Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I picked up the 'cross and got religion!

(Note: I'm NOT in the picture at the left. I aspire to that level of technique.)

Sunday was my first cyclocross race, in Schenectady's Central Park. An AWESOME way to spend a Sunday morning. It was the hardest 35-minute ride of my life. No heart rate monitor needed to tell that story. Let's start at the beginning.

The pack went off like a bunch of wet cats. Not like those comparatively leisurely road-race starts. We were lined up 24-wide in front of the Music Haven stage. We had to funnel down to about six feet pretty quickly. OK, sure, in races you need to be aggressive, but I decided to err on the side of caution, what with this being my first 'cross race and all. I found a spot and started cruising. Oh, and did I mention I overslept and didn't get to scope the course, or warm up properly? I found myself leap-frogging a couple of riders. I'd blow by them on the straights, then get bogged down at the dismounts as they pirouetted over the huge tree and the barriers. Whatever progress I was making was pure brute force, not finesse. We were all strung out by that point, maybe the second lap or so. A helpful CBRC guy standing by one of the run-ups heckled us mightily each time we went by. It was great! I felt much more comfortable than I expected, with the possible exception of those remounts. Well, the jewels are still intact.

I was seriously wondering if this would be a DFL. I ended up sprinting for 16th place. I heard a rider coming up behind me with just a few hundred feet to go. Once my front derailleur cooperated I was able to stay ahead of him. Road riding is good 'cross training!

I have a decent amount of power, but I really want that finesse and agility. I watched some other groups at the barriers and was mightily impressed. It can look like one fluid motion. Maybe I need to reprogram my internal iPod with some Tchaikovsky or something. Or just practice more.

Race #2, this Saturday morning in Troy!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Father Figures

I feel lucky to have had a very full day today, doing things I really enjoy. We played a wedding gig in the afternoon, and I hung out with bike people in the evening.

It's been almost two years since Dad died. I think about him quite often. I was holding my squirmy cat today, and I told her how Dad had been the first one to hold her for more than a few seconds. I have a picture of it: her limbs are pointing in all different directions as he's cradling her gently. He looks really happy. I remembered that moment, and had this feeling of gratitude. Mostly. With a small tinge of sadness.

I've always had this desire to please people, to seek approval. It's lessened quite a bit ever since I started feeling more confident about myself, but it's still there. I became aware of it again as I was crossing the street tonight. There are these two older guys in my circles--cycling and music--whom I respect and admire, both for their talents and their general mensch-ness. But I've also felt a bit intimidated by them. It seems obvious now--I look up at that word older, and there it is, but it wasn't until tonight that I realized it.

Father figures. Jeez, you'd think an English teacher would have spotted that. Well, I did once I put words to it. Vague, undefined feelings are lumps of clay; words are the sculpture hidden within. (Respect to the presenter at school yesterday, who said virtually the same thing, regarding dealing with disruptive kids: "I can tell you're upset; give me your words.)

These are my words: father figures. These guys would have had to start pretty early to spawn me. It's that strange vertigo of time, like I'm seeing into my own past, when Dad was in his 50s. It's there: the gray hair, but more in the vibe that says something like, this is how things are. Something like, yeah, you did well. Something like, hey, I missed you.

I'm getting that approval. I'm in. And it feels good. Now I know why. Sure, I'll still want to ride my bike faster, and nail that dismount/remount cyclocross thing. Yeah, I'll do those bends and volume swells in the solo just to impress one person in the room. I don't need to. I want to. And it's being acknowledged.

I've found my words. I'm in now, so I don't need to be perfect. Never needed to in the first place, really.

A Letter to My Students

I don’t say it enough, but I care about you. Each of you. That’s why I’m here. It’s too much work to do it for the money, so there must be ...