Monday, January 24, 2011

WBL #7-Philomath is Where I'll Go

When the world is a monster
Bad to swallow you whole
Kick the clay that holds the teeth in
Throw your trolls out the door
If you're needing inspiration
Philomath is where I go by dawn
Lawyer Jeff he knows the lowdown
He's mighty bad to visit home

This interwebs thing is amazing! In the 80's us REM fans would have to smoke some pot (they hadn't discovered weed yet) crank the HiFi to 11 and spin some vinyl to try and figure out what Michael Stipe was saying. Now, I can google the info without any carcinogenic compounds entering my lungs.

WBL#7? Philomath is where you'll go. A chilly but sunny morning and a definitely more modest sized peloton. Antelope roll call? Reverend Lenny was at the start but shivering like a neurotic chihuahua. Ben Green was there and other than myself that was it. Dan McGarvey was there but he refuses to be identified with antelopes.
I ain't no antelope

It would have been a great day for more antelopes. I think almost everyone would have made it to the 60 mile store stop. The pace was controlled and mellow as the group enjoyed a sunny romp through a strangely massive Oglethorpe County. I had two historic experiences. First we rode through Philomath GA, from the famous REM song. The Cheetah Jefe was riding beside me and we were talking music. He knew the story of the local attorney who told Michael Stipe about hunting for arrowheads in Philomath and had seen REM in 1980 when they were a local band. I also tested my hypothesis that the Humble Chronicler may be a Tom Waits fan. According to the jefe, not so much, the carnivalesque atmosphere of the WBL reports is just a random echo of the more off camber chamber of the Chronicler's psyche. Hmmm quiet waters run, odd.

The second bit of history was personal. I pulled the WBL 1.5 times. Pretty cool. I took a turn with big Matt W who I have decided is some sort of freak of nature because he would eventually stay with the pack in the sprint group over some tough rollers. No mean feat at 6' 9" 260lbs so there are really are no excuses for getting over hills. Matt is an interesting guy. He was a CPA for 2 years after graduation then decided he would rather be wrenching and riding bikes and no amount of money was worth crunching numbers rather than pedals. A man after my own heart. I would give up brick laying during the day except my hot wife depends on me to bring home the soy bacon. I bet if your wife or husband looked like this hot (BTW she's been working out) you'd want to lay as many bricks as possible.
Give up working and ride everyday? Get back to your bricks mister!
So Matt and I pulled for a few minutes and it wasn't too bad. I was breathing pretty hard but Matt was kind enough not to make any breathing sounds so I could more clearly hear the sound of my breath rattling around in my ears.  Later I pulled again with a Team Type I developmental guy but after a minute or two a big group came by getting ready for the intermediate sprint.

It was a casual feeling ride and everyone, especially me, was chatty. Or maybe I was the only one chatty and a parade of guys was forced to endure listening to me chat on endlessly. I talked with Team Type I guys, the jefe, Matt, a recent PHD guy who studies birds, Macon bears. It was seriously mellow up to the store stop at 60 miles in. Then the  pace picked up on some rollers for about 10 miles heading towards the sprint zone and I was on the rivet but hanging tough. I happened to be next to the Cheetah Jefe who seemed not to notice the need for any sort of effort as he continued to casually chat until he seemed to notice that I (a) wasn't responding, (b) was in the drops, and (c) was emitting a rattling wheeze. So he found someone else to chat with.

Before I knew it, the Cheetah Jefe had a whistle in his mouth which means the sprint zone was coming up.
Let the madness begin!
This is an important mental preparation time as riders know that it's time to either be the hammer or the nail.
The whistle blew as we turned on to Lake Hargrove for a 9 mile attack zone. I know this road well, especially the three hills that make it interesting. As the pace picked up the flow got really strange. Everyone wanted to be the  on the outside and we were basically in one long line. I had trouble figuring out how to stay on a  wheel.  I managed to hang though through the first hill and up to the base of the second. Of course that's when the hammer really went down.
Time to hurt boys (and girl)
I was not getting up the second hill on Lake Hargrove with the main pack of the WBL this day.

With about 6 miles of sprint zone and 13 miles of ride left, I put my head down and tried to minimize the damage. It was a tough effort and while I did my best to minimize the gap, I not only missed the group picture, but the main pack had already pitched their hammocks and were well in to their post ride naps when I rolled in.

