Wednesday, June 23, 2010

RE: Sandbagging & Expecting Twins

"Dear Joe Biker, The following request to change your USAC category has been approved by USA Cycling: Cyclo-cross Racer Request to change category from Cat 3 to Cat 2." It’s 10-12 weeks till cyclocross season, and I’ll need every single day to let my sphincter unclench.  Obviously, the race results I used to support the upgrade request are at least six months old.  Much like the seven years it took for me to get the courage to propose marriage, the decision didn’t come lightly.  However, the best reason I can give in support can be summed up with one sentence.  After making the news Facebook official, a CX buddy commented: “Congrats Joe…I’ll fill up that Cat 3 spot for ya!

I like that.  A lot.  Someone’s going to take my spot in the 3’s and do it proud.  That’s the stuff that makes men tear up.  Before hearing from him, my main reason for requesting the upgrade was simply because I earned it.  I’m proud of the season I had.  Like the roadie bitch cap I won in the first cyclocross race last season and like the silver medal I won in the Ohio State Championship, I earned it.  I ate a few salads.  I did hill repeats on Mt. Adams.  While I had a few bad races, more of them were good, and down in the bottom of the bag of swag I won was 13 upgrade points.  I have no illusions; I’m over 40 with a mortgage and a career. I’ll never go pro.  However, I still have the opportunity to compete in the World Championships, National Championships, and the Ohio State Elite Masters Championships.  If I ever happened to win one of those jerseys, I certainly would wear it.  So I got my little #2 sticker, and I’m going to proudly affix to my license.  Then I’ll probably stare at it for a good half hour and show it to my mom next time I visit.

A few months back, there was a story out of the Leadville 100 where a woman who decided not to race gave her race number to a friend.  That friend proceeded to snag a podium finish in the original woman’s age group.  Uh oh.  To say the least I can imagine it was an awkward podium moment.  It brought up huge cries of foul, cheating and some legal issues.  Despite all the ballyhoo about this little race in Colorado, the blogger known as Fat Cyclist brought up a good point.  The situation denied a whole lot of other racers a chance to be one place higher. 

I don’t want to be THAT GUY, not Fatty, the guy who denies others of their chance at doing one place better.  Wait a second Mr. Biker!  Isn’t racing all about denying the person behind you the chance to do one space better?  Sure it is.  However, they way I see it, when I got up over my 10 upgrade points that was USA Cycling’s little way of saying, “Hey Blogger with the devil horns!   You’re at the top.  You really can’t get one spot better.”  Maybe it comes from Catholic guilt or that I’m a fairly generous soul, I don’t want to have a jersey pocketful of upgrade points and spend another season at the front of the field, essentially denying other racers the chance to experience the fun I had last season, the chance to run out of spots.  It was really cool.  If I can step into Cat 2 MTB shoes, I should do it.

I also don’t want to be the bench mark for upgrades.  I spent more than six months mulling this over.  I came to the conclusion if I stayed in the 3’s essentially I would become the hurdle, the barrier for riders to cat up.  That makes me uncomfortable.  I don’t want to be the guy driving the front of the Cat 3 Masters group saying, “If you can beat me, you can move up to the next category.”  Hup hup buttercup!  No.  I’m not that pretentious.

The second to last thing I considered was the ridiculous exercise of where I might finish in the higher category if I were to upgrade.  I’m not immune.  Like we all don’t crunch the numbers or check the rankings on  I did.  If I can save anyone else  considering an upgrade a little time, here is the answer I arrived at: if I cat up I’ll be between a guy who’s faster than me and a guy who’s slower than me. 

I’ll still be competitive.  There will be someone dangling in front of me and someone else a slippery turn from catching.  The opportunity to snag a piece of the extra deep extra sweet 1/2/3 payout pie will be there too.  Getting a #2 sticker on my license doesn’t guarantee me squat, nor should I have any illusions about it.  It’ll take a few more salads, a few less beers, a couple more sweltering Indian summer hill repeats and even then all I’ll ever get is an opportunity.  The question becomes more of a commitment.  Can I commit myself to train at least as hard or a little more than last year?  Yes.  I can.

