America's #1 Balance Bike Destination

America's #1 Balance Bike Destination
America's #1 Balance Bike Destination

Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday Funerals are the Best..

..Is what people keep telling me.. And that my Father is very lucky and very loved by the Big Guy for this reason. We've been to City Hall, we've ordered the food and drink for 100 people.. We went to the cemetary and picked a spot.. We (ten of us) carried him down the stairs from the third floor in a casket.. We took him to the mosque where he was bathed one final time- and yes of course I insisted on being present and helping out.. Now he's back in the casket, staged in front of the mosque (which is not a casket in a true sense- it's used only for transport) as brother and I wait for Friday prayers to end. When they do, people will flood out and surround the casket and pray some more. After that it's a short trip to the cemetary, where everyone who wasn't here at the mosque (the women of the house) will be waiting. I'm told that the way it works is that my brother and I get into the grave and help lower Father into it. He's wrapped in three seamless pieces of white cloth-that's it, there's no casket. Strangers are walking up and praying, squeezing our hands. My eyes are bloodshot and raw. I probably look like I will be next to go.. While my younger brother Ali is as poker faced and calm as a Hindu Cow... Wife has been falling apart a lot. She and my Dad had a special father-daughter bond.
It's bright, sunny and 80+ degrees, just like every day is here in Mudanya, just like California. I'm looking forward to my next bike ride, my next race, and every one which follows.. Because I have this far fetched hope.. That Father will finally and easily see how hard I try.. How seriously hard I work to be the best I can be.. He'll excitedly stand with a clenched fist as I wind up a finishing sprint and attack and open up an unclosable gap..
I'm delirious.. Dreaming.. I miss him so much..
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Thank you..

.To everyone who is reaching out to me on the blog comments as well as privately. I've given up on answering everyone individually, for now. I'm blown away and eternally grateful.
We're about to leave to go and choose a site for Father at the Mudanya cemetary. He loved it here by the ocean.
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Thursday, May 29, 2008

After

It's 2am. We planted a few seeds and news spread like wildfire. Before you know it, phones are ringing like crazy, the doorbell is chiming non stop, and people are flooding the house to pay their respects. I'm tired- laying down in the same room as Father's body. He's covered head to toe. His two big toes are tied together and a strip of cloth is tied around his head and chin to keep his mouth closed. The balcony door is wide open and the room is chilled. We have pepsi bottles in the freezer which will soon be ready for use as ice packs to keep Father cool long enough to carry him to a mosque in the morning for cleansing and preparation for burial. Per islamic requirements, he must be in the ground before sundown the following day. Tomorrow after morning prayers, a short invitation to his funeral will be read via speakerphone from the minaret. (This is being repeated at another mosque in Bursa also) After Friday prayers at the local mpsque in Mudanya, those who want to can then join in a quick stand up prayer outside the mosque, around the coffin. From there we proceed to the cemetary where his site has already been prepared and we lay him to rest. Per tradition, everyone in attendance is encouraged to throw a few shovels of soil into the grave, until it's filled completely. And then begins a period of mourning and group prayers at the house.. Etc etc. I'm going to try to take a nap..

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Lost Him

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Whose Nightmare is this?

I keep thinking about what a nightmare this situation has become for me and the family.. Then I come to my senses when I consider that Father is the one who is really living in a nightmare right now, and then I want to punch myself and jump off the nearest bridge for being such a pussy.
If I knew that I would live for another 40 years, I'd happily split them 50-50 with my father. We'd go into the dark together, 20 years from now.

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A new day

It's windy enough this morning that there are little whitecaps all over the water, which we have a clear of, from father's apartment balcony.
He's hanging in there. I told him repeatedly that my brother will be here today. His breathing is getting labored. He hasn't taken any food or drink in the last 40 hours because every drop of food causes a gag reflex and a fit of coughing on phlegm that has nested in his throat. He used to be able to clear it and spit but not anymore. The IV doesn't work either- it goes for ten minutes and then backs up and blood is everywhere. His veins are all shot from the chemo treatments.
We're just "getting ready" for the inevitable at this point. I'm emotionally drained. Last night I sat with him and told him I love him very much, that I always have.. That he's my champion and hero and not to be afraid..
Damn.
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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

45 minute spin

That's all. Barely 100 watts. Rode past my uncle's waterfront summer condo in Burgaz, which he has owned forever. Nobody home, or at least I assume so- no Opel parked out front with German plates. Even if he was home, I'm not sure if I would have stopped. And if I had, I'm not sure if I would have been very nice to him. He's the oldest of 7 siblings, and he hates my father for a variety of reasons.. Mainly because my father insulted him while in a drunken stupor.. Ironic thing is: When my two teenage uncles used to sneak around getting drunk, my 12 year old father was a witness. Determined to keep him quiet about it, they would pass him drinks too, in return for his silence. And so begins the story of my father's alcoholism. Fast forward 50 years and we find my father on his death bed, and his two older brothers "G-d knows where", and completely oblivious. They can both suck my balls.
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Hondas in disguise

No Accords in Turkey- it's called Legend here. The economical Honda Fit is called the Jazz for whatever reason. Also, I'm seeing a Land Rover Freelander everywhere I turn. I can barely afford to lease one back home.. How do these poor poor Turks afford them here? There's a 100 percent tax on imports.. And limited financing options. You think you're the shit because you leased an LR2 with no money down and can afford to fill up for $4 a gallon? Take a pill. Get over yourself. The vehicle and the fuel is more than double the cost here, while the Median income is only about $1400 a monthn probably a lot less.
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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Day 4: climber's heaven

Some corrections.. The main highway which climbs out of Mudanya rises 750 feet in 2-1/2 miles.. The old winding road (that is, the return to Mudanya which I use to get home afterwards) rises to 900 feet (but begins at 200 feet elev) in exactly three miles. I did both climbs again today for the third consecutive day.. And then some.. Today I discovered a road which climbs up out of the valley to a point opposite the city of Bursa to a little "koy" (village) called "Gundogdu".. Which literally means "Rising Sun" or something close.. At the top of this climb, at the fountain of the village mosque, my altimeter read 1200 feet. The view of the city of Bursa down in the valley took my breath away. To see the entirety of a city populated by 2 million.. as though it was painted there by a giant paint brush- something to behold.. My companion and guide on this scenic five mile climb was a 40 year old mountain biker/road race dabbler who had me making 'woman noises' all the way to the top. In fact, Zafer is a bike commuter who climbs this hill every day after work, then doubles back down to get home. I can't say I blame him. The traffic was light, the breeze cool, and the views awesome. He had a backpack and climbed smoother and faster than me in spite of the added weight. Opened a nice gap on me too I don't mind admitting.. Though I did keep him closely in sight the whole way. But.. He does know the road like the back of his hand. My legs are quite sore and achy from all the climbing I've done after taking 6 days off the bike and then traveling 8000 miles. I'll try to return the favor and make him suffer on Sunday's group ride after I've taken some recovery time. Great guy, Zafer. A rare breed indeed, especially in Turkey. I'll take some pictures on Sunday's ride, which I'm told usually goes 120 km. Now that I think of it, today's total climbing was 3000 feet, according to the Polar. Two consecutive days prior, I know I did about 4000 total feet of climbing. So 7000 feet in three days. That's a lot of vertical rise for an over weight guy who climbs poorly.. Last three days I have about 9 hours of ride time and approx 160 miles.. Not too shabby. Tomorrow I take a light one hour spin with no big ring and no hills. My avg HR today was 142. Could not go hard enough due to soreness, to get it higher.. Max HR was only a weak 174.
Father seems to have taken a step backwards today.. All the forward momentum of yesterday erased. The initial shock of when I first saw his emaciation has passed.. But I can't help but feel a certain disconnect from my emotions. It's like a circuit breaker has tripped- it did it's job of protecting me from overload and complete failure. Tears no longer well up when I look down at his broken body. Guilt about my easy-going nature, my 3 hour bike rides.. Guilt rears it's head and pokes me in the ribs occasionally. Must be a form of adaptation. In order for me to be strong enough to feed him by spoon and to keep him clean and to help him clear phlegm and wipe his mouth, certain systems require disabling.
Thursday my brother arrives and maybe then I'll hit the reset button.. Though I must admit that it's easier this way.. And that I am very afraid.
I'm not a religious person.. In spite of my family's best efforts to indoctrinate me.. I'm agnostic. Believe it when I see it. There's maybe probably a G-d.. If so, he's not a participant or an influence on our lives.. For this reason, prayer is futile. Buy powerball tickets man, because that has a greater chance of enhancing your life. G-d can't help you.. And if he did, it would be pretty unfair to all of those who are sick and dying or killed senselessly every second of every day.. Who helped them? Were they overlooked for not praying? Or for not praying to the correct G-d? To me' G-d's more like an apathetic observer.. Powerless or at least unable to show it. I am infuriated by the words "Thank God!" Or "It's G-d's will". For fuck's sake stop giving credit to G-d for your hard work AND THEN giving him praise for tragic events! Stop it. If you triumph, give yourself the credit. If you have cancer, it wasn't "G-d's fucking will" either. Sorry if I offend. I do not mean to indoctrinate and I do not disrespect those with faith- my father is deeply religious. He was anyway- but maybe that's changed..
I don't believe in hell.. Which brings me to the whole point of this rant: I find the concept of Heaven very hard to believe as well.. But in these last few days, for the sake of my father, I'm at least hoping for it with all my heart. Thanks for reading.
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Day three

I think I'm losing weight in sympathy for my dad. Eating less.. Riding lots. And climbing galore. Can't swing a dead cat around here without hitting a ball-busting climb.. Later today I'll go out of Mudanya on the main highway with my Polar and get the altitude profile for later. I'm guessing that it climbs about 600 feet in 2-1/2 miles. The other day I climbed it without stressing myself too much, but it turns out that I pushed hard enough that my bar tape unraveled on the tops.. Tonight I'll be meeting up with one of the local Masters for a ride together. His name's Zafer. We tried to rendezvous last night (my 2nd ride of the day) but I took some wrong turns and it didn't work out. In the morning I went out by bike to meet my wife at her mom's house. Since I needed to have street clothes with me, I took the "rescue pack"- my orange adidas back pack that looks a lot like Diego's.. Had to climb the hill out of Mudanya with about 15 extra pounds.. Plus I added my red blinky to the bike to be safe. We rented a car yesterday for two weeks- a brand new Renault Symbol. It had 12 km on it and the interior still wrapped in plastic. For a sub-compact it sure had no trouble swallowing my bike in the trunk (with both wheels off). Cost for 15 days: 1050 dollars. Gas costs 9 dollars a gallon so it will be about 120 dollars to fill up the 13 gallon tank. Crazy. You can rent a car for 20 dollars a day in the states. Here it's triple to rent a car and more than double for gas.. Americans complain about gas prices.. Pfffft! I hope the price goes up to 10 dollars. Can't afford it? Ride a bike! Eat your house! You know the one where you financed BOTH the down payment and the other 95 percent too?! Sorry I'm way off topic here. Here's my upturned middle finger to Washington Mutual Bank- the one which, for the third consecutive year, embarrassed me in Turkey with credit card transaction failures.. In spite of my calling in advance and telling them I'll be in Turkey. What a joke.
Father seemed to improve marginally yesterday.. But he looks a little more tired this morning. Pulse is down to 96 today from 120.. I don't know if it's a good sign. He can't speak. He can't stand or walk without two people assisting him.. He's too weak to eat or bathe or do anything really. We need a full time nurse because Im here for only so long and his wife is exhausted both mentally and physically. There is no such thing as a "hospice" in Turkey, or so I'm told. Got cancer? You're on your own.
Yesterday while out on the roads I suddenly became very aware of a few observations:
1. Everyone.. smokes.. cigarettes.
2. Men walking hunched over, hands often behind their backs, with big beer bellies and narrow downward sloping shoulders outnumber all other 'types' on the street. Occasionally you'll spy one who's in between cigarattes, but it's rare.
3. Young misguided teenage boys with absolutely AWFUL looking 'mohawk-ish" haircuts.. Are everywhere and should be beaten to in inch of their life or until they agree to shave that travesty of hair clean off their heads. 4. Young girls with their heads covered with scarves.. Not only do they appear freakishly top heavy and androgenous.. They also seem to outnumber the other girls by a factor of 3:2. Do I have to go to the south coast in order to see some eye candy??
5. The coolest cars are in Turkey: Seat, Renault, Citroen, Peugeot, Fiat, Skoda, Alfa Romeo.. These companies do not sell in the US.. But if they did, their sporty looking compact models would be very popular.. The compact class is very limited in the US, but not for long I think.
6. Turkish people love to gawk, laugh, point and sometimes shout at handsome and muscular bike racers who are wearing great looking team uniforms and going very fast.
:)
Thanks for reading.
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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Mudanya-Bursa

Are separated by 30 km.. I assembled the bike today determined to get back on track. Did not ride this past Mon-Tues-Thurs-Fri-Sat so today was a shock to the system. Headed out in the afternoon heat.. In the direction of Bursa.. Mudanya is the equivalent of Newport.. It's a seaside town about 1/2 hour drive from Bursa/Providence.. There's only two ways out, both from the same road. One requires you to climb a 3 mile hill on a windswept state highway with terribly heavy chip/seal asphalt. The other road is the "old" Mudanya road- used for ages before the highway was built. It climbs for about 4 miles to a higher elevation, switching back and forth through olive orchards until you reach a point where the views are so breath taking that you may as well be looking from the seat of an airplane.. Today I wanted to take the old road but I went past it by accident- the mouth of the road which leads to the climb was so over-developed with housing that I didnt recognize it. Used to be nothing but olive trees.. So instead I rode the steeper and more direct highway to get out of Mudanya- didn't go hard up the climb, but it still hurt. The descent was a hair raising 45-50 mph. Overall I rode 50 miles in about 2:55. My tan lines after today will make everyone back home look like feta cheese. Father is still fighting a fever. Doesn't seem fully self aware.. He's scared and confused.. Seeing things around him which we cannot see. Today we lifted him into his chair next to the bed. He wanted to sit.. It was a good opportunity for him to eat some soup and drink fluids.. There were other benefits too of which I'll spare you the details.. This could be the beginning of a long and drawn out ending. I check his pulse regularly- it's a solid 110 to 120 bpm. Beating strongly. I don't think he was prepared for this. He doesn't seem to know what hit him. Even when he was well and into treatment, we never spoke of his inevitable death. We always danced around the topic using words of encouragement.. Now that he's hanging by a thread, I can't help but think that he's highly confused and very angry that we kind of lied to him in the process of propagating our own denial. We were lying to ourselves, too.. I hope he doesn't hate me for duping him into believing he'll recover. Not just me, but everyone who cares about him is complicit. What a silly thing to feel guilt about, yet here I am. Thanks for reading.
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Apologies..

I'm delivering lots of bad news and I feel badly for being such a Buzz Killington..
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Sunday morning

Im wearing the same clothing as yesterday- slept in them. Suitcase and bike are still unpacked. Brought a nurse in who helped put an IV on my father's wrist. We're giving him some serum with sugar and b-c vitamins. We've more or less given up on using modern plumbing.. Will he come around? Stand on his own ever again? Eat? This is hard.. But it could be a lot harder.. If father were awake, we might see and hear and know how he really feels. His unintelligible whispering and blank face expression makes it easy for us.. It hides his pain and his fear- the two things I can't bear to witness.. I fell apart completely last night when I first saw him. My next meltdown will be when I see him cry or wince in pain.
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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Nothing left to do

We've been at my father's house for all of 90 minutes. It's 8:50 pm Saturday May 24th. Moments ago I sent my wife to go stay at her mom's with my son. None of us have slept in the past 24 hours, unless numerous 5 minute episodes of passing out in the airplane count..
I do not recognize my father's appearance.. And in his incoherence I have doubts about whether he recognizes me. The shock and awe of seeing his wife carry him to the bathroom heimlich style.. Paled in comparison to the moment they emerged from the bathroom.. And father's legs gave out... The same legs that raced bikes 45 years ago.. And I lifted his weak and crumpled body from the floor the way that a father carries his slumbering 5 year old child and I carried him to his bed, for a moment astonished at my burst of strength.. until I realized how much he's wasted away.
This has been the most difficult hour of my life.
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Eagle has landed

Istanbul! not Constantinople!
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Greetings from Frankfurt

Three hour layover until our flight to Istanbul starts boarding. Gotta love Lufthansa!! They took the bike case without asking for an extra dime.. Of course it might be because we are entitled to 6 suitcases and only had 4.. The bike case was the lightest piece too.. Maybe they'll nail me on the return leg.. We're docked at a table and chairs in front of a panoramic view of the airfield. It's pretty awesome. The Airbus ride here was six hours, and that plane was huge.. You take a flight of stairs down to the toilets. Private Lcds in front of every seat.. You choose your own movie, cartoon or sitcom. I was seated next to a 350 pound mouth-breather who cursed at my son in German when he accidentally kicked the guy.. I didn't take offense. Germans usually do not seem to be crazy about kids (Sorry Ralf- they're generally just plain cold towards their own kids and especially towards the kids of others) Me, I don't think twice about talking with or winking/smiling at little kids. I'd pick them up and kiss them if I knew I wouldn't be assaulted by their parents.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Women's Lib Arrived on Bicycles

This looks like a great read:
art.bikes.jpg
Women were once considered too frail to ride bicycles.
 
Story Highlights
Victorian era women were expected to be frail, wear 7 pounds of underwear
Bifurcated garments called bloomers were scandalous
Escorts needed to protect women from becoming morally debased by their bikes
1900 U.S. Census Report said bicycles caused "revolution in social conditions"
 
By Christopher Connolly
Mental Floss
(Mental Floss) -- Susan B. Anthony once said, "Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world." A woman on a bicycle, the equal rights champion observed, presents "the picture of free and untrammeled womanhood."

Monday, May 19, 2008

"What Have I Done?"


Now that I look at this list of races which I have just pre-registered for, I'm wondering if I should maybe skip a race here and there in favor of fresher legs elsewhere. I guess I'll exercise those options when the time comes- it's only money.. What worries me the most if the weather. Pre-registering seems to always guarantee rain! Nutmeg sucked last year for this very reason. The above check-out totaled just a little over $400. Ouch! In case anyone wonders, my entry fees are not paid by the Millwork One team budget. I cover them myself and take them as a tax write-off since our little WeeBIKE company is a co-title sponsor of the team.
Seventeen races in the span of four weekends (July 6th being Masters Nationals Criterium in Kentucky- I'm going!)
So much can go wrong between now and the New Britain Criterium on July 13th.. If I complete all of these races with no crashes, no dnfs and no flat tires, it will be a triumph indeed. I think that this approach proves beyond all doubt that I love to race.. I just love being a part of this. That's what it's all about, eh? As impressed as you are with my bad-ass doing three crits a day, I swear I did not do this to impress you or to prove anything.. All of these races have been on my radar since the end of last season. Now.. Let's see if all of this excessive training and "TSS" and "FTP" amounts to anything. I'm faster and stronger today than I was at my peak last year.. assuming that the numbers don't lie. I trust the numbers and they give me confidence which I would not otherwise have. Wish me luck.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

"I am so broke"..


Leaving for a two week trip to Turkey on Friday means a few things: 1. All my bills must be paid before I leave and during my absence. I have a 1" thick stack of envelopes I'm mailing tomorrow. 2. Plane tickets for the three of us are mucho dinero.. let's just say you can buy a very fine road bike with the plane ticket dough.. 3. I will be working 16 hour days all week to make sure that none of my projects suffer a meltdown while I'm gone. Stress is off the charts this week, needless to say. I'm glad it's a "rest week".. Gotta rest up for my vacation. Which in reality, is more of a visit to my father than anything else. His cancer is progressing, he's just managing pain right now and we need to see him soon if you know what I mean. I don't know what's going to feel better or worse, this work week from hell leading up to the trip, or the sadness and emotion of the actual trip itself. I return on June 9th as wife and son stay behind to be close to my father and keep me informed of his condition. Murat will be all alone for five weeks, meaning that he can ride and race as much as he cares to every day and every weekend. Not a bad thing. Today I was up at Wells and had a great time. Our man Adam Sternfield made it into the 8 man break which rolled off after the 1/2 way prime (same as last week!) and finished a solid 6th place. Dear wife actually filmed the finishing sprint and we see that the field was bearing down on these guys pretty hard- they were not that far up the road. (I will try to post it to Google later on) I think I was 10th in the field sprint. Whatever- I was really just having fun today bridging across 10 second gaps and doing a good job of accelerating when it was required.. Legs were not fresh at all but I had no difficulties with todays 26.7 mph pace. Funny- today's race watts averaged lower than yesterday's 3 hours of tempo watts. But of course today's Normalized Power was up there at 277, right at my functional threshold.
video

Saturday, May 17, 2008

"I am so fast"..

..is the theme/category of this post. Why not? It can only be good for morale to give ourselves some occasional attaboys.. I didn't race today up at Sunapee, no, but our Millwork One team had a few guys up there and so far I'm informed that we took the 35+ field sprint for 5th, convincingly. New Hampshire is not only too far away for my taste, it' probably hilly and therefore doesn't suit my lack of climbing talent/ability or my nutritional reserves.. Never done Sunapee, and may never do it, and that's fine and dandy. One thing I definitely like, even though I passed on it, is the entry fee- a reasonable $25.. as it should be. Promoters take note... or don't. My opinions on these matters are not worth paying any mind to. But I also think that being a "friend of promoters" should not be contingent upon being tight lipped about high entry fees. Look at it this way: I manage a team and it's finances. Sponsors paid us a lot of money in order to cover all of our entry fees. I need to both make the money last AND give sponsors the best value for their money. Crits are more compatible with these objectives than road races. Simple.
Back to my original purpose: I rock.
I've been doing this 56 mile loop of rolling hills almost every weekend.. and seeing my elapsed time getting faster and faster. Today marked the latest episode of this [as yet un-named] epic saga. There's more to this evolution than meets the eye. It's not the 20mph average speed of my three hours overall in the saddle or the 2:49:25 time for the 56.6 miles which turns my crank- it's the fact that in all of 2007, I never did a 3 hour ride of more than 188 average watts- and that peak ride was in mid-July when I was going good, not in mid May on the penultimate day of a very highly stressful build period. Today's three hour ride averaged 220 watts. This data, by itself, is meaningless.. but within the context of my own evolution last season and this spring, it speaks for itself and says a lot! I realize that this is partly a case of "putting my mind to it".. after all- who cares [besides me] about the power, speed and duration of a three hour tempo ride? ... Cut me some slack.. I have issues.. and I'm sorely in need of a victory.. even if it's only me who I'm racing against. I defeated my previous PB by another 5 minutes. Hurray for me. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Sterling Race Report and Bonus: Wells Ave Report

Many thanks to our self-depracating-sprinter, Adam Sternfield. He owes himself more credit- he initiated and stayed in the ten man break at Wells and duked it out for a solid 5th.
Here's his story from the Pro-1-2 field at the Sterling RR (Full Results are here) :
Thought I'd write a brief race report on Sterling- though for the record I don't necessarily consider what I did "racing". Explanation: due to weather and car rental concerns I had to do the P/1/2 race, and I wasn't sure I had the endurance for 10 times up that hill (80 miles). As such, my mindset was one of training/survival, and the only placing I was concerned with was making sure I placed some water in my ice cube trays so I'd be able to chill my Scotch when I got home. Generally not the attitude I like to bring to a race but I had to be realistic in my ambitions and on the other hand, for training purposes, you really can't beat being bludgeoned for 3 hours by the likes of Mark McCormack. Certainly better for my fitness level than spending the entire day home with a bottle of Scotch...
On to the race itself. The pace of the first 5 laps was so infernal that one rider's post-race comment sums it up nicely: "When we came up the hill and I saw the lap cards say there were still 5 to go, I prayed for a sniper's bullet to take me out and end my suffering". OK, so the rider that made that comment was me, but I'm sure there were others who felt the same. In fact, it was right at about that halfway point that the merely tired started to seperate themselves from the truly spent. Dribs and drabs of 3 to 4 riders rolled off the front and by lap 7 there were 16 guys (including Mark, of course) up the road. That pretty much exhausts my first hand knowledge of the race for the podium. I was told that on one of the later trips up the hill, Mark detonated the group, attacking and taking 2 guys with him, whom he dusted easily in the sprint. We back in the field were content to roll steadily to our goal with a minimum of fratricide. In the end, it turned out I did have the legs to withstand the bludgeoning and was even able to unleash my World-Famous "Eephus" sprint up the hill, carrying me to 13th place in our 17-man drag race. Another surprise, because normally I'm a lock to finish dead last in any sprint.....
and here's the Wells Ave recap:
I think we did fairly well at Wells. Kyle, Matt, and I lined up with 40-50 of our close friends. After the halfway prime I was able to roll away with Marvin Wang and we were soon joined by 5 more. Sam Morse bridged up with a teammate and when the dust settled we had roughly 10 guys and were gone. Kyle and Matt patrolled/thwarted at the front of the field. I worked as much and as hard as possible (training, after all) with little regard for the final. As I mentioned, I am by no means a sprinter :-) EXCEPT if it's a looooong, momentum-driven, tailwind-assisted sprint- which just happened to be the case. I actually led it out from just past the final corner and though an IF guy and a CCB guy came past me pretty convincingly, I thought I was gonna hold on for 3rd. Unfortunately Marvin and Sam's teammate just snuck by me at the line. We were all within a half-wheel of each other, but I believe I was 5th. So, not too bad....
Thanks Adam! A solid weekend for you.

More Hill Repeats

What a day. Stress and pressure could not possibly be worse, but I saved a little reserve of strength to use at the end of the day for myself.. Sure I didn't get out on the road until 6:00 but with the limited daylight I did a series of quality intervals that make the last session of hill repeats look like junk miles. Could have done 1 more but it was getting dark.. family was waiting for me at home. Instructions were clear:
10:00 WU
30:00 endurance
3:00 hill repeats (Vomax for 2.5 min with AC for last 30 sec)
8:00 RI
repeat until you cannot match within 10% of 3rd interval
In case it interests you (and it probably doesn't but that's fine and dandy), I use a hill on route 12 in Scituate. It's exactly one mile long and the first 1/2 mile is 7% grade before it eases to about 3-4% at the top. You do not absolutely need a power meter to do this workout, because you are basically going as hard as you can without popping for the first 2-1/2 minutes, then you're going full throttle for the final 30 seconds. Personally, I like seeing the erosion of watts on the power meter display as this workout progresses and fatigue builds. Notice the instructions: "repeat until you cannot match within 10% of 3rd interval". Some may argue that this is a trivial matter- judging when you have done enough work.. Well.. I'm a lazy idiot with a pressure cooker job and after 10 hours at my job I don't want to risk making poor choices on the bike. I pay a coach to give me workouts that are tailored to me. Can I get just as fast without a coach, by making my own training program and following it? Sure, maybe, possibly, probably.. I've done it before.. but I'm not interested in reinventing the wheel in the process.. not interested in screwing up and feeling regret. My life is complicated. Having a coach makes the hardest part of training, simple. At least I know that I'm doing the specific training which is already proven to have worked for others before me. Thats the key.
Here's what my first interval looked like:

Going Away

On May 23rd we fly to Turkey for a two week holiday. ("We" means wife, son, bike and I)
I return on June 9th.. meaning that I will be missing three weekends of New England crits.. including Mystic Velo Crit, Hartford Crit, Cyclonauts Crit, etc.. However.. put me down for the Nutmeg Classic on 6/21 and every other Crit which follows it through New Britain on 7/13. I expect to be flying by late June/early July.
Needless to say, with a two week vacation on the horizon, I'm wrapped around all kinds of axles here at work- a mountain of work needs to be accomplished before we head to Logan next Friday afternoon.

Monday, May 12, 2008

It's about time!: Gas prices influence bike sales

High Gas Prices mean more Bike Sales and Repairs
A real forehead slapper! Americans realize that they can use their "nutritional reserves" for fuel instead of gasoline to get from place to place. Thirty years of relatively low gasoline prices in this country has made Americans the most obese and unhealthy people on the planet. Maybe this will spark a reversal.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Milestones

I've looked forward to this post because as of this date I've finally completed a full year of riding and racing with the PowerTap (which I first used on May 12, 2007).
In the past year:
Distance: 7747 miles (12,467 km)
Duration: 443 hours
Since Jan 1st:
Distance: 3093 miles (4977 km)
Duration: 180 hours
It was also a big week for me in terms of time and mileage as well: 256 miles in 14 hours. (This excludes a 6.5 mile ride I did Saturday with my son Reis by my side- he's four)
Today I skipped the Wells Ave crit that I was planning to do, in favor of more family themed activities: a Mother's Day picnic at Goddard Park. We had a good time- grilled lots of steaks with some friends.. I wasn't done grumbling to myself under my breath until we got home.. which is when I promptly suited up and hit the road. Long sleeves were the right choice because it was mid fifties and windy.. So I set out to do my typical 3-hour ride/route- the one I really like. This time, I wore my HRM chest strap and put the Polar on my wrist- Of course I was more interested in the profile of the route than the HR.. Turns out that this 56 mile ride has 2420 feet of climbing... and my average HR was 148. Whatever. I started out slowwww.. (the HR chart below will show this) Legs were quite whipped from yesterday's "rhythm intervals".. which are basically 4:00 VOmax and then 4:00 recovery. Two sets of three with an extra 5:00 of rest in between the sets. Topped off with 30 minutes of tempo. They hurt.. more than the hill repeats I've been doing. They are an extra minute at the same intensity, with only half of the rest in between. So I was saying.. I started out slow today.. resolving to hold an average of high end zone 2 or low end zone 3.. Of course, I'm not guided by my HRM, I'm guided by the average watts reading. About an hour into this ride, I'm still sub-200w on average.. but my the time I hit the mid point, I'm up into the 215 range and suddenly feeling weirdly good.. not really good, just a little better. By the time I end the ride, I'm back down to 213w, but I feel fresh at the end.. like I could do more.. which I've heard is a good time to end a hard ride. The route was unchanged from before (April 5 was the previous date I did this course, when I was boasting about taking 10 minutes off my time from before) As it turns out, I took another 6 minutes off of that time, without really intending to (at least not during the first hour of the ride..) Here's another compilation of data- one showing the route profile and today's heart rate, one comparing today's ride with the last time I did this route, and still another showing you the last few weeks of ride data.. (Notice that the average distance for the past six weeks is a solid 200 miles). This stuff isn't intended as any kind of chest beating on my part.. I'm just interested in monitoring how the data evolves.. But on the other hand I don't think that riding almost 20 mph for three solid hours by myself is anything to sneeze at. I've done an untold number of "fast" group rides that were a lot slower. Whatever. Just looking for the positive in all of this: Very simply, I'm getting faster.. even though the training stress is making me tired and a touch weaker. Here's the data.. Click to enlarge:


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Photos of 2008 Blue Hills Classic

Found a nice photo stream on Flickr and to my surprise, there I am!.. and I now realize how badly my helmet clashes with my kit. Yuck.
Check out the rest.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Nailed it.



I dreaded it a little bit.. okay a lot, especially since it was a highly stressful and energy consuming day.. But when I suited up and headed out on route 12, I was a new man. I started the first 20 minute interval at the beginning of some rolling hills and finished it off on Pippin Orchard Road. That will explain the slightly higher VI and slower speed. I held a tiny something in reserve and hit the target. With my current FT considered to be 271, looks like I did the correct amount of work. (Look at normalized power value)
Interval 2, exactly ten minutes later.. I decide I like Pippin Orchard Road a lot- it runs in between route 14 and route 12, it's relatively flat with wide shoulders, and it's about two miles end to end. I want to do the 2nd interval on flat roads, so that there's a lot less variability, like I get on the climbs. It's a more truthful interval I think.. I had to make three quick U-turns, but I sprinted back up to speed, so nothing was lost. As you can see, interval 2 was stronger than interval 1. I'm happy with that. I rest exactly ten minutes.
Interval 3 is only ten minutes, but I expect it to be the hardest. I was wrong. This is the one which I was able to really shine on- the numbers speak for themselves. Mission accomplished. Overall, the entire workout with warm up and rest and cool down went like this:

20:00 FTP 10:00 RI.. Repeat

I'm going to be wasted after tonight's scheduled workout::
20:00 WU
20:00 FTP
10:00 RI
20:00 FTP
10:00 RI
10:00 FTP
20:00 WD
My FTP is now set to 271 in the Peaks software.. but I just checked my 2008 Normalized Power Chart to date and it says my 60 minute Normalized Power is 277 (and that I did it during the Blue Hills Classic). At my present weight of 79 kg, that 3.5 watts per kilo, for whom it may interest.. This chart shows all norm power levels from 5:00 up.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Jiminy Jilikers

I was perusing the list of Pro-Am finishers and discovered two things:
1. That it was a 93 mile road race (wtf? note to self: AVOID J.P.R.R.)
2. That my good friend and coach, 38 year old Todd Scheske took a solid 30th place, in the Pro-Am, it appears.
From the kick-ass report that I read at Adam Jr's blog, it was a pretty epic fight to the finish..
Full results Jiminy Peak Road Race

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Blue Hills Classic Race Report

Here's the 'more later' part:
Imagine Murat wringing his hands, looking out the window at the falling rain.. as wife and child sleep peacefully nearby. The struggle to avoid going back to bed was fought quite fiercely for a few minutes.. even while I slept- the snooze bar was struck twice to avoid this inevitable clash of character versus "weenie-ocrity". In the end, I resolved to do what winners do: "everything which losers are unwilling to do". HA.. ha.. Cut it pretty close too, because by the time I reached the parking lot and stood in the registration area, again wringing my hands, someone announced that I had five minutes to make up my mind- it was 35 minutes until the start. "Rain".. "Cold".. "Crashes".. "Forty dollars".. "You hate road races".. "Why are you here?".. are swirling through my mind as the rain pours, now harder than ever. Then.. who rolls into the pavillion? None other than team mates Ralf and Kyle- who have ridden from home in this mess. Well, that cinches it for me right there..

A half hour later I'm staging with the other victims of this unfortunate weather.. No warm-up, no stretching, and the race is ON right from the start. Immediately two are separated and up the road. Within a couple of miles, I move up and try to stay near the front. Next thing you know I'm rolling through the front, past a bunch of BikeBarn guys who were trying to keep the field tame and dormant. I could see the two up the road are within my striking range, meaning they have about 10 or 15 seconds on us at most. I accelerate smoothly, on the hoods and one minute later I discreetly find their wheel just before the second corner (turning off of 138) Now we are three and I settle into their rythym without skipping a beat. Not 30 seconds later, Mr O'Connor joins us and we are four. Four teams represented and a big BikeBarn team back there doing a good job of blocking, we were sure.. Fine and dandy. I'm doing my share, pulling through, but not really drilling it. Our team would rather have Matt K up the road than me.. and I'm there more to disrupt things than to contribute.. In the mean time I'm hoping that some pressure's off Matt for a short while and he's just cruising and letting others tire themselves out with chasing.. Nevertheless.. I know there's some vertical rise coming up and I don't want to blow up. Well, no amount of holding back was going to get me up and over the start/finish line with these guys. I tried.. I turned myself inside out but lost contact about 200m before the line. What seemed like 10-15 seconds later, the first chase group whizzes past me, Matt yells something supportive as he passes, and another chase group five seconds behind the first almost leaves me in the dust, but I manage to latch on and recover for the next 4-5 miles of lap 2.. felt pretty solid too by the time we reached the climb again. Kept myself at the front 2-3 guys for the first 1/4-1/2 mile of the climb- big ring- standing a lot- using my heft to my advantage as much as possible.. but to no avail. Again I'm shelled (with a few others) very near the top/finish line. Now it's a solo TT to limit the damage. I have a target up the road- a lone BikeBarn guy. So I keep it steady and we're together by the time we hit the climb again. Not wanting to be caught by the 45s, we do a good job of pacing ourselves up and over the climb, such that the 45s don't reach us until after we turn onto 138 for the last time. Then we're absorbed and decide we may as well ride this train to the finish. Careful to keep out of the way, there are about 4 or 5 of us 35s in the 45+ group. Last time up the climb, a lapse of paying attention let the BikeBarn fella up the road a piece. Oh well.. Whatever. I dig for the last 300 meters and get to within 3 seconds of him. I have no idea if I'm gunning for 20th place or 30th.. (36 started I think) As it turns out I finish 18th.. with Steve B and team mate Ralf right on my heels. Felt good to finish! I think I'm doing a better job this year of "finish what you start". It's ever so much more satisfying than quitting.

The thing I'm happy about is a couple of new Critical Power values- CP20 and CP60. Before today, my mbest CP20 was 265 (last September) Today I hit 275. Also last September, my best CP60 was 235, but today: 253! This means that my fitness/form as of this spring date is better than my peak summer form of 2007. Sounds kooky, I know- after all I'm getting dropped on easy climbs in road races.. but bear in mind that in 2007 I did my best racing in criteriums.. per usual.. I'm not a road racer- I do them only when there are no crits I can do. Coach and I are going to be winding me up pretty tight over the next few weeks.. I expect to feel tired and fatigued all through May. Come mid-June we'll be letting the spring really unwind and I should be flying in time for Nutmeg, Keith Berger, Crit Nationals, New Britain, Attleboro. Good things are coming my way..

I should take my own advice! Stick to crits Murat.. but these road races are essential in terms of TTFU. Oh well. I felt good today, believe it or not.. don't let the 18th place finish fool you. The numbers churned out by the Powertap tell a much more positive story, numbers worth celebrating about actually. More later..
Preliminary Millwork One Racing 35+ results:
4 Matt Kressy
18 Murat Altinbasak
20 Ralf Geiben Lynn
22 Kyle Gates

Friday, May 02, 2008

Stick to what you know!

That's my mantra- ESPECIALLY in matters of dining out. If you have found a restaurant which serves you quality food at a reasonable cost with good service- why go anywhere else? Why go to a place you haven't been to in two years? A disapointing $60-80 meal really stings.. It's like losing your last hand at the blackjack table. Nothing left to do but go home and think about the money you've wasted..
To protect the innocent I will refer to the restaurant we went to last night as "OG". Dear wife had a birthday and after getting home from my two hour hammer-fest we all jumped in the car and headed out. Control freak that I am, it was difficult to leave the dining decision to my wife, but after all, it was HER birthday. When she suggested the "OG" I said "Why not". We'd been there before and couldn't recall a bad experience there.. WHAT A MISTAKE.
Our server was an 18 year old with a short attention span. She never offered us water (which we would be needing in copious amounts, later on) The appetizer of chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks and Calamari was AWFUL, and not worth 1/2 of the $9.95 we paid for it. My beer cost $4.75, her Diet coke cost $2.75.. Ugh. I chose a dish called "Mixed Grille", which left me saying "where's the beef".. Three hunks of chicken and three little pieces of red meat (cut? who the heck knows) I was asked with a straight face while ordering- how I want the meat cooked.. What a joke. They were all well done anyway. The worst part- everything from the bread to the salad to the appetizer to my six pieces of animal muscles to the mashed potatoes and "grilled" veggies.. were so SALTED that I was dying of thirst 1/4 of the way through my "meal". My wife had the same issues and left her food 1/2 eaten. Our son Reis- ate nothing. What a disappointment. Given the chance to eat this food for free, I would probably pass. Last night, I was required to bay nearly $60 for this mess. Never again..
Places we like: Haruki Japanese in Cranston or Providence! I eat lunch there twice a week (not cheap) but the food is fresh, clean, unsalted and always satisfying in a way that doesn't put you in a coma. Brain food. We've never left there unhappy. Bertucci's: We love their pizza! Some of their other Italian dishes aren't bad either, but at least they're not bullshit concoctions like at the "OG". Bertucci's keeps it simple. Love the bread they give away too. East Side Pockets on Thayer: The owners know us, they always give us extras and freebies when we go there, they even speak to us in Turkish out of simple courtesy (they're Syrian). The food is cheap and satisfying, made quick and tasty. This is why whenever we have out of town guests, we take them there at least once for teh "Thayer Street experience".
I know that dining out is taboo for many.. But if you must as we do.. stick to what you know. We all work way too hard for our money to take dumb and expensive chances on lousy food.