October stuff

I’ve gotten to do some fun things the past couple weeks since coming home, but unfortunately I just haven’t found the time in my busy work schedule to go down and protest Amurica with the Occupy Portland people. I’m going to have my secretary clear my schedule later this week, even then I might still have to skip a few board meetings to find the time. I’ve just been so busy lately. I just don’t know if I’ll have the time.

With some  luck I’ll actually have something productive to do here  pretty soon. Well, not here actually, but in Boulder Colorado. I’m leaving November 4th for good, at least until April. I’m crossing my fingers for a particular house painting job to still be there for me when I arrive. Painting, as some of you may know, is one of my oldest professions, dating way back to before my cycling career. I started with College Pro Painters, and then graduated to my own painting business, Peterson Bros. Painting Company (formerly known as Tri-Corp. Industries. The name ‘Tri-Corp’ didn’t go so well in group market surveys, based on the lack of interest my pamphlets raised. Research showed that homeowners didn’t want their houses painted by a three-pronged corporation, and preferred a more home-grown name to trick them into false confidence, something like Fannie Mae would have been good. Unfortunately that one was already taken).

In other news, I’ve decided to start my novel. That way when people ask me what I’ve been up to I don’t have to talk about bike racing, since no one knows anything about that and I’m tired of seeing glazed-over eyes once I start explaining the intricacies of drafting, breakaways, and echeloning caravans. I guess I’d like to start a novel mainly so people will ask how the novel’s going and I can have an even more awkward conversation in which I explain in great detail what it’s about, what the plot is, what it represents in this crazy world we’re living in, and then I’ll end the conversation with the fact that I haven’t actually gotten any of the physical writing done yet, but the process is coming along REALLY well and I’m just waiting for the right mix of inspiration to get things turning, and then it will basically write itself.

Topics for my novel that I’ve thought up so far:
-A story of two runners, one from the US and one from somewhere in Africa. They meet in the Olympics and later end up shooting each other’s legs off in a war. First person pov.
-A story about a cyclist who slowly, over the years, goes insane. Written in the form of a diary or a blog. First person pov.
-Zombie love story, like The Twilight saga, except with Zombies. This was actually my dad’s idea I think. First zombie pov.

Last Thursday I rode down to my brother, Galen’s, house in Corvallis to hang out with him and his friends and sit in on a few of his classes at OSU. I learned from his physical chemistry class that I am dumb. I found out that I’m currently rock climbing at a beginner’s level (I used to pull pretty hard), I found out that I suck at rowing after I sat on an erg for a few minutes (I used to pull pretty hard at this too), but I still get belligerent on a single beer. After the physical chemistry class I beat Galen at a game of chess though, so my brain cells are still putting along somewhat okay. Galen, Kenny, and I climbed a mountain, or nearly did, on Friday night/Saturday, and I rode the 70 miles home to Sherwood on Sunday with extremely sore legs.

That’s all for now. It’s time to go turn over the dirt and plant a couple kilos of garlic.

North Sister

Confusing times

“Now maybe it’s just me, but college was very confusing times.” —Forrest Gump

These are some confusing times too.  While people are finally beginning to stand up for their right to party too, Thomas T. has had to re-think his world as well.  His partner in crime, the long-standing oak tree in the backyard, is no longer standing.  For years it’s been both the bait on the string and the box tipped up by a stick, happily trapping many-a squirrel for Thomas to bark at for hours on end.  My dad cut the tree down this summer, mainly, I think because he was bored.  Chain-saws cure boredom.  It’s a fact. Look up ‘cures for boredom’ in wikipedia’s discussion page. While the absence of the tree has opened the backyard up to the sky and sunlight, it’s closed Thomas’ dream of squirrels leaping into his gaping jaws from the branches above.  Of course there are plenty of other trees for thomas to tree squirrels in, but it just isn’t the same.

This was a special tree.  This was the tree that Thomas would run to and start barking at, no matter what, even if the squirrel ran the opposite direction.  If Thomas was sleeping in the garage and you were downstairs and make any loudish noise that might have sounded like a door opening, Thomas would sprint out of his dog door straight to the base of the tree and start barking at it, just assuming that there is a squirrel in it.  Thomas learned this ritual after months of conditioning.  I’d yell squirrel and open the backdoor for him to chase it.  99% of the time he failed.  But a couple times (meaning he’s chased 100’s of squirrels) he caught them.  And a few other times they even leapt into his mouth from the oak tree after hours of being treed.  The few times he’s caught squirrels from the tree have engraved themselves into his brain as being more succesful than reality, so even when he’d see the squirrel escape into the blackberry bushes he’d return to the empty oak tree and bark up at it for hours.

