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May 30, 2005

So, right. The marathon.

When I told Sandy I was running a marathon in Madison this weekend he said he didn't even know I was training for one. It had fallen off my radar, too.

Which is progress. Before most marathons I'm a neurotic, antisocial, calorie-counting wreck. This time, not so much, thanks to the new focus on cycling. Over the past 18 weeks I have fudged on my training schedule. I have lost track of my running rituals. I have been careless about diet.

Thursday a co-worker put out a plate of Goobers. Less than 72 hours before my race, I knocked them back like I was Goober the Hutt.

Then a funny thing happened Sunday: I ran well. Really well. This despite not remembering to tie my shoes.

After taking a minute to do so, I crossed the starting line a minute late and spent the first mile weaving through the crowd. Then the field thinned out, and around Mile 15 someone said I was the 30th man.

By Mile 18 I was more than five minutes ahead of the pace I need to qualify for Boston. I started figuring out housing and whether I could afford the time off work. I wondered what the weather in Massachusetts was like in April. (This, of course, was my jinx, like the time in 2001 when I started figuring the Cubs' magic number in July. They proceeded to collapse like a small-cap tech stock.)

The next mile my calves started to seize on me. This has happened before, always in the last 6 miles of a marathon. If I fully extended my foot the calf would wiggle up the leg and tie itself in a knot behind my knee. It's caused by an unsound bicycle stroke that my mechanic finally diagnosed in March. I had hoped I'd corrected it in time. Apparently not.

Then my legs tightened around Mile 24. I started taking walking breaks. It wasn't a matter of lacking energy or will -- I had adequate reserves of both -- it was a matter of the harpoon that went through my quads with every step.

There are a lot of people I could have been thinking about at this point, friends and family who have endured much worse agonies for much longer periods of time. But whom did I think of for inspiration? Adrian. Adrian! Adrian Balboa, in a coma after giving birth to Rocky Jr. (Perhaps I need to ease "Gonna Fly Now" out of rotation.)

On the last quarter-mile I alternated between a trot and a splayed-leg skip, the latter of which Suzie captured above. Finally I crossed the finish line and into the haze of the Madison Brat Fest, which in an eloquent expression of Madison's duality was sharing a location with the marathon finish. My time, 3:17:25, was the second best of my seven races. Respectable, but well shy of glorious.

After five years of running, it's startling how quickly and completely my identity has gone from runner to cyclist, just as it was startling when I quickly went from whoever I was before -- I honestly don't have a clear recollection -- to being a runner.

I have in the past daydreamed about what sort of runners tattoo I would get if I were the sort to go for such nonsense. A marathon tally on an ankle? An ornate "26.2" on my chest? Now I daydream about what sort of cycling tattoo I should get. A Chicago hold-up on a calf? A cassette on a shoulder? A yellow band around a wrist? And I wonder about where my identity will have wandered five years from now, and what kind of tattoos I'll daydream about then.

When in the past I have been near people who were more successful or happier or wealthier or wiser than me -- read as, "at just about any given moment" -- I have said to myself, "But at least I can run faster and longer," much in the same way Darth Vader deals with rejection by thinking, "But at least I can crush their trachea with my mind."

As a cyclist, I draw the same smug lines. I'm not even a good cyclist yet, but I'm soothed thinking of the character and grit and sinew that I, as a cyclist, have and all others, as non-cyclists, do not.

(Not that this mental filtering withstands the slightest scrutiny. Just about everyone I know, non-cyclists included, has so much character, grit, sinew, etc. etc. that I tremble just thinking about it. If they didn't, I wouldn't bother knowing them. It's only the people I don't know who are weak and soft.)

As soon as I returned to Chicago I went to Moody's for a Berghoff dark and a burger. Then I went to the Jewel for beer, ice cream, bananas and energy bars, a shopping list that I think captures this tension of ending a marathon regimen while anticipating a cycling one.

It starts as soon as I'm out of Moose Tracks.

Photo taken by Suzie Seemann: May 29, 2005


May 27, 2005

On Michigan Avenue, another brave soldier resisting the mayor's crusade against public music and streetlife. He played with enviable whimsy, but when he sensed the camera he masked it with a very serious, concentrating countenance. Once he had adopted just the right gravity he beckoned the photographer with his pinky, as if to say, "Here, this is the picture you want, not the one where I am smiling at the little girl."

Photo taken: May 25, 2005


May 26, 2005

Washing the fourth of the 45 floors of the Kluczynski Federal Building.

Photo taken: May 23, 2005


May 25, 2005

A dancer checks his hair before taking the stage at the city's Asian-American Festival.

Photo taken: May 23, 2005


May 24, 2005

At the Foster Avenue Beach basketball court. The players put on a good show, but it was all slop. Took 'em 40 minutes to play to 10.

More at Flickr.

Photo taken: May 22, 2005


May 23, 2005

The other team had an ingenious strategy.

  1. Hit the ball to the pitcher. Run to first.
  2. After first baseman drops the ball, run to second, third and perhaps home.
  3. Repeat.

The first base coach was a regular Wendall Kim: "Runrunrunrunrun! Runrunrunrunrun! Runrunrunrunrun!"

Photo taken: May 21, 2005


May 22, 2005

Summer is almost here, meaning the following scene will be re-enacted dozens of times each weekend: The limos will park illicitly on Michigan Avenue, discharging their passengers into the crowds of tourists. While the drivers stall the traffic cops, the photographers will herd the wedding parties into Pioneer Court and frantically capture every permutation of subject: bride and groom, bride and family, bride and maids, groom and best man, ad infinitum.

Photo taken: May 21, 2005


May 19, 2005

Sith happens.

After work I killed time at Cambridge House, one of River North's last diners. It's doomed for demolition within the year, so as I read and sipped my coffee I took note of all the usual late-night characters. The tourists, the young couples taking breaks from clubbing, the second-shift employees from neighboring hotels picking up their burgers and francheezies. And the truck driver who scolds the waitress for having missed "American Idol" because, Honey, now how is he going to know what happened to Vonzell?

Around 12:30 a.m. I took my place in line at the theater, surrounded by college students and middle-age fans quite amused by the sounds of their own Yoda voices. (The dorkiest of the young dorks had quite fetching girlfriