Categories
cycling

The Beast of Provence -Ventoux

I love when the Tour hits Mont Ventoux. As long as I can remember it’s just such an iconic stage. I can remember seeing photos of Eddie powering up it when I was a kid, as well as Lance, and Froome and Contador.

Van Aert on Ventoux. (Image: Reuters)

chapeau to Wout van Aert for his victory today.

It’s just a surreal place to ride a bike, and it’s been decisive so many times. It’s a bucket list ride for me, even if I only survive it.

Mount Ventoux. Like a moonscape.
Categories
cycling

Mark freakin Cavendish yo

33.

What else is there to say?

Categories
cycling health running

Thoughts on training…

I am in need of a reset as to my training methodology. A reset taking into count my kind of new reality. The ‘ol leg is telling me we may never be the same again. I do believe that while it may not be the same, it will be as good or better in a different way. The problem statement here, which is pretty obvious I suppose is simply put, “how do we get there?”.

The answer isnt so obvious, at least not to me. I spend a good bit of time researching and staying abreast of training information online, and with friends in the same or similar boats. Getting professional information has been more challenging in the new COVID-19 world reality.

I went to the PCM last week with complaints about my hip, a new type of pain, more of a burning than a sharper pain as I’d become accustomed to it. The response was to send me for an X-ray (which in their defense is the approved first step per my insurance), though this seems to be in direct contraindication to the description I’ve given. Meh, in the end, its a road right. The PA who did my write up asked if she could touch my hip before I left, and she immediately stated “it’s hot”. I said that while I appreciated it, I thought we should keep things professional (😂) which thankfully she found amusing. That being said, she was right, it was hot to the touch, a good 4 or 5 degrees warmer than the tissue around it. So she did some quick tests and decided that I have a sub dermal infection of sorts, in the soft tissue. Not uncommon in post surgical areas, however it has been quite a while since the last cut. The gist was that removal of tissue creates voids internally that invite infection. Thus, I got the broad spectrum anti biotics that destroy your stomach, and I’m feeling in general like someone is laying on me all the time.

I hope to shed the wet blanket feeling in the next few days and get back on the horse with both feet in the stirrups to follow my analogy further down the road. Today is a ride day, with no real goal other than at least 45 minutes of time spent spinning the pedals. I am likely producing a normalized power of like 150 over these rides which hurts me to say, but it’s the reality. So the loose plan I’m following right now is M-W-F Run/Walk, T-Th-Sa Ride. The weekday rides are 45m and 60m respectively with 90m on Saturday. Monday is a run day, roughly 40 minutes overland, Wednesday is a ruck day, and Friday is an hour of running/walking mix. I’ve been riding the cross bike single-track style during the week to build strength and re-true my bike handling skills, with a nice longer pure road ride on Saturday.

This plan hasn’t changed in a bit, but there have been a bunch of setbacks that I’d like to think I might be passed at this point. I’ve kind of accepted the new slow me, and while I dont like it, I can deal with it. I’m treating it in a sense like I’m a rank beginner. A rank beginner with some pretty nice bikes 😂. By going this way I keep my expectations in check, and in a reasonable zone, but I can also flex to accept improvements.

Time will tell I guess.

Categories
cycling

The new hotness

I’ve been doing a bunch of reorganizing and such here tonight. This is something I’ve planned for a while, but only just got real about.

I use this blog to post mostly about 2 wheeled things, and Motorsport in general, so I’ve finally cleaned it up to reflect that.

Categories
thoughts

Looking for a reason to write this morning…

Lately, I think we’ve all been a little anxious, to use a heavily overused word, in my life anyway. Everyone is worried about the world situation with the COVID-19 pandemic and the crisis in our country with regards to race relations, politics, and our collective future. How will things ever get better?

Well, that comes down to why you think we’re here, I believe. Some believe we have a “greater purpose” and that we are put on earth for a reason. While this is a belief I don’t share, I respect those who do, and those very same people have accomplished some great things. Of course, Hitler believed that too…

There are people who think life has no purpose whatsoever. We are just collections of biological goo, going around on this earth waiting for whatever other collection of goo or some cosmic cataclysm to do us in and end our turn. I also don’t share this opinion, but I say that with a few caveats.

