Monday, August 7, 2017

Couch to NEBRA Adventure Ride

Adventure Ride sock game on point. By Michele
I consider myself a "Gravel Specialist" Or a semi-retired, recovering cyclocross addict. We all have our internal story lines about who we are and how we identify ourselves. So when my two worlds collide I get very excited. If you are unfamiliar with NEBRA or the NEBRA Adventure Ride. NEBRA is New England's local association for USAC. They work to grow the sport of cycling in so many ways. A ton of my friends are a part of this organization so I am always happy to help them in any way I can. If it includes a cool adventure ride in Western Mass curated by Resultsboy it is like the icing on the HUPcake. This is the second year of the ride. It is like a baby D2R2. With a little bit of a VT Overland influence. Dirt roads, jeep track, some gnar as well as some fairly brutal paved climbs all add up to a really fun day on the bike. Last year I did the short ride. This year I was peer pressured into doing the long ride.

HUP There it is. Courtesy of Lesli

Ok for full disclosure. I got the email where DJ Robert instructed the team to wear Blue. As you can see from the photo above I may have missed that part of the email and grabbed my usual OG Noir. I wear the black for all the right reasons. It did make for a pretty hilarious team photo! I will say that. It has been a while since we have had a HUP crew like this all together. My excitement got the better of me I won't lie. I had told my friend Matt that we would do the short ride. Now for the record there was most definitely NOT a 35-mile option. He kept saying we were doing the 35 and I was like wut? So we rolled out with a HUGE HUP posse. I had full intentions of sticking together with the team. So when we got to the split between the 45 and 70 I went straight with the team. Then waited. Matt looked at me with pretty much a death stare across the road. And then reluctantly pedaled over to us. He was not "happy" He had just come off a week's vacation that from what I could tell was one non-stop cocktail party with maybe one ride with Jerry in to break things up a bit. But how could you be super mad about riding with the HUP train?

Rest Stop Boss Meg by Lesli

My legs felt like shit. Seriously. I have been doing ZERO riding. I have been on my bike maybe twice a week. Dadding is hard. Summers mean full on dad duty 24/7. So both Matt and I were doing this ride pretty much right off the couch. Now once you get past say 30 shit gets real. It is sooooo inspiriting to see aging athletes who stay fit and get faster as they get older. But yeah I peaked back before we had kids. The last year I was "fit" was maybe 2013. That was a long time ago. It is hard to fake a long ride even when you are young if you haven't been riding. Over 40 it is rough let's just say that. But luckily we had a lot of help from our friends. Meg, JD, John, Oscar and Steve set up some great aid stations. Each aid station was so unique and reflected each hosts personality. I brought along Endurolytes and Margarita Clif Blocks. I was not going to die without a fight. Robert's potatoes also were a life saver. The team rode so well together. HUP is so special. It is just such a great crew. Matt may have cursed me a few times but riding the first half with the team was so great. Some really hilarious moments.

HUP Train kept a rollin by Michele
I think the highlights of the first section were riding under French King Bridge and hitting the sand box section at warp speed. Guthrie and I went through those sand pits like bosses. I will say this, the team is going to be flying this September. Matt, Michele and I would get popped off the group on the extended paved climbs. It hurt. A. Lot. But it was worth it. We would always be rewarded by some screaming descent or great jeep track for all our hard work. At aid station two I knew Matt and I needed to pull the eject cord on trying to ride the tigers tail of the HUP train though. The good news was at aid station two you could rejoin the 45 loop. It wasn't a true bailout but we really weren't doing that bad. And it was mostly downhill from there right? The second half had some really awesome sectors. My favorite was definitely Rattlesnake Gutter. It was a gorge basically. Rough gravel descent that was kind of off camber. Looked like one side had washed out. We had grouped up with the Pedal Power/Atomic Roaster crew. Matt and I are built for descending so it is hard to sit back when a choice descent like this opens up in front of you like a magic unicorn. I knew the three riders in front of me were CX racers and would not totally freak if I past them. So to make it funny instead of obnoxious I used my best Quebecois accent and said "excuse me I will be taking zee French Canadian line..." and high sided the berm and then dove into a gutter and then went to Warp Factor 11. It was incredible.

Couch to Adventure Ride is no joke by Lesli

We all rode back in together. Myette, Pat and Lauren did a three up sprint for the finish. I think Pat won. I was so hypoxic I could barely even see straight. Lauren just kept laughing and laughing. She really is the best. We got back in safe and sound. Zero flats. Zero mechanicals or biomechanicals. 61 miles. Just under 4 hours. Matt is pretending he hates me but I know he's glad he did our long/short hybrid route. HUGE thanks to HUP for being so amazing. HUGE Thanks to NEBRA, Colin, JD, John, Meg, Oscar, Steve and everyone who made this ride possible. You have to do this ride next year. It is soon much fun.

