Friday, February 5, 2010


Uh-oh. I knew it had been a while.

I knew that, basically, it had been pre-Whiteshorts; but I didn't realize that it had been nearly four months since I last posted. Whoops. Sorry, everyone. I keep meaning to be better about updating this blog. However, every time I think that, it goes to seed even worse than it did the time before. And it's not like I haven't had tons to write about.

Whiteshorts is a go. It'll be three months on the 25th.

I am now, officially, the oldest woman in the Spanish pelotón. God knows how, but I got me a team.

The muscles in my legs are starting to come through!

I have been appointed to the board of directors of the Chamartín...the first woman in the club's 85-year history, and I may probably be the only woman in Madrid to sit on the board of directors of any cycling club.

Huh. Life. It's what happens to you when you're not paying attention.

More soon.....

God, 41 years old and a semi-professional racer. If that's not a book in the making, I don't know what is....

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The House of No (Part Two)

What the hell is it about the Teleférico hill that keeps destroying my rear tires? Today's workout was pretty straightforward - 3 hours, with intervals halfway through, then the final 30 minutes at 140-145 bpm. I felt good - I felt a hell of a lot better than I did yesterday with the power meter test (and the subsequent hour-long search along the sides of the El Pardo highway looking for my Polar heart rate monitor, which decided to take a flying leap halfway through the power meter test.) I did well. I hit 160, as prescribed. I managed to get my climbing time down from three and half minutes to two. And at the end of the sixth climb, which felt oddly sluggish, I stuck my finger into my (€37 Kevlar-threaded) rear tire, which had all of the strength and resistance of an unbaked croissant.

I sighed. I got off the bike, grabbed the pump and began pumping. If nothing, kept with the tone of the whole damn week - getting paid late, losing the heart rate monitor, the lack of interest, manners or even timely replies from a certain someone, fighting with the landlady, losing classes, doing the math and realizing that a trip to Canada at Christmas-time is looking even less likely.

No dice. No matter how hard I pumped, the air just wasn't staying in.

I've had days when it didn't seem worth the trouble to get out of bed. It's the first time in a very long time when the entire week has felt, as my friend Kim quipped yesterday, so bad that even bacon tastes bad.

And then I realized that I'd left the spare inner tube in the other saddle bag, the one that was still on the Orbea, the one I'd taken down to Jaén and hadn't switched back to the Specialized.

I am nothing if not consistent.

What has scared me most about this week is that it's the first time in a long time when I've started wondering if all of the sacrifice and denial is really worth it. The utter failure to connect with Whiteshorts in any way has totally thrown me. I didn't think I was ready to let someone to get that close to me. And the subsequent hurt from being ignored by him has made me realize how much I used training and dieting and cycling to keep myself from being hurt again after the mess with Joseba last year. (Worked well, huh?) And yeah, I know that hurt is what keeps you human; that pain, administered in sufficient doses, is what makes you feel empathy. No man is an island, that kind of stuff. Which is not to say that I want to -- that I am going to -- stop the sacrifice and denial. It's gotten me a hell of a long way this year. It's obvious now that I just have to think of the know, stuff.

So I'll go to Mammoth on the way to Scott's, and I'll get another tire. I'll go grocery shopping, I'll make myself a nice dinner tonight and a nice sandwich for my walk in the sierra tomorrow with Alana. I'll bring the camera, I'll take photos of us getting soaked on the Camino Schmidt while we have a good time and a laugh and bitch about men. And I'll remember that nothing lasts forever. Not rejection or losing cycle computers (which have red plastic and can usually be found in beds of pine needles - they don't bounce very far, it seems) or not getting paid or rain or snow or pain.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The House of No (Part One)

See, silly immigrant that I am, where I come from, if you don't wanna do something with someone, you just say NO. N-O. Consonant, vowel. Probably one of the most universal words known to mankind. One of the first words that most children master. I'm 41 years old; I've heard it at least once or twice in my life. It's nice if it comes accompanied with a little white lie or something like that, but I'd rather hear it alone and buck-naked rather than hear nothing at all.

I gave him twenty-five minutes. I'd called The Other One the day before: You still in for Chinchón tomorrow? Nah, he says, I've got the kids and it's Hallowe'en and all, so I won't be able to ride. But if he can't go, he'll call you. He's good like that.

So, silly me, I stood like a fool and waited in front of the church for Whiteshorts for twenty-five minutes before I called him. No answer. No more waiting, I thought, and I took off. When is a plan not a plan in this country? I tried not to beat myself up about it, but it still irritated the hell out of me -- especially since I had sent him two messages during the week asking, first directly and then indirectly, if he was going.