I personally agree that we are mostly just a collection of biological goo. Still, I think that the consciousness that we see as ourselves sets us up to create a meaning for our lives that, even if no one else around us sees it, or cares about it, does indeed define our existence. If you listen to the voices available today, the mainstream of them would have you believe that only external approval counts and that true happiness comes from acceptance and praise from our peers. Indeed, we have evolved to enjoy that experience, probably something to do with being a successful contributor to the continued existence of the tribe or whatever. I would counter that this is shallow satisfaction and that the very seeking of it leads to unhappiness. Very Buddhist of me, I know. There are, of course, environments where external approval matters to some extent, the workplace and education environments come to mind. Again though, it is that same need to feel that we are contributing to the tribe’s success. The company we work for is simply an extension of the tribe. When we were all hunter-gatherers, work, and life tribes were one and the same. Today, of course, they are typically separated, at least to some extent. As athletes, we are members of another tribe, desperately seeking approval through race results, or hanging on to the tail end of the blazing group ride Sunday morning. Usually, that release of endorphins makes us feel good enough to come back and suffer through that experience again the next race weekend, or the next blazing group ride on Sunday morning.

In that sentence, I used the word that defines the whole thing, “endorphins.” Most of what we do is driven by hormones. Endorphins are a generic name for peptide and neuropeptide hormones released by the pituitary gland. They are generally thought to be linked to our natural reward circuits, in a nutshell, to make us feel good when we do something good for the body. Eating, drinking, sex, exercise, are all triggers for the release of endorphins. I’m not a doctor or a researcher, I just like to read, and I want to understand the world and myself as much as I can. I know that a lot of our behavior is driven by the desire to feel the release of endorphins and that many of the things that cause that release are physical in nature. Once we understand that our behavior is driven by this release and that our “conscious thinking” is really just a search for things that will make us feel good, it’s a lot easier to understand why we do what we do.

Yuval Harari makes a pretty solid argument in his book “Homo Deus” that this is the ONLY thing that drives us, that this explains what we see as our “consciousness” and that there is nothing more to it. I’ve read that book twice now, and I have decided (or my collections of hormones has if he is correct) that I don’t accept this as all we are.

I’m not going to go into a long rant about my beliefs on consciousness, or what I think it even is, but I’ve read and studied numerous sources on it, and I think we have a say in our actions that is driven by something more than just hormones. So that being said, I still understand how strong that desire for satisfaction is. I am also driven by the desire to trigger my brain’s reward center, and I like the way it feels. We spend so much of our lives searching for that feeling without understanding what causes it. We are constantly bombarded by messages that if we buy this thing, or look at the things others have bought, we will find true happiness, even if it’s only till the next version of the thing is released and brings even more pleasure. Sounds pretty shallow, I think.

I’ve made a few changes in my life in the last ten years, and while I haven’t been 100% successful, I’ve gone a very long way toward finding satisfaction internally, without the praise or approval of others. I am happy or less happy with my own performance based on my own critique, rather than others’ opinion or determination. I’m not saying I don’t still share, I absolutely do, I have Instagram, I have an active Strava account and the like, but I don’t dwell on any of the feedback I receive unless it is decidedly constructive in nature. In a way, one could argue that it is an extension of the philosophy of cutting the negative out of my life, and maybe that’s somewhat true. I haven’t even begun to talk about the impact of stress hormones on happiness or performance. I’ll save that for another day. I still have a long way to find this blissful nirvana I describe, but its a goal to work toward, and I have found myself to be so much happier than ever before once I accepted it as the way I travel.

Categories
cycling

Weather and maladies

I’m fighting a headache AGAIN today.

Allergies I’m sure, and it’s something I’m really getting tired of. When I travel and I find relief simply by stepping off an airplane in a place that doesn’t have our types of pollen and mold I’m reminded of a question I’ve asked myself many times recently, “why the hell do I still live in Texas?”. The answers are there of course, family ties, school longevity for the kids, personal relationships, not to mention my employer, but the environment here doesn’t make it easy.

The weather forecast has us at 102 to 105, depending which forecast you believe today, though it’s only 93 as I write this around 1:45, so maybe it won’t soar quite so high. Knock on wood. That’s legit hot, by anyone’s standards, the kind of heat that kills people. I’ve recently begun to think of Texas summers the way my friends in the Dakotas think of winter. We just do things inside during this part of the year. At a minimum I am treating my days off south of the border style where I’m up early, productive til around 2 or 3, then siesta til 5 or 6 when the temp comes back down a bit. It’s a good time to get reading or writing done, maybe a few projects inside that need tied up.

