Monday, May 11, 2015

Cap2Cap – Ride report

I finally got a chance to get in a decent ride this past weekend! 

The Capital to Capital Multi-use trail (Cap2Cap for short) has been a project dreamed up by Richmond cyclists about 10 years ago. Running from downtown iRichmond VA to Yorktown VA,  It’s going to become a reality later this year, just in time for the UCI World Cycling Championships. Every year for the last 10, there has been a fundraising ride held to sponsor the trail’s construction. My Bride and I have ridden it for the past 2 years, together, and weren’t planning to ride it this year as we had another event scheduled on top of it. That event was delayed and it left me the chance to go ride it, again. MB didn’t come with me as she had a friend’s memorial service to manage. (I had her permission to go, so don’t start on me.)

We interrupt this ride report to bring you the following Tour de Cure update:

As regular readers of this blog know, I’m riding in the Northern VA Tour de Cure on June 7th. I’m still working towards my goal to raise $2,000 for this year’s event; doing so would mean that all your help over the past 4 years has allowed me to raise $7800! If you haven’t contributed yet, time is getting short! I have less than 4 weeks and I’m woefully shy of my goal currently sitting at only $877! (Not only that, the entire ride is way short of their goal, too. We really need your help!)

Please, take a few minutes and click the link below. Even a donation of $5 would help. Actually, if everyone who reads this blog gave $5, I’d have hit the goal already. I’d be much obliged!

Back to the Cap2Cap

I signed up to ride the Sands Andersen (sponsor plug) 50 mile event, a loop that began at the trailhead in Rockett’s Landing and followed mostly lightly driven roads on the east side of the city of Richmond. The course appeared to be the same one from the prior year and I was very glad to see that as I remembered it being nearly flat and the roads all well-marked and in good shape.

When I got to Rockett’s Landing, I was amazed at how much construction had
Nice urbanish look, no?
taken place in the area. It’s now a community with row houses and apartments, very nicely appointed buildings with views of the James River. (I’m guessing the prices are nicely appointed, as well.)

Because of all the growth, parking was at a premium. I ended up on a street about a half mile from the starting area. After off-loading my bike, I filled my pockets with some snacks, loaded in my water bottles, turned on my Garmin and rolled slowly over to the starting area with about 10 minutes to spare.

Big Turnouts make for Sketchy Starts

I slowly crept through the crowd until I was about 1/3 of the way back from the starting group. My experience in these mass starts, with a bunch of people who aren’t all that devoted to riding, is to look for safe harbor. Invariably, someone goes down in a heap and takes a few others with them due to shaky bike handling skills; I didn’t want to wind up that guy, sprawled across the pavement trying to get out of my pedals while people try desperately not to run me down. (Don’t ask me how I know what this looks like.) And with what appeared to be a crowd of around 800 riders, the likelihood was very strong for an incident.

I stopped near the curb and almost immediately, three women rolled up and stopped next to me, chatting happily together. Two of them had on jerseys from Luna, the energy bar people. Both had really nice road bikes and looked very fit.
Not my actual riding buddies but I could be wrong.

After eavesdropping for a few minutes, I gathered they were part of the LunaChicks cycling team, a group sponsored by the energy bar. (This group is a MTB team, as the one woman later told me; if MTB does that much for one’s road cycling skills, I may have to see about getting a MTB.) At some point, the three were trying to take a selfie showing the start of the ride. I volunteered to get them all in the shot and took it for them. I also took a couple of my own, just to prove I was there.
Why do people take these?

And we’re off!

The PA system blared with some guy with a very excited voice counting us down to the start and we slowly rolled out. I say slowly because I didn’t get above walking speed for about 2 blocks. Once we got out to a larger street, things started to thin out and we could pedal up to a reasonable speed. My intention was to make my 15 mph over the course and finish in 3:45 or so with a couple of stops to refill bottles and pee. (This isn’t a race, it’s a ride, so stopping for a quick snack, drink, whatever is the right way to do it. Especially when you haven’t ridden that many miles for the year.)

About five miles up the road, the LunaChicks came slowly past me, riding a nice tight paceline except now there were four of them. I eased in behind the last one in line and held my line right behind her. They were riding about 17 mph and appeared to be just cruising along with little strain. After a few minutes, I apologized for crashing their group but I felt like I had the right to do so since I’d been the one that took their picture at the start. They laughed and invited me to stay. I told them I’d be glad to let them take the wind for the old guy but would also be glad to do my share of the work.

