Posts Tagged ‘Central Park’

Another first lap in solitary confinement was well on its way to becoming two laps when it very quickly almost became 1.5 laps and a trip to the hospital.

Riding alone about to start climbing Harlem Hill for the second time, I see a teammate bombing down going in the other direction, looking for me.  Unfortunately, my teammate, who is blinder than a bat and wears glasses for most other occasions, doesn’t see me.  He’s got to be joking I figure as he keeps heading straight for me at warp speed.  It’s too late by the time I realize that our long running joke about the way he says hello to someone on a bike is by picking them off the ground after he’s run into them because he can’t see them is about to become reality.  A very painful reality.  Luckily, at the last second, and I do mean the last second, he sees me and swerves to avoid a collision.  When he finally recognizes me, he’s parallel to me.  “Hey” I hear as he zooms past.  Lucky.  I could just see trying to explain why there are two of us from the same team lying on the ground at the start of Harlem Hill.

My teammate is a little vain, well, a lot of vain, so much so that he’d rather not see than put on “non-cycling” glasses (don’t ask me about contact or prescription Oakleys – I stopped mentioning them a long time ago.)  Such is the nature of amateur cyclists with our matching kits, helmets, team-issue socks, and bar tape to match our kit.  I have a blue saddle on my race bike because I like the saddle and I got for free.  I never thought I’d hear the end of it.  We’re like a bunch of, excuse me ladies, girls when it comes to putting it all together.  And even important at 5:00 am when you can’t see anything anyway.

Today also marked the return of Rider X whom I’ve managed to avoid for the better part of two months.  Today he was riding a borrowed cross bike.  One lap in, the front tire starts losing air.  It’s a slow leak, but a steady one and soon it’s all but flat, but he keeps riding because, surprise, surprise, he doesn’t have a tube with him.  He’s so squirrelly on the downhill to Harlem Hill that the guys next to him have to scatter in different directions.   Once again, his problem is now everyone’s problem.

You probably shouldn’t be riding if:

  1. You don’t own a bike – seems to be a pre-requisite
  2. Every ride you have a mechanical issue. Every single ride – here’s some advice: check your bike the night before (let me rephrase, check whoever’s bike you’re borrowing the night before). You’ll probably notice things like the front tire having no air in it
  3. You can’t be bothered to bring a tube and a pump with you – those flats aren’t just going to go away by themselves, are they?  And the solution is not to ride tubulars on training rides.  That just exacerbates the problem
  4. You can’t be bothered to stop and fix the flat – Heck, we’ll probably even help you change it, but it makes the ride better for everyone if we take care of the issue and get back to riding instead of hearing about for 20 minutes

Rather than get into it, I just increased the pace up Harlem Hill.  When the boys caught up to me on the next riser, he was nowhere to be seen.  Problem solved.

That’s today’s view from the back.

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monotonySomewhere between the end of the 1st lap and the start of the 2nd lap in Central Park today, I started thinking of being home.  More accurately desperately wishing it were 7:20am, and I was in the elevator on the way up to my apartment.  This was a lot better than most days.  Ride 300 laps a year (give or take), and see how quickly your thoughts turn to anything that might helps stave off the monotony.  Which is why I’m dumbfounded that some guy would walk around his block in Brooklyn 75 times (which was 26.4 miles).   Actually the guy was Andy Newman, a writer for the New York Times and of course it was for an article, but still, Andy, there’s got to be a better way to make a living.  Then again, at least Newman walked around his block for a day because he is making a living.  Can’t really say the same now, can I?

“This is pathetic — I’m walking miles every day without getting anywhere” morphed into “What if we kept walking — without going anywhere?  Wouldn’t that be kind of cool?”  That’s what training in Central Park is, riding without going anywhere.  And it’s anything but cool.

04:56 – Hit Tavern and I circle around waiting to see who shows up.  It’s really dark out.  Make sure I don’t hit the one other idiot already doing laps who says “good morning” (why is it that everyone who rides a bike feels obligated to say good morning to everyone else on a bike?  You wouldn’t say hello to me if you saw me walking down the street or if I got into the same elevator as you, would you?)  Anyway, it’s not morning yet.  It’s still night as far as I can tell.  And it’s not that good.  I’m bleary eyed, freezing and I have to pee because it’s so cold out.
5:00 am – start rolling because no one showed up (have they seen the error of our ways finally and are all sleeping in like the rest of the city that never sleeps?)  Start talking to myself about nothing in particular.  At least it makes me feel like I have company, because there’s no one around except for the occasional odd runner, emphasis on odd.

