Sunday, March 29, 2009

One Thing


Sometimes you need that "One Thing" to help you keep it all together. It might be completely psychosomatic, like Dumbo's feather, but it still works. As long as you hold it, the rest of the chaos doesn't seem so troubling.

When I went to bed Friday night, I knew only one thing about the coming weekend---I was going to ride my bike Saturday morning for three hours. I had a brand new bike that had never been ridden, the weather was dry (for a change), and the rest of the weekend might well be given over to managing an emergency legal project with too many cooks in the kitchen and lots of moving parts.

But they can wait. Saturday morning for three hours is mine. And that helped a lot.

And The One Thing did not disappoint.

I had spent stolen hours during the week putting her together with the help of Phil Shama of Shama Cycles. Even though his main line of business is selling and fitting high end, custom bikes to people, not giving over part of his shop to instruct a cheapskate in how to assemble a bike, he believes to his core that sustainable and profitable businesses are built on relationships. So, when I asked, he was pleased to show me some wrenching basics and talk me through assembling the lions' share of the parts and components.

I was also pleased to buy the components needed to finish the bike from him, as well as a bike fit, and likely anything I'll need for either of my bikes well into the future.

The bike is an all carbon, RS2 from from Pedal Force with a SRAM Red Gruppo, SRAM S40 wheels, and weight weenie pedals, bars and stem I got from Shama Cycles.



The bars are particularly nice because they are narrower than most stock bars and fit my torso and shoulders better than any bike I've ever ridden.


By the end of the week, we had a bike that weighed only slightly more than 15 pounds--barely legal.


But we also had a deluge of rain so I couldn't ride it, and we had an appellate emergency in Corpus Christi that threatened the entire weekend.

But three hours on Saturday morning were mine. The weather was cold and very windy, but riding the new bike was still a pleasure. She responded immediately to the pedals without feeling whippy, and gave a great feel of the road while still feeling smoothe. The SRAM wheels sliced the wind and dampened the road vibrations. The SRAM Red shifters and compact cranks were magical, clicking precisely into the chosen gears and making me feel I had power to burn.

Phil's bike fit was also perfect. And at the end of three hours the bike was still charging to the top of hills instead of throwing out an anchor to stop me, and I was fresh enough to keep going.

And I will keep going, as soon as I save some defendants from a bandit trial judge in South Texas.

But now, what to name her. She won't tell me her name yet, but as you can see, she's nearly all black, sleek, with red accents, climbs and accelerates like a bird of prey, and is silent as a whisper on the roads. But what is her name?


Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Yep, that's the run course for Ironman St. George. How about a side of hills to go with your supersize bucket of hills.

But Supalids, a/k/a Mrs. Wilson, and I have made a pact. Not one more word of self-pity about the difficulty of the Ironman St. George course. We have the best group of online and real life friends, and we are going to motivate each other to kick this race's arse. I feel a little bit like Samuel L. Jackson when he says "the Line" and gets down to business: “I've had it with these mother [bleeping] [hills] in this mother [bleeping] race!”


If I have to be a freaking goat, I'll become a freaking goat. A skinny whelp like me ought not be afraid of elevation gain. When I started this nonsense I couldn't even swim for goodness' sake.

And this is Ironman, after all. If you want to avoid some toil, go do a fun run or a charity ride. It's time to HTFU. Dream big or go home. Live on the edge or you're taking up too much space.


No more self-pity allowed.

980 Grams

"Holy Crap."

Yeah. Thanks Coach Kris for that John-Madden-like command of the obvious. "Holy Crap" was his expert analysis of the Ironman St. George bike course. That's the triathlon equivalent of "Boom. He's a really big pass rusher." Obviously, I'm just yanking his chain. I'll need someone who knows what they're doing to get this flat lander prepared for a mountain stage to be followed by a marathon.

But in addition to Coach Kris, I have another secret weapon that I'm going to roll out later this week. She now has crank, fork, seat post, saddle, wheels, brakes and cassette installed. And what's more I got to do it myself--well mostly myself except where my ignorance cried out for help--at the Cycling Valhalla known as Shama Cycles under the tutelage of Phil Shama, bicycle customizer extraordinaire.

He may be having second thoughts about letting a two-left-handed, all thumbs, wannabe back in his sanctum sanctorum, and he may never do it again, but I am so thankful that he is tolerating my questions and showing me the ropes. If true business is built on relationships, I know which bike shop will be getting my dollar for all the tires, tubes, bottles and assundry items one needs to purchase over time.

