Ears to Your Health

It’s the end of July and no blog posts for this month, until now.

Here’s something that I think about from time to time. Whenever I have a few drinks (beer, mixed drinks, wine, whatever), I notice something about music, or more specifically, the way music sounds. It sounds worse, as if the limitations of the audio equipment have become glaringly obvious. This is especially so with my car stereo, which admittedly is not nearly as good as my home system. So, what’s going on?

I believe one of two things is happening. Either 1) the alcohol has heightened my perceptions (at least for audio), and any shortcomings in musical fidelity become clear, or 2) the alcohol has degraded my ability to hear as effectively as when sober.

And now, what this post is really about. I always assume the worst. About everything:  my health,  relationships,  my talents at whatever. Everything. I blithely assumed that all of my audio equipment was inferior, and alcohol made that fact more apparent. I also assumed that others heard music the way I hear it after a few drinks. But what is more likely? Instead of bemoaning the idea of lousy stereo equipment–I spent years and some amount of dollars piecing together a system that anyone but the most ardent audiophile would be proud of–it’s more likely that alcohol impairs my hearing just enough to make music sound kinda crappy. However, this is just a guess. The point is, an alcohol buzz is temporary, and once it wears off, music sounds wonderful again. But if all of my efforts in assembling a sound system are in vain, made clear by the simplicity of a few Maker’s and Cokes, then that would be much worse.

This will require some internet researching, where I can seek out any answer I want.


Can’t you just see how good it sounds?

A Fear of Hunger

Some people are afraid of dying. Others are afraid of the dark or of drowning. Most of these common fears have some sort of scientific name, some “…phobia” or another. As for me, I am afraid of hunger. I don’t necessarily mean fear of starving to death, but more like a deep-seated anxiety that there will not be enough food. As near as I can tell, the word for this is borborygmuphobia. 

I was at a wedding a few years ago and there was a buffet dinner at the reception. I remember making sure I was near the buffet table when the time came for loading our plates. There was this irrational fear that the food would run out before I had a chance to eat my fill. But the fact is, there’s always enough food. Usually more than enough, but my phobia persists nevertheless.

That reception was at my cousin Chris’ wedding a few years ago in Houston. My daughter Anna was there as well, and when it came time to eat, I noticed she was posturing at the front of the line the way I was. She confessed that she harbors the same fear of not being able to sate her appetite. We discussed our mutual affliction and agreed that the fear manifests itself most readily when one is hungry. A few months ago, I went to a Mediterranean buffet for lunch. This place tended to get crowded during the noon hour so I made sure to arrive at about 11:45 in order to beat the rush, though I was still a little nervous. I got ahead of the lunch crowd no problem, but get this: as I was devouring the food on my plate, I found myself resentful of the arriving patrons. I was fearful that they would consume the remainder of the food before I could get my second plate. So I ate hurriedly in order to get back in front of them while they were still paying and getting their drink cups.

I don’t know where this comes from. As far as I can recall, there was no childhood trauma involving the confiscation or withholding of food.

I don’t know, maybe I’ve repressed such an event.

Just this past September, I attended the wake for my dear departed cousin Chris. The same Chris who was wed just scant months earlier. We all miss him sorely. It may seem clumsy to insert that fact here in this particular post, but the point is, I was beset with the same hunger phobia as before.

I paid my respects, I hugged and consoled the bereaved, and I recalled with joy all the happy times I had with Chris. Then I made certain there was plenty of food. It was a nice spread: DIY breakfast tacos and other assorted brunch-type fare. Again, I was among the first to be served. I think Anna was too.

I hope this does not come across as disrespectful of Chris. I loved him greatly. We all did. The thing is…Chris, while a perfect gentleman, may have had a similar anxiety about food, so I believe he would have understood.

tgiving08 256 (2)

We miss you, Chris.

