Friday, December 19, 2014

Ah, to hell with it

I had a good couple of days on the bike last weekend. Despite the drizzle and general yuckiness of the outside world, I got 2.5 hours of strong stuff on Saturday, and followed it up with a hard 90 minutes on Sunday on the trainer.

"Perfect weekend," I thought on Sunday night. "I'll ride hard on Tuesday and Thursday and ride to work on Wednesday and Friday. Gonna be a good, strong week."

I haven't ridden since Sunday. I haven't done much, it feels like. Work is super stressful and busy (forgot to eat lunch yesterday), and I don't have time to give away even 45 minutes to ride to work. And when I get home, cook, wrangle the kids and chill for a few minutes, getting on the bike is just not in the cards. Like, at all.

So this week was basically a wash. I'll get a couple of rides in over the weekend, and I was hoping to ride to work all next week. Maybe that will wait a bit, too. Who knows?

I do know, however, that there's not much time to mess around. On 1/1/15, the switch gets flipped whether I'm tired from work or not. Better just buck up and get used to it.

That works for going fast, right? Just talking about it?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Break out the classics

Maddy is a talker. She jabbers on and on, mostly to herself, about pretty much anything. I guess that's one of those healthy imagination things, because Jack used to do it, too. Maddy is just past her third birthday, which means letters like R and L and Y aren't quite dialed. CH sounds like she's leading with an S on the front.

Was Jack like that? We don't know. But we consulted our all-time favorite video to find out.



With Jack's keen sense of delivery and stage presence, I'm sure he'll go far. So from our family to yours, here's an early MERWY CHWISTMAS!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Lester to Cubs

I was up kind of late last night. Actually, I'm up late tonight, too. But last night I was up late because I was hitting refresh on Twitter every few minutes, hoping for some good news on the baseball front.

Yes, it's December. But football is dumb and I've already read everything about Mike Riley.

The baseball winter meetings are going on this week in San Diego. Basically it's an offseason swap meet for Major League teams. Free agents meet with teams, teams talk trades, silly rumors fly all over the place. It's great, actually — and even better in the social media age.

For the last three years, the Cubs have been mostly absent from these meetings, because everybody knew full well that Theo Epstein was in the middle of a total gutting of the system. As such, the Cubs had no need for any sort of top- (or mid-) level free agent. No need to pay extra to finish last anyway.

There was no real big news when I went to bed last night around this time.

But when I was up early this morning, one of the first tweets I read was this one: Lester to Cubs.

Three words that blew my mind at 5:30 a.m. The Cubs, last place for three seasons (and seemingly forever), signed the biggest free-agent pitcher on the market, Jon Lester. The Cubs did this. My Cubs. (My Cubs?) Earlier in the day, they traded for an all-star catcher. And a few days ago signed another pitcher to bolster the rotation.

The Cubs did this. This is strange because the Cubs have not historically done this. They get big free agents, sure, but they're two years past their prime and on the way down. This? This is way different. Those moves added to a team that played .500 ball from May onward last year means a big, big shift in the plan.

Time to win, starting now. And this isn't a cobbled-together, win-now-because-this-is-our-chance type of thing. Everybody is young. Everybody will still get better. Read this for the background, then think about the new additions.

I think it might actually be time to be optimistic. Like, to have actual hope and everything.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Online identity

I was looking at my LinkedIn profile the other day, for some reason. I think it was because I got a notification on my phone that somebody else was looking at my profile, too. I later disabled that notification, because who cares who's looking at my profile. But it got me looking at my profile anyway.

Other than a job-title change, I haven't touched it since about two years ago. At that time, I was a freelance writer (read: unemployed), and just wanted to let the people (any people who would give me money) know that I was easy-breezy and ready to write whatever. The part of the profile where you tell people who you are and exactly what you do (or want to do) is still the same. I'm a writer.

Except I'm not, really.

My Facebook profile lists my occupation as a freelance writer, too. I haven't changed it, mostly because my current job title and description sounds like the worst thing in the world: workers' compensation claims adjuster. The first time I heard it I was convinced it actually was the worst thing in the world (it's not). So I never changed it. Also, I don't want people congratulating me for a job change that happened almost two years ago. Stupid Facebook.

But for some reason, despite two profiles saying I'm a writer and months and months of empty space and no words saying I'm clearly not, I keep getting the feeling I should be writing something. And it should be more than just this blog or the occasional newspaper story.

When we were home over Thanksgiving (which was awesome because we went to Premier, saw a movie, drank coffee, froze our asses off and just played Legos for hours on end), I read a story from the Washington Post that heralded Nebraska — with its vast expanses of nothing (and everything) — as the most beautiful place in the world. For some reason, it made me wish I could stay in Algona longer — like for the whole next week, too.

When I daydream, I often come back to the same vision — packing things up and disappearing into the wilds of Nebraska for a month or two. (It's not just me, by the way — we all go.) We don't travel on the Interstate, ever. And hopefully we don't use the US Highways, either. It's all local roads and the long way. I've ridden my bike all over Omaha and Council Bluffs, and around Algona, too, and it's the blacktops and gravel roads that hold the magic of a place.