I feel like the sorcerer's apprentice--learning a trade for when this law stuff peters out. It was fascinating to fit together all the shiny new components and to marvel at the amount of technology that -- let's face it -- goes into a toy -- a play thing for the well-heeled professional competing for the "ultimate prize."

Then we ordered some special bars, carbon pedals and carbon bottle cages to finish her out on Wednesday when I'll try my hand at installing the SRAM Red derailluers, shifters, and cables. **drooling here**

Phil--who is also an extraordinarly knowledgeable bike fitter--also did a preliminary fit.

The 49 cm, all carbon, road frame fits like a glove. And it weighed in at . . .

980 grams.

Yes, that's less than 1 kg for the frame. Any lighter and we'd be talking about some theoretical, subatomic anti-matter that has negative mass.

Now . . . this climbing rocket of a bike, plain black carbon with red accents and bar tape, needs a name.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Product Review

Like many of you that cycle, I am well and truly sick of being endangered by motorists who do not give us enough room on the roads. Sometimes the motorists are stupid and are intentionally trying to bully us off the road--like a certain Deputy Constable from Montgomery County. Other times they're just ignorant and don't know how to safely pass a cyclist. Well there's no cure for stupid, but ignorance can be educated away.

"Share the road," is fine, I guess, but it's just too general and might even imply that cyclists are required to get out of the way and "share" with cars. In reality, it is cars who are to yield the right of way to cyclists that they overtake on the road, passing only when they can safely do so.

That message is what this "3 Feet Please" jersey is for--to educate and remind motorists concerning how much space they should give us on the road. There are two versions, one with a blank front for states that don't have a safe passing law, and one with a front that says, "It's The Law."

I bought one here with my own money and I have no connection or association with the cyclist who developed the jersey. I bought the one with "It's the Law" on the front in anticipation that Texas will pass the "Safe Passing Bill" currently pending in the Legislature. And even if they don't it is still against the law to fail to yield the right of way, and 3 feet seems little enough to ask.

The jersey is a high quality Voler jersey with superior graphics. It is a looser club fit so order a size smaller if you want skin tight. It is cool and wicks moisture well, and comes in short or long sleeve. As far as materials or workmanship, it is as good or better than any of the other jerseys I own, so you don't have to skimp on functional equipment just to send a good message.

I wore mine last weekend as I was riding an unfamiliar and potentially highly trafficked route. It could have been my strobe blinky light (which can be seen from space) or my special attention to take the lane where it was not safe to share, or it might have been that I was riding in a more enlightened area of Texas than my normal Houston route, but whatever it was, the cars did seem to give me more space and I only had a couple of incidents in which motorists (one of which was a motorcycle in too damn much of a hurry) failed to give me enough space. Even there, none of them were as close as I commonly get in the Houston area.

So, Trigreyhound gives this two very enthusiastic thumbs up. It's a good educational tool, it makes you highly visible, and it just might save your life. If there were hundreds and thousands of such jerseys on the roadway, maybe the safety message would start to take hold. I encourage anyone who rides on the road to click on over to here and pick up one for yourself.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I TRIPLE Dog Dare You!

Naw, he ain't gonna do it. He's chicken.

I ain't chicken. I just don't need to be sticking my tongue to no pump handle, or signing up for an Ironman five months after just doing one.

See, I told you he won't. He's chicken.

I ain't chicken. Besides, who's gonna wanna do an Ironman in Utah? I mean, sersly, Utah?

Bock bock bock. Everyone's doing it. C'mon. Don't be a baby. Just one more won't hurt you.

I ain't a baby. I just don' wanna.

Are so a baby. Who care's what mom says? Are you gonna go home and cry? Is baby gonna cry?????

I'm not a baby.


Are you kidding? Sign up for another stupid Ironman? That's dumb!

That's 'cause you know it'll hurt!

You're full of it!

Oh yeah?


Well I double-DOG-dare ya!

NOW it was serious. A double-dog-dare. What else was there but a "triple dare you"? And then, the coup de grace of all dares, the sinister triple-dog-dare.

I TRIPLE-dog-dare ya!

Supalinds (a/k/a "Mrs. Wilson") created a slight breach of etiquette by skipping the triple dare and going right for the throat!

Better just call the fire department now, because it is done. I'm in.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Continuing Saga . . .

I've received several inquiries along the lines of "what ever happened in your cage match with Officer McBreakfast Taco. Those of you who are new to the blog can follow the link to get the details about how a Deputy Constable tried to bully me off the road, and when I stood my ground and later complained to his superiors, backdated a ticket which I beat in court.

