The house.

17th

 

I woke up this morning to a rooster cawing at around 5AM.  It is still cawing now, at 12:30.  I think it’s time we ate some chicken.

 

Speaking of chicken, today is the first time we’re having it.  For lunch.  Chicken soup, rice, pasta, bread, salad, honey and jam, and cheese.  Everyone here is counting down the minutes until 1:00.  Lunch time.  Breakfast is at 8:00, lunch is at 1:00, Dinner is at 7:00 and we go to sleep at 10:00.  The smell of the food cooking right now is distracting me from writing about anything other than food. 

 

Yesterday I rode for two hours in the morning with a group of 6 guys.  It was supposed to be an easy ride, and except for one little duel up that famous climb in Liege-Bastogne-Liege, it was easy.  One other guy, Idan, and I slowly increased the pace the second time up the climb, which averages 10% and maxes out at 18%.  The last 300 meters ended in a sprint.

 

We rode back home, not beating the rain, and arrived just in time for lunch—soaking wet.  After ping-pong and some relaxing, I went out again on my second ride.  This time I went with Oan and the “caveman” Meroit.  (I have no idea how to spell any of these names).  We went up a hill hard and dropped Oan.  A few minutes later I began to drop Meroit, so I slowed down a bit.  Just enough to let him hang on, forcing him to suffer.

 

We stopped later for some chocolate, which is off limits to the riders here, by order of the coaches, Gal and Ilan.  So if you run into them, don’t let them know.

 

The sugar running in our veins forced us to amp up the pace, and we hammered it down some hills for the next 20 minutes. 

 

Once we got back into town, the two guys made another attempt at a chocolate run, but had to abort when we ran into another group of guys out on their ride.  We joined with them, and went hard up another steep hill.  A lot of the hills here, especially the ones in the villages and towns, are very steep and windy.  They are one-lane roads, riddled with potholes and cracks.  Cars whiz up and down them, taking the blind corners almost as quickly as us.

 

Our group formed a straight line, panting up the hill as it grew in gradient.  I upped the pace a bit and the line shattered, like the broken glass on the side of the street.  One rider stayed on my wheel as we passed the last of the brick buildings, heading up and above the village into the farm fields. 

 

At the top, the other rider and I had another sprint.  So far, each climb I have done with a new group, has ended in a sprint.  I’m not sure if it’s my ego or theirs.  Everyone wants to be the fastest over here.  So far I haven’t been beaten, which has surprised all of them. 

 

The race on Friday is too far away for us, so our first race will now be on Sunday instead.  I have been told that the racing here is very aggressive.  The skills of cornering and sprinting out of corners are necessities.  Belgian kremises sound like a combination of a road race and a crit.  They’re 120km long on 5 to 8km circuits.  I’m looking forward to it.  I could hardly wait for Friday, but waiting until Sunday is torture.  Although it’s probably a good thing for me that we aren’t racing tomorrow.  As you probably guessed, I’m still coughing up stuff but am feeling pretty good.

 

On our off time, there are a few options.  Ping pong is upstairs.  Bike washing is outside on the patio.  And the living room has the TV, where we either watch the Tour, movies, or play a Play Station rally car racing game that I suck at.  But it is very entertaining to watch everyone play it.  It is a two-person game with a split screen.  The races last for about 5 minutes, and once the first person crosses the finish line, there is a mad scramble for the controllers.  The winner does not play again, and before the second person can even finish their race, the controller is stripped from them as three or four people jump on them and hold them down before they can protest.  The entire room erupts in yelling and shouting as they argue who gets to play next.  The older guys get seniority, but the shoving and wrestling always happens anyways.  Occasionally, a pissed off younger guy who had been waiting for half an hour will get the controller yanked out of his hands before he has a chance to even start.  In revenge, he will then yank out the power cord to the game, which restarts everything and wastes time for everyone else.  He’ll be lucky if he can get out of the room without being tackled after pulling the cord.  Time to go ride.

I got back a few hours ago and now Im posting this.  Sitting out at the same spot with four other guys, hanging out under a small roof thing out of the rain.  Yeah that’s correct.  I said rain.  Again.  It’s been raining again all fucking day!!  Kusemuc! I’ll write about the ride today later.  It was hard.  It was awesome.

 

 

 

The team is here finally.

I’m stealing the internet from a restaurant right now, and sitting right next to a dumpster with Idan, trying not to be discovered.  

