Treating goals as if they were programs

One of Klein’s favorite adaptations is the conflation of wishes and operative political programs. Again and again she holds up statements of intent—protect Mother Earth, treat all people equally, respect all cultures, live simple, natural, local lives—as if they were proposals whose implementation would have these outcomes. It’s all ends and no means. This is a double convenience: first it eliminates the need to be factual and analytical about programs, since announcing the goal is sufficient unto itself, and second, it evades the disconcerting problem of how to deal with the daunting political challenge of getting such programs (if they even exist) enacted and enforced. I believe the treatment of goals as if they were programs is the underlying reason for the sloppiness of this book on matters of economics and law. Klein can say we should finance a large green investment program by taxing fossil fuel profits, or we should simultaneously shrink the economy and increase the number of jobs, because in the end it doesn’t matter whether these or other
recommendations could actually prove functional in the real world. The truth lies in the rightness of the demand, not the means of fulfilling it. But this too is an adaptation to powerlessness.

—Peter Dorman, on Naomi Klein’s book This Changes Everything

To paraphrase in terms of the bicycle: we should enact a giant bicycle facility construction program, or we should simultaneously shrink the economy by reducing private motor vehicle traffic, because it doesn’t matter whether these recommendations could actually prove functional in the real world. I prefer to ask, “Who is the marginal person on a bike?”

One hundred and a half

Ha! Dragged myself out of bed this morning and onto the piste. Slept
poorly and dreamt about fishing, I the confirmed nonangler. But all is
well; I got to that magic 100-mile mark I’d set for myself three or
four weeks ago. It wasn’t a bad run, either; the dawn on my left was
spectacular (if behind me) and it generated a counterdawn: a fluffy
pile of pinkish clouds in the west, about ten degrees of arc over the

 Still need two more bike rides to get to 500 miles, however. I’ll have
to wait for the afternoon for that.

Drafting redux

Lucky me, I was passing by the distribution yard and saw yesterday’s assist
driving by. I was a bit slow taking out the camera and
getting the snapshot, which is why the version you’re seeing is blown
up and cropped like the climactic scene in “High Anxiety.”

Just a tiny bit of drafting today, behind a contractor’s giant-bed
pickup truck as I passed the end of the straightaway near the fire
station. As soon as we got out of the built-up area, he sped up and
disappeared, leaving me to develop an unintermediated personal
relationship with my friend the North Wind.

What I have been meaning to mention for a couple days now, as I get
closer to my 500-mile goal for January is what you could think of as the
“ninety-nine-and-a-half just won’t do” problem. If you fail at a goal,
it’s most likely not because you got to 45%, but because you couldn’t
get past 90%. So in my situation at 89% (two rides left, basically)
for the month, I need to focus and keep up the solid cycling, day
after day, because otherwise I’ll get distracted and won’t make the
goal. I can always laze away once I’ve made the goal, right?

But just simple goal-reaching doesn’t help me explain to a reader like
you how seriously I take this getting the speed up and riding fast. I
could just slack off a little bit and who would notice, and there are
days like Wednesday where I just can’t get fast, but mostly I take this real
seriously, trying to push myself harder on each lap. It helps to have
an implacable antagonist like the North Wind, but pretty much it’s all
my doing. There’s no coach screaming at me or team to keep up with. So
when I finish a ride like today’s, with a steady wind from the north,
with two laps at faster than 18 mph, I feel pretty good about myself,
having recovered nearly completely from the slow-slash-rest day on
Wednesday. And I suspect that every time I put myself in that frame of
mind, where dogged persistence and determination are needed to push to
the finish line, I’ll find that it pays off for the next time.

Only one face necessary

I blame the shoddy drugstore batteries someone sent me for expiring just as the photo-moment arrived (or I arrived at the photo-moment): Barack Obama’s three-quarter profile on a sheet cake at the big refectory. It’s another quiet night here at the secret city; dusk has settled over us while folks are still getting into position in Washington.

On the fitness front, another strong day today. I wanted to take it easy but coming up the one hill on my way to the back of the airfield, I felt so strong. And besides, I have to be strong for Obama! Strong for America! Today is no day to slack off, no way no how. Yes we can!

The wind was all over the place in some confusing fashion, and as I did the other day, I guessed wrong so that when I thought I would be turning into the back stretch and heading with the wind, I was actually pushing into a headwind. Is it possible that there could be one certain direction for the wind to blow from so that it feels as if it’s in my face the whole way? If this is so, how (and why) did the Yugoslavs who built the secret city calculate it so that the roads are lined up with that prevailing direction? Were they masochists or something?

