Tuesday, March 27, 2007

No Moab For You!

Bummer... I was unable to go to my team's training camp in Moab this past weekend. I couldn't work out a carpool with anyone, and I really didn't want to take my car on a long road trip, what with the whole exhaust ready to fall off and whatnot.

So... I stayed home and tried to have my own training camp. I put in a good two hours on Friday, which was great. I tried to ride the singletracks north of the Rez, but they were so freakin' bumpy from everyone riding them when they were wet -- I thought I was going to lose some fillings. So I abandoned ship and went back to the dirt roads, but first I snagged this photo at the picnic shelter:

It poured rain all day on Saturday, so I used that day for recovery. Instead, I held an umbrella over the heads of some of my friends at the start line of the CatEye Road Race. Boy, this separated the boys from the men. Yuck!

Sunday I tried to ride again, and was feeling full of energy, but was cursed with sciatic pain. Apparently, I need my own personal traction machine. So I hiked instead, but was pretty disgusted with the lack of "training" at my training camp. Oh well. If this whole business isn't a lesson in patience (that I'm getting tired of learning, ha ha) I don't know what is.

It's supposed to be a nice week, so I should be able to get some more rides in. I see the PT tomorrow, so I can get on the rack and feel a lot better. ;)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Oh Baby...

I would probably make this choice, too, were the roles reversed. I'm not ashamed to admit it. :)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Weekend

I feel weird writing about my superficial experiences after going to Robert's funeral.

Sigh. I know, nothing brings him back. Life goes on. It's a cruel reality that any of us could kick the bucket tomorrow and only an infinitesimal slice of humanity would even notice.

That's why you have to milk life for all it's worth... this is all we get!

At least riding a bike gives you some meditative time.

I rode alone on Saturday, cruising the dirt roads north of the Reservoir. My back was feeling good and the weather was fabulous. Then I saw these two girls off the side of the road with a flat tire, and as I approached, they both looked at me expectantly. So I knew they needed help, and I pulled over.
They were seriously an odd couple. The girl with the flat had a nice Trek road bike and some basic cycling clothing, and the other girl, in a tank top and ancient helmet, had a totally strange bike that I think was just an old ten-speed from the 1980s. She was also sporting enormous, 70s-era sunglasses with the gradient lenses. I almost got the feeling that were a real couple, if you know what I mean. Not that there's anything wrong with that. ;)
They couldn't get their mini-pump to work, so I took out my CO2 canister and inflated their tire. They both freaked out at how awesome that was, which was totally funny. Gotta love technology.
I finally stood up and at looked the sunglasses girl in the face, and mentally recoiled in shock. This girl, who looked no older than 20, maybe, had a BEARD. I am dead serious. She had many, many VERY dark hairs growing out of her face, that actually curled under the edge of her chin. I sure hope I didn't l let my feelings show, but I was a little taken aback. She was a pretty girl, and it just shocked me because it must have been a conscious decision on her part to leave the hair like that. I mean, she could pluck, shave, bleach, wax, depilate, or use any number of other methods to make those hairs disappear.
Yes, I wondered if she was actually a he, but she was well-endowed enough in both chest and hips to make that seem unlikely. Plus the hair was pretty sporadic, and at the same time, she had strangely pretty skin.
She must have people staring at them CONSTANTLY, you know? It's like the "mole" in the last Austin Powers movie. "Guaca- MO-LE!!!"
Maybe she's a student and it's a social experiment. She just goes out into the world and watches people freak out. That would be hilarious.

Then on Sunday I rode with my friend Catherine, who luckily chose not to break me, and we rode near the Rez again.

It was a really pleasant morning, and I actually got two hours in without any pain. You can see from the strange lump on my ass that I'm still having to wear my SI belt while riding. I bet when I rode away from the bearded girl , she said, "What the hell is wrong with that chick's butt?"