Their names turned out to be Sue, Stephanie (sisters), Renee, and Sarah. They were all younger than me (and in far better shape) and were just very pleasant people to be riding with.

There’s something about a paceline that is fine, fine, fine!

If you’ve ever watched cycling on TV (and I realize that’s pretty unlikely; the Tour de France is about the only one you’ll see unless you’re a crazed cycling fan and subscribe to some obtuse channel that shows this sport) you’ve probably heard an announcer say, at some point,

“By riding close together, the riders are able to share energy. The person riding in the slip stream can save as much as 30% of their energy to maintain the same speed.”

I know the first time I heard that statistic I thought it had to be BS; there couldn’t
This is how it's done!
possibly be that much of an advantage. Then, I rode in my first paceline. Holy Cow! The difference is truly amazing. I remember being surprised that it was ONLY 30% as it seemed I didn’t have to pedal very much at all. I don’t know why more of us amateurs / MAMILs* / OMILs* don’t learn to do it more often. (see footnotes below)

In any case, we rode a tight paceline for nearly the rest of the ride. We stopped at the first and third “feed zones” for a quick stretch and bottle refill. We occasionally splintered on descents and on one climb, but we would always regroup and start up, again.

Sue seemed to be the ringleader of the group. She led the line at least half the time and her pace was steady as a clock. If someone would drop off, she’d be the one to fall back and pace them back up. When Renee dropped a chain during the one difficult climb on the ride, Sue went back to make sure she was okay and got back with us.

(I really felt badly about that. I had been right behind Renee when her chain slipped off and she pulled over to put it back on. I don’t recall if I offered to help or just kept going because my tongue was hanging out just trying to make it up the hill. Chivalry from me died on that hill, I’m ashamed to say. Sorry ladies! I’ve just gotten too old to pretend that I’m not, anymore. Just the same, I should have stopped.)

Stephanie seemed equally determined to be at the front and she would pedal past Sue and take the lead for the other half of the time. She also had a strong pace for me to follow.

Renee was a friend of a friend of the sisters and they were watching out for her; the friend that she was supposed to be riding with had suffered an injury the week before and couldn’t ride. I’m not sure she knew what she was getting herself into but she wasn’t going to be denied a good ride with the LunaChicks! She pounded out a strong pace, too.

Sarah, like me, was an unexpected addition to the paceline apparently having just joined it not long before they passed me. She is in training for a Half-Ironman Triathlon (that’s a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride and a half-marathon, people) with only 30 days to prepare for it. As a result, she was very focused on a solid pace, too. At the same time, she has a laugh that is hearty and frequent so, she doesn’t appear to have that killer instinct on a bike; not until she’s pedaling away from you, going up a hill.

It was a great day!

The weather turned out to be perfect with a high at 80 degrees, no wind to speak of, and cloud cover for about half the ride.

The course was very well marked, the roads were in fairly good shape considering the winter we had, and the feed zones were staffed by very friendly volunteers.

When we rolled back into Rockett’s Landing, we had averaged a little over 15 mph including stops. (I had our moving speed just over 16.5; considering we crept along for the first half mile, that was a pretty good pace.)

We dropped our bikes at the bike valet, and went to collect our lunch and beer, included in the ride. I was thrilled to see Hardywood
beers being served and celebrated with a Bourbon Cru. The BBQ from Mosaic was passable; frankly the potato salad was the best part but hunger is the best seasoning so I wasn’t complaining.

After cooling off, chatting about the ride, and taking after ride pictures – we headed off on our separate ways. I’m not sure I’ll ever ride with them again, but Sue, Stephanie, Renee, and Sarah – Count me in for a paceline any time!

I felt like I could have ridden another 20 miles easy, having had the wind taken off my face for most of the day.

The next morning, however, my legs told things differently…..

*MAMIL – Middle aged man in Lycra

*OMIL – Old man in Lycra

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

People I’d like to have a beer with….

A pause for the cause……

Before I start, I want to let you know about my annual fund raising event for Diabetes. Once again, I’m riding in the Tour de Cure of Northern VA. This annual event is held in cities across the country throughout the year and, in addition to being a lot of fun, raises millions of dollars for research to find a cure for Diabetes, a disease that touches nearly all of us in one way or another. 
100 Miles? What could go wrong?