They say this wave will last around 4 days and drop back down to the upper 90s next week, and if that’s true it will feel like fall here. Yesterday while Jackson and I were working on bikes we both got a little behind the hydration and core temp,curves, despite having a shade awning up, and a strong fan blowing misted air at us. We kept our ice water at our sides and refilled often, and we didn’t do more than 40 minutes outside at a time without 15 or 20 inside to cool off, but he still ended up dehydrated last night, crashing early, and I was clearly feeling the impact as well.

Categories
pushbikes

I’ve become a bit of a wrench…

I find myself as a sort of semi pro bike mechanic these days. I’ve currently got a Specialized Tarmac, Specialized Venge, Cannondale Synapse, and a LiteSpeed something other in the house and garage for various types of service, as well as a friends wheels for tubeless setup. I don’t know how this happened really, I’ve never advertised my services, and I have no interest in doing it for real money. It just seems to spread by word of mouth. Later today a lady I don’t even know is bringing a Surly by, which is a cool enough bike. She thinks it’s a broken shift cable, but isn’t sure.

I think right now this is happening because COVID has overwhelmed the bike shops around here as everyone is taking up riding again. I’ve heard time and again that the shops can’t get bikes in fast enough to meet the demand, and their service departments are crushed. When you add in the sticker shock that lots of part time riders get when you quote them legit service rates (mechanics gotta eat!) you get this casting around looking for alternatives. “It’ll be 100.00 to change a cable and adjust derailleurs, and we can look at it in September…”

I usually charge parts plus a bag of coffee, or if Jackson is helping a 6 or 12 pack of root-beer. Jack helped rebuild the Canny V500 we did earlier this year, and he has helped in some capacity on most of the bikes. He digs the mechanical simplicity of a good bike drivetrain. I don’t have any overhead, I have the tools from my own fleet maintenance projects, and I work when I want, so I guess this makes me more approachable.

One thing I wouldn’t mind doing is getting more involved with a racer. Keeping a race bike, or a couple race bikes up and ready to roll would be satisfying, I may pursue that if the season every gets under way again. Maybe a Cross racer, or a Cross Country MTB rider. I haven’t done any racing myself in a very long time, and I kinda miss the scene. I’ve got the little bike club setup, but I haven’t gone anywhere with it since COVID has come on. The original idea was to have kind of loose co-op of riders and racers just build some comradery and get more people turning legs. I’d still like to keep that the focus, but its a cool theme to use for racers.

Jackson seems to be enjoying the service aspect as well, he likes being the different solutions to problems the companies come up with. I’m rebuilding my older Campy stuff right now with an eye on a classic Colnago to carry it around, maybe something Ti just for kicks, and that has hi lighted the differences and similarity between Shimano and Campy to both him and me. They are more alike than different mechanically, but more different than alike ergonomically on the older stuff, though the new stuff is almost the same.

This reminds me I need to rebuild my fork…

Categories
film thoughts writing

Film, its imminent death and hopeful resurrection…

We watched “Ad Astra” last night.

Like pretty much everyone, we are watching some missed pieces during this pandemic and associated quarantine. We worked through “Tales from the Loop” last week, and while I was perusing the watchlist Friday afternoon I realized there were a few movies on HBO that we had missed at the theatre for various reasons we could take in as well. I sat Saturday and watched “Ford v. Ferrari” and thoroughly enjoyed that, so yesterday I decided to watch “Ad Astra”. I am not always in the mood for the genre it represents, or that I thought it represented, science fiction is often a let down on film, when the studio doesn’t choose a visionary to manage their millions of dollars and instead drops it on someone who’s better off making a football film, but has been reliable for them. There have been thousands of words written and entire Youtube accounts dedicated to folks lamenting the current state of affairs in the film and hi end series business, and it’s pretty unlikely that I have anything particularly unique to add to the dialogue, but these are a few of my personal thoughts. I’ll post my opinions of the actual films on separate pages.

Film and “TV” in general are obviously blurred together these days. Since Netflix became the streaming juggernaut it is, and actual broadcast TV has declined to the point of needing life support, I think I should define the two. I say “TV” in reference to content created with the home viewer as the primary audience, and film as that created for the theatre and big screen experience. You can make a solid argument that they are the same, but even if it isn’t budget and production quality any more there is still usually a palpable difference. In a sense, the big shared universe franchises, and things like 3 “Hobbit” and three “Lord of the Rings” films are not so different from serialized “TV”. The market dictates that even films are made with an eye on the subsequent streaming market from the start. I suppose a more accurate term would be “serialized content” since it doesn’t really matter where we are viewing it anymore.

