Thursday, April 29, 2010

Pro Vino' - one of the better race analysis I've seen

From a blog that I'm going to start following more regularly, here is a great post that really captures how I wish Versus covered bike racing. Of course, post-race analysis gets the time to re-watch and piece together all the parts that made (or didn't) make the race work. But Cosmo Catalano knows his bike racing and knows what makes a race.

This video on Cyclocosm is a good rebuttal for those more interested in Vino's doping than his riding. He's not David Millar and thank god, because we already have one of those.

Now for something completely different. I just starting using Cadmus to helping organize my Twitter feeds. Drawing from your Twitter followers, Cadmus groups together trending topics so that you can see what your friends are conversing about. It's a great social media tool that makes Twitter a lot more focused and useful, especially for smaller businesses and organizations looking to get the most out of their social media presence.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

When can/should we believe cyclists?

After winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège last weekend for the second time, Vino called his victory "revenge."

Revenge for what? Revenge against whom?  And why is Vinokourov - who was pretty quiet during his two year suspension - so vocal now? Is this guilt speaking? Another cover-up?

All the news outlets have been all over his victory with headlines like "Vino's victory overshadowed by questions about his past" (Cycling News), "Vinokourov's Liege win leaves mixed emotions" (Cycling Weekly UK) and even the truly classy The New York Times published an article more about the doping controversy than Vino's race.

He's riding the same as a he did two years ago, aggressive, unforgiving and really f-ing hard. So how can we tell the difference between the clean Vino and the doped-up cyclist?

I get that both Bjarne Riis and David Millar have launched effective counters to their doping pasts that don't (completely) overshadow them every time they show up for a race. But Millar's never reached the individual success he had when he was doped to the gills. And like Vino, both men only admitted to doping/"mistakes of the past" AFTER it was clear that they had. 

So is that the price you pay for risking everything to end up with an asterisk next to your name in the history books?  I'd like to hear Vino respond to that. Because that asterisk seems like the best revenge against a doper. A little star saying that weren't strong enough to do it alone. You paid for your strength. You didn't have what it took.

In the meantime, I'm going to keep buying decorations like these cool Far and Near Housing Covers for my bike that aren't really necessary and don't make me fast but look really cool anyway.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

"Come and Gone"

I saw a friend had gotten a copy of Joe Parkin's follow-up to "Dog in a Hat," and I borrowed/stole the book for the weekend. She's going to write a review of "Come and Gone" for a cycling magazine and has to get all articulate and prose-y to talk about it. I do not.

I wish I could tell you it was good. At best, it's ok. And ok is the best word to describe Parkin's book. Parkin sticks so closely to the story line of only talking about bike racing and his career, that it gets kinda boring at times. And that's too bad because Joe Parkin sounds like an interesting guy. Every other page is a failure or letdown in cycling. The book could be called "Bummer Life" for all the bummed-outness. Yeah, cycling is a lot of work and sacrifice and dedication... but I still don't get why Parkin decide to commit so many years of his life to the sport. Where was the reward or whatever sustained him throughout all the crap?

After finishing the book, I thought about one of my favorite books about sports "The Amateurs" by David Halberstam, and how it's also a story about disappointment, failed potential and sacrifice. But the books are so different: at the end of "Come and Gone," I felt like I knew very little about Joe Parkin as a person while at the end of Halberstam's book I was blown away. You knew each rower, their family, their personal life (what little there was) outside of their sport, and it made their own struggles that much more compelling.  I already know cycling is hard. But I really want to see how hard.

It's not a bad book. Hopefully more racers will start writing this type of honest, unromantic stuff about bike racing. But I just wanted more.

Monday, April 19, 2010

I'd Livestrong for that: 24 Hours of Booty

Was out on a ride with some friends last weekend and saw a dude wearing a cycling jersey with "24 Hours of Booty" across the back. You have to stop and ask about that, right? So we flagged him down and got the story. As it turns out, "24 Hours of Booty" is not a euphemism for weekend with Tiger Woods but a 24 hour bike ride to benefit the Livestrong Foundation that takes place in North Carolina.

                                                                This is not how to ride a bike
Ok, so they've got a good (ok, great) cause in raising money for cancer research for the Lance Armstrong Foundation, and like Relay for Life 24 hour events are a good time. But booty? Is there a campaign to "drop cancer like it's hot?" Or to include thongs along with those scratchy paper hospital gowns?

The dude filled us in. In Charlotte, North Carolina there is an infamous running circuit for runners and cyclists that circles a local college. College campus = college girls, and college girls usually equally girls in tight clothing for exercising. Hence "Booty Loop." A couple years ago, a local dude (NASCAR attorney Spencer Lueders) got inspired by Armstrong and decided to spend 24 hours riding on the booty loop to see if he could do it. Oddly this guy is married. Oddly spending 24 hours of which at least half is being surrounded by college girls can qualify as "charity." Nearly ten years later, the event is still going strong.

That man is a genius.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Pins and Needles: Acupuncture and cycling, Tucson-style

A friend of mine recently returned (very tan) from Tucson, and the lucky bastard had spent a couple weeks riding around Arizona. Of course he did the famous Tucson Shoot-Out ride and ran into the infamous "Grey Wolf" a couple of times.
From Missing Saddle - and check out their hilarious interviews with the Grey Wolf
Though he returned with stories about how he'd held his own on the Shoot Out, he also had gotten some acupuncture done to treat a nagging back injury from cyclocross at Acupuncture del Sol run by Claudia "Nanie" Carrillo. A few days ago, I had coffee with a friend and mentioned how my tan friend had gone "under the needle," and she said that she regularly sees an acupuncturist to deal with everything from fatigue and stress to muscle and joint pain.

