Monday, May 31, 2010
I had no idea this performance ever occurred. I found it by accident after hearing "Solsbury Hill" on Pandora and then looking for a video on YouTube. I'm supposed to be reading some John Thellwall for my archive chapter, but instead, Peter Gabriel got in my head and won't let go.
"Red Rain" is ambiguous on many levels, as is all the best of Gabriel's work. The rain can serve as a metaphor for guilt, trauma, emotional release, or sexual awakening. But I always read such conceits through my twin lenses of Marxism and environmentalism, and this habit is my greatest weakness as a critic. In this case, the acid rain / nuclear fallout imagery of the metaphor's vehicle breaks open a whole other tenor with the lines "I come to you, defences down / With the trust of a child." The speaker alternately flees and embraces the rain; what it portends, not even he can say. But there's an intersection in this song between psychoanalytic criticism and environmental catastrophe, an interplay that motivates much of the work of my dissertation Chair.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Nelson to sit and study this Caravaggio for hours. Images of John in the Wilderness pop up again and again in iconographic art, but the chiaroscuro in this one lends the figure a despondency that belies the greatness John would eventually achieve.
So I'm heading to KC to hang out with my old friend Carole and stare at "my" painting. But tonight, the Omaha Symphony is performing a program which includes Vaughn Williams's "The Lark Ascending," possibly my favorite piece of orchestral music and the apogee of the Romantic movement. Let's think: Renaissance painting with Carole, or Romantic music by myself?
Gotta go with Carole and sociability. I've been in the cave for far too long.
Friday, May 28, 2010
"Birthday" Redemske warned me that I'd face some traffic on the Old Lincoln, and I did: a red pickup full of teenage yahoos tossed something at me as they sped by, and two white pickups buzzed me. Evidently these motorists were in too much of a hurry to wait for oncoming traffic to pass, so they passed me at 55 without moving left AT ALL.
Why is it always pickups? 90% of my interactions with hostile drivers have been with guys driving pickups. Do I notice them because of their size--a larger and louder vehicle makes more of an impression--or is it the habits of the drivers? Do people who think they own the road tend to buy and drive pickups? Does the size of a pickup create a sense of entitlement? Do the gas bills drive the drivers crazy at the sight of someone traveling for free?
Of course, many drivers of pickups are courteous. But most of the cowardly jackasses who have nothing better to do than harass cyclists from the safety of their two-ton vehicles are driving pickups.
My Aunt Sandye swears that the size of a man's car is in inverse proportion to the size of his junk, and my old friend and teammate Amy Mackey, a Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps, used to yell at aggressive drivers, "Nice truck! Sorry about your penis!"
- 2.75 hours at base pace, or LE / Zone 2;
- It was 89 degrees when I got home;
- I drank 4 bottles of Gatorade, or 96 ounces, two of which were spiked with Endurolytes;
- I ate two gels;
- I felt NO bonk symptoms;I was fatigued, but not crashing from low glucose levels.
- noticed that I'd lost FOUR POUNDS! FOUR?!
- experienced severe dizziness after getting up from a seated or prone position.
My math indicates that I consumed over 1200 mg of sodium on my ride, but that I'd need another 96 ounces to offset dehydration. That's 8 bottles in 3 hours. How to carry all that? Any ideas on hydration / nutrition?
Thursday, May 27, 2010
However, it seems that most everyone else cheated, too, and Floyd just can't seem to handle the fact that only he--and Tyler, Millar, Vino, Ricardo, Rasmussen, Basso, Valverde, Zabel, Riis, Ulrich, Virenque, Pantani, Andreu, Museeuw--got caught. Seriously, almost every major name from the late 90's era has been busted, implicated, or confessed, yet NOTHING was going on at Postal, the team that dominated the sport when all this sh*t was going on? Please.
Yet Floyd's allegations of systematic blood transfusions and EPO use at Postal smack of sour grapes. His comeback attempt with Ouch / Maxis last year was a debacle, so maybe he thinks that his only option is to bring down the American gods of cycling.
I heard somewhere that Indurain only raced one TT in a Grand Tour without amphetamines. He still won, but it hurt so badly that he swore he'd never do it again. LeMond was right: it doesn't get any easier as you go faster. Even if all the riders are doped to the gills, riding 120 miles over 12,000 feet still hurts like a motherf*cker, especially when you have to do it again the very next day. If the great ones can win without dope, great. If they were all on dope, okay--as long as the sport keeps trying to catch them. But if the richest of the teams can buy wins because they can afford better doctors, then the sport is ruined.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
- One cannot put a star nut in a carbon steerer tube.
