Wednesday, December 26, 2007

I Know It's Over

‘Cross season is over for me. When Natz Schmatz got cancelled due to ten inches of snow I lost all motivation, there was no way in Hell I could wait another three weeks to begin faffing off completely. I’ve got a 100 miler looming in April, without a solid month off inbetween this season and the next I would breakdown both physically and psychologically. Besides I have lots of cake-eating, beer(not to mention Creamy Italian Dressing) drinking, and laying about watching bad movies to catch up on.
Laying about and faffing off still involves riding to work both ways four or five days a week, at least that keeps me honest (and not quite morbidly obese). Don’t have any incredibly ridiculous tales of commuter angst to share, actually not much bike related material to share in general, and since this isn’t my “I Hate My Job Blog” I don’t have much to say. Don’t really understand how that one works, like your boss and higher ups don’t know you have a blog…yup, they never see all the smack you talk about your work place. If you buy that maybe you’d be interested in this bridge I saw on Craigslist…it’s built on some prime real estate in Florida, the seller is a prince from Africa, his financier just needs your checking account routing number.

The other day I went to see a useless Orthopedist at Mt. Auburn, this is what my bike looked like when I came out. I say useless because these guys generally don't get the whole competive athlete thing. "Ah, you look fine when you walk, just don't ride a bike". Thanks buddy, maybe I'll take up competitive walking...or just walk in right in front of an MBTA bus.

This is my street, often it is the hardest part of my commute. A few days ago, I ate it, hard just a block from the house. Went lowside on some glare ice around a righthand corner, then somehow managed to change it into a highside, landing on my left hip, sliding uphill. I don't think I was subsequently killed by an oblivious driver. If I was, the after life is just like the before life, only I get less sleep and drink even more coffee.

Miriam and I went out for Sushi (this is not bike related, but it is weirdness related) the paper towel dispenser in the bathroom had an oddly shaped was meant to be operated with your elbow. OK, that's not weird, it's awesome, now if they'd just make the flush handle on toilettes a foot pedal.

The weird thing was this - there was a bag of meat in the sink. Not Japanese-type meat,it was a form of sausage. Maybe it was just "Sink Meat". I don't eat meat, I'm not an expert.

Riding home at night, sometimes I see the most strangely beautiful things.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Hoppy Hoppy Grasshoppers

"I don't want to take anything away from him, he won the race, but I was the best rider today. I was just unlucky – but that seems to be my season this year."

-Jonathan Page on why Tim Johnson beat him

"I won because I was lucky - lucky to wind up in a [race] full of losers!"

-Tim Johnson on why he beat Jonathan Page
(he didn't, I say DID NOT actually say this, keep reading)

That's ridiculous, no one would ever be a big enough dick to say things like that.
But Page did - Tim did not, that absurd Tim quote was adapted from the little film "Highway 61".
A character who thinks he is Satan himself says it after being accused of cheating at a seniors Bingo Night.

Not to take anything away from JP...but winning is winning (unless you cheat). Losing is always losing, no matter what. Losing like Trebon did in Kansas is "unlucky". He had nothing to do with what happened to him. Not being able to control your bike in adverse conditions in not "unlucky", it is "unskilled".
I suppose JP also thought he was unlucky when someone threw those giant padded barriers at him during Asper-Gavere. I seriously don't mean to trash the guy so badly, but Tim won Nationals fair and square, the rider who stays on his bike, rides it the fastest, doesn't have a technical, doesn't drop out because he's having a bad day, and crosses the line first is the best rider...period.

What I really wanted to share today were my picks for "Best Barrier Hoppers in 'Cross today". I took this little video of Wells at the Verge NBX race. He had retired the hopping for the most part, for quite a while. He brought it back in force, showing he is still one of the most talented Hoppy Hopping dudes around.

Todd Wells at NBX

It was sick, he actually aired out over the first barrier and rarely even came close to touching the second. He either gained time or maintained position throughout the race by hopping. All the better that he did it while battling it out with Jeremy Powers, one of the most consistent hoppers of all time. Powers may not have the cleanest, sexiest hopping style, but he is always willing to risk it and he gets the job done. For whatever reason he was not hopping that day, he did, however win the race, which may have made him feel more adequate.