The whole business seems to be about 50% dedicated to cashing in on nostalgia, and I’m not totally against that. So many really solid stories were let down by abysmal budgets, or in the case of almost all sci fi, the pretty sad visual effects available in the 80s and 90s. They were at best less than stellar, or more likely, never made at all. Some original sci fi has real potential, consider Larry Niven’s “The Smoke Ring” series, which was talked about but never materialized, or, for contrast, the disappointing vision of “Dune” that did come to film. I’m all for some re imagining of a few of the real classics, as long as they respect the source in the process. I don’t need to see a CGI version of “The Last Starfighter”, it wouldn’t improve on the story, and the effects were part of the joy, but I am stoked to see Denis Villeneuve’s take on Dune, with a real budget, and (hopefully) less studio interference.

Who didn’t love the new “Battlestar Galactica Series”? The original was a weekly appointment view for me when I was a kid even though it was the campiest thing ever made after the Gil Gerrard “Buck Rogers”. The reboot came at a time when these things were just getting off the ground, and it was made for a modest budget, making the most of every penny they spent to create a gritty take on the original, without completely disregarding it’s lore and texture. Sci Fi made it as a two hour movie first to test the waters, and found such an enthusiastic audience that it ran for seven seasons. On that note, serializing a few classic movies isn’t the worst idea either. We’re all waiting to see what Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series looks like, and I am really enthused with what I’ve seen of the upcoming “Foundation” series. The story telling options a season of 40 minute serials gives writers opens up whole new depths to character development and deeper plots.

Some recent classics like “Firefly” are probably not firing up anytime soon, but just imagine if that franchise had found the type of rebirth that “The Expanse” did with its switch to Amazon Prime and it’s dramatic budget increase. The world of “Firefly” is rich and well developed, and perfect for a spin off shot.

We’ve generally been let down by serial adaptations of films, but when the writers use a well known and popular universe of an original film or franchise as the starting point rather than the characters and plots themselves, we’ve gotten some really good work. I submit the first season of “The Mandalorian” as the obvious candidate. It’s a familiar universe, the writers don’t have to spend three episodes world building, and we get to scratch the nostalgia itch in the process. A similar series based on material not so well known to the general viewing audience requires a good bit more in the way of exposition dumps to get us involved. Instead, “Mando” hit the ground running.

Original series that don’t dig into a known universe, but rather a general since of nostalgia for a period, like “Stranger Things” are new and popular also for very solid reasons. An engaging cast paired with stellar writing from the Duffer brothers made the most surprising and entertaining non franchise series I’ve seen in twenty years. We completely stumbled onto that gem by sitting around in the house alone the year it was released just surfing the Netflix recommended list. We even started it reluctantly, saying “well, we can always turn it off” and ended up watching all night. Having grown up a child of the 80s, the universe it is set in was instantly familiar to me, and different enough from our current that it gives the writers some license to not be 100% gritty and realistic. The obvious nods to classic horror and sci fi films just iced that cake.

I think (and I say this all the time) that were in a golden age of serialized content, and even though the film industry is on life support as far as creativity goes, she’s still hanging in there, releasing the occasional gem for us to dig into. I have high hopes that we’ll get some greatness in between the industry bean counters stepping in and wrecking things. Those giant blockbusters that everyone rushes out and drops 25.00 a ticket on creates profit that pays for riskier but quality work like “Knives Out” and “Ex Machina”. Maybe I’m painting with too optimistic a brush, its a weakness of mine for sure, but things don’t seem to be so bad right now.

Categories
thoughts writing

Independence Day

It’s “Independence Day”.

I like to take these holidays and do something that celebrates them in a way I feel is appropriate to the intent of the holiday. The 4th of July represents a day (an observed day, as nothing really happened on the 4th, the vote was held on the 2nd) where a group of American miscreants who felt they weren’t being respected by those who held authority told same authoritarians what they could with their rules and their unjust laws in an astoundingly articulate way.

Everyone reading that feels like that statement applies to them and their unique world view, and to an extent, it does. See, the way things look to me in our little social experiment of a country these days is that folks are all really angry that everyone else doesn’t see things the way they do. That’s the gist, distilled down to the purest possible base. It doesn’t matter if it’s skin color, taxes, religion, whatever, we’re in a place in America right now where we don’t think it’s ok for someone else to see things differently.

The thing is, the very fact that we see things differently is basis for the freedom and independence we celebrate on this day. If those folks back in the late 1700s hadn’t decided that things just weren’t working the way they were, there’s a pretty solid chance we’d of all stayed subjects a good many years longer. Different people and groups of people have thoughts independent of one another, diversity if you will. It kinda led to the birth of this nation.

