Monday, December 22, 2014

Rewind the tape a bit...

My un-official Tucson training camp came to a close following a fourteen-hour marathon drive that started at 3am Sunday morning and ended in my driveway here in Boulder, CO. Why 3am you ask? Long story short, I set my alarm for 4am but after a restless night sleep (and by “sleep” I mean 3hr nap) I found myself wide awake at 2:45am--at which point I just said “f*&k it,” made myself a cup of coffee and got to driving. All in all, the drive was uneventful—or at least as uneventful as a 900+mile trek could be. The oddest part was watching the sunrise (an indication that the day is just starting) 5hrs after actually waking up. The worst part by far was having to follow up my 10 days of drinking gourmet Presta Coffee with that stuff you find next to the soda fountain at the gas station. As they say though, “it can always be worse” so I shouldn’t complain.

All-in-all, despite the travel, I have nothing but positive things to say about my time in the desert. Training went really well (I won’t bore you with details...that’s what Strava is for) and the hospitality I received was pretty amazing. Everyone in the local cycling community was very welcoming and more than willing to show me around. A few highlights—accompanied by photos—can be found below.

Here’s Curtis pulling me a shot of espresso at his new roaster. Given my inability to temper consumption, the first few days of this trip were spent in a nearly continuous state of over-caffeination. Eventually I wised up but it was hard to turn down something like this…

This photo does absolutely zero justice to what is actually being shown (in case you haven’t guessed, it's a sunrise). Given the length of the nights these days, I often found myself up before the sun and was greeted each morning by this view. The old saying “red sky at night sailors take delight, red sky in the morning sailors take warning” probably doesn’t apply here given 1) it’s hours away from the nearest body of water and 2) it was pretty beautiful each day despite looking like this.

Managed to take a few wrong turns during my time here. Most ended in dirt roads but some ended with the Arizona penal system. Can’t really say I’d know which one to go with if given the choice—both are so appealing.

This is a 1lb Snickers bar. While it isn’t Tucson specific, the fact it actually exists is absolutely amazing and therefore worthy of space on this blog. Just in case you were wondering, I did not buy it nor was I tempted to.

Shifting our focus to a different part of the food pyramid, Curtis made pizzas two of the nights while I was there. Both were delicious and coincided perfectly with big rides the previous afternoon (always a good combo). Stella and Curtis have perfected their baked potato, egg, truffle salt, and arugula pizza so much so that I’m still thinking about it. Unfortunately, given it usually got consumed immediately upon entering the house I don’t have a photo. Instead, I present to you this hot dog and French fry combo which (according to Curtis) is popular in Italy. Who knew…

And last—but not least—my final “sendoff” ride this past Saturday was a 126mile, 6+hr romp through the desert with the remnants of that morning’s “Shootout” participants. The route was a deviation of the standard Shootout and saw us ride out Mission road and up Box Canyon before turning back towards town. Given I had no idea where we were, I was a slave to the route (and pace) of the group. For those that don’t know, the Shootout is not your average Saturday group ride and can get pretty darn quick. This photo was taken after a 30km dirt section about 3hrs into the ride…we still had 3hrs to go.

At the end of day though, this was by far the most memorable day of all the ones I spent in Arizona. Great group of guys, tough route, strong pace—not to mention the cherry on top being I got to help Curtis move furniture 30min after getting home.

As much as I hate to say it, this final project was definitely the straw that broke the camel’s back. After an hour I was getting pretty grumpy—much to the amusement of Curtis. At least he was kind enough to make me a turkey and cheese sandwich before leaving. During the drive I couldn’t help but remark it was the greatest sandwich I’d ever eaten…I was serious.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

For What It's Worth...

It’s funny, but there was a time when I was ashamed to tell people I was a “bike racer”—particularly during my final years of college when the pre-conceived expectation was that I would do something like go into the public sector or get an MBA. The potentially negative opinions people would hold when I told them I put on spandex and rode my bike around worried me—as if my career choice was somehow beneath those more established or recognized. In hindsight, such concerns seem so trivial; but at the time they were very real and weighed a lot on my mind.

Adding to the irony of all this was the fact that, during this time, I actually raced professionally. In 2012 alone I had not only traveled around the country but also to South Korea, Japan, and central China. I had experienced and seen more than most people had in their entire lives and yet I was ashamed to admit it. Sitting here now, it’s crazy to know I felt that way.

