Thursday, January 21, 2010

What would YOU say?

      I didn't start this blog with any hopes of spreading a philosophical message, promoting anything (other than myself of course) or writing any controversial entries about my stand on health care, global warming or who should host "The Tonight Show."  I'll be traveling next week and will probably not have the opportunity to do a blog entry, and even if I did, how many of you want to hear about the finer points of reconfiguring a firewall? I didn't think so. So I going to deviate from my normal topic... just this once.

     With everyone talking about the earthquake in Haiti and devastation there I got to thinking. There is a story about a woman who was trapped for 7 days without food or water, and made it out alive. I wondered what was going through her mind during the time that she was trapped. There is a song about the 13 coal miners in West Virginia that were trapped when their mine shaft collapsed. Only one of them survived.  The song is by "Trailer Choir" and it is called "What would you say?"  Click to listen here

 What would you say? by Trailer Choir

What if the moment came
and you knew your life was down to minutes,
a lighters flame was all you had to see.
and you found a pen and a torn up piece of paper
and a note was all you could leave?

13 men fell trapped in a mine in West Virginia
only one made it out alive.
But their love lives on in the words
"I can not wait to see you, on the other side"

What would you say?
What would you say?

In the lines on a page, from the life that you made
could you write it with no regrets?
Would you know in yourself, you gave somebody else
all the love that you had inside
right down to your last breath?

Would you tell your Mom, Thank you for the way you love me,
Daddy don't cry, everythings gonna be OK
would you tell your little boy, you'll be watching him from up in heaven,
You never miss one game

What would you say?
What would you say?

In the lines on a page, from the life that you made
could you write it with no regrets?
Would you know in yourself, you gave somebody else
all the love that you had inside
right down to your last breath?

What if the moment came
and you knew your life was down to minutes...

     I love music! It puts into words feelings that I have a hard time articulating. What would I put on piece of paper if I was down to my last breath? It is a question that I like to toss around while I am riding the bike or driving. It not only helps pass the time but, for me, it helps keep me focused on the things that are important in life.

     Ok, I apologize if this was a little "heavy" or too "touchy feely" for some of you. Do with it what you will. If nothing else I have introduced you to a GREAT country group whose other hit is called "Rockin' the Beer Gut!" Click here to listen

Thanks for reading.



Monday, January 18, 2010

Warmer days...

       Well, I feel fully recovered from the Tappahannock ride last Saturday. I spent most of Sunday on the couch, watching the Patriots get their butts handed to them by the Ravens. I was glad that I was so tired so I could sleep through the game. It really helped to dull the pain (of the game.)

        Monday morning I was back on the bike for a normal 5:45 a.m. ride with the Severna Park Peloton guys. It actually felt good to get back on the bike again. The legs and the toucas were a little sore, but over all, I felt good. Tuesday brought a light dusting of snow (about 1/2 an inch on our driveway) so I did not ride on Tuesday. Wednesday is "Wicked Wednesday" for the 5:45 guys and I almost always pass on Wednesday because riding at breakneck speed in the dark is too much for me. I usually go too slow and end up riding alone. I usually take Wednesday as a recovery day.

         Thursday morning, I was back to riding with the 5:45group. I did the hill in Round Bay, and although I was winded at the end... it didn't seem to suck as bad as it usually does. Maybe all the miles I have been logging are paying off?

          Typically on Friday morning, there is a group that will ride to City Dock for breakfast, either at Chick and Ruth's or The Hard Bean. Mike, the guy that I rode the Tappahannock 200k with, usually meets a few of his non-cycling friends at City Dock. This particular Friday, Mike was the only cyclist that was continuing on for breakfast. During the early part of the ride, Mike seemed to be lagging behind on some of the rolling hills. I hung back from the main group to stay with Mike as much as I could. After all, I couldn't just leave him, after struggling together less than a week prior. When the group got to the turn around point, Mike headed up Route 2 (a rather busy road that we have to use for a short period of time while snow still covers the trail) and I had a bad feeling about that. I hammered away at the pedals to catch up with the group, and the rest of our ride was uneventful.

