Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Lou Rawls "Live!"

I don't normally put up a post about some revelation I've had, or whatever. Tonight, however, I'm feeling funky, and life is good.

Nothing major, just a discovery I stumbled across. I figure it's not news to the majority of the world, but to me, discovering Lou Rawls on the iPod was unbelievable. I just happened to hear a snippet of a *really, really* cool song on Lounge-Radio (click the link on the upper right...yeah, yeah, right up there...really...), so I clicked over to iTunes and up popped a bunch of Lou Rawls' albums.

And, then I remembered my Dad, many years ago, raving about seeing Lou Rawls live at the Catamaran, in San Diego. Dad's got a good ear for tasty music... So...I bought "Live," figuring it might be worth a few bucks to see what all the fuss was about.


Stop whatever you're doing. I don't care what it is you're up to! Go listen to some Lou Rawls and give your wife a hug and some tenderness. Because that is some good stuff.

Where has *that* been hiding all these years. I mean, day-amn, that is some funky goodness.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

BALLAN! BALLAN!! BALLAN!!! --- Alessandro!!!!

This is a clinic! This is the best in the world, straight-up schooling the rest.

Alessandro Ballan takes the field at cycling's World Championships and conducts a master-class in "How to Win from a group of 8." The video is 10 minutes, but it's the first 4:00 that are instructive.

As the race enters the final 3k and summits the final climb, there's a group of 8 riders dangling off the front of a much larger group. Ballan is in the lead group, but appears to know three things that no one else does: 1. Neither he, nor his group is going to get caught; 2. the winner is only going to get one shot at the kill, and 3. he's going to take that shot.

Watch closely as the finale develops, and it appears Ballan is actually more concerned with being the last rider in the line of 8, than he is with what's going on in front of him. It's almost as if he's a cat, letting the prey in front of him fool around, while he watches them, sizes them up, and waits for a glimpse of the jugular. At least once in the final 3k, Ballan is more than 20 feet off the back, and yet he appears unconcerned. And then, at 3:19, after a series of meaningless attacks and pauses, Ballan finds the artery he wants and lunges. His attack is not like the silly little efforts of his escape compatriots. Once he's gone for the kill, he
sinks his teeth in, certain that he has struck the mortal blow. His first 10 pedal strokes create a 3 bike length separation, his next 20 make the gap a 10 bike length lead and it gets bigger from there. After his attack, Ballan's former companions are dumbstruck, like some hapless deer on the African plain, still alive, but in the mouth of a huge lion. Nothing they do in response will do anything but hasten the end.

Ballan's attack leaves everyone stunned. And then watch what happens. At 3:25, rather than remaining standing, stomping on his pedals, in a futile search for more speed, Ballan sits down, adjusts his cadence (upwards), and turns on the afterburners. And he's simply gone. He's got his victim by the neck, and he can feel the life slowly draining out of his conquest. With the roar of the home country crowd ringing in his ears, Ballan flies through the final 1500 meters with time to celebrate. This is how it's done.

Here's the lesson. Just like Oscar Freire's win in 1999, here Ballan doesn't reach victory the way most amateur cyclists think they should. But, winning from a small group is NOT a matter of being the third, or fifth guy into the last corner. It's not about a magic formula. It can't be coached, but you *can* learn it. When you're in that position, you can either feel it, or you can't. Period.
In fact, Freire's '99 win is so eerily similar to Ballan's here, it's a wonder more people don't learn this lesson.

What it is about, though, analytically, is decision loops. It's about putting yourself in a position where your opponent can't do anything that will surprise you, but when you decide to act, it catches your opponent off guard, and he's forced to first figure out what just happened, and then react to you. By the time he's spotted your move, figured out what it means, and determined how he's going to react, you're GONE. If you want a classic example of being inside someone's decision loop, watch at 3:19, when Ballan first rockets into the screen, passing a rider in a red/white jersey. Ballan comes by him with extreme prejudice, in progress of making the winning move. But this rider can't even recognize what's just happened to him. He actually looks at Ballan, watches him go by and his first reaction is to look over his OTHER shoulder, to see what everybody else is going to do. WRONG!!!! If this rider had put himself in a position (mental and physical) where no other rider could surprise him, he would NEVER have hesitated. He would have reacted instantly, and his outcome may have been different. Or maybe not, but at least he wouldn't have been caught with his pants around his ankles.

My question is, how can you get yourself into the final 3k of the Worlds, and not have anticipated that someone in your group of 8 was going to attack....? And what in the bleep were you doing in front of that guy so he could surprise you?

Bravo, Alessandro!

Took a Drive Today

Here is some of what I saw.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fall in Virginia

For this transplanted San Diegan turned former Oregonian, Fall is the best time of the year in Virginia. The taste of the autumn air is sweet and the light turns caramel. It's great for riding, and piling on the long slow distance miles in the crisp, dry air.