Still, I don’t want to move up and finish DFL on day one.  Joe…Joe…stop freaking out.  It’s not going to happen.  I’ve been DFL before and it wasn’t because I was racing a category I didn’t belong in.  It was because I was stressed out from late nights at work, moving into a new house, from putting my dad in hospice care, from life.  I was tired.  I didn’t eat enough.  It was too hot.  There’s not a Cat 2 Masters racer that isn’t immune to that.  That day may come again.  It took less than an hour for USA Cycling to grant me the upgrade.  It would take less to downgrade if need be. 

So before I click “send” on the USA Cycling website, I considered my current situation in life.  It’s because of this that I’ll never outwardly criticize those that stay in the same category from one year to the next.  I am not in their shoes.  They could be expecting twins.  Someone in their family could be dependent on an IV bag.  Their boss may have given them the promotion to 3rd shift supervisor.  While I haven’t asked my wife to pee on a stick, two years ago my father passed away and my cycling went to crap.  The stress of the funeral and closing the estate put a wicked mooglie in my back and time on the bike.  Life gets in the way sometimes.  No matter how much carbon flair is in my garage, bike racing is not priority numero uno.  So while those points itch and poke in my jersey pocket, I took inventory of personal baggage.  I’m not carrying a whole lot this year, so I think at least I’ll be as fast as last year, with luck, even faster.

So, my Cat 2 cyclocross upgrade sticker is in the mail.  Now I have 12 weeks to lose 4-5 pounds, crush some hill repeats, practice dismounts and get ready to reach out and try my hardest to stay behind someone and keep someone behind me in the next Masters 1/2/3 race.  If there’s one perk about an upgrade, it’s great motivation.

You sure you’re not pregnant honey?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Definitely Need Coffee, Pants and A Blue Phone

It’s 7:50am and I’m not wearing pants, or cycling bibs.  The Grand Poobah declared summer hours starting today.  We can go in a half hour later and leave an extra half hour earlier.  I love me some Grand Poobah.   I miss the good ‘ol days when he’d stand a top a stone bench and thrust a sharpened water buffalo tusk into the sky.  That was back when we edited actual audio tape with an actual razor blade at work.  These days, it’s Pro Tools or Adobe Audition and we got the news in an email.  Where’s the danger in that?!  Now I’m not quite sure to do with the extra half hour.  Certainly, as Curly on the Three Stooges, I could ride my bike to work.  Nook.  Nook.  Nook.  Definitely as Rainman, with sunrise around 6:30am (or so they tell me that's when the sun rises), I could even get in an hour to hour and a half ride in before sliding into my work chair.  Definitely.

Most bike racers I know would’ve done that, been up by 5:30am, on the bike by six, and back to the house by eight so they could shower and get to work by nine.  Just yesterday a guy at at the Big Dave Sports Masters Road Race in Cincinnati told me he’s up at 5:45am and riding the trainer before his kids get up.  I slept till 7:30am and at the moment am mulling the possibilities of the bonus half hour out loud, getting the lay of the extra half hour land by blogging.  No wonder he took 3rd and I DNF'd.  It’s the first day of a summer full of summer hours.  Cut me some slack.  I’m in my underwear (definitely K-mart Cincinnati), nursing my Masters ego and my wife drained the coffee pot.

Ah ha.  Normally I wait till I get to work to have a first cup of coffee, hence the lack-o-pantelones and run-on sentences.  That’s not going to fly with summer hours.  I need a game plan.  I could be The Worlds Greatest Masters Aged Bike Racer In The World.  I’m going to need coffee first thing in the morning, pants, and a blue phone.  Otherwise, I’ll  sleep away the time.  Or worse, sit in front of a computer and blog.

The good news is I rode the GX45 Super Cruiser (my nickname for my 1994 Specialized Crossroads Hybrid bike) up to the square over the weekend to pick up my mountain bike shoes from the Cobbler who sewed new Velcro on the straps.  Yes, I said Cobbler.  It’s probably not a politically correct term for a professional shoe repair guy anymore and I don’t even know it.  On top of being able to mountain bike again, the bonus is I pumped the tires and lubed the chain of my Specialized Hybrid Sport Utility commuting bike.  It’s ready to roll.  The bad news is, due to the lack of coffee making motivation, I probably drive anyway.  At least I’m coming up with a game plan for the next two months of shorter work hours.

