16 June 2008


I had an MRI this morning (which is the worst kind of non-intrusive medical torture since turn-your-head-and-cough). It turns out that I have compression fracture of my T11.


I had a weird reaction to the news... It's kind of a badge of honor. I broke my back in a cycling accident. Cool.

I'm lucky to be alive.

Stinging Insects In My Slipstream

I rode on Saturday because I couldn't wait until Sunday to wash the stink from Thursday's sucky ride out of my brain. I'm so glad I did -- Saturday was awesome. I took the traditional route to the Sportsman Rd climb up Texter Mountain.

Sportsman Road was covered with some kind of smashed purple berries in small groupings all along the road. And so there were a lot of bees and other flying, stinging insects having brunch or whatever they do. Several bees decided that I smelled better than the rotting wild fruit on the road (stupid bees) and decided to draft with me for the entire four-mile climb.

As soon as I'd hit a flatter section, I'd accelerate and drop them. Then I'd hit a steeper section and they'd catch back on -- buzzing around my helmet and doing full circular orbits around me and my bike. At one point, I'm fairly convinced that I was stung in the ass. Well, not "IN" the ass, but on the upper left butt cheek. I yelled out, "Screw this!" and accelerated again.

Of course at the top section where the gradient increases to around 10%, it was a little more difficult to drop the bastards, but it didn't matter. I figure I had already been stung once.

I didn't time myself, but I'd bet I've never climbed Sportsman faster. Annoying, but wow -- what a great motivator for climbing.

So I looped down Texter Mountain Rd and then back around Furnace Rd to 422. I stopped at Willow Glen Park (site of Shocktoberfest) and had a banana. Then I decided I felt strong enough to ride over to Gaul Rd and Wooltown Rd for some shorter, more moderate climbing/descending. On Wooltown, I broke 40mph on the descent which was fun.

Total ride distance: 32 miles with climbing and bees.

13 June 2008


Maybe it's some stress from work that sapped the mental energy out of me or maybe I just didn't fuel up enough.

Regardless, I tried some moderate climbing yesterday and I bonked worse that I have in a long, long time. About halfway up North Galen, I almost collapsed with exhaustion. I mean, I literally thought I was going to fall over after only around three miles of 5% climbing.

At that point, I totally lost the will to live and turned back. Which I rarely do. When first started riding, I would at least walk the rest of the way up a climb, but my head just totally fell apart yesterday.

Meanwhile, I went to the chiropractor this morning and Dr. Wolf adjusted my back. Suffice to say, it hurt like hell. When he adjusted the area that I injured, it felt like the initial injury all over again. Awesome.

I might try the North Galen climb again tomorrow morning with -- hopefully -- much more satisfying results.

Meanwhile, here's a video of Slipstream's Tom Danielson in the Pyrenees
training for the Tour. Towards the end, you'll see him fly up a 20% section on the big chainring. Which is inhuman.

09 June 2008

Snitz und Knepp...with Ham!

That was the Sunday special at Risser's Diner in Stouchsburg. I'd never seen it advertised with ham, and, as I passed, my heat-damaged brain forced me to say out loud, "With ham?"

It was 95 degrees with 57 percent humidity on Sunday, so I hit the road early. Around 8AM. I didn't have time for a lot of climbs, so I took the traditional route out to Stouchsburg with a loop through the town itself. (Stouchsburg is old and a perfectly preserved relic of, say, 1950. I sometimes expect to see Barney Fife wandering into Floyd's Barber Shop.)

The riding was grueling, of course. But despite the heat, my fitness appears to be improving -- especially on the rolling hills where I was mostly able to keep up a consistent speed. But the heat was a killer. It's been more than 24 hours since the ride and I still feel a little loopy and drained. While riding, I was in one of those zones in which every little break of the heat was significant. Two seconds of shade, or a drop of water on my leg -- I was thankful for it.

26 miles... with ham.

(Also, read this.)

05 June 2008

The Reading Classic

I spent the day watching the pros ride in big circles around Reading. The speed was insane, especially around the tight corners and through the traffic jam of team cars. Oscar Sevilla Rivera of Rock Racing won the day with last year's champ, Bernard Eisel of High Road, taking second.

Here are some fancy-shmancy "exclusive" Team Spindrift photos.

The women's peloton. They were goddamn FAST!

Catherine Cheatley (left) and Team Cheerwine. Meanwhile, High Road's Ina-Yoko Teutenberg won the women's race.

The Italians from Liquigas.

Victor Hugo Peña, Tyler Hamilton and Rahsaan Bahati of Rock Racing at the sign-in. Can you smell the "edgy"?

Freddie Rodriguez talks to an old dude. Rodriguez crashed early in the race. I blame that old man and his old man curse.

Slipstream-Chipotle at the sign-in. Don't tell them that there's not a single goddamn Chipotle restaurant anywhere near here.

The single-file pack descends Perkiomen Avenue headed towards Penn Street.

The pack turns off Penn Street. Mexican Bernardo Colex of Tecos (middle in red) kicked some ass today. Later, Colex blasted up Mt. Penn alone. Towards the top, the video crew clocked him at 20mph. That's insane. (Fun fact: Duryea Drive is named for the inventor of the first hill-climbing automobile. The prototypes of the car were tested on this road.)

Mt. Penn climbing.

When I shot this, a photographer from VeloNews was on my left and the head of CyclingNews was on my right. Very serious!

Sevilla's one-man breakaway in the final kilometer on his way to victory.

Repairs and Rain

So it wasn't just my brakes rubbing. It turns out the my rear bearings were intermittantly seizing up. Yep. That's probably why it was extra painful to ride a simple, flat ride the other day. My entire rear wheel was basically dead.

The guys at Technocycle fixed up the Kona, though -- repaired the cramped bearings, trued the rear wheel and installed some new rear brakes. Biggety bam. Just like new.

Yesterday, meanwhile, I did a quick 10 miles of climbing in the rain. And a lot of really, really cautious descending. In fact, I tried to ride up North Galen in the opposite direction. But when I turned right onto Preston, the switchback descent was -- sorry to say -- too scary in the pouring rain. This is something I have to overcome. Soon. I love climbing, but I can't be hindered due to the descents.

On Sunday, it's supposed to be 95 degrees. I can't wait. But as painful as it'll be, I'd hate to be the pros in Philly hitting the Manayunk Wall in that heat.

02 June 2008

"Attitude Determines Altitude"

I rode an inexplicably grueling 25 miles to Womelsdorf and back on Thursday. My rear brakes were rubbing, so that couldn't have helped. Regardless, my head just wasn't in the game.

However, the ride reminded me to mention here about the sandwich-board messages at the mental hospital. At the base of the Texter Mountain is located the Wernersville State Hospital: a well-known mental hospital in eastern PA. The best cycle route up to the mountain roads is directly through the hospital grounds via Sportsman Road.

The grounds remind me of the hospital in Cuckoo's Nest. Old brown brick buildings with old-timey doors and tall windows. Basketball courts -- three of them. I can imagine McMurphy showing The Chief how to shoot hoops. Fenced areas, capped with bits of rusty razor wire. Sometimes the patients are walking around the buildings in their pajamas and scrubs. They usually wave to me as I ride by. I always wave back.

Last Summer, I noticed a V-shaped sandwich-board along Sportsman Road -- propped up in the grass and adorned with an inspirational message spelled out in stick-on letters. I can't remember any of the messages from last year, but we were treated to a new one every month or so. At some point, though, the sandwich-board disappeared for the Winter, but I'm proud to report that it's back.

I always used to wonder whether the messages were designed for the patients or for the riders who frequently ride through on their way to big hills. Come to think of it, I imagine it's difficult to tell the difference between guys who wear skin-tight Lykra and hump their way up steep hills on bicycles... and actual mental patients. So it stands to reason that perhaps the messages are designed for both.

To wit: the newest message reads, "Attitude determines altitude." When I read that while on my way to several climbs, I thought to myself, That has to be for the riders. After all, I'm a firm believer that cycling is 90 percent about the brain. The body can adapt to pain. It's the 'attitude' that forces us to keep going when our legs and lungs are screaming for us to stop.

So to whomever is posting the signs... Keep going. They're not lost on passers-by, be they riders or patients.