Friday, February 26, 2010

More Beer - Less Racing.... hmmmm?

Well that's my friend Alex's solution to my current health calamities. Not against the more beer idea, just would like to also get the new season started... not exactly my dream start with the new team (not that they need me, the Echelon boys did some serious butt kicking in the Jack Frost TT on Sunday morning - while Hammer and I were winning the tandem division).

No racing for the next two weeks - actually no strenuous exercise - nothing that taxes the lungs. Looking outside at the cold rain - yes, this is the real February in the Pacific NW - maybe a good time to miss the Banana Belt opener.

Spent the day Wednesday in the pulmonary clinic with a range of tests, several to eliminate the possibility of blood clot around the lungs... looks like I'm okay there. Apparently all we know at the moment is a small amount of bloody-fluid in the lining of the outer lung wall (pleurisy) and a touch of pneumonia has started, so course of antibiotics, enough ibuprofen to choke a horse (control the inflammation), plus pain killers every night so I can sleep - which I haven't done well for much of the past week.

No workout sessions the next week either - until new chest x-rays.

Oh well - this too shall pass.

In the mean time I'll get back to research and writing on the new book about the Tour's Lanterne Rouge and work on editing those India bicycle/tricycle photos I promised to post.

Thanks everyone who has written - appreciate the well wishes!!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Going slow to go fast...

So my coach Phil constantly repeats - the mantra to my building a stronger me. Well, now it appears it may be stopping to go slow, so that eventually we can go fast.

Somewhere in a time-warp between last Friday morning feeling really great and going through a progressive work out in Session 5 since back from India, and racing Sublimity circuit road race (Saturday - photo above as I roll out in search of my lung - maybe I should have noticed the arrow on the ground pointed the other way?) and the Jack Frost TT on tandem with Hammer (Sunday morning) I managed to do some damage to my lungs/ribs (??) it appears. Severe enough I ended up in the local ER at 2 AM Monday morning having trouble breathing with one of the worst pains imaginable drilling into my left ribs just about the base of the heart... yes, that alone scared the shit out of me! (and Jenn)

After over 6 hours in ER which included EKGs, x-rays, CAT scans, full blood tests,, other tests, and a whole lot of some cousin to morphine (thank you chemistry!), I was able to breath with reasonable comfort and eventually wheelchair it into a car to go home - and here I sit or partially lie down - which ever position let's me dodge the pain.

So what they think they know is this -

is swelling (inflammation) of the thin layers of tissue (pleura) covering the lungs and the chest wall. (according to WebMD)

Appointment with a pulmonary specialist tomorrow - hopefully pleurisy is all it is, a week or so to heal and back to going slow, but well know more later.

It appears I may have pushed the lungs and body too hard too fast trying to get into race shape. In other words, didn't go slow enough to go fast (later). The price is no Banana Belt series opener this weekend - with any luck a nice long pain free walk with Jenn.

Congrats to friend Jeff Otto for the win in Mstrs 40+ and to teammate Matt Slater for a great 3rd!

Weekend results (besides the pain): Sublimity Road Race and Jack Frost TT
Photo: Jenn Loren

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tour of Mumbai... why am I smiling?

This is great, just on the heals of a 39 hour flight home from Kolkata, with the incessant ringing of pedicab horns whining in my ears and the temptation to use a neti-pot for the first time in my life to flush the lingering fumes from my nose, I popped open VeloNews to see this on the slate for the coming weekend...

O’Grady, Cooke head to India for Tour of Mumbai

Stuart O'Grady and Baden Cooke - good'on ya mates!

Before cycberspace can display the feed I'm smiling, no I'm laughing, and can only flash back to Stuart O'Grady's face in the Paul Sherwin pre-race interview for Paris-Roubaix a few years back when the conditions were shit! and O'Grady grinned ear-to-ear saying, "right mate, it's go'in ta be a crakka". Well Stuey - here she comes again mate. According to Race director David McQuaid said 'finding a suitable course around the crowded streets of India’s financial capital was difficult but predicted a “tough, challenging” ride for the cyclists.' Ya, difficult I bet - insane is more like it.

“No cyclist will find shelter nor get an easy ride,” he wrote on the event’s website.

The Tour of Mumbai is invitation-only - lucky sods. Again, by way of the site - The event will see competitors ride 36 laps of a 2.8 kilometer course, reaching speeds of up to 80 kilometers per hour on sprints every fifth lap. The winner will receive 50,000 dollars. Considering the average Hero-made street bike in India costs about $50 (US) winning the ToM is like Jamal in Slumdog Millionaire.

A Tour of Anything India is a brilliant and long over due idea. I mean think about it - India has:
  • More bikes than any country other than China
  • More diverse uses of the "bike" than any other nation
  • The single largest bike producer in the world, Hero - 27,500 A DAY!!
  • The largest selling bike shop - get this - 300 PER DAY!!!!
Unfortunately there won't be any Jamals streaking solo under the flamme rouge this Sunday - but because of this Sunday maybe, just maybe, this bicycle-tricycle mad country may see one in the not to distant future.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Raise a pint to Susan B.

"Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel. It gives woman a feeling of freedom and self-reliance."

Happy Birthday Susan B. Anthony

From Women and Bicycles:
"The advent and the ensuing popularity of the safety bicycle, with its appeal to both sexes mandated that women cast off their corsets and figure out some way around their long, billowy skirts. The answer to the skirt question was to be found in the form of bloomers, which were little more than very baggy trousers, cinched at the knee. Bloomers provoked wrath in conservatives and delight in women cyclists, and the garment was to become the centerpiece of the "rational dress" movement that sprung up at the end of the 19th century. The rational dress society statement of purpose reads in part: The Rational Dress society protests against the introduction of any fashion in dress that either deforms the figure, impedes the movement of the body, or in any way tends to injure the health. It protests against the wearing of tightly fitted corsets, of high-heeled or narrow toed boots and shoes; of heavily weighted skirts, as rendering healthy exercise almost impossible.... (Dodge, 126) The bloomer quickly made a host of enemies, however, and many a bloomer clad women complained of being ridiculed, fined, and even treated "like a prostitute" by local authorities."
I've written on this blog before about the injustice in women's cycling - especially in racing. I just road last weekend in a first season Cat 3 race and several cyclists taking the start line in the race were women - one I shared several struggling (I was the struggler) miles trying to catch back on - she took her pulls, she was a cyclist. I think there are several places were we can look to share the roads - the first is just making the bicycle more female friendly.

Last October Scientific American published an article "How to Get More Bicyclists on the Road". While the SA article focused on U.S. cycling in general it shed a strong light on men vs women where there is a 2:1 gap. Curiously that was a similar gap a bit over a century ago, just before the explosion of the "Golden Age of the Bicycle" - Susan B's age. Many historians credit the meteoric rise of women adopting the bike for that Golden Age - could women be the catalyst once again?

From the article, "Women are considered an “indicator species” for bike-friendly cities for several reasons." and its author Linda Baker in Europe where urban biking is a way of life women ride "In the Netherlands, where 27 percent of all trips are made by bike, 55 percent of all riders are women. In Germany 12 percent of all trips are on bikes, 49 percent of which are made by women."

Why? Safety and utility. Women, despite our nods to equal rights and parenting, continue to be the primary adults responsible for child care and household shopping - translation: bike routes need to be organized around practical urban destinations to make a difference. And where women go more often than not so go children - more kids (boys and girls) on the bike means a new generation that understand the bike's beauty and worth. Do you get where I'm going here? Maybe just a future of more livable cities?

Happy Birthday Susan -
February 15, 1820 – March 13, 1906

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Cherry Pie... mine had a few pits

First race of the season is a new beginning and full of hope, and a grand melange - a mix of delight, expectations, experiment, eye-opener, shock, frustration, and joy. Yesterday's Cherry Pie Race, a circuit of 26 miles, done once or twice if you have the early season legs.

The tandem race at 10AM was great. The rain had paused, the temp was creeping upwards and it was just great to be back on the bike and especially great to be back on "Stealth", the black Calfee tandem, with Hammer (my stoker John Hatfield). It had been four months since we had boarded Stealth for a flight - it was set to fly - we were a bit rusty and raw. Not enough new year miles, but hell, worth a shot. Right out of the parking lot Hammer was talk'n podium. It was either the ten years difference in our age or the jet lag, but I was a wee bit less optimistic. But heck, one lap, 26 miles, let's hang and see what happens.

Local tandem racing is a blast, doesn't have the same aggressive edge as the solo events. Maybe it's the duel rider thing, maybe it's just wheeling those bigger rigs around, not sure, but while it's no less competitive in the final K it's a lot friendlier.

Half way through we have settled on the four teams that were likely to share the final hill to the finish line - and that's where we made our second mistake - we didn't know the "little" hill at the finish line - lesson #1: always, always, go look at the finish before the race. On to Lesson #2: don't chase down all the breaks by the strongest team, or if you do, make a deal with them and stay away.

Results, respectable 4th. Add Lesson #3: one day come to a tandem race with some practice time on the bike and some miles in the legs, we might just be surprised how good we could be; Stealth deserves to take first.

Packed Peloton in the Cat 3s
POP! off the back before ya begin. Four weeks away took it's toll. I thought, or was drifting in some mysterious state of illusion, that after the morning tandem race I had something left. Was I fully recovered from the morning tandem race? Not really, I knew it, but hell, just something, anything, that's all I was asking for. I tried to be realistic and philosophical. I saw this like pros, the boys of July, racing the Ronde van Vlaanderen, early season training, some hard racing miles; when the course loops around, if I'm off the back or searching for that suit case of courage, then I'd take the smart left turn,
a mile after the first time through the finish line, instead of an ego driven right turn for another 25 miles, and head for the parking lot, call it a day, and be proud I raced twice and got in those good miles.

