.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Day of Rest

Relaxing day with La Roleurette and my parents. We had brunch at the Westin (nice pancakes), walked around Whistler Village, checked out the Olympic merchandise, and watched Up in the Air (two thumbs up). Leftover turkey et al tonight...

Merry Christmas!

p.s. The 2010 Olympic merch is super cool. The Meomi stuff is almost unbearably cute.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

All I Want for Christmas is Snow

Sadly, despite the solid base, Whistler/Blackcomb is hurting for some fresh snow. Is it possible for 8,100 acres to be skied out? Apparently. It's ok, though - with the big board, I'm happy to just go fast on the groomers. All 172 cm are super stable at speed, and make for super fun carving.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009


As seen from the plane and newly widened Sea to Sky Highway...

Monday, 21 December 2009

Ghost of Christmas Future

A chilling glimpse into the future this weekend. Dave and Liz, two friends with a 16-month old girl, stayed with us on Friday and Saturday nights. I was woken at 4:45am one morning (explosive baby diarrhea), 6:30am the other (just the regular early wake-up call).

I did no riding, but did win $10 from Dave in a ping pong match, cooked all the fresh food in the fridge, and installed a wireless audio system, which is super cool. Now I can move the half-busted iPod dock into the Mancave.

For his part, Dave was similarly productive, and spent 30 minutes assembling the paper elf cutout from the SF Chronicle Datebook section. His daughter crushed it in 3 seconds. RIP, little big head paper elf. We hardly knew you.

Also, we tried out one of the East Bay's schmancy new coffee spots. Local 123 in Berkeley. Nice, but I was a little too bleary at the time to appreciate it. I had a macchiato and a chocolate People's Donut. Thumbs up, coffee, thumbs down vegan donut.

Tomorrow I fly up to Whistler for a family holiday, trading one kind of riding for the other (I know, I know - life is tough). But I'll bring my shoes and shorts to spin in the gym on off days.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

And More Rain

Boo, rain. Boo, dark. Still, I sucked it up and took the Cross-Check up The Arlington and South Park before work. My wool cap was dripping right into my eyes on the descent.!!

Also, boo cats. One of the neighborhood cats has decided to make the doorway to the Mancave its very own litterbox. I didn't get around to picking it up, and now the poo is melting in the rain. A part of me dies every time I see it.

For the last couple of weeks, the rear brake on the CC has been making a terrible ruckus. I've been too lazy to deal with it, particularly since my commute is flat as a pancake. But the noise was just too unnerving this morning, coming down Grizzly Peak and Spruce. A quick check found that I had actually worn through most of the pads. I guess they went through many thousands of miles on the Atlantis. In fact, I don't remember ever replacing them.

Normally, I would have just spun this evening, but we're seeing the W's play the Spurs. I fear the holy hellfire Tim Duncan is going to unleash on the Warrior's front line. Good luck with that, Miki Moore.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

How to Make Nice with the Other

On Sunday, we rode with Ken's friend, Brendan. He'd never been on a snowboard before, but is an expert kite surfer, so we expected him to manage all right. Still, Ken and I were blown away when, on the first run down, he started linking turns consistently. It never even occurred to him to just stay on his heel side and plow down the mountain, the standard newbie approach.

Making "boarderoy." Skiers love it when you do this.

Anyway, Ken and I would end up waiting a couple of minutes at the bottom of the run for him. He'd show up, and without fuss we'd just get in the line and ride up. No whining, apologies, or excuses. Even when he was getting his ass kicked on harder runs, he never once complained, and seemed willing to try out anything. At one point, he told us we should just do some runs without him, and so we did. No big deal. He was, in fact, the ideal newbie.

This made me think about how to ride bikes with people who are significantly slower or faster than you. Being the most mediocre cyclist I know, I can speak to both.

On Riding with Faster Riders

1. Don't make excuses or offer apologies. Nobody cares that you were sick all week or lost a leg in a bus accident. Really, it doesn't matter. Nothing worse than having to constantly affirm the slow rider. To this day, I am impressed by my friend Jasper, who, SEVERELY hungover, got up early the morning after my wedding to help set up the BBQ tent and play bride vs. groom ultimate with us. He just went to a corner of the field, threw up, and kept going. Not a peep out of the guy.

2. Offer the fast guys the option of taking off. Do this once, and only once. If they say "no," don't make them keep reassuring you it's ok if they wait.

3. Accept the pull. Let the strong guys do the work. No shame in this. Make a little effort here and there, and that will be appreciated.

4. Stay within your limits and take care of yourself. As the most crampy person around, I know that if I cramp up, it's all over. You thought I was slow before? Watch this, motherfucker. So I eat, drink, take my salt pills, and go at a brisk, but sustainable pace.

5. Have fun. In most cases, the fast guys are prepared to wait. What they're not prepared to do is play emotional babysitter. Waiting is fine if the waitee is having a good time.

On Riding with Slower Riders

1. Don't make a big deal of it. In fact, don't mention it even once. The slower rider doesn't want to feel like you're doing them a favor.

2. Wait for a second at the regroup. It's kind of demoralizing to stagger to the top of a climb, see everyone else happily hanging out, then scatter when you roll up. "That was the funniest story ever! Oh, look who's here! Wow, look at the time! I gotta go."

3. Pull more. Just take it easy, Hercules.

4. Avoid the urge to jump on faster groups when they go by. Your ego will heal. If you want, you can immediately start launching into a long involved story at the top of your lungs, so it's clear you're on a recovery ride with your newbie friend.