Texas Road Trip Journal

Tuesday 6/4 – Left Cary at 7:45 AM and headed southwest to Ellijay, GA. Arrived at Mulberry Gap around 3:00 PM, took a rest in my closet-sized cabin, then rode Pinhoti #2 trail. It was a long climb and I needed a few rest stops along the way. After about seven miles I turned around and bombed the descent. Good fun. Showered then ate a meal of steak, baked potato, green salad, corn-on-the-cob, jalepeno poppers, and bread. Friggin’ delicious. My plan was to ride again in the morning, but I then decided to get an early start to Houston and maybe surprise Anna at her work.

Wednesday 6/5 – After another fantastic meal provided by the MG staff, I hit the road. I took 85 to 20 to 59 to 12 to 10 and then stayed the night near Beaumont. I had to scrub the plan to surprise Anna, since she was not working that night. Instead, we rendezvoused Thursday morning at Salata on I-10 in Houston and beat the lunch rush, then went to Starbucks and relaxed some more while catching up. It was a brief visit but a good one. Anna seems to be happy and doing well. I then headed to San Antonio where I found Elizabeth’s stashed key and settled into her place. After watching a few episodes of The Office, I went to bed. Chris and E showed up in the wee hours.

Friday 6/7 – Met Chris (nice guy) and got some excellent Mexican food on the south side of SA where Chris grew up. Met his mom, Juanita, as well. We then went to the mall where E bought a Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air sound system. Before going back home, we visited some of Chris’ relatives who live near Boerne. It was a graduation party with lots of food. Everyone was very kind and generous. We then went home and set up the Zeppelin and watched some Game of Thrones.

Saturday 6/8 – Got up and rode the trail at OP Schnabel near E’s place. Luckily, I found someone named Gary who was willing to shepherd me along the intricate trail system. We got a good 12+ mile ride in. Felt awesome. After returning home and cleaning up, we attended a San Antonio Missions baseball game. They lost but we a had a good time.

Sunday 6/9 – Went to a giant flea market with C, E and C’s mom. It was pretty hot, with a generous host of fat people milling about and perusing all varieties of junk. After that, we went back home and I hit the trail once more at Schnabel. There was no one to lead the way this time, so I was not able to retrace the path from the previous day. I did alright, but still managed a wrong turn at one point and got lost. I found my way out just as the skies opened up and unleashed a vicious Texas thunderstorm. After cleaning up, we went to a sports bar to watch the Spurs lose to Miami. I drank quite a bit and E bought two rounds of shots to boot. We had a grand time.

Monday 6/10 – I set out to ride Government Canyon trails, but they were closed due to all the rain. Instead, I rode an exercise bike at E’s apartment gym. Boring. We ate a hibachi supper at Osaka, then returned home and finished the third season of GoT. Amazing. E and C needed to get to bed since they had to get up early and leave for Austin/Boston.

Tuesday 6/11 – Said my goodbyes to E and C and slept until about 9:00 AM, then did some laundry. Headed to Fort Worth via 281. No way was I getting on I-35. Got to Barbara’s and settled in. Took B to Milano’s in FW for some good Italian fare. Watched some more of The Office on the laptop and helped B straighten out some issues on her PC.

Wednesday 6/12 – Met old friend Jana Johnson at La Madeleine at 8:30 for breakfast. It was good to catch up; had not seen her in 18 years. Then had lunch with Ben Cobb at Hoffbrau steak house. Went back to B’s and prepared for a ride at Sansom Park MTB trail. It was very hot. I took my standard two bottles of water, but I ended up running out because the trail had been lengthened during the intervening two years since I rode it last, and it caught me unawares like. I thought I was going to pass out from the heat and the stupid burst climbs on the Lone Wolf section of singletrack. Anyway, I survived. B took me out to Railhead for some Texas BBQ. Dee-lish.

Thursday 6/13 – Said so long to B and drove to Dallas to meet Pete for lunch. We went to Pie Five near his work and had a quality pizza. I then went back to P&K’s place to hang out with K’s mom Linda and little baby Ellie. She is getting cuter all the time, but she did not know what to think of me. Maybe she was confused because I resemble and sound a little like Pete. I’m talking about Ellie, not Linda. Ate a pork roast dish that had been cooking all day in the crock pot. It was the first home cooked meal in days and it was fantastic. Later, we met Adam at Lakewood Landing where John Harrell also showed up.

Friday 6/14 – While P&K were at work, I went to Erwin Park in McKinney to ride the trail. It was the only MTB trail in the ‘plex that I had not yet ridden. It was way out in BFE, but what a sweet trail! East coast-style hardpack with a few roots and some easy climbs. It twisted around in the woods for a bit then broke out into open prairie, where the heat blasted me real good. I was bunny hopping roots and stuff at a pretty good clip when I came upon a somewhat gnarly root system at a slight left turn in the trail. I hopped it with ease, but was not prepared for the small trench running diagonally along the trail afterward. My front wheel landed awkwardly and over I went. Hard. I tumbled a few times and probably did three or four rolls before coming to a stop. I bashed up both legs and got some scrapes here and there, but my ribs took the brunt. I was in pain. I wanted to cry but there was nobody around to give me any sympathy. After lying there and wincing for a bit, I got up and mounted the bike, which thankfully was unhurt. What sucked was, I did not know this trail and I had lots of miles to go before getting to the car. I managed okay, but took it real easy. The fun part was when I encountered a series of whoop-de-doos, but I refused to walk them. Any exertion whatsoever and my ribs were aflame with hurt, both from breathing deeply and from standing and mashing. I made it back to the car sooner than expected, where I laboriously changed clothes and headed home to P&K’s. K went to a girls’ get-together that night while P, A and I ate black bean tostadas and listened to music. I feared I would not sleep well because of my bruised ribs, but I slept okay.

Saturday 6/15 – Ribs still hurt but I don’t think they are fractured. Went to Jason’s Deli for lunch with P, K and E then to Best Buy where P bought a new MacBook Air. Sweet. Hung out back at the house then went to the store to get food for a cookout. Adam brought Italian sausage from Jimmy’s and we pigged out. Spring and Laura Driscoll also came over. A, P and I watched a couple of Futurama episodes, then A had to go to work. P and I listened to music, trading songs and playing DJ until about 1:00 AM.

Sunday 6/16 – Slept kinda late. I got up and made french toast for the crew. It was a yum. P set up his new MacBook. I don’t remember what we did for lunch, but we ate supper at Teppo Sushi and it was aces.

Monday 6/17 – Said goodbye to my bro and Ellie then hit the road at 9:00. Drove almost to Knoxville, TN. Checked into a motel around 10:00, just in time for Cracker Barrel to close, so I got two bean burritos from Taco Hell. I had sworn that I’d never eat there again, but I was desperate. This town had no alternative; everything good was closed. By “good” I mean Shoney’s.

Tuesday 6/19 – Got home to Cary around 3:00 PM. 3,258 miles.


Saddle U-P-G-R-A-Y-E-D-D

My neighbor, who has some connections in the MTB industry, just ups and gives me this cool saddle the other day. It’s a San Marco Aspide Superlegerra, and as far as I can tell, it retails anywhere from $300 to $500 and weighs a paltry 100 grams. I have two rides on it so far, and I must say, I have no real complaints. The slipperiness was an issue on the first ride, but did not seem to be a factor when I did Rocky Road yesterday. Hmm…maybe because that trail demands a lot of standing and mashing as opposed to seated pedaling. Like Crabtree does. The firmness is noticeable of course, since it’s full carbon (even the rails), but it has some pliability to it and therefore soaks up some of the trail chatter better than I expected. The real test will be on a more relaxed ride where I’m seated most of the time. That won’t happen tomorrow at Beaver Dam, which means more standing on the pedals, especially on the South Loop. I think I will like the saddle, but the question is, does the benefit of its lightness outweigh (heh) the cost of its slight discomfort? Time will tell.

Here’s a shot of the saddle. Kinda purdy, huh?



By the way, the two D’s in “upgrayedd” is for a “double dose of pimpin’.”


2013 Burn-24

Here is my report on the 13th and last Burn-24 endurance race held in Wilkesboro, North Carolina.