There's something out there in the small towns. I felt it in Algona, and I felt it in Le Mars when we were there for the race. I could have stayed all night. I want to go up and ride there sometime in the summer.

And I want to figure out what it is that's putting the thought of a monthlong road trip (through what is almost literally the middle nowhere) into my head. It's stuck in there pretty well, though.

Maybe sometime soon I'll figure out why.


Saturday, November 29, 2014

One more day in the sun

Good old Iowa.

On Wednesday, it snowed a bunch up north. Like 6 to 8 inches or so — and then it blew around a whole bunch. On Thursday, it was bitterly cold and just generally uncomfortable.

Friday started a bit cold, which made my morning opener session less ... uh, open. And it was icy and snowy all over, which made me and my bike a damn mess.

But Saturday - oh, man, Saturday! We (Johnny, another Algona boy and I) headed to Le Mars for Frosty Cross. I've been looking forward to this for a while, not only because it's the end of the season and I'm ready to move on, but because the guys at Bike Central spend a lot of time and money to put on a great race.

And IT WAS 55 DEGREES at race time. Of course, the flip side is that all of that snow had to melt. For the most part, the course was in good shape. But the parts that weren't were really muddy. How muddy? Enough to require power washing after the race. It's been a while since that happened.

Anyway, it was warm and sunny I wore summer kit and it was super fun. I kind of ran out of gas in the last 20 minutes or so, but it was an OK end to the season. I'll probably keep it pretty low key this week and then start thinking about next year. I signed up for Cirrem, for some reason, so that will probably provide plenty of motivation. I know I could go do it right now, but I'd like to go fast.

So that's that for 2014. Thanks to Flatwater Cycling and our sponsors — like Joyride Bicycles — for the support. We had a great year and I'm psyched to do it again next year. See you on the road.

Friday, November 28, 2014

No, really - it's going to be muddy

My prediction of mud didn't come true last week. Not really, at least. There was some mud, but it wasn't that bad. I wiped it off easily at the end of the race.

But tomorrow, it's really, really going to be muddy. It snowed seven or eight inches in LeMars earlier this week. Today it's going to hit 40 or so, tomorrow it's going to be in the mid-50s. And ahead of my race at 2:30 will be five or six other races that will basically just churn everything up.

It's going to be great!

And then it's going to be 18 degrees on Sunday. I am not racing my bicycle on Sunday because that would be silly. Well, I'm not racing specifically because I want to avoid silliness, but it will be silly. And our schedule won't work for it anyway.

But mostly, it's the frozen mud ruts. I'm OK with missing out on that.

Two more days until peppermint stick ice cream. Lots of it.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Ride it! Ride it! Ride it!

Matt Steele took this photo of me probably about halfway through Sunday's race in Lincoln. It's a pretty cool shot. It confirms that I'm actually sort of doing it right with remounts.

Of course, the flip side to this is that I'm hopping back on at the top of Hooligan Hill, the famed "Oh, he can ride it ... or maybe he CAN'T!" feature of the Pioneers Park course. Earlier in the day, I saw a video of some of the juniors riding it and thought, "Eh, no sweat."

It rained a bit between then and when I rode. Even in warmups, it wasn't a huge deal. Some slipping, but I made it OK. It was not the same story during the race. Definitely slipperier and definitely torn up. By my count, I full-on ran it once, rode it twice and the other four laps were some mix of screwing it up and bailing. This is most likely one of those latter four attempts.

I actually did OK overall. I mean, still in the bottom half of the race, but not terrible. It's all relative, you know? And I'm fine with that, because that's everything I have. I went as fast as I could go. I even managed to wheeze a bit in there, and almost died after grabbing the remains of a can of Ranger IPA. I don't drink that crap when I'm not riding a bike, so why I thought it was a good idea in the middle of a race is beyond me.

Anyway, my lone disappointment from the race was not being able to ride that stupid hill on every lap. Why? Because while not terribly adept at a few of the finer points of ... well, most of bike racing ... I wanted the hooligans to watch me go past and say, "Well, he's getting his ass kicked but the guy can ride." The truth is that I can sometimes ride. With two to go, I nailed the hill. The last time up, I wasn't close. I still think the time I ran it the whole way might have been the fastest.

But then I also think that I might actually get good at this someday. I'm not altogether sure. More than once this year, I've wondered exactly why I continue to donate $30 a shot to have my brains beaten in by arguably the strongest local peloton in the midwest. And I ride a ton. I should be at least kind of OK. Most of the time, however, I'm not.

I thought about dialing back the racing, or maybe just changing from training to riding my bike lots and lots. That's actually one of my most favorite things — riding lots and lots. But if I'm putting in that much time, I might as well keep trying to be fast.

Also, a long time ago Mark predicted I'd be out of road racing within five years. Burned out on the grind and the constant drive to improve. This is the end of the fifth year. I can't let him think he was right (again)!