Skyline Drive in November, just past the peak color.

The same day, in brisk pea-soup fog at lower elevation.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Capital Criterium

Christian Vande Velde

Danny Pate

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Check the merchandise:

Click on the T-Shirt.  The picture was taken at Big Rock in La Jolla on a super glassy day in January.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Argiope Aurantia

A black and yellow argiope - a common garden spider, apparently. I spotted this beautifully colored arachnid off the side of the road near Massie's Corner, VA. Absolutely by accident. I pulled over to get my camera out of the trunk, just so I could have it handy, because you never know when a cool picture is going happen. As I turned around to get back in the car, this rather large web, with a cool zigzag in it was about 2 feet from my left knee. I'm a *little* arachnophobic, so I was relived when I didn't see anything in the web. But I decided to watch the web for a minute, and sure enough, this guy comes out from behind a leaf. Sheesh, for a common garden spider, they sure grow 'em big out here in the heat and humidity. Legs and all, this thing was nearly as big as the palm of my hand.

Nikon D200, AF-S NIkkor 18-200, f5.6, 1/125 ISO 100.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Road To Roubaix, (2008) DVD

A few months ago, an ad for this DVD popped into my view: Road To Roubaix. So I plunked down the credit card and pre-ordered it months before it was released. I had forgotten about it, until I got home today and I had this elaborate envelope from Masterlink Films of Orange, VA. Cool! I know what that is, I said to myself. After exercising inhuman self-control all evening, I plunked myself in front of the one-eyed mind-sucker and got ready for the adrenalin.

DOH! Man, what a let down.

My rating: Sadly, don’t buy it. Although, it is beautifully photographed, with some cool, candid-style interviews, and neat archival photos, it's not worth it. In fact, ultimately, it’s a big disappointment. There's no "there" there. No story, no plot, no drama, no eye for explaining the detail.

The film is a love affair between the director and the race, where the director is so in love, he forgets that his job is to illustrate to the audience why he’s in love. He just tells you he’s in love, over and over, and expects you to get it. It's painful, actually. It's like that guy you knew in college who fell in love with the quirky girl on campus. She wasn't ugly, but she was different. At first, you didn't understand. But, once you got to know her, you understood. And maybe, you were a bit jealous. Paris-Roubaix is a bit like that. It's an odd race, a brutal, fiendish, ugly, but compelling event. The man who wins must have an enormous appetite for punishment, massive amounts of brute strength, and a huge reserve of resilience. He is the hardest of the hardmen. And he's a guy who got a lucky break and who knew what to do with it - which is not the same as merely getting lucky. The "vainquer" of Paris-Roubaix cannot be merely lucky. He is good. And lucky.

But, even if you know all this, this film won't help you gain any further insight. For the uninitiated, it is thin gruel if you expect to get a sense of why this race is so cool, or why it’s so important to certain riders, or why anyone still bothers. Take it from me, there are no bike races on the planet I love more than de Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix, so when a director has lost me before the film gets halfway through, you know he's doing something very wrong.

The film doesn’t cover the bikes, or the tactics, or the history (except in a few stunningly beautiful old B&W photos, but with no narration or explanation); there’s no description of any of the sectors; none of the towns; none of the history of the velodrome; or of Compiegne or anything else along the way. No description of who Boonen is, or Johan Museeuw, or van Petegem, or Sean Kelly even, none of why Marc Madiot is so special, or Demol, or de Vlaeminck. Nothing.

There are some parts where the director gets it right, but these are short and appear almost by accident. They come when the film allows the viewer hear and experience the race for itself. The somber music stops, there are no motorcycles or helicopters, just the sound of bikes and cobbles and grit and dirt and grease. The other spot is the interview with Leif Hoste. He talks about victory like a man describing his all-too-recent withdrawal from a serious meth addiction. Compelling, but it makes up less than one minute of a 75 minute film.

Too bad, I was really hoping to use this to make the winter trainer sessions less of a motivational hurdle.

The “Road to Paris” video that Nike released a few years ago has a section on P-R that WAY outclasses this.

Sunday, September 07, 2008


Monday, September 01, 2008


I never expected it to come like this. Not so soon. And, even though we opened out home and our hearts to you, inviting you to make yourself at home, I never *really* expected someone to take us up on the offer and to become such an intense part of our lives.

We love you, Geli.

To say that you have become a member of the family would be wrong. It's more like we've discovered a member of the family we didn't know we had. You're in. You're one of us.

Throughout this year, I've noticed that I see you in my daughters, and in myself, and in our daily lives. It's a change that I saw happening, but didn't realize it was so profound. That will not change, even though you're back home.

At the same time I am as sad as I have ever been, we are also incredibly grateful and happy. Our family has had an experience that will always stay with us. Forever.

You are always in our hearts. There will never be another.

God Bless.