Live to ride, ride to live by Guthrie
A couple of quick thoughts. One. See the above photo? My teammate and friend Guthrie rode that on the long loop like a boss. Then commuted to work the next day on the same bike. Jesse rode a single speed. Two ladies drove up from Boston with City bikes and flat pedals. They had googled "fun bike rides in Mass" and found out about the ride. They are heroes and the type of people we need to welcome and bring into cycling. It really was the best story of the whole ride. The two of them had fun, smiled the whole time, never complained, thanked everyone, had pizza and beer and hung out after. A lot of bike racers could learn a thing or two from them.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Better Fred than Dead

Ok what the hell is a Fred and what is Chip talking about. The above image makes sense to my five loyal readers but to this generation probably not. I was going to add a Right Said Fred image but that probably would scare more of you off than Fred and Barney. So a "Fred" if you are unfamiliar is a derogatory word elitist (read: Roadies) used to describe the general cycling public. It was usually a thinly veiled fat joke. Fred was certainly better than wanker I suppose which could have caught on but thankfully didn't. We all stopped being "Freds" when Lance came along. Sorry not sorry. Y'all may get triggered by Lance and I am not defending him and his cohorts but he made cycling cool. At least in 'Murica. Cipo is not cool. He is up there with Right Said Fred. Some kind of euro freak show. America likes Nascar. And Kid Rock. You do the math. But anyway. Around the time Lance got vilified and blamed for a entire culture of doping cycling become uncool. Like really uncool. I was there when lots of super smart people tried to make cycling like surfing culture. Nope. Never gonna happen. Cycling is about the proletariat it will never be cool. 

So yeah from the photo above you can see I am 100% Fred. I mean seriously. Total ridiculous fanboy. I am co-DS of a faux Belgian anti-team. I almost got in a fist fight with an actual PROfessional cyclist over a Lion of Flanders flag and my Belgie Nationals kit. I blame that Vet on that though. He started it. And almost had me "finish" it. Although pretty sure I would have lost that fight. But who knows. Just cause you are pretty don't mean you can fight. Right? Anyhow. I am happy about being a Fred. I have always been an outsider. A dork. You name it. Nerd. Geek. Those used to be insults. Now they are badges of honor. Its great the kids can take their freak flag and fly it high. We got in legit fights over that shit. You want to fuck with my leather pants? Bring it. I hope you are actually ready for a fight. But nerds and Freds have taken over. Which is "good" I guess. I love that my kids don't want to go to "liberal" arts schools. They want science and biology. The future is bright. I came from a generation of slackers.

Ok so where is this going? I get it. You want a magic bullet to protect you. My good friend Mr Surly Wrench once said "Death comes ripping" And it does. It feels like it does more so for us on a bike and exposed to all these distracted drivers. I almost died today. Literally. A few weeks back I got lectured by a nice gentleman *cough STALKER *cough about how no one could see me in my HUP kit. He was of course wearing hi viz and had a blinky light. It was fucking noon. And sunny. Old Chip would have punched this mansplaining freak in the throat. Sure I may have pulled out a few tricks to ensure mister Hi Viz Safety Officer got that I am not his bitch and he was not going to pass me on the inside of some high speed turn. But I have mellowed with age. Kind of. I did want to punch him in the face. I also wanted to educate him. So we had a chit chat. I think he was confused that I was able to keep up with him on my CX bike on the road while he was riding a 10k Titanium Dentist Bike. I had my say and peeled off. But it has been stewing. I am not mad but as Mikey would say DEATH COMES RIPPING. You think if you stick to some "rules" you will mitigate your risk. No. Sorry bro. Only one thing mitigates that. Skill. Luck. And awareness. If some douche is texting and drives off the road they will drive through you and your high viz kit.

If someone is drunk they will just run over you. Plenty of drunk and high drivers plow into State Police cars on the side of the road with their lights on. Some say they are attracted to the lights. For the record. I wear high viz orange during hunting season. I ride ALL year round. Not just the Century season. I have a high viz Gore jacket and blinky lights. Again. It won't do jack shit to save your ass with a driver who is fucking updating their status or texting their girlfriend. You want to mitigate risk? Move to VT. Ride off road exclusively. But I like roads. I refuse to concede them to this cult of distracted drivers. I talk to so many people who would love to ride bikes. But they are scared. I don't blame them. They should be. I am terrified every time I ride with my wife. No disrespect to my friends who I love but I could not handle my wife being hurt on the bike. I just couldn't. Sorry if this is sort of a bummer. I want you all to be safe. If putting a strobe light on your bars and wearing a high viz kit makes you feel safe great. If rolling with a blinky light makes you feel safe great. If packing a Glock is for you godspeed. I don't wish any ill will to drivers. I know most are just uneducated. But we have to do more. We HAVE to figure this out. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Mr Mom