5:05 am – See blonde woman who is in the park every single day running by backwards to meet the three guys she runs with every single day.  Guess she wasn’t training for the marathon, my bad.  Which means she actually likes running and running at 5:00am no less.  Now that’s weird.

5:07 am – Roll by Boathouse and look longingly at the locked bathrooms.  If it’s illegal to urinate in public which includes the any part of the park, couldn’t they at least open the bathrooms when the park opens?  Yes, I know the park doesn’t officially open until 6 am, but the bathrooms aren’t open then either.  That leaves the unenviable choice of the using the boathouse parking lot and taking your chances with the RoUS’s (raccoons of unusual size) or a special spot near the entrance to the cut-off at the top of the park (note: be careful where you step if you ever find yourself walking on the trails near the cutoff.)

5:xx – (I’ve given up trying to figure out what time it is when I get to different spots as it requires too much effort to a) do and b) remember.)  Oh, the sweetness of the warm spot on the 86th street overpass.  Who cares if it’s our own little proof of global warming?  It’s warm and that has momentarily helped me forget that I’d rather be home.

5:xx – Still pitch black out.  Why does Harlem Hill seem so much harder than it really is?  Still no one around, except for the occasional odd runner.  Well at least, I’ve turned the corner and have one lap done.  I count by the number of times I’ve gone up the hill even though I’ve only done a half-lap at that point.  This must be why invariable I lose count.  Counting laps being the only real thing to do in the park, I ought to be able to remember.  I think I’m too young for Alzheimer’s but you never know because I never remember.

5:xx – First tri person passes me on the downhill on their way to Tavern for their 5:30 meeting with other bad tri riders.  Are there any triathlons left to do this year?  If not, can’t you all put your bikes away for the winter?

5:22 – End of lap 1.  Still dark out.  Still no one out.  I know what time it is because of the CNN clock which also lets me know that it’s 43o.  Darn Accuweather.com – you said 46o and I dressed light.  I hate you.

5:23 – Doubt starts to creep in about the feasibility of doing another lap without going completely insane.  Just as I decide it’s time to head in, lying to myself that I’ll hit the trainer later in the afternoon, Omar shows up.  That ought to take the edge off until the Boathouse.

I’d go on, but I’m even bored just writing about it.   That’s the conundrum of Central Park.  Without it, those of us who live in city would be totally screwed as far as training goes.  Where else (apart from Prospect Park except there there’s even less to keep you occupied and you have to ride twice as many laps) in the middle of one of the busiest metropolises can your ride more or less traffic free more or less any time you want without the need for light (sunlight or the rechargeable kind?)  And yet, the monotony of turning laps in the park will put you off your bike.

That’s why I can’t imagine how anyone, even someone getting paid, could possibly walk around the same four corners for the better part of a day.  That sounds as bad as the Empire State Games qualifier in Prospect Park.  22 laps.  About the only thing you get from that race is dizzy.

That’s today’s view from the back.

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You Ought To Be Able To
ObesityEvolutionI put it at 18”; my wife said it was wider.  Let’s split the difference and call it 20”.  The bottom line is that a NYC bus seat is pretty wide. 

Much as I try to ride my bike everywhere, it doesn’t always happen.  I’m lazy (very lazy, so lazy, I mentioned it to my wife on our first date so she would know what she might getting herself into – in fact, I mentioned three things “just in case this ends up going somewhere” – namely, I’m the laziest person in the world, I ride my bike a lot and I mean a lot, and I really love watching TV.  At least now she can’t say she wasn’t forewarned,) and many times it’s impractical with a family.  The latter prevailed today, and I found myself on the 23rd Street cross-town bus with wife and son in tow.  A woman plopped down next to me (literally, plopped).  Next thing I know, I’ve got a meaty arm and even meatier thigh, encroaching on my seat and pushing me up against my wife.   Worse yet, the woman was one of those closet fatties.  You know, one of those people you don’t even notice is fat because they just blend with the rest.  It takes a really, really obese person to stick out nowadays, such is the state of the American populace.

