Friday, November 14, 2008

San Antonio and trouble with Jorge

Mission Espada

XN66_MingBikeIt’s been a star-studded week for me here in Tejas.  First there was my race against Lance Armstrong over the weekend.  Then, as I was checking into my hotel in San Antonio, a group of tall black men walked past me.  If I was the type that follows pro basketball, I would have recognized them as the New York Knicks.  But I’m not, so I was fortunate that a few of them were wearing T-shirts and other Knicks paraphernalia so I could figure it out.   A few of them said hello when I smiled and nodded to them.  Nice fellas. 

 Then today, as I was checking out of the same hotel, I noticed another basketball team walking in.  This time I didn’t have to look at their clothing to know who they were, because Yao Ming was with them.  The Houston Rockets were checking in.  I didn’t see a bicycle with Yao, but I still recognized him from this picture:

Since I was going to be in San Antonio all week, and since 
I had destroyed my back tire in my race over the weekend, I bought a cheap commuter tire to go on the back wheel, so I could see some of the city.  On Monday 
afternoon I set out to see the five missions of San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, which, according to the Lonely Planet guidebook, is a must see.

  Mission San Jose

I loved looking at the Spanish Baroque architecture and this 250 year old fresco almost as much as I loved exploring a new city on my bicycle.  There simply is no better way to see a city than on a bike.
Original fresco

While pedaling around the rough edges of San Antonio, looking for good Tex-Mex and Barbecue (i.e. not on the Riverwalk), I made sure to stop at every thrift store I saw.  I was hoping to find the diary of another insecure, na├»ve healer in the used book section, but I was sorely disappointed when I all I found was children’s books and tattered romance novels.  Ok, maybe I was a little less disappointed to find the romance novels. 

However, in searching for another Maria, I realized I had forsaken the original.  It has been too long since we have checked in on our favorite Healer on Santa Fe.  So today’s installment covers three short entries that show just how enamored Maria is with Jorge.  First is Maria’s affirmation to herself that she and Jorge belong together.  It wrenches my heart to read how badly she wants Jorge to be the one for her, and how she believes that telling herself that it is meant to be she will make it happen.  I imagine she also believes that repeatedly telling herself that she can breathe underwater will miraculously cause her to sprout gills.

October 18

I am confident, strong and fearless, I let go of all guilt and fear and worry.  I have a man who is making me happy, Jorge E. and I bring each other, joy, love, respect, trust, loyalty, faithfulness, and happiness.  We are meant to be together, soul mates, let nothing tear us apart.  We are friends and lovers who communicate well to each other and are honest and open with each other.  Every day our love grows and we fell more passion for each other, we are in love and this love is always going to be strong. 

Next is a tender, unfinished letter to Jorge where she tells him that he can sprout gills too.  True love can do that to a man.


I am ready to move forward with you forever.  I am letting the past go, I am letting go of the guilt, thank you for helping me see how, because of you.  I trust you, I believe in us and I truly believe you are the man I am going to spend the rest of my life with, I have no doubt I love you. 

Mi amor-Maria
Finally, this note welcoming Jorge home gives us our first concrete evidence—as if we needed any—that Jorge might not be as enamored with Maria as Maria is with Jorge.  I think it’s important to show this in Maria’s own handwriting.  Click on the picture for a bigger view.  Notice how she expected him to be home before 8:00, and that she waited a while for him for before she had to go out for an errand.  Where could Jorge be?

Next time:  What’s bothering Jorge?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

My short-lived race against Lance Armstrong

If you had checked the Texas Mountain Bike Racing Association riders’ forum on Friday evening, you would have seen the following headline:

The Rumor is true, yes, Lance Armstrong was pre riding rhr

It’s OK if you didn’t see it.  I didn’t either. 

So it wasn’t until I was pre-riding the course myself on Saturday morning that I discovered that I would indeed be lining up against former world champion and seven time Tour de France Winner Lance Armstrong. 

But I’m getting ahead of myself. 