Now there’s no tree for him to bark at, but the empty void in the sky and the stump in the ground seem to occupy a large space in his mind.  He’s even made it his new spot to lie and chew on toys while he thinks about life.  He spends a lot of time sniffing around the area, searching for squirrels.

Speak of the devil.  Just now I spotted a squirrel approach the stump of the oak tree looking for a trunk to climb.  I yelled squirrel.  Thomas, who was in the garage, sprinted out and treed it in different tree.  Standing at the base of that tree, he’s facing the opposite direction barking towards the empty space that the old oak tree used to occupy.  Habits die hard.

But where one dream is cut down, another will take its place.  An hour ago Thomas spotted a low-flying great blue heron soaring right above the oak stump.  Thomas took off barking at it, trying to sing it down out of the sky like a squirrel from a tree.  This time the heron got away, but Thomas, you keep dreaming.  99% of those herons and squirrels will get away, but it’s that 1% you’re after.  That greedy 1% that eats too many fish, hoards too many nuts in its mouth, thinks it’s above the laws of physics, and plops out of the sky right into your mouth.

The good old days.

The off-season and piano video

Some people, beknowest to me as numskulls, call the entire fall/winter the off-season.  I don’t know why they call it that.  It implies that we don’t do anything bike-related during this time.  Of course this isn’t the case since November through February is really the only time for unencumbered  training without all those pesky races getting in the way of things.  I, for one, like to call the off-season that brief time between the last race of the year and when real trainings start again.  Last year I believe my off-season was on a Tuesday.

No but seriously, last year in mid September I spent two weeks backpacking and running and then began training on October 1st, clocking a 20 hour week or two before November saw its first flakes of snow.  Too soon, just like jokes about

This year I’m treating the off-season a bit differently.  For one, I’m tireder than last year.  For two, I hate it when I start making a numbered list mid-paragraph so I’m going to end it after this sentence.  After a telephone conversation with my wise coach Sam Jansen, I was convinced to treat the rest of October as a time to re-charge, learn a new skill, and keep my mind away from training and racing so my tank is full for 2012.

I don’t have batteries to re-charge and I’m growing tired of metaphors, especially overused ones, so re-charging and re-fueling the tank has been a fail so far.  I am, however, feeling pretty fresh already.  Despite not doing any training or riding, I felt amazing the other day while commuting, better than I have for a month or more.   I was riding in street clothes heading down Highway 99 from King City after buying a #2 attachment for a set of hair clippers, when a roadie caught me at a red light (I’d dropped the clipper attachment out of my pocket and had to circle around back for it, which is the only reason he caught me in the first place).  Anyways, he thought he’d try to pass me when the light turned green.  That didn’t happen of course.  Instead he ended up sitting on my wheel for a little under a minute until I SMASHED him to pieces and dropped him.  The fool!  My ego intact, I rode home and gave myself a haircut.

That was last week and I’ve successfully resisted going out and riding, even though the weather has been fantastic.

My new pass-times include going on short runs, dancing, eating, reading, and playing the piano.  I’m only good at one of those things.  I’ve also been doing some kayaking and plan on climbing Mt. Washington this weekend, but overall I’ve been very good and haven’t done anything taxing.  I’d like to end all my posts with a joke from now on.  So here’s one:  What do you call a donkey with a sore throat?  A little horse.

And now for what you’ve all been waiting for….my grand performance on the piano.  Vimeo link here.

2011 race season officially over

October 9th. It’s 12:07 AM here in Zingem, Belgium. I’m in bed right now with eyes stinging red in fatigue, holding off sleep for my final thoughts to be typed out before I forget them by morning. I raced the final race of the season today with a decent result, coming in 11th. It was the same course in the town of Hooglede that I did a week ago, though today was infinitely harder due to the weather. It was cold, windy, dark, and with five laps to go the clouds opened up and rain turned the dirt on the road to a slick film of road icing.

Justin, Jake and I headed out to one last race in the red team car, putting along 10 km/hr under the speed limit because we’ve had four camera speeding tickets in the past couple months. Jake had good enough legs today to attack a lot and put the hurt on, but missed out in the finish. Justin held on for a lap or two. Here’s how I did:

I started out at the front and lasted there for a good lap and a half before retreating back to the depths of the bulge, somewhat sheltered from the wind, while fearfully avoiding covering any of the splits. I had no killer end-of-season form today. None at all. Just the opposite. I’m completely, thoroughly, 100% cracked. After the race on the 4th in Sint-Lievens I took two full days off the bike with one easy ride yesterday to open back up for today. And yet I was still blown by the second lap today. With 20 laps remaining I promised myself that as long as I raced all out today and fully depleted the fumes in the tank I’d reward myself with NOT racing three days later on the 11th, which is the very last race of the year in Belgium. So I set about making sure I’d make it to the end, which meant conserving and moving up when things got dangerous.

