Category Archives: Rants

I am not a bad-a$$

Like to the point, where I, a grown man, do not feel comfortable writing even PG swear words on my personal blog.

I also, despite having kept a running blog for well over a decade now, am a really, really crappy runner. I weigh too much, blow off training too much, and am kind of more interested in thinking about running and biking and swimming than in actually doing any of those things. There’s cool gear, and I can have cheese and beer while I look at gear mags and read other people’s blogs if I don’t waste all that time actually running, biking, or swimming.

Despite that, I do occasionally make it out the door, or down into the basement (definately NOT a “pain cave”) and work up a sweat. Today was no exception.

There are some days, though, that do make me feel like a bad-A$$, even if i can’t bring myself to write it out. Today was one of those days.

I can run in the hot. I can run in the snow. I can really run in the mid-60’s and dry. I can run really slowly when it’s hot and humid, if I’m in the shade. But, hands-down, my running nemesis is cold and wet.

Fortunately, I live in coastal New England, so it’s rarely cold and wet … wait…

Today – 40 and drizzling at lunch. But, I made it out the door, did my 3 miles and survived. I’d thought it was slightly warmer, so I skipped the hat and gloves. Took 2 miles to feel my fingers again. Awesome.

The run’s done, now. Which is AWESOME, and which lets me feel a little like a bad-A$$ for an hour or so. Until I try to push myself out the door again tommorrow.

Save the soul of the New Haven 20K

Runner types- the New Haven Road Race folks sent me an email survey, the gist of which was asking if they should ‘add’ a half marathon option to the Labor Day 20k.

Please tell them ‘no’.

The 20k is a great race as is, period, full stop.

I was kind of upset when they trebeled the size of the crowd showing up Labor Day morning with the 5K; however, in hindsight, it works as an option to get the whole family running. Which is awesome, and adds to the great atmosphere.

However, adding a half marathon would be a huge mistake, because you wouldn’t really add runners, rather just shift folks from the 20K field. Any new runners who came to the event to the event would be the dumb ones who can’t think metric and realize that 20k is only a half mile shy of a half marathon. The folks who care deeply about labels, and are just looking to check a distance box instead of running for the sake of running and reveling in the last day of summer. The types who won’t do a triathlon unless it’s got an M-Dot.

From here on, we’re going to call the proposed half marathon the 21K. And I encourage you to drink beer.

Not every event needs to be the same. There’s value in having some odd distances, in that it captures the essence of racing, which is “Hey, I bet I can get THERE faster than you”.

Tarzan Brown should be to the top of River Road and back, construction dependent, and shouldn’t get truncated to a 5 mile race. Adding another 0.2502 miles would make the Manchester Road Race just another 5 miler instead of an almost 80 year Thanksgiving Tradition. Probably would start at 10 AM instead of “10:00 a.m. Sharp”.

These traditions are what unite us in our local “tribes”, what give us opportunities to actually talk instead of just nodding while we pound out miles day to day to day. New Haven on Labor Day should be a 20k followed with beer on the green, and then pizza and more beer in the park.

While I’m pretty convinced just based on tradition, being a stick in the mud, and getting into my mid-40s, I’m skeptical of the logistics of running a 21K alongside “The” 20K. I’ve run several marathons where there was a half marathon run on the same course, and where the races split has always been a giant bag of poop for mid-pack runners, regardless of which distance they’re running. Either the half runners miss the turn and get a slower half time, or the marathoners accidentally make the time and end up running 26.4 instead of 26.2. And that’s where there’s a HUGE difference between the race distances.

Part of the reason the 5K and the 20K work alongside each other is because they are “alongside” each other, not on top of each other. The start areas are together, which is cool, and the finish areas are together, which works because even if you’re walking a 5K, you probably are going to finish ahead of the elite runners running the 20K.

However, if they add a 21K, how are they going to break up the course? Is the 21K going to have a completely different course? Is the 20K finish line just going to be further up from the green and the 21K finish, robbing the 20K runners of the traditional finish? Imagine the confusion coming down Whitney to Temple where the diversion for the 21K happens. Logistically, it just doesn’t work without adding confusion to the runners and/or robbing either the 20K group or the 21K group

Anyway, the idea stinks. I’d still run it if the only race was a 21K, just because the weather and green are glorious on Labor Day, and at the end of the summer, a 20K-ish distance is just fun to run, and to revel in a summer’s good training. But the idea of running both a 20K and a 21K doesn’t work for me, though I’d keep running the 20K out of spite, and griping about the split or the finish or something, which then spoils a great summer day.

Baggage

I didn’t run the Hartford Marathon.

Training was going great through the New Haven Road Race – mileage was adding up easy, weight was coming off, life was good.

Then, the summer ended, opportunities in the form of a couple of new job opportunities arose, obligations with social commitments grew, and training just kind of fell by the wayside. Not enough to where I couldn’t have gutted it out and ran another 4:30 marathon. But enough to where I really didn’t want to devote an entire day to another mediocre marathon.

So I bailed. Just flat out didn’t show up.

I regretted not getting to see Dianna and my buddy Doug run, and regretted not getting the sweetest beer in the world in the tent at the end of a long race. But, I got to move tables with my Cub Scout pack. Got to enjoy a fall day with my lovely bride. And a last (and first for this year) dinner at Abbott’s for the year.

And y’know what? In hindsight, I’m glad I bailed.

Not sure if I’m going to register for another marathon for a while. I may train for a few smaller ones that I could run if training goes well, but for the time being, I’ve decided that there’s enough in my life. Running and biking is part of that; committing to a giant race doesn’t have to be.

Caso Contador

So, Contador is officially a doper. I’d be happy, ‘cept, not really.
On one hand, I’m happy he’s busted – that cycling has absolutely the most aggressive no tolerance policy in all of sport is something to be touted, especially after the legacy of the 80s and 90s.

On the other hand, the CAS case against Contador’s especially weak – it doesn’t make a clean case that Contador was systematic doping, leaves open the possibility that it really was contaminated meat, and doesn’t make any accommodation for 18 months of racing, lots of testing, and winning freakin’ two grand tours, really decisively in the case of the 2011 Giro.

24 months seems to be the CAS’ standard sentence for a doping positive. So, it’s not surprising that Contador got the standard.

On the other hand, CAS left itself open to the counter charge that it’s screwing Contador just to make an example. In which case I’m disappointed – The amount of clenbuterol in his system is a tribute to our ability to detect minute concentrations of anything. Stripping him of two titles earned under extremely close scrutiny serves only to throw closer scrutiny on the existing cycling anti-doping efforts, and impugns every other cyclist currently riding.

That it took almost two years to come to this decision, during which Contador continued to ride under threat of having results overturned, keeping the entire sport in limbo, is an indictment of CAS process. Justice delayed is justice denied. For a career that really spans from about 24 to 34 for most Grand Tour contenders, two years means that there’s going to be a lot of asterixes as drug tests continue to improve.

I still don’t like Contador, but he’s getting screwed. He deserves something for popping positive, but two tours stripped, two years late? Not justice.

Update – The long arm of Justice is still reaching out for Armstrong – WADA requested the evidience the US Grand Jury accumulated while looking for Fraud at US Postal.

Road User Safety

I’m going to run on at the mouth for a while.

I don’t understand why such a vast swath of the country lets careless drivers completely off the hook. Cars and trucks are the deadliest things we touch on a regular basis, especially now that smoking has become completely unacceptable.

In 2007, the last year for which the CDC has posted mortality data on its website, almost 44,000 Americans were killed in motor vehicle accidents. Lung cancer and emphysema killed almost three times more, but I’ll guarantee you that there are way more than three times more commercials encouraging Americans not to smoke than there are encouraging them to slow down and be careful when driving. In comparison, “Water, air and space, and other and unspecified transport accidents and their sequelae” (Plane crashes and non-automotive crashes, including bikes) – less than 2,000 fatalities. And this includes drunk boaters, stunt pilots, everyone who is petrified of flying ’cause it’s ‘unsafe’ and idiot cyclists.

My Ma had a woman in her neighborhood hit and killed by driver yesterday. My mom was pretty seriously affected by it – she and Dad were out walking when it happened, and saw the helicopter fly off with the woman’s soon-to-be-lifeless body. She posted about it on Facebook:

Tuesday, as the sun was setting, Bill & I heard sirens as we were returning from a walk. Then Air Lift landed. A young mother of two was struck by a car as she walked. She died last night. A stark reminder that each day we have is a gift. If you walk or run on the roads Please face traffic and don’t wear ear buds. Be alert!

What torques me off about this is that almost everyone’s gut reaction is to suggest ways to be safer when using the road as a runner or cyclist, rather than to point out ways to be a safer driver. The KGNB article said:

Troopers say the driver of the car will not face any criminal charges since the incident has been ruled an accident. But DPS officials strongly urge joggers or walkers to stay on sidewalks as much as possible, and if you’re going to walk or jog in the street, to do so going AGAINST the flow of traffic.

When I protested that the driver bore much of the blame for the woman’s killing, my sister-in-law said:

Appreciate your point Billy, but I also think that we have to be smart and reduce as many risks as possible and be responsible for our own actions. I almost hit our neighbor’s dog who was crossing the street because the sun was in my eyes when I came around the corner.

To me, the knee-jerk reaction to suggest things that the runner could have done differently is akin to saying “Well, she was asking for it” when a woman gets raped.

Yes, there are things that runners, pedestrians, and cyclists can do to reduce their exposure to traffic, but the right to use public roadways should not come with a government individual mandate that every citizen purchase an automobile and petroleum or forefit their right to use the roads. Furthermore, the moral responsibility for protecting life should rightly rest with the person with the most ability to do harm – the person operating the two-ton motor vehicle.

In this case, the runner was in a very low-population density neighborhood, on a straight road with pretty big shoulders and good sight-lines. My rewrite of the incident would be more like this:

A young mother of two was killed last night by a careless driver, driving faster than was considered prudent given the limited visibility due to the setting sun. A stark reminder that each day is a gift. If you drive, make sure you do not take that gift from anyone else.

If the driver had blown 0.08% on a breathalyzer, the driver would be in jail right now, regardless of the sun conditions. Sadly, for a sober driver, the setting sun seems to be implicitly endorsed by the Texas Department of Public Safety as a good reason to commit vehicular manslaughter.

(The Driver) was “impaired by the sun” and did not see the bicyclists, officials said. Both riders were wearing helmets, the DPS said. (“Because the cyclists would be completely at fault for being run over from behind if they weren’t wearing helmets”, the DPS implied)

The roads are a public good. That the dead woman was jogging for health or recreation is immaterial – she would be just as dead if she were walking to pick up her kids from a playdate, or riding her bike home from work – using the roads for transport. There should not be an implicit unfunded individual mandate that the only way to use the road is to purchase gasoline and an automobile.

I didn’t know the woman who was killed by the careless driver in Spring Branch yesterday, but this is personal to me. I’d like to think that I’m just as protected from careless drivers by the law when I ride my bike to work as I am when I drive to work, but all the evidence suggests that a driver who plows into me from behind will get off scott free if I’m on my bike, and only be held accountable if they total my VW while killing me.

Transport for America has a great interactive website that goes through fatalities by state, but I’m not convinced that just spending money on ‘infrastructure’ will save lives. People need to be held accountable, even if it’s ‘an accident’, when they kill a pedestrian or cyclist. Do it often enough, and the bloodshed will stop.

This one goes to 11. But I don’t think I will (anytime soon)

BikeHugger has a good post up congratulating SRAM for not immediately jumping to 11 speeds on their road gear after Shimano went to 11. I’ve got to say I’m pretty much in agreement:

Going from 7sp to 8sp was good, but 9sp to 10sp was marginal.

My first road bike was a department store Huffy with 10 speeds (2×5) with friction shifters on the stem. Man, I thought that was the snot – flew on that one, including a drunken midnight 15 miler over to K. Chad Hauser’s (my boyhood friend and idol) house one weekend while my folks were out of town. But, much like learning to drive on a stick shift car, there was a lot of grinding gears on that one.

After that, I picked up a mountain bike between my junior and senior years of college – a fully rigid Trek 930 with Shimano Exage? trigger shifters – magic, until I smashed the front shifter with my knee going over a rock wall about 5 years later. Parts everywhere. Limped back to the car in the big ring, learning all sorts of humility. Freaked out at the bike shop – $50 to replace with XT? Heck, no, give me an indestructible thumb lever. 2×7, I think, though I overhauled it with LX the better part of a decade ago. Cheaper to go to 9 speed than to source vintage parts. And with a steel frame, I could stretch the rear triangle without too much trouble. It’s my vacation bike – drag it up to Stowe each summer, and pull the kids or the picnic basket along the bike trail.

My first ‘real’ road bike was a 10 year old Trek that I picked up while Lance was winning his first Tour de France – 7 speed down tube shifters, indexed. Loved that arrangement – there was no “can’t find it, grind it”, like with my high school 10 speed, but there were definitely gaps in the gearing. Indexing on the big ring was kind of iffy, too – probably I was just inept at tuning the drivetrain. But, man, you really had to avoid even the appearance of crossover.

After about 3 years on the Trek, I bought what’s still my favorite bike in the stable – a Cannondale R700 with full 9-speed 105. Man, was this the stuff – didn’t have to pull the hands off of the bars to shift, plenty of continuity in gearing, and going from the small ring to the big ring didn’t have to be a huge commitment – I’ve found there’s a pretty consistent two-cog difference between the big and small rings, and if I’m iffy, I can always flick my right wrist, and fix stuff.

This fall, I picked up a Nashbar ‘cross bike on which to commute, but mostly ’cause it was one of the cheapest ways to get a 10 speed 105 group. And, I’ll admit, I’m pretty much in love with the 5700 incarnation of Shimano 105. The couple of awkward gearings near the big cogs are gone (I’ll caveat here that I’m a wuss, and have been running a 12-27 or 28 rear cluster on my Cannondale since about 2004); having all the cables run under the bar tape is superb, and it’s been the easiest drivetrain to adjust that I’ve ever dealt with. Part of the joy may be in riding on new STI levers – the 9 speed right lever on the Cannondale is getting pretty sloppy. But I think, somewhere around 700 miles in, that I like it. A lot.

Trouble is, I don’t see the push to go to 11. Frankly, I was skeptical about going to 10 from 9, but whatever. Parts availability is about the only thing that could will get me to move (see putting LX on the 930). But I’m already putting aside cash for the 5700 closeout sales – then I can be one of those annoying NOS guys on eBay.

How do we balance the need to get good gear with business models that rely on a constant upgrade cycle? I love the integrated brake/shifter concept, but a test ride on MicroShift convinced me that relying on them for 9-speed backfill wouldn’t make me happy, and 9 speed 105 is more expensive than 10 speed 105 at this point. I’m sure that 11 speed whatever rides like a dream – but upgrading’s the better part of a new mid-range bike, plus cassettes for winter wheels, etc.

So, I’m not excited. Or interested. Much like electronic shifting, I just don’t get it.

A question that continues to gnaw on me, though – at what point can we go to 1×11, or 1×12?

Where are you, Buddy Holly?

When I was a kid, my dad didn’t listen to much music. He liked even less music. He’d tolerate the outlaw Texans – Waylon, Willie; a little Merle Haggard. But, when “Peggy Sue” would come on the radio, he’d light up like he was 16 and waiting for a hot date (“Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty Peggy Sue”).

Which made me really excited when NPR’s “First Listen” series posted a Buddy Holly tribute album.