Now I know the five OG readers of this here weblog need no explanation of Mr Mom. Solid movie. Some of Mr Keaton's best work. Certainly better than Batman. So yeah I am a Mr Mom. Fuck you. Oops. Too far? Too soon? Probably. Pardon et moi. Mea culpa. Or My cup of tea or what have you. Am I angry? Nah. I am literally living the dream. I love my job. Best job I have ever had and by some people's measure I have had some dream jobs. My one regret is that that I never worked for Bill Strickland on Bicycling. It was complicated. I was out west when the Bicycling Santa Cruz office was open. It was like east coast vs west coast rap at the time and I didn't even know it. I have always been an easy going zero drama guy. But I digress. Santa Cruz. Or Sequel. Lost. I didn't even know how cool Emmaus was until years later when I went down for a Rapha G Ride. It is sort of like Game of Thrones. I wish I had sided with the Starks. But who doesn't? Right?

Do I look like a HOUSEWIFE? 

So here I am a budding writer/editor bike industry rat living in SF. I have some amazing experiences. I end up editor of a a local regional called California Bicyclist. Ok full stop let's talk about how that happened. I went to Art School. Moved to SF with my soulmate. She had aspirations of being a lawyer. I loved her so much I could forgive the lawyer thing. So we drive cross country in a Jeep. My red Jeep. All our possessions are in it. I think we had a microwave (?) a small TV and three grand. My dad and her brothers may have given us $500. One of her brothers worked at Coke and gave us a lifetime supply of McDonald's gift certs. We ate pretty much all our meals at McDs. So we roll into SF with cash and a jeep. We almost broke up in CO. Who knows why. CO is weird. Not really a fan. Sorry. But weird shit happens to me and my baby when we get a Mile High. Pam lands a job at a law firm as a paralegal. Did I mention I went to fucking art school? Yeah thanks Vince Frickin Van Gogh. Great frickin life plan. I love Marine Biology. Loved the sciences. Grandad was a surgeon. Was in the Battle of the Bulge. Mom was a nurse. Could have been a PT. Nurse. EMT. You name it. Nope Art School. #YOLO. Hashtags did not exist when I went to college. YOLO did though. It was called live fast, die young. I honestly thought I would be dead by 30. But that is another story. My wife saved me. Period.

Ok so we land in SF. I have odd skills. Like finding us a backup plan when our housing falls through. Boston connections come through. We stay in Monterey for a bit then end up in Pac Heights in a sweet apartment. Long before the Dot Com boom screwed everyone. I mean we paid $1,000 for a sick one bedroom in Pac Heights. That is hilarious right now. Our "date nights" were usually Johnny Rockets and a rented video. We had zero money. I worked odd jobs. Art Gallery. Bartender. Prep cook in a sweet breakfast place. I would work non-stop. And just leave crumpled cash on the dresser and then pass out. Pam and I would meet on the top of her law firm in downtown SF for lunch from Snookies Cookies. I would pick it up. Five bucks got you a sweet turkey sandwich and a cookie. Then the Loma Pieta Earthquake happened. And change EVERYTHING. I got hurt. I had PTSD. It changed the trajectory of my life. My wife was my rock. I got into publishing. I had worked in publishing before. I started in the art department of the before mention bike rag. I worked my way to the top. How? Out. Last. The. Bastards. Ok they weren't bastards. They were mentors actually. But I can outlast anyone. Smile and wave.

So I become editor. In fucking Chief. There is much crying and hair pulling and shit thrown around but guess what I am actually good at it. My ADD is a gift as an editor in chief. I can see beyond corners and multi-task like fuck. But of course publishing is dying. Sick. Such great timing. The rag folds. I go into corporate publishing. I land a job in PDX before PDX was PDX. It is good. My wife once again is my rock. My wife and I live an amazing life. She is my hero. I was raised by strong women. I dated a strong woman. I married a strong woman. She was a feminist long before it was cool to be a feminist. She has battled for every measure of success she has achieved. She and I are a tribe. I was raised to be loyal. She has always made me a better person. I am, or was, a highly superstitious person. I blame the Irish. And my small dose of First Nation Canadian blood that runs through my veins. My wife is 100% Irish. Her Grandparents were FOB. That tradition runs through her blood and I love it.

So when her brother had his first child and we flew to Atlanta and held that baby in our arms it was all over. Literally. Its cool if you don't want kids. I get it. But I am a certain man. I look into my bloodlines eyes and I get ideas. I am so glad my wife and I had those early years by ourselves to figure out who we were. So few couples get that. It brought us closer together and made us better suited for what was to come. So not long after that trip to Hotlanta "we" get pregnant. Haha. I say we. But come on bro. You are a supporter. The shit my wife went through was epic. The strongest person I have ever met. So we have Zoe. 9/5/2000. Best day of my life other than when I married my soulmate. So yeah. We left the east coast for lots of reasons. Boston is great. But it has a dark passenger. And its not high rent and the lack of avocado toast. She and I escaped. It was too much. I don't need to educate you on what it was like being raised in the NE in the 70s & 80s. Google it. But it makes you strong if it doesn't break you. And it makes you loyal to a fault.

