Sunday, March 4, 2012

Lago Race Reporto

So maybe attempting to race an entire weekend in the P12 field at La Primavera at Lago Vista, a grueling 83 miles up one side of a 6.6 mile course then a mad decent down the backside where racers can exceed speeds of 50mph was not the best idea. Ten short days ago I was chilling on the beach of Costa Rica making a daily routine of surfing and watching sunsets fizzle out into the Pacific. Maybe it was just a dream....

Traditionally the course was run clockwise both days but the last couple of years Sunday's course has been run counter clockwise. I am not sure which direction is harder. There comes a point both days where I gotta convince myself that I can do just one more pedal stroke, one more hill, one more lap....

Team Wooly Mammoth, an intergalactic cycling team that offered me a contracto after I served a suspension related to abnormal blood values in an out of competition test that can best be described as a complete mix up in the lab with my blood and the blood of the juicy steak I refused to not finish when WADA came knocking, finds no other race more traditional and romantic than Lago, so naturally we offered our services to PeleDon. In return for running registration and vehicle support, TWM was offered calm nights of clear sky star gazing out in the Texas Hill Country and breakfast tacos.

Since coming back from Costa Rica, I jumped back into my Austin experience of work, yoga, training, racing and friends and family. I raced Pace Bend last weekend and used my beginner surf skills to last until 3 miles with just two training days after 15 days off the bike. Lago would be different, I knew, and upon arriving Friday night, I fell into a deep sleep I had not had in I don't know how long. I awoke at 6 to work registration and lasted two hours before I went back to bed. Two hours later it was time to get ready to race. I lasted two laps. I rode another hour around the beautiful Lago area, witnessed more of the lasting effects of the drought on lake levels and then went back to bed. Elbowz came back from last weekends mismanagement to take 8 of the top 10 spots. Highlight of my day was the highlights in our waitress' hair at dinner.

I promised myself that I would finish Sunday. Here's what it took:

About lap two I am all too aware that I am in great difficulty. How I'm gonna last 15 laps is of no immediate concern cause I'm too focused on how I am going to last another hill. About lap three I find Steve Tilford tucked away in the middle of the pack. His pedal stroke is so smooth and I ride behind his left leg applying some of the mythology of left body/right body my yoga teacher talks about in class. This is his creative side. The side that makes real nice circles with the pedals, the side that moves his 50+ year old body to so many victories on the bicycle. I feel relaxed. Then I move to his right side. His masculine side. I feel stronger. Everything turns mechanical. Bike racing is a means to an end and I must turn off everything except the functions to make my body move faster. About a lap or two later I come unattached from the field. I push myself but it's not getting me any closer to coming back together with the moving peloton. I can't quit so I keep pedaling.

Riding by yourself in a race, either in front or behind the field, has one obvious advantage: everyone knows its you. Words of encouragement were spoken to me all along the course as I kept coming back around further and further down. Eventually the Cat2 race caught and passed me. They were doing two laps less than the P12 race so as I came across the start/finish when I should have 6 more laps I saw 4 laps to go. Hey, I said I would finish the race. I wasn't gonna argue with the break, so I turned the gears a little more confidentially. Next lap, the officials adjusted the lap cards for me and I saw 6 laps to go. Oh well...

Next to lap me was the break of the P12 race and shortly after the remnants of the field. After riding about six laps solo it was not that difficult to jump in with this group. Next time up the climb, the field split into about three groups and I ended up in the third group with about 7 guys. We came around for 3 laps to go and the officials had 2 laps to go displayed. I was so amped. I rode up the climb, leading our group the whole way, with the anticipation and excitement of "finishing" but really not giving up. Next lap, officials adjusted their mistake and had 2 laps to go displayed. I was reminded of my 2 hr taxi drive from the airport in Costa Rica to where I was staying. The signs would show 6km to Playa Guiones, then 5 minutes later show 10km. "what the ?!" I pointed this out to the taxi driver every time it happened and he would just shrug. We would get there eventually, I just had to keep riding.

When I crossed the line, I was alone and everyone was almost gone. I got dropped from our little group on the last lap and stopped to pee before I went in my chamois. My stuff had been removed from our room and set outside cause we were supposed to be out at 4. It was 4:20. We started the race at 12:30. Elbowz took 1-4. My friend, Colton, was the only rider in a 5 man break not riding for Elbowz. Outnumbered, he went for broke and earned his 5th place and a lot of respect for fighting till the end.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Re: Bike Messengers and Bike Racers

Begin original correspondence:

Hello John,
Thank you for the interview last year. I am still working on my bicycle study.
I have a question about the link between bike messengers and bike racers.
I learned that Nelson Vails, the silver medal at the 1994 Los Angeles Olympics, was a bike messenger from Harlem in New York.
I also learned that some of the historical Colombian bike racers participated in the Tour de France used to ride bikes for work.
So I wonder if there are still many bike racers in the US who has either a bike messenger or another job use biking. Are there any other successful US bikers have similar bike work background?
A lot of people told me that bicycling is becoming an expensive sport and hard to be a successful racer unless you come from a rich family.
What do you think? Do you agree? Can you share me your perspective and experience?
best regards,

Begin Response Here:

So good to hear from you, Toshi.