I went to San Martín, I saw someone who looked suspiciously like Contador (but then again, the Vegas are full of tall, skinny riders with big noses, wearing Astana kit and riding Trek bikes. Contador, it seems, has more doubles than Saddam Hussein.)

I got home at about one. Five hours later, I got an offhand message telling me that he went north to Soto, and happened to run into a couple of buds on the way.

And if being stood up wasn't bad the clubhouse last night, the big NO came when I found out that both Whiteshort AND The Other One met up with the guys at Fuencarral that very same Sunday as if nothing had happened.

Wow. I know that I'm not as good as the other guys in the club, but I had NO idea that I was so bad that people feel they have to lie. There's probably nothing that's more effective at putting you off someone than to find out that he felt some kind of compulsion to lie to you.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Move it, girlfriend!

I had no idea that Stephanie was involved so deeply in biking. I knew from Scott that his sister worked in administration at a small East Coast college and had travelled extensively, but I didn't know that she owned three hand-made bikes, competed with Team LUNA Chix and was about to do a 300-mile ride to raise money to combat global warming. I mean, Scott has known me for over twenty'd think that it would have come up at some point in time that his sister spends more on bikes than most guys spend on their cars.

Which got me to thinking. Steph is about two years younger than Scott. Scott's not that much younger than me. And when I look at the faces of the women on Steph's team, it's hard to find someone who would be significantly younger than the bunch of us. This holds true for a lot of the female cyclists I know: cycling doesn't seem to grab hold of us until we're in our late 20s or early 30s, and when it does, it tends to invade our lives in ways that other activities just can't manage.

Which got me to thinking even more: Why is so much focus put on developing junior riders and younger riders when it's the older riders who are the ones who have the time, passion and money to really make a go of cycling? In the States, which uses a (seemingly) well-developed system of categories that allow riders of all ages and genders to move up logically through the system, there's a logical system of advancement. Presumably, that would mean that there's a logical system of rider development. It's a shame that there seems to be so little interest in the Spanish federation to examine this in more detail, and that they're so obsessed with developing medal-level riders that they forget to work from the base, la afición, where the money and passion truly lie.

Which makes me wonder if I shouldn't ask Pepe el Presi for the stats of how many women hold licenses in Spain. I bet it'd be a real eye-opener, and not a good one at that....

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

In the loop....

The 2010 season has, more or less, officially begun with the pre-registration process for Quebrantahuesos....

I'm lottery number 4018.

Fingers crossed, fingers crossed, fingers crossed....

Monday, September 14, 2009

Why does this feel kind of....sick?

(NOTA : Pedro H., si lees eso, me encantaría oír tus opiniones y tus interpretaciones sobre el tema. -- D)

If your Spanish is up for it (and I apologize in advance, I use that phrase WAY the hell too much), one of the best people writing about cycling in Spanish is Pedro Horrillo. The Basque biker has taken his "Desde mi sillín" column in EL PAÍS to the Internet (YAY for having free access to anything and everything; BOO to EL PAÍS for -- I'm guessing -- being too cheap to pay the guy. Y dinos si no te paguen por eso y pondremos el grito al cielo para que los tacaños de la calle Miguel Yuste se aflojan los cuerdos de los bolsillos.)

So today on the forum they're describing the climb up and through the Sierra de la Pandera. Like most really challenging mountain climbs in Spain, Pandera is located way the hell away from most important urban centres (looking at the map, Jaen's a good 20 km away). The pavement is crap and the road is as wide as a small bathroom, which must create one hell of an element of freaking out when riders have to climb up 12% grades with screaming fans three deep on the side of the road. (TVE's broadcast of the stage showed the Guardia Civil gettin' pretty physical with at least a couple of fans who dared step a wee bit too close to the riders.) You can't see squat when you get to the top, and I pity the poor project manager who's responsible for getting everything and anything down from the peak of the mountain on a road that, really, is little more than a goat path with some asphalt smacked on top.

These stages, however, are the unmissable ones. They're supposedly the ones that make cycling fans, and it ain't because of the scenery. Cyclists have an unnerving addiction to suffering and pain, one which pretty much has to be learned because anyone born feeling that way probably would have committed suicide before his sixteenth birthday. (Yes, the use of the masculine possessive adjective was deliberate.) And it's not enough to haul your sorry, lactate-laden ass up the Marie-Blanque or Angliru: the dictates of the sport insist that you, having stretched and spent the morning hauling or being hauled up several climbs, have earned the right to lie back on the sofa and watch guys (again, note the use of the masculine noun) who earn thousands of Euros or dollars or whatever a year to ride bicycles so hard and with so much force that you can't help but wonder how many of them spend the ten minutes after the race throwing up, or trying NOT to. Our gentlemen cyclist friends, having ridden all the way from Granada, arrive at the military installation looking like they've been hauled out of Wales's dirtiest coal mines, legs hammering like sewing machine needles, freezing (in spite of it being August in Andalusia), wet and probably wondering why they didn't just break down and study Law like so many of their friends.