Jeremy Powers at New Gloucester

Another incredibly consistent hopper is Matt White, he hops at speed, in traffic, utilizing his tops, so his fingers are nowhere near his brake levers. This video from my friend Andy illustrates just how effective his skills are.

Matt White at Canton Cup 2006

You'll notice that he gets a half a bike length on the other rider. Nay sayers will tell you that it is NEVER faster to hop. So who would you use to test this theory? Who would be one of the fastest transitioning riders out there to go head to head with a hopper? How about Mark McCormack? That other rider was Mark. And Bob's yer uncle.
I couldn't find the video of Nys and Stybar doing their synchronized "dolphins on the bow wake of a ship" hop, so I just used the photo at the top of the post. This may have seemed strange at first with all the ranting about poor sportsmanship and whatnot. If anyone knows where to find that vid, I'd love to see it again.

No real conclusion about, I'm Thom Parsons, not only do I approve of barrier hopping, I think it's Awesome!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Verge NECCS #7 NBX GP of Cross
Warwick, RI

My alarm didn’t even get a chance to go off, I was up and out of the house in no time, I felt rested, felt good, I was utterly prepared to Rock-uh. During the warm up my legs no longer had the ooky feeling of the day before. The course conditions had changed, what was mud was now frozen weirdness, the texture of freezer burnt ice cream. This was the single speed hell course of last year, flat, parking lot start, downhill finish, hardpacked and fast, the race hadn’t started and I was already in survival mode.
Got the call up again, I was now joined by the guy I am tapping as next season’s Uber-Sandbagger, Colin Reuter, who had picked up some points the day before. “Oh god, I’m behind Thom Parsons, he starts like a slug” he says. That and I don’t EVEN sprint like a Hippo (they are very fast in short bursts, Richard Fries should watch more Animal Planet) I sprint more like Rush Limbaugh (before he got hooked on diet pills and got all svelt) after he’s washed down a bottle of Oxycontin in the bathroom of The Old Country Buffet with a tall, cool glass of chocolate pudding.
We took off, me on Brendan Cornett’s wheel, things weren’t looking too bad, then John Peterson tried a new tactic, leading the field into the tape fifty yards shy of the actual corner. I didn’t get completely screwed but I didn’t get off easy either, dropping back into the twenties. Somehow Cornett went clear, bringing with him Colin and Ryan Rumsey, leaving me in the dust, and by dust I mean wet sand and gravel. I wasn’t able to ride the first sand section which put me back some more, the barriers were daunting, I felt like I’d never done a dismount before, I swear I had this stuff down better in my rookie season last year. The wet, sandy, paved corner by the Gazebo was just about the scariest thing I’d ever seen. I’ll barrel down a fire road at 40mph on the mountain bike, but put a little bit of grit and water on some asphalt and I’m shaking in my cleats.
Going into the first few hairpin corners I could see Rumsey and Colin up there absolutely killing it, I was happy to see some new faces on the front, I cheered them on from the backseat with fifteen riders between us. I was in a bad ass group with Cambridge Bike riders Pete Smith and Jeremy Dunn, I was struggling but holding on, then going into the second beach section I bobbled. I tried to cut to the inside line and crashed immediately, this forced me to run the entire length of the beach, running is not my forte and I went deeply anaerobic, unable to recover after the run up, I lost contact and lapsed into no man’s land.

The Sven Nys of the 2/3's catches up to me after a rough start

I accidentally kick him the arm for his trouble on the remount

After that stuff happened…y’know…things…’n’ more stuff ( There were five guys in front of me, Colin was up there, I could see Rumsey leading Cornett (yeah buddy, you go my Mt. Bike brethren) Rowell and some dudes including IBCer Jim Newton were just behind me and looking hungry for blood, my blood. I was riding the sandpits in various horrifically ineffective ways, trying to figure out the absolute worst way to do it. I never did exhaust all the possibilities. I did hold off the chase group and the Zanconato rider who made a solo charge across the gap, coasting down the hill to 12th place, my second best finish in one of these things ever.
I thought it was pretty cool, after an entire season of seeing the same faces on the podium to have Ryan Rumsey win this thing, he’s always been a solid rider, but I don’t think anyone would have picked him to pull of a big fat W in a Verge Series race, he definitely earned it. Colin Reuter’s 10th wasn’t to shabby either, can’t wait to see what’ll go down next season when (if) the guys who should upgrade actually do so.

