Archive for July, 2007

But not that much glory.  I raced the New Britain criterium today, and felt much more focused and ready to race than I did yesterday.  One of my teammates was in my race, and the current leader in our Tuesday night training series showed up as well, so there were a couple of familiar faces.

I like to start the race from the front; I know that Aki has showed in his helmet cams that he likes to start from the back (where there is no pressure about falling or slowing down the people behind you) and then wind his way to the front.  This just does not work for me, almost entirely on a mental level.  Yesterday I did an Aki start and felt horrible the whole time.  Today I started from the front and felt better.  After about one-quarter of a lap, I went to the front of the pack and pulled all the way around.  I like to do this because it helps me finish my warmup.  After putting in an effort at the front, my muscles are ready to pause for a lap and then settle into the race.

I rode tactically very smart today.  I stayed at or near the front of the pack the entire race, almost never falling more than fifteen back.  Whenever I slipped farther back in the pack than I wanted to be, I waited until a spot where I knew a little door would open and I could jump up a few places.  I even pulled at the front a few times, but I had a terrible time getting anyone to pull through and take his turn unless I really slowed down a lot.  Typical Cat 4 silliness.

The race was fairly uneventful until about 6 laps to go.  I heard a crash behind me, and I was immediately happy that I had been staying at the front–I was in fifth place at this point.  Then, with about 3 laps to go, another crash, this time right next to me.  Since I was sitting about fifteen back when this happened, I resolved to move up.

Bell lap.  We are flying hard and fast, and I am carefully watching things to figure out when and where to make my move.  On the back stretch, I slide up to tenth place, where I can watch the fast Zephyr racer.  He has a real chance to win.  We make the somewhat tricky uphill corner, and I count seven bikes ahead of me.  I know that I can surf up to fifth before the final turn, and then I can rocket down the final stretch.

Then, two bikes go sideways and I slow and slip to the left, avoiding them.  One of the bikes has hit the Zephyr rider from behind, and he tumbles sideways.  I see a white helmet blur as it heads towards my lap.  I do a little Elvis hip swivel to avoid the falling rider and jump up to try to catch back on to the pack.  By this time, several riders who were not so close to the crash have slipped past me, and I take the final corner in 20th place–not at all where I want to be.

I sprint, and manage to pass two guys so that I finish 18th, my highest placing of the year.  Not much glory, but I stayed upright in a very dangerous and fast (over 25 mph average) race.

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Racing Blahs

I did a race today that I was not originally intending to race, and that may be part of my problem.  I was not mentally ready to race, and I was in a sort of strange mood all day.  Right before I woke up, I had a horrible nightmare, and that usually means that my day is skewed just a few degrees away from plumb.  At any rate, I went up to Hartford this afternoon for a criterium; I did this course on Memorial Day, but today’s race wound around the park counterclockwise just to make things more interesting.

Not many people had signed up for the race, partly because I think it was announced rather late, and it is that time in the season when many racers start to ease off.  At the start line, there were probably fewer than forty bikes lined up, which I stupidly thought would make it an easier race.

The race, from a speed standpoint, was nothing spectacular.  I felt that the pace was well within my abilities.  The corners were not too bad, although there was some weird cornering going on.  Some apparently thought that they were the only ones in the race and took some truly stupid lines.  But despite the easy-ish pace, I just couldn’t seem to get my mind in the race.  I was focusing well, seeing gaps and finding holes, but I just could not stay where I wanted to.  I felt sort of flat.

Then, at two laps to go, I started to move up to a better position.  I was doing okay until on the bell lap I chose the wrong wheel to follow: this racer let a huge gap develop and I had to come around him and chase down the front group.  As we approached the final corner–a tight 100* curve with broken pavement, a grate, and and uphill finish–I was sitting in about 12th (not bad for me, considering my sprint speed), when two or three racers directly in front of me decided to occupy the same space.  They went down, bikes flipped through the air, and I took heroic evasive action.  I dashed over the sidewalk, across some grass, and then hopped the curb back to the course.  By this point, the race was already over–the finish sprint done–and I was hugely overgeared.  I was in my 50×11 preparing for the sprint, but I had slowed almost to a walking pace in my little stunt.  I rolled, very slowly, across the finish line for a stupid 29th place.  I really hope that people stop kissing the tarmac in front of me–it is getting very old.

Another race tomorrow–the New Britain Cat 4.  I hope my mind is in better shape for this one.

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6.  At the race yesterday, one guy on my team rode up next to me and said he really liked my race report.  My team has an online bulletin board, where we can post classified ads, announce rides, or tell about our races.  I thanked him and said more people should write race reports–they’re fun to read and keep everyone in the spirit of racing.  He said something about not being able to write a race report as good as mine.  I assured him that no one should feel that way–race reports are fun, not art–but I still felt pretty good about this.  What feels like ordinary, not so special, everyday writing to me looks good to some people.

7.  In high school, I took AP English, and to practice for the test, my teacher had us work over and over writing expository essays on all manner of literary topics.  He then had the AP English teacher from a neighboring town evaluate them while he returned the favor.  After our final practice before the exam, Mr. B looked at me with a huge grin, and said, “You absolutely killed.”  He was sort of gloating that this other teacher had to admit that my essay was by far the best thing produced in either class.  Mr. H was, according to my teacher, seriously depressed about this.  It was made more sweet by the fact that this other school looked down on us and called us “wharf rats.”  We could write, though, dammit.