July 16.

 

On the 14th I went back to the airport to meet the house “mother and father.”  These are the two people in charge of From there, we rented cars and drove to the village where we are staying in Comblain.  It’s about 30 km from Liege, and 25km from Huy (where stage 9 left from just a few days ago).  The roads here are narrow and very scenic. My first race is this friday, and I am feeling less sick every day.  Yesterday I rode moderately hard for 3 hours by myself before the team showed up.  Then I went on a 1 hour easy ride with some of the team.  There are 25 riders, ages 16 to 22.

We’re staying at a huge brick house that used to be a hotel.  It’s 3 stories high and has about 700 rooms.  The past few days I have been starving because there was no food at the house, and at the hotel all I had to eat was half a loaf of sourdough bread that I brought on the plane.  For some reason, I began to assume that I’d be hungry the entire trip and that in Belgium, no one eats.  And considering the price of food here, that might not be too far from the truth.  A candy bar is $1.50!! But when the team got here yesterday, they began complaining that there was no food in the house.  I sighed a sigh of relief.  Good.  I wasn’t the only one.  That night, after the house mother and father (Gioa and Ada) went shopping, we went through mounds and mounds of pasta.  And this morning we cleared out about 10 boxes of cereal.  And the true training hasn’t even started yet.  Ok, time to go.

First day in Belgium

 

I don’t have internet access here everyday, so I’ll be writing things as I go along, and will post them when I do have internet access.  So most things I write, happened a few days earlier.

 

July 13.

 

The team got uninvited to the Tour of Liege, which sucks.  But then again, I don’t think I would have done very well in it anyways, seeing that I’m still coughing up stuff.  Because we won’t be doing the race, the rest of the team won’t be showing up to Belgium until the 17th.  But the two people taking care of the house who will be doing the cooking, food shopping, and all that stuff, will get here on the 14th.  That means I’m here by myself for a day.

 

After my flight and getting through customs, I stumbled out into the airport lobby area here in Brussels.  My first obstacle was to find a hotel.  After wandering around for the better part of an hour, I finally made my way outside to the free shuttle area, and took the bus to the cheapest hotel I could find ($59 euros).  Earlier that day, I exchanged $100 for 50 euros.  So 59 euros isn’t that cheap, although the room is tiny.

 

As quickly as I could, I assembled my bike in the hotel room and put on my cycling stuff.  It was 10:30 AM, but it felt much later.  More like 3AM.  I never fell asleep the other night—the night before I left.  And the sleep I got on the plain was more of just a doze.  So by the time I stepped out of my hotel into the sun ready to explore the streets of Brussels, I hadn’t slept for two days. 

 

The hotel managers pointed me in the right direction to the city, which was 8 kilometers away, and then I was off.  I spent the next three hours in complete confusion, disoriented from lack of sleep and the strange streets, and completely lost. 

 

I cruised alongside cars and buses down the narrow streets, dodging opening car doors on the right, and deranged oncoming Belgium drivers on the left.  The city smelled strange.  In the poor areas, my nose detected hints of sewage.  And then I would pass by Middle Eastern food stands and fruit shops and the smell would make me hungry.  But of course, a familiar smell would bring me back to the car-controlled world: the stench of exhaust as a smoggy tailpipe went by. 

 

The buildings in Brussels are all made out of brick and concrete.  They rise out of the sides of the streets and stretch up four or five stories, creating a canyon.  These buildings would be a full block long; housing apartments were connected with stores.  Small balconies overlooked the packed streets.  Everything was old and decaying, and yet colorful and exciting.

 

Most of the time I was able to keep up with the speed of traffic, which decided its current speed not based on speed limit signs, but by how fast the car in front of it was going. 

 

Brussels is filled with round a bouts, which are confusing and dangerous for bikers.  I used my middle finger more than once, although most of the drivers were courteous enough. 

 

On one occasion, a car almost cut me off in an intersection as I flew through, it honked and put on its breaks as I gave the guy the finger, remembering that the finger here is the peace sign backwards.  He passed me a moment later and honked at me again, then sped off.  I reflected on the situation, trying to figure out why so many cars were pissed off at me on my bike.  Cycling is their main sport, so why were they driving like maniacs?  Was I doing something wrong?  Then it hit me.  I didn’t know what a stop sign looked like.  In fact, I had just been going through every intersection assuming I had the right of way.  There were stoplights, and I had stopped at those, but I never stopped at any other intersection.  I paid more attention at intersections from then on, but I still never saw anything that resembled a stop sign. 