Below is a nice sequence from Jason Girouard (above photos are his as well).
I wasn't able to ride this thing most laps, sometimes because of traffic, sometimes because I sucked at riding my bike. At one point the Bart Wellens of The Verge 2/3's rode up behind me and warned "you better be able to ride this" (oddly he spoke in English not Flemish) the rider in front of me bobbled, so I bobbled, so Bart bobbled, he got wicked pissed. "Silly Bart, you shouldn't even be in this race, especially not behind a kooky single speeder" I thought.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Verge NECCS #6, W.E. Steadman GP
Warwick, RI

We finally got the conditions I’d been hoping for all season (mud)…then I showed up at the race with the legs of an arthritic Corgi, the heart of an Ant Lion, and the lungs of a three pack a day smoker. My brain on the other hand was not taking no for an answer. The little, grey, slimy bastard was hell bent on destroying what was left of my body.
The course was a vast improvement on The ’07 Caster’s cup from my standpoint (the standpoint of a guy who maxes out at 15mph on flat ground).The start and finish were on an uphill, there were tons of slippery, muddy corners, things were looking good.
As a result of my, er…result at Sterling I got myself a call up, I lined up second row behind Awerbuch and the other fast kids and we took off. I wasn’t that bad off initially, I was sitting in the top ten, spinning up the paved hill…but the hill flattened out for a while before the hole shot, I got swamped, call up was for naught. Thing is, I wasn’t even riding the corners very well, my head was not in it, my eyes felt tired, I wanted to take a frickin’ nap.
Honestly, I was so out of it through most of this thing, I’m not going to be able to put together anything like a coherent report. There was a whole lot of mad, frantic spinning, legs pooling lactic acid, hips and back aching, anaerobic panting, tongue wagging, gaps not closing, and backsliding, but my brain kept flagellating my body “Keep digging your on grave fruitboots!”, but I had all the form of a weird Jello salad mold.
Converse to my usual schtick I had started toward the front and was now getting caught and then dropped by groups of riders and left behind without any answer. I passed Colin Reuter and motioned for him to get on my wheel, by the time we got to the top of the paved hill he demonstrated that he needed my wheel like Joan Rivers needs another face lift.

Me, looking at the clock, Colin listening to his corner tell him to go for the knockout

R. “Ben Stiller in Dodgeball” Kelly groaned as I came past him, I was making his bad day even worse. “Damn you and your bike handling skills” he said after the race. Whatever my alleged bike handling skills may have gained me in the tricky stuff, I lost on the flats and straightaways. I was even spun out on the paved uphill, at least when I was trying to stay on Jeremy Dunn’s wheel, the guy is powerhouse. I looked pretty skilled too as I slid out on the off camber section by the crossing at the gazebo, real skilled…at sliding on my ass for ten feet. At least Richard Fries didn’t catch it and yell “Down goes Parsons! Down goes Parsons!”. Anyone else think that guy can be a bit harsh on people sometimes? “Todd Wells sprints like a Hippopotamus”. Not very nice.
Alright, I’m going to wrap this one up, it’s awful whiny, even for me. In the end I didn’t even do that badly, I finished 14th, in the points, but I was really hoping to do better than my 10th in Sterling.
It was all part of my master plan to not get called a “Sandbagger”. God forbid I should feel compelled to upgrade.

One Last Chance

to not get beat by the single speeder!
I've signed up for both the 2/3's
and the Elites at Natz Scmatz Winter 'Cross.
They say they need 50 entries or it'll get cancelled, there are 14 people preregistered right now and I'm two of them. This means that if they combine the two fields I will be lining up behind myself. During the race me and myself will have exchanges like "Dude, I'd pull through but I'm on a single speed" and "Dude, I can't go any faster...I'm on a single speed". Please don't let this happen, register now, it will shorten the span of time where you sit around going "Is it 'Cross season yet? Is it 'Cross season yet? Is it 'Cross season yet?".

