Thursday, February 26, 2009

Apparently, My Building Is Ghetto.

Okay, first, this has nothing to do with bike racing, but bike racing can be sketchy and this was most certainly sketchy, so cogito ergo sum, it is appropriate to post this here. DO NOT QUESTION MY INFALLIBLE LOGIC.

Second, last night I was wearing my Sponge-Bob onesy and drifting off to sleep when I heard someone out on the street screaming like an effing banshee. The screaming was followed by an insane amount of banging, which was followed by a dog barking, which was followed by the sound of gunshots. Now I live in Brookline, which is certainly not Beacon Hill, but is not exactly the sketchiest neighborhood in Boston, either. It's mostly college students and orthodox Jewish families and is relatively quiet, so you can imagine my ever-so-slight surprise at the sound of gunshots just outside of my apartment. Curious, I looked out the window to see a man entering an older Ford Explorer and driving off in something of a hurry. I pondered this for a few minutes, and determining that it was probably safe to emerge, I went downstairs to make sure everything was alright.

Well, everything was not alright. A window was broken, a door was off of its hinges, and there were some very shaken up, very stoned individuals milling around that broken door with a very shaken up, very stoned pit bull. I asked them what happened, and apparently a fight occurred outside involving my sketchy ass downstairs neighbor (who is almost certainly a massive drug dealer - my entire building constantly smells of weed) and some dude with a gun. Said dude with a gun pointed said gun at said dealer neighbor, said dealer neighbor screamed like said banshee, and tried to get inside by smashing said door and said window. Said dealer neighbor's pit bull then escaped through said broken door and freaked out on said dude with a gun, and said dude with a gun tried to shoot said dealer neighbor's pit bull in the face, then fled the scene in said older Ford Explorer. The cops came and took statements, then went off to eat crullers (and a bear claw).


Wednesday, February 25, 2009


I've recently taken a deep look inside my soul and discovered that the gaping hollow void in my spirit from whence my breathtakingly genius blog entries ordinarily flow has been plugged up like Rapunzel's shower drain. At first I was bewildered at this phenomenon, but after some serious peyote use and an intense vision quest I can now attribute this cloggage to the fact that the Tour of California is dead and gone - at least until next February - depriving my amazing literary talents of any appropriate subject matter in which to take form. Nevertheless, after some serious cocaine abuse and a few all-nighters in a Newton crack den, I have come across one idea: since it seems that all of the "cool" kids are posting photos of their rides, I guess I'll go ahead and follow suit.

Behold, the outskirts of Boston!

That's just some lifeless trees and a waterfall that we always ride past. I've probably seen that thing like a thousand times, but there was something very special about today. That special thing is that we stopped on the side of the road for a natural break, and I stepped in a large pile of dung! While I can't be entirely certain of the species that left me this gift, laboratory analysis has narrowed it down to either dog, human, or sasquatch. Personally I feel that the sasquatch hypothesis may be a bit far-fetched, but who am I to argue with DNA tests? In case you need a visual, I stepped in the sasquatch dung right

I'm assuming you've probably never been unlucky enough to have to scrape abominable snow crap from all of the nooks and crannies of a bike cleat, but just trust me. Not fun.

After that point the road turned upward and we started to climb. When I say that, however, please realize that I'm now firmly immersed in Boston cycling culture, and due to the unabashed flat-chestedness of our beautiful state, "turning up" usually means "rising approximately 35 feet in elevation." In this case, that's exactly what it means:

Yes, that is a "climb" in Boston, a/k/a/ a "speed bump" to Vermonters, a/k/a/ "the Swiss Alps" to Rhode Islanders. Fast-forward thirty grueling seconds of pedal-mashing, swearing, and weeping, and we finally crested the Alps and "descended" the other side. The descent was followed by approximately two additional hours of bicycle riding, during which time I accidentally flung my camera on the ground while doing 45 mph (on the flats - I'm really fast).

After nearly smashing my little camera to bits, I decided I'd better be a tad more careful, so I have nothing else for you except for this:

That speck in the filthy white winter jacket is Natan, racing through Wellesley Center on the way home like a mud-encrusted comet making its way around the sun. Wellesley Center is a weird place: a tiny college town inhabited almost entirely by female students, and the makeup of the Wellesley retail community reflects that fact very much indeed. All of these little strip malls are crammed full of very conservative and very expensive clothing stores, punctuated by the occasional ice cream shop.

Anyhow, more pedaling followed, and soon I was home where a new friend was waiting for me in front of my garbage cans.

