Thursday, January 28, 2010

Can't Stop The Rock

Oh look, a blog-post. What gives? As I'm sure most of you (well both of you) are aware, I also write for the Triathlon Nova Scotia (TNS) newsletter, The TurnAround, and that kinda took off again recently. If you're not aware of it, check us out; see it as a two-for-one deal! Also, as I said in the TA recently, last weekend I was described as someone who uses their "marathon running to support their science habit" but recently I've been in the position where immunology is supporting my running habit, and by extension my writing (well non-science writing) habit.

I got out on the bike yesterday morning and the timely appearance of an incubation in today's experiment allowed me some time to write. It occurred to me blog-writing and riding outside are linked, in that I only seem to do the former when doing the latter. I suppose it's the only time during my day where the correct combination of not hurting, not being intellectually stimulated and being me allows the (mental) wheels to turn. Running hurts too much to even consider free-thinking. I have to use so many mental tricks riding the trainer (there's a contradiction in terms) that trying to think about anything else lets me see how boring what I'm doing actually is and my mind compels me to climb off. Work is, well, work and not so much a left brain-right brain thing as a whole-brain thing. On the bike I'm not on email, my 'phone is safely buried in a back pocket. In other words, I'm free to let my mind off the hook and just think. Nowadays, that tends to lead to blog-entries.

I'm sure one day there'll be an iWhatisicalled/Bluetooth mashup to a heads-up display embedded in your Oakleys which will let us dictate and send emails (or blog-entries) while on the run (or ride; and don't laugh, taxi drivers in Seoul are now allowed to have TV screens on their dash-board) but count me out. It's funny (funny peculiar not funny ha-ha) when you realise how the state of being hyper-connected can just creep up on you. I'm not an early adopter (the only Touch my mobile responds to is a hearty smack) and I most certainly won't be in line for an iThingymajig if only because having just recently "re-completed" my DVD and CD collections (from VHS and vinyl) I can't say I'm relishing the prospect of having to do the same with my books! For years the only computer I had access to was a very stationary desk-top at work and I only reluctantly got a mobile phone "for emergencies only". Fast foward not very long and I have two lap-tops, two blogs and a mobile but no land-line (besides, they never, ever, got my name right in the 'phone book) and a strange compulsion to constantly check my three email accounts. Sometimes you have to take a redpill, physically unplug from the Matrix and, dare I say it, do my own thinking rather than let the Machines do it for me.

Just, and I've asked this before, don't call the time on the bike yesterday training, as it will retrospectively spoil all the fun. I spent the whole ride with a smile plastered over my face and smiling and bikes (as far as roadies and triathletes are concerned) are mutually exclusive. A rictus of pain is OK, not to mention deprecatory jokes about how much you're really enjoying this (the first 30 minutes of last Sunday's run were like this, after that the breath to speak just wasn't there) but an actual smile? Nope. It was great to get out in the open air, to squint into the sun, to feel the rhythm of the pedals and to have the metaphorical wind in my hair (ye oldie-time Flemish-style woolen cap and the Nova Scotia Motor Vehicle Act Section 170A(2) being incompatible with actual wind in my hair).

As an aside, another reason not to call it training was the ride was shorter than any of my long-runs this year, so unless I'm planning to rock the Kids Of Steel series this year, I don't really think a one-off "cricky it's nice, be lovely to get the bike out" spin in the lanes is unlikely to achieve any athletic goals.

There was no way I couldn't not get out even for a short spin yesterday. Not only was the trainer already starting to exact a toll on my soul, the roads were clear, the sun was out and the temperatures were, perversely for mid-January, milder than some of those late-season autumn rides. An air-temp of -3 and a wind of ca. 7 kph merely gave the morning a Jens Factor of ca. 2

...although it probably dropped to a Jens Factor of about 3 with the 25kph air-flow across the toes. The Jens Factor is supposed to be between Heroic and Suicidal, the kind of conditions that would have Captain Oates eyeing the tent-flap, so -3 seems positively balmy! Plus there were an extra 30 minutes in bed waiting for the sun to come up before heading out. Score all around!!

What was funny was trying to round up all the bits and pieces needed to go on the roads...

Somehow, a lot of this stuff had managed to migrate into obscure nooks and crannies in the six weeks since they were last needed, and this was before I tried to find a matching pair of arm-warmers. Let's face it, when it comes to one going inexplicably going missing, arm-warmers are a highly evolved pair of socks (as opposed to the actual socks we understand Rami "The Rocket" Bardessy and Denise "Pocket Rocket" Robson have been known to use as arm-warmers!). And try to head out for a ride without this stuff. That's just begging for a combination flat and snapped derailleur at the far-point of the loop - and that's on fixed! You know it can happen.

I was even able to drop a new pair of socks! These are SealSkinz Waterproof socks.

Not the best looking socks in the world I'll grant you,

See what I mean?

At least they're hidden inside my tights (but more on that later). For mid-minus single-figures they seemed nice and toasty and warm. They were very comfy inside the shoe as well; they felt pretty thin underfoot and not as bulky as other waterproof socks. Warm and comfortable? Could this be a rare conjunction of form and function? A more definitive test in a pissing down rain-storm is called for; the first chance I get I'll be out in these and the Specialised Marigolds and find out for sure.

These photos reminded me uncomfortably of something I'd seen recently, and that was Cyclingnews' recent picture of Lance Armstrong's distal extremities.

It was captioned along the lines that Nike didn't make cycling shoes any more, but they'd made these for Him. The caption conjured up three competing images; one of bio-level IV-suited technician's in a blindingly white-and-chrome high-tech laboratory carefully synthesizing a pair using a computers and a nanometer-accurate model of His foot, a vision which segued into artisans hand-stitching a unique one-of-a-kind pair (like Kinky Boots but without the cross-dressing and Kirsty McColl) and then finally a third-world kid getting pulled off a production-line as it was retooled for the one-offs. I don't know if you like them (the shoes that is), but to me they look like a Keo-compatible version of Amy Winehouse's pumps!

Radioshack's team kit is a bit of a disgrace anyway, with all that grey (I'm really grooving on the new QuickStep and Ag2R La Mondiale kits though) . They seem to be determined to (ahem) cap it off with those black and yellow Livestrong helmets, which don't match the grey (grey!!) and redness beneath, but then to bookend the ensemble (by which I mean mess) with calf-high black socks? Yikes. I know LA has few European fans but you'd think they could have found one Frenchman who could have said "Non, mon dieu non!".

Which reminds me, when it gets cold in cyclocross (and it's been c-c-c-c-cold in Europe this 'cross season but we should be responsible and not get all snooty "you think that's cold?" Canadian on their collective arse) it seems de rigeur in the pros to wear their socks outside their tights. To me this is the equivalent of tucking your shirt into your underpants or wearing regular running shorts outside running tights.

To see the full horror, check out the NSFW Cyclingnews' Grote Prijs Sven Nijs gallary.

Check the guy in the black kit on the right; socks or gaiters? You decide! To be honest, this whole socks-outside-the-tights thing, it's just so 80's hair band...

Rock on!