When acupuncture goes wrong

I'm sold on the benefits of massage but I've never seen a professional cyclist post-race on a table with needles stuck all over. Cyclocross and sitting at a desk for long periods of time aren't great for my back. But my two friends (both avid and excellent racers) swore by acupuncture's effectiveness. I decided to try it out, called a recommended place and made an appointment.

Not knowing what to expect, the acupuncturist began by asking me about my bowl movements - had I done the emunctory testing I posted a couple days ago, I might have had more detail to give him. "Why does my poop have anything to do with my back?" And he kind of shook his head. Western medicine, the pill-popping Walgreens version that I so often use, focuses on localized treatment. Have a headache? Pop a pill. In contrast Chinese/Oriental medicine is holistic. In other words, he wanted to know all about my body before addressing my back. We then chatted a bit about how acupuncture can be beneficial for athletes: reducing spasms, swelling and inflammation. He inserted needles not only in my back but all over my body - hands, legs, forhead - and I relaxed for a half hour.

Afterward he gave me some green tea and explained a little more about acupuncture. Each internal organ relates to a different aspect of the body:  heart to blood, the spleen to muscles, kidney to bones, and the liver to tendons. Treating the organ meant was an attempt to fix the my aches and pains before they expand across my body. He also said that another concept of acupuncture is balancing the body which was especially important for athletes. Imbalance led to ineffectiveness. Balance led to better performance. Leaving the clinic, my body felt light, tingly and relaxed. I made a follow-up appointment.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Exit Strategies: Emunctories

I woke up to another odd email yesterday morning. I have a friend who left his job in the corporate suit-and-tie world to become a nutritionist. While I'm not sure how he generates an income, every so often I get little tidbits on health, nutrition and other things that sound hard to do in my inbox. Yesterday's email was about something I had never heard of until Google helped me out: emunctories which my friend defined as "a new word that refers to all the ways stuff exits our bodies." So basically it's a lab report on how well your body's "exit strategy" works. To give a bit detail:
When one’s diet is poor, the ph-balance is off and the system cannot excrete bacteria and viruses and toxins. The environment is ripe for overgrowth of organisms and the inability of the lymph to do its work. A diet of fruit, vegetables, good quality of protein, and low carbohydrates are important. Sugar or coffee or alcohol will create a disease-producing environment. It is said that one teaspoon of sugar will decrease the immune system efficiency by fifty percent.
(from "Detoxification and Homotoxicology")
Ok. The arguement of diet affecting health is sound; however, I wanted to know what would happen after a lab tech poked through my poop. Naturopath clinics recommended tha "drainage" follow the analysis. Though this drainage is described as "gentle," I can't help but question the delight of a high colonic.

Do I want to have this done? Or was this part of some weird detox diet/liquid cleanse where I would have to miserably drink some magic potion that tasted like cat's urine and be within ten feet of a bathroom for two weeks? Purging diets sounds fairly extreme and a life without red wine is not a with worth living, in my opinion. So I went back to see who (or what company) were behind emunctories.

The term was generated by a Germen doctor Hans-Heinrich Reckeweg, who moved to New Mexico with his naturopathic company HEEL after WWII. Most of the articles about Reckeweg and HEEL-BHI are written by fellow alternative medicine sites so I went to Wikipedia for some (hopefully) basic information on the good doctor and his company. Though the entry glazed over Dr. Reckeweg's years in Germany from the mid-1930s until post-WWII, his company HEEL-BHI took off after the war and he moved to New Mexico a few decades later. Though the company labels itself as bridge between homeopathy and conventional medicine, a few articles I found mention issuess that HEEL has had with the FDA and IRS.

While regulartory issues don't mean that emunctories aren't effective, I think I'll hold off between I let my inner content be expelled. Like going through Goodwill, there might still be some gems in there among the all that crap.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Lost in translation

Oh, Internet. You know me so well. This link was the highest recommended on Stumble Upon based "on my personal interests."

I was more interested in this article from the Italian pink newspaper la Gazetta dello Sport (the Giro d'Italia's organizer - hence the pink). There's another doping scandal, blah blah blah. But even more delightful than learning that Denis Menchov might have been doped to the gills during the 2009 Giro, is the creative translation from Italian to English. Now the following sentence is a bit spotty but makes basic sense:
Austrian investigators say all'Humanplasma we would go some riders from Rabobank, including the Russian Denis Menchov, pink jersey, 2009, championship competitors and more skiers from Austria and Germany.
Clearly Rabobank expanded their recruiting criteria not only to tall, nearly translucent and blond cyclists (see: Michael Rasmussen, Menchov, etc.) but also those willing to periodically swap out their blood. But the plot thickens as la Gazetta reveals some little known facts about former world champion Alessandro Ballan.

Pharmacist degree (obtained in Bologna) and preparation of fact (he often worked with teams Saronni) in recent years coupled with Stephen's Ice Cream, American, among others, Alessandro Ballan, the 2008 champion, breeder of horses more for hobby (the binomial breeder-trainer, and animal-athlete, frequently used in doping cases); doctor.
Holy shit!!! Ballan was using horse blood for his doping?!?! And there's an American cycling team called Stephen's Ice Cream? Is this a new Stephen Colbert sporting project?

                                                     Alessandro Ballan loves his ponies

This is a rare instance where I hope *hope* that references about Ballan's being a breeder of horses for more than a hobby is a reference only to Ballan making a little stallion transfusion. Otherwise my mind has gone down the path of a love that dare not speak its name... and there are some things I'm not willing to do to become a cat 3 racer.
Sorry, Silver.  Not tonight.