On another note, Akira and I have got a solid billiards addiction going. We've been playing every Monday night at the Foundry, which has free pool. The game reminds me of golf in that some days you're magically in The Zone, sinking balls left and right, and then other days you can't make the most dumb, obvious shot. It keeps you coming back, trying to redeem yourself.

My game has improved a great deal under Akira's coaching. He in turn was coached by a former professional pool player, who is now a mountain biking friend of ours. She instructed him to hold the cue loosely in your hand, "not like you're gripping your dick." Unfortunately, that instruction only made me want to hold the cue more tightly, ha ha.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A Tribute, However Small

Robert Hicken

1968 -2007

I first saw Robert in the cardio area of the gym, on a snowy day back in 1998 or so when I joined the club. He was riding an old-school stationary bike harder than I’d ever seen anyone ride, period. He was pedaling like the devil was at his heels, bent low over the handlebars, sweating heavily and oblivious to anything around him. He was the only person in the room until I walked in and got on the other stationary bike. His eyes were squeezed closed, his jaw clenched, and the whirr of his bike’s flywheel was the only sound.
I looked closer and saw his motivation – headphones. I still wonder what song was driving him.
I settled onto my bike and began trying to warm up gradually, but the presence of Robert, riding like the Tour de France title was at stake, was in turn making me ride harder. I surreptitiously watched him. Wearing a ratty sleeveless t-shirt over his bike shorts, he was surprisingly muscular in the arms and chest for a cyclist, but the fluid circles of his pedal stroke revealed that he was no gym rat. His upper body was nearly motionless while his legs kept an astonishing cadence.
This was also in the days before indoor cycling classes became popular, if I recall. These two stationary bikes were the only two in the club that resembled actual bicycles…the rest were the upright-style exercise machines burdened with huge, squashy seats and computer screens. No one rode the stripped-down stationary bikes except people who rode bikes in the outside world as well. It was clear that Robert was no stranger to this kind of workout.
As I watched, he ramped up his effort even more, and within 20 seconds or so his interval reached its maximum intensity. Now I could hear him gasping hard, his hands clenching the bars, and he appeared to find a kind of endorphin high for a brief moment as a radiant smile crossed his face. Then his legs slowed drastically, and as he recovered, eyes still closed, he looked as though he were miles away, hearing a cheering crowd as he crossed the finish line. I’m still not sure to this day if he even knew I was in the room until he sat up and wiped the sweat out of his eyes. But by then I had averted my gaze to my own feet, and busied myself with my Walkman.
I don’t remember when I finally met him, officially. He was a personal trainer at the club, and hung around there a great deal, training clients, teaching classes, and doing his own workouts. He was very generous with his attention. He treated his clients with warmth and professionalism, and reached out to everyone at the gym.
Eventually we somehow got to know each other a bit and chatted in the weight room. I asked him for some advice, and he happily gave it, along with tons of diet information and cycling training plans.
As indoor cycling classes became the vogue, Robert taught them, as well as headed up the cycling program at the gym. In the winters I took these classes with frequency, and learned Robert’s nickname: King of Pain.
He had gotten the moniker from his ski conditioning classes that left people staggering out of the group fitness room, sweaty, noodle-y versions of their former selves. But boy, were they motivated to come back and get as strong as he was. He could do plyometric jumps onto a box as high as his chest from a dead standstill.
And he never let people think badly of themselves. His relentless encouragement during those classes got people excited to work out, to watch their bodies get firmer and fitter. And he made them laugh with his easy humor; he got their hearts pumping with his music collection, which his friends say he maintained fanatically, making new mixes for cycling classes every week. He didn’t want his students to get bored.
I curse my terrible memory, for most of our interactions have long been lost. But two events stand out to me now: one time we rode together outdoors – in December, of all strange times. I had gotten a crazy idea to ride “Super Hall” – from Boulder along U.S. 36 to Hall Ranch in Lyons, ride the trail, and then return on the road – on a mountain bike, in the snow. I was in good enough shape to do it, although I wasn’t fast, and I knew one person who would take on that kind of weird adventure: The King of Pain.
He and I saddled up on our hardtails and headed out. He was very solicitous, not seeming bothered by the slow pace or the fact that we were getting frequently passed by roadies, some of whom knew who he was. We talked about music, cycling, living in Colorado, and any number of things I can’t recall now.
We got to the trailhead and that’s where things got snowy. I was a relatively new mountain biker then, but the packed-down surface blunted a lot of the technical aspects of the trail. Perhaps this memory is wishful thinking, but I recall walking very little, and feeling happy with my accomplishment. Robert was encouraging and complimentary, as he knew how to be. He mostly rode behind me, a gentlemanly thing to do for a guy who was probably dying to haul the mail.
We stopped at the park bench at the top of the rock garden to survey our snowy domain. We didn’t plan to ride the top loop, since our ride was so long already and the day was getting on. We took a few photos there; I still have the snapshot he took of me standing on the bench, flexing my arms in Swartzenegger-style toughness. I wish I could find the photo of him, but in my endless moves around Boulder, it seems to be gone. Or I hope I gave it to him at some point.

