Phil Gaimon’s Book: Diane and Judy Approved

For someone whose listed professional strengths include “sarcasm,” Phil Gaimon’s autobiography paradoxically made Judy cry at the end. Maybe this says something more about Judy than it does about Phil Gaimon. Diane probably cried from laughter, starting at the book’s dedication, copied below for your enjoyment.

“When Tyler Hamilton tested positive for a blood transfusion, he claimed that he had a twin who died in utero, and some of those blood cells remained in his body. 

I’d like to dedicate this work to the memory of Tyler’s tragically “vanishing” chimeric twin sibling and to Lance Armstrong’s famous missing testicle.

May they rest in peace.”

The book — Pro Cycling on $10 a Day: From fat kid to Euro Pro — is not just an autobiography. It’s almost a novel, complete with protagonists (Frankie Andreu, Jeremy Powers, David Guttenplan), antagonists (Chad Thompson, dopers), a dramatic climax (crashing on his face while in the leader’s jersey at San Dimas), a denouement, and other words we learned in eighth grade English class. In case you’re getting concerned that this won’t be light summer reading, Diane’s assessment is that the book is “easy to read, in the best way possible.”

It’s also extremely easy to relate to the stories in the book, if you are part of a very select population that understands the difference between DFL and DNF, and between chamois cream and shaving cream. (We know that at least one reader of this blog has confused the last two items. In a serious way.) For instance, we’ve projected our own relationship onto the friendship between Phil and his buddy David Guttenplan. Diane goes uphill pretty fast, Judy is really good at crits and tells Diane when she’s doing something dumb in a race.

In all seriousness, Phil gives a hysterical and brutally honest look into the highest echelons of the sport that we love. We might complain about going to local races and getting beaten by pros every weekend, but we at least are making enough money to eat fruits and vegetables (unlike Phil, who was relegated to eating rice and eggs while living off of $15,000 a year — or $2,000! — as a domestic professional). His sense of humor stands out, which certainly helped him persevere through being fucked over by team managers, USAC, mechanics, Harley Davidson motorcycles on descents, winters in Baltimore…the list is pretty long. Phil’s outlook on bike racing makes the sport a great place for the rest of us. We all know riders who are into it for the equipment, for winning, or (delusionally) winning without training, but those who define the best part of the cycling community are the people who just love to ride their bikes and couldn’t do anything else.

For those of you who didn’t find our review convincing and are still reluctant to pick up this delightful, inspirational read, here are some of our favorite nuggets of wisdom from Phil.

“The balls and penis are close geographically but miles apart emotionally.”

“Want to know the best teachers I’ve ever had? Failure and regret.”

“You could eat a whole school bus if you ground it up and sprinkled a little on your oatmeal every morning.”

“After each stage, we’d sneak over to the other teams trailers and steal their empties [water bottles] from the other teams’ trash.”

Lastly, as we fretted about reviewing an English major’s book, Diane kindly pointed out that no one who has a review blurb on the front pages (Brad Huff, Jeremy Powers, Frankie Andreu) is a literary personality. But all those dudes are definitely faster cyclists than we are.

And to Phil, if you’re reading this: You should know that recent UCD graduate and cat 2 cyclist Jeff Buscheck looks up to you more than he does Jay-Z. For whatever that’s worth.

Addiction

Diane has a problem. It started innocuously enough, watching live streams of the Giro d’Italia. Who doesn’t love to listen to British voices on EuroSport while making breakfast, coding, or pipetting in the lab? Conveniently for those of us on the West Coast, European Pro races tend to end around 8:30 in the morning, making it easy for us to watch races while not intruding on the formal work day. And then we had a nice holiday (Memorial Day) for the US Professional Road Race last month, so we could watch the amazing Tour Tracker from the comfort of our homes. Watching live cycling is pretty addictive. Will the break get caught? Oh my gawd, did you just see the move that guy pulled to get to the front of the field? Holy shit, that b*tch just attacked on the downhill!