           Later that day, I was checking emails and there was one from Mike. The subject was "I became a fan of Anne Arundel County FD paramedics."  The email went on to detail the unfortunate meeting that his bike had with a car on his way back from breakfast. OK mother, don't freak out... just because I ride a bike, does not mean I am going to get hit by a car. The good news was that Mike was fine. His posterior took the brunt on the impact, and he said that the hood of the car had an impressive imprint of his ass. He was take to the hospital for percautions. Nothing broken, just a sore hind quarter.

           It just so happened that Friday evening the SPP was having a Happy Hour (we are a very social group) at a local resteraunt to wrap up some end of the year business. Mike was there and relayed the story as to what happened. He was limping noticably, but at least he was able to walk.

           For those of you who know the area, bear with me while I try to describe the road layout for those who are not locals.

           As Mike was returning back from City Dock, the normal route would be to take Rt. 450 (a highway with 2 lanes of trafic heading in each direction with a wide median) to Boulter's Way ( a normal 2 lane road) to the Baltimore Annapolis Trail. However, because of the snow and ice on the trail, Mike would have had to walk his bike over the patches of ice, and he made the decision that he did not have time for that. He had to get to work. He proceeded straight on 450 and merged onto Route 2. The merge area is very busy with traffic from Route 450, Route 50 East and Route 50 West merging onto Route 2. Mike navigated this merge area safely and proceeded to the first traffic signal at Arnold Rd.

            As you leave the merge area heading to Arnold Rd, you go down a fairly long hill and then have to pedal up a hill to get to the Arnold Rd. traffic light. On the other side if the traffic light, there is a downhill, and at the bottom of that hill, Mike planned to take a left, which meant that he would have to cross 3 lanes of trafic to make it to the left turning lane. As he rode through the light, it had just turned green, so there was a line of traffic that had been sitting at the light. He waited for that traffic to go by as he rode down the hill. Looking back, he saw a break in the traffic and began merging across the lanes. He made it over one lane, then into the next and just as he was getting ready to get into the turning lane, he heard a horn and felt the bike shoot out from under his legs.

            The paramedics are less then a mile away, and they were there almost immediately. He was well taken care of. Taken to the hospital, x-ray's were taken and he was released and well enough to make it to Happy Hour. Many things worked in his favor... the car hit him pretty squarly from behind, as opposed to broadsiding him. The driver had enough time to hit the horn, and we all are assuming that she hit the brakes at the same time, so before impact the car had slowed a little bit.Mike will get a copy of the police report, and file a claim with his insurance and go from there.

            So, who's fault was it? I have ridden my bike through that intersection, and I have driven my car through that intersection. Without having been there to witness exactly what happened, it is too hard to tell. I know Mike and I just got through riding 129 miles with him. He is not one that takes unnecessary risks on the bicycle. He wears a full vest of reflective material, has headlights, and flashing tail lights on his bike. Depending on how high up on the hill Mike decided to cross traffic, the car may not have seen him as she crested the hill and drove through the intersection. It is possible that she came over the hill and there was Mike, and there was nothing she could do about it.

             Mike joined us for breakfast this morning (...he drove his truck) and gave us an update. His butt is feeling better, his bike went into the shop on Saturday. The rear wheel is cracked and needs to be replaced, handle bar tape needs to be replaced and a battery that attaches to his bike frame went into the road and got run over by several cars, and needs to be replaced. We are all happy that it was not any worse than it was.

             I know, my mother will tell me 14times the next time I talk to her to be careful. I am very careful and I always assume that the driver will make the worst possible choice, and I plan accordingly. As a driver, I also am careful... assuming that the cyclist will make the worst possible choice, and I plan accordingly. I would ask everyone that reads this to be mindful of the cyclist that they pass, and I know for the fact that not all cyclist are the most courteous or considerate folks on the road, but then again.... neither are the drivers. Please be careful.

Thanks for reading.



