Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Coughing is fitness leaving the body

It's warm. It's cold. It's warm. It's cold again. The weather can't seem to make up its mind. Despite this, I've managed to get out on some rides, and shoot some pictures. Independent of each other, that is. I'm still suffering from two things:

1) Having my legs crap out after about 20 miles on the road leaving me feeling as if I'd just done 40 miles uphill.
B) I still don't really know what I'm doing with a camera.

That being said, it's been nice to be back on the bike after keeping myself off it for several days in the (vain) hopes that my cough would subside. It's also been a great deal of fun taking bad pictures, particularly in light of the fact that the full moon night and the night after provided some absolutely amazing moonrises here. There is something to be said for being on the East Coast and getting to watch the moon come up. If I were a halfway decent photographer, I'd know how to take good pictures of it as it peaks over the horizon. As it stands, this was the best I could do after isolating the moon and dropping the exposure during post-processing:

Anyhoo...I woke up to another warmer and windy day today, and just didn't have it in me to fight the inevitable 360 degree headwinds on a road ride, so I went off to Belleplain State Forest to see what sort of epic flatness I might find in the woods. I managed to get myself lost trying to take a shortcut when I hit a road. The problem was that the road led me to an intersection that always trips me up. I know vaguely where both roads at the junction go, but I'll be damned if I know where they go from that particular spot. So, rather than go left to what I'm sure was probably only 3/4 of a mile back to the trail, I doubled back the 2 or so miles to the trail that spat me out in the first place. Three hours after leaving the car, I got back to it. So much for a nice hour and a half!

Oh well, as Simon pointed out that's the longest ride I've done since I got sick. And since riding is great (as are sheep), I can't really complain.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

We're not at 5340 feet anymore, Toto.

You know, I'm used to long days behind the wheel, but MAN did it seem like it took FOREVER to get back to New Jersey this time. Three solid days of 600 miles and then some. I picked up this southerly cross wind right out my front door, and it came with me all the way to the east coast. The sad thing was that it carried with it abnormally warm temperatures, so for 3 days I sat inside the Touareg while outside the temperature hovered around 70 degrees. The same was true today, and of course the wind was blowing a front that promises to drop the temperature significantly. The high for tomorrow is only supposed to be in the 40's. At least I managed to get out for a ride over to the coast today.

It was nice to be riding after my self-imposed hiatus due to this cough. I was so tired of it waking me up in the middle of the night that last Thursday, while in Tucson, I took myself to the ER at 2:30 in the morning. That was a really fun 5 hour ordeal. They diagnosed me with a cough. Well! At least I got that sorted. The silver lining is that as of now I don't have bronchitis or pneumonia, so I supposed sitting in extremely uncomfortable chairs in the waiting room was worth it for peace of mind. Yet, I still have a cough.

We had a nice Thanksgiving dinner today. It was complete with the usual obnoxious laughter that always accompanies a Garrison family gathering. My sister and I swore that we were NOT going to talk politics with our brother, the redneck of the family. I thought one of us was going to crack when he made a snide comment about global warming, but we held firm and henceforth managed to avoid the usual fight that also accompanies a family get-together. All in all, it was a nice holiday.

I'm planning to oberve Buy Nothing Day on this, the busiest shopping day of the year. People go nuts. Stores open hours before they normally do. Five and 6 am are not out of the question, and they offer sales in the wee hours. People actually line up at the door to take advantage of the sale prices. It's pretty gross. I can't imagine why people actually want to go deal with the crowds. It's absolute pandemonium and an example of consumerism at it's apex. I can't believe that a day of shopping has become a new American tradition.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

33 Miles of Flat Pain

Rides seem like they are getting harder of late. The last 4 or 5 times I've been on the bike have been a struggle to do not very much distance. Before a recent outing, I was chatting with Simon and he asked me if I was feeling fresh. I'm having a hard time remembering the last time I did feel fresh on a ride. It's taking every ounce of energy I have to just get through 25 or 30 miles.

This morning's ride consisted of riding out to this little town called Hygiene to meet up with Alison, who had left for a 3 hour ride at 9am. I knew I didn't want to go that early because it has gotten quite cold here, and I wouldn't last the whole 3 hours given how I've been feeling on the bike lately. So, we compromised and met up an hour after I left the house for the last block of Alison's ride.

I left the house an hour before our planned meet up of 11. I figured I'd have time to spare to cover the 15 miles to the town. I got there a whopping 30 seconds before Al's arrival. When I asked her what time it was she said it was five after 11. I knew I was feeling bad on the way, but I had a hard time believing that I used an entire hour to go such a short distance. The road out is rolling, but not constantly uphill, and once I make the right hander off 36 it's almost entirely down a very slight grade to Hygiene. I told Al I wasn't sure how much use I'd be to her since I was feeling so rubbish. We set off towards home and reached a pace that was a bit faster than what I'd been doing on the way out, but I was feeling pretty comfortable. There are a couple of short bursts of up on the road we were on, and every one of them made me feel like my chest was going to pound it's way right out of my ribcage. Frustrating.

I understand that cold weather that has hit us like it has, without much lead time to prepare, can have adverse effects on the body. On Sunday it was 75 degrees. As I write this, the thermometer reads 35. I reckon it was about 40 on the ride today. Still, I hate how I can go from feeling pretty good, and can go out on rides with some degree of intensity, then without changing that pattern can feel completely crap.

I figure I'm going to have a nice Roly-like rug on the 'ole thorax at this rate.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Continuing Saga of the Dateless Wonder

Been a while since I did a 'pensive post'. Seems like spending yet another Friday night sat on the couch is as good a time as any.

So what's the deal with acceptance? Specifically, what is it about human nature...Ok, I won't make any blanket statement here, I'll narrow it down to my nature. So what it is with MY nature that leads to a desire to be accepted? Actually, that's sort of a broad generalization. I don't care about being accepted by everyone.

I think I'm having an identity crisis. It has to do with the company I work for and how it's generally regarded in the world of bike culture. It's not held in very high regard. It bothers me. I think the reason it is even on my mind is because I spent a short while in the limbo between the racer set and industry crowd: the journalist world.

Now I read things that other people write about the company I work for and I get this feeling that I'll be judged. I get the same feeling about people I met before I took this job that would now change their opinion of me based on their preconceived notions about the company at large.

I'm not entirely sure why I even care. Herein lies the internal conflict. I'm more than happy to be doing what I do. I genuinely like the people I work with. I understand that Trek, being the large bike company that it is, will probably never be 'worthy' of the Kool Kids Klub. I don't know why I have this desire to be part of the er, KKK. I guess that's the acceptance problem.

The truth is, I do care. That's just stupid. One of the main reasons I'm leaving Boulder is because people here aren't very welcoming. I don't know why it bothers me that similar, narrow-minded people making assumptions about the company I work for and the fact that I work there, would look at me with an air of disdain or thumb their noses at me. I do not want to be friends with people like that. What is my problem!?

Insecurity is the root, I'm sure. That old, nasty foe that I feel like I am constantly fighting. I'm working on it. And as it relates to this issue, I have some amazing friends. The best friends I've ever had in my lifetime are people I've met in the last 4 or 5 years. If they were the last people I became friends with, I'd be perfectly fine. I suppose having such limited time with them is part of why I have any hang ups about people I am merely acquainted with, or don't know at all. If I were secure enough, I'd be able to laugh it off. Outwardly, I really don't have any problem doing that.

Well, since my internet crashed last night and I could post this, I've had a night to sleep on it. I'm not sure I have any clarity this morning. I resolve to just be myself and not worry so much about what the peanut gallery thinks.

Now I'm going on a 'bonking ride'. Obviously, that has different connotations to some than it does over here (fanny pack?). I've just woken up, and now I'm going to ride for an hour on an empty stomach.

Better living through bike riding.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Someone's knockin' at the door.

7:20pm this evening, a random knock comes to the front door. I get up and am greeted by two women, one with a clipboard, who says 'We're here for Alison Powers'. I'm not exactly sure why I lost my ability to speak. I felt like I was in the presence of some authority and all I could do was turn around and yell upstairs to Alison that she had visitors. My senses came back to me and I turned back to the door and invited them in. At some point, I realized that I was looking at two people from the US Anti-Doping Agency, the governing body of cycling that does the random drug testing for athletes.

The women introduced themselves to Alison and gave a brief explanation for what was going to happen. Basically, they only collect the samples, but that's really an oversimplified version of what goes on.

There's a form that has some basic information. The agent put three styrofoam boxes on the table, and a bag with cups. She explained to Alison that she could choose any of the three boxes, and the reason there were three was to minimize the chance that anything had been tampered with beforehand. Everything had numbers and was recorded on the form. She then allowed her to choose a cup and to give it a close inspection, again to make sure that nothing was out of order. At that point, Alison and the agent went into the bathroom to collect the sample. Having someone watch you pee into a cup seems pretty demoralizing. I'm pretty sure no pro football player (on either side of the pond), has to endure that sort of thing.

When they returned, it was time to open the box. It was sealed with a piece of tape that leaves half of itself on the box when it's opened. Inside the box are the infamous A and B sample bottles. Both bottles were sealed with a shrink wrap. It was a bit strange to see them, knowing how much controversy has arisen as a result of the contents of bottles like that, and possible impropriety in their handling in the past.

Alison was told step by step what to do: Inspect the bottles to make sure they haven't been tampered with. Remove the shrink wrap. Remove the lids and check for these red rings around the mouth of the bottle. Pour from the cup into the A bottle about halfway up. Then reseal the bottle until the lid no longer clicks. Do the same with the B bottle. Turn each upside down to check for leaks. Place each bottle into an individual plastic bag and seal them with tape. Place both bottles back into the styrofoam box.

Next, the agent checked the pH and specific gravity of the urine. A sample that is too weak means that the lab won't be able to test it, and the agents have to take another sample. Same thing for the pH. Alison was fine with both.

The agent then asked a series of questions, including whether or not she'd had any recent blood transfusions, and what medications she'd taken in the last 3 days.

After that, she signed the form in a way that didn't reveal her name on any part of it that is sent to the lab. The whole process took about half an hour, mostly because the agent was very detailed in the explanations and steps. Alison gets her results in 6-8 weeks.

This was the first time that Alison has been tested by USADA (she was actually pretty pissed off that it hadn't happened already), but not the first time she'd been tested since she became a pro. She said the testing methods here are much more careful and thorough than in Europe, where agents handled samples and bottles and didn't document things as carefully by doing such things as labeling samples with names, instead of numbers. In her words 'it's pretty sketchy'. That doesn't instill a whole lot of confidence in WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency), and casts an even larger shroud of doubt over the Euro labs that have ruined, and attempted to ruin, the careers of a lot of cyclists.

I'm sure there are dopers in the sport, and more than likely most of the big names are part of that crowd. It just seems to me that the testing protocol itself should be squeaky clean, and not something that can ever be questioned in terms of it's potential impact on results.