The other thing I remember is running into him in the Daily Camera parking lot a few years ago, as I was headed to my car.
“Marty, you gotta hear this!” he called, waving a CD. “This is awesome.”
We got into my car and fired up the stereo. He couldn’t get the grin off his face as he slid the disc into the player and turned up the volume. Within seconds, the thumping groove of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” filled the car, and we both started cracking up.
“No way,” I said. “Are you using this in a spin class?”
“You know it!” he replied, and started rapping along to the song until I had tears in my eyes from laughing so hard. That song, which I never fully appreciated back in the day, became a favorite after that, and yes, I can rap the whole thing, too.
In 2002 Robert moved to Hawaii and we lost touch.
He passed back through Boulder at times, worked a stint at University Bicycles, and then went back to Hawaii, then back to Boulder. But our paths had rarely crossed recently, and I was never sure if he was still around.
Then two weeks ago I saw him at my new gym, where he was once again teaching indoor cycling classes. We chatted quickly, and he seemed his usual self, looking me right in the eyes in that way that always made me feel like he really saw me. I peeked into his class a few minutes later, and saw that on the studio’s television, he was playing a video he’d shot at Walker Ranch. Through his microphone, he called out, “Come on in, Marty!”
So I took a seat on the floor and stretched, watching the video and listening to the boundless energy of Robert’s teaching style. It was good to see him again, and I noticed, as always, the relentless powerful spin of his legs. After a few minutes I took my leave and gave him a quick wave goodbye, not wanting to disrupt the class. I had no way of knowing that I would never see him again.
I wonder if he knew that.
I hate hindsight. It only exists because some circumstance forces you to look back – usually with regret.
I wish I’d hugged him. I wish I’d invited him out for coffee. I wish I’d looked him in the eyes with the same attention he always offered me. I wish…but it changes nothing now.
I attended his funeral in a state of numbness. How is this possible? I just SAW him. How on earth can he be lying in that casket?
I listened to stories from his friends, as well as from his brothers, who I met for the first time. (I learned that he'd raced on the velodrome at the Olympic Training Center as a teenager. I learned that he was more than just brawn: He had a bachelor's degree in biochemistry and a master's degree in kinesiology.)
The regret that I did not reach out to Robert, just five days before, burned itself deeper into my heart.
Not that I had the arrogance to think I could have changed his mind. But at least he would have known someone cared.
Another cyclist and spin instructor got up and went to the microphone in the little church. She looked hollow-eyed. She encouraged all of us to take Robert’s death as an opportunity to make more time for the people in our lives. No matter how busy we think we are, she said, does any of that stuff matter more than our friends?
I sat with my teeth clenched, blinded by tears. I knew by now that I wasn’t alone in my feelings, but it didn’t matter.
I just couldn't stop thinking about what was going on in Robert's mind. How much pain do you have feel to want to put a gun in your mouth?
There’s a tendency, after people have passed away, to glorify them a little. Thank god. I’d much rather remember the good things about people, and I sure hope it’s the same for me when I’m gone. I admired Robert for his passionate approach to life and to the things he cared about. He was not one of those people who just plodded through each day, and I loved that about him. I think life let him down a lot, because he expected other people to give as much energy and attention as he did. He gave so freely of himself.
I put the one photograph I have of him – at the Stazio Criterium, in an old-school, East Coast bike shop jersey that he’d brought to Colorado when he was 17 – on my refrigerator, to remind me. Not only of him, but of my commitment to the friends I still have.
Goodbye, Robert. Thank you for the inspiration.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