And the answer is not to accommodate as they are doing in Brazil by putting in special seating for the obsese.

Fat Seat in Brazil

A large part of the reason I ride is to stay in shape.  That said, before I started riding, I lost 40 pounds in four months.  It wasn’t that hard.  I just changed my eating habits.  No exercise. No diet.  Just a little common sense and some will power.  To borrow from Floyd Landis (I think it was him in Lance Armstrong’s War), “I don’t understand the big deal.  If I want to lose weight, I don’t eat for a couple of days.”   I’m as big a comfort eater as the next person, but I also know when to stop – which coincidentally for me is Sunday when I start focusing on getting ready for next season.  

So to the woman who sat next to me on the bus today:  I don’t get it.  Is it really that hard to shut your mouth at the dinner table?  And no, having a diet coke with the super-sized Big Mac and super-sized fries is not watching what you eat.  Go ahead and have the real coke, it really can’t hurt that much more.  Start riding a bike or running or whatever, but your largesse is your problem and it shouldn’t be my problem.  You ought to be able to fit into a bus seat.  It’s pretty wide.

If that sounds mean of me (and it probably is), so be it. 

Merckx in Central Park
Eddy Merckx will be riding in Central Park on Nov. 14th with 70 people, each of whom will be paying $100 for the privilege (thanks to ratherberiding who’s blog Cyclosity is where I first read about it.)  It’s a fundraiser organized by the Belgian American Chamber of Commerce who will also be honoring Merckx with a lifetime achievement award.  The proceeds go to Children’s Lightning Wheels.  I get the idea of using a celebrity ride-a-long as a fundraiser and it seems like a worthwhile cause (although, it’s amazing how many causes there are these days and how many “a-thons” there are to go with them.  Last Sunday there were three walk-a-thons in Manhattan.)   What I don’t get is how on earth they expect to keep away the throng of people that will show up?  Not that anyone who didn’t pay would do that.  This is New York after all, the archetype of social etiquette.  They going to tell someone not to ride in the park?


Happy marathoning this weekend.  Looking forward to having the park back.

That’s today’s view from the back.

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Friday’s Bell Lap

A Sunday In Hell, Well At Least The Build Up Is Hell
NYCMarathonMid-October is quickly followed by the first weekend in November which brings with it the New York City Marathon.  The 3-5 weeks in between are dreadful for Gotham cyclists.  The weather and lack of sunlight in the mornings leave us with little choice but to ride in Central Park.  But enter the park at your own risk, if not physically at least at risk of needing to rush over to Duane Reade for a bottle of Norvasc to bring your blood pressure back to normal.  For the legions of would-be Greta Waitz’s and Aberto Salazar’s know no boundaries.

In preparation for the big event, the city installs seating and barriers 2-3 weeks in advance.  That means on any given day, the area around Tavern On The Green (guess we’re going to have to change the name of the meeting place soon) is littered with trucks dumping off the stuff or workers carrying the stuff from one side of the road to the other.  Here’s an idea, dump the stuff off where you actually need to put it.

As for the runners themselves, apparently the larger recreational lane (I say recreational lane because technically it is a bike lane) that came with the repaving of the park over the summer does not provide enough room.  In an off itself, runners running outside of the rec lane is no big deal (obviously, they’ll be yelled but you always ride with a buffer zone).  What is a big deal is the group of 30 or so idiots running short distance repeats, then doing an about face leaving them potentially in the path of coming cyclists.  Isn’t the marathon a distance event or am I missing something?  Added to that are the people who for some reason think it’s okay to run on the outside of the loop (i.e., in the right hand lane), making it a shooting gallery as you try to pick your way through.  I don’t think I’d care so much if there was at least an ounce of recognition from these folks that there are other people also using the park.