I am in Texas this week for a conference on natural gas production and transmission systems.  When I found out I would be coming here I got online and did some searching for a bike race—just to make the trip meaningful.  What I found was the Rocky Hill Roundup; it’s the season finale of the fall season here in Texas, comparable to the ICUP’s Wolverine Ridge race.  

I arranged to borrow a bike because I broke mine at 12 Hours of Sundance.  I boxed up the borrowed bike and hopped on a plane to San Antonio.  I camped just outside of Smithville, Texas on Friday night, where I took in the halftime show at the high school football game.  The hometown Tigers were getting slaughtered in this episode of Friday Night Lights

The morning of the race I busied myself getting my bike and body ready.  I didn’t notice any additional hubbub that ought to be present when cycling’s biggest celebrity (at least in Texas) is getting ready to race.  In fact, I had almost forgotten that he was there until the race director, after calling the top ten in the series point standings to the front of the line, spoke the following words: 

“To honor a former world champion, we would also like to call Lance Armstrong to the front of the line.” 

I moved out of his way as he walked his bike (a Gary Fisher Superfly) right next to me.  He was wearing a Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop of Austin jersey.  I lined up behind him and waited for the gun.  Yes, in Texas they use a real gun to start races. 

I’m not sure what to say about what happened next.  Immediately after the start, Lance swerved sharply to the right.  Apparently he could not get clipped into his pedal—typical roadie—and lost his concentration while he tried a second time.  That caused a domino effect, as the guy to his right also swerved right, causing the guy to his right to do likewise.  By the third or fourth domino the riders had run out of space and started going down.  I think at least five guys went down, right in the first fifty meters, and as far as I could tell it was all Lance’s fault. I suspect you'll be able to find video of it on YouTube soon. 

I should mention here that ten minutes before the race I got a flat tire in my back wheel.  I tried to get it to seal but didn’t want to risk it, so I raced back to my car and inserted a tube.  What I didn’t notice was that the flat was not in the seal between the tire and the rim, but I actually had small hole in the sidewall.  If I had seen the hole I would have done what any smart cyclist does in a pinch like this—insert a dollar bill between tube and tire.  The heavy duty, cotton-based paper works like a charm.  Hindsight is always 20/20. 

Anyway, back to the race.  After the crash at the start, I moved around a few guys and found myself right on Lance’s wheel.  A guy named Austin gave me the following pictures. 

A shot of Lance. 
Lance close-up

My shadow (left) and Lance’s back wheel (right).  You’ll just have to trust me on this one. 

A shot of me. 

About fifteen minutes later, after I had passed three guys and was riding in seventh place, and with Lance still in view, I heard what I thought was a gunshot.  Incidentally, only Oklahoma leads Texas in per capita gun ownership.  In exactly 0.75 revolutions, my wheel was completely flat.  I changed my tube and filled it up again, but I broke off the valve stem, exactly like I had at the American Mountain Classic, is my Big Air valve to blame, or is it my adrenalin? 

I started pulling the tube out again when I finally noticed the hole in my sidewall, because it was now quite large and impossible to miss.  I realized my race was over so I started waking. 

Ahhh, there’s nothing like a walk in the woods to do some personal reflection. I was really racing with a living legend.  

P.S. Lance ended up winning, and the last guy I passed before I flatted finished ninth.  Could I have been on my way to a top ten finish?  Results are posted here.

Friday, November 7, 2008

I'm a doper. Again.

I did another cyclocross race last Saturday.  It was the second time in my life that I was a doper.  

I’ll tell you about that in a minute, bur first I need to ask you to do me a favor.  I’m going to be out of town all week, so can you please attend this open house for me?  It’s your opportunity to provide input on existing and potential bicycle corridors that connect communities throughout the state.

UDOT to host Bicycle Corridor Public Open House in Draper

(Salt Lake) -The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) will host a series of public open houses throughout the state to discuss existing and potential bicycle corridors. The Draper/Sandy open house will be held on Thursday, November 13, 2008, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Draper City Hall, Council Chambers, 1020 East Pioneer Road in Draper.        