Monday, January 11, 2010

Tappahannock 200k - 01/09/2010

On Saturday, I finished the Tappahannock 200k bicycle ride sponsored by the DC Randonneurs. This particular brevet was described as "a mellow ride" through the river country of Virginia. Reading the ride reports from other riders, and talking to Severna Park Peloton members that have previously done this ride, all indications were that this would in fact be an "easy" ride. Now, I put 'easy' in quotes, because as my riding buddy and I discovered during this ride, there are a LOT of relative terms in cycling, and "easy" happens to be one of them. What is 'easy' for one person, is not necessarily 'easy' for the next, and I will even go one step further and say, what is 'easy' at mile 20 in not necessarily 'easy' for the same person at mile 114. More about that later.

        Saturday morning came early and after gearing up, checking out of the hotel and breakfast at the local Waffle House we were off to the start of the ride. No one wanted to verbalize what the temperature actually was, but I later found out that it was 15 degree at 0700, which was start time. There were 33 riders at the start which included 15 from Severna Park Peloton. It was nice to have a bunch of familiar faces around for my first brevet. When the clock struck 0700, everyone was off. We headed down Rte 54 in Ashland as a massive train of bicycles and flashing red tail lights. Only 129 miles to go.

        In hind sight, if I had to put my finger on one thing that made the brevet a success for me, it would be my decision to ride with a buddy. Mike Binnix and I had decided before the event that we would stick together throughout the ride. For me, this proved to be critical throughout the entire day. So, as the group began to break up, Mike and I set out towards the first control. Prior to reaching the first control we had to make a quick stop at an Exxon Station to put hot water into our frozen water bottles. The caps full of bourbon that we put in them prior to the start did not keep them from freezing like we had hoped. We walked into the gas station and there were couches and a fire in the fireplace... I could have very easily stayed right there for the rest of the day. We didn't. Hot water in the bottles and it was back on the road.

       At the first control, Court House Market, we got our control sheets signed, picked up some hot chocolate and some more hot water for the bottle. We arrived just as a group of SPP riders were leaving. Like I said before, it was nice to have familiar faces around, and EVERY TIME I saw someone from SPP, they always asked how we were doing. They are a VERY supportive and encouraging group.

      On the road again, headed to control # 2 at Java Jacks in Tappahannock, VA. This was only a 27.4 mile leg in the journey, but it proved to be a very trying leg. A couple miles out from the first control, we discovered that the wind was no longer at our backs. Mike and I took turns riding in front to cut through the wind just enough to give the other person just enough of a break to recover so that they could take their turn in the front. In addition to the wind, we encountered many sections of the road that still had ice and snow on them. For the most part, if we were careful we could coast over them. It seemed  that these patches were mostly on the downward side of the rolling hills, so what little reprise we would garner from the downhills was thwarted by having to slow down considerable to navigate the ice and snow patches. I am happy to report that neither of us fell off our bikes. A few miles before the second control, I began feeling the first signs of physical pain. It was in my shoulders and at the base of my neck, from supporting the weight of my upper body for so many miles. I moved my hands from the top off the handlebars, to the brake hoods and into the drops, but could not find much relief. I made it to Java Jacks ready for a break.

        Lunch at Java Jacks was good. Turkey Rueben with fries and a mocha latte. The service was a little slow, and we spent more time at that control than I think anyone would have liked. Janet, Bill, Gardner and Theresa had just sat down and ordered, so we sat at a table next to them. Java Jacks is an old house converted into a coffee house/restaurant. They have tables set up in the different "rooms" of the house. There were 4 table in the room we were in. Mike and I were at one and the other 4 bikers were at another. The 2 other tables were filled with Tappahannock towns folk. As they were leaving they told us that we needed to get scooters or something. If it was under 70 degrees it was too cold to be outside riding a bike. They then wished us well on our ride and they were gone... probably wondering in the back of their minds "...what is wrong with these people?"