David Weir

David Weir

The Marathon itself is actually rather pleasant.  I’ve been on both end of it, as a spectator and as a rider in support of a wheelchair competitor (you didn’t think I’d run one of those things did you?)  The wheelchair marathoners go off before the runners, and the job of the support riders is to make sure there’s a clear path and warn people on the roadway to get out of the way.  My friend and I (two riders are assigned to each competitor) ended up supporting David Weir, the then British national champion and a 4-time winner of the London Marathon.  We were clear instructed to not talk to our competitor and to ride as close to each curb as possible and not near the competitor, which we did.  At least until a right hand turn in Williamsburg that I saw but my friend didn’t – in his defense it was a bit hard to see as there was no barrier and the city lightly paints a dark blue stripe on the street to outline the course which is unfortunately next to impossible to pick up against the asphalt.  Anyway, I make the turn only to see a whole lot of bike coming right at me.  Weir has not place to go and veers of course, not making the turn.  From then on, we pretty much paced him by riding in front of him and also gave him our water bottles whenever he wanted (another no-no.)  Weir finished 5th that day.  Oops.

The Masked Marauder
Speaking of dangers in the park, while the park has a long-standing raccoon population, has anyone noticed the size of some of these critters?  Baby hippos come in smaller.  And unlike their other road hazard brothers, the squirrels, the raccoons come packing some attitude.  One stared down Sayid the other day in a game of chicken.  And they don’t play by the usual rules, i.e., going straight at them because they will eventually move doesn’t appear to always be the right choice.  At least with a squirrel there’s a chance you’re going to stay upright if you hit it.  Not so sure about these humongous procyonids.

Who Am I To Cast A Stone
I’m not really into bikes all that much (i.e., I don’t get all wound up over the latest this or that), and I’m certainly not up on the whole commuter, fixed-gear, hipster wannabe, single-speed, regular old Schwinn Varisty argument.  I have a couple road bikes and a few more frames that have accumulated over the years.  I also have a commuter that happens to be a fixed gear, which I chose with lots and lots and lots of help from a friend and teammate (who also had to come over to help me get the fenders on the darn thing.)  So far be it for me to say anything about anyone else set-up, except about this which rolled by as I was choking down lunch the other day.  To quote the “verbacious” Crash Davis from Bull Durham, “a bit much for the Carolina league.”


Looking forward to the rain, again.

That’s today’s view from the back.

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(c) Deborah Atkinson

(c) Deborah Atkinson

As I got home from a ride over the weekend, I ran into some friends from across the street who were just heading out.  It was 8:45am.  I had been on the bike for a good bit over three hours at the point. 

It never used to be like this.  Back in the good old days an early morning ride meant 8:00 am, and quite frankly, I found that tad too early, so usually it meant a 9:00 am meeting time.  And this at time when I was young enough to bounce back from anything, even a gig that went until 2:00 am.  Weekday training rides were not allowed before 7:00 am.   Never.

Then the alarm switched to 6:00 am.  I got a new job, I moved into the city, and I got a new girlfriend.  I couldn’t please everyone, so I sacrificed an hour of sleep to get my rides in.  I hated riding with the loop open to traffic in Central Park, but not even that could persuade me to get up earlier.  I would have rather done workouts at night (which I did and which I hated because it hung over your head all day long like that term paper in college.)  It was pretty much the same schedule in Italy, as I could get my ride in and still get to work on time.

I came back from Italy with a wife and more work responsibilities so I did the unthinkable and set the alarm for an hour in which the first digit was 5.  5.  5.  5.  I kept repeating to myself because I couldn’t believe it.  I figured maybe it would seem normal if I said it a lot.  I didn’t.  But, I’d get to the park by 6:00 am and meet some teammates and we’d do our thing.  The good part:  during the summer it was light out and the loop was closed to traffic.  Bad part: That darn Armstrong guy had set of a cycling resurgence and the park was a kind of crowded.

It was somewhere during this time, Sayid decided we should do our weekend rides at the then unthinkable hour of 7:00 am.  His thinking was we could beat the rest of the world, get back early, like by 11:00, and still have the whole day.  And so we did, relishing it every time we’d be on our way back on Riverside Drive and we’d see the legions heading out.  Oh the fond memories I have of those days of riding in actual sunlight.

My son was born and I got more responsibility at work.  The park kept getting more and more crowded and training started becoming more and more difficult, so Sayid upped the meeting times.  He moved weekend times to 6:00 am, which was fine with me because I could get back to take care of my son, but he also moved the weekday times.