Fickle wind, I have my eye on you. I saw how toward the end of my ride, the smoke off the burn pit was blowing west, although I could feel the wind coming out of the northeast again. You try to fool me into giving up, but I am strong today for Obama and have no patience with your silly breezy games! I hit the wide open stretch just west of the big perpendicular taxiway, all the while humming the howling riff from “Hatari” to myself, and getting myself ready for the sharp turn onto the back stretch with the unfavorable wind in my face. What a pleasure to make that turn (after looking both ways for traffic), to feel the push of the sticky tires, warm from friction, against the asphalt as I whip around 135 degrees without losing speed. (Of course, I feel as if the wind is fully ready to turn itself 136 degrees to frustrate me.)

I pulled around the first lap in less than 22 minutes, and did the second one in 22:05, so both laps were over 19 mph, the second day in a row that I’ve accomplished this. I am convinced that by writing about it (most vividly here) I have made it easier for myself to master this skill.

In the running event, today was also a good day. On my predawn jog, I reached the 370-mile milestone that gets me a metaphorical pat on the back from those mysterious secret-city authorities. I have run at least 5.6 miles nine days in a row. I confess, the pegs feel kind of tired, like they were made out of chocolate that has slowly started to melt. I have been just barely shuffling along for the last couple mornings, it feels like, although I suspect that a big part of that is running on the roadside verge in the dark and my anxiety at the likelihood of twisting my ankle. I have three more of those 5.6-mile runs to go before I get to the 100-mile goal I set for January, which shouldn’t be that hard in the 11 days left in the month. We’ve been enjoying pretty good weather lately so I want to take full advantage of it; I dread another cold snap or another rainy day.

(Today’s picture is not the Obama cake, but Freedom Lake, at the east end of the secret city, nestled in the canyon wall. Yes, we drink the water.)

Stay motivated!

I hit this exact same feeling every morning I go running, about five minutes along, as I pass the laundry on the right on my way west. I feel achy and tired and slow, and I feel overdressed in jacket and two shirts, plus sweatpants. I don’t feel cold, but instead I feel bulky. I consider seriously just turning around when I get to 12th Street, instead of turning left and climbing the hill on the road toward the dump, a mile out and a mile back to the same junction spot.

Turning around at 12th Street would result in a 3.6 mile run, which isn’t bad at all, except that I would have to do the same run just about every remaining day of the month to get to my goal of 100 miles. It would mean 13 events in 15 days, which is tough. At a rate of 5.6 miles per event, I only need nine more events to get to 100, which is a little more reasonable. Back in July and August and September, I used to do the shorter route regularly, but I had lower expectations then and wasn’t trying to get to 100 miles a month.

And the difference between turning left and going up the hill to the second revetment and turning right past the car wash and going back to the lodging isn’t really that much. I’m already out there pounding the pavement, all dressed up and moving forward.

So I kind of put the thought to the side and think about a movie I’ve seen or something, then by the time I’m at 12th Street I just turn left as if I hadn’t really considered not turning left. When I finish up I’ve taken a little more than an hour, which is hardly a record-breaking time. What’s funny is that the steady accumulation of training time does have an effect: yesterday I ran in the afternoon, leaving the bike parked (I think the chain may actually be too tight and serious riding might damage the freewheel bearings). On that run, in daylight and after having been awake for more than 10 minutes, I did the same 5.6-mile route. It took me less than 51 minutes, or my fastest time ever on that route. So all my frustrations–at bulking up like the Michelin man, at having the alarm send me out to the piste 90 minutes before the sun thinks of rising, at carrying around the dinky flashlight I use to illuminate my path–are somehow shifted beside the point, as if I had been fully and completely supportive of my own efforts instead of partially engaged in pondering how I could shortchange myself.

No matter what it takes to get to a goal or achievement, once you’re there, the doubts and fears and inhibitions you felt become unimportant, like the howling wind of a storm that has since passed through your area.

Fitness goals: December and January

Good news! I made my fitness goals for December! I had planned to
reach 520 miles biking and 95 miles running, and this afternoon I got
to 532 miles biking and 111 miles running. I am feeling quite fit and
accomplished, as this makes three months in a row I’ve reached my
goals, plus I’m at 1500+ bike miles for the last three months, since I
started riding regularly.
As I mentioned yesterday, all the riding and running plays a big part
in keeping me sane. So to focus on sanity, to borrow the title of an
Ornette Coleman head, in January I am hoping to reach 500 miles biking
and 100 miles running. I might have to leave my secret city for a
couple days next month, so I don’t anticipate getting to 600 miles
like I did in November.
Some time next month I should reach 1725 overall miles biking and 370
miles running, which are the cutoff numbers for an award from the
secret-city authorities. I feel pretty good about getting there in
less than four months from the start of keeping track; I started
running back in July but wasn’t recording my distances until October,
when I came up with this goal-setting idea.
The pictures: one is my fixed-wing, of course, in front of a connex,
and the other one is of the route I ride regularly.