I keep looking up at the LED clock in the cable box.  At least I’m not watching TV.  The 30 minutes of my free 30 minutes are ticking by.  I keep doing the calculations.  I can drive to work in 13 minutes.  I used to leave at precisely 8:17am, now I can leave at 8:47am, so I really should shower by 8:15am.  If I want to ride the bike to work, I need to be ready to ride at least by 8:20am.  It’s 8:18am.  Definitely not riding today.  Yeah.  Definitely still sitting in my underwear.  Definitely. 

What did I do on my first morning of summer hours?  I definitely didn’t ride my bike.  I blogged in my underwear laughing to myself by imagining if the Nationwide Insurance spokesperson speaking like Rainman.  "Definitely gonna need a blue phone."  Yeah.  Definitely, going to need to set the timer on the coffee maker tomorrow.  Definitely going to put on my shorts.  Definitely going to ride in the morning…tomorrow…definitely.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Facebook Friday! Funny Father's Day Stories

Like Father like Son, got a late start to posting the Facebook Friday question yesterday.  Need to remember that most of our readers are out riding in the evening, not checking FB.  Consequently we didn't receive the normal 25 or more comments.  This week, we decided to change Facebook Friday up a bit in honor of the men who took the training wheels off our bikes and gave us our first sting of road rash. 

It’s Facebook Father’s Day Friday on The Best Bike Blog Ever.  Every week we ask our Facebook followers and likers a pressing question and post the comments on the blog on Friday.  If you’d like to participate follow or like us here. 

This week’s idea came from the fact that half the fun of cycling comes from friends joking around at the trail head, during the car ride to the race or over a café’ mocha before the group ride.  So, with this weekend's Father’s Day rides in mind, the question was:

Let’s pretend we just finished a killer ride on Father’s Day. Share a funny story about your Dad. “I’ll never forget the time that Dad (blank).”

RODERICK:  I'll never forget the time Dad decided he was going to kill a skunk that kept coming around our house. He shot it.  Nailed it first try…apparently right in the sack that holds it's stink juice.  The wind blew the stench right into the house for the whole night. It was a week before we got rid of the smell.

David:  I'll never forget the time I talked my non-golfer dad into giving it a try. We found him some old rusted garage specials (clubs.)  I was about 16 and new to the game myself.  On the very first hole my dad had a rude awakening to just how hard it was to hit that little white ball.  He stood there and swung at least ten times and missed it every try. After 5 swings I was on the ground laughing my rear off! He finally picked up the ball and threw it! It was the first and last time we played golf together, but one of my favorite memories!!!!

Darryn:  My dad works in the fishing business.  However, he has a deep dark secret.  He's a yoga-practicing vegan. On a fairly regular basis, he's offered lunch by one of his customers and has to constantly come up with creative ways to avoid the fried chicken, deer sausage, or whatever it is.  Every once in a while he just has to jump on the grenade and eat.

TBBBE:        I’ll never forget the time that Dad took the family fishing. Dad decided to save money by using his own motor. He spent the entire week tuning it up using a garbage can full of water in the driveway. On Saturday, the four of us shoved off from the pier. Dad pulled the starter on the motor. Nothing. He pulled again. Nada. Again. Ka-woof! It burst into flames. Luckily a pontoon boat saw the whole thing and rescued us. The motor…it’s still at the bottom of Lake Five.

Happy Father’s Day!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Home Movie: 2010 Tour of California EPIC Big Bear Stage

Finally our film is back from the developer and now The Blest Blike Blog Bleva presents an exclusive real life color moving picture of the 2010 Tour of California EPIC Big Bear Mountain Stage, starring: Quick Step's Tom Boonen, Saxo Bank's Fabian Cancellara, BMC's George Hincapie, the HTC-Columbia Manx Missle played by Mark Cavendish and two dudes dressed up like astronauts on bikes.  Order some popcorn, enjoy then fan us on Facebook at right!