First it was 5:30, which was okay because I could still get up while the clock was showing a 5 as the first digit.  Unfortunately, we noticed we could only get in about 30 minutes of hard riding before the crowds hit the park.  The first response was to head over the bridge during the week.  Not so common when we started doing it – not saying we were the first but we didn’t have much company.  That worked when there was enough sunlight in the summer, but not so good for the spring, fall and winter.   So Sayid did the unthinkable and upped the meeting time to 5:00 am.  This is where I drew my finish line in the sand.

I don’t remember the exact words, but suffice it to say my mom would have been reaching for the dish soap.  No way.  I wasn’t budging.  Not a chance.  And then I did.  My daughter came along, and I needed to be back even earlier than before.  If I wanted to get my 2-2.5 hours in on a weekday, I had to get out earlier – really kind of simple math.  And so the alarm clock was set for 4:20 am.

I still remember the first time.  It was surreal.  I just given up sunshine.  About the only positive was that I could run up 10th Avenue instead of the bike path. It was just me, a few club goers trying to keep their night alive a little longer and the garbage trucks.   I tried to console myself with the idea that it was a strategic advantage on race day as I would be getting up a normal time while everyone else would be still sleepy-brained because of the super early wake up call.  That lasted about two rides.

The funny thing is now it seems pretty normal, to us at least.  About the only time I realize just how insane it really is (getting up at 4:20 am for anything, especially a hobby is simply not normal under any circumstances, unless it’s hockey because of the rink times and even then it really isn’t ok) is when I’ve just met someone and the conversation invariable works its way to cycling, as it always does.  You get some pretty strange looks when you say “I get up at 4:20 am to go riding.”

So while I looked at my friends with wide-eyed wonder and a fondness as I recalled the glorious days of sleeping in, I wouldn’t change my routine for anything.  It’s 8:45 am, and I’ve got the whole day to spend with my family.

That’s today’s view from the back.

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Fall Revisited
POCyclistSignI had completely forgotten about the one key benefit of the cooler temperatures that arrive with the fall.  They thin out the crowd, significantly.  Riding around Central Park yesterday was actually almost pleasant (apart from the monotony of laps – a back of the envelope calculation puts me at around 2,000 miles in the park this year; that’s a lot of laps.)   It was nice having the park mostly to myself which also made navigating the pedicabs and traffic at the south end a non-issue. 

Of course it only takes one (or in this case two) to let a little air out of an otherwise enjoyable experience.  Spinning an easy gear, I rode the whole time on the left side of the circuit, within a foot or two of the joggers’ lane.  That would leave, oh, a lane and ½, to be conservative, of roadway to the right. An entire group of triathletes could fit through there without incident.  Which is why I was wee bit nonplussed when idiot #1 tried to pass me on the left via the joggers’ lane.

Now for the most part, I’m pretty easy going.  I don’t care if you ride next to me.  I don’t care if you ride behind me.  I’ve come to expect that you’re going to cut me off when you pass me on the right, so I don’t even care about that.  I just ask that you don’t screw up my workout, don’t unnecessarily make me alter what I’m doing because of your incompetence and don’t put me in an unsafe situation.  Needless to say, idiot #1 tried to come to the right when he encountered runners in the joggers’ lane (who would have thought there’d be runners in the joggers’ lane) and found me, surprise, surprise, still there.  He apologized, and I thought maybe he’d figured out he wasn’t in a good place.  That thought last the 20 seconds later it took for it to happen again.  This time, I ever so gently recommend that he ride on the clear, open highway-sized swatch up open road to my right, where he can pass me freely without having to choose between hitting runners or hitting me.  Advice he follows.  Now I probably should have just moved over and avoided the situation, but that goes against made his stupidity my problem. 

With idiot #1 gone, I was back to a nice easy spin with no one around.  That lasted half a lap when idiot #2 does the same thing.  This time I just slowed down to almost a stop and left him to go up the road.

Here’s looking forward to 25 degree mornings this winter.

World Champions Due (as in Two)
While I can’t say I’m a fan of Cadel Evans, it will be fun to watch the world champion’s jersey being four minutes down and making useless jump, after useless jump in each of the Grand Tours next year.   At least the rainbow jersey will be seen, unlike this year with Ballan.

Anyway, in July 2003, I was doing my first Maratona dles Dolomites in Alta Badia, Italy.  The race is always on a Sunday, and the team ritual is to do a short ride up the Campolongo, a 6km climb which is featured twice in the race, and the back down to the Sponsor Village.  My wife (she was my girlfriend at the time) decided to join us.  Also joining us was former World Champion Francesco Moser, the surliest person you’ll ever meet. 