These days, I’m no longer considered a “professional” in the eyes of the cycling world—many people outside of bike racing probably hold the same perception. Regardless, I can tell you with absolute certainty that I’m no longer ashamed of that fact. Instead, I’m proud of what I do and the effort I put forth day-in and day-out. Like many other private sector professionals, I work hard, I sacrifice, I care a lot about what I do, and yea, there have been many occasions where I get anxious and moody when things aren’t going perfectly. However, this is all part of the struggle everyone goes through to be successful at what they do—regardless of their chosen career. In my mind, there is no difference between what I do and the particular occupations my high school or college friends have chosen. When I go out to train, I’m punching the clock and putting in the time. My desk is a bike. My office is the open road. This is a job (my job) and I treat it as such.

“Professionalism” to me isn’t about how many pairs of sunglasses you get at team camp or how great your bike is. It’s not about your salary or how many reports you have or the diversity of your stock portfolio. “Professionalism,” in my opinion, is about showing up and doing your job—everyday—to the best of your ability. It’s about being accountable, reliable, and consistent. Now, that’s just my opinion. Is this only answer? I’m not going to flatter myself into saying it is. Should it be taken as gospel? Probably not. However, if there is one thing I wish someone had told me years ago, it’s that professionalism isn’t just for professionals and if you want it (regardless of what “it” is), you should dress for the job you want and not be ashamed of it. After all, life’s short and you only have one rodeo—might as well spend it doing something you care about.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

What's New

All bike riders have been there. That moment when you return home from a ride hungry, tired, and in search of anything edible to shove in your mouth. As someone who’s been around the block a few times on two wheels, I like to say I’m pretty good at avoiding this scenario—either by packing enough food at the start of my ride or planning mid-ride stops to re-fuel. After all, they say that if you finish a ride hungry, you’ve done something wrong. With that being the standard measurement, I can say with definite certainty that I failed miserably.

Salt burns my eyes as I scour my food stocks in search of the most easily accessible item. A package of dried cranberries emerges first and I eat the entire contents of the bag (don’t judge…there weren’t THAT many left). Digging some more I find an apple. So as not to get any unnecessary germs, I take the time to wash and dry it only to totally forget about removing the sticker. Moments later I’m peeling it off the roof of my mouth. Back home in Boulder I would probably have served myself some rice with eggs, chicken, or some other leftover protein from the night before. Out of that element though, I find myself scrambling a bit to find something. Eventually, I put together a meal of actual substance that would help replenish what I’ve burned over the course of the day and work to alleviate my hunger bonk. Sitting at the kitchen counter I can only reflect on my own stupidity. The phrase “you’re going to regret this tomorrow” flashes through my mind more than once. I should have seen this coming a mile away.

While it’s hard to believe, several hours prior to this I was happily riding somewhere in the Arizona desert absorbing a good amount of vitamin D and smiling at the fact it was early December yet miraculously seventy-five degrees. Incredibly, the whole week has been this nice and I’m loving how I can base my training around actual training and not the weather. Riders who live in areas that actually experience winter would agree this is a pretty great luxury.

As a bit of background, last weekend I arrived Tucson, AZ for two-weeks of training between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I was fortunate enough to find amazingly gracious hosts in Curtis and Stella Zimmerman, which only served as extra incentive to make the thirteen-hour drive down from Boulder.

Quick Aside: Curtis and Stella are the owners of Stella Java and Presta Coffee Roasters so if you ever come to Tucson, check them out. Also, go to this website and buy copious amounts of their coffee THIS VERY INSTANT

Now that I’m here, my goal is to get in whatever time I can on the bike before returning to Massachusetts for Christmas. This year I’ve actually scheduled rest breaks over the holidays, which is something I’m pretty excited about. In standard “Emerson Oronte” fashion, years past have seen me try to cram in whatever training I could around family gatherings and the typical holiday madness. Generally though this only resulted in me pissing off my relatives, sub-par exercise, and getting sick. Did I also mention riding around Massachusetts in December can be a less than pleasant experience?

Anyway, before indulging in the season festivities, I have plenty of work left to occupy my mind here in Tucson—not the least of which is actually getting to know the area. Today was definitely a harsh lesson in “There aren’t many food stops in the desert 101”—at least, not ones that I know of. Fortunately, I had the common sense to turn back for home well before the ride went from “mild bonk” to “spiritual vision quest”—even that though doesn’t do much to repair my somewhat bruised ego. Oh well, happens to the best of us I guess. With any luck (and proper planning) this scene wont pay out again in the next week or so. However, if I show up to the first race of the year with a Jeremiah Johnson beard, severely golden-brown skin, and a peyote addiction you’ll know I took a wrong turn in the desert somewhere. Ill do my best to keep that from happening.