I survived. I never let the wheel go but half a dozen times when the guy in front of me did I wouldn’t have had the will or strength to close it down had he or someone from behind not done it. There was a considerable amount of time spent seated, head down, staring at the tiny gap of pavement between my wheel and the wheel in front of me, stomping as hard as possible, twenty guys back, with the only thought in my mind being, “WHY is the guy in front of me so damn short!!!!” It was one of those races where you pray to whoever’s listening that if you could just finish the race on this lap in the position that everyone’s currently in, you’d be very grateful (and you’re only mid pack).

With seven or eight laps to go the peloton was down to 40-50 guys and the pace seemed to let up temporarily–the reason being that the two guys were up the road were slowly getting out of sight on some of the straight-aways. I moved up and began following attacks. With five laps to go, like I said before, it began raining. Almost immediately, on the same corner that I crashed in last week, someone’s wheel slid out and he hit the pavement. I shot through the gap (slowly), following and bridging up to the front split on the hill over the next few kilometers. We had maybe eight guys and a good gap to whoever was left behind. The field was in complete disarray at this point with groups of five and ten (judging by how we were eventually bridged to). I thought we were good to go but our cooperation stagnated and we ended up just letting everyone regroup a lap later (I don’t think it was out of kindness though, just cracked legs and even more severely cracked heads). Once we were caught I went straight off the front and pulled away by myself for the next kilometer just in case either someone crashed in the dangerous corner again or the field just took it super slow and the field sat up like it did when the two guys up the road had got away. Not the case. I got caught but felt good enough to spend the next three laps attacking and following moves, though I was pretty far-gone at that point and never had much to offer once I got up the road with whomever.

We were sprinting for third place (though I thought it was for 2nd) and I came into the final three-corner uphill 800-meter drag a tad bit too far back. It would have been the perfect spot had the pack been larger and people’s legs been fresher, but that was not the case. Someone about ten spots in front of me let the wheel go with 400 meters and four or five guys rode away with a big gap. I came around the couple guys who’d blown up with 200 meters to go and died very shortly afterwards with 100 meters left to the line. I had to end the sprint seated. Luckily everyone else was equally screwed as me and I held off the surge from behind to earn some good Colruyt cash for 11th place, though I don’t have much desire to go to Colruyt anymore. We completely overdid the samples the past couple days.

And so ends the 2011 season. I’ve been sick since the beginning of September, which wasn’t hard enough on me apparently because just recently the bike gods decided to give me nonstop diarrhea–for the past five days. My body is dying and it needs a full horse-trough of salad and fruit to halt the self-destruct count down sequence. I head back to Oregon on the 11th. It’s going to be weird not being here in Belgium racing my brains out every couple days, while in between riding to Colruyt for free samples and stopping off to feed the cows grass along the way.

From left to right: Justin, me, Michael, Jake. In reality we’re all cracked. It’s been a trip of a lifetime with hopefully more to come.

Still holding strong

I’ve heard that when you do cocaine there’s a momentary feeling of bliss that’s immediately followed by an overpowering craving to do it again—like immediately. Sometimes bike racing is like this. Today was not. Today was more like coming off a meth high–cold, sick, and broken, promising yourself that you’ll never do it again, though in reality you know you’ll need a fix by tomorrow.

The “extremely hard course” today was once again altered because of road construction—just like the last race was. Both today and the last race were supposed to have some ultra steep walls in them but they ended up being pretty blah. Today’s race in Sint-Lievens-Houtem had a small, low-grade tailwind hill, followed by a gradual descent with crosswind. It was hard, but not hard enough to permanently split things up. The weakest riders were dropped well before the 16 laps were up but the peloton was still bursting with packfill coming into the final kilometer.

I raced aggressively right from the first lap, hoping to get away in an early break. I had a hunch the early move would stick today and I was right. I didn’t end up being in it though. 10 guys broke free on lap four, with my teammate Jake making it in there.

After a few laps of them being away I began attacking again, though I was certain that the winning move had gone. The pack kept splitting up on the climb and crosswind section but always seemed to come back together in the headwind. I fought hard to be in the front splits, hoping one of them would stick.

Early on in the race I found out that something in my water bottle from the other day had gone sour. Unwisely, I decided to save it for the last couple laps in case I HAD to have water—in which case the rotten whey protein or whatever was in there wouldn’t have time to make me ill before the race ended. This idea backfired. Number one: because the first couple gulps I took on the first lap were potent enough, and number two: because I began drinking out of it again half way through the race.

With four laps to go we caught the break. Jake was thoroughly disappointed since this was his last race of the year and it seemed destined to be the winning move–a top10 guaranteed. I’ve had this happen to me half a dozen times out here so I knew how he felt.

You can’t be in all the attacks so I decided to stay off the front for the next lap after they were caught. I put all my chips in the gamble that the second counter move would be the one that would stay away. Everyone thinks that when the break is brought back the next true move that sticks (the first counter attack) is the one to be in. In reality it’s the second counter attack that works. Usually. Sometimes. Maybe. I don’t know actually. Not today at least. I was wrong and the winning move formed on the third to last lap and we could never close down the 30-second gap.

To piss me off even more, I had to slam my breaks on in the sprint with about 400 meters to go and I lost out on even a top 30 and making 10 euros for my Colruyt day. It was a hard race but only because I made it hard for myself. If the course had only been the regular course with the giant wall and been hard for everyone…arghhh!!

After the race was over I crashed hard on the sidewalk about 20 feet from our car, right in front of a huge crowd of people. My front wheel slid out when I didn’t hop the curb correctly and I went straight down on my right side again, landing exactly like I did when I crashed a few days ago. I reopened all my wounds and got another bout of whiplash as my head smacked the pavement again. I was not pleased and made it apparent to everyone within screaming distance.

I sat in the back hatch of the car with Jake as we both stared off into space, wondering, as usual, what had gone wrong. My stomach gurgled loudly in anguish and for the first time all year, I couldn’t eat after the race. OK, I ate, but not very much. And I threw it all up in the toilet when we got home. As I sat there I thought of all the shit things—not winning or getting a good result, bleeding all over my favorite V-neck, upset stomach and the chills, an even sorer neck and hip than when I woke up, headache, coughing, incredibly backed up sinuses with mucus practically coming out my ears, and a bruised ego from crashing on the sidewalk after the race. I burst out laughing at this last one. If you can’t laugh at yourself it means someone else gets to. I got to race my bike hard in Belgium and make a lot of people suffer. It was a good day. Nothing serious to complain about, though I can tell I’m getting pretty cracked. Just a few more races and I’ll be very ready for the off-season. But as long as the legs are willing there’s no way my mind won’t follow.

Oh and by the way, if you think you’ve lived in a shit hole apartment, guess again. Along with our legs and heads, the end of the season seems to have cracked our apartment too because the hot water heater is flooding the kitchen, the sink has been clogged for the past two weeks, the TV just broke, the coffee machine broke (and after trying to fix it we fried the circuits in the apartment and had a power outage for a day), the coffee table broke, the left side of the couch broke even more than it already was, the mold in the shower is growing thicker, and the crazy Greek (Michael) has taken a turn for the worse and is going completely nuts. Yesterday he finished building up a single speed bike in his room and demonstrated it for us in the living room. Right when he sat on it the back wheel fell off and he almost fell on the ground. He hadn’t tightened the wheel bolts down because he didn’t want to scratch the aluminum dropouts. His conclusion: the frame was sabotaged. We argued with him about it for the entire evening, trying to explain how to solve the problem. We did not succeed. Today he was three hours late for his job interview and when he got there the guy basically told him to screw off. Michael’s conclusion: “The guy wasn’t decent and he had it out for me from the beginning. I can’t work with someone like that! If he can’t handle me being three or four hours late every day then I can’t work with him. He’s a jerk and he’s just not respectable. I don’t want to get a job anymore anyways. I just want to build my bike, have a soft bed, and have money for chocolate.” You can never get through to a crazy person even if you genuinely try, which makes the arguing that much more fun because you can say anything you want to, including rapidly changing the subject to throw him off. Today I got Michael on the subject of the Big Bang and the mind-numbing question of how there were any particles to cause the big bang in the first place. He knew a surprising amount on the subject.

Getting my leg all swoll without even hitting the gym.

Our new TV has three count them THREE channels that play Jim–Belgium’s finest music TV station. Doesn’t get much better than this.

Summer arrives in Belgium

It’s summer here finally. Elsewhere in the northern hemisphere, signs of winter are approaching. However, rain and cold temperatures are not on the schedule here in Belgium. After 11 ½ months of depressing, dreary clouds and suicide-inducing rainstorms, Belgium is being treated to two weeks of warm sunshine while the cornfields slowly bronze and the trees piss themselves yellow in fear of the coming darkness.

Like summer, my cold is still lingering. I believe it will linger for the rest of my life. I’ve accepted this unfortunate fact and have decided to just get on with it. I raced on Thursday in the city of Tielt. The course was a bit boring, with a lack of hills and a straight section of road that was longer than 1 kilometer (someone forgot to tell the people of Tielt that kermesses should have no less than six corners per kilometer).

I was able to attack a bit and ride near the front of the 130-man field, though I wasn’t at my best. I botched the final bunch sprint, which was the first bunch sprint I’ve seen in a kermesse, and I ended up 41st. I didn’t have anything left in me at that point though so I was satisfied with just being somewhat well enough to race. On the way home I decided to stop for a hitchhiker and pay back humanity for the the dozens of times I’ve been picked up. We delivered her to her door at her parents’ house, ending her 6-month backpack trip around Europe. We expected good karma to follow for our next race.

Jake and I took an easy ride/Colruyt day on Friday. On Colruyt’s menu: coffee, cake bread, scalloped potatoes in a ham and cheese sauce, pork, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, pea soup, grapes, oranges, and Bella cheese circles. Jake and I spent an hour and a half making the rounds before we went to the bike shop and picked up a new bottom bracket for the Flanders team bike I’ve been using over here. Despite my excitement for using something as a lugged carbon frame, I miss my Blue.

Saturday’s race took place in Hooglede. The hot weather brought somewhere between 160 and 180 riders to the race, as well as EVERY attractive girl in the country. Jake thought he might just spectate and make small talk with the ladies instead of doing the race, but then he remembered he’s afraid to talk to girls and decided to race instead. The communication that goes on between bike racers during a race is much simpler anyways. There are really only a handful of subjects we discuss, most of which requiring only minimal body language and hand signals.

1) This hurts
2) Take your pull
3) I’m cracked
4) Move out of the way
5) Fuck you
6) Sorry

So it’s not all that different than a conversation during sex. My apologies, I shouldn’t be making jokes on a sad day like this. As everyone is certainly well aware of, today bore witness to the deaths of 1,200 innocent Americans in a horrific attack by yet another terrorist group. Just when the world thought it could breath a sigh of relief now that Osama is gone, another terrorist organization seems to have taken his place. Philip Morris has released video footage triumphantly taking credit for the 1,200 American lives lost to emphysema, coronary disease, lung, mouth, throat and various other types of cancer. Nations across the globe are voicing their condolences while concerned Americans are already asking the tough questions. Could this have been avoided? Is more airport security needed? And, most importantly, in what country do we start dropping the bombs?

Back to the race in Hooglede:

For the fifth time this season, I crashed. I came away from it with nothing but a bit of road rash, despite landing hard on my right shoulder again. The good news is that my collarbone must be fully healed by now to take that sort of blow (my good karma I guess?). The bad news is that I’d been feeling somewhat strong again and I had just helped form a split of 20 riders during the hard section of the course. I was seven riders from the front when we entered a sharp right-hander that had been picking off riders all day. I took the same line at the exact same speed as the guy in front of me. I must have narrowly hit an extra thick patch of dirt (the roads are pretty dirty around farm fields these days due to the harvest). I went down hard, cracked yet another helmet, rolled off the side of the road, pulled my bike with me, and barely missed taking down the rest of the guys behind. I spent too much time getting my bike sorted out and didn’t get back on until the single-file pack had just passed me. I chased hard and almost made it to the tail end a kilometer later. Too late though, the false flat hill was over by then and it was the flat tailwind section for the next kilometer. No way I could have caught on at that point. The follow car and ambulance passed me. I changed, showered, and got a very minimal amount of help from the medic in the sports center.

Jake had been right behind me when I crashed, and later he told me that everyone in our group sat up when I went down. I never would have guessed they’d do this and it’s a nice sign of respect. They were caught by the pack shortly afterwards, the early break was eventually caught, and the entire field came into the last lap together. I watched the finish from the sidelines. The 90-man pack was torn to shreds after the final time up the “hill” during the 1K tailwind finish. Some guy had a small gap with 500 meters to go and won by a second or two. He must have picked up multiple hitchhikers after his last race.

The mustache in full healing effect:

After a bike crash there’s nothing better to wake up to than a chocolate bar mysteriously placed at your doorstep.