Hey wake up, let's take the picture.
90 miles, double digit miles per hour. Next week, Alto, 110 miles of WBL madness. I can't wait,


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Surviving the Winter

Last Saturday saw WBL#5 come and go without my antelope butt in the herd. I learned the week prior that although I may becoming a reasonably fit antelope, I am no cheetah. Cheetahs are quite comfortable in snow and ice. I think it may be the claws that help them get a grip in the ice:

Sprint line, where is sprint line, meow
Even though they canceled the sprints, the thought of spinning through patches of ice with 80 people in a double pace line, seemed, well, unwise.

Fortunately, Big RickO held an ice free ride out in Winterville. We carefully picked our way down the roads in blissful safety.
car left, slowing

I have also used this opportunity to bond with my trainer and finish season 2 of True Blood. I am sorry to give this away but Sookie Stackhouse survives the Maenad. I am also happy to report that season 3 has seemed to recapture the spirit of gratuitous nudity. As part of my fartlek training I now sprint for 30 seconds whenever a breast is revealed.

The roads have dried up nicely and yesterday, Superdraft, Clyde Watts and myself did 50+ prior to darting back to our offices to work an extra 4 hours and balance out a mindless universe that doesn't organize itself around cycling.  Fortunately, I have a mannequin that looks just like me that I can leave at my brick laying job and no one is the wiser. I program it to repeat common bricklaying phrases in case anyone walks by.

These bricks are heavy, oops right on my toe, no I'm not riding my bike lately

This Saturday the ice will be gone and the WBL will blast off again. 90 miles of pedal rotating with a 9 mile sprint zone. I can't wait.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Reality Bites: WBL#4

Oh My God. Oh, My, God.

Oh My God.

That was a really tough ride last Saturday. It is Monday and my legs have finally stopped cramping and I managed to leave my bed this morning. I am ready to reflect on last Saturday morning's WBL#4, 92 miles to Bowman Ga.

It was a sunny and cool morning as the riders congregated....
After last week's ride with a hill crackage and then massive crackage at the sprint zone, I knew that I needed to be at my best.  I prepared as best I could without actually losing any weight. A mountain bike ride last Monday, a tough 50 miles on Wednesday, yoga, recovery and Saturday was here. We headed out of town on Nowhere Rd and even in the first hour it felt...hard. Roller after roller came and went without any peaceful easy feelings.  Since I don't have a cyclocomputer on my bike, I had no idea the pace. I just figured it hurt and that I must be having a bad day. I was determined to hang tough and did manage to survive through the pee break and almost to Bowman. And then the first sign of the day's cyclopocalypse. I swear it seemed to be the exact same grade and length of hill that I barely made it over last week. It was long but the grade started off not  too bad. I'm on the front of the saddle with a fairly high cadence for about 2 minutes, when, of course, the death s-quad at the front decided the second half of the hill, which of course got steeper, needed to be felt just a little more deeply... Here is a photo of the death s-quad troops.

Faster, there are antelopes trying to cycle with us
I also snapped a picture of the guy at the front when the hammer went down, I think he is the captain of death-quad cycling team:
The top of his body wouldn't show up on the camera as the guy is only 135lbs. The point is the peloton hit the hill hard and I began to fall back. MarkYMark tried to encourage me...
Hey Kogan, I got your cadence right here!

But it didn't matter, I slid off the back well before the end of the hill.When the front group gets to the top of the hill they make this sound like a war cry, kind of a cross between a long "woohoo!" and and Indian war cry from the movies. Seriously, they make that sound. I am thinking that this warbling call has some sort of  meaning like,  "hey I'm at the top of the hill and I still have enough wind left to do a warbling war cry!" Of course I now associate this cry with being off the back. Now, in case I am confused about where I am in relation to the peloton, when I hear that call I know I am at least 30 yards behind the last rider and heading backwards.