Stupid, whiny Stedman report is in the works, check back later.

Friday, December 07, 2007

I Got a Right (hand brake lever that is)

The brake lever on my sweet, pink, fix-ed gear bi-cycle is mounted on the right and I will now tell you why. Technically, and I say technically one of the reasons (unless you are from the U.K.) your right brake lever operates your rear brake caliper is that you have to apply more force to the rear lever to obtain anything like the amount of stopping power your front brake has...most people are right handed...their right hands are stronger...thus they operate the rear brake with the stronger hand. Since I am not a technical type guy, this has absolutely nothing to do with my reason for running my brake like I do.

It has more to do with the fact that I am much more comfortable holding a coffee in my left hand while my right is on the bar and close to the lever. Yes, you can stop a fixed gear without the brake, but it's awkward and nearly impossible to do in a pinch with just one hand on the bar. In this situation I recommend first throwing your coffee at the car which is cutting you off, then grabbing the brake...or not.

Another good reason I adopted this style was from mesengering. Often you have to carry one to three loaded copy boxes on your bars (sometimes with two in your bag, fun stuff) in this case I prefer holding the boxes with my left arm, while my right hand is free to operate the brake. Nowadays the only type of box I carry on my bars is a case of beer.

It's raining in Warwick, let it rain.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Fish and The Dragonfly (an unpublishable children's story)

"Nothing to do, sit around at home
Sit around at home, stare at the walls
Stare at each other and wait till we die
Stare at each other and wait till we die"

-Big Black "Kerosene"

Successfully resisted temptation of car, car bad, car make head cloudy and angry. When commuting by bike I can have an "incident" with a motorist and ride it off before I get home or to work. If I drive it stays with me, I stay angry, it's no fun. I feel like I'm repeating myself, I'm sure to do a lot of that this winter.
Funny, but the some of the worst offenders on the road these days are Prius drivers. I just don't think they are engaged in the act of driving a car. They are preoccupied with their feeling of superiority over all other motoring beings. Guess what Prius driver? I am higher on the environmentally correct food chain than you. They're quiet too, they sneak up on you like a shark, like a Basenji. I will likely get run over by a Prius before I get run over by an Escalade, at least the Escalade driver will do it intentionally not obliviously.

"Yes, I know, you are so f-in' oppressed". That is my standard comeback to the evil eye I get from drivers who have to wait for two seconds before turning left. This is your Darfur you poor left turning driver you.

The pedestrians...the sidewalk becomes covered in the thinnest layer of snow and they head to the street. The roads are already shrinking, the shoulders filled with lumpy ice, I'm already way out in traffic, then you come along, putting me in the path of danger, and death, and dismemberment. It's bad enough with the runners coming at you all year long, running in the road against traffic, now you suits who can't be bothered to change into a pair of high top Reeboks with Velcro straps so you can walk down the sidewalk like a..."not-moron" are out there in your traction-less dress shoes. I don't like you, I can't be taught to like you, I can't be tortured and re-programmed to like you.

Here's a message to the driver who honks at the cyclist who runs a red light (knowing full well in this case that the left turn lane is empty and oncoming traffic has a green arrow, i.e., it is totally safe and without risk to themselves or anyone else). This act is akin to a fish making angry fish noises at a Dragonfly hovering above the water because he is stuck under the water swimming around like god damn idiot (probably with that poo thing hanging off his dirty fish butt) doing stupid fish things while the Dragonfly is free to fly and do whatever other cool Dragonfly things he feels like doing.
Fish-Driver-Guy, maybe think of yourself as a little Dragonfly Larvae, a Dragonfly puppy, kitten, or whatever. If you want to you can blossom into a beautiful Dragonfly and fly through lights as well. All you have to do is come out of your car-coon., that's quite enough out of me.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Ice Floe, Nowhere to Go

I'm little Johnny Frostbite,
movin' around,
freezing you up,
freezing you down like an icicle,
coming in your tent in the pink light scissor bite.
Arctic death,
infinite night.