So we are out in Norcal. First child. No family. A few friends that don't get us because we are like the Adams Family. I am in publishing making short money. My baby is punching through the glass ceiling like a BALLER and I am like ok I make X, Daycare is X. We can pay a super nice lady to care for our kid or I can do it. No brainer. I punch that clock. It was not planned. At. All. But I become Mr. Mom. Frankly it is all a blur. Zoe is super colicky. Cries seemingly non-stop until she is two. Things settle down. Mommy and Me classes. Park trip constantly. I pal around with one of Pam's friends Nannies. Yeah I am basically a Manny. But as much as Pam is skyrocketing to C-Suite executive she is beyond supportive. No male executive would give their female counterpart this type of support. I still ride bikes. She lets me race. I back off as I know I am it. I can't get hurt as I am the thin line that is holding this family together. We have so many amazing experiences. Then we want a tiny soda. A Pam Jr. And things get tough. Again, what Pam shows me in those dark times are the things that bond people together forever. Four years later Tiny Soda makes it down from Heaven.

And then we get the call. Move back to Boston. Pam is a ninja. She can see round corners and figure long term things out that no one can. She makes it happen. The OBGYN freaks. NO WAY YOU CAN MOVE. Um dude. Boston. I hear they have rad Drs there. And we move home with the luck of the Irish. And have Tiny Soda in Longwood as the Redsox win the World Series. And I commit to being that Mr. Mom in Boston. Oddly Boston is more accepting than Norcal of this gender role swap. Ok, my relatives from Rozzie say some insane shit. Our first Easter home my Uncle calls me a "Housewife" and all the women at the table almost give him a legit Rozzie curbing in the kitchen. Not today motherfucker. I laugh. Honestly with women in my life like this I don't need to throw one punch. And I am blessed. Boston is way more open to a stay at home dad. Sure I get some shit from dickheads at the dog park. And oddly those who should know better have called me a housewife like its an insult. First being a stay at home parent of any gender is a blessing. Second shaming someone for sacrificing everything for their family is BS. A younger Chip would literally fight dudes who called me that. But I have bigger fights like raising my kids as wolves. And supporting modern day feminists. I am so lucky. This crazy journey has taught me so much. And to all the #SAHDS out there you keep rocking out my brothers. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Lion of Burlington

The Lion of Burlington is an annual HUP tradition. It is equal parts BBQ/gathering and equal parts shake off the cobwebs and get ready for CX season "training" ride. Most of HUP heard their CX alarm clock go off on June 1st and did not hit the snooze button. HUP is a CX racing team with an adventure ride/mtb racing habit. Michele and Ed have been hosting the LoB for some time now. Each year I emphatically say it is the "BEST ONE EVER" And each year it is true. Michele and Ed outdo themselves every year. They are such great hosts and put on a great ride to get everyone hungry for all the grillables. Michele Smith is the co-DS of HUP NECX. She is a Level 20 Trail Wizard. And the driving force behind HUP United in the NECX. She really has made the team what it is right now. And what the team is right now is something really special.

HUP has been around for about 10 years. It began as a kind of "anti-" team. By "anti-" team I mean a team that was not about sponsorships, free stuff, infighting and a me first generally bad attitude. It was about friends piling into small vehicles loaded with bikes and racing CX. HUP has outlived so many clubs and teams. And done more to grow the sport than a lot of those disbanded teams ever did. HUP has always been about the grassroots and growing from the bottom up, instead of the top down. Don't get me wrong we have some very fast people on HUP. Some very dedicated and skilled riders. And a lot of people who work really hard all year around giving back to the sport. I think what makes me most proud is seeing how close we all are and how respectful and supportive we all are of each other. I mean we all like each other. Even after ten years! That is a pretty huge accomplishment for a bike team. Trust me.

One of the early principles of HUP was this concept of "One HUP Finds Another" It really is the best way to grow. Lion of Burlington gives us a chance to all get together in a low stress atmosphere and reconnect. Racing is always hectic. We love to have the Death Star at CX races and have a great time at the races. But racing is racing. Hard to not have nerves before and to be fairly cracked after. Rides like LoB let us hang out pretty much all day. We stop and take photos. Laugh about some crash or weird thing we saw at the last section. Just have fun. Like I said, HUP has been around a while. And we have teammates all over New England. So it is good to have events where we all can descend upon someones house and have a great HQ for a big ride. The ride itself is a true mixed terrain ride. We ride through a Mall! We ride through a model airplane landing area. We ride some great trails. And we ride through a parking garage. We also ride by something that can only be described as a Scottish Hooters. Are people's lives really this empty that they want to go to a Scottish Hooters? The parking lot was suspiciously empty. Thank god.

