What is this blog about?

I am using this blog mostly to work through my arguments about bicycle advocacy. I do enjoy riding my bicycle and I would gladly put in some time and effort to help other people get the same kind of enjoyment. But first, I would like to figure out how to do this in a way that is not either counter-productive, useless, or mind-numbing. So I use the blog to work through some of the arguments I read elsewhere.

Another useful function of this blog is as a repository to store my useful comments, mostly on streets-related topics, that I know I will want to refer to again.

I also post about books I’m reading on the same blog, using short quotes to illustrate what I like or find interesting. I have done the same thing in the past for music.

The blog also is a home for other random reasoned-out thoughts, many of which are about children and childhood.

And lastly, there are a couple posts on random subjects meant to permit me to forward just a single URL to someone asking about storage places or cloth diapers.

Another course record

To follow up on this morning’s apex of achievement, I
eked out a new course record on my favorite seven-mile loop this
afternoon. With the wind coming out of the south, and quite mildly
too, I zipped around the loop in 21:12, which is 12 seconds short of
20 mph, or 19.8 mph. That was the second time around; the first time
was a respectable 22:14, or 18.9 mph.

 I’m so pleased with myself every time I put in a good ride like today;
I apologize for the surfeit of functionally identical posts saying the
same thing.

 Especially riding a single-speed, going faster means pedaling faster
and moving the wheel around more frequently in the same time period.
Or rather, accomplishing the same number of revolutions in a little
less time. It seems a little more elemental than it would on a bike
with a derailleur.

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.

Just like Craig Pond

On the bike today, out for my afternoon ride, I hopped off the curb into the road and all of a sudden, everything was calm, like a smooth and tranquil lake of asphalt. It was like that moment diving into Craig Pond first thing in the morning, when the lake is so still and the water is chilly but it just swallows you up into it, so softly.

(No pictures of Craig Pond handy, unfortunately, so here’s one from Oregon instead.)

The ride went OK. I attempted to psyche myself up beforehand by listening to Tune-Yards’ “Sunlight,”, but it was another song, Stereolab’s “Metronomic Underground” that proved to be the key to victory.

As you can tell, it’s pretty hypnotic, and just humming to myself, “Crazy, sturdy, a torpedo” helped me keep up that steady energy needed for the long back stretch with the wind, past the dump. Of course, first I had to figure out what song it actually was, which is kind of difficult, since my Stereolab sampler is on a single CD that I used to play whenever I would drive around the secret city in the truck.

But it worked! I finished lap no. 2 in 22:48, or 18.4 mph. I was pretty much toast afterward, however, and rode home kind of slowly, still in a daze from hearing the song in my head over and over again.

Notes on motivation, two-wheeled version

(I wrote this and am posting it not necessarily to motivate anyone else, but more so that the next time I am in the same situation, I have something to reference it to.)

Cycling this afternoon, I came around my first loop with the straightforward intention of getting in a good ride. The wind had lightened up since the day before and it was actually almost warm, in the low 60s probably. Riding into the wind, I hit the straightaway from the flagpole past the fire station, old chapel and refectory, checked my heart-rate monitor, and set myself the task of raising my heart rate to 80% of max from 64%. I got distracted somewhere along the half-mile stretch and reached the turn with the monitor still stuck at 64%. I passed the Funny Hat People running and singing their goofy songs, as is their custom in the afternoons, then came around for a second loop.

Learning from the first lap, on the second I focused intently on the pedal stroke to get my HR up and when I made the turn I was at 81%. I didn’t get down to below 70% until I got to the Leticia straightaway (There’s a clamshell structure there permanently under construction, with the word “LETICIA” in wrought-iron letters mounted on the crane above the clamshell; it always looks striking because when I ride in the afternoon, I see it with the setting sun as a backdrop.) and felt like I was falling a little short of vim.

Feelings notwithstanding, as I came around the tight turn, onto the back stretch, I checked the stopwatch: it read 1:09:58, and I had started the loop at the other end at 56:50. So I had only taken 13′ and change to complete the out stretch, fighting the wind the whole way. That was a pretty good sign, so I sipped some water, grabbed the drops, tucked in and pedaled hard, with the wind at my back, all the way past the dump around to the loop starting-point by the barrels. The entire seven-mile lap took 22:32, a pace of 18.6 mph (my target is 23:22, which is an 18 mph pace; if I’ve looped around faster than that, it’s a red-letter day).

I kept up a crisp pace on the way home from the barrels, and even sped up a little bit at the end, trying to get in under 1:40, my full-ride reference time (I always assume it takes 100 minutes to get in an afternoon ride), and missed it only by a couple seconds. Not bad for a ride where the first fifty-six minutes were pretty poky.