- There are very important washers on the bolts which secure the brake caliper to the front fork.
- Disassembling brake calipers at 2:30 AM the night / morning before a race increases stress levels.
- One cannot race effectively when one is half-convinced that one's bike is about to disintegrate.
- Many Open Master's riders in Nebraska are sketchier than their Elite 3 counterparts.
- Fast guys are fast no matter where they're racing.
- I hate humidity.
- My back hurts after 15 minutes of really hard pedaling.
- No amount of warming up compensates for a lack of anaerobic fitness.
- Doubling up for two categories of crit. racing demands a healthy aerobic base.
- Trading a week's training for 12 hours of bike building / repair is a sure-fire recipe for failure.
- Having the above as an excuse doesn't ease the sting of getting dropped.
- Getting dropped is simply getting dropped. There are no excuses.
- Brandon Fenster, Vaughn Pierce, Joe Savoie, Bryan Redemske, Craig Harding, Lucas Marshall, "Skinny" Mark Savery, The Skibas, C.T. Weatherman, Dan Spray, Janna "Old Lady" Vavra, and Rich Anderson are cool cats and/or good folks.
- The wrenches at both Trek Stores are top-notch.
- The Flatwater Cycling Team runs a great event.
- I'm slowly, slowly getting less slow.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
I muttered this BS repeatedly as I tried to swap all the Dura Ace 7800 parts from my old frame to my new one. I've always wanted be a self-reliant bike maintainer, so trial and error seemed like a good way to learn.
But while a man is learning how to catch a fish, he just might starve to death.
I spent 3 hours on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday working on the damn bike. I got everything off the old frame pretty easily, and I did a good job of washing and lubing all the parts. But figuring out how to remove the old rear derailleur cable cost me 2 hours, and trying to tune that rear derailleur was a clusterf*ck of the first magnitude.
The guys at Trek Store Papillion were busy tuning bikes in the shop's queue, but they managed to provide some good advice on cutting and wrapping the handlebar tape. Still, they were swamped, and I didn't want to take up the shop's paid labor time on my personal bike. So I managed to get everything installed, lubed, and greased, and then I drove the bike to our other store in Midtown and begged them for some tuning device.
I know how to turn a barrel adjuster. I know the theory behind the limit screws. I can remove a cassette, clean it, and reinstall it. I can clean and lube the pivot points on a derailleur. But setting the cable tension just baffles me.
With patient work from Bryan, Chris, and Jake, the rear derailleur stopped skipping gears and refusing to shift onto the 11 or 23-tooth cogs. But the job took an hour of frustrated fiddling becasue I screwed up THIS:
Incompetent might be the biggest understatement of the year so far. I had set the tab facing inward. Major suckage on my part, and it cost these guys a cumulative hour of their lives to fix my error.
I did manage to hang the front derailleur correctly, so that adjustment was pretty quick. Zenmaster Chris and his Furious Four also tweaked my headset, patted me on the head, and sent me on my way. I missed Wednesday Night Worlds becasue the bike only became operational at 5:45.
Eight hours of labor to build one bike. The cumulative advice of FIVE mechanics. Not bad for a first attempt? I don't know--it seems pretty ridiculous to me. And don't even ask about my 90-minute adventure changing the stem, a baffling enterprise caused by my screwing up the headset spacers. I finished that damn job in the dark last night.
Oh, the second aphorism?
"Every time I wash my car, it rains!"
I sometimes use this sentence in my writing classes as an example of syntactic ambiguity: what "rains," exactly? The car?
Anyhow, the bike is built, tuned, and ready to ride:
But it's pouring rain right now. No, not the bike. Bikes can't rain. But whatever "it" is-- it's raining.
A true Belgian hard man would take the new bike out, weather be damned.
I guess I'm not that hard.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Look for my Rocknasium boys in their black and white kits with the stone/cave/rock motif; one of them wears bib# 101 and another #106. Watch until the very, very end of the clip....
- Stripped all the parts from the old frame.
- Used the handy-dandy parts washer at the shop to clean the cranks, chain, derailleurs.
- Overhauled the headset.