We rolled out around noon in a parade style rollout. I would say maybe 25 of us? Maybe 30. At one of the first trail sectors we split up into Fast, moderate and fun groups. I ended up sweeping the moderate group. I ended up riding with Todd R, Chris F, Kevin, Thea, Chris, Mike Golay, Jeremy and my friend Guthrie. We really were a perfect group. Everyone was on the same page as far as speed and mindset of the ride. Very little attacking or going after KOMs. Thank god because no way I could write any checks like that at this point. The group had the entire spectrum of bikes and setups. Kevin was on a BALLER Santa Cruz CX bike and was rocking 47 slicks. We called them "hint of filetreads". On the other side of the pendulum we had Mike on his HT 27.5 XC race bike. I would say 99% of us were on some type of disco CX bike. My favorite parts of these rides is when you sort of session things. The group would come up to some obstacle or drop off or something and a few people would scope it out and then we would just have fun and try and ride it. The things Kevin was able to ride on big slick balloon tires was pretty impressive to say the least!

The saving throw of the day was when we were rolling along Redcoat Lane and we saw a Garmin on the ground. GARMIN down!!! We returned it to Chris and were rewarded with first dibs on the good beer when we returned to the BBQ. Not that there was any lack of good beer at the BBQ! You know its a magic cooler when you go home with more good beer in your cooler than you arrived with! I am going to need to schedule a ride just to get people to my house to help me drink all this beer!

Our ride really was uneventful which is a victory in my mind. One flat. One issue with #rareplants. But all in all zero problems. Just a blast on the bike. Can't even wait for the next ride/BBQ. Thinking it will need to involve some swimming hole somewhere. Plotting and scheming as I type this here blog post. HUGE thanks to Michele and Ed our Alpha-HUP and master hosts! When Ed goes tactical on the grill everyone is happy! HUGE thanks to all the HUP who came out to play and hang out. HUGE thanks to Zac Daab our founder and top supporter. He has always supported us. And continues to do so on a level that means so much to us. Michele and I are so grateful to ZD for all he does for us and the team. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Ronde Redux

Rolling on the NTF bike path photo by Russ 
This post is alternatively titled HUP Plus Russ and Never Surrender. But I stole the title Ronde Redux from my friend Guthrie's Strava and like it. The Ronde de Rosey is a monument of NECX CX. It is a HUP/Zank colab that really is an excuse to ride in the woods all day on CX bikes and then retire to the Washington Square Tavern for burgers and beers. My co-DS and trail wizard supreme Michele Smith has been putting together the gps file for the event and helping steer all of us through the route safely for years. This year was probably her best wizardry. I would send her snippets of Strava files after I would do recon on a section. She put it all together to basically make a Greatest Hits of the #CBL. All my favorite places to ride melded together to one really awesome Ronde route. She knows more about route creation than anyone I know. Unfortunately she couldn't ride the actual Ronde. So we agreed a do over was required. We assembled a rad crew and set out from Cafe Fixe at 8 am this past Sunday.

HUP plus Russ=Michele, Russ and Chris
It was so great to see the crew. It had been way to long since we all last rode together. I told my wife I would be home by noon. And would love to go to Yoga at 6 pm. Spa Yoga sounds pretty nice. I mean they give you chocolate. As we rolled out we caught up on the usual things. Just chatted and rolled through Brookline. It was a beautiful day. Not to be a jerk but the early stages of the actual Ronde can be how you say "spirited" Any time you get 120 bike racers together even if it is for a benefit ride they get frisky. And even though you may know a lot of them they may do certain things on the bike that may surprise you. A four person crew like this is solid. You don't even need to rely on verbal communication. A hand signal. A shift of the bike. They know what you are doing. It frankly is what I value most in riding friends these days.

Disaster strikes in Cutler by Michele

We pop into Skyline and the trails are in great shape. We flow through the woods and come out by the golf course. We are having a great time. I ask if Michele wants to follow the route exactly as it was a month ago or whether she wants to freelance a bit. We had a ton of rain this spring so we had to reroute around some very wet trails. Most all of them were dry now so we didn't have to avoid anything. Michele and Chris both liked the idea of doing the route as it was designed. I was fine with that. Now for a bit of perspective for those who maybe aren't familiar with the Ronde de Rosey. It is a Park to Park CX ride. You ride from one park to another. Avoiding paved roads as much as possible. It goes from fireroad to single track to legit mtb trail to bike path and all shades in between. Cutler is a renowned destroyer of bikes and bodies. It is sneaky as it is a very mellow place to ride. But I think it is cursed. Like something super dark resides there and doles out beat downs when it is feeling agitated.
HUP There it is by Russ

The trail we call West Side is on the other side of 95. It is a trail. Sort of. It is overgrown and gets zero love. People throw trash out their windows onto it from the highway. I have found dead deer across the trail. But it keeps you off pavement so is a win in my mind. We are cruising along hopping logs and traversing stream beds. We are about 45 minutes into the ride. When disaster hits. Ok that is dramatic. Medi-flights weren't called in. But anyway. I am behind Michele. I hear a stick suck up into her rear wheel. Before I can even say "wait" The stick has Tomahawk chopped her derailler off. Ok then now its an adventure! We proceed to assess the situation. Rule #1 of a good crew. No one FREAKS out. Very important. We actually all were still in really good moods. Even Michele who's bike was just pretty much FUBAR'd. And it was. We take the mech off. Michele amazingly has a spare hanger in her kit. People LEARN from Michele. She carries actual things that are useful on an adventure ride. Spare hanger, duct tape, zip ties. I need to start doing this. And wearing sunblock. But I digress.