I arrived at the infield around 10:15 Friday morning. It was cool and blustery, with hardly a cloud to be seen. Only a few other racers had gotten there before me, so the choices for a camp spot were plentiful. I chose a location  on the northern edge, close to last year’s spot and up against the treeline. The aggressive breeze made it difficult to erect the tent by myself, but I finally managed. If anyone happened to be watching me, they probably laughed. After getting things unloaded and set up, I pedaled my bike around the perimeter of the infield and snapped a few pics of other participants in various stages of setting up their own stakeouts. The Lowdens arrived to join me sometime around 4:30. After unloading and setting up the remainder of our gear, they took off for a course pre-ride.

We ate supper at Ruby Tuesday’s in Wilkesboro before dusk. I opted for a salmon dish and the salad bar, where I constructed a ferocious melange of spring mix, assorted beans, eggs, nuts, onions, broccoli, and balsamic dressing. I was unable to finish the salmon because the salad had filled me up. I wanted fuel for the race. Spencer and Zach Lowden wolfed down their grub like a couple of starving POWs. Those boys can put it away, and they were going for as many calories as possible.

Gary ate something or other.

When we got back to the site a few other groups had arrived and were setting up. The infield was starting to fill, but this year’s race was not that well attended. The boys got on their bikes and practiced track stands and wheelies while I mulled over sleeping arrangements. We decided to put the boys in my new Big Agnes tent while Gary and I slept in our respective vehicles. With the seats down, I can fit a blow-up mattress in the ‘Ru. But no matter; I hardly slept a wink, as is my wont when camping. I think I was too wired for the race. Actually, I managed maybe two hours of sleep, because when I awoke, I remembered some lame dream I had.

I got up and heated up some oatmeal while Gary set about making breakfast for him and the boys. The Lowdens brought plenty of food and graciously kept all five of us fed for the duration of our stay. Carrie had prepared a giant vat of spaghetti that was delicious and filling. It kinda made me want to throw my homemade stew into the woods and forget I even brought it.

The Lowdens and I discussed our race strategy and finally decided on a single-switch relay for the first round, and then double thereafter. The order would be: Spencer, me, Gary, Zach, Ahmet. Speaking of Ahmet, where was he? I got a text from him saying that he may not arrive until after 11:00. Race check-in ended at 11:00, so I was worried that he may miss the deadline. The officials at the registration tent assured me that it was okay if he was a little late. He arrived at about 11:03 and got checked in without a hassle. We then attended the 11:15 race meeting where they announced that this would be the last year for Burn-24. The race was named after Burn energy drink, which went belly up a few years ago, and now this event was about to do the same. The announcer offered no reason as to why.

Ahmet did the running portion of the LeMans start and Spencer got a good push off the line and up the gnarly hill, which usually gets jammed with racers walking their bikes. Spencer managed to stay out in front of the congestion, passing other riders and avoiding a dismount. He had a powerful start. I did the next lap but did not feel very good at the beginning. My brain wanted to set a faster pace than my lungs would allow, so I eased off a little and tried to settle into a rhythm. It ended up being a pretty slow lap. After a few more laps, we checked the standings and saw that we were in seventh place out of a field of 25 in the three to five man division. We would remain there for the entire event.

We doubled up on the laps after the first round so that we would all have ample rest time. I was still wired however, so the time passed too quickly it seemed. My second and third laps were better than my first, but still well off the pace from years prior. What the hell? I guess this is what happens when you don’t train properly, and the older I get, the more training I need. It was my fourth and fifth laps, started just after midnight, that hurt the most. I felt a hint of muscle cramps in my quads towards the end of my fourth lap, so I pounded the water down in an attempt to drive them back. It worked for a short while. The race course starts with some climbing right off the bat, so as I started my fifth lap, I was concerned that the cramps would return too soon. I managed to spin through the pain, but dreaded the climbs in the middle portion of the course where my legs would really be taxed. I was not able to keep the cramping at bay on these climbs, so I stopped and rested a few times while trying to drive the cramps away with more fluids. This would be my worst lap. Barely under an hour.