Our friendship didn't last long however, as he appeared to be only using me for my recyclables, but c'est la vie I suppose.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Requiem for a Sprinter

Professional field sprints are getting boring. Mark Cavendish wins everything. Today's stage of the AToC was almost sad, watching Boonen - the ex-golden boy - fade before the line like MC Hammer's hairdo. I'll bet ol' Tommeke is crying his eyes out right now in a bed full of naked Californian supermodels. That thought is especially sad considering that it's probably tough to get your nose full of Bolivian marching powder when it's running with snot. Just take a look at this photo, in which Cavendish is clearly giving Tom the international sign for "suck it" as he crosses the line:

Anyways, after watching Cav stomp the competition (and listening to Craig Hummer's word vomit for a couple of hours) I headed out to an acupuncturist. With the ECCC season drawing near and my Achilles tendons still not at 100%, the situation is getting pretty desperate. So yes, I went and had some dude stick needles into my feet. This being my first run-in with an acupuncturist I was a little bit concerned, but it wasn't nearly as creepy as I thought it would be. The acupuncturist just flicked the needles as they went in and I could barely even feel them. Two went into each Achilles with electrical pulses running through them, and four went into my neck. Then the guy abandoned me there for half an hour while I lay face down, bristling with acupuncture needles like a hedgehog.

It's hard to say whether it was effective just yet. My neck feels a bit looser than it did before, but the jury's still out on the Achilles'. Since I know you guys are all waiting with baited breath to hear the status of my lil' tendons, I'll post an update soon.

In any case, when I got home and flicked on the TV, whose voice immediately began assaulting my eardrums but that of Versus' newest word jockey, Craig Hummer? The voice was immediately familiar but the context was very different, since this time Craigy wasn't dabbling in cycling, but was announcing a sport with a far longer and richer history: World Extreme Cagefighting. I didn't stick around long enough to really get a feel for his deathmatch announcing style, but I assume he brings the same level of professionalism, detailed knowledge, and insight to the bare-knuckle ass whooping arena as he does to the cycling arena. That level of professionalism, knowledge, and insight, incidentally, is a big 10 (on the usual scale of -4 to 684,007).

Oh, and Valverde is totally effed (and balding):

Monday, February 16, 2009

Craig Hummer - Cycling Commentator Extraordinaire

After what seems like an eternity, I'm finally done with my first build period of the season. The last few months of intervals, hill sprints, and TT workouts culminated in a massive team sufferfest this weekend, and my legs are officially whipped. It's lucky for me that today is a rest day and the beginning of an R&R week, and it's also clearly serendipitous that the Amgen Tour of California has now begun. The world clearly intends for me to watch the AToC, and I intend to abide by its intentions.

So far the broadcast has been marred by poor weather, which has prevented much of the live video from being seen. However, I have been prevented from tearing my apartment apart in frustration by the genius of the announcer who is Craig Hummer. Yes, Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin - who together have 400 combined years of cycling commentating experience - are present as usual. But Versus has thankfully found it appropriate to employ an additional announcer in Mr. Hummer, who despite knowing exactly nothing about cycling and limiting his remarks to either entirely obvious or blatantly incorrect statements, is clearly a rising star in the commentating sky.

Here are some examples of Mr. Hummer's almost breathtaking genius:

"Out front the leaders are trying to do their best to keep that gap as large as possible, while back in the peloton . . . they're trying to close the gap."

Wait, the chasing group would like to catch the breakaway? Really?
It's clear now that it was Mr. Hummer's capacity for making cutting observations like this that inspired the AToC organizers to bring Mr. Hummer on board. After all, if we were at all unaware that the chasing group was interested in catching the break, we would be completely confused as to what was happening. Prior to Mr. Hummer's lucid statement, I was just wondering why everyone was riding in the same direction. Are they all heading to grab some lunch together? What are they having? Couldn't they just have called out for delivery and saved themselves the hassle of such a long ride? I also had no idea why they were moving so quickly. I thought that, perhaps, they were running late for an appointment or reservation of some sort, which would tend to confirm my lunch meeting theory. With one easy statement, Mr. Hummer shattered my now obviously incorrect lunch hypothesis and put the rest of the race in perspective.

In discussing the new electronic Dura-Ace gruppo - "Those components will save you valuable milliseconds and power."

While it makes some minimal sense that faster, smoother electronic shifting could potentially provide a rider with a slight advantage if a shift became necessary under full effort, I was not aware that electronic Dura-Ace could actually save power. How exactly this is possible has not been made clear to me, but I wouldn't presume to contradict the statements of Versus's newest elite commentator. The only explanation for this statement seems to be that, in addition to the electronically-actuated shifting system, Shimano has somehow snuck a small electronic motor into the rear hub which will help to save the rider valuable power. Given that blood doping is now so difficult to pull off without being caught, banned, and subsequently re-welcomed to the peloton in a glorious comeback two years later, it's clear that Shimano saw an opening into the competitive cheating industry and jumped at the opportunity. This also helps to explain the $4,000 cost of the gruppo. While this price tag would be exorbitant for a group that simply shifts slightly smoother than traditional mechanical gruppos, such a sneaky and effective alternative to blood doping is clearly worth its weight in EPO.