-The Mighty Boosh
Tundra Rap

It’s here, the clothes I require just to ride to work measure over fifteen feet when laid out to dry, they weigh in excess of five pounds…easy. While riding some part of me is always uncomfortable, too hot too cold, numb, sweating, chafing. For the next few weeks a have access to a car, the temptation to be soft and lazy is there. Must fight the sloth…he’s slow but he has those three incredibly strong claw/toes and whatever he gets a hold of, he’ll pull to his mouth and rip to shreds. At least that’s what I learned from William Burroughs.

Much better weather for sledding really, Lyla seems to think so as well, especially when she gets a lift to the slope.

Just last week it was arm and leg warmer weather, those were the days. This morning I found out just how much it sucks to do your recovery ride into a headwind when it's 28° out. This after not doing anything like a cool down after Wrentham. I would have it was just that it wouldn't have been a cool down so much as a deep freeze. Gotta get the legs going again for The last two Verges this weekend. I'm hoping that they at the very least run the course in two different ways. Maybe one will be completely different from last year's...not my favorite course of all time. Who nows, maybe this looming snow will effect things in a positive way, i.e., totally wreck it and make a bloody mess of it. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Monday, December 03, 2007

MRC Cyclocross Wrentham, MA

The day before this race a few of the IBCers and special guest star Colin Reuter of fame had met up at IBC Newton for a little ‘Cross practice. For me it was as much about figuring out what to wear while ‘Crossin’ it up in the severe cold as anything else. I also proceeded to demonstrate that the only time I can keep a ‘Cross bike upright is during an actual race. “Hey kids, follow me, check out these great natural barriers, like this big log, what’s that? You don’t see it? O.K., let me point it out…with my head!”. I don’t really know what happened, but I found myself lying there with a brake lever lodged in my back and my head resting on a log as C Todd and Colin stepped over me going “how does this guy even get to work alive, never mind finish a ‘Cross race?”. Then I found out that my Solutions for Cyclocross DVD didn’t teach me absolutely everything there is to know about transitioning (the getting on and off the bike bit). One dismounting technique which had heretofore eluded me was the very popular with the Pros it seems “Step around, unclip at the last second but land with your left foot forward” style. I’d always done the “unclip left foot, step through” dealy…now I was confused.

Eating right on schedule driving 80MPH with my right knee

It was cold Sunday, I mean it was kill a Ton Ton, eviscerate it, and crawl inside it’s stinking body cavity cold (Check out Gewilli’s blog for tales of Ice Goatees and Phlegmsicles). Do I warm up or sit in the car with the heat blasting? I did get out of the car long enough to do four practice laps. I wanted to figure out how to ride the giant log on the course, but my warm up gloves were too big and bulky, I couldn’t get a good enough grip on my hoods to even attempt it. Hopefully during the race I’d be able to work it out. “If you can’t do something ten out of ten times in practice…try it during a race”. Isn’t that what they say?
The course was 90% the same as 2006, unfortunately they’d removed one of my favorite natural obstacles, the giant rock. We also didn’t go as far down the dirt road before heading back up the hill to the field. The conditions were significantly different as well, what was a soft, semi-boggy field was now frozen solid and rutted, the corners were tricky, they had all these little steps, probably tire tracks from pre-rides in softer conditions which were now as hard as rock. The ground was so hard that when we dismounted for the barriers our bike shoes sounded like horse hooves on asphalt.
We lined up according to our rankings, which put me in the second row, next to fast Circle A guy Dan Langlois. I wasn’t on the start line long enough to get nervous, I took off my jacket, took one last swig of coffee, and we took off. Dan jumped ahead of me falling in line behind all the guys from the front row, his was the wheel I was watching and I jumped on it as we came into the first few turns. Riding at the front of the race is much easier than my normal M.O. of starting at the back and working my way up. Usually I have to ride the entire race like a fighter with his eyes swollen shut, swinging blindly for the fences (always good to insert a Baseball metaphor into your fighting metaphor), as he gets used as a human punching bag.
There were a few legitimately fast dudes at the front of the train including Toby Marzot, I think I was sitting in about tenth first lap, not sure if the gap to the top five opened up first or second lap, I do remember that I was in contact with the Marzot group for longer than I thought I’d be. The gap opened after the uphill corner onto the dirt road, there were a couple guys in front of me, they didn’t close it down, I didn’t have the horsepower to come around and do anything, then Kevin Hines jumped up out of nowhere and blazed across solo. This after he had just won the Masters race, the nut.

