Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Too Dark Is the Knight

Short version: I loved The Dark Knight despite its manipulative sadism.

Long version: The Dark Knight is everything a summer blockbuster movie should be. Plenty of violence, chase scenes, compelling story, long play time, over-the-top acting -- it has it all.

What I didn't like about the movie is that it was guilty of a couple of pet peeves of mine. One thing that bothers me in movies is when a movie preaches against something it's guilty of itself. The Count of Monte Cristo is a perfect example of this. On the surface, the movie supports the theme that revenge is bad. In the end, the guy loses his love because he's changed too much, etc. But on a deeper level, the movie (and book) is a celebration of violence. In fact, it has no value -- aesthetic or otherwise -- without using revenge as a driving manipulative force.

It's a neat trick. Not only do we get to revel in vengeance, but we also get to feel good about ourselves by climbing to the moral highground at the end.

The Dark Knight has some of that dissonance going on. There's all this lofty talk about the nature of heroism (or anti-heroism), but deep down, the movie relies on the joy of violence. In real life, violence is rarely both satisfying and warranted, unless it's done by a cop.

I know, I know. It's comic book violence. But there's something especially unsettling about the violence and torture when there's an attempt at sophistication. Any realistic depiction of that level of violence should be less gratifying.

Still, I dug it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I Am So Tagged

Elden tagged me over on his blog. I do not fear him. Despite his nickname, he is a puny man who strikes dangerously only when he comes up behind you on a bike. Here are the questions I must answer to avoid leprosy:

If you could have any one — and only one — bike in the world, what would it be?

I honestly don't know. I don't pay attention to which bikes are good. I like Elden's road bike that I picked up with one finger. And I want a mountain bike that makes me go faster, especially at altitute. In short, I want a really good bike.

Do you already have that coveted dream bike? If so, is it everything you hoped it would be? If not, are you working toward getting it? If you’re not working toward getting it, why not?

No, I don't own the coveted dream bike. No, I'm not working towards getting it. Spending $5,000 on a tricked-out bike is taking food out of my children's mouths. Literally. I would have to pull the macaroni and cheese out of their mouths and put it up for sale on eBay.

If you had to choose one — and only one — bike route to do every day for the rest of your life, what would it be, and why?

If this question really means every day for the rest of my life, I'd have to pick something relatively easy, like Hogg's Hollow or South Fork. When I'm 72, I don't want to have to drag my colostomy bag up and down a hard ride like Tibble Fork.

But if this question really means "What's your favorite ride?" I'd have to narrow it down to these five:

1) Gooseberry Mesa
2) Tibble Fork
3) Gold Bar Rim
4) Little Creek Mesa
5) Slickrock

What kind of sick person would force another person to ride one and only one bike ride to to do for the rest of her / his life?

This has the makings of a sci-fi novel. On the planet of Gebarn, enslaved Polowots are forced to do all kinds of things against their will. One polowot must do the same ride every day for the rest of his life -- until he escapes! On a Vespa!

Do you ride both road and mountain bikes? If both, which do you prefer and why? If only one or the other, why are you so narrowminded?

I ride both, but I spend way more time on my road bike since I live in Seattle.

Have you ever ridden a recumbent? If so, why? If not, describe the circumstances under which you would ride a recumbent.

Yes, I have ridden a recumbent, and it was fastastic. Seriously. It put a huge smile on my face. I wouldn't think twice about riding a recumbent around.

Have you ever raced a triathlon? If so, have you also ever tried strangling yourself with dental floss?

Yes, triathlon. No, flossy suicide. In my first triathlon, I won my age group (35-40). For my victory, I received an Ironman watch, which was an excellent conversation starter: "Hey, guess where I got this watch..."

I swam in high school. In fact, I was a two-time state champion* so I could hop in a lake right now and swim a mile in under 20 minutes. But I destroyed my knee training for a marathon, so I'm not supposed to run more than 6 miles. If I do a sub-12 Leadville, I'm going to train again for triathlons.

* The Upper Peninsula in Michigan is officially considered a state in high school athletics.