"Phil mentioned the condors, but I'm going to start calling them the 'chalk-hawks,' are out there chalking up the road."

On first blush this statement makes absolutely no sense to me or to anybody else, and so is clear evidence that Mr. Hummer is on another level of cycling expertise. Upon doing some research, what has become clear is that 'chalk-hawks' refers to the violent non-profit organization dedicated to conservation of the birds and wetlands of Dorset, U.K. (not to be confused with the affiliated but independent 'Chalk & Cheese,' the Dorset rural food production group):

Only Mr. Hummer knows why, but the Chalk Hawks - perhaps inspired by the activist goals of Lance Armstrong's Livestrong campaign - have arrived in force at the finish line to mark up the street. This is intensely important information as it provides details about possible terrorist activities in the final stretch, and the people of this country and the pro peloton owe Mr. Hummer a great debt for alerting government officials to this fact.

Yes, in this coming rest week I will certainly be sure to spend some of my extra time watching the AToC and basking in the glow of Mr. Hummer's genius, a genius which is a valuable asset for the Versus network, the UCI, and the people of the United States.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Ridin' Bikes n' Readin' Charts

The ECCC Blogosphere's Despot-in-Chief, Mr. Steven Hopengarten of Union College, has apparently banned the posting of all power files by fiat. In response I plan to completely flood this blog post with a multitude of completely unnecessary, redundant, obnoxious and otherwise ridiculous charts of all kinds. Starting now.

That's right Mr. Hopengarten, that is a pie chart representing relative quantities of food and beverages I consumed during the 2007 holiday season. And I promise you, it won't end there. It won't even end here:

That chart is a depiction of the seating arrangements available at performances by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. I display it here on the off chance that you, Mr. Hopengarten, might wish to don one of the doubtless innumerable tuxedos lining your closet and head out for a night on the town. And in case this brush-in with culture makes you curious about the history of our great nation, I now present you with a strange chart which somehow represents the family tree of the great American president, John Quincy Adams:

While I will now move on from this chart-stravaganza, rest assured, Mr. Hopengarten, that this debate is by no means over.

Today's ride was a four-hour slog through a somehow omnipresent headwind (in both directions!) out to the oasis of fat, sugar, and more fat that is Honey Dew Donuts of Grafton, MA. Honey Dew has been relegated to the status of second-class citizen in Massachusetts confectionery society, a society ruled by that cruelest of mistresses - Dunkin' Donuts. However,, this one bastion of Honey Dewness remains on the outskirts of the outskirts of Boston, and it was to this amazing natural wonder that we were headed on this cold New England afternoon. To prove the absolute wonderousness of this wonder, here is a donut chart, Mr. Hopengarten:

Although this donut chart displays no relevant information regarding actual donuts, and is in all reality just a simple pie chart with the center removed, it is shaped just like the donuts served at Honey Dew, and for this reason I have included it here.

On the way to Honey Dew Donuts, we rode past a lot of frozen things.

That is Kyle Bruley (a.k.a. Creme Brulee) of the world-famous blog, "Hugging the Turns," riding past a large frozen body of water. Here is a photograph of Chair and Natan riding past some frozen water which, somehow, has fallen from the sky and congregated on the sides of the road:

And there was other frozen stuff as well, including Gatorade and snot. Yeah, it was a little cold, but nothing compared to last month, so I suppose I can't really complain.

Also, on this ride, I had occasion to realize the nutritional oddities that come along with being a very thin individual. On this ride, I personally saw Natan eat two Clif Bars, for a total caloric value of approximately 500 kcal. I also saw Chair eat nothing (as in zero Clif Bars) for a total caloric value of exactly 0.0 kcal. I have no idea what Creme Brulee ate, as I was busy watching Natan and Chair's every move, although I assume something custardy was involved. Finally, I watched myself eat three Clif Bars, four GU packets, and an egg and bagel sandwich, and drink four bottles of Gatorade, for a total caloric value of approximately 2260 kcal. Regardless, it's clear that whereas I need to consume a huge amount of calories in order to keep myself coherent on the bike, my friends do not, a fact which I attribute to my lack of fat, muscle, and other bodily tissue. I'll try keep that in mind come racing season. In order to stay healthy and maintain a balanced diet, I will also, Mr. Hopengarten, keep the nutritional pyramid chart in mind.