Since my last letter outlining what the Texas Transportation Code requires concerning the rights of cyclists, I received a form letter reply, this time signed by the actual, elected constable. It said:

Dear Mr. {Real Lawyer Name}:

Our department is in receipt of your letter dated December 22, 2008. The policy of this department is that all deputies handle citizens in a respectful and courteous manner. We appreciate your concerns regarding this issue.

David Hill
Constable Pct. 5 Montgomery County

While I am sure they "appreciate" my concerns, I'm not sure they believe them. Nor do they "appreciate" that what I'm really concerned about is having the law properly enforced.

Soooooo . . . one more letter on my scary lawyer letterhead, this time insisting upon a face to face meeting with the elected constable himself:

Dear Constable Hill:

I am in receipt of the attached letter in reference to the incident on April 19 in which Deputy Constable Williams, himself in violation of the law, tried to bully me off the road. He maintained that cyclists were to remain out of the active traffic lane of FM 149, and later backdated a ticket to that effect. The D.A. properly dismissed the ticket.

In your letter, you maintain that “[t]he policy of this department is that all deputies handle citizens in a respectful and courteous manner.” Nowhere, however, in all the correspondence regarding this matter, has your office stated whether it is the policy of the department to protect cyclists’ rights under the Transportation Code to use the roads as all other vehicles. Nor has there been any commitment to train Deputy Williams and his colleagues concerning what the law requires.

I therefore request a meeting at your earliest possible convenience to ask you in person what the policy of the department is to be. Are cyclists to expect that the traffic laws will be enforced as written? What is the policy of the department to be concerning officers who fail or refuse to conform to the law? I will be calling to confirm this request when I receive indication that my letter has been received.

Very Truly Yours:

{Real Lawyer Name}

I will get my meeting. When I do, one of two things will happen. If things go well, I will be sweetness and light and offer to light a candle rather than curse the darkness. I just want officers to know how bikes are supposed to use the road. I am even willing to create and conduct, on my own time, training for law enforcement officers concerning what it's like to ride on the roads and what the laws actually require of motorists and police officer.

If things do not go well, then those of you in the peanut gallery who are lawyers already know the implications of "policy" type language in a demand letter.

I hope things go well. I am ready for this to be done.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Spring Classic

***This post must be read with the accent and inflections of Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwin, and Bob Roll***

Phil: In some parts of the world, the first signs of spring lead to thoughts of baseball, or cricket, or flying a kite in Hyde Park with the children. But not so for the hard men of the professional cycling peloton. Spring means hard weather and hard racing on even harder courses. These masters of the pave hurl their bodies into the breach and very often find out that Mother Nature is a hard mistress indeed. Cold temperatures, mud, water, and impossibly slippery and rough roads are the essence of the spring classics. And Mother Nature turns to glance over her shoulder as if to say, "are you coming or not?" And the answer is, "not."

Paul: Well indeed, Phil. As a fomer professional cyclist and member of that peloton I can tell you that back in the day, the thing that made cyclists like Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault so fearsom within the peloton was their ability to race all styles of races, not only the Grand Tours, but these Spring Classics as well. They're names, the Badger and the Cannibal, were not mere idle talk. They were earned here on the cold, hard pave before the flowers bloomed. Bob?

Bob: **huh huh** Lance is Awesome.

Phil: Yes, indeed, Bob. Lance is Awesome, and I'm sure that if he were here, he would be loving this cold and wet weather and dominating the field. But Lance has chosen not to race today, in order to let some of the other riders have a chance. Tell me Paul, how would you describe the conditions and how does it feel to ride a bike out in weather like this.

Paul: Well, Phil, the temprature is one thing, but the wind and the damp make it feel ever so much colder. This morning in Galveston, the hard riding age groupers of Houston Racing Triathlon club were tuning up their machines for a cold, wet, and windy ride along the coast. They have been heard to say, "there's no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate equipment." So, toe warmers, hats, gloves, tights and jackets were common currency of the day. And yet, there is only so much warmth one can purchase with one's equipment. By the time one reaches the finishing line, the extremeties are numb, and it is only one's zeal that keeps one going. Bob?

Bob: **huh huh** (hands gesticulating wildly) Lance is AWESOME.

Phil: Yes, indeed, Bob. Lance truly is awesome. Was Lance at the training ride this morning Paul?

Paul: No, Phil. Notwithstanding his awesomeness, Lance was not there. And its a good thing too. The wind this morning was cold and fearsome, cutting directly across the course that runs along the ocean. The effect of all this is that one feels as if one is riding into a headwind all day long, both ways on an out and back course. And since these are American triathletes, they do not draft. It is a point of honor not to take aid from domestiques or from . . . uhm . . . physicians . . . er . . . Italian obstetricians . . . who happen to train lots and lots of cyclists.