Am I being overly sensitive or is this, in some way, a little bit sick?

I mean, I'm not dumb. Sports is, after all about being able to exceed, if not destroy, your limits, and though I've suffered through my fair share of climbing this year (and apologies to all, I still have yet to learn to love it) I would be lying if I didn't say that the sweetest thing about doing the Marie-Blanque in this year's Quebrantahuesos wasn't actually knocking the bastard off - it was beating both AG AND Javi, both of whom started climbing three minutes before I did. (Truth be told, aside from that, I honestly don't remember much about the MB except that there were a lot of guys pushing a lot of very expensive bikes.)

But there's a part of me that really doesn't like the idea of suffering for mere spectacle. I watch the mountain stages but I can't say that I enjoy them any more than I like watching time trials. (Maybe because I find the idea of doing time trials more attractive.) What I nearly wrote on Horrillo's blog (but didn't think it entirely appropriate) was:

"¿Vas a ver la Vuelta hoy?" se preguntaba dos o tres veces ayer en la salida de nuestro club de ciclismo. "Poz sí," respondió más que uno, "en una Vuelta tan descafeinado, merece la pena ver la subida al Anglirú del sur." Y lo fue. El esfuerzo, la lucha, la determinación por superar límites y darle todo. Pero hay una cosa que me hace sentir un poco (¿?) idiota.

"You gonna watch the Vuelta today?" was asked two or three times before our club went out on its ride yesterday. "Hell, yeah," more than one answered, "with the Vuelta being so toothless this year, it's worth the trouble to watch the climb up the Anglirú of the South." And it was. The effort, the struggle, the determination to break barriers and give it all. But there's something that makes me feel like a bit of an idiot.

Si se lo piensa mucho (y seguro hay algún filósofo que tiene algo que decir sobre hacer espectáculo del sufrimiento de los demás...¿no?) es un pellín (¿enfermo? ¿triste?) que a veces se base el espectáculo en el grado de puro dolor y sufrimiento que hay en una etapa. ¿Porque gritamos tanto en las etapas de montaña si sabemos que los CRIs pueden resultar casi iguales de machaca en su propio manera? (¿Alguien se atrevería subir los 17 km a Navacerrada desde San Ildefonso en una bici de CRI solo por el mero placer de experimentar?) ¿Es más aceptable disfrutar del sufrimiento si solo se trata de sufrimiento físico? Si fuera un show de humiliación personal, ¿podríamos disfrutarlo igual?

If you think about it -- and there's probably some philosopher who has something to say about creating spectacle out of the suffering of others...isn't there? -- it's kind of...sick? sad? that, at times, we base the quality of the spectacle we see on the suffering that we see in a particular stage. Why do we yell so much during the mountain stages if we know that ITTs can end up being equally rough in their own way? Would anybody really try to do the 17km uphill to Navacerrada from San Idlefonso on a time trial bike for the sheer hell of experimenting? Is it more acceptable to enjoy suffering if we're only dealing with physical suffering? If it were a show based on personal humiliation, could we enjoy it just as much?

Reconozco que les paguen por eso. Entiendo que superar tus límites forma gran parte de cualquier deporte y que mucho de la belleza del ciclismo es ver a gente destrozando los límites, da igual si existen o no. Sé perfectamente que ni Cunego ni Valverde ni Danielson me oyen cuando lanzo gritos que despierten a los vecinos de sus siestas. Pero pase lo que pase, sigo gritando. No sé si eso me marca como idiota o qué.
I recognize that they get paid for this. I understand that passing your limits is a big part of any sport and that a lot of the beauty of cycling comes from people destroying their limits, whether they really exist or not. I understand perfectly that Cunego, Valverde or Danielson can't her me when I scream so loud I wake the neighbors from their siesta. But whatever happens, I still cheer. I don't know if that marks me as an idiot or what.

