Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I shoulda played football

At last week's Nature Valley Grand Prix, I laid a guy out. I came around a this corner, and--what's this?--there was this guy standing in the middle of the road! He was just standing there, like he was lost, like he was trying to get hit, like he was asking for it. He was a tall, skinny rider on the Priority Health team, and he'd just crashed moments before. He'd gotten up, and was standing in the road like a dazed and slightly wobbly bowling-pin, and I was his bowling ball. I wasn't even able to brake much, I just turned a little, which aligned my shoulder directly with his sternum. I was going at least 25 miles per hour into the corner, and might have been able to slow to about 20 before we collided. I've never been a part of such a perfect transfer of momentum, as though we were a set of those metallic balls, the kind that perch on the desks of pretentious CEOs, click-clacking back and forth forever, only the Priority Health rider didn't clack back. I was the safety pile-driving the unsuspecting wide-receiver. I was the Mack truck T-boning the Geo Metro. To be honest, it was pretty fun. I was 185 lbs. moving very fast, then suddenly, not moving at all. I never even hit the ground; I just unclipped my feet and, learning from my recent physics experiment, ran very quickly to the side of the road so I might avoid the same brutality I'd just dispensed. The poor Priority Health guy was lifted into the air, and landed heavily for the second time in 30 seconds. A few moments later, when we were both sitting on our bikes held upright by race officials, waiting to be reinserted into the race, I offered an apology. "I am so sorry, I really didn't mean to do that" I bleated, but the other racer just glared at me like a dazed boxer. The next day, I apologized again, and he was receptive: "I've got all my teeth, and my bones are intact. I can't ask for much more". What a gracious pro. I briefly debated offering, as a consolation, the fact that my shoulder hurt like hell, but quickly decided against adding this insult to his numerous injuries.

Dark vs. Light

Let's talk about coffee. Recently I began to appreciate the lighter-roasted coffees. See now coffee, for many, is a symbol for adulthood: it's dark, it's bitter, and it's really caffeinated--especially if it's ground very finely and brewed in a French-press, such that a semi-solid sludge forms on the bottom of every cup. Yum. Coffee is enjoyed by some, yes, but it is also used by others: used to stay up late when pulling an all-nighter for instance, or simply used to wake-up in the morning when facing another frickin' day of drudgery in the office. Coffee comes in a variety of roasts, and when imbibed for its stimulatory benefits, is is deceiving. I used to equate the darkness of the roast with the intensity of the coffee. Visually it makes sense: jet black beans gleaming with coffee-oil appear much more intimidating, dangerous even, than dry light-brown beans, like coal compared to graham crackers--one looks much more capable of powering a steam engine than the other. But this is wrong. So wrong. Wrong like confusing your embrocation with your chamois cream. The darkness of coffee beans is entirely dependent on the roast. Essentially, if your coffee beans look black, it's because they've been cooked so long they're starting to burn. The flavor inherent in the bean has been cooked out, and replaced with the taste of the roast. This is not to say that dark roasted coffee tastes bad, but just that the taste of the coffee is not so much dependent on the quality of the bean, but rather the skill of the roaster. Lighter roasted coffees preserve much more of the original coffee flavor, and can brew just as strong a cup of coffee depending on the method of brewing. So for all you ignorant coffee drinkers who think you are getting a more caffeinated cup of coffee when you chose the darker roast, wise up fools!

Friday, June 8, 2007

The Mount Hood Cycling Classic

Several months ago I decided to forgo some of the comforts that accompany a full time job (or any job for that matter), and instead opted to spend the majority of my time traveling around the country racing my bicycle. Thanks to the team, the cost of racing is almost non-existent; they pay for my travel costs, my entry fees, and the bulk of my equipment. My expenses are mostly limited to a few small bills (student loan, cell phone, etc.), and food. However, seeing as how my income is also almost non-existent, I try to live as cheaply as possible. I shuttle from race to race, from host housing to friend's couches; I live out of suitcases and the back of my truck; I subsist on a diet based around oatmeal, pasta, and eggs (which are all dirt cheap), and Hammer Nutrition products (which I get for free). There are perks to this lifestyle--for instance, it's now 1:40PM and I'm still in my boxer shorts. All I've got to do for the rest of my day is spend a few hours pedaling around Seattle. It ain't so bad when the weather's nice. However, there are also moments when I question the merit of my chosen lifestyle. I'll list a few of those moments taken from last week's Mount Hood Cycling Classic in Hood River, Oregon. These are in no particular order.

  • "Too bad I don't work a 9-5er in an office somewhere," I thought to myself, just before my front wheel locked up in the middle of a turn, "it's hard to get road rash in an office". It was my second crash of the day. The first one wasn't so bad--I got caught in a pileup and just sort of flopped off my bike, landing on my butt like a toddler who trips on its own foot--my chamois absorbed most of the impact. Something told me this second crash would be different. "I suppose rug burn is always a threat, but that heals so much quicker and oozes so much less," I thought, as I streaked across the asphalt on my ass. It was kind of like sledding, but without the snow....or the sled.
  • I rummaged through the plastic tub in the back of my truck, and to my disappointment found nothing I hadn't already seen. With a sigh, I removed another hot-dug bun from the bag. I was hoping that I'd somehow overlooked something yummy in my food tub--a lasagna perhaps, or maybe some tacos--but instead found exactly what was there last time: a few condiments, some rice and pasta, and numerous plastic containers filled with specially formulated drink mix with made-up names like "Perpetuem" and "Recoverite". I spread some peanut butter on one side of the hot-dog bun, and squirted a generous blob of Apple-Cinnamon Hammer Gel on the other. As I closed my food tub, my attention drifted back to the stunning view of Mount Hood I had from atop Panorama Point, the finish location of the next day's prologue. The imposing, snow-capped, and lonely volcano seemed to float above the fertile river valley below; its jagged rocky edges were made soft by the hazy air, blending into the textureless blue of the sky. I stared, transfixed for minutes, until I realized that I'd dribbled Hammer Gel all over my vest. It's a lot runnier than jelly. Man, I wished I had some jelly. Or some lasagna.
  • I drive a great truck. It gets me and all my gear to all the races, it's got a lot of character, and it's never broken down (knock on wood). However, when I was stranded in Hood River for a night with nowhere to stay, I wished it were a little bigger. To be fair, my truck is tiny. It would fit-in great in a country like Japan, but by US standards, I drive a clown truck. The cab has been described as both claustrophobic and coffin-like, and when I drive for a long time, my knees hurt, but I don't mind--like I said, it's a great truck. Anyway, there I am, stuck in the quirky, hilly, hip little town of Hood River without a floor to sleep on. I'd arrived in town a little early, and incorrectly assumed I'd be able to reach one of my friends who live there. So picture me, all 6'4" of me, curled up in the cab of my little truck, trying to nap. The bench seat is long enough for my torso, but barely, so in order to fit inside I have to fold my legs up paper clip style. I'd gotten as close to comfortable as I was going to get, and just starting to drift off to sleep, when I felt the uncomfortable sensation of motion. Opening my eyes and looking up, my suspicion was confirmed by the scenery outside the car, which was gently moving in relation to my vehicle. My curiosity dissolved into horror as I came to grips with the situation. I guess my emergency-break decided to slip at that particular moment, without provocation. Since I was parked on an incline, I was drifting towards the 4-way intersection right in the middle of town. Not cool. With a jerk, I unfolded my legs, and stopped on the break. With the danger over, I briefly wondered what would have happened if my break had failed while I wasn't in the car (which is usually the case when I'm parked), but instead banished those thoughts and simply resolved to never park on an incline again. Ever.