This is much harder than I thought–I’m running short on ideas.

8.  Back in 2004, Muttboy passed the Delta certification test for therapy animals twice in one day–something that had never been done before.  Since Dorothy and I would share the work when on therapy animal visits, he had to test and pass with both of us.  The testers said that he obviously had loving, caring, and conscientious owners.  This is really more of a compliment for Muttboy, but it does sort of reflect well on me.

9.  Stephen King read the draft of my novel, and he called it “the best, scariest, most exciting novel to come out in the past forty years!  I stand in awe of [Hobgoblin’s] enormous talent!”  Michael Chabon said, “This novel shatters the boundaries of genre fiction, dissolving the lines between fast-paced, terrifying horror and finely crafted literary fiction.  Read it now!”  Michiko Kakutani:  “Although I hate everything that has been published this decade, I have to say that this novel deserves to sit on top of the NY Times bestseller list for weeks and weeks–even months.”  And J.K. Rowling said, “Forget Harry Potter–this is the real deal!”  Well, not really, but maybe if I put this here, it will become one of those internet rumors that will grow and eventually, by sheer force of popular belief, become real.  Plus, these quotations are now available through a Google search.

10.  Okay, I’m reduced to making things up.  Why is this so hard to do?  Are there really not ten compliments from my entire 40 year existence on this planet that I can remember?  I just remembered one more.  Gary Soto, the poet and essayist, was my prof for Intermediate Expository Writing my freshman year of college.  He wrote this on one of my essays:

Great essay!  It’s so well written, so clever without being cute, and so genuine in its conviction that I don’t know what I’m going to do.  Should I copy for my class?  Should I steal it?  Buy it from you?  Whatever happens, please take it as praise: this is the best essay thus far in the semester.  But don’t sit back on your laurels.  Write from heart and talent.

I tag whoever has not done this yet.  Hepzibah–this means you!

*A note on apostrophes for pedants:  I realize that “Memes’s” looks weird up there, but I think it’s right.  According to the MLA, you always add –‘s to make the singular possessive, even when the word ends in s.  The exceptions are words that have historically been made possessive with just the apostrophe, such as Jesus’ or Socrates’.   Since “Queen o’ Memes” is singular (though “memes” is, of course, plural–the honorific title as a whole is singular), the plural possessive would not be “Memes'” but “Memes’s.”  I’m glad we were able to straighten this out.

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And you don’t want to mess with the Queen.  This is a feel-good meme, and I am supposed to think of 10 compliments I have received throughout my life.  This is actually a tough one for some reason, and I put it off and put it off because I could not think of a single, solitary compliment.  I remember in second grade, we thought–don’t ask me why–that it was very cool to reject compliments and consider everything we did supremely not complimentable.  I think I have retained that feeling.  Anyway, here’s my attempt:

  1. At tonight’s race, the promoter had a crew of photographers there to put together the annual DVD of race highlights (last year’s was very cool), so of course I had to jump from the first lap so that I could get some camera time.  I managed to get a good sized gap, and one guy jumped up with me, so we were doing a little rotating paceline, hammering hard.  Then I dropped him and kept going for another two laps.  All in all, I was away off the front for the first five laps.  The pack of course caught me, and as they came by, one guy from another team, one of the strong guys who is always at the  front with me, gave me a big grin, reached out and patted me on the back .  It was a nice acknowledgment–non-verbal, but still a compliment.
  2. My first summer after I moved to NY for grad school I temped for a big advertising agency.  One of the other temps was a psychology grad student at NYU, an African-American woman with an awesome voice (she has cut at least one R&B album).  We hit it off pretty well, and spent a lot of time sort of goofing around and telling jokes, shooting rubber bands, and doing other typical office-boredom things.  One day I got up to do something, and she said, “Damn! You’ve got a butt like a black man!”  I thought this was the coolest thing I had ever heard and told some other friends.  They were not sure what to make of it, but they finally decided (morons) that it was, in fact, a compliment.
  3. As an undergrad, I took a couple of creative writing classes.  In one, we did an exercise where we were given an opening line and had to craft a story from that little seed.  The line was “People get the darkest tan right around their armpits.”  Weird, I know, but I came up with a story that the prof copied for the class.  One girl in the class said, “I really liked it–it reminds of that story by Updike–the one in the grocery store.”  Since I thought (and still do) that “A&P” was one of the best short stories of the 20th century, I was in heaven.
  4. Every year my college gives out a scholarship to one of our top English majors.  The application process includes an interview, and one of the standard questions is to describe a class that challenged or changed them in some way.  This past year, one of the scholarship committee members came up to me later and said that every applicant (there were three) named me as their most inspirational prof or one of my classes as one of the most influential.  This sort of pissed off one of the other committee members, but that’s his problem.
  5. On August 20, 1996, a bunch of grad students decided to go into Manhattan to have some fun before classes started the next week.  We knew where the new English grad students lived, and invited them to come along.  Bill, a new grad who lived upstairs from me, was immediately smitten by another new grad.  She was not interested, and paid me the supreme compliment of obviously preferring my company.  By September 18, we were dating, and by August of 1998 we were married.

Okay, this is getting long, and I’m running low on ideas.  I’ll have to come back to this later to finish the other half.

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