Pedro (and Jason, Chip, Yago and Walesy), if you're reading this, I would really like your interpretation and thoughts on the subject.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Smarter than Hunger

"Eres más lista que el hambre."
I hate missing workouts, but missing yesterday's workout was entirely my own fault. September 1: not only the 70th anniversary of the start of World War II - it's also the day when Madrid essentially wakes up from its self-imposed state of suspension to start back to work. Job interview in the morning, e-mails before lunch, was supposed to do volume training up near El Pardo for a couple of hours but after getting caught up in watching the Vuelta (and the subsequent crashfest) in the afternoon, I didn't get my ass in gear until 6PM, by which time the trip up to El Pardo would have gotten fairly complicated, what with managing the cloverleaf of traffic between two ring roads - bad enough mid-morning, probably impossible at the start of rush hour.

The doubts start: So, what to do? Risk it? Go to the Casa de Campo? Haul out the static trainer? Doubts doubts doubts doubts. I get dressed, heart rate monitor and all, but I keep staring at myself in the mirror and thinking, The reason why you're not into training today is that you know that today is the first day when you need to be making money, which you're not, and you don't have enough money to pay the rent, let alone get groceries or pay for your monthly transit pass, which you need because the bike you normally use to get around Madrid has been sliced and diced into various pieces, rendering it unusable and you need to make money and you're going out to train?? (Yes, unfortunately, the voice in my gut is that eloquent.)

I shuck the cycling clothes, grab the posters and head out.

For most of the year, the easiest places to find private students are the Escuelas Oficiales de Idiomas, the state-run language schools which are a rich source of English students, mostly because the teachers who work there are not (mostly) native speakers. The closest one near me is open between 4 and 7 this week. Shooting fish in a barrel, I think. This is going to be like shooting fish in a barrel, and you are smarter than hunger.

The staff at Goya are friendly and helpful. I decide to make a beeline to Embajadores. The building was closed for all of August for renovations, and the small groups of nervous, smoking students loitering on the sidewalk doesn't set off the alarm bells that it should. Bad news. Not only is the building still under renovation, the staff give the impression of having been flown in from an EOI in some remote part of Teruel. They're not just unhelpful and ignorant; they're rude to a degree that I haven't seen since I left working in the media in Toronto. The badly-named Information Desk is staffed by the Laurel and Hardy of crap customer service; one is as thin and as welcoming as a praying mantis; the other keeps looking at the punters with a face of resignation.

- Good afternoon. May I put a poster up on the notice board?
- No. (Fattie turns her back to me and starts digging in her purse for a pack of cigarettes.)
- I'm sorry?
- No, you can't put an ad on the notice board because we're still dealing with renovations and the notice boards are in a pile on the floor. Come back later. (She starts digging in her purse for a lighter.)
- All right. (No reaction from Fattie. I clear my throat.) How? MUCH? LATER?

Fattie walks out the door. I look at Praying Mantis with a shark grin and a "don't fuck with me, you irascible excuse for a public servant" look stolen out of "Brüno". Being able to yell, enunciate very clearly and smile is one of the few pisstakes that foreigners can get away with in Madrid.
- Mid-September, says Praying Mantis.

Two more weeks? Fine. I am gonna give my printer the workout of its life and then come back here and paper every single piece of cork with posters. I'm gonna steal every single student you've got and give them the knowledge that will permit them to question and challenge every single Princess Di lookalike who got hired by this half-bit outfit. And, for good measure, I Scotch-tape an ad on the signs outside the school.

I am angrier than hunger. I didn't deserve to be treated like a piece of errant earwax and I'll be damned if I'm going to let some paper-pusher who OD'd on beach and tinto de verano deny me a living. This is the advantage of giving up everything except work and cycling: I have a lot more energy and drive to invest in both. And if I can't work out, then clear the track for Eddie Shack. Little Miss SuperSyntax is hungry and determined and will be solvent before you can say, "What happened to your cell phone bill this month, Iñigo Cuestecita?"

But then again, hunger isn't particularly intelligent. Hunger is a whiny-ass preteen who is able to reason, but won't. Hunger is lazy, and feeds on a person's laziness or lack of drive. Hunger is a motivator that doesn't know what it wants. Hunger is the main way out of jealousy.

I stomp up Ronda de Toledo. BANG! Pedro Salinas library, one poster. BANG! Centro Cultural Ronda de Toledo, one poster. Up past the Palacio Real; my bunions are starting to ache and the sweat is dripping down the back of my neck but I ain't done yet. BANG! Replace the poster in the José Acuña library. BANG! Two photocopy shops in Isaac Peral. That leaves five more posters for Wednesday, which I will spread around Carabanchel and pass onto other students.

Screw this being broke shit. Just because there are hundreds of female cyclists who are willing to be financial San Sebastians, riddled with arrows and bills and empty bank accounts, doesn't mean I want to be one.

I'm not just smarter than hunger. I'm angrier than hunger. I'm more resourceful, more determined, more pigheaded than hunger.