Suppose you were forced to either give up ice cream or bicycles for the rest of your life. Which would you give up, and why?

Easy -- ice cream. I could take or leave it. Now if you gave me the choice between bicycles and pastries, I'd have a more difficult choice. But you said ice cream, so that's the end of that.

What is a question you think this questionnaire should have asked, but has not? Also, answer it.

“Do prefer riding uphill or downhill on a bike?” would be my question, to which my answer would be "Both!"

You’re riding your bike in the wilderness (if you’re a roadie, you’re on a road, but otherwise the surroundings are quite wilderness-like) and you see a bear. The bear sees you. What do you do?

Look for a wild berry to eat.

Now, tag three biking bloggers. List them below.

No. The cycle of tagging ends here. I do not fear leprosy. By the way, I read a cool article about a doctor named Paul Brand who spent his life trying to cure lepers. When he visited the leper colony, he tried to figure out why lepers lost their fingers and toes and went blind.

He had an epiphany when he tried to open a jammed lock with a key. The leper boy who was with him grabbed the key and opened the door instantly. But the boy's hand was torn and bleeding. The Dr. Brand realized that leprosy caused partial paralysis, and the lepers were losing their fingers and toes to avoidable injuries and nibbling rats. So he had them wear heavy duty gloves and socks.

Lepers also developed cataracts more easily because they weren't blinking enough due to damaged optic nerves. When Dr. Brand figured this out, he performed a simple surgery in which he rerouted the eye muscles to the jaw muscles so that whenever the patients moved their jaws, their eyes would blink. True story. And that's why lepers look so silly.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Leadville 2008 Status Report, Part VI

Three weeks to go until the big race.

I am not ready. I repeat. I am not ready. I am five pounds heavier than I was last year. I get winded more easily climbing hills and running up the Thistle stairs. I'm telling you, I'm not ready.

Finishing Leadville in under 12 hours isn't entirely out of the question. I missed the 12 hour mark by 25 minutes, but it's not like I had a good race. The altitude messed me up from the beginning. If I'm feeling well, I could cut 25 minutes off the Columbine Mine climb. I could cut 25 minutes off the Powerline climb. Hell, I could cut off 25 minutes if I had just stopped at the last rest stop for only 5 minutes instead of 30. I could cut 25 minutes off by riding a faster bike.

So yes, if the altitude doesn't get to me, I could finish in under 12 hours. But since I live at sea level, and since the race reaches 12,600 feet, can't I assume the altitude will get to me? But that's being too negative. Here are some positives:

* Last year, two weeks before the race I went on a cruise to Alaska. While I had fun, eating rich cafeteria food wasn't exactly the best way to train.

* This year, I'll be in Utah ten days before the race instead of five days before the race. That means I can do three or four small training rides at altitude instead of just one. That could mean a lot.

* While the conditions were nearly perfect last year -- fast course, no rain, no headwind -- it was really hot in the afternoon. Maybe we'll get cooler weather and an actual tailwind. Or at least I'll cool myself off better with a water bottle.

* Last year, my single biggest mistake was accepting the pain. I should have taken Tums early in the race when my stomach was bothering me. I should have taken ibuprofen and Tums the first time I hit a wall on Columbine. I waited until I was three-fourths done with Powerline, which gave me the energy to ride faster than I had all day. If I can do a better job of pill popping, I can avoid losing so much time on the two biggest climbs.

* This year, maybe the highway won't be jammed with broken heroes on a last-chance power drive.

Estimated time if the race were held tomorrow: 12:15

Estimated finishing time on August 9: 11:59.30

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ride Report - STP 2008

I woke up at 3:30 on Saturday morning and debated whether to try to sleep for a half hour before the alarm went off. I couldn't sleep, so I got up, ate breakfast, and unloaded the dishwasher out of guilt. I started the ride from my driveway at 4:20am. It was still dark, even in Seattle.

I live in West Seattle, which should really be called South Seattle since it's due south of downtown. Instead of driving to the starting line, I decided to ride north to meet the early starting riders at the I-90 bridge. I ended up riding an extra 3.5 miles, which seemed like nothing until I got close to Portland.

Early Speed - I went out too fast by plan. I wanted to bonk and then work my way out of a bonk to practice for Leadville. So I jumped behind two tandem bikes from California who were going about 23 mph. You get a good draft off tandem bikes, so I wasn't pushing too hard. I stayed in pace lines for the first half of the ride.

One big difference between this year and last year -- the pace lines were smaller and more traditional in 2008, with each rider taking a pull. Last year, nearly all the trains I jumped onto were being pulled either by an exceptionally strong rider who was dragging along his wife or buddies, or by a team of strong cyclists that didn't care about sharing the pull. I left a little earlier this year and rode faster early on, so maybe that accounts for the difference.

Tailwind - For the last 150 miles, we had a nice tailwind that at its weakest caused the leaves to rustle and at its strongest caused flags to wave straight out.

Besides helping you to go faster, the great thing about a tailwind is that when you hit a wall, you can drop out, ease up, and still go along at a pretty good clip. For me, it was pretty easy to sit up and still go 18-20 mph -- at least until we crossed into Oregon for the last 50 miles.

The heat - In the afternoon, the bank displays along Highway 30 flashed temperatures between 92 and 94 degrees. I was worn out and riding around 15 mph, blowing by a few people but watching a whole bunch of people blow by me. I never really bonked, but I hit a few little walls here and there. At various points along the way, I saw riders collapsed in the shade. I heard later that a whole bunch of riders trying to make it one day had to abandon the ride from heat exhaustion.

The Lexington bridge - People kept talking about how treacherous the Lexington Bridge is, but I didn't understand what the issue was. There was a dedicated section with room for two riders to ride side-by-side. But no one mentioned the fact that there are huge gaps in the bridge on the downhill side that can cause a pinch flat or even taco a wheel if you hit them. Fortunately, I was riding alone, so I had time to jump my bike over the gaps.

Friends and Family - Minette, Andy, and Wendy and the boys drove down to meet me at the Lexington food stop and again at the finish line. Stan and Grey met them at the finish line, so I had a whole throng cheering my arrival. That puts a smile on your face.

Final stats

Total time: ~14 hours
Total time in saddle: 12 hours 35 minutes
Maximum speed: 40.9 mph
Average speed: 16.6 mph
Distance: 208.3 miles


Riding 200+ miles in a day isn't exactly fun. I love the course and the support and the festivities, but I don't want to do it again, not in one day. I'd rather take two days. I'd stop and eat pancakes, fill a Camelbak with whiskey, and sing "Danny Boy" during the ride.

Photo courtesy of Minette.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Pre-Ride Report

I'll be riding the STP (Seattle to Portland) again this year. The ride is tomorrow. Because I finished this 206-mile ride in one day last year and failed to break 12 hours at Leadville, I have it in my mind that the STP is a cinch while Leadville is nearly impossible.

Today, the day before the STP, all of a sudden I'm getting jittery. I'm just remembering now that I had a pretty serious bonk last year around the 110-mile point. I was dizzy and sick to my stomach. I tried to call Wendy so that I could tell her to forget about meeting me at the next check point and come pick me up right then. Fortunately, we had a bad connection, so I was forced to keep riding. By the time I got to mile 146, I had recovered enough to push through the last 60 miles. By the end of the ride, I felt sore and tired but happy that I made it.

I was in better shape last year.

This year, we're going to ride in temperatures in the 90s. For you desert types, 90 degrees seems like nothing, but in the humid northwest, 90 degrees is hot, especially for people who are used to 55-degree weather seven months out of the year.

In an odd way, I'm looking forward to a nasty bonk. I think one of the reasons I failed at Leadville last year was due to mental weakness. It took me too long to work my way out of pain, and I made things worse by mashing a high gear and getting discouraged. And discouragement is Satan's tool. He has a pitch fork in one hand and discouragement in the other, the foul red beast. I hate him!

Tomorrow will not be a jaunty ride down the coast to meet friends and family. No. It will be Bob's Battle Against Beezlebub! BBAB. Courage! I shall not fail!