Bob: But the Awesomness, it was like . . . (WAVING HANDS) . . . LANCE . . . it was . . . . **hyperventilating**. . . A-W-E-S-O-M-E

Phil: There there, Bob. So, who was you pick to win today's stage, Paul?

Paul: Well, really, Phil, the whole point is that whomever shows up on a day like this, early in the spring, in adverse conditions, and puts the time in is a winner, in a sense. They're all putting deposits in the bank on which they can with call later in the year.

Phil: Well, I quite agree, Paul. But I'm going to pick Robbie McEwen to win the bunch sprint at the end. And you, Bob?

Bob: Lance. 'Cause he's **whispering** awesome.

Phil: But I thought we already established that Lance is not here.

Bob: Are you saying Robbie McEwen in absentia is better than Lance in absentia?

Phil: I would never say such a thing, becasue if I don't kiss the Patron's ring, I won't get any more interview time. But, it's a flat course and a sprinter's finish so--

Bob: Get thee behind me, Satan. Lance. He's awesome.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Time Warp

Supposedly, all seconds are equal. The clock ticks mercilessly by at the same pace all the time. Supposedly. But I don't believe it. I don't experience time that way.

I closed my eyes and then opened them again, and it was Monday morning. And then time ticked . . . slowly . . . by . . . and I swam . . . lap . . . upon . . . . laa-a-a-a-a-a-p.

And I closed my eyes, and then immediately opened them again, and it was Tuesday morning. And then time ticked . . . slooooooooowly . . . by . . . and . . . I worked . . . . in . . . . the . . . o-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-fice. . . . .

And then I closed my eyes again, and immediately opened them and it was Wednesday morning, but I did not know what day it was or what I was supposed to do for several minutes.

And I worked.

And I worked out.

And time . . . ticked . . . by.

And then I blinked and it was Thursday morning. And Thursday crawled by with work and working out.

And then I only half blinked and it was Friday morning. And I'm starting to feel a little bit like Groundhog Day. Working. Working out.

The grind of the job is getting to me, and the recess of my Ironman training is in danger of becoming part of the grind instead of part of the recess. I know exactly why, and it has nothing to do with volume or lack of desire. Sure, Coach Kris has been challenging me, especially in the pool and on the bike, but it's no defect in the training schedule that is giving me the blahs.

If I were a kid, I'd say I need some spring break right about now. I love training. That said, I've been training too much by myself. I need to get myself back to a masters workout or a group ride or long run. And I don't really like racing. But that said, It's been about long enough since the marathon. It's time for an event of some kind to knock off the cobwebs and put this fitness to some real use.

Thankfully, it's just about that time. Tomorrow is a group ride with the Greatest Tri-Club on the Planet down at Galveston on the course for the Lone Star Triathlon--my first tri of this season. And in a couple of weeks, it will be time for the MS150, in which my Iron Posse will be riding plumb past the day one break point and staying at the Lost Pines Resort in Bastrop where we will be pampered and met by a Surprise Celebrity.

So, it's time to stay focused, hang on just a little bit longer, and then start withdrawing some of the deposits I've been making in the fitness bank.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Did Clark Kent Take Naps?

This week, Coach Kris must have decided that I don't shower near enough, nor do enough laundry, nor change clothes with enough frequency, because today I get a lot of practice in all of these disciplines.

Coach Kris bellied up to the Ironman bar and ordered me a drink, saying, "make his a triple." The day started at LA FATNESS for a swim that left my ears ringing--work set consisting of 2x700m negative split each and descend. The fat, hairy, swim-trunk-festooned late-sleepers must have wondered why the skinny, hairless little man was weeping on the side of the pool. Then . . .

Shower, change clothes and repeat.

Mid day will be strength training with the Serbian Overlord, MIKI, whose kettlebell routine was rejected by the Obama Administration because it did not meet the guidelines for humane interrogation under the Army Field Manual. Then . . .

Shower, change clothes and repeat.

AND, in the evening, it will be time to bike a little. Not too much, just enough to get another set of clothes really sweaty so that I can . . .

Shower, change clothes and repeat.

Meanwhile, I am turning an Audi into a locker room, because there are no more telephone booths in which to change back and forth from Clark Kent to Superman, I'm getting frequent flyer miles on my washing machine, and I'm wondering where I can get back that hour of sleep I lost this weekend in switching from normality to Daylight Sleepiness Time.

Do you think Clark could nap in those telephone booths?

Saturday, March 07, 2009

My Poor Little Soldier

I swear to you this just happened not more than 30 minutes ago. I could not keep my eyes open after my windy ride, and just as I'm about to sleep it off, Superpounce wakes me up and asks me if a friend can come over "when I'm done with my nap."