5. You are allowed to offer one brief piece of advice to a newbie, so choose wisely. However, if the slow rider is your spouse, don't even bother. You might as well be speaking Esperanto. Also, I know the pros do it, but NEVER push, unless asked, especially if the slow person is of the opposite sex. I was on the AIDS Ride in 2001, and someone told me that a total stranger just reached over and started pushing her up the hill. She was so pissed that she turned around and rode the hill again. If you're a woman and start pushing a guy up the hill, he will be either turned on or totally emasculated. Unless these are your goals, it's probably a bad move. Plus, men are sweaty. Yuck.

Monday, 14 December 2009

First Day of the Other Riding Season

A great first day on the slopes! There was plenty of powder to go around, though a bit on the heavy side. Plus, the drive was traffic and pain free - at least for me. Ken did the heavy lifting; I sat in the back eating pretzels, peeling oranges, and drinking tea.

First day of the season is always a struggle, and yesterday was no different. My legs never quite felt the rhythm, but I was happy to get the cobwebs off before heading up to Whistler next week. We rode from 9am to 2pm and were cooked. I'm sore today.

On the way home, we stopped at In 'N' Out in Auburn, and Ken had a 4x4. It's four patties with cheese, plus the usual trimmings, wedged uncomfortably in a little bun. Sadly, I forgot my camera in the car, because this thing looked like a medical journal photo. I mean, I like meat and cheese as much as the next guy, but good god.

I got home by 6pm, in time for second dinner. La Roleurette had cooked up a storm all weekend, and busted out containers of mac n cheese, pork and persimmon stew, chili, polenta, brussel sprouts, and chocolate chip cookies. Fortunately, EZ and the Ladies were spending the night, in town for work, so they assisted with the eating. There's still plenty leftovers for the week, though.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Yes, We are Big Babies

It's been cold here. And by "cold" I mean "cold for Northern California softies like me." Right around now, people in truly wintry parts of the country are burning their furniture for warmth, while we're whining about 40 degree days and making panicked purchases of space heaters.

I freely admit that we're intolerant of weather extremes here. Hell, I revel in it, and pity the fools who have to deal with hot, humid summers and icy winters. I will not apologize for living in the land of milk and honey.

In keeping with my general wussiness, I opted to cycle indoors exclusively this week, with the exception of two uncomfortably chilly rides to work. Looks like I'm in good company, since both classes were packed. On Wednesday, in fact, all the bikes had been spoken for, even though I arrived 10 minutes early. Wendy was kind enough to give up her bike for me (Lisa was teaching). She had apparently taught the morning spin class, so was ok with going home to watch TV and eat popcorn. I take back all the mean things I said about her. She can play her God rock all she wants.

Also due to weather, my ride with Jake and Ed was called off. Too bad! I think I'm actually in decent shape right now, having ridden 4x a week for the last couple of months, mixing it up between intervals, tempo rides, and easy cruises.

So, instead, La Roleurette and I were up at oh-dark thirty for the 7-9am spin class. Wendy likes to start the class with the lights off. I found it strangely relaxing. Like being in a warm, sweaty womb. Despite brunch, sushi, mac and cheese, and cookies, I found myself behind the calorie count all day, and constantly hungry. The pollo asado tostada at Picante set me up for a nice finish, though.

Tomorrow, up at the crack of darkness once more for a Tahoe day trip...

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Soooooo cooold....

Seen on freezing ride home...

Sunday, 6 December 2009

The Cold and Wet...

I got up on Friday morning, wanting to get in a decent hour before work, but found it completely socked in. The thought of freezing my ass off on the ridge was unappealing, so instead I did hill intervals in the El Cerrito cemetery. I made the poor choice to wear my light gloves, my hands froze up on every descent. Arg, it burns when they warm up in the shower!

With a holiday party to cook and clean for last night, all I could manage was 35 miles with JK. Coldest day of the year - I wore a long-sleeved jersey and windbreaker even while climbing. We took it easy through Lamorinda, Happy Valley, Papa Bear, and Wildcat.

Today, I was literally at my doorstep, about to head out for an after lunch ride, when the heavens opened. I didn't want to subject the IF to the storm, so I bagged my plan to ride up El Toyonal for the first time, and took the Cross Check onto the Tilden trails. Super fun, very green, almost nobody up there. The incoming storm made for some great clouds, too. That's Mt. Diablo in the distance below. I stayed warm and cozy in a sleeveless baselayer, Ibex wool undershirt, and long sleeve jersey. I need to get me another long sleeve jersey, though. I wore it three times in a row this weekend without washing.

To cap the weekend off, La Roleurette and I went over to my boss' house for the company holiday party. It's a potluck, so I had cooked again. The grilled shirt steak went over well last night, so it made an encore appearance this evening.

I have mixed feelings about this company tradition. On one hand, it's very homey and nice to have everyone contribute to the party. We're a small shop, so it seems fitting. On the other hand, it's a pain in the ass to dedicate an afternoon to cooking and a Sunday evening to the event. I mean, it's mildly fun, but Sunday night! At least we live 2 minutes away, unlike the poor bastards who drive an hour down from Davis.

The forecast calls for major storms throughout the week, so it'll be spinning for me. All this rain is really whetting my appetite for the snowboard...
P.S. Two Johns - what the what? After their supposed last podcast, another one appeared last week. I was just getting used to the idea of a Two Johns-free world, and had finally hit the acceptance stage of grief. I can't keep up with this emotional rollercoaster!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009


These guys were the best cycling podcasters out there. A nice good cop/bad cop duo that stuck to their roots. They will be sorely missed. *sigh*