Monday, June 14, 2010

You’re Sooo Fat, Compared to Janez Brajkovic

Women were floored.  Self loathing quickly followed.  No one went for seconds on the brownies and ice cream.  I was not immune either.  While at a barbecue yesterday watching the Janez Brajkovic Athlete Profile on the Versus coverage of the Critérium du Dauphiné, the room was shocked to learn that Brako is 5’10” and weighs 127 pounds, not kilos.  I’ll let that register for a second or two.  One.  Two.  Brako is five foot ten inches tall and weighs a scant one hundred twenty seven pounds.  Ahhhh!  There’s the look on your face.  You haven’t been that light since (insert awkward adolescent moment here.)  Okay.  Pick your jaw up off the floor because you're good enough, you're smart enough, and doggone it, people like you.  Yes, a man weighs less than you, is faster, stronger and way more fit.  Tripple snap and deal with it sista.

Janez Brajkovic of Team Radio Shack won the Critérium du Dauphiné yesterday.  Bracko is a strong man, albeit a baby-faced blush-cheeked man from Slovenia with better teeth than Contador.  Contador, despite the pistol whippin’, wins the sideburn contest.  I was at a barbecue with way more women than men yesterday.  Lesbian or straight, the news still stung a bit.  You could almost hear the gears spinning in their heads, “well I’m 5’6” and I weigh…never mind what I weigh…I gotta try not to look shocked…oh crap…I look shocked…more Sangria please!”  I was not immune either, except I’m not afraid to show the weight on my driver’s license.  Bracko is 2 inches shorter and 35 pounds lighter than me.  Oh bujeebus.  Pass the grilled asparagus.

So we're all fat, compared to Janez Brajkovic.  Well he's Slovenian.  Maybe he grew up with sisters that aspired to be Eastern European gymnasts.  It's possible.  Maybe the food truck stops at Boonen's house in Belgim and Cancellara's house in Switzerland before making it to the estate of Brajkovic with whatever is left over.  Maybe McDonalds doesn't have a franchise in Slovenia.  Fat Chance.  Here's the site.  (For Pulp Fiction Fans, a Big Mac is still a Big Mac in Slovenia.)  Slovenia borders the Adriatic Sea on the southwest, Croatia on the south and east, Hungary  on the northeast, and Austria on the north, which completely explains why most Americans can’t find Slovenia on a map, until you add that Slovenia borders Italy on the west.  I like to call Bracko the FASTest guy in SLOvenia.  I'm also an idiot.

So there’s no excuse.  You’re fatter than Brako.  If you want to do something about it, you do have a few choices.  You can gravitate toward things where being overweight offers an advantage like hosting a daytime talk show.  Holla Wendy!!!  You could play first base for the Milwaukee Brewers, ala Prince Fielder.  Or, if you’re really spoke-bent on being a better cyclist, you can eat a little smarter and train a little better… because you're good enough, you're smart enough, and doggone it; you can climb like Bracko if you put your mind to it.  

Friday, June 11, 2010

Facebook Friday! The Best Bike Blog Slogans Ever*

Let’s face it, the name of this blog is too long to fit on a pair of socks or the jersey of a Clydesdale racer for that matter.  So we thought, we need a slogan, a few words that capture the chutzpah of The Best Bike Blog Ever*, or at least something to fill in the asterisk with.

The asterisk and “…” were meant to imply that this is hardly the best bike blog ever, but the best bike blog ever written by a bike crazed dufus with devil horns.  I do my best to make each story relatable to all kinds of riders, from the clumsy knees a-kimbo bike path Triathlon rookie to those who choke back a lung racing in skinsuits on carbon rigs every weekend.  It’s exaggerated as a cartoon and peppered with pokes.  I jab a sharpened spoke in my leg each time I feel myself for getting too serious, preachy or political.