I did catch up with a few other guys who were off the back and we rolled in 5 miles later into the store stop like Antelopes on parade.
Oh, hi there cheetahs! Been here long? Is there any Gatorade left?
So it was a tough day and I would later find out that the pack had been averaging 22mph according to MarkYMark, not just cheetah pace, but Cheetahs on meth. And that was the easy part of the day, because after a 5 mile stretch of road post rest stop, we turned right heading west or south into a 218 mile per hour head wind for the final 40 miles of the ride. I was already dying before we turned and I thought, I've got to get farther to the front, maybe I am in  the accordion and if I got up farther it would feel easier. I took a right  turn tight through a gravelly shoulder and got myself back into the front 1/3 just as we faced the wind. The next 400 yards were ridiculous. I though it was just the typical stand up and sprint for 40 yards to catch up after a turn but I stood up, started sprinting in the drops to catch up but wasn't catching up. So, I kept on sprinting, head down, out of the saddle everything I had. Not only was I not catching the wheels ahead, I think 400 riders were rolling by me. I might as well have been walking. I thought, Oh shit, this is going to be a really long day getting dropped with 40 miles to go.

Yummm, the sound of Antelope cracking!
 I was not alone, I had company fighting the wind to Watson Mill State Park and beyond towards Winterville. We were an intrepid bunch, ready to fight for every inch of road, fighting for our pride.

Does anyone know a short cut home?

Honey, can you pick me up? I'm so tired I'm starting to look like John Kerry.
Desperate for anything to power my bike in the wind I reached for my secret weapon:
Slow down Cheetahs, I'm coming!
But it wasn't enough. At one point I turned to MarkY and said, "Well I guess we really are antelopes aren't we?" MarkY just laughed. I was glad he was still laughing because earlier, I tried to give him a little assist like I see the other riders doing and nearly pushed him off the road.

Our little group was running out of steam, so in the place where the real ride gee'd, we haw'd and cut off about 10.5 miles from the 92 mile route. Fortunately, 10 miles represented the 30-40 minutes of time that the pack was ahead of us, so we were able to re-join the front group towards the end of the sprint zone.

I'm thinking to myself, "OhMyGod these guys are really strong. What the hell am I doing trying to keep up with these monsters?" Cruising towards home after the sprint,  I rode along side the Cheetah Jefe. He said that this was a really fast day and there were a lot of pros pushing the pace. 

I talked to another dude in the parking lot after we got back who said he had done every WBL for the last 3 years and that this was the hardest. I'd have been comforted except that he was 70 years old and didn't get dropped until the sprint zone (25 miles after I was dropped).

So I survived an abbreviated route, putting in about 80 miles. I am planning to bring my headphones to future rides so I can listen to music during those long lonely miles in the Georgia countryside dreaming of hanging with the pack. I may not be fast, but dammit I plan to show up.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

We're Cycling in the Rain, Just Cycling in the Rain

Who hasn't read the inspiring and brutally self-aggrandizing passages of Lance Armstrong book where he describes long mountain rides in the rain and cold while his competitors are spinning for an hour a day in their basements through the winter. Of course Lance was a professional cyclist, something he did for a living.  He was paid to get on that bike and excel just like I am paid to lay bricks day after day in strategically geometric patterns. Certainly cold and rain would not keep me from brick laying or sharpening my brick construction implements.

But why in the hell was I out in the rain today riding my bike for 50 miles when I could have been (a) laying bricks, (b) watching TV, (c) cleaning the house, (d) spinning on the trainer, or (e) preparing giant Cantaloupe balls for dinner. For that matter why were Superdraft, MarkY Mark, KenS, and Clyde Taint Watts out there with me? Is it some primal warrior spirit trying to erupt from the mollifying masks of civilized life? For crying out loud, KenS is like a zillion years old and retired and he had poor Clyde crying on Price Mill Hill for mercy.

For me the Wednesday ride is imperative to consolidate any gains from surviving WBLs and preparing for the next. Why it is so important to me to do this stuff I have no idea. Endorphins? People telling me, "Hey antelope dude, your riding pretty tight lately." Is my self-esteem so fragile that I have to dedicate myself to some esoteric European sport on a daily basis to derive some meaning in life?

Well, yes.  I have come to the conclusion that life is a disease and cycling (and maybe one day grandchildren) are the cure. Well maybe not the cure but it keeps the disease at bay anyway.

So we rode. It wasn't really supposed to drizzle the whole time and then start really saturating us the final 15 miles. It really wasn't so bad the first 35 miles. Great group of guys, KenS was riding super strong, and the Wednesday route is quite nice after the first 10 miles up and down new high shoals. By Fairplay it was getting a bit old as everyone's clothes were soaking and the temperature was heading southward. We survived and put in a solid 50 at 17.5.