I’m planning to ride the Century ride again this year. I was unable to complete it last year and ended up turning it into a metric century. I’m hoping that this year will be better although my lack of riding is making me wonder…..

Last year, thanks to you, we were able to raise over $2000 towards the eradication of this disease that affects so many lives and the team that I captained, raised over $9300!

Please consider making a donation. It’s easy to do with a credit or debit card and only takes about a minute of your time. I’m shooting for the $2000 mark again this year and I need your help! Click this link to make a donation.  

Now back to our irregularly unscheduled missive.

I’m sitting in seat 35C of an AirBus 319 jet between Chicago and Portland OR. It’s the last row in the plane and I have an aisle seat, which is generally my preference. This time, however, I’m treated to a game that I like to call Human Tetris. The bathrooms are immediately behind me and there have been a number of folks trying to use them. To their defense, it’s a 4 hour flight and they’ve been pounding the free sodas and coffee.  As they make their way to the john, they have to perform this interesting dance to give up and gain space before finally getting in or making their way back to their seat. For me, it’s been a parade of crotches and hineys pressing into my face and right shoulder as they jockey to get into or out of the john. I feel like I’m setting a new Major League record for taking balls to the shoulder. (Thanks Clyde!)

A beer with friends…

Last weekend I was out for a ride with my buddy, Brad. We’ve both been struggling to get miles on the bike this year due to weather and, well, life. I’m working hard to prepare for the above mentioned ride but it’s going to be a slog to the finish for me.
Anyway, we were grinding up one of the climbs around Ashland – The Center of the Universe – when Brad said something like, “Man, a beer is going to taste good after this.” I gasped out agreement and went back to focusing on turning circles while not vomiting.

As the ride continued, my mind started wandering and mulling the notion of who I’d like to converse with, over a frosty beverage.  I’ve compiled a short list.

First up – Mike Rowe

If you’ve never seen this guy on TV, you really should. He was the host of a show called Dirty Jobs, on Discovery Channel for quite some time. He is still the voice of the Deadliest Catch on the same channel, for 10 years now. Currently, you can catch him on CNN as the host of his new show, Somebody’s Gotta Do It, Thursday nights at 9:00; when it’s not pre-empted by breaking news. He cut his teeth early in his TV career on the Home Shopping Network and had quite a following for his wit and sarcasm as he announced the most useless gadgets on the planet in the middle of the night. He’s got one of those great voices, deep and resonant, with gravitas when required. He also is very self-effacing on his shows and his Facebook page where he has over 1 million followers as he’s very erudite in his writing. I’m always happy when he posts something because it’s bound to make me laugh, think, smile, nod my head or all of the above.
Looking for people who work!

Even if you haven’t seen any of these shows, you’ve probably heard his voice as he does a lot of voice over work including Ford, Wal-Mart, and Caterpillar Equipment.

You should also watch his TedTalk. He speaks about the lack of value in hard work in this country and how many young people earn a college degree, which only seems to get them into debt without a decent job. His foundation, is all about getting people who want to work hard, perhaps in a trade or a skilled job that requires training rather than a sheepskin in preparation. He awards scholarships for this training, too, putting his money where his mouth is. These jobs will typically pay upper 5 to low 6 figures; you read that correctly – around $100K per year is out there for those willing to work for it! Mike claims there are over half a million of these jobs out there that go unfilled because they can’t find someone who will take the training, learn the job, and then work hard enough to do it. Damn shame.

He’s first on the list because he just seems like an average guy who made the right moves over his career (although he gives the impression that it was blind, shithouse luck) and is now doing well, paying it back to those who need it and enjoying the hell out of his career and his life. I feel like I’d learn something from him, we’d laugh a good bit, and make an intelligent connection though conversation. Those are rare these days, at least they are to me. 

Mike, if we ever meet up, I’m buying whatever you’re drinking!

Next up – Elden Nelson

Known as the Fat Cyclist ( Fatty, as he’s known to his readers, appears to be one of the kindest people on the planet. He’s been writing his blog about all forms of cycling for almost a decade and it is hysterical, poignant, competitive, uplifting, and contagious for doing good things. Reading it is what got me into cycling as a fundraising activity and also made me far more aware of how little things that I can do, can have a big impact. He and his wife, The Hammer, spend a lot of time competing in various outdoor races, biking, running, triathlons and the like. She appears to be near world class in her age group for amateurs and he is a pretty stout competitor, too.
My friends call me Fatty!