 

The cobbles here are everything I thought they would be.  They jar your entire body, especially your hands and feet.  I rode on them for a total of two miles probably.  Doing the Paris-Roubaix on them seems insane, and completely awesome.

 

Although there were some bike lanes in the city, I only saw six or seven other cyclists (most were commuters) during my three hours.  I don’t think people ride in the city because there are way too many cars, all following their own rules of the road.  I did, however, see a group of eight road bikers heading out of the city when I was on the bus leaving the airport. 

 

By around 12:00 or so, I was getting tired and was ready to head back to the hotel.  I had absolutely no idea where I was or where the hotel was.  So I did what anyone would do in that situation.  I rode around randomly.

 

I first imagined Brussels to be a medium-sized city, and assumed I would get turned around for a while, but I didn’t think I would get as lost as I did.  Brussels is much bigger than I thought.  It has about 1 million people in it, and there are no street signs or names.  I kept going in circles, coming to the same street fair over and over again.  Traffic was clogged here, and I ended up riding down the middle of the road, in between honking cars and pedestrians.  After the third time accidentally going through there, I decided to try a completely different direction, and headed straight, towards a tunnel.  I went into the tunnel, which was a bad place to be, considering the lack of a shoulder, the dark, and the rapid speed of the passing, honking cars. 

 

I finally began asking directions, and it turns out a fair amount of people here know English, or at least a little bit.  I, on the other hand, know absolutely no French, German, or Flemish.  Although I was coughing some up on the ride.

 

To make a long story short, I rode around in circles for a long time, then began following planes overhead, assuming they were leaving the airport.  I asked a fellow road cyclist for directions, and he told me to follow him.  He got me part of the way there, and gave me directions for the rest of the way, although I didn’t really understand what he said.

 

Amazingly enough, I got to the airport, and shortly after found my hotel by some bizarre string of luck.  I talked to the hotel managers for a bit, then went back to my room and fell asleep to the Tour.  By the way, the Tour is on 3 channels here, and is completely unabridged.  And there are no commercials.  And they show reruns and highlights all day long on almost every channel.  Another cool thing about Belgium is that they play Monopoly with wooden motels, not plastic.  I saw a picture of it on a bus. 

Tabor and Thomas

I can’t sleep, so I’m going to do another post.

I went up to Tabor the other day to watch Tony and my brother, Galen, race.  They both did the cat 4 race.

Some of the pictures are a bit blurry.  I’m still learning how to use my camera.

Here they are at the start.

Tony at the front.

Galen in the pack in the UO kit.

Tony, if you lean out on the handlebars any further, you’re going to tip the bike over.

Pain.  Galen’s first cat 4 race.  And his 5th race ever.  He held on for 3 laps.

Tony trying to take out more spectators on the sidewalk (he’s right behind the bump sign).  This was before he careened into a pregnant woman and her two daughters.  Don’t worry, the paramedics got there in time to stop the 8-year old’s internal bleeding.  Post race comment from Tony, “I treat pedestrians as targets.  Small children are worth 1,000 points.  The elderly are worth 1,500.  Double points if you break their hip.”

And last but not least.  Here’s a photo or two of Thomas with Styrofoam taped around his front legs and tail.  He was no pleased with this.  Later in the day, he got back at me by biting me in the groin while I was throwing small apples in the backyard at him and Galen.

Thomas and Mom.

Belgium at last

I’m leaving tomorrow morning at 4:30 AM.  Everything is packed and ready.  My lungs are clearing up nicely, and I feel like I can finally start training hard again.  The next two months will be the hardest racing and training I have done, and I can’t wait.  After being up in Portland for the past week, spending time at home, my taste buds have grown to appreciate foods other than eggs, pasta, and oatmeal–my three key food groups over the past couple years of being a starving cyclist/college student.  The fridge and pantry are always packed to the brim here, with such treats as deli meat, bagels, cereal, and cheese.  It’s back to the norm for the next two months in Belgium.  The Israelis that Tony and I are racing with live on the eggs, pasta, oatmeal diet too.  But for my last dinner, my parents, brother, and I went out for one last family meal at Ixtapa, the local Mexican restaurant that we’ve been to about 289 times.  I’m going to miss Mexican food.  I’ve noticed that every time I travel, I end up craving Mexican food after two or three weeks of being deprived of it’s magical zest.  But enough of food talk for now (if you can’t tell, I’m hungry right now).  It’s time to sleep.