Given the epic-ness of today's ride I have updated the Antelope Survival Challenge to give points to Clyde, Ken, Marky, and Superdraft. Ken rode in dominating style without a complaint--2 points. Marky decided he didn't need a jacket or shoe covers and so gets 2 points for hypothermia. Clyde, 2 points for taking his whupping like a man, making no excuses despite not having ridden for 3 weeks. Superdraft gets 2 points for overcoming a tendency to avoid  cold wet weather (why would someone do that?) and for looking so miserable in Fairplay.

By the way, you know that asshole you ride with who you can usually beat but if you like have pneumonia or haven't ridden in a month, he will take that opportunity to race you up every hill? Well I am that asshole. Like a hyena or a jackal I wait for the competition to be wounded and then I strike. Am I proud? No. But dammit, every so often I want to be up that hill first and see other people dropping away. hey if I could do it against healthy, fit people, I would. I'm just taking what I can get. This may also explain the nickname I earned and why my wife gave me this cool jersey which I feel I must include in every post this week:
You haven't ridden in a month? No I won't hammer on the hills, I promise!
Of course this is not necessarily a moral failing. It could be genetic or biological and thus there is nothing to be done about this behavior. Just look at these guys, this definitely supports the biology theory:

Big rides on Saturday, if you didn't get wet outside, better get on that trainer.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Antelope or Canteloupe?

I was enjoying a sunny but windy ride on Sunday with my Nitty Gritty friends. I was chatting amiably with Ann who was riding her awesome new, custom steel Waterford bike when she said, "so you must ride with those cantalopes  from the Wednesday night ride."

Cantalopes? Cantaloupes?

So I guess that while we can try on nicknames that we hope to have, like the very graceful and very fast (just not quite as fast as Cheetahs) Antelope;  the ones that really stick are given by others. Kind of like when I was a kid and I hoped everyone would call me "Slick" or "Stud" but they just wouldn't stop calling me "Stinky" and "Dickhead." Given the way nicknames evolve it may well be the case that Cantaloupe comes to stand for the vast numbers of local, primarily middle age, male cyclists who dream of being fast but keep bumping up against obstacles like age, talent, training time, will power, and of course lack of enough money for a really fast bike. In case this is inevitable, I decided I should explore and perhaps embrace the consequences of a name change.

As usual, I google search images for inspiration. I would need to have a new image for the blog and a new theme.
And I was laying on the ground ready to be picked when I dropped my chain and got passed.
 We would need distinctive helmets. My cat Lucifer came up this idea:

Lucy crack you like egg, wheel sucker!

 Of course it has already been pointed out that while many (C)antelopes may not be svelte around the middle, we have butts like 2 ripe...
Are you staring at my cantaloupes again?

Admittedly, a grazing Cantalope doesn't really look very fast:

Uhhh, Moo? Baah? Maah? Whatever.
I have identified the perfect song entitled "Cantaloupes"  by the band "Darkbuster" for this new cycling group.

Of course while Cantelopes are generally prized for their sweetness, freshness, and firm round goodness, there are also some unfortunate cases of Cantelope abuse.

And many people may take references to Cantalopes for genitalia or other body parts:

But all in all, I believe I am ready to embrace this new group nickname if it comes to pass, just like I have learned to embrace my other nicknames. For example, here I am in the new jersey my wife just got me.

May you hammer like a thousand fresh cantaloupes rolling down a steep hill.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

WBL #4: The Antelope Story

The history books belong to the Cheetahs. Someone must tell our story.
WBL #4 is in the books and sometime today the story of the ride will be written by the Cheetah Jefe and his Humble Chronicler. In a style somewhere between the commentary of legendary cyclist Sean Taylor, a post Rain Dogs Tom Waits song, and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, the drama, the suffering, the irony, and the "epic-ness" of the day will be immortalized. Like all history, however, it is written by the powerful, those who hammer with the gods  or at least with the Cat 3's. Cycling history is writ from the front of the pack, those wimpering, cracked packs of riders at the back worth barely a footnote if that. But who really suffered? The winners, the powerful who could stay in the hunt and on a wheel through a 7 mile sprint zone pregnant with rollers? Or the stragglers, fighting wind and physics with grim determination to minimize the gap, to never quit.

We are the antelope and this is our story.