Oh, and here is my entire PowerTap file from today's ride:


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Caring is Crepitus

Of all the sensations one is likely to have in one's Achilles tendons, crepitus is certainly among the strangest. Oddly, defines crepitus as "[t]he noise produced by a sudden discharge of wind from the bowels." Synonyms would be: "fart," "boost," "break wind," "pass gas," and, apparently, "flatus." Wikipedia and Baudelaire tend to lend some credibility to this definition in speaking of the hotly (ew?) debated ancient Roman god of flatulence, who was also allegedly named Crepitus. Fortunately for my Achilles, this is not the definition of "crepitus" I have in mind, although "Flatulent Achilles" is a rare but very real and severely disconcerting disorder completely unrelated to tendonitis.

No, in the context of sports medicine, "crepitus" does not mean "to break wind." What it does do, however, is connote the sensation of a cracking, creaking, or grating sensation under the skin generally associated with certain injuries and inflammations. In my dealings with Achilles tendonitis I have lately been unlucky enough to grow intimately acquainted with crepitus, and have found it to be a strange fellow. Crepitus usually saunters over after I've finished a long ride, acts all crazy and freaks me out a little bit, and doesn't take off until it I fall asleep. It doesn't respond well to my efforts at preventing its arrival, is slow to take a hint that it may have overstayed its welcome, and just generally sucks. Crepitus's habits suggest that it likes to hang around with me one hell of a lot more than I like to hang around with it. Basically, what I'm trying to say is that crepitus is the Steve Urkel of the sports injury world, and I am its Carl Winslow.

Since I've been in the middle of a pretty intense block of training for the last few weeks, Crepitus has been finding more and more opportunities to drop by and harass me, and of course, to blatantly hit on my girlfriend, who's name just so happens to be Laura. Coincidence? I think not. Next week I'll start to taper down for my first peak of the season, and hopefully that will help keep this four-eyed nerd of a symptom out of my home. Pray for me...

In other news, today was 55 degrees in Boston. I know I said the other day was warm, but I was full of crap. Today was warm. And of course, with the warmth comes the melting snow, and with the melting snow comes the crust. In order to illustrate the crustaciousness of this crust, I've taken the liberty of adding a few photographs.


That's my bike, covered in crust. It doesn't look like that anymore though, thanks to a very versatile shower head.

I think the next one may need some introduction before I post it, so I'll try to do the majesty of this photograph justice with my words. As I mentioned earlier, it was warm today and I was feeling daring, so I headed out of my house into the wild blue yonder in bibs and knee warmers, rather than wearing full-length tights. While this made the ride much more enjoyable, when I arrived back home and removed my socks and said knee warmers, my legs revealed this crazy formation:

Yes, that is crust. My legs were striped with crust, just like everyone who's ever raced Paris-Roubaix or dipped themselves in tempura batter (it happens more often than you'd think). After doing a little research and consulting Miss Cleo, I discovered that the pattern of crust on my shins actually formed the figure of the "skillet," a sign favored by, you guessed it, the ancient Roman god of flatulence - Crepitus. This is generally considered to be a positive formation by Miss Cleo and her followers and, aware that Crepitus was most certainly trying to send me a message through my leg crust, I took it to be a strongly favorable omen for the collegiate season to come.

T-minus 24 days and counting until Rutgers!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Sunday was warm. I mean seriously, really really warm. Like 45 degrees warm.

Sunday was so warm, the snow crust on the side of the road was melting all over the road, bringing all of Boston's dirt, mud, and salt into the road with it. Sunday was also very crusty.

After I finished riding my bike, my bike was very crusty. It was crusty with a salty, muddy, dirty dirt-like crust. Cleaning that crust off of my bike was pretty hard, so I put my bike in the shower and the crust went down the drain. Problem solved!

Also, I felt really strong on Sunday. I put up some good numbers, too, and set a new 5 min personal best while climbing the Great Blue Hill. Check it out:

Those are solid Cat 2 numbers for someone with my waifish anatomy:

I'm about to head out for three hours today, with a hard threshold workout crammed somewhere in the middle. It looks like it might rain, too. Aw well, bring on the crust.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Fit Werx N Effex

Okay all you loyal readers (ha ha), I told you that I would follow up with the results of my fitting session and here they are.

It was a beautiful Boston afternoon (-9 degrees with windchill), and after removing the walrus skin parka I had worn for the bike ride to Enterprise Rent-A-Car and picking up my non-shiny, newish Chevy HHR, Laura and I were off to the bike fitting. The drive went quick, and before I knew it I was in Peabody - which is pronounced "pee-buddy" by the denizens of this fair city.