As creative as I strive to be, I tried to come up with a slogan on my own.  “Look No Hands,” cracked me up and reminded me that cycling in our roots is child’s play.  “I’m Not Lance,” was another.  People tell me I look like his Highness.  “You Ridin’ THAT?” was another paying homage to a buddy who has a knack for sucking the serious out of the air before races by questioning other rider's high end equipment.  I couldn’t settle on anything.  So we came to you in our weekly series called “Facebook Friday.”

What Slogan captures the essence of The Best Bike Blog Ever?

“Laughs No Waiting”

“Subtle As A Pipe Bomb”

“Bring The Pain”

“Pain Face Time”
(Kurt and Harold know that I have the ugliest race pain face in the Ohio River Valley)

"Did I bike with you?"
(love the take off on “Do I Know You” humor in this…my runner up)

“YOUR Bike Blog Sucks”

“Stitches Are For Emo Kids”
(I still don’t get it, but they tell me it’s hilarious)

“TBBBE…Your Cycling Submission Hold”

“Heel On Wheels” 
(love the sarcasm, I mean New York Humor, in that)

“Big Ring Bloggin’”
(that’s got swagga)

“On Your Left @$%*&”

“The Man, the myth, the cyclist, the legendary blogger

"The next best thing to peddling harder"

“Yammerin' not hammerin'”
(Melissa grabs the third step and the bronze)

“Counts As Base Miles”
(winner winner chicken dinner)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Dear Satan (aka the person that drops Entenmann's baked goods off at my office),

What?!  Did you check the race schedule to make sure I WAS racing at Cincinnati’s Ault Park Criterium tonight and figured I could use the extra weight to bomb down the hill to latch onto the breakway?  Damn you.  No!  I love you.  No!  Damn!  Damn!  Damn you to the firey depths, you and your fiendish Fudge Brownie bites.

Entenmann’s Little Bites are darn devilishly delicious.  I don’t know what they put in those things, because they have all the consistency of what the neighborhood girls I knew growing up baked in their Easy Bake Oven with a 25 watt light bulb.  Then…then…oh this is good.  Entenmann’s only puts three Fudge Brownie Little Bites in a bag.  Three?  They’re smaller than a California sushi roll and I’m a grown man.  Of-freaking-course I’m going to eat two bags, at least.  Plus, the fact that they have “No High Fructose Corn Syrup and a Good Source of Calcium” is supposed to make me feel better about seeing how many I can stuff in my mouth at one time.

What really gets me is your strategic tactics.  Seriously, with your cunning you should help NATO plan the war in Afganistan.  You probably plotted all day to drop them off at 12:45pm, fully knowing that I would probably have eaten a full lunch and that I usually pass the kitchen on my way to my post lunch bathroom break at 2pm.  No doubt you have access to the surveillance cameras in the hallway.  On top of that, you don’t even take the 5 individual bags out of the box, so more people could enjoy them.  Of course that forces me to take a whole box back to my office.  Now it’s 2pm and I have 18 chocolately-goodness filled Entenmann’s Little Fudge Brownie Bites singing their silly siren song on my desk.

Lastly don’t think I didn’t see the subliminal cycling message.  You know what I’m talking about.  On the box, the cute little dog riding a unicycle down a rocky chocolate chunk trail while simultaneously balancing three scrumdillyiscious fudgy Little Bites on his tiny little cross eyed head.  Yeah.  Of course I wanna be able to ride like that dog.  You suck you fudge brownie pusher. 

Fudgely Yours,
Joe Biker

Monday, June 7, 2010

Oakley Mud-Shields, Body Bags and 3 other Mohican MTB 100 Revelations

I am going to make kajillions patenting a design for Mud-shield sport glasses and then sell my brilliant idea to Giro and Oakley.  Those in the know at muddy races keep their glasses low on the nose to block the front wheel spray, while being able to see over the top.  Plus it makes you look as cool as Tom Cruise in Risky Business (see photo).  “Just take those old records off the shelf ladies!”  Unless you’re a mouth breather, the problem is, on the end of your nose, your glasses are constantly in a state of cutting off part of your oxygen supply.  I could make kajillions off a set of cycling shields with angled lenses solely to keep mud from getting in your eyes.  It’d be perfect in conjunction with a helmet visor.  Either that or I might try a fencing mask or peel away lens motocross goggles next year.

There are three ways to DNF in a race: mental, physical and mechanical.  No matter how hard you rationalize it, when you hang-it-up all three feel like a bad excuse you gave your parents for missing curfew.  Even if they left your bike at the bottom of the ravine and carried you out of the woods in a zippered black bag and tossed you in the back of a big black Cadillac station wagon, you’d still wonder if you could come back as a ghost and finish the race.  With 2 days of torrential rain, hail, flood warnings and tornados prior to and during the 2010 NUE Series Mohican MTB 100, 30% of the riders I was staying with either DNF’d or DNS’d.  DFL (dead freaking last) is better than both of them.  Exhaust all possibilities before telling the official you’re a DNF.  You’ll never know if in the pouring rain while standing in ankle deep mud as the fat guys pass on full-suspension Diamond Back’s you could’ve pulled off the MacGruber and fixed the 7-8 inches of twisted chain on your bike with slippery fingers, those two chain pins and the 3 inch length of chain in your bag.  Otherwise you’ll go home and try to make the fix to see if it was even possible.  Then you’ll think of another way you could’ve saved the day, such as waiting for someone about your size to ride by, pushing them into the ravine and stealing their bike.  Save yourself some misery.  If you DNF’d, just let it go.  Like not getting to the top of Everest, we all have our limits.  You just found your personal death zone.

If it’s muddy, carry a cassette brush.  Two of us in the cabin this weekend had the same revelation.  I think they’re called the Park Tools GCCB-UT (Park Tools Gear Cassette Cog Brush Unclogger Thingy.)  Lightweight and small it could instantly fix chain suck caused by mud and debris.  I pulled an eight inch vine, grass, roots, pebbles, sand and a 2 inch stick out of my chainrings when I got back to the cabin.  No wonder with every other pedal stroke my chain was getting stuck worse than Oprah in an innertube.  That, a bottle of water and a tiny bottle of lube would’ve saved me from race ending chain bending chain suck.  30 seconds at the side of the trail cleaning is a lot faster than fixing broken chain or limping your way home with a twisted chain.  Plus, you could brush your teeth mid-ride and ham it up for the course photog like this guy.

A BIKE RACE IS NOT A MEASURING STICK OF SELF WORTH (but it sure the hell feels that way)
Never sign up for a race and back out because conditions look bad.  No matter how bad the course or weather looks, it’s a bike race, not walking into a burning building wearing a Vasoline skinsuit.  A friend bailed the morning of the race, eating the $100+ entry fee and a ton of self fed crow.  At the cabin, he could barely look his pristinely clean Sram XX equipped bike in the eye.  As he sat on the couch, a guy in his late 30’s watching a Saturday morning episode of iCarley; his bike sat in the corner and called him a douche all day.  He turned up the volume on the TV to drown out the voice in his head.  He had to resort to kicking all our asses in post-race putt-putt golf to temporarily feed his competitive spirit.  He probably went out for a 100 mile ride when we got back and is still sulking at this moment.  He will continue to beat himself up until the next big race.  Believe it or not, sitting in a warm dry cable TV equipped cozy log cabin is worse than racing the in worst imaginable conditions.  Better to endure the suck and DNF trying.  Later he would ask me, never let a friend back out on a race.  Call them names like wuss-face and pansy pants.  Tell them you just saw a one-legged cancer patient ride by on their way to the start with an IV chemo-bag as a Camelback.  Throw their team kit at them and tell ‘em to suit up.  Strap their helmet on their head.  Fill up and put water bottles on their bike.  If all else fails, take their bike to the start line and tell them, “Dude, if you want your bike, it’ll be on the starting line.”  They will thank you for it.

MY NEW PACKING LIST IN ORDER OF IMPORTANCE: (copy and paste for personal use)
The really good coffee.
Seriously, because you know all they sell in Boondockville, OH is a 9 pound red metal can filled with dirt and hair from the local barbershop floor masquerading as real coffee.
Bike, Helmet, Shoes, Etc.