         While at Java Jacks I texted the 3 girls to give them a progress report on where I was and how I was doing. I was surprised to get replies from all 3 of them and the words of encouragement really did help me through the last part of the ride. Thanks girls!

         Before leaving Java Jacks, I did a conscious 'self' check to try and identify anything that I could do to make the remaining 57 more miles any more comfortable. My glove liners were keeping the moisture off my hands, my layers of Under Armour were  keeping my dry and warm, my toes were not cold, my full hood was pretty wet and I knew it would be cold putting that back on, so I put on my spare, dry hood. We were ready to go, and the 6 of us decided to leave together top help battle the winds as a group. After fixing a flat on Bill's bike in the parking lot, we were on our way. We all stayed in loose contact to the next control. On this leg of the ride, my neck and shoulder pain increased. I was also beginning to doubt my lunch choice. I knew that I needed to eat (take in calories) to compensate for the calories I was expending, but while riding after eating such a big lunch, the thought of eating anything was now repulsive. (I know, can you believe I said that?) I was doing my best to drink the water in my water bottles, but I knew I wasn't drinking enough of that either.

         Mile 98, and we were at Sparta Fastmart, the third control. Janet was there first, and was walking out as we were walking in. She asked if anyone wanted a fig-newtons.  That sounded really good to me, so I set off into the Fast Mart to find a package of fig-newtons. To save my life, I couldn't find the damn figs. The woman at the Fast Mart was so helpful...she was on the phone... deep in conversation... and when I asked her where the fig-newtons were she pointed in the general direction of the entire store and promptly continued her phone conversation. No figs in my future. I settled for peanut butter crackers. I ate one as we were leaving the third control. It tasted horrible and I am not sure if it was because after 98 miles of riding ANYTHING would have tasted horrible, or if it was because I REALLY wanted Fig-newtons.

         Headed to Control #4. 16.3 miles ahead. My neck is still hurting and I need to eat and drink. By the time we reach the 4th control it is dark, and as previously agreed upon, we were not going to linger at ALL at this control. Get the card signed, and move on. I managed to eat another peanut butter cracker and drink some water, and we were on our way.

          Next stop... Ashland Tea and Coffee shop... aka The End. We were 14 miles from the finish. As I was leaving Control #4, in my mind I was thinking... 14 miles is not so bad. That's what we normally do on our 5:45 rides. WRONG!  Remember when I told you that 'easy' is a relative term? after 114 miles, 14 MORE miles is not so 'easy'. With the sun down, I was starting to get a little cold and I struggled with my neck and shoulders the rest of the way. I was trying every conceivable position that I could to try and get comfortable for just a few minutes. I was more restless during the last 14 miles than a 2 year old in church on a Sunday morning.

          As we approached the metropolis of Ashland (the center of the universe) we could hear the train whistles blowing, and we could see a couple of traffic signals ahead. The end was in sight. We rode through the intersections, and just as we were about to arrive at Ashland Tea and Coffee shop, the railroad crossing lights start blinking and the crossing arms go across the road. We can literally see the end, but we are forced to wait another 5 minutes while the Amtrak takes on and discharges passengers. Finally, the arms go up, and we pull into the Coffee shop parking lot. We made it. 128.8 miles, 11 hours and 57 minutes.

         We entered the coffee shop to a round of applause from our Severna Park Peloton friends as well as other randonneurs that were still there. I signed and turned in my control sheet and was congratulated by several people... at this point I can't really remember who they all were. I was done... on so many levels.

         It was very emotional for me when I finished. One year ago, I couldn't climb the stairs at home without being out of breath, yet here I was cycling 129 miles in one day. I think that's pretty good improvement.

         After we changed into dry, normal clothes the 9 remaining SPP folks headed out for pizza and beer. A great ending to a great day. Check out Clint's photos of the entire event.

         I am STILL analyzing the good and bad of this ride. What would I do differently, what would I keep the same etc. That list is not complete yet, but I have come up with a few things that I am quite sure of.
             1. The buddy system is a great way to go.
             2. Solid foods... not so much on the rides. I might even have to try the Gu food (sorry Emily)
             3. I am not ready to start an R-12 (one brevet a months for 12 consecutive months), but I do know that this was not my last brevet.