Americans have a long history of making a big statement in the name of their views about things. We’ve had a couple of events that could wear the name “Civil War”. The obvious one in the 1860s and more recently, the one in the 1960s. While the civil rights movement of the 1960s doesn’t usually get the title “war” it was a vastly more powerful and effective statement on the situation in America at the time. The folks in power did everything they could to continue to force their unjust rules and laws down the throats of those who were “ruled”. They tried to silence those who disagreed with them, violently when they thought necessary. The right side won that one too, and they did it without destroying half the country in the process. The independent thoughts and differing opinions of a minority of Americans at the time led to the biggest change this country had ever seen without an associated armed conflict. Things still aren’t perfect, but they are much better, and I would argue, improving all the time.

The government isn’t always right. Neither is your neighbor Ned. Neither am I, and neither are you. We would do well to listen to the voices of dissent, the minority reports and the people we just don’t agree with. It broadens our thinking, and exposes us to points of view we may not have developed on our own. We might not be swayed, they may still sound absurd after you’ve heard them out, but the thing is, we’ve given them the respect of hearing their position. We owe this to each other as Americans, (and would be Americans). We can all stand to learn some things, and a little respect goes a long way.

If you’re not happy about things, absolutely go out there and state your case. Protest is the American way. If you don’t understand why people are protesting, give them a listen. A real listen. Maybe you don’t end up agreeing, but no one can say you didn’t hear them out. Whatever you end up doing, I hope you all have a fine day, wave the red, white and blue, and act in a socially responsible way. Enjoy your freedom, it was hard won, don’t try to take it away from others. It’s pretty simple.

Don’t be dicks to each other.

As for me, today is my daughter’s birthday, and she’s a powerfully independent girl, so I will be As for me, today is my daughter’s birthday, and she’s a powerfully independent girl, and very dear to me, so I will be celebrating that as much as anything else. Happy Birthday Belle, and America too.

Categories
family

The Gulf

I am dying for some ocean time.

A combination of of my social media feeds, my subscription to Gray’s Sporting Journal, and an audio book called “The Gulf” I’ve been listening to have thoroughly spurred my desire to be near the ocean. The people I’ve been closest in my life have always described me as a “water baby”, and that’s probably an accurate attribution. I need a regular recharge of salt water to keep my head right. It’s been about a year since I’ve been near the coast, with our last trip being August of 2019, and I feel it’s pull. Maybe, maybe things will work out this year, even maybe into the fall for us to take a trip down there, though the COVID situation makes it questionable at best. I’m certain that folks are going, but with the numbers being the way they are, it makes me worry, and I feel like I’d be insincere with the things I’ve been telling my family and kids if I suddenly say “hey let’s load up!”.

Not to say I wouldn’t still do that though. Maybe with just Jack, or Jack and Grace. The two of them still love fishing, especially Jackson, though I’m not entirely sure Grace doesn’t just like showing up Jack more than actually fishing. Regardless, she loves the ocean, and she still likes doing things with me, which carries a good bit of weight. When I took them together last spring for the white bass and late season trout on the San Gabriel, they both did well, and were pretty enthused about the whole thing.

Last week, out of the blue, Torrie came and asked if she could use my tackle box, because her friend Lauren wanted to go fishing. I gave it to her, though they ended up talking themselves out of it in the long run. In fairness, it was late in the day, and very hot, nothing was likely to be biting by then anyway. She was really the first fisherman in the family after me, having gone with my mom numerous times when she was a kid. One of my favorite pictures of her has her sitting on the dock casting out into the water while my mom preps another rod in the background.

I don’t always have to be doing anything when I’m at the coast. Sometimes it’s just driving along the roads on the intercoastal canal, or the bayside fringe that does it. When Sam and I lived in Galveston, I would often come home from work and just sit on the seawall for a while before heading inside. I always enjoyed a good strong storm blowing in off the gulf. It’s one of the things you really don’t appreciate if you don’t live there because people typically tend not to travel to the coast when the weather is bad. We loved to sit and watch the front blowing in from miles out, slowly darkening the blue sky and water to a dark, intimidating grey.

Jack and I have been planning a trip down to fish for a few weeks, hoping we’d get a break in the COVID that would let us get some time in the surf, but it looks like if we do, we’ll be a couple of outlaws. I’m not closing the door on the idea yet, though, and we will continue planning, so that if a little ray of light comes through for us, we’re in the position to take advantage of it.

It’s the sound…