The project looks really, really promising – Lou Reed, My Morning Jacket, Modest Mouse, Justin Townes Earle – solid bands, decent cross-section of Americana and alt-folk that should be able to do a solid job paying tribute to an artist lost at a tragically young age. However, the execution is far below what it should be.

I’m pretty disappointed with this as a whole. Cee Lo Green, Kid Rock and J.T.Earle provide redeeming cuts; however, as a whole, the album fails. Much of my resistance to the Buddy Holly album mentioned earlier is due to a bias that some things just can’t be improved upon. In particular, Sir Paul McCartney and Lou Reed really let me down. Modest Mouse and the cover of “Not Fade Away” irk me in particular. I’ll probably come back to the album a couple more times because I want it to be great. And there are moments of beauty on here; just not where you’d think they should be.

Maybe Buddy Holly would have ended up fat, sweaty, and playing Hawaii much like Elvis. Maybe. But, in the moment up until the crash in a snowy cornfield, he was the living, breathing embodiment of rock and roll. To mis-quote the “Princess Bride”, ‘There are few perfect (things) in the world – it would be a shame to ruin (his)’. Sometimes you can’t do any better than a straight-up cover.

Next Year in Burlington

Well, it’s official.

Deferral

Went to see the doctor yesterday – acute case of PF, no fracture or whatever. Official ruling is no running until June. Which means that I’m Cycle, Cycle, Cycle, Swim, Swim, too until then.
(I’m also officially fatter than I’ve been in 5 years. Joy.)
Hmmm, now to plan.

Running, cruel mistress

I’m a middle-aged distance runner.

Which is translated as I’m old and slow.

I’m also a Navy Reservist, which means that twice a year I get graded on how fast I can run a mile and a half.

Over most of the last decade, I’ve taken a smug satisfaction in being able to be pretty competitive in running that mile and a half twice a year. It’s not tough to excel at the run – anything better than 12 minutes (8:00/mile) is pretty competitive.

So, two weeks ago, I turned in an 11:04 for the mile and a half. I also ran a mile from the gym to the track before the run, and then did about 3 miles after, ’cause I needed to add mileage as I had been expecting to run the Vermont City Marathon on Memorial Day weekend.

Well, I woke up on 4 April with a stabbing pain in my left heel. F*sck, I said, and blew off my long run that weekend.

I tried cranking out a mile on 6 April, and 3 on 9 April – both times I woke up hurting.

So I took off a WHOLE WEEK, and tonight I tried running again. The first half mile rocked – my legs are fresh, I’ve been riding a bike all week – man, I thought I was good. Woke up with no pain, walked a lot today.

But, about a half mile into the run, I started twinging each step.

And at 3/4 of a mile, something “snapped”, and I limped back home.

My heel’s been throbbing for the last 4 hours, despite a fair amount of barley malt, yeast, and hops as medication. I’m really upset (p!ssed), ’cause the weather in Alabama is phenomenal for running. Man, I want to run.

I rented a bike and have been riding like a madman. I’ll likely do 40 or 50 miles tomorrow morning. But I’m crying because it hurts to run.

Stupid marathons.

50 years

It’s 50 years since Gargarin orbited the planet. In the 20 years after that, we sent men to the moon, started a long-term space station, landed on most of the planets in the inner solar system, and made the first reuseable heavy-lift space vehicle. In the next 30 years…

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that space stalled in the ’80s. Our national psyche changed in the ’70s and ’80s. First we centered on the individual – self worth regardless of the approval of the community. Then we decided that “greed is good”, and made selfishness a virtue. Even religious conservatives have, rather than “denying your father and following Me”, that everything centers on an individual’s family, regardless of the rest of the community.

In the two decades after that, we decided that even a non-binding responsibility of the individual to think of the good of the community was equivalent to Soviet communism. No more pledging “our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor” to everyone else in the country – what a bunch of hippies must have written that. I’ll get mine, thank you very much.

We need to get back to thinking that we can do great things as a society for the benefit of all mankind.