I believe he began his blog as a way to document the loss of his first wife Susan to cancer. (I’ve never gone back to read the archives as I just can’t bear the thought of how difficult it must have been. Maybe someday.)  After she passed, he began using it to talk about cycling and as a fundraising tool for the fight against that terrible disease. He now runs fundraising activities several times a year that involve getting the big bike vendors (Trek, Specialized, Shimano, etc) to donate gear which he raffles off to those who donate. (You can actually win a $15000 bike! How cool is that?) He also gets a cycling clothing manufacturer to create Fat Cyclist kits on a limited basis for purchase, the proceeds of which go to charity as well. (I love my Team Fatty jersey!)

His most common groups include American Cancer Society and World Bike Relief – I’ve donated to both but WBR really gets my juices flowing! Giving bikes away to poor people in the African continent completely changes their lives for the better.

He has taken some of his blog posts and turned them into books that he self-published and the proceeds of those went to charity, too. I bought both of them because they’re hilarious! Comedian Mastermind and The Great Fatsby are just awesome! Fatty is currently working on completing Susan’s book that she hadn’t quite finished when she passed.

He’s on my list because I’d like to see if he’s really as nice, and funny, as he seems in his writing. He’s turned me on to a number of cycling techniques, gear, fundraising skills, and made me laugh more times than I can remember.

He lives in Utah and I’m not even sure if he drinks beer but I’m sure the conversation would be enough even if he doesn’t!

Finally – David Feherty

I want to point out that he doesn’t drink beer, or any other alcoholic beverage, as he is in recovery. That said, I would really like to have a conversation with him and buy him a designer water or Red Bull (I think that’s his poison - I'd have to have something else as I just can't stomach that stuff). If you’re not a golfer, you’ve probably not heard of him.
Don't agree with me? Why are you still watching?

He was a successful professional golfer on the European PGA Tour, winning multiple times, playing on the Ryder Cup Team, and playing the US tour for a while. Originally from Northern Ireland, he’s now an American citizen.

He joined the CBS announcing team about a decade ago and is one of the most entertaining and insightful announcers out there. Where he’s really shined over the past 3 years, however, has been as the host of an interview show called Feherty.

His interviews have ranged from pro golf legends (Nicklaus, Watson, Norman, Trevino, Venturi, Floyd) current players (Bubba Watson, Keegan Bradley, Zach Johnson, Ian Poulter) to business leaders (Jack Welch, Donald Trump) to politicians (Bill Clinton) to entertainers and sports heroes (Bill Russell, Charles Barkley, Don Cheadle). What’s amazing about all of these is that the range of subjects discussed far outruns golf and David has become a damn fine interviewer. His questions run from the hilarious to the deadly serious.

He does a great deal of work with the Wounded Warriors project and his stories about them have been terrific to follow, as well.

Why do I want to meet him? He’s a decent, very real guy. I have a story that will explain.

About 12 years ago, I saw him on TV telling a story about Payne Stewart, talking about what a real person he was and how much he missed him. (Payne died in a plane crash at the age of 42 cutting short a fabulous career.) As a result of how moved I was by the story, I sent an email to him through the PGA tour (it was forwarded) and he actually took the time to send me a very personal reply. When I thanked him and offered to buy him dinner if we were ever in the same location, he wrote again andf suggested I had low enough expectations of people that even he could jump over them. My kind of guy! 

The offer still stands David!

Wrap up

When we got to the end of our ride, Brad and I were both pretty drained but felt good because of that. He invited me in for a drink before I left but I was pressed for time and had to take a rain check.

But that just means he’s really first on my list! Thanks for the ride, Brad!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Dr. King would probably still be dreaming…..

It would be Dr. Martin Luther King’s 86th birthday today and I find myself thinking about what he said, and accomplished throughout his life. I started by reading a post I made 3 years ago, linked below. At the time, I was on a bit of a rant about how my state legislated against homosexuals. The good news is that, since then, the Old Dominion has moved into a new place and same sex marriage in VA is alive and well. Of course, it happened because the Supreme Court allowed it as opposed to it happening by choice but, hey, a win is a win. If you want to catch my last post on Dr. King, check it out here.

Religious biases

Today, I’d like to riff on the religion-isms that are currently springing up, and up, and up. To begin, the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting the establishment of religion or impeding the free exercise of religion, along with several other things like speech, press, assembly, and petitioning the government for redress of grievances; it’s a kick ass amendment!

This means that US citizens are allowed to make their own decisions about who or what they worship without fear of the government telling them otherwise. It was one of our country’s founding tenets. So, when I see people talking about “returning our country to the religious place on which it was founded” (because we’ve “lost our way”) I just start shaking my head. It wasn’t founded on that, in fact it was founded on each of us deciding for ourselves. What you really mean is you’d like to take away my right to have my personal religion and accept yours because it’ll make us all act better, or at least the same. Right? Sorry, no dice.

Since we’ve accorded that right to all of our citizens, it would follow that we’re going to treat everyone else on the planet in the same way, at least where the government is involved. Everyone with me, so far? Good.

That means that, as US Citizens, we have to be okay with others having a different religious belief than our own. And here is where things begin to go sideways.

Those Muslims are savages!

I don’t know how many people I’ve heard say something along these lines, up to and including that we should just bomb all these Muslim countries since they all want to be martyrs, anyway! (Seriously, I’ve heard that said more than once.)

If you’ve studied the Quran, you know that its message is peace and love, not unlike the Christian Bible. Are there verses in there about death and jihad? Sure. Taken out of context, they seem incredibly vile and evil. Are there verses in the Bible about death and killing those who don’t believe the same? Yep. (Have you studied the Crusades?) Taken out of context, they seem incredibly vile and evil. In others words, they state things in much the same way as each other. But why? I’m not a religious scholar so I’m going to give you my totally uneducated take on this.

It appears to me that both of these works, the Quran and the Bible, were written at a time when their respective religions were in the formative stages – a very long time ago. In order to get people to join your ranks, strong motivation was needed so they used the best thing they had at the time. Strong language, with strong motivational tools (threats of death, stoning, disfigurement or smoting come to mind) was the methodology a couple millennia ago. But if you pull these individual verses out, both scriptures look suspiciously similar and downright mean spirited.

I was raised in a Christian church and the closest thing I could get to mean spirited teaching was if I didn’t repent, I’d be damned to fire and brimstone throughout eternity. But if repentance was in my heart, all would be love and light and heaven.

But what about those terrorists?

I think they are the extreme right wing side of the Muslim faith, led by some unscrupulous men who are using religion to drive their power and behavior. Are there a lot of them? Apparently, there are enough to make a pretty good sized war. Can they be stopped? I sure hope so; evil should always be stopped and this group is pure evil. Can peace be achieved? Eventually, I think it can. But it’s going to take some work or everyone’s part. I know a fair number of Muslims. Not one of them has threatened me or my family or my country. Do you know why? They aren’t terrorists! They’re human beings who happen to believe in something differently from me.

By the way, extremists exist in every religion. Would you like to be judged as a Christian by the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church? I’m going with, no.

That brings me to something that really ticked me off last week.

Rev. Franklin Graham

Shortly after the Charlie Hebdo massacre last week, there were people saying that “Muslims were misunderstood, generally good people” and needed some acceptance around the world. That same week, Duke Unversity announced that they were going to allow a weekly “call to Muslim prayer” on their campus.

Rev. Graham lost his shit on that one.

On his Facebook page he wrote, “As Christianity is being excluded from the public square and followers of Islam are raping, butchering, and beheading Christians, Jews, and anyone who doesn’t submit to their Sharia Islamic law, Duke is promoting this in the name of religious pluralism.”

Wait, what?

First, I must have missed it but when did Christianity become excluded from the public square? Last I checked, it’s still the most common religion with 33% of the world population, although that’s lumping them all together; that’s something they don’t much care for.

Second, Sharia law is followed in a handful of countries and while they do have some pretty strict laws and penalties, I’m pretty sure rape, butchering, and beheading are off the table. (I’m not saying that doesn’t go on, I’m saying it’s not done by the followers of Islam as a matter of course. It’s the extreme faction.)

Third, Duke was promoting and inviting worship for their Muslim students of which they reportedly have around 800. (I’m told they were the first university in the country to have an Imam on staff. That’s a Muslim minister, bubba.) They were inviting people to come, not demanding that they join and promising eternal damnation if they didn’t.

Fourth, Reverend Graham I’m ashamed of your intolerance. In your world, evidently, Baptists are the only members of God’s people allowed to practice their religion. Not only that, but you seem driven to get everyone on that bus because 2 days ago you told Muslims, “that in Jesus Christ’s name they can be forgiven” on the Sean Hannity show. (You know, if they said the same to you about Allah, you’d be outraged.) I suspect that if you asked Jesus, “WWJD?” on this one, he’d be shaking his head, sadly.

If you aren’t part of the solution…..

It’s this kind of intolerant rhetoric, ringing from the mouth of nearly every person with a microphone these days, that helps to proliferate the struggle for peace. In other words, if you’re not adding a solution that everyone can abide by, then you’re part of the problem. Right now, we have far too many problems and not nearly enough solutions. So, stop it! Now. Just stop the fist waving, chest thumping, finger pointing, belief damning and just let everyone be. Take a breath. Understand that we're all just protoplasm on the planet, trying to live. Give each other a hand.

And Dr. King, what would he say?

I don’t know what he’d say today. I only know what he said when he told us about his dream.

…when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics…

Although he didn’t say it then, I suspect that today he’d include Muslims, and atheists, and every other religion because he preached tolerance. He decided to “stick with love because hate is too great a burden.”

So should we all.

Martin Luther King – I Have a Dream Speech – entire text

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.
We cannot turn back.
There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."¹
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."2
This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:
My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
                Free at last! Free at last!
                Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!3

 Thanks, Dr. King.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Group rides

Safety in numbers and pushing myself to a new plateau

It’s that time of year when cycling is left to the hard core riders. The temperature has dropped to the 40s and 50s during the day, the amount of sunlight is limited by the angle of the sun and that same angle causes visibility to be compromised. I’m sure you’ve noticed when you’re driving your car into the sun, the glare on the windshield is nasty and makes it difficult to see things; like bike riders.

Yes, it scares us, too.

A couple of Sundays ago, the weather turned beautiful in central VA with the temperature soaring to 70. I hadn’t been on the bike in several weeks due to, well, life I suppose. My back was out for a couple of weeks (getting old is not for sissies) and family stuff had taken some time, as well. Plus, the weather had sucked whenever I did have time to ride.

With a gorgeous forecast and my favorite pro football team (Washington Redskins) sucking again, the day was mine!

Then, I received an email from RABA – the Richmond Area Bike Association – announcing a ride nearby. I’ve been a member of RABA for 3 or 4 years and have been on a couple of group rides but they typically don’t match up to my schedule. I also really struggle with the concept of driving in my car with my bike to go for a bike ride and then driving back home. This one was relatively close, though, so I decided to take advantage of the safety in numbers concept; more riders must to be easier to see, no?

I loaded up my bike and changed into an outfit that would match the weather. It seemed too warm for anything other than shorts on my legs but I put some arm warmers on to keep my upper extremities a little warmer. I filled a couple of water bottles and grabbed a Clif bar for a snack, just in case, and stuck a couple of dollars in my pocket.

Ashland Ramble

According to the RABA site, this ride is called the Ashland Ramble a ride of about 28 miles that begins on the campus of Randolph-Macon College
Proud city
and winds through the roads of Hanover County after starting in Ashland VA. (This town bills itself as the Center of the Universe – I have no idea why. It is a cute, sleepy little town, though.)

I loaded up Fast Eddy and headed to Ashland, arriving about 15 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time. There were already five or six others offloading, including the ride leader, so I introduced myself all around and prepped my bike. I took a quick spin around the parking lot to make sure everything was working properly, chatted with some of the others and we set off at 2:00.

As we moved through town and out through a housing development, I had a chance to chat with several more folks. I’m always amazed at all of the different stories of how people ended up cycling. Some of us have recently re-discovered it after not riding for decades while others have always ridden sometimes commuting, sometimes racing, sometimes exercising. But now, we all ride.

After putting suburbia behind us, we came to a Stop sign where everyone queued up again. The ride leader took a head count to ensure everyone was okay and we broke into smaller groups as we headed out on country roads where passing of cars can get a little exciting. Smaller groups of riders makes it easier for cars to pass and blocking traffic is one of those pissoffable offenses to drivers so, we work to avoid it.