Thanks for checking out my blog. Keep coming back.


Monday, January 4, 2010


          I apologize for taking so long between posts. It has been a busy week. Christmas was wonderful, as usual, and I am one year older than I was when I last posted. Emily was with us for a week and we are now into 2010. WOW.

         On Christmas morning Tiffany joined us to open gifts. In the past, we have waited until Emily came up and we'd open our gifts together, but with Tiffany trying to juggle time with her Dad and his family, her boyfriend and his family and her Mom and her family we have learned to be flexible. I think she does a great job of making sure that all the bases are covered and no one feels slighted.

          After opening gifts with Tiffany, Bev and I were off to Tappahannock to pick up Emily and see Amanda and Destini. Tappahannock is the halfway point between us in Maryland and Emily in Virginia Beach. Emily's mother is kind enough to meet us halfway on Christmas day to help minimize the amount of driving. She usually brings Amanda and Destini with her and we have our own little red neck gift exchange in the Sheetz station parking lot. Destini had a very Tinkerbell Christmas. She was very tired, and with all of the attention on her she was a handful. As is always the case, it was nice to see her and Amanda, even if it was only for a short period of time.

When we returned home, Emily opened her presents. Her favorite gifts were her record player (yup, you read that correctly, vinyl...LP's...45's...) and her Harvard hoodie (direct from the Harvard bookstore in Cambridge).  To cap off a wonderful Christmas, we headed over to Bev's Mom's house for some ham and fixin's, apple cake, coffee and warm conversation.

The following day, as you all should know, was my birthday. Bev does a fantastic job of making sure that my birthday celebration is completely separate from Christmas. She makes sure that my birthday gifts are all wrapped in birthday paper... not Christmas paper or even holiday neutral paper. I got lots of great gifts for my birthday. Mostly gift cards from my favorite places (Starbucks, The Olive Garden and The Bike Doctor) as well as tickets to see Terri Clarke. She will be at Ram's Head on Stage in Annapolis on Feb 21st. It is an acoustic performance of just her and her guitar. She is one of my favorite country singers and she puts on an awesome show. So, with the concert being in Feb, I am able to stretch my birthday week out just a little bit further.

This New Years eve we all actually stayed awake and watched the ball drop...because we were babysitting! Eddie and Tracie, the couple that Tiffany babysits for on a regular basis needed someone to babysit their 3 kids (one 3 year old and a set of twins about a year and a half old). Tiffany had plans with Josh and friends, so Tracie called Bev and we ended up hanging out at their house until the wee hours of the morning. They also have 2 dogs, so Emily was having a great time "doggie sitting" while Bev was baby sitting. I was pretty much... just... sitting.

That brings us into 2010. As far as resolutions go, I resolved a few years ago to not make any more resolutions... and I have stuck to that. Looking forward, I am optimistic that 2010 will afford me the opportunity to continue those good things that I started in 2009.

For those interested, next weekend is the Tappahannock 200k brevet. I have just about everything that I need, with the exception of a few small items like tubes, and air cartridges in the event of a flat. Sunday I rode (see my 2010 Training Log link) in the cold (18 degree with a wind chill of 2) to see how my 'layered' approach to warmth and wind was going to work. I have to say that I was warm throughout the entire ride, with the exception of the little spot on my forehead that was exposed. I also used the ride on Sunday practice eating while riding the bike. I know, it sounds pretty simple, but with big gloves on, trying to unwrap chewy granola bars and ride a bike... not so simple. I think I came up with a system that will work. I'll let you know. The ride on Sunday also taught me that 'chewy' granola bars, when exposed to 20 degree temps do not stay 'chewy'.

I will do another entry probably on Thursday or Friday to let you all know where I am at physically and mentally for the brevet on Saturday. I am cautiously optimistic that I will be fine, after all... it's only 129 miles.