And therein lies Diane’s problem. She got addicted to watching live cycling feeds. It can happen to the best of us, so if you want to know some of the warning signs of this dangerous addiction, the following might happen to you:

You find yourself watching a live stream of the Philly pro race – well what is supposed to be a live stream of the race. It was actually more of a “day in the life of a camera moto”. When the video stream starts it is a the point of view of the camera man walking through the race area while holding his camera at his hip. He is talking his way into the restricted areas, waiting for the moto and expressing his fear about riding on the back of the moto to a friendly volunteer. This continues for 15-20 minutes and you continue to watch hoping that the race will come and he will film it. Finally your perseverance pays off and Alison Powers comes by, followed a minute later by the rest of the women. You get to see the race all from the point of view of this one moto without the commentary of mistaken rider identities and crazy race speculations. Even though the footage doesn’t always show the race, especially after the moto is reprimanded by the officials for getting so close to the riders that they could launch off the moto, you continue to watch the distance peloton right to the end of the shaky video.

Or, after a day at work you have some time to kill before heading off for the weekend so you open the Tulsa Tough live feed and see if you can catch the women’s pro race. When you open the stream, it is the men’s cat 3 race. Instead of turning it off and doing productive things, you watch it until the sprint finish.

 

Watching a live video stream of a Men’s Cat 3 crit in which you do not know any of the racers might be rock bottom. If it is not, let’s hope it is not too much further.

Unsolicited Tinder Advice

As promised by the email screen shot from this post, there will be a post about Tinder pictures. Just in case you don’t know what Tinder is (Martha Wexler), it is a smartphone app where from just 6 photos and a brief tagline you get to reject or like potential romantic partners. If you both liked each other, you are notified and can start chatting.

Both of us have spent time on Tinder (yea, we admit it) and here is our unsolicited advice for gentlemen creating Tinder profiles.

  1. No Selfies. Selfies indicate that you have no exciting photos from real life to share. If the most exciting moment of your day occurs while looking at yourself in the bathroom, you are probably too boring and narcissistic for either of us. Swipe Left.
  2. No photos with girls. Let’s run through the scenarios.
    1. One Girl. What? Is this your girlfriend? Is this an ex-girlfriend? Don’t you have any other photos, or do you need to see point 1? Swipe Left.
    2. Hot Girls. We probably are not attractive enough for you. And we have really nice bums. Swipe Left.
    3. Unattractive Girls. Uhhh, is there something wrong with you? We know this sounds awful, but we can’t help thinking it.
    4. Tons of Girls. Do you just define yourself by having lots of women in your life? Are we just going to be a token person with boobs? Swipe Left.
    5. Your Grandmother. This is for a particular reader, you know who you are. Don’t use Grandma as a prop to get sex, COME ON. Swipe Left.
  3. Guns and Fish. We are simply not attracted to men in camo, and neither of us is comfortable with guns. Swipe Left.
  4. Kids. Tinder is for hooking up, no one wants to think about babies. It does not matter if she is your niece. Swipe Left.
  5. Cats or Pugs. These nullify the above criteria. Swipe Right.

Humour has returned to the blog!

You can all breathe a sigh of relief. Humor has returned to the blog. Let’s start out with a screen shot from last night. Even when Diane and I are out drinking at Thursday mojito night in Davis, we are brainstorming about our presence on the Internet. I even sent Diane this email as we were drinking:

 Image

Speaking of our activities last night, we want to pause for a shout out to homegirl Rachel. The motivation for going out drinking was to celebrate her recent postdoc offer. We’ll be extremely sad to have her leave, but we’re very stoked for this new career opportunity she has. In fact, it seems that so many of our closest friends are moving away for endeavors such as Med School, Law School, PhDs etc. I guess this is the curse of having such successful and motivated friends; it also means that Diane and I might have to start hanging out with new people so we don’t spend too much time together.

Back to Thursday night mojitos – the cyclists also went out dancing to celebrate. Surprisingly, cyclist dancing is not quite as awkward as you are picturing. We are surprisingly agile not only on our bikes, but also on the dance floor.Image

It has been fun to have time to relax, goof off, and come up with silly blog ideas after the collegiate season. So get ready, the blog will be funny and sassy for a while, at least until Judy gets introspective and serious again. 

Things you should like!

My current obsession du jour is with the Orica Green Edge men’s team. There are so many reasons to love them. Have you seen their backstage pass videos?

And if that somehow doesn’t convince you, then you should watch this video which might be one of my favorite things I’ve ever seen on the Internet.