I wound up riding with two guys (Peter and Young Dude) who apparently didn’t get the memo that this was a B pace ride. We took off from the Stop sign and ramped up to around 21 mph, holding a very tight pace line. (Truthfully, I was holding tight to the wheel in front of me, riding third, to keep from getting spit out the back!) We kept cycling through, each of us taking a pull of about a mile or so, holding a very steady pace.

At one point, we came to one of Hanover County’s
Looks official
famous rollers (this county sits on the fall line of the piedmont area of the state and the land is rarely flat) and I had just taken the lead. I held the pace solidly as we headed up the incline for about 100 yards or so, spinning feverishly as I downshifted a couple of cogs. We crested the hill still holding about 19 mph and then crept back up to 21. I held that for the full mile of my pull and then tapped my right hip and swung left to fall back into line. As Peter and Young Dude rolled by, they both said, “Nice pull!” I nodded, unable to respond due to the lack of oxygen currently available.

The pace continued for about 10 miles when we came to another Stop sign and waited for the rest of the ride group to form up. I slammed the rest of my first bottle and ate half a Clif bar,
hoping to keep my energy level up. I felt surprisingly good although my legs were vibrating, a little. The rest of the group appeared and there was happy chatter about how beautiful the day and the ride were.

I nodded and smiled, still trying to get my breathing to return to normal.

Once everyone was accounted for, Peter and Young Dude looked at me (evidently checking to see if I’d expired) and when I said, “Ready?” they headed out with me on their wheel, thrashing along to keep up.

We resumed our pace line tactic for the next half hour or so and I managed to pull my share, although I could tell I was burning a lot of matches in the process. Despite that, I was really enjoying this level of suffering; I’ve never pushed myself like this before, never seen what it was like to be part of a group that was hammering away. (I recognize that some riders will be thinking, “That’s hammering?” Yes, dude, it was for me.) I’ve pounded out some miles solo before, and felt like I was hammering, but it didn’t compare to this.

It felt good because it felt hard, I guess.

We came to a series of rollers that came at us like waves. I managed to hold it together up front and then I realized that the next one wasn’t a roller, it was an actual climb of about half a mile. I started up it, trying to hold the pace but I could tell I was gassed. I tapped and moved over as Peter and Young Dude blew by me.

I proved definitively that, as a climber, I’m a great descender.

Once I finally crested the hill, I could see the rest of my paceline as a small speck off in the distance. They had sat up but there was no way I was going to catch them without some form of mechanical assistance. As I continued to spin in an attempt to recover, someone else passed me. It was Dani, Peter’s wife. He had been telling me that she was an All-American swimmer in college who had just taken up cycling earlier in the year. Judging by the speed she was effortlessly going, she seems to be getting the hang of being on two wheels.

With about 5 miles left in the ride, I decided that now would be a good time to lick my wounds and ride comfortably back to the starting point. All in, I felt pretty good about putting myself out there with two obviously strong riders for the better part of 20 miles at what qualifies as an A pace. Being a lousy climber, I just knew I was going to be dropped on hills. My strength to weight ratio is just too low; I either need more strength (probably not going to happen) or less weight (more likely but not this time of year). At least it gave me a taste of what it feels like to ride at the next level, or a couple of levels above my current one.

Back to the Start

A couple of other riders caught up to me and we re-entered town through another housing development, turning back and forth through suburbia, eventually ending up back on the campus. I turned off the street and into the parking lot, rolling past my car in order to speak with Peter, Dani, and Young Dude who were slowly loading up at their own.

I thanked all of them for the ride, mentioning that it was the fastest I’d ridden for that long and that I hoped I hadn’t slowed them down. Peter gave me props for hanging with them, which was very nice of him while Young Dude just grinned. Dani gave me thumbs up, too.

I got off the bike and spent a few minutes stretching out; my legs had that jelly feel that you get after a hard effort and I didn’t want any cramp. I finished the rest of my 2nd bottle and the Clif bar and loaded up my gear.

As I drove back home, I started thinking about the past 90 minutes. Had I gone to a new level on the bike? Was my body really capable of doing more, far more, than I thought? If I did some training, maybe lost 20 pounds, and focused on it could I start racing with the Masters groups? Ride a century ride in less than 5 hours? That’s when I realized it.

Dopamine does weird shit to your brain.