Well, we weren't even through the first set of little rollers when it was crystal clear my "suit case of courage" was still going around and around on the luggage belt at PDX. And about 2 miles later I was starting to think about putting in a lost suit case claim - where the hell did the energy go? Go? It went to India and back with no, none, nada, bit of workout in four weeks. I didn't need to be wearing my new team kit for the first time, I need a Superman kit, including cape!
New Team Results
As for the boys on the new team - it was a decent day out with some top ten results: Echelon Racing Team (still a bit blue in the ZteaM kits) came to race - Scott (Browning) managed to take 9th out of a crazy jammed Cat 3 field, nearly 100) and John (Browning) and Karsten (Hagen) were tactically plugged in making the winning break for 2nd and 7th respectively in the Pro 1-2s - great job 'old guys'! Matt (Slater) slipped in 7th in the Masters 40+. And lady luck was not smiling on Mike in the Masters - despite being in the winning break and flat robbed him of a chance as the closed on the finish. All the Cheery Pie results.

Sublimity Circuit Race next Saturday and Jack Frost TT on Sunday - hopefully legs and lungs will be back in this time zone!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Lanterne last doesn't mean forever

Today last years' Tour de France Lanterne Rouge winner proved that 'last' doesn't mean forever... at least until the next TdF. Yauheni Hutarovitch, the Francaise de Jeux sprinter, tallied up his second win in three days at the Tour Méditerranéen (a repeat of his 2009 performance). As is often the case with Rouge recipients, their beastly physiques serve them well in the early season races and final K drag races, it's when the road tilts up that life gets grippy and no matter how much staring at the rear cassette you do there are only so many gears of relief.

Yauheni Hutarovitch won last year's Lanterne when Kenny van Hummel exhausted his suitcase of heroics despite promising to "eat his handlebars" if he had to in order to arrive in Paris. After van Hummel crashed out the Franciase de Jeux fast-twitch muscle man was racing to stay ahead of the broom wagon.

So has the memory of Rouge faded? Are those red gloves exorcising demons or are they a finish line tribute to his past perseverance? I like to think it's the latter. And in this years
Tour Méditerranéen, it's all the other sprinters who are seeing red.

Photo © 2010 Fotoreporter Sirotti

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sore travel muscles and winter road maintenance

Either I'm getting old (er) or I just can't take 4 weeks off and hang with the big dogs - or both - at least in winter with limited base to fall back on. After weeks away in India and surrounded by bikes that did my fitness little good, it was nice to get back out an ride. Perfectly timed was the Thursday lawyers lunch ride, mild 50 degree weather and a pause in the rain. I knew it would be a special day when we took the detour around the first tunnel on Lovejoy and there was Frank and Tom struggling to clear a downed alder tree. Road maintenance - that's what I love about cycling in this part of the world - ya know, we could all ride in Arizona or Southern Cal, but what fun would that be.

Nothing like getting back in the saddle after 39 hours of commuting from half way around the planet - don't get me wrong, the India trip was great, and the bike culture research for the upcoming film was better than I ever hoped (more on that in future posts) but it was time to ride. I especially was served up a big dose of outta-shape when I naively tried to follow Ryan's wheel up the bottom of Thompson - the head kept telling burning lungs and legs that "we" could maintain, just hang, but POP! Damn, it's good to feel muscles ache again - now let's see how they respond in the Cheery Pie Road Race this weekend... I may be writing this from the ER on Saturday night!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sharing the road - with elephants

I've been away these past couple weeks, around bikes of a whole different breed. They were not sleek, no highly crafted Titanium or extruded carbon fibre, light weight gears and derailleurs nope, shifting was all in your legs, and as for brakes, those were straight out of the pre-war Tour... pre-WW ONE! The best part was they were every where, for every body, for every job. Working bikes. Bikes with the mythic names like Hero and Hercules. But all were beautiful inventions just the same.

Two places on earth symbolize the great dream of the "peoples machine" envisioned by early inventors like Lallement and Michaux brothers, and assumed reality in a "safety bike" that has not changed dramatically in over a century - China and India - I just spent three weeks in the bike crowded streets and country roads of the latter, in and around Kolkata and Guwahati.

Cycling in eastern India is frightening, death-defying, insane, and pedaled through a tunnel of honking horns. In India the bike lane IS the lane, and shared by all. And the word "all" has no equal in the US, quite frankly, no where else on earth for that matter. Nothing moves fast, but forever is in motion. It's a peloton of pedicabs, people and everything else with and without wheels. Every pedal stroke is deliberate and focused, negotiating your way past bovine speed bumps, couch hauling trikes and elephants!

More on my Indian bike adventures as I catch up - and get in a few recovery rides here in Oregon.