I pulled into our site around 2:45 AM, beaten and sleepy. After some perfunctory stretching and re-hydrating, I laid down in the Siouxbie in an effort to get some rest, perchance to sleep. Right. Not gonna happen. Also, my bladder was now catching up to all the water and Accelerade I had quaffed during my two laps, and I had to pee every fifteen minutes. How was I supposed to sleep? Without going into detail, I was able to use a large styrofoam cup and relieve myself while laying down in my car, then disposing of the waste (which at this point was much like water) discreetly out the passenger door. I made sure to use the door that faced our neighbor’s camp site. This strategy helped, but I was still unable to sleep, perhaps because I was fearful that my next laps would be a repeat of the previous two. With the urging of Gary and Ahmet, however, I swallowed a few Sport Legs pills in hopes that they would prevent more dreaded cramping. Soon, it was time to get up. No fair! I got zero sleep! In a weary haze, I pulled on my racing gear and refilled my water bottles. It was a frigid fifty degrees or so by this time, and I was eager to get on the trail so I could warm up. As I made my way to the timing tent, I started to feel much better. My head was clear and my legs felt inexplicably good. I tagged up with Spencer and off I went. First climbs out of the way and no sign of cramping. I even had a little power in my legs. Something about the cool overcast morning and the welcome light of day after a long night that perked me up. I passed lots of racers this time, whereas before, it was about 50/50 passing and being overtaken myself. The middle and last downhill sections were at breakneck speed, as I railed the turns more precisely than any prior lap. For the first time during this race, I did not dread the upcoming consecutive lap. But as it turned out, there must have been some discussion about our evolving strategy during my last lap, because I was told by a waiting and kitted Gary that we were now doing single laps again. It was with a mix of relief and slight disappointment that I headed back to our site, but I found that I had just completed my fastest lap. I felt energized and looked forward to a possible seventh lap to finish the race with.

Meanwhile, Gary and Ahmet discovered that our team was still in seventh, but only mere minutes from overtaking the sixth-place team. If each rider could make up a little more time, we could move up a place. It happened that Spencer was slated for the penultimate lap and he was our best chance at closing the gap on the sixth-place team. However, it quickly became apparent that if I were to do the last lap, we would likely lose time and forfeit any hope of catching the team ahead of us (which was encamped, by the way, just two spots down, though they were unaware that it was us who were closing in on them). I expressed my concerns about this, but Gary was very encouraging, so I mounted my resolve to crank out my best lap of the race. We then found that we were only seconds behind the other team, and that if there was any chance to move up a spot, Spencer was our best hope. So Zach and I rushed over to the transition tent, me with a gel pack and Zach with a fresh water bottle in order to replenish the incoming Spencer. As we waited, Gary strode up and announced that the other team’s rider had just tagged up for the last lap. Damn! Where was Spencer? He came rolling in about 35 seconds later looking flushed but still energized. We shouted that the other rider was only a few seconds ahead and that he should go another lap to overtake him for sixth place. This news appeared to disappoint and invigorate him simultaneously, so I handed him a gel pack and watched as he pedaled away in hot pursuit. The possibility of a close finish just became very real. He had just turned in a smoking 35-minute lap, and though he is only 19 years old, he is a seasoned racer and there was no doubt he could produce a similar lap this time as well. Zach and I waited at a spot where the singletrack ends and the gravel doubletrack begins. We were hoping to see Spencer ahead of the other racer, but we were not altogether certain what that guy was wearing, or what his bib number was. We remembered that he had some yellow on his jersey, but little else. After a few minutes, a racer wearing a yellow jersey came flying through. Was that him? We were not sure. Another 40 seconds passed and Spencer appeared. Thirty six minutes!

Whether that rider was the one to catch or not, we never really found out. But the other team’s racer fought to keep the gap between him and Spencer for the entire lap, so we held on to seventh place. Later we joked that if Zach had not been forced to come back to the camp site in order to replace a contact between two of his laps, we would have bagged sixth. Naturally, there a lot of IFs with this sort of thing, the biggest and most obvious one being that if I had trained smarter (or at all for that matter), we would have placed much higher. Or if I had not gotten muscle cramps on my fifth lap. Or if

But we had a good time, and the Lowdens were perfect race partners. They all possess positive attitudes and are very encouraging and helpful. The Burn won’t happen again, but it’s likely to be replaced with some similar event that uses the excellent Dark Mountain trail system, so not all hope is lost.

Quads vs. Calves

I used to have really skinny legs. Now my legs are still thin but the quadriceps have come a long way, thanks to cycling. Here’s what the sport can do for your upper legs:


However, riding a bike–and riding it hard–does very little for the calf muscles. I’ve heard that even body builders loathe calf-building exercises because it’s so difficult to add mass. I have accepted that my calves, although more toned due to cycling, will remain skinny until I die:


Ice Cream Anti-Social

There’s an ice cream shindig going on in the breakroom right now here at work, and I’m struggling to avoid it. Not only do I desperately want some ice cream, but I feel that the ice cream wants me in return. I remember long ago, we had a dachshund named Liesl, and she had just delivered her first litter of puppies. Dachshund puppies, by the way, are nature’s cutest animals by a long shot. Anyway, for some reason, when they were just a couple of weeks old, we had to keep the pups away from Liesl for a while and prevent them from nursing. There was some weird medical reason for this, but to us kids, it just seemed cruel. It was not only difficult for the puppies–they were obviously starving–but it was hell for Liesl as well. Her teats were swelling almost visibly and she was howling for her children. It was agonizing to watch.

What does this have to do with ice cream? Nothing. I was simply trying to illustrate how the ice cream wants me just as much as I want it. It wants to be eaten. By me. Its siren song is calling me, but I will resist. I can almost guarantee, however, that there will somehow remain one small serving just for my gastronomical pleasure. I will not give in.

The Law of Truly Large Numbers

Laura and I were watching a science show the other night on the latest theories of the universe and its origins. It was probably a NOVA episode, or maybe Nature. Lawrence Krauss was one of the interviewees, along with a few of the other usual suspects in the field of cosmology. This particular episode discussed some recent findings about dark matter, dark energy, black holes, and the like. One segment described, quite effectively, the nature of galaxies, galaxy groups, galaxy clusters, and filaments. Each stage zoomed out, as it were, to illustrate how utterly immense the universe is. The discussion ended with a final representation of the entire cosmos, with its web-like structures of matter strewn about in the totality of the universe. It was pretty cool, and awe-inspiring to say the least. I know of no word in the English language that can adequately describe the unfathomable vastness of the cosmos.

I remember a few years ago, when Laura and I (perhaps with my daughters) visited the science museum in Fort Worth, Texas. There were a lot of interactive displays in the exhibit, and on this day, the place was packed with kids running about flipping switches, turning knobs, working cranks, pushing buttons, etc. One exhibit attempted to illustrate the concept of very large numbers. A transparent plastic cylinder, roughly three feet long and four or five inches in diameter, was filled with exactly one million tiny beads. Each bead was maybe two millimeters in diameter, but perhaps a bit smaller. Next to the tube was a chart showing the distribution of colored beads in the container. I don’t recall the exact distribution, but it was something like this:

  • 938,899 blue beads
  • 50,000 yellow beads
  • 10,000 green beads
  • 1,000 orange beads
  • 100 purple beads
  • 1 red bead

The trick of course was to locate the one red bead by continually turning the cylinder on its axis and letting the beads cascade around inside. It was almost impossible to find the lone red bead unless you were willing to be patient and turn the cylinder slowly and deliberately, carefully scanning the multitude of beads along the length of the tube. Not only was it difficult to find the red bead, it was  unlikely you would even encounter a purple bead. This was the first time I’d seen a million of anything in one place like that. It was staggering to behold. I was not able to find the red bead, and I didn’t feel comfortable continuing the search when other museum-goers wanted to give it a shot. So I moved on to other displays, but I went back to the cylinder a couple more times to try and comprehend the sheer number of beads in that tube.