At Last!

I actually got out on a "real" ride yesterday with a teammate and another friend. Sadly, their recovery pace was a good workout for me. But I was just happy that my back didn't hurt - hooray! I didn't even mind that the whole ride was on asphalt, which I usually avoid like the plague. I was cruising along on my mud-encrusted 'cross bike (with road tires), sporting the mountain bike shoes and helmet visor, happy as a clam. I'm really sorry I forgot my camera, because there was some fabulous sunset light happening as we rode back. At any rate, I'm looking forward to a warm weekend so I can get some more base miles in!

Here's some recent work images:

Ray Rovey, a Nederland man who welds iron into gates, chairs, wine racks, and more -- all while being legally blind. He wears the goggles to keep out debris. He calls his little business "Out of Sight Art and Wrought Iron."

The CU radio station shut off their CD players for a day and pulled out all their old vinyl. It's amazing the eclectic taste in really old music, like '40s, '50s and '60s-era stuff, that these kids were into.

And finally, more yummy food. Seared ahi salad with citrus from Sunflower, one of my top three favorite restaurants in Boulder.

Monday, March 12, 2007

A Unique Form of Torture

Is watching yourself on video. UGH!! But I promised (especially to my mom) that I'd post this.


If you laugh your ass off at me, please keep that to yourself. ;)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Good Lord

It's hard to believe that road racing has already started. I mean, I know the Tour of California happened last month already, but hell, that's California. Out here, there's still piles of snow sitting around. But that didn't stop folks from showing up for the Stazio Criteriums on Sunday. I went out to watch the Cat. 1/2/3 race and ran into my teammate Rob:

Even though he's actually been training, we both agreed that this looked like WAY too much work.

I'm hoping to race in late May, even though the fitness will be pretty marginal. I suspect I'll truly peak for cyclocross season -- which isn't a bad thing. I really missed racing 'cross last fall. The scene here in Colorado is getting really good... lots of spectators ringing cowbells, people grilling and drinking beer, racers in the Cat. 4s wearing funny clothes -- it's a great time. I'm looking forward to all of it!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Cats and Dogs Living Together!

I'm glad I'm not petsitting for these folks!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Future Magazine Star

Yesterday I spent the morning in Denver at b. hawkins advertising studio, doing my photo and video shoot for the Maverick ads.

I know, I'm such a cheeseball. But it was really fun! I'm not sure what's up with the background color, which they called "Baby Puke," but I think that somehow the color can be changed easily in Photoshop, allowing them to drop in whatever color they want. They said the end result will probably be gray, like the sample ad I showed in my previous post, but they're not 100% sure just yet.

Check out their sweet studio:

They use a Hasselblad medium format camera with a digital back, which is an amazing setup. It seriously made me want to do commercial photography. But I lack the $50,000 needed to buy all the cameras, lights and studio space to get started, so... maybe in my next lifetime.

The photographer and the art director, both named Brian, were really cool guys. They actually work with several other bike companies, like Giant, for instance, so they know the whole mtn bike scene. And I got to see my buddy Rob from Blue Sky Cycles for a few minutes, since he was getting his picture taken before me.

The video part was fun, too. Brian the art director shot it and coached me, and I think I did okay. I'll probably think otherwise when I see it! I just hope I don't look fat. It IS the Year of the Pig, you know. ;)