I’m off to Europe!!!!

As a famous Belgian once said: “Hasta la vista, baby.”

Kennettron re-boot

I took a visit to the doctor’s office today and found out that my lungs had a litter less mucus in them.  They’re at 7.1 right now, which is almost back to normal.  My doctor also gave me another prescription for some more antibiotics, a stronger kind.  That puts me at 7 (seven) drugs right now.  That’s more than my grandmother takes.

I’m looking at this little set back as a good thing.  Kind of like Lance’s year of cancer.  He got sick, took some time off to let his muscles and body recover from all that hard training, lost a lot of useless upper body mass, and rejuvenated his passion for cycling.  All of these things boosted his performance for the next seven years.  My situation isn’t really any different.  I’m taking time off to let my body recover from 8 months of hard training.  And I’m loosing upper body mass (my arms have actually gotten smaller finally).  My desire to race is higher than ever right now.  Everything is the same, except for the cancer part.  I think these allergies and virus will prove to be the most helpful weapon in my arsenal of helpful weapons.  At the end of it all, Super Kennett will emerge victorious.  Stronger and faster than ever.  My speed will be night and day difference.  Windows 95 vs Windows 98 difference.  Hot Tamales vs Extra Hot Hot Tamales difference.  Actually, no.  I hate the Extra Hot Hot Tamales.  It’ll be Muchas Gracias on Frankiln st. vs Muchas Gracias on 15th st. difference.  Skim milk vs 2% chocolate milk difference.  Trek 1600 vs Cervelo R3 difference.  Hutches vs Life Cycle difference (yeah that’s right Nick).  Using the left arm vs right arm difference.  Plain cheese pizza vs meat lover’s difference.  Hot dog vs. chili dog difference.  Vanilla ice cream vs chocolate ice cream difference.  Mike’s mother vs Tony’s mother difference.  McCain vs Obama difference.  Dirty shamois smell vs a can of peaches difference.  Pickle vs cucumber difference.  Lime Gatorade vs Orange Gatorade difference.  Naked mole rat vs California sea lion difference.  Appalachians vs Himalayans difference.  Amoxicillin vs Clavulanate difference.  I leave on Saturday, so there better be a difference pretty damn soon.

Nothing new to report

I haven’t written anything in the last week because I have very little to tell you.  I have been doing easy rides, and thought I was on the verge of getting better.  But I was not.  I’m still getting over the virus and with any luck I will be able to make a good recovery by the 17th, which is when I start the Tour of Liege.  If I’m not better by then, I will be very mad, as opposed to just being mad, which is where I’m at right now.

Kennett

The Diagnosis

I saw a doctor about my cold/allergies yesterday.  The prognosis: severe pollen allergies combined with a sinus infection, which has caused my lungs to be filled to the brim with snot.  I did a breath test and my lung capacity was 6 liters.  Dr. Buck was wowed by this number, saying it was very good.  I could barely believe the terrible result.  He was confused when I started shaking my head.  “I don’t think you understand,” I said.  I did this test last year (also when I was sick) and my lung capacity was 7.5 liters.  That means there’s like 1.5 liters of snot in my chest!  I began thinking of ways to get it out.  Hanging upside down on a pullup bar came to mind.

The worst numbers weren’t my lung capacity, but the time it took for me to empty my lungs.  Because all the sacks in my lungs are being constricted, I was in the 65th perecental for this part of the test.  Dr. Buck prescribed me a plethora of drugs antibiotics and inhalers to get over the sinus infection and to deal with the allergies.  I am feeling better already and hope to be better by next week.  I hope this is the last time I have to say that.

It’s a bank robber.  It’s the Avian Bird Flue.  It’s a horse with a feed bag.  No.  It’s kennett the trend setter.

If I had it my way I would pave over all the grass and plants so there’d be no more pollen.  Plus there wouldn’t be forests to catch on fire and cause all this damn smoke!!

You can be as cool as kennett for a low low price of $2.99.  Theses surgical masks can be purchased at Albertsons for a limited time.  Get yours now while supplies last.

yep.