I especially enjoyed watching the Orica video from the Team Time Trial in this year’s edition of the Giro d’Italia. The team director talks about how the guys work well together because they’re comfortable with each other and are friends both on and off the bike. I obviously thought of my own teammates at this point, and so I told Diane that I wanted to be able to do a high stakes TTT with the Folsom ladies. But she politely pointed out that the Steve Dunlap Memorial Time Trial is not the same caliber as the Giro d’Italia TTT. Oh well.

Other things I’m obsessed with at the moment include the women’s professional road race in Chattanooga. Just like last year’s edition, this past weekend the ladies put on an incredible show. Girls were attacking left and right; the lead kept changing, and WCCC alum and home girl Katie Hall put in over a minute on the peloton when she attacked the second time on the climb up Lookout Mountain. It was definitely inspiring to watch this race.

More of Judy’s Feelings

Tags

First off, I want to apologize to Diane for hijacking the blog. Normally we blog together and present you with funny anecdotes from our unbelievably entertaining lives, but recently I’ve had so many FEELINGS that I am compelled to write on my own and publish my musings for the entire Internet.

I will try to make this post as unsentimental as possible, but no promises. With that being said, here are my thoughts on great achievements:

American society (correctly, in my opinion) glorifies individuals who excel in their fields. We venerate star athletes, visionary artists, and Nobel Prize winners. But while NBC clips might show you the inspirational story of an Olympian who rose to gold after standing by her second cousin’s side in a fight against cancer, these vignettes will miss out on the more mundane sacrifices made by people who accomplish great things: the friendships that languish, the marriage that falls apart, the alternate careers that never were. There is a cost to greatness, and often it’s not tidy enough to fit in a 3 minute TV bio set to inspirational music. (On a side note, the cost of greatness is one reason I love Macklemore’s song “10,000 hours.” Instead of rapping rhapsodic (get it?) about the money and ho’s that come with music success, he describes the hard work behind it all.)

The majority of people who achieve greatness do so because they are utterly obsessed with their work. Scientists who compulsively read papers and stay in the lab at night because there’s nothing else they’d rather being doing have a much higher chance of making big discoveries. Football players who endlessly watch old tapes will make the right calls during a crucial game. (At least I think that’s how it works — I actually know nothing about the sport.)

If I’m honest with myself, I feel this level of obsession more with cycling than with science. I repeatedly envision races that I’ve participated in and those in which I will compete in the future. In my spare time, I read everything about the sport and watch race footage ad nauseum. But when given the chance to take my game to the next level — whether that be participating in the North Star Grand Prix or attending a USA Cycling talent ID camp at the Olympic Training Center, I hesitate. Why? Because as much as cycling is an integral part of my life, I can’t imagine my life without a successful intellectual career or without rich relationships with friends and family.

Right before receiving this invite to the USAC talent ID camp today, I had lunch with an extremely successful professor from Berkeley. He’s a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and his work is breathtaking. Being around people who have made beautiful discoveries is inspiring — but it’s also thought-provoking when you know deep down you’re not working at the level necessary to achieve that degree of success.

So I feel torn between my science and my cycling (as evidenced by the last post). But then there’s a final wrench to throw into it all — the cost of personal relationships that suffer when one is utterly devoted to professional achievement. If I spend all my time outside of lab racing, then I don’t have the flexibility to travel to see friends and family. And on this final topic, I found myself reading today the eulogy my mother wrote for a dear friend who passed away almost two years ago from cancer. My mom accurately described what a phenomenal mother, wife, and friend this woman had been — all while pursuing a stimulating career and travelling the world. I would be honored to live a life that in any way approximated this woman’s. But I just don’t see how being such a well balanced person is compatible with super high levels of sucess and achievement. And that conundrum is what I’ve been pondering all day.

After the Race, Part II

Tags

,

Because I promised a second installment of this series, I guess I’ll write down my thoughts on racing before collegiate nationals fades too far into the past.

Last week was difficult for me — not only was I recovering from the physical and mental exhaustion of nationals, but I was also weighing the decision to accept an invitation to the North Star Collegiate All Star Team. Because I finished as the top ranked amateur woman in DI at nationals, I was offered a spot on this team that would fully support me during June’s North Star Grand Prix (previously Nature Valley Grand Prix) in Minnesota. Nature Valley / North Star has been a race I’ve long wanted to attend. It’s a sprinter’s stage race, with technical crits and a killer last stage featuring a very steep hill.