There are several accomplished messengers turned pro. Probably one of the most accomplished and current is Jason McCartney. He left the pro peloton and worked as a messenger before retuning to the pro ranks and riding for Team Radio Shack.

Another messenger turned pro (and personal friend) is Jen Purcell. She was a messenger back in the early 2000s in Dallas and made a name for herself in the Texas scene. She went back to school and after graduating got back into racing. Two years ago she won three national medals and rode last year looking for a contract. She finally got one with Team Tibco and will be doing some time in Europe.

Finally, there is Craig Ethridge. Another friend of mine, he has made quite a career of messengering and racing single speed in the cyclocross world.

That's not it at all. Craig is a good example of a messenger who competes as a messenger and also as a bike racer. Another exapmle would be Austin Horse. Austin is a New York messenger, very similar to Craig in that he competes as a bicycle courier at events around the country and at national and World messenger events, except Austin is a "sponsored" messenger and has done commercials and was a stunt double in the recent messenger film "Premium Rush." This is the way of the modern messenger, of sorts...

The sport of cycling is expensive, no doubt. And with any sport, the sacrifices make as much the champion as overcoming the challenges. I brought a lot of enthusiasm to the sport. And by that, I mean, that I had not a clue how much I was lacking in regards to all the right gear. But I showed up over and over again to the hardest, most elite group rides in Austin until I couldn't be ignored anymore. I would hang on or finally get dropped (not keeping pace with the group) on the outskirts of town and keep the group in sight until everyone made it back to town and I could catch up at stop lights. Finally someone asked me to accept some recycled gear and training advice. I was so eager and grateful.

I don't think this is very typical of most bike messengers. And all of the above individuals reflect a pursuit on the bicycle that included being a bicycle messenger. There are very valuable traits every individual learned as a messenger that allowed them to compete at a high level or attain notoriety as an accomplished athlete and a stepping stone for what these individuals needed to get where they are today.

What, you ask, are those traits? Ha! Go work as a messenger for a few months, I wouldn't want to spoil it for you!


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Hello from Costa Rica

HEy heY hEY!

So can you believe I made it all the way to Costa Rica without any clear directions on where I was going? I knew that I would have to take a taxi from the airport to Playa Pelada, so when I landed I hired a taxi and set off on the two and a half hour journey. It was about 11:30 by the time we rolled in and the roads had long ago gone from smooth pavement to bumpy dirt roads. My driver, Fernando, was playing some of his jams at my request cause we were both getting tired. He still had to turn around and get home to his wife and two kids. I had him drop me off at a Hotel as if I was going to get a room, but I didn't really think that was my plan so when the owner of the hotel came out because his German Shepherd was threatening to tear me to bits, I politely asked him if he knew where my friends lived. He didn't, so I set off down the road. Yea, so I'm in a third world country at midnight, walking with my luggage down the dirt road to I-don't-know-where, but I felt safe and maybe I knew the whole time that this was the part of the trip I could never plan but needed the most. Or to get this part out of the way first....

I found the internet cafe and tried their wireless network. Password required, of course. The cafe opened at ten so i knew that at the very least I could find my friends in the morning once I could get online. Someone I spoke to told me, "if worse comes to worse, man, and you don't find your friends tonight, then you sleep on the beach and we'll see you in the morning."

"which way is the beach?" i asked.
"300 meters that way."

About 100 meters away I could hear the rumble of the waves and I was pretty sure at that moment that I came to Costa Rica to try and make friends with this wild beast.

I got lucky that night with the almost full moon casting its pale light over the entire shore. Earlier in the night, there was a big ring around the moon just right above my head.

Slowly it traveled west over the ocean and was just about to fall into the water as the sun rose.

The volume and the fluctuating intensity of the waves woke me up several times and once I realized I was a little too close to the water as the tide moved in and threatened to wash me and my belongings out with it.

The next morning it was real easy to find an internet connection and see that my friends has supplied me with a telephone number, which they answered immediately. Evan had stayed up all night, worried, and Lauran had to tell him all night that she could feel I was safe. I keep comparing this trip to the other trip I took out of the country ten years ago that was purely for exploring another part of the world and how I ended up homeless in London the night before I left. That night I stayed on the River Thames all night walking up and down the river and reading my book.

The past couple of days have been what I imagine the rest of my stay here will be like: wake at 6, surf, yoga, sleep through the heat of the day, and then surf till the sun sets, eat and sleep by 10.

Pura Vida!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

End of 2011

Rains came
Rose bloom
It's mid December
It's not June
Don't care
Bye bye gloom
We'll sun salute
Till next moon.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Letting go

Summer, you're like an addicted lover, don't know when to quit. Your heat gets you so angry. I tell you every time I don't believe it will be better next time.

Autumn, don't one night stand me. Come lay next to me and I'll wrap myself up in new lovers (layers) for warmth.

Summer to Fall

I can't wait to show you where i got scorched.

85 degrees is the new hoodie weather.

All the swimming i did this summer i could have reached an island by now.

Next rain storm i'm shedding all my clothes.

This morning my light faded. Somehow the dark had its way of leading me on. The sliver of moon in the sky peeked from behind its shroud.