A quick trip to the HUP SSC and we are back on the road

Ok so we turn the bike into a semi-operational SSCX bike. And by semi I mean every time the chain is under load it falls off or shifts up and jams. We flounder through the woods until we punch out back on the road. Again, no one is getting mad. No one tossed a bike. No one is even in a bad mood. We roll back to my house and the HUP SSC. Luckily (and I still don't know how this is possible) Michele is my bike twin. I have two other bike twins. Abel and LPB. Bike twins are a beautiful thing. It means you share the same position so we literally don't change a thing on the bikes. We put her pedals on my green SSCX fix a flat and off we go. The fact that Michele is psyched about riding 40 miles of the Ronde on a single speed with disc brakes and tires she has never used is incredible. Again, my hero. And embraces the whole "Never Surrender" attitude. I won't lie. When we came home to my house and my wife and kids were eating quiche I was almost like "hey you guys have a great ride I am gonna eat brunch and hit the hot tub" But we were on a mission.

Always stop at lemonade stands by Michele
The ride takes on a whole new life with Michele riding Jager. That bike has secret powers. SSCX can be a blast in the woods. I hate climbing so any route I design will be light on the climbing and high on the rad scale. We find some really cool stuff out on the route. Stop to check out black snakes, road kill, all the stuff you miss when you are chewing off your stem trying to go as fast as possible. We stop at a Dunkins and refuel. The ride is going so great. Chris has become some kind of death magnet for snakes, birds and chipmunks. It is like the woodland creatures have been communicating and are attacking him at every moment possible. We somehow survive this attack by nature. Sometimes it does feel like the trails are trying to exact some pound of flesh for past or present transgressions.

Stairway to Heaven by Michele

I am getting a bit bonky. Not full bonky town but close. I really haven't eaten much food. We have been riding for about seven hours. Ok our ride time isn't seven hours but we have been on the road for seven hours. Spirits are still high but I am now in full tractor beam mode to get back to the Tavern. All I can think about is that burger and cold beer. All we have left is the nice new aqueduct sector. As we roll on the pavement and are about 500 feet from the trail I see a lemonade stand. Damn I think. One of my sacred rules in life is always stop at a lemonade stand. I mean kids put their hearts into those. Anyone who is resourceful enough to do that deserves a few bucks. Even if the lemonade is horrible. Which it often is. So I lead us past it. Michele comes up and tells me the stand is for Gender Equality. I am like WUT? No way. I hop the curb and roll right back. I see their sign. I congratulate these young women for being a part of the resistance. We give them all our money. We leave with our pockets filled with brownies and our hearts filled with hope that the world is not totally going to hell in a hand basket. We get back to the Tavern just as Gerry is pulling up in his truck.

We share all our stories and enjoy a great meal and cold frosty beverage. Then we slip back into the night and our respective lives. We are so lucky to have this life and these great friends. Such a great day on the bike. Thank you to Michele, Russ and Chris for always being such a great crew.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Shake it Off

The title of this post is not an homage to Taytay. This post is about pain. And injury. And the horrible job we all do managing both. "Shake it Off" "Rub some dirt on it" "HTFU" "Get up" We have all heard those things at varying decibels yelled at us in our athletic careers. Or our time riding and racing a bicycle. Grand Tour season means we get to see vivid photos and video of some poor bastard who hit the deck ripped all his spandex (and skin) off and rode to the finish line. Hard man. Tough. The envy of all. This isn't about me or cycling really. It is about being a good parent, dad and coach.

But like all things in my life the bike shaped me. It made me who I am. My earliest memory of childhood and getting hurt revolve around a bike race. I think I was 10? Maybe a bit younger. We lived on one side of a circle. My friend lived on the other side. It made for a perfect race circuit. The race started at my house. Two riders staged up. Then set out at warp speed. One took the low road. One the high. Who ever got to the Piersiak's house first won. We raced bikes when we got bored of rock fights, building forts in the woods and creating general mayhem. We were kids. It was a much more loose time in America. Your mom kicked you out around 9 am and didn't expect you home until it got dark.