So as Laura and I were watching this episode of NOVA the other night, the narrator surmised that there were perhaps 400 billion galaxies in the universe, and each galaxy might contain around 100 billion stars. Forget the stars for a minute and just think about the number 400 billion. That cylinder at the museum held one million beads. Multiply that by one thousand. It’s not too difficult to imagine a thousand of these tubes in a large room of a museum, but now multiply that by 400. Okay, most museums would be hard-pressed to house 400,000 of these tubes and still have them accessible to the public. So imagine them instead in a coliseum or football stadium. 400,000 of those tubes, each with a million “galaxies” in them. And that’s not even remotely close to describing the size of the universe, simply because the space that exists between matter is vastly larger than the matter itself. And that’s just the galaxies! Now multiply 400 billion times 100 billion…you’ll have a number that, to paraphrase a line from Team America, nobody even knows. Actually, I think it’s a four with 22 zeroes after it. I don’t know what the name of that number is.

Pardon me, I think I just blew my own mind.


What a fun and rewarding weekend. Both Laura and I participated in the “Curse at the Crab” endurance race at Lake Crabtree County Park. Laura teamed up with Trina Cook while I raced with Ahmet in the men’s duo category. Ahmet and I both lucked out and had our entry fees waived by doing some volunteer work in preparation for the race.

After a breakfast of oatmeal, a boiled egg, and some mixed fruit, I joined Steve Rogers and a few others to help mark the course early Saturday morning, which required us to tape off a few sections and to use flour for making directional arrows in the dirt. That work served as both a feel-good volunteer effort and as a warm-up for the race, as we had to ride the entire course in order to complete the marking. I got home at about 11:45 and prepared another carb-and-protein rich meal for lunch: a peanut butter and banana sandwich, raw broccoli, brown rice and a gigantic iced tea. Okay, the iced tea had very little nutritional value, I suppose, but it slaked my ravenous thirst and got me pre-hydrated for the event.

Laura and I then began packing up for the race. I crammed the rapid shelter, cooler, card table and many bike-related items into the Siouxbie. I got both of our bikes in tip-top shape for the race, too. We got to LCCP right around 1:00 PM, just in time for the kids’ race. We found a good spot in the transition zone and proceeded to erect the rapid shelter. Soon others began filing in and staking claims near our spot. A couple of young ECU students set up right next to us. Eric and Chris were their names, if I’m recalling correctly. They were extremely kind and enthusiastic, as was just about everyone else in attendance. I am always impressed by the friendliness and generososity from those who attend these cycling events; even at highly competitive races, everyone is willing to share resources and offer kind words of encouragement. I love this sport.

Ahmet showed up a little after 2:00 PM and began getting pumped for the first lap. The race started about a quarter mile or so down the paved park road in order to space the riders out and permit the faster participants to make their way to the front. Although Ahmet swore that this race would be “just a training ride for Burn,” his competitive impulse got the better of him and he was fifth or sixth onto the singletrack, close behind the leaders. Those leaders finished the initial lap around the 27-minute mark and Ahmet came rolling in at about 31 minutes. He signaled that he was good to go another lap, which gave me an additional half hour to sit around the pit area. Screw that, I thought, as I mounted my bike and pedaled around the parking lot in an effort to warm up my legs. Laura did the first lap as well, while Trina fiddled around in the pit area or chatted with the timekeepers while awaiting her turn. Laura was toward the rear of the pack when the riders dove onto the singletrack, but I was pleased to see her smiling as she whizzed past me. She turned in a 40:26 minute first lap, which I thought was quite respectable. It turned out that she and Trina were well-matched for this event.