Pre-Ride with Francesco Moser

Pre-Ride with Francesco Moser

Moser is the only ex-pro I’ve ever met who still rides like they’ve got something to prove.  So as we start the Campolongo going at a snail’s pace, Moser goes straight to the front and eventually is clear by a good 300 meters.  We all just keep ticking over the pedals slowly making our way up.  Well almost all of us.

Next thing I see is my wife, who despite being a pretty good climber, has never climbed 6 km (or 3 km or 2 km for that matter), going off the front.  Then she’s caught Moser.  Then she’s passed Moser.  She did everything but give him “The Look” as she went by him like he was standing still (to be fair, while Moser was riding inexplicably harder than the group he was supposed to be enjoying an easy spin with, it wasn’t like he was racing my wife or anything).  Later on I tried explaining to her that “racing” an ex-world champion was bad form, and that’s when I got “The Look.” 

That’s today’s view (or should it be “look”) from the back.

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Il Campione del Mondo
In the spring of 2004, I was in Faenza, Italy for Granfondo Davide Cassani where my team was part of the lista rossa (the folks that get to start at the front).  From the outset the pace was very fast, and we got strung out with groups splitting off all over the place.  Along the way, I caught up to Fabrizio Macchi, one of my teammates.  I pulled Fabrizio along for a good chunk, until we overcame a group and he took over. Then I pulled for him a little more until the first climb where he dropped me like a bad habit.  None of this is very interesting except that Fabrizio has only one leg.  He lost his left leg to cancer.

Two weeks later, I was at the GF della Sardegna in Cala Ginepro, Sardegna, Italy.  Again the pace was insane from the start, and I was intent on doing the long course in preparation for Nove Colli which was to be my final race as a single person.  Once again, Fabrizio and I rode together, only this time we crested the climb together (see the picture as proof).  This was where the long cong course deviated from the short.  The night before Fabrizio had told me I would be much happier doing the short course and that I was crazy having only ridden 100 kms twice that year to try to do the long.  His last words as he took the deviation for the short were “come with me” or “you’re really an idiot”, I am not sure given the severe lack of oxygen getting to my brain rendering my Italian non-existent.

Racing With Fabrizio Macchi

Racing With Fabrizio Macchi

Why all the talk about Fabrizio?  Well, as you might have guessed from the title of this section, at the age of 39, Fabrizio won the Time Trial (LC3 Category) at the Para-Cycling Road World Championships.  It couldn’t have happened to a nicer person or a better athlete.   No self-pity at what could have been, just a simple determination to be the absolute best cyclist he can be.  Down to earth, always willing to talk and a pleasure to ride with.   It kind of puts riding a bike into perspective, at least it does for me.

World Champion Fabrizio Macchi

World Champion Fabrizio Macchi

Tanti auguri Fabrizio!

Last Rant
Speaking of one leg, just a thought, but perhaps it’s not the smartest idea for the CRCA Race Clinic weekly group instructor to have her group doing one-legged hill climbs at 6:30 am in Central Park.  Most of the group is new to racing if not cycling all together, and most have not had enough time in the saddle to build the length strength necessary for one-legged hill climbing.  Yes, I know the point of the exercise is to build leg strength, but when the park is excessively crowded, the last thing anyone needs is a bunch of people weaving all over the road because they’ve never ridden with one-leg before.  The people running the group should know a heck of a lot better.

Note to the NY Velocity guy – it really is exciting the first time you race at an event where they give you a number to put on your bike.  We’ve all been there.  What we haven’t all done, is leave the number on 5 days after the race has ended.  We get it you’re a racer, albeit not a particularly smart one.  Ending your interval where in the darkest section of the park (you know when where the lights go out on the west side around 90th street even though the sun is not up) and then weaving all the way to the left oblivious to oncoming cyclists is dumb.  Luckily, MtJ’s light shone brightly enough on your race number so that we could avoid your mess.

I apologize for the ranting.  I had a stressful two weeks, and yesterday was my first day back on the bike.  I promise no more until the next stupid thing happens.

That’s today’s view from the back.

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