- Installed headset, fork, and stem.
- Installed new bottom bracket and newly clean crank.
- Removed bar tape and shifters.
- Blew grime out of shifters and reinstalled them on bar.
- Installed the seatpost, stem, and bars.
- Lubed and attached derailleurs and brakes.
- Cut and routed new brake cable housing.
- Cut and routed front derailleur cable and housing.
- Cut rear derailleur housing.
- Spent 55 minutes attempting to remove old derailleur cable from rear shifter.
- Searched Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance for pointers on removing old derailleur cable from Dura Ace 7800 rear shifter.
- Searched Google for pointers on removing old derailleur cable from rear shifter.
- Asked Miah for pointers on removing old derailleur cable from rear shifter.
- Cursed for about five minutes.
- Vocally lamented my distance from the snarky and reactionary brilliance of Andrew Wike, my old teammate and favorite wrench.
- Patted myself on the back for helping get Andrew's girlfriend into Cornell Medical School.
- Remembered what I was supposed to be doing and cursed some more.
- Gave up in frustration and drove home.
- Calculated that the 6 hours of labor I've spent on this process, billed at $40 an hour (my approximate salary as a college instructor) has far exceeded the $100 this build would have cost me had I asked the shop to do it.
- Tried to imagine what kind of beer Redemske and Jacob might like....
UPDATE: this morning, I:
- Finally found a .pdf of Shimano's instructions online.
- "Shifted" onto the outside position in the shifter.
- Removed the old cable.
- Realized that I lost the cable I brought home last night.
- Resolved to work on the dissertation until the shop opens and then go scrounge a derailleur cable, wrap the bars, and beg George for advice on tuning the derailleurs.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Monday, May 17, 2010
I destroyed the Cane Creek Volos wheels in less than six months, so I bought a pair of Mavic Kyserium Elites that served me well until my crash in the Ozarks 7 weeks ago. I also despised the shifting of the TruVativ Roleur carbon crank, so I installed a DuraAce version that vastly improved the power transfer.
In the summer of 2007, the front derailleur hanger popped a rivet and tore out some carbon. After a four-week wait, Fuji sent me a rasta red and yellow Team Issue frame, a paint scheme so fugly that narry a picture of it can be found on the interwebs. I threw a fit, and they sent me this:
I didn't run the Eastons or the SRM, but you get the idea....
That one developed a crack in the carbon (enamel?) at the junction between the seat and top tubes, so they sent me a 2007:
Which ALSO developed a crack in the carbon in the exact same spot. Of course, I raced it for two and a half years, so....
Fuji had no 61cm carbon bikes left in North America at the beginning of 2010. None. So they sent me a 58 cm CCR1 made of a lower-grade carbon as a temporary replacement. Now, having waited three months, I finally have this:
Friday, May 14, 2010
I've whined plenty about the cold on this blog--but I had a trainer!
Whined plenty about the back on this blog, too--but I had a gym membership!
Here's the excuse: I couldn't pedal a bike without re-aggravating my lumbar spine, S/I joint, and hip bursae, so I hefted iron as much as my back would allow, spent some hellishly boring time on the elliptical at the YMCA, and tried to keep up with the yoga.
But my metabolism only lets me drop weight when I'm doing longish, easy cardio work. It's gotta be long enough to burn into some fat stores, and it's gotta be easy enough so I don't eat the doors off the fridge for two recovery days afterward. 90-180 minutes at zone 2 with some zone 3 intervals on the hills thrown in for flavor. That's the recipe that took me from 221 to 205 my first year of real racing, and that's what got me from 205 to 195 during the season the last three years. If I train much harder, I can recover only by eating almost exactly as much as I burn. If I train shorter amounts of time, I don't really burn fat.
I had the time this year to train long base miles; I had no teaching to occupy my time, just a book to research and write. But this winter, I couldn't sit on the bike without pretty acute pain. And I couldn't endure the mental torpor of indoor cardio for more than an hour. So I just kind of bloated a bit.
But thanks to a new stem and seatpost, I've finally been able to replicate the good fit from my old Fuji on my new warranty replacement frame. I've gotten my hamstrings flexible and my core strong, so I'm riding without any sharp pain. I still get residual tightness and stiffness, but that's slowly fading as the weeks pass.
So I was pretty excited to see a number this morning: 199.4. That's the first time I've weighed less than 200 pounds since November, when I really re-injured my back.