So I was surprised by my lack of enthusiasm when I got the invite. In fact, I woke up every morning last week with a pit in my gut. The first thing that popped into my head as my alarm went off was, “Oh god. I really should accept that invite, but I really don’t want to.” I was just so. damn. tired. And I was tired of putting my research on the backburner. As a PhD student, no one is filling in for you when you’re on the road.

I want to be clear about my desire to concentrate on work this summer — it’s not that I feel compelled out of a sense of guilt to spend long hours in the lab (although there is some of that). But more importantly, I love my work in the lab and I’ve been feeling like there’s something missing in the past few weeks as my project’s been on hold while I traveled to Nationals and then recovered from that weekend while prepping for the Amgen Tour of California.

This past week — in which the Amgen Tour of California launched a women’s circuit and Davis hosted a showing of Half the Road — has been filled with talk of how females balance their racing and their professional careers. I can’t add any more insight to that matter as a whole, but I can write about my own personal experience. If I’d been given the chance to make it as a pro 5 years ago, I would have said yes without hesitation. But now that I’m 27, I feel the need to build a career. This is the time in people’s lives during which they build professional reputations. I’m not ready to throw that out the window for cycling, as tempting as that might be. I feel like I’m standing on a precipice — if I take a leap, I will reach my maximum potential as a cylist. But I’m just not sure that jumping over the edge would help me reach my maximum potential as a human being.

After the Race, Part I

This is the first in a two-part series! In this post, I’ll describe how I ended up on the nationals podium last weekend. In the next installment, I will talk about where I go from here.

So what happens when you’ve fulfilled a goal that’s been driving you for at least seven years? This is the question I faced on my first spin out on the bike after nationals in Richmond.

Let’s back up. For those of you who aren’t intimitely familiar with my cycling background, for many years I was a huge underachiever on the bike. I started racing in 2005 but never had a structured training plan until this past year. (I also just started training with heart rate this year. And it’s cool to have data after many years of doing my intervals based on perceived effort alone!) I had moderate success in the sport because I love riding my bike. I also enjoy interval training, so when I was in the mood I would crank out some hill intervals or some sprint training.

My lack of structured training didn’t stop me from having lofty goals, one of which was to podium at collegiate nationals in the criterium. Of course, that didn’t happen when I was an undergrad racing for Tufts University and riding the trainer 5 hours per week during the winter months in Boston.

In fact, let’s check out my illustrious 16th place performance in the 2008 crit.

 2008results

I remember being a little crushed at the conclusion of that nationals weekend. But a couple weeks after that race I graduated from Tufts, packed all my possessions up, and moved to Seattle. In Washington State I discovered that riding your bike outside a lot (especially on hills) will make you fast. I upgraded to a cat 2 and had one of my favorite years on the bike while competing with the amazing women of Team Group Health. I also thought a lot about my life goals and decided that I wanted to pursue a PhD in biology.

So after my time in the Pacific Northwest, I returned to my parents’ place in Maryland where I had in-state tuition, enrolled in a bunch of science classes, worked at the National Institutes of Health and at the University of Maryland and continued riding around the traffic-filled suburbs of the DC area. In a little under 2 years, I got accepted into graduate school and decided to move out to UC Davis.

When I joyfully discovered the amazing cycling community in Davis, I started to realize that my dormant dreams of being on the nationals podium could become a reality. That was a strange feeling. After Tufts, I tucked away my collegiate cycling aspirations and focused on my career. But then everything came together the past two years. And last weekend I crossed the line in second place at the nationals crit, with my family and friends watching. Who would have every imagined?!?!

And so where do I go from here? Stay tuned for that…

UC Davis: Where Silver is Born

Tags

, ,

For my detailed race reports from nationals, check out Folsom Bike’s blog. You’ll find more than you wanted to know about the TTT, crit, and road race in Richmond. But if you want to read about everything that failed to make the sponsor’s cut, keep reading. For instance, after Dani Haulman’s second place in Friday’s individual time trial, she expressed in exasperation, “I shit silver medals out my asshole.” Given fellow Davis alum Amy Chandos got second in her D1 individual time trial and given our women’s second place finish, and then noting my second place in the crit, we considered naming this blog post, “UC Davis: We Shit Silver Medals.” Diane, in fact, might name her recap with this snazzy title.