Like clockwork, Ahmet crossed the timing line again at 31 minutes, just a few seconds difference from his first effort. Now it was my turn. I rocketed away on my S-Works, then became immediately mindful not to crush it too hard right away, so I soon settled into a medium-fast rhythm of about 75% effort. I turned in two laps of approximately 33 – 34 minutes…always a minute or two slower than Ahmet. He did his next two laps, followed by another pair from me. It was exactly 7:29 when Ahmet began our ninth lap, so he narrowly escaped having to use his lights. He returned at 8:03, which would not give either him or me enough time to do another lap before the 8:30 cutoff time. Unless he really pushed it. He didn’t think he had a 27-minute lap in him, and frankly, I’m glad he didn’t try. So I took off for our tenth lap with my lights blazing. I was pretty spent, but I needed to turn in a decent lap, I thought, not really knowing why. Well, it’s good I did not completely phone in the last lap, since the second place team was only eight minutes behind us in the standings, although this was unbeknownst to us at the time. In fact, neither Ahmet nor I ever checked the standings during the entire race. Remember, we were treating it as a “training ride.”

When it was all over, we chowed down on sandwiches provided by Jimmy Johns and began breaking down our pit area. No one in our little group seemed very interested in awaiting the results, so we went home. I checked the bike forum the next morning to see that the results were already posted. Somehow, though, the timekeepers missed our fifth lap and credited us with only nine. I petitioned Steve Rogers and he eventually corrected the mistake, which gave Ahmet and me first place, eight minutes ahead of second. We finished in 5:39 with ten laps. Steve is somewhere in Chapel Hill holding on to our coveted trophy. Maybe I’ll pick it up one of these days. Laura and Trina churned out eight laps, although the results only show seven. More timing errors from the observers in the tent. I’m still not sure why, at $45 a head, this race was not electronically timed. At any rate, we all had fun, and it felt good to get first in our category. The truly fast riders managed 11 laps at roughly 32 minutes average lap time. Bastards.

Here’s Laura, clearly having a good time:






Results for men’s duo:


Network Woes Unwoed

When we moved into our townhome two years ago, I was determined to get the fastest broadband internet access possible. The best choice at the time, believe it or not, was Time Warner Cable, aka The Great Satan. We were set up with their “wideband” tier, which promised 50 mbps. Well, I never measured anywhere near that and it would not surprise me if it’s because their Ubee modem did not handle that kind of throughput. I ran a lot of speed tests at speakeasy.net and averaged about 22 – 23 mbps. This was rather disappointing, so I had TWC bump me down a level to their “extreme” service which topped out at 30 mbps. I found to my delight that the average speed went up to about 27 mbps. I was pleased and a little angry at the same time, since I’d already paid the devil for several months of wideband service, but I guess I could have contacted them about it much sooner than I did. Mea culpa.

But soon our service, though speedy, became somewhat unreliable. I could not stream internet radio for long before it would cut out. I did everything I could to ensure it was not related to my PC or idevice. Netflix (via our Blu-ray player) became spotty as well, and we’d often give up in frustration when trying to watch something as simple as a 30-minute sitcom. Moving the Ubee modem/router to our entertainment center, where we could direct-wire it to the Blu-ray player seemed to make no difference.

Well, the inter-tubes eventually came to my rescue, as it (they?) always does (do? Aww, screw it). I did a lot of googling on the subject and soon learned that the best recourse was to bridge my Ubee modem and use a router, bypassing the integrated router in the Ubee. It just so happened that we had an old Linksys router laying around, one that we’d gotten about eight years ago that supported the wireless-G protocol.

[Author's aside: I am listening to Radio Paradise right now and they are playing Led Zeppelin's sublime Rain Song. I have to pause here and soak in the song's intense climax]

This seemed to work fine, although speed tests showed a max throughput of only about 10 mbps, no matter what server I contacted for the test. My friend Ahmet suggested this was because the G protocol had an upper limit of 10 mbps. That’s all I needed to hear; off I went to Best Buy to get a new router that supports the N-protocol. I installed it and now I’m smoking along at 23 mbps once again, but better yet, it seems to have mitigated the spottiness issue as well. I’ve had Radio Paradise streaming for hours now without interruption. Yay technology.

And thanks, Ahmet.

Here is an important photo of my fantastic new router, together with the questionable Ubee cable modem from the maw of Hell.