During my best day of testing with Judd Van Sickle, MS, Bio-mechanical Engineer and Cycling Coach at the UC Davis Sports performance Laboratory, I underwent a "Conconi" analysis, a graduated stress test performed on a Computrainer. After a 20-minute warmup, I pedaled 125 watts for one minute while Judd recorded my heart rate. He increased the difficulty in 25-watt increments every minute until I literally blew up and couldn't pedal any longer.
The goal of this test is to determine one's anaerobic threshold by finding a deflection point on a graph plotting the HR on the vertical and the power on the horizontal:
I'm told that my Conconi results are notoriously difficult to interpret. The goal is to find the deflection point at which the vertical increase in HR starts to level off; in this test, it's at 177 bpm. We use this number to determine heart rate-based training zones out on the road. The system's a bit more foolproof when training with a powermeter, but since I was a Collegiate "B" / Elite category 3 racer on a graduate student teaching stipend, I contented myself with a heart rate monitor. All of the "A" guys had power meters, but several of them are now on pro or elite amateur teams and winning races up and down the left coast. I never had that kind of ability.
The other helpful number this test provides is the magical power-to-weight ratio. I weighed 200 pounds that day, or 90.0 kg. By pushing 450 watts in a graduated Conconi test, I set a new Aggie record. It was tied later that day by Paul Mach, who's about to race the Tour of California with Bissell, and Tyler Dibble, a leg-breaker who is now racing on the Yahoo! team. But while I weigh 200 pounds, Paul is 140 and Tyler 160. See the difference? Paul also has a Vo2 max that's off the charts, while mine is pretty average.
My power output at threshold was 370 watts, or 4.07 Watt/Kg. To win the Tour, you need a 6 or higher. To race in the master's 1/2/3 peleton in Northern California (against Kevin Metcalfe, Mike Sayers, Chad Gerlach, Larry Nolan, etc--lots of national and world champion's stripes on the sleeves of those riders), 4.5 to 5 will usually suffice. To keep up with the fast guys around Omaha, I think I'll need at least a 4.5.
This year, my brute power is pretty good--I can still lift a ton of weight with my legs, and I can accelerate on a flat road from 25 to 35 mph at a pretty good clip. But my limiter has always been body mass. I've never gotten below 195 without feeling like crap by May. But this year, I'm not racing 6 times a month from March to June, so I can afford to spend more time on my aerobic base and weight loss goals.
The back injury and crappy weather robbed me of the chance to be big and fast in March. But maybe I can still be lean and weak in June and then grow lean and fast by August? The weight loss is harder to attain, but adding power is pretty easy for me, as is increasing my threshold. The max power's there. If I broaden my aerobic base and reduce my bodyfat, I can then bump up the anaerobic threshold with interval work, gradually increasing my power at threshold. If I can push 400 watts at threshold--and hold it for 30 minutes--while weighing 185, I might just be a wee bit better in a road race.
We'll see. I'm going long and slow this weekend. Wish me and my back good luck.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
I also indulge a residual anger about the way my ancestors were treated by the 18th and 19th-century Brits. The Irish were viewed as a different race, and the British Parliment instituted specific, discriminatory penal laws designed to repress and/or punish that difference. I'm a Celt, not an Anglo-Saxon, by self-definition and by old British laws. And as far as we can figure, my O'Brien ancestors illegally snuck into the US through Galveston, Texas, on the run from the British Army after conspiring in an uprising against British occupation.
Know what, though? In the 21st-century, I can PASS for American. Hell, I am American, by birth and by ideological loyalty. The only way someone learns about my ethnic heritage is from my last name. (Just like people know that Shaquile O'Neal is Irish becasue of HIS last name!)
But the grandsons of other immigrants can't "pass" like I can--and now their inability to pass can serve as probable cause for a police interrogation in Arizona.
I once got pulled over in Omaha for an inoperable tail light, and I was ticketed for failing to produce a driver's license because I'd left my wallet at home. If a legal resident of Arizona looks "illegal" to an Arizona cop, he can be pulled over, and if HE forgets his wallet, under their new law, he must be arrested. Race and/or appearance becomes probable cause, and shoddy documentation is treated like a felony.