I guess the conclusion to draw from today’s experiment, which I’ve apprehended before but have been absorbing only slowly, is that the first good push is critical to getting my heart starting to beat fast enough to maintain a swift, satisfying pace. The only times I’ve kept that 18 mph pace, I’ve had an average HR for the loop of over 70%, which means that I need to do some serious hammering over the 23 minutes it takes to loop around. On days when I’m feeling slow, it’s hard to push past 65% at all, so averaging more than 70% is more of an achievement than it might seem. On the other hand, as I go over my records, I see that I only rode an 18-mph loop five times in the entire month of December (twice on the 30th). I’ve already matched that sum for January, although I haven’t felt as strong this month.

Attached picture is my ride, in today’s late-afternoon light.

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.

Do-si-do motivation

I just don’t know. If I were about to give up, would I reach for a cookie in the forlorn hope that it might spur me to renewed effort?

If I were a girl scout, would I unhesitatingly associate the do-si-do with belief and support? What if it wasn’t cookie season, and my support was needed?

A day to stay home from school

Yesterday it started to rain around dawn and continued on and off
throughout the day. A good day to watch François Truffaut’s Day for
(1973), a sweet movie about making movies. Whenever I watch
a film like this one about working in groups, I’m always keeping an
eye open for useful organizational lessons, as if I was some kind of
Organizational Change Consultant who likes to show little clips from
movies in the midst of his view-graph presentations in order to keep
the audience on its toes.

 I guess in this one the great OC moment is when the director (played
by Truffaut) and his assistant (Nathalie Baye, kudos to the costume
designer who kitted her out with this pair of amazing round glasses),
discover that Alexandra Stewart’s secretary is three months pregnant
and that this is the reason why she had made a fuss about dressing in
a bathing suit for a poolside scene. The two of them go over the
schedule quickly and see that there won’t be another scene with
Stewart for six weeks, at which time she will surely be showing. They
look into getting someone else to play the role, but the insurance
won’t cover it. Could her character be pregnant in the film? Baye
considers it, then demurs. It would confuse the audience because they
would think that she had slept with the main character’s father.

 Finally, the decision is made. Truffaut brings Stewart in to watch the
rough edit, which masterfully omits any view of her belly. The film
cuts as soon as she sits down to type, and we watch the rest of the
reel spool for the last time off the spindle into a cardboard box.
Despite the trouble and difficulty that Stewart’s pregnancy has
caused, he still treats her respectfully by showing her the rough cut
and how it conceals that she’s pregnant. At the end of the film,
Stewart returns, pregnancy quite evident, and poses in the group photo
with the rest of the cast and crew.

 Quick lesson: Truffaut disassociates the actor and her condition. If
he’d chosen to hire someone else and reshoot the scene, it would have
been “nothing personal,” but instead he uses the problem and his
successful resolution of it as a way to deepen his relationship with
the actor.

Latest night ever!

Eyes bleary from lack of sleep and mouth acrid from stale coffee, I
check in with my faithful readership. I don’t know how I got myself
roped into working the graveyard shift here at the Emotional Trauma
Center and Whine Ward. It’s been refreshingly quiet and the phone has
not rung since I got here at 10:30 p.m. Jason, tonight’s able
assistant, and the pet mouse sit in the front room, buying motorcycle
helmets online.

 It seems like a long time since I went biking this afternoon in the
warmer weather. I actually stripped down to short-sleeves for the
first time in about three weeks and was rewarded with a good hustling
pace, making 18 mph on my pair of seven-mile loops. Unfortunately for
me, the fickle wind shifted direction between the first loop and the
second. On my first loop, I was cycling in the doctrinally correct
manner, pushing against the wind on the out leg and reaping the
benefit of the tailwind on the return leg. That created a nice reverse
split, where the back half was faster than the front half.

 On my second trip around, I noticed myself daydreaming a little bit
about the book I was reading (Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories)
instead of really pushing hard, and a couple minutes later at the far
western extent of the loop, I checked my time and saw that though I
hadn’t pushed too hard, I had still beaten my corresponding split time
on the first lap. Of course, the return leg was a doozy because I was
pedaling into the wind. Takeaway lesson from that is: if it feels too
easy, it probably is and you should push more.

 On that last doomed leg, however, I discovered something new: an extra
(fourth) gear. Not really a gear, as if I had an automatic
transmission instead of two leggy-pegs, but a metaphorical gear. First
gear is just pushing the pedals along, second gear drops the elbows to
relax the arms and lower the upper body while the legs start to move
the pedals in circles, both pushing down and lifting up (I have found
that not overlubricating the chain is actually a pretty good way to
determine this because I can hear the ruff-ruff of the mostly pushing
stroke, as opposed to the smoother circular stroke sound). Third gear
involves pushing the ischial tuberosities back off the end of the
saddle, which moves the fulcrum of my femurs slightly more distal,
like choking up on a baseball bat, shortening the pedal stroke. This
new fourth gear, which came upon me as unexpectedly as a power-up in a
video game, involves the same position as third gear except for a
slight extra bend forward and just more pedal strokes, more quickly. I
wonder if I’ll be able to get to it again.