Monthly Archives: February 2008

Early start

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Great rides in the Tour of California last week, in which some of the top teams, domestic and international, raced through the first miserable conditions in the race’s history — cold and drenching rain, as well as a virus, caused riders to abandon in droves. A well-deserved win for Levi Leipheimer and the Astana team, which has been singled out for punishment for its previous incarnation’s doping evils by the Tour de France organizers, and a great showing by Slipstream-Chipotle. I’m so hopeful that the efforts of Astana, Slipstream, CSC and High Road will lead to clean racing and the end of this decade of scandal. (And in reply to Michael Ball of Rock Racing’s lament of “What are we? The low road?” I would say that yes, I think you are. More arrogance is not what cycling needs.)

But all those miles of misery suffered by the riders last week inspired me to take advantage of yesterday’s bright sun and momentarily mild 40-degree temperatures and get in my earliest ride ever. I warmed up on the Kreitler rollers first, and then took a quick half-hour crank around the neighborhood at full steam, just to show myself how out of tune I am. I finished the fall in high style and great condition, and even had some novelty rides into December, so this will have been the shortest layoff ever. I’d be lying if I said I had been committed to the rollers all winter — riding the garage is hard to get excited about — but I did spend time on the silly video game bikes at the Y, and even did some of my sporadic running, so the off-season wasn’t a complete loss.

But I did quickly remember why winter riding just isn’t a great idea around here — other than the fact that drivers don’t expect to see you out there, there’s ice and water all over the roads, the shoulders are filled with sand, stone, salt and debris that hasn’t yet been swept away, and the wet often hides new, gaping holes in the pavement that must be avoided at risk of life and limb. Still, even if I don’t get out for another week (we have somewhere between nothing and 7″ of slushy misery coming today), I broke my earliest ride record by nearly three weeks, and matched last season’s record of only having failed to ride in one month. These things are important when you’re 47 going on 15.

Granola crisis

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I eat the same thing every morning — the generic version of Grape Nuts (Hannaford calls them “Nutty Nuggets”), a little granola, raisins or cranberries, and some wheat germ. Enough milk to make it moist, not wet. I’m not OCD about it, but it has to be just so. I don’t like anything very sweet for breakfast — a reaction to a permissive childhood, tooth-rotting-cereal-wise — and it’s always been a challenge to find a granola that isn’t so sweet it makes my gums bleed. A couple of years ago I found Chappaqua Crunch in the organic aisle, and it was just perfect. Right taste, right texture, and the little dried raspberries added great flavor (nothing like the dried raspberries the astronauts ate!). Then last summer it disappeared. Panicky sampling ensued — think of it as cereal primaries — but no winner emerged. Not even a front-runner, for that matter.
I was even almost ready to start making my own granola, something I desperately don’t want to do because I lived through the ’70s, I learned long ago that I’m not a hippie, and I was just beginning to forget the embarrassment of earth shoes. But all the boxed granolas are either crazy expensive, crazy sweet, or both. So now I’m rooting through the bulk bins — the very kind of food handling that modern hygiene laws were meant to prevent — thinking there’s only a very thin chance that any of the last 200 people who rooted through the granola bin had some flesh-eating virus or dripping lesions, and wishing there were a convenient radioactive sanitizing device for the communal scoop.

But here I am, putting it in my body. It doesn’t suck, but it’s still not what I’m looking for. Looks like I’m going to have to resort to internet groceries. (Note to self — while at it, load up on Altoids Gingers, the One True Candy.)

You start every season with hope

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Garage of the Sporting Enthusiast, Winter Edition

Time to forget the scandals and the doping. Time to forget that things got so bad that the most celebrated team of the last decade, a team relatively unscathed by doping charges — US Postal/Discovery Channel — couldn’t find a major sponsor and ended up folding. Time to put behind us that nearly all the major players of the past 10 years have been caught up in some form of steroid use or blood doping. Time to figure out who’s left, what teams they’re on, and who can prove they’re worthy of the toughest sport in the world — pro cycling. The AMGEN Tour of California begins today, marking an early start to pro racing in a race that has developed an incredible profile in a very short time. And Versus, which has resorted to showing movies (mission creep!) in order to fill time between bass-shooting and bull-agitating, is showing cycling fans a little bit more love and running the whole race (schedule here).

And if they’re riding in California, it’s only a few more weeks until the ice stops falling from the sky here and the riding season begins. (Not to worry, though, my bike tan from last season is still highly evident.)

Wintry Mix

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About 98% of the time I have no patience for people who live here and complain about the winters. For one thing, I have lived in a darker, snowier, nastier, generally much wintrier place — the Salt City knows when I’m talking about it — and when I moved back here from the Land Where Your Feet Are Never Dry, this felt like paradise. For another, if you hate it so much, don’t just sit in the locker room griping about it — move! Millions of others have debarked for warmer climes.

But there is a tiny percentage of the time when I have had enough of the place, too — during ice storms. Trapped in the house, watching ice build up on the trees and powerlines, waiting for something to come crashing down and (best case) plunge us into darkness. We removed several threats to health and home in the form of giant maples trees last spring, but the neighbors all have disasters waiting to happen wrapped around the power lines. got through the night safely, though our one remaining tree did donate a major limb to the garage roof just as I was about to step outside and start hacking the ice from the driveway. I don’t need a second warning, and just stepped right back inside. Today, much nicer and the first sun in a week, but not enough to melt the ice from the trees.

Side effects include what, now?!

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I think I’m something of an anomaly in our modern world and maybe I’m not doing my part for the economy, but I’m one of the least medicated people around. I gave up on the whole hair concept, my arousal needs no pharmaceutical incentives, and my blood pressure is still so low I get dizzy when I stand up. So, other than a daily allergy spray, I’m free to scoff at the nightly barrage of prescription pharmaceutical ads. But I do have what they used to call the crazy legs, only now it’s called “restless legs syndrome.” And now there’s a medicine for it. And even then, I’ve probably heard ads for it a hundred times without really listening, until last night I was half-listening and suddenly one of the dire warnings of side effects filtered through — “may include compulsive gambling.” I had to roll the DVR back to be sure that was really what they had said. Listen, I expect that when I have to resort to pharmaceuticals, I may experience a little drowsiness, a little shortness of breath, a little lightheadedness — NOT the sudden onset of an addiction I previously didn’t have.