But back to Irish Studies: I learned a lot about my "ethnicity" in formal classes at both public and private institutions. But again, Arizona differentiates between my ethnicity and that of the grandson of a Mexican immigrant. Or that of a Chiricahua Apache. Under another new Arizona law, it's okay for me to teach a "British Literature" class in Arizona--but not one on "Native American Literature." Teaching a class about the literature written by residents of Japanese internment camps would be illegal, too. But Holocaust Studies? That's okay.
The following paragraph from Salon catalyzed my thinking here:
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
The 35th anniversary of the Omaha Tornado of 1975 was last week. My reaction to those memories eluded me until I got into it with my mom on Mother's Day. She and I are still mourning the death of my grandmother last summer, and last week we finally sold her house. Now we're trying to sort out the detritus of a 94 year-old woman's accumulated material life. That's a nice way of saying there's a ton of stuff in the basement we have to sell or throw away. Sorting through all my Nana's stuff reminds me of the inevitable instability, frailty, and mortality of human life. It almost makes me WANT to settle down and opt for some fake permanence as a balm for the anxiety created by last year's recurring experiences with death and transition.
But no. Not yet. I still have some stuff to do with my life, and sadly, I won't be able to do it here in Omaha. Once I finish my dissertation, I've gotta leave again.
But the past I lived in Omaha is a large part of the me who'll decide the future destination--and that tornado 35 years ago showed me at a very early age the fragility and impermanence of our lives and works.
I was stuck at preschool for a few hours after the storm; my mother couldn't drive the mile from the drug store to the day care because of the damage and the police lock down. She only got access to the area because an old family friend showed up with his hearse and told the cops at the road block that he was picking up a body.
Now, 35 years later, I still vividly recall my realization that a single flash can blow away everything that seems so solid and intractable. And you know what? Sometimes that's a good thing. Wounds, traumas, and griefs can be just as ephemeral and transitory as those buildings.
I'm not only grieving the loss of my grandmother and grappling with her house. I'm also lamenting the absence of my California friends. Some of them are really suffering now, too. Permanent certainties have fluttered away on the breeze. Relationships end, careers disintegrate, families implode.
But one enduring certainty remains: the wind. Obsessive, haunting, inescapable wind. As Shelley called it:
|"Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;|
|Destroyer and preserver; hear, O hear!" |
Monday, May 10, 2010
Another version of this sentiment comes from Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers: "knowing you had it in you and you never let it out / is worse than blowing any engine or any wreck you'll ever have."
I'm really, really sick of researching 18th-century agrarian rhetoric. I've been hip deep in sheep dip for nine months, and I estimate that I've plowed through 50,000 pages of agricultural pamphlets, books, and periodical pieces. Enough already. It's time to start writing.
I have to read the collected works of Arthur Young this week--another 5,000 pages in his "Communications to the Board of Agriculture." Then, I'll outline and start composing.
I just hope all the research wasn't merely a convenient, chicken-shit way to procrastinate.
(Note the THREE farming metaphors here. Pretty damn slick, I'd say....)
Friday, May 7, 2010
Thursday, May 6, 2010
"The Iron never lies to you. You can walk outside and listen to all kinds of talk, get told that you're a god or a total bastard. The Iron will always kick you the real deal. The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. Always there like a beacon in the pitch black. I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs. Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds."
I used to lift a lot of weight. Well, I used to lift weights a lot. But I think cycling is just as demanding. Substitute "the Road" or "the Wheel" or "the Pack" or "the Climb" for Henry's "the Iron." You'll understand why.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Last year, Davis's squad bought a trailer to transport bikes to races up and down the west coast, and now non-racing members of the team are towing it to nationals behind a school van. They're also hauling bikes for teams from Stanford, Cal Poly, and Santa Cruz.
The three intrepid pilgrims stopped in Omaha to visit a team alumnus for dinner and a night in a free bed. I took a quick peek inside the trailer: 37 bikes, about 20 sets of race hoops, a bunch of trainers, and several disc wheels.
Do YOU remember being young and energetic enough to drive from California to Omaha?
These crazy little bastards left Davis at 1:30 PM PST on Monday and arrived in Omaha at 9:30 PM CST on Tuesday--driving the entire time. After Jess and I fed them and showed them various guest rooms and couches, they went silent as church mice for about nine hours.
Now they're on their way to Madison--a brief little jaunt of only 8 hours from Omaha. Good luck, boys. And Aggies--three National Team Omnium Championships in five years isn't THAT much to ask....