So one day I was winning. Big time And I was sneaking little looks between the houses to see if Robby Sullivan was gaining on me. I was so stoked to be beating Robbie. We were arch rivals at this contest. I lost more than I won so this was a good day. My euphoria was about to be short lived though. As I bring my head around to look up the road I straighten up just in time to see a parked car right in my path. Luckily I am going so fast I don't even attempt to brake. There is no time anyway. I hit the car full speed and full on.

Now cars in the '70s were solid. Big. Metal. No plastic. I sail over the car and hit the hood. I sort of roll over it and land on my feet on the pavement. Well lost that race. Shit. I dust off my wrangler jeans and pick my bike up and start riding home. Pretty sure I had a concussion. Or just had my bell rung. As I am pedaling I notice my jeans are wet. Like soaking wet. Ok that is weird. I get home and find my mom. "MOM I CRASHED MY BIKE!" Moms looks at me. Ok you look ok. Then I lift up my jean leg. Massive cut across the knee. Blood is soaked all down the leg. It is making a nice red smile. My mom casually grabs a wash cloth and washes off the blood. Without washing her hands she pushes the fat that was sticking out of the wound and slaps a butterfly bandage on it.

She then waves her magic nurse wand and says I am ok and to go back out and play some more with Robbie until dinner is ready. This scenario on some level would replay again and again for my entire youth. My mom was a tough nurse from Rosindale. Her brother was a hockey player. They were dirt poor. Toughness wasn't a thing to be celebrated etc it just was. You were tough. Or you didn't survive.

But looking back and even reflecting on my adult life and my relationship with pain, injury and life choices I wonder just what type of dark passenger I really inherited. I really am not the type of person to look back and fret about things like that. At 50 you are in charge of your Karma. Own it. But when you have kids. And you coach other kids you start to change your view and think a bit about how you view injury, pain, toughness etc.

As a parent you want your kids to have a better life than you did. Even if you had the best life you want things to be better for them. And if you maybe had a tough childhood you want to make sure they live a pain free childhood. I know that is impossible but it is a good goal to have. The times are certainly different as well. And for the better. I am glad I am a man living in this age. I am more present than my dad or his dad ever were. I am certainly more "sensitive" than they ever were. And have been involved in the care of my kids from day one.

But I am getting way off track. This is supposed to be about Syd. Syd loves hockey. And lacrosse. Two sports I love. Two very tough sports. Syd has been hurt in hockey. A concussion. Separated shoulder. But as she has become a better skater and gotten a grasp of the game she has been pretty injury free. Knock on wood. I have always tried to balance telling her she is tough and celebrating that and letting her be not tough. But I sometimes probably put out that being tough is good. Syd has had a fantastic Lacrosse season. She plays goal. Goalies are like magical unicorns. Especially a good one. At her last game she stopped 11 shots. Only let one in. That is unprecedented.

The goalie in lacrosse is in a tough spot. I would say a save percentage of 50% is good. There is a saying that if you as the goalie stop two shots you can help your team win. That is how frequent the shots go in the net.

On that last game she got chopped from behind and fell. She seemed fine. Finished the game. Like I said its tough. She gets hit by balls in the leg, arm shoulder. Her pain tolerance is high. She was fine Saturday after the Friday night game. Then Sunday am she couldn't walk. I assumed it was a sore muscle etc. So I did what I do. I got her some treatment. Figured out a solution. Got her a brace. Taped the leg and off we went to LAX.

She had a good game but was obviously hurting. We went to see the Dr the next day. Orthopedist the next day. I breathed a sigh of relief it was just a strain and a hammy. No breaks or torn ligaments. Two weeks of rest. Ok no worries. A bummer but it is what it is. We did the same routine we always do. RICE. Tape. Stretch. Etc. It was getting better but not really. So we went to the Physical Therapist. At PT as I was describing past injuries and the PT was doing an assessment I had an epiphany. One of those the room goes real quiet and you sort of get tunnel vision moments. What are we doing I thought? I am pulling out all the stops to get a 12 year old in net for a town league LAX game. She is in pain. Her body is not working right. So I texted my friend Michele. She always gives the best advice. This article she sent me pretty much made me cry.

So, I let go of some of my old demons. Being tough is dumb. Especially when you are 12. We are shutting it down. I hope she feels better and can go back to LAX before the season is over but if she doesn't it doesn't matter. Getting healthy and healing is all that matters. I learned a valuable lesson from this. They say pain is a great teacher. It truly is. And in this case my 12 year old and her pain taught me one of life's great lessons.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

That which does not kill you makes you stronger

Kanye wrote those lyrics. Totally. That is my story and I am sticking to it. Ok maybe some german guy stole them for some techno song. I don't know. I am going with Kanye. He knows suffering. I mean look who is married to. But I digress. The point is no truer words about cycling have ever been rapped. Kanye was probably rapping about the GAME. Not sure what the GAME is but that is probably what he was rapping about. I mean the GAME could be basketball but I think he's too short for basketball. Boxing? Hmmm nah his wife could kick his ass. Anyway. For our purposes the GAME is the Biker Life. I came to the Biker Life a broken man. I never rode bikes past the age of 16. Once I got my license it was all mustangs and what ever other car I could beg borrow or steal from my family. Even the nerd kids (who I was one of) never rode bikes post 16. Ok that one kid did. The same one who wore a helmet when he rode (WTF?), ate a macrobiotic diet and his family composted. Yeah you can tell he was really popular in a town all about hockey, keg parties and muscle cars.