In response to increasing demand for bicycle corridors in Utah, UDOT is preparing a statewide Bicycle Corridor Priority Plan. Key elements of the plan include: an assessment of current bicycle accommodations; a methodology for improving bicycle corridors; and public input and recommendations.

For more information, contact Amy Steinbrech at 801.364.0088 ext. 115 ( or visit the UDOT Web site at

So apparently the latest performance enhancing drug of choice for endurance athletes is Viagra.  I know this not because I pay attention to stuff like this, but because my buddy Leif, who studies this sort of stuff at the University of Utah, tells me so.  

Last Friday, Leif and I did a quick Halloween ride on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail.  We were riding past Red Butte—he was dinging his bell the whole way—when he asked me if I’d like to participate in a study he was doing.  

He wanted me to take 50 mg (half a pill) of Viagra before my race the next day, and fill out a survey describing any perceived effects.  

I consented, but only for the cause of science.  

So the race went pretty well for me.  I popped the pill about an hour before the start, warmed up as usual, then lined up on the back row where I belong.  For the record, Viagra is not currently a banned substance by the World Anti Doping Agency.  

Cyclocross may not be the best venue for me to test a drug.  The race course wasn’t overly technical, but I still suffered in the place where it was.   Part of the course was on the motocross course at Rocky Mountain Raceway, complete with whoops, tabletop jumps and high-banked corners.   Maybe a high octane beverage would have made me faster, the kind they advertise there at the Raceway.  

I suppose what I’m saying is that it’s not my fitness that holds me back in cyclocross, it my bike handling skills.  So a performance enhancing drug probably isn’t going to help me that much in this discipline.  In spite of this, I did finish better than I did the week before—14th this time—and I did feel a little stronger, but I attribute that more to this being my second race of the season.  I always feel a little better after the first race.  I did my best to tell Leif that when I filled out the survey.  

So when it comes to performance enhancement, I guess its back to flax seeds and maple syrup for me.  Viagra just doesn’t do it for me.  Yes, I realize that is a double entendre.  

Besides, if cyclists start using Viagra to get an unfair advantage it would be really easy to test for.  Picture this, scores of guys in skin tight spandex standing around after a race.  All it would take is one of the podium girls bending over to pick something up.  Every doper in the crowd would be HARD to miss.  

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I ride a tandem bike and I vote

Mags and I voted on Friday.  It was an unseasonably warm day, so we pulled out our tandem and made a fun outing of it.  (Any ride on a tandem bike is a fun outing.)

I had tried to vote on Thursday night, but the line was too long when I got there.  I had the impression that early voting was meant to be a way to avoid the long lines on election day, so I figured I could stop by the Northwest Multipurpose Center on my way home from work and be in and out in a flash.  When I saw how long the lines were, and realized I had forgotten to bring a bike lock, I decided I could come back another time.

It didn’t help that I was wearing my race kit and was a bit sweaty and smelly.  I had gone for a ride with a co-worker earlier in the afternoon, and had to rush back be on a conference call.  I made it in time for the call, but didn’t have time to change out of my chamois.  So I sat there at my desk in my spandex and stewed in my own sweat.  This happens more often than I care to admit.  By the time the call was over it was nearly quitting time so I figured I’d just wear my kit home instead of taking the time to change back into my civilian clothes. 

Like I said, Mags and I tried again on Friday afternoon.  This time we brought along a lock, which was good because the line was even longer.  That gave us plenty of time to discuss the influence of the tandem bike-riding couple as a voting block.  I wondered why McCain and Obama had failed to reach out to us.  Don’t they know that couples that tandem together vote together? 

Remember that it’s patriotic to ride your bike to the polling station, and you won’t have to worry about parking (if you remember to bring your bike lock).  I’m not going to tell you how to vote, or who I voted for, but I will say that the following two photographs influenced my decision: 

Barack and sarah