I wish that I could tell you more about USA Cycling CEO Steve Johnson’s talk at the collegiate banquet on Friday, but unfortunately I was laughing to hard to listen. He lost me when he instructed everyone to look around their table and note that in a decade, two thirds of the people sitting at their table would be obese.

Image

 Dani better watch out. But Steve wasn’t the only one looking out for my impending fatness. When a server came to clear away the remnants of this chocolate cake Dani was eating, I asked her to leave it on the table in case I wanted to eat some more. She looked at me and asked, “Do you know where the bathroom is? ‘Cause you’re going to need to go there if you finish that cake.”

In all honesty, this weekend was remarkably tame. The lack of social shenanigans and our impressive race performances are probably related. After Saturday’s crit and award ceremony, Diane and I were too tired to move so we left our parents (who went out to dinner together) while we went back to the hotel, got into bed at 7 pm, ordered Chipotle online, and had our coaches pick up the meal for us and hand deliver it. Getting fed was a continual theme of the weekend. Steve Johnson should have a talk with my mother, who basically fed Diane and me continually for 4 hours on Wednesday afternoon. Here’s a sampling of dishes we ate: smoked salmon, baked salmon, roasted veggies, eggplant/roasted red pepper purree, lamb burgers, roast chicken, rice, cauliflower and brussel sprouts. This is not a joke. It’s probably a really good thing that Mama Wexler fueled me up this weekend, because as I sit here on the plane to California Monday morning, I’m already back into a caloric deficit. I didn’t have time to eat dinner last night — I was watching our men’s race, going to the Sunday evening podium, driving back to Maryland, packing my bike and then getting into bed at 11 pm — and I definitely didn’t eat proper breakfast before my 6:30 am today. The past 16 hours I subsisted off of trail mix. On that note, I’m going to wrap up this blog post, both to conserve my own limited energy reserves and that of my rapidly draining computer battery.

San Dimas Wrap Up

Before we get too far away from the weekend, I (Judy) want to add some final thoughts from this weekend of racing at San Dimas.

 Let’s be honest: bike racing is the longest sustained relationship I’ve ever had. I look at racing like a marriage. It’s a huge commitment, and sometimes you have more to give; sometimes you have less to give. The more you put into the sport (or the relationship), the more you get out. Of course there is that dreamy infatuation stage when you start racing – when bikes are ALL you can think about, leading you to thoughts of abandoning your school or career for that cat 3 win – but to be a really successful racer (or spouse) you need to take the long view. The long view means realizing that to be happy as a bike racer, you need balance in your life. You need a good career – or else stress will make it impossible to train. You need good, supportive non-cycling friends – because there is a limited amount of discussion time that should be spent talking about saddle sores. And you need to be out there training and racing because you love being on the bike, not because it is an obligation.

 This weekend at San Dimas was like that romantic getaway which makes you fall in love all over again with your longtime partner. I’ve definitely enjoyed the collegiate and the local racing I’ve done so far this year – but I enjoy those races in the same way that you enjoy cooking dinner for your spouse, running the errands for him or her, accompanying him or her to a work function. Those races are fun, but they lack exhilaration, nerves, and butterflies in the stomach. San Dimas Stage Race had all of those. While warming up for the road race and crit, I felt the same way I’d felt before my first collegiate women’s A races in 2007 and 2008. As Beyonce (or Dani or Diane) would say, “Being nervous means you have something to lose. It means you care.”

At the same time, it wasn’t like these were my first races ever. I’ve been racing my bike for years now. So those nerves were coupled with a sense of deep appreciation – again, like the feelings you have for your spouse after years together and one nice romantic getaway. I saw old familiar faces from years past of racing. I had the chance to reflect on how far I have come, how much I have put into the sport, how much I have learned. The weekend was a moment in time to mark how I’ve passed what is almost the past decade of my life – hand in hand with this sport that has given me purpose, friends, and dreams fulfilled.