I played hockey. And lacrosse. Got into martial arts and windsurfing. Went to college. My college (RISD) had ZERO sports. But did have a cycling club. I thought they were weirdos. No way I was joining a cycling club when I could sneak into frat parties at Brown. So how did I end up in the Biker Game? After college my girlfriend and I packed all our belongings into my jeep and headed west to SF. It was the summer of 1989. We made it out in one piece and still together. There was a dicey moment in Colorado where she almost ditched me but we stuck it out. We found a place in the Marina in SF. Cute little place with a  deck. Rent controlled. This was before the whole disaster so rent actually wasn't that bad for two twenty year olds with entry level jobs. We lived a very simple lifestyle. I sold all my windsurf stuff. Ironic because I was now 5 minutes from a world-class windsurfing location but you have to eat and pay the rent. So I took up surfing. Much cheaper and still a lot of fun. I worked three jobs. Sometimes four. I had a job as a clerk downtown for a law firm. I say clerk but it was really gopher. Go get lunch. Drop off fed ex. File stuff into boxes. Total glamour job. But they were nice so I stuck with it. 

On October 17 I got out of work a bit early to drop off some things for the office at Fed Ex. It was a gorgeous day. SF is truly one of the most beautiful cities in the world. As I was walking towards to the Fed Ex office it was like a wave rolled over the city. I am sure it was some trick of my brain or something but I swear I saw the road come up in a wave like you would see in the Matrix. Then the buildings started shaking and all hell broke loose. Like I said we had just gotten to SF. In one of my jobs they had given us "Earthquake Training" That consisted of a pamphlet with panicked office workers hiding under desks or in doorways. I am one of those people who value safety so I pay attention to that stuff. For some reason one of the graphics in the pamphlet clicked in my brain. As the buildings were shaking and people were running my only thought was run for a doorway like the stick figure in the pamphlet and live!

Well, this of course was 100% the wrong survival mechanism. Yeah, if the whole row of buildings had collapsed maybe that would have been smart. And while the buildings weren't collapsing stuff was falling off the buildings. Facades, some glass. As I was running back towards the Fed Ex building a piece of brick about the size of a football went by my head and smashed into my leg as I was running. I was sure I broke my leg but I was running so fast I was able to dive over the counter and tuck myself under the counter with all the workers. Totally surreal moment. The shaking went on for a while. My leg was pretty jacked up. I couldn't walk. I think I held the hand of one of the Fed Ex workers as the building groaned above us. I was pretty sure I was going to die.

But then everything went quite. Then sirens and car alarms kicked in and it sounded like a disaster zone outside. I convinced the nice worker who's hand I was holding to drive me to the ER because my leg was broken. She put me in her car and drove me out to the Sunset. When she dropped me off a whole triage unit rushed out to see only me. They literally said are you the only one? I told them my story and they examined me and took X-rays. Somehow I did not break my leg. I walked home to see the Marina engulfed in flames. My apartment was fine and my girlfriend was in our living room eating all our survival supplies. You are supposed to have 7 days of food and water. We had a cocktails party worth. It was gone by night fall. The following weeks were something out of a dystopian novel but in no time things were back to "normal" I however was not "normal" I was suffering from pretty serious PTSD. And my leg was pretty messed up. While it wasn't broken I had a bruise from my femur all the way to my foot. I couldn't really walk.

I ended up losing my job downtown because I couldn't go into a building downtown. Felt like my whole world had collapsed no pun intended. I found a good therapist. Her office was on the outskirts of downtown. She was a super nice lady. We would take little walks towards the office buildings and then talk and sit down. I used to make her cry in our sessions. Therapy worked but it really didn't fix me. To help with my leg the PT suggested bike riding. I thought that was silly but borrowed a bike from a friend and rode over the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin. And that is when my life changed. I fell in love with the Marin Headlands and mountain biking. I found a job at a small rag called California Bicyclist. The crew that worked at Cal Bike were the most rad people I had ever met. And it set my life in an entirely different trajectory. The Biker Life saved me. It took years to shake off the PTSD. But it finally went away. The Biker Life continues to boggle my mind. It is not easy. It seems to be the hard way. But the rewards are endless. All my friends are bikers. I have more friends than I deserve. I have a community that I can count on and that gives so much back. I am so lucky to have been hurt that day. If that hadn't happened I don't even know how my life would have turned out. Thank you to all of you who have made this life so great.