Yeah. I guess that would be now, wouldn't it?

Anyhow, first day back on the tri-bike in months, and as I'm getting ready this morning I remember, "drat, I'm out of lube."

See, my favorite anti-friction lube is made by Brave Soldier. Well that's not exactly true. My favorite lube has nothing to do with triathlon, but rather with one of the few activities for which I'd cancel a bike ride.

Anyway, Brave Soldier stays in place, works all day, and has a brisk, mentholy kind of feel that makes my little brave soldier feel all cool and comfy. (But fair warning, I'm not sure how pleasant that would feel if, say, you are the kind of triathlete that does not have a brave soldier, but instead (not to be indelicate) has a more "open" system).

But I'm out of Brave Soldier anti-friction cream, so I just HTFU and go.

Well, not harden, actually. Not literally. That would be very counterproductive. I Just stop complaining, slather on a little body glide, put on my most comfortable bib shorts, and get after the ride.

But I discovered something quite unpleasant during the ride. Again, it was my first time back on the tri-bike in months, and the first time in the aero position in those bib shorts. And much to my horror and discomfort those shorts get all sorts of folds and creases in the aero position right where I have all sorts of folds and creases. And my brave little soldier's base did not have any Brave Soldier to smooth things over.

Then, my riding companion and I discovered that part of the reason we were going so well on the way out was the massive headwind we would face on the way back. And me without a full night's sleep and dehydrated and underfed with an unhappy little soldier. But Coach Kris said 3 hours on the bike, and 3 hours of honest work is what I gave him. It was just a lot harder than the effort he had asked for, or that I intended to give.

But now my nap is over, and being dad replaces all the Ironman athlete fantasies of the morning ride.


After rides like that, you wonder, "who was that guy who ran a marathon off the bike last June. He sure looked like me, but it must have been someone else."

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Mi Amore

Coach Kris is about to put me on a bike focus in the weeks leading up to the MS150, and so I think my old road bike will be left on the trainer. It is time for Carmen. It is time.

It is time that Carmen emerge from the mysterious inner sanctum to which women are wont to retreat. It is time the we are joined once again in our congress of delight. It is time that we move together, impelled forward by needs that only Carmen and I feel, desires that only Carmen inspires, hungers that only Carmen can feed. It is time for that sweet release like none other, that knowing beyond all knowledge when I mount her and see her beneath me, firm and sensual and altogether lovely.

So, yeah, I'm going on a long ride this weekend, and I think I'll take my tri-bike this time. Anyone wanna come?

Monday, March 02, 2009


Very occasionally, only rarely in fact, do I feel like I am exactly where I am supposed to be, doing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing. That happened once or twice when I was laid out on the floor of the nursery with toddler Superpounce bounding around or giggling or crawling on top of me. That happened once when infant Superpounce fell asleep right on my chest, and I drifted off to sleep feeling her heart beat against mine. This weekend, it happened again.

Weekends. Nine hundred thirty-six. That's an important number. If you figure you've got 18 years before your children go to college and move out of your house, and if you figure 52 weeks in a year, there are nine hundred and thirty-six weekends you have with them. That's well shy of a thousand--not that big of a number at all.

And it has to be far less than that. After the age of 14 there are probably a goodly number of weekends you don't have with them, even if (or especially if) you're doing your parenting right. If you're a good parent, they're more independent, they need you less, they have activities, and sometimes they can't stand the sight of you, because you're doing what a parent is supposed to do, like saying no and providing boundaries.

And in my case the number is still smaller because Superpounce is 11.5 years old--most of our pre-18 weekends are already in the past. If you figure we've got 6.5 years left of Superpounce at home, that's 338 more weekends. If I even optimistically get half of those weekends as she grows up, that's only 169 more weekends. It ain't at all funny how time slips away.

But this weekend, Superpounce and I spent both Saturday and Sunday at the neighborhood basketball court. On Sunday, we even took the dogs with us. The air was clean and cold as peppermint, the skies of cobalt blue, the wind bent the grass down low, and nothing stood between we little ants and heaven itself. And I was exactly where I was supposed to be, doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing.

She told me how she had passed her try-out and made it into the athletics class. She dreamed out loud about the sports she might try. And I tried not to chuckle on the outside as I smiled on the inside as this short, skinny girl dreamed of being a basketball player and sprinter. Having my genetics as she does, she is much more suited to soccer and distance.

But that is not a lesson for Dad to teach, especially on a day that is perfect where I find myself in that rarest of spots--the center of exactly where I am supposed to be. That is a lesson best learned on one's own. And she will.