For the next lap I was hanging onto a group of five or so by a bunch of sheets knotted together, only I had forgotten how to tie anything but a granny knot (I got my Arrow of Light a long ass time ago) and my sheets were coming apart, leaving me dropped off the back repeatedly behind Ryan Laroque and Dan Langlois. There was another guy in the group who was letting big gaps appear every time he was in front me, I’d pass him back and close it, then he would pass me…and let a big gap open. On the awkward run up (which I never mastered, I felt like a Giraffe on rollerskates every time we hit it) I bumped his wheel and grumbled “run faster”, not a very nice thing to say. Eventually he and the other couple guys in the group popped and it was just me, Ryan, and Dan. The pace had become more tolerable or I had finally warmed up, either way we were holding the gap to the leaders at about thirty seconds.

In Step

Throughout the course my fans (my family) were rabidly cheering me on. My niece and nephew yelling “Go UncleThom!”, “Go as fast as a Jet!”, “Make me some eggs!”, and “I want Mickey Mouse Pancakes!”. I had to show off a bit so I went for the log jump, I now had lighter gloves on, but my fingers had gone numb, they wouldn’t do what I told them to do. Dan was in front, Ryan behind, I did kind of a chainring bonk, teetering over, almost eating it, and putting my foot down, not ideal. Hmm, that went well, I’ll try that again next lap.

It was slightly faster...if you did it right, I didn't always do it right

A little less than half way through Dan led into the downhill/uphill hairpin, he slipped in the corner then had a gear issue, Ryan moved to the front and upped the pace, I sat in, just riding around without anything like a plan yet. The five in front were extending the gap while the gap to Dan was increasing behind as well. I went to the front and tried to pick things up but the leaders advantage only grew. “Hey, this is just like the Vermont 50” Ryan exhaled (We had ridden the last hour of the Vermont 50 together). In that case, I was in a group that had left the line five minutes after his, I was wishing that I had that five minute advantage .

By now I had figured out the log jump and I was getting small gaps on Ryan coming out of it, my style wasn’t nearly as smooth and clean as Jerome Townsend’s method from last year, but it got the job done. There were a few other areas where I could open some real estate between us but his cruising speed was faster and he’d reel me back in. My attacks became more frequent, I’d up the pace after the corner onto the uphill in the woods, then gun it at the top, threading the needle between the tree and the tape without touching my brakes…and still I could not get the guy off my frickin’ wheel. I could hear him making kind of distressed noises so I knew he wasn’t just comfortably sitting in waiting to make a move while I did all the work.

On me like a rat on cheese

With two laps to go I was getting desperate, I didn’t want to leave it up to sprint, historically those do not go well for me. Coming into the penultimate lap I still had not put any distance between me and Laroque. He was back there planning something, I was sure of it. I kept my left ear cocked waiting for the click of gears, trying to preempt any sudden move, trying to keep the pace high to discourage any such shenanigans. We came down the finishing stretch, I expected him to come around me here and block my log maneuver to be safe, but he didn’t. My heart was hanging out my nostrils approaching the log, this was where I’d faceplant for sure…but I didn’t. Ryan made a cheeky move, coming through on the inside, running like a mad man, my hopes of beating him sunk, but I was already in my pedals, I stomped on them, getting up to full single speed, er speed and crossing the line first…for sixth place.

Set up for the sprint

It was a great day, the course was killer, I had a good ride, went one on one with a bad ass competitor, it was awesome having my family there, and I left feeling that I did as well as I possibly could have done. I suppose I could have done without the frozen “Gentleman’s Area”. I think just post race I actually said “Um, my weenie’s frozen”. The part of my brain that houses euphemisms for the male anatomy beyond what a five year old would use was apparently frozen as well.
Thanks to Miriam for the videos and photos.