Upon arriving, a hot cocoa was placed in my hand and my bike was whisked away to the back room for measuring by Dean, part-owner and bike fitter at Fit Werx, while I changed into my kit. After my bike was finished being prodded (see monkey image below), it was my turn to be measured:

Despite my apparent structural deformity, Dean surprisingly found me to be acceptably symmetrical, meaning that my arms and legs are the same length (plus or minus 6"). Anyways, after being measured, it was time to be tortured - ahem- measured for flexibility. Dean here ascertained that I can, in fact, touch my toes, that my hamstrings are at least pliant enough to get into awkward positions like the one below, and other interesting anatomical facts.

Then, it was time for the part I had been looking forward to most: walking the runway. I was told to strut shoeless down this beautiful and regal red carpet once, and then to my immense satisfaction, again as an encore. My feet are flatter than Ashley Simpson's voice sans pitch correction software, and they pronate like something very, very pronated. The bunion doesn't make them any more lovable either, so it was a huge victory for them and their self-esteems that somebody actually wanted to watch them at work.

After the runway show was over, it was time to mount the sketchiest looking bike imaginable. The Serotta fit bike has no front wheel, and every tube and angle on the thing is completely adjustable. This being my first personal encounter with a Serotta, I was somewhat surprised by its non-race-readiness. Not only was it missing one half of the required wheels pursuant to USCF official rules, but the lack of a downtube, presence of only one single cog and a single large chainring, and lack of working brakes made this only a moderately acceptable bike to keep in one's "quiver" for race day. Here it is in all of its glory:

Nevertheless, it was set up to exactly match the measurements from my beloved Tarmac, and when I mounted up on this monstrosity it felt very familiar. After spinning for a little while, a video of my pedal stroke as shot from the side popped up on the screen in front of me.

Using a computer program called Dartfish - which, despite the common misunderstanding, is not an Amazonian vertibrate waiting to swim into unsuspecting orifices - Dean was able to determine the angles formed during my pedal stroke by my legs and upper body. Below is a before/after mashup. On the left, you can see my original position in which my leg is slightly overextended and, due to the bars being too low by a few mm, my upper body is stretched out too far as well. On the right you see the post-fitting position with some moderate changes in body angles. While these may not seem significantly different, my saddle moved forward by a few mm and my bars came up by a mm or two.

The most significant change was to my cleat position and the tracking of my knees. In order to measure this, Dean switched to a camera directly in front of the Serotta unicycle, and fitted my knees with some sensors for the camera to track. Below is another before/after mashup showing the results. On the left, note the red mess showing the path of my left knee. Because I apparently have a twisted pelvis (band name anyone?) on the left side, my leg length is effectively shorter on the left. This was somehow causing my left knee to track to the outside on the upstroke, which is inefficient and can lead to injury and other nasties. In response, Dean took a couple of plastic shims and fitted them under the cleat on my left shoe. He also fitted small varus wedges under both of my shoe insoles to give my mutant feet some more support. The result is on the right.

As you can see, the left knee is tracking significantly straighter. I haven't had too much of an opportunity to test out the new position yet. I did a few intervals on the trainer last night after the fitting, but today the roads look relatively crap-free so I think I'll head out for a spin. I'll let you (me) know how it goes, but overall I'm pretty excited with the whole thing.

Oh and also, this sight was waiting for us on the drive home:

Not bad at all.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Tendonitis, Shmendonitis

Shortly after my last post I started to develop some weird pulling sensations in my Achilles tendons, particularly the right one. Turned out to be a little bit of Achilles tendonitis. I'm not sure if you guys have tried hammering on a bike with inflamed tendons, but if not I'd suggest that you give it a try sometime. For those of you that haven't and don't plan to take my suggestion, let me give you a visual that might help you understand what you're missing:

Yes, that is a monkey head. If you have any idea what is happening to that monkey head, please let me know because I don't. However, I am pretty sure that whatever is happening to it is hurting it, and (this is where it comes full circle) tendonitis hurts, too. After being poked and prodded by the trainers at the school athletic medicine room for a while - much like the monkey head above is being prodded by the jerk in the white gloves - I've decided to fork out some cash and head up to Peabody, MA to a place that specializes in bike fitting. From what I can tell these people actually know what they're talking about when it comes to fitting, so keep your fingers crossed for me. (Tape, nails, and Krazy Glue should help you keep them crossed for the relevant period.)

I'll let you know how it goes (and by you, I mean me, since nobody actually reads this anyways).


It has been brought to my attention that this also probably hurts: