Monday, July 23, 2007

State Championships

This past weekend, Texas had their Age-Based State Championships, the road and crit. Joseph was in the 13-14 group in both of them. On Saturday, we got up early and met with three other juniors from the team to trek out to a little town south of Tyler. Ivan Mukasa was entered in the 17-18 race and Joseph, John Ryan, and Redding Shelby were entered into the 13-14 race. The race course is dominated by the double hill that locals call "Killer." After a rigorous ascent, it flattens out a bit before it seems to go straight up. No, it's not as long as Cherry Pie, and in that, it doesn't kill you quite the same way. It crushes quadriceps with its stiff grade.
Joseph was not looking forward to the race that morning. I think he wavers back and forth about how much he enjoys cycling, which is completely par for a near-13 year-old. I'm similar in that I want him to enjoy it for it's own merits, not to please me, and yet I also hope that it will be something that we can share for the next few decades, father and son. So there's also the typical teenager hi jinx going on, the guys are talking about cycling and the competition and Harry Potter. Joseph got the new book that morning and started reading it on the trip. He finished it around 11 pm that night, by the way. I think he was looking to be distracted. He just knew it was going to be a hard day.
So we get there and set up. Ivan's race is first with the other boys all racing shortly after. I missed Ivan's start while catching up with other parents. Joseph's start was a bit off-kilter, he was in his small ring, bent over and almost sprinting to keep in the pack. I think he put too much pressure on himself. Then I went over and got a water bottle and a gel for Ivan, he had two 24 mile laps and I wanted to offer him a feed. It was hot, very hot. Baking oven, sweat dripping off your head into your glasses hot. But I realized that if Joseph didn't have any shade, I should stay out in the sun until he finished. Ivan came by and took on a gel, he was in a good position with a break of 4-5 guys. Then the 13-14 winner comes in, Michael Pincus from Pearland. I had been talking to his dad because Pearland is right next to Friendswood, my hometown. My folks live on the border between those two towns now. Michael ran away with his class. Redding was second a couple of minutes behind. John was third. Then came the rest of the finishers, one after another. At this age, the kids aren't keeping together like the "peleton" of older folks. They vary a great deal in skill and conditioning until after puberty hits for all of them. So the waiting began. And it went on for quite a while. I think Joseph finally came in over an hour and a half after starting. Not too far from two hours. I was there waiting for him and gave him a hug just over the line. He was crushed, probably embarrassed. It just wasn't his day. Last year he had done great things on this course, but that day, well, he just didn't have enough that day, and it hurt. They had already posted the results instead of waiting for him, so his name wasn't on the list. I could tell that hurt him. On a nicer note, Ivan hung with the lead group until the bottom of the last hill, then pulled away and won. He's the State Champion! When we were about to leave, Ivan was getting his State Championship Jersey and I heard an official reading off Joseph's name. He had come back to add it to the list. Thanks Steve. I know you did it because you wanted to have complete results, but you made a 12 year-old's day. I pointed out to Joseph that if he sticks with it for another 10 - 20 years, he might still be getting 8th place, but that will be 8th out of 50 riders, not 8th of 8. Most of the guys out here are really, really good.
That night we stayed in Jacksonville, TX (population maybe 15k). Not the nicest hotel, but we were able to enjoy the swimming pool and watch some cable TV. I think the time to decompress was good for Joseph. All the guys were in bed, asleep when Joseph finished Harry Potter.
Sunday we got up and trucked on down to Lufkin for the next State Championships, the crits. I had planned on visiting my Aunt and Uncle in Nacogdoches on the way, but Ivan's race started at 10:20, so we had to skip out on them. I forgot to call and inform them of this and they stayed in Nacogdoches waiting for us and missed Joseph's race (Sorry Uncle Bill, that was my mistake). Joseph, Redding, and I rode our bikes over to a Lufkin BK for breakfast, I wonder how many folks cycle downtown Lufkin? In the 17-18 yr-old race, Ivan thought that the guy off the front would get caught, but nobody worked to bring him back. One guy got impatient and bridged up and that was it, Ivan was caught with the pack. He ended up in fifth.
After that, I was working with Joseph on cornering and speed. I pointed out that Redding was faster than Joseph, let him go. In the same vein, let Michael Pincus go, he was faster than everyone in the race. And then there was Noah Williams, who placed 4th at Nationals and whose dad is a professional cycling coach. Don't pretend that you're faster yet. But there were three other riders in the race. One looked younger and, forgive me, like he had eaten too many cupcakes. The other was younger and someone that he had ridden a rally with a year ago. That's two racers that he would probably beat. Then there was a late entry girl who didn't normally race but realized that she would get a State Champion's jersey just for finishing. Joseph raced hard. He got lapped twice by Michael Pincus, who lapped everyone. He got lapped by Redding. He got lapped by Noah, but he came back against Noah while he was napping and made up some ground before Noah spotted him, and, surprised by Joseph's resolve, had to work to extend his lead.
Joseph got fourth out of seven, nearly lapping the last three competitors. Joseph's not on the same level as Michael, Redding, or Noah, but he's still got something. And I think he understands that a bit better after yesterday. I told him that I was proud of him, and I don't use that word with my kids. I tell them how pleased I am with them, how excited I am with their performance, how much I love them and all, but proud, that's something I reserve. And I was proud, I am proud.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Mark Shea set's 'em straight

Mark Shea can sound bafflingly pompous on his podcasts but his words always speak Charity. I go to his blog daily when I can. He's got an article in the Seattle paper on the newest Church Document that's causing such a riff in the press. There is a specific irony to the folks outside the Church by choice who object the idea that they are outside the Church, or that the Church says "Hey, y'all know y'all are outside, right?" There's even more irony in that folks are offended that Church is sure that She's the Church. Somehow a church who's a bit less sure would be more palatable. Who wants to join a Church that *doesn't* know all the answers? It's reminds me of a cartoon of a preacher who ends all his sermons with "Well, what do I know?" Not very reassuring.

Official Results

I know, it's the equivalent of pulling out pictures of my kids, but I said I would post results, so I'm posting results. It's not like anyone really reads this anyway.

From the 11th.
From the 18th.

Expect more results from this weekend. We'll see how he fares. Pre-registration is light, but it's always light. Hopefully Joseph will get a chance to catch up with Chris Breeding. We rode the Space Race tour together in April '06 and his older brother is registered for the race. So far, I'm taking Joseph and Ivan, another Jr. racer on Joseph's team. I'm also staying over for Sunday's race with those guys and with another Jr. racer named Redding. I might have to take a fourth, looks like I'm headed over to Bicycles, Inc. to get a hitch rack for four bikes.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

This Week's Crit race

Joseph got third this week. One of the 16 year-old ringers from Stephenville came up and routed the field. It was windy, really windy. Joseph, being the oldest of six, decides that he needs to be the one that takes the brunt of it for a teammate. The teammate then spanks him on the final sprint. Ahhh, Joseph, hopefully this is a lesson. This weekend is a real doozy. Let's get ready. It's the State Championships, not to be confused with the State Championships in May, or the one in June, or the one in August. The one in May was a category-based criterium (a course < 2 miles that may have one lap or more, advertised as x0 minutes). The one in June was a Category based road race, advertised as XX miles. This weekend are the age-based road race and crits. Categories don't have ages attached, they are just based on experience and success, so you start as a Category 5 and work your way up. Joseph and I are in the same Category. Age-based is like it sounds. The course is one that Joseph raced last year and did OK. He wimped out on the hill, then finally finished it, then raced down the last 8 miles to catch fourth place at the line. He passed the guy in front of him literally about 300 meters from the finish, prompting a "Where did he come from?" Hopefully he will be able to build on previous victories and do well. "Do well," means top 5 in his age group, maybe top 8 depending on his competition. Sounds like a great weekend!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Boy Did It!

For the first time, my oldest son got a first place in a bicycle race. Yes, it was only the local weekly crit. Yes, it was the Jr. race. Yes, the 16 yr-old ringers from Stephenville who normally place 1-2 stayed home. Yes, he was the oldest Jr. out there still in the Jr. race and not in the C race. But he won. He won fair and square. He won convincingly. He rode off the front and nobody could catch him. No, he's not ready to go overseas and ride in the Tour de France, or even win an average TX weekend bike race, but he's really making progress this summer and I'm overjoyed to see that. Depending on who he gets set up with, he has an outside shot at a State Champion's Jersey for the Team Time Trial next month.
The best part, he doesn't have a dejected, moping, "At least I wasn't last this time" attitude. He also can track back his victory to the work that he's been putting in lately, as well as the fact that he actually fueled himself properly. Hopefully this carries over to other races. Just that it gives him a vision of what success looks and tastes like. I'll post the link for the official standings when they get set up.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

EPO, Te Quero!

OK, nobody but will understand this, but it's really funny. Even if you don't quite get all the French.

Performance Bike SOLD!