Friday, the final day of 2010 dawned clear and beautiful as cyclists from all over North Georgia converged on downtown Athens for 75 miles of pedal rotation. The day was dedicated to Big Cappy, the grizzled cabinet maker of Cappy's Custom Cabinets fame. Cappy was kind enough to pose for a pre-ride photo.

Custom only man, and you don't want to know why they call me "Big" Cappy

Even Cappy's cabinets look fast:

No Antelope undies in the top drawer please.

Here is a cabinet that was made for Big Cappy's son, Little Cappy who is also a cheetah.
Shhh, don't tell Lil Cappy I was in his cabinet.
Several antelopes showed up for Cappy's WBL. Aside from the lack of race team kits, you can usually tell the Antelopes by their hairy legs.
L-R: Sean, JimK, BenSee, Marky
The Cheetah Jefe got everyone together and laid down the law.

If anyone crosses the yellow line, you will be sorry as illustrated in this next picture....
That's my line pinhead.
A healthy sized peloton headed off to the north to the wilds of Jackson County and beyond. Just getting out of Athens disaster struck and someone had a crash and got hurt. Two riders were out and the peloton paused for medical help to arrive. Fortunately the word today is that everyone is going to be OK. The chief Cheetah, always safety conscious again emphasized the importance of paying attention and staying focused, good advice for all.
Stay awake people!
The next 20 miles were awesome.  Easy rollers, I was in the top 20-25 of the pack and I was never in distress. I started to think, "hey, maybe I'm getting used to this cheetah riding." Of course this is a dangerous thought and some evil skinny man with shaved legs decided to taste the wind on a long hill about 30 miles into the ride. It was a long hill, I geared down and started spinning for all I was worth. I stayed tough the first half when evil skinny man at the front, decided, "hmmm the hill seems to be getting steeper and there is a good 1/4 mile of climbing to go, I think I will elevate the pace  by about 3mph." Seriously, this is exactly what he thought, I have proof.
Hee hee, watch the fatties suffer!!!!

I went from about 20th in the pack to about 80th, just cresting the hill before I was off the back. A kindly Mercer Bear I met before the ride offered words of encouragement as he passed me but what I needed was a push. Where is big Tim Joyce when you need him. That dude can sling you up a hill. Of course even though I made it over the hill the skinny devil was still at the front so we commenced to hit the next 5 miles of rollers at a breakneck pace and I was gasping to hang on to the store stop. I have taken to rating my cracks in my head. Since cracks are going to happen, I've decided to work on minimizing the size and breadth of my crackage. I am working on minimal crackage versus massive crackage. Because I did hang on, I consider this incident a moderate crack and registered it as such.

Mile 30- Registered Crack, Antelope Athens

The store stop was healing and the group resumed a steady pace  heading back to Commerce from Maysville. Little did I understand what lay in the future as we cruised to the epic portion of the day, the 7 mile sprint zone once we turned on Nowhere Rd. A guy I had been chatting with told me, that the next turn was it, and suddenly, well, everyone slowed down. I thought cool, maybe people will watch each other for a few miles. Yeh right. The Cheetah Jefe took off and everyone was in a flurry to follow. I was pretty much at the front third but despite getting in my drops and getting  out of the saddle, there was no way to stay with the main group much less even see the break away. Drafting was irrelevant. At top speeds antelopes just can't hang. So I desperately tried to hang on to the stronger wheels who also were getting dropped. Let's be clear, 70 or more people took off down the road without me. This was massive crackage.
Oh dear, the peloton seems to be leaving me behind,
I settled in for 7 miles of gut busting, thigh burning effort to minimize the damage and try to catch the pack by Athens. I wound up pulling some guys including MarkY and BenSee and even put a hurting on some skinny guys who were having problems maintaining power on the rollers. It hurt but we all fought on and I finally crossed the sprint line ahead of my little grupo (I'll take whatever I can get) just in time to climb that last ridiculous hill on Nowhere Rd. I kept the pressure on wanting to catch the pack before downtown and with the help of a few red lights we all climbed JJ's Roaster hill together. It was a festive atmosphere with adult beverages and camaraderie.  I may have had some crackage but I was in with the group and qualified for 4 Antelope Survival points along with MarkY Mark and BenS.

I have had a conversation with my legs and they assure me that I will be able to leave the bed and put weight on them two days hence. Time to train for next Saturday!