Forgive me fellow cyclist, for I have sinned. I have sinned against you and every other person who has ever given their local bicycle shop (LBS) their patronage. I went, and bought from, Performance Bicycle. Not just through the anonymity of the internet, with plain brown boxes arriving at my door, but I actually drove across town to their new shop in Dallas, walked around, and knowingly, willingly, purchased gear. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
I told myself "I blew a tire and my LBS doesn't stock Vredesteins. I have to go there." I reasoned, "With this $20 off coupon and the fact that it's a grand opening, I could save a ton of money." I consoled myself with, "Some of this stuff has got to be a loss leader, they will lose money on that. I'm actually helping my LBS." But in the end, $115 if my hard-earned credit is now owned by Performance Bike, actually Bitech, now North Castle Partners. And all I have to show for it is four Panaracer tires, three tubes, two cans of GU20, a set of skewers, two Michelin 16" tires for my 6 year-old, and two spare tubes for said 16" tires. DANG!! Yup, that was a haul of gear for the $$.
So now Performance Bike has been sold to some big equity firm. Someone told me that they also owned Nashbar and a trip to ICANN proved it. Both ip's track back to the same company. Someone posted a bunch of the online news about the buyout here. I guess it's OK news. The knock on online places like Nashbar, Performance, and PricePoint (which has more holes but better deals) is that they don't have a local presence. The knock on Performance Bikes shops, which I've also extended to REI, is that they don't support local racing or clubs. They want to sell you a bike, shake your hand, and let you walk away. You may come back, you may not. An LBS wants you to come back again. Maybe for an upgrade or a repair, maybe for more gear, maybe for a bike for your kid or with a friend. They want you to know all the folks who work there and they want you to recommend them to friends. But let's be honest, both Performance Bike and the LBS want to make money. Both want to pay their bills and feed their kids. The crucial difference I think is this. Most every LBS started with a guy who raced and burned out or hit a ceiling and said "what do I do now?" With the only skills they had being with bikes, they went to work in a shop and then one day, opened their own. So they want to pay bills and feed kids and race you. One day they want to pull on a jersey and lead out someone to victory or cross the duct-tape first.
So next paycheck, I'm going to go down and support someone's dream. I'm off to my LBS to plop down some dough there. Maybe $120 worth of penance will be enough.

Monday, July 02, 2007

I forgot how I came across this guy. Maybe it was on the forums, maybe it was something from 1lesscar or something like that. This guy, Matt Young, was doing 3000 miles in one month on his bike to raise $$ for Cystic Fibrosis research. He's got a girlfriend who has it. Turns out that he's an Aggie. Sweet. I go to his blog. Turns out he's going from Seattle, WA to right here in Ft. Worth. Sweet. Another reason to support him. Being my narcissistic self, I'm thinking I might know this guy from being the Vastly Popular Youth Minister that I was. OK, maybe not Vastly Popular, maybe just Mildly Recognizable. Then I click on his donate button and I see the names of the folks that are donating and I recognize a couple from my church. Maybe I do know this guy. Then he puts on his blog an open invite to come ride the last 50 miles into town with him. I'm interested. Then someone from TBI, my cycling club/team posts on our forum, hey, let's do this. So I get up at 4:30 Sunday AM to get to Sundance Square to meet the other folks from the team and travel out to Mineral Wells to ride in with him. I walk up to the guy and his GF says "Hey, I know you, I go to St. John's. Thanks so much for being here." Wow. Small world. And right then, I did feel small somehow. That's probably a good thing.
The ride was fine, I was not near the match for the hills that Matt or Bob Rowell (TBI guy) were. There was another TBI guy, Gerry, who I've ridden tons with, and a tri-athlete gal from A&M (Cheryl). Most of the ride was on Hwy 180 from Mineral Wells into Weatherford and the rest on the I-20 frontage road. The road was rough in places but virtually traffic-free. Matt and Bob and I opened it up after another cyclist turned in front of us near Aledo. That's when I bent a tooth on my big chain ring. Don't really remember how, I think I hit a pot hole the diameter of a coffee cup. Maybe I kicked something up? Anyway, my chain ended up wrapping back on itself in a curly-q twice. The chain locked up on me. Weird. After a three minute mechanical break we were on our way. Then, after Matt doesn't have a single flat in his 3000 miles, I get one in Ft. Worth. I have Vredestein tires pumped up to ~ 145 PSI, which is a lot. It wasn't a hiss, it was a gunshot. That was when Amanda, the GF, the reason that Matt was riding, gets out her bike and rides in the last few miles with us. It was nice. There was a bunch of Matt's and Amanda's friends and family waiting for us when we arrived. Plenty of cheering, balloons, and more cameras than I could count. There was even a bit of coverage on the local news that night. You can hear some folks from our church exclaiming quite surprisedly "Bull!" as we finished. I was just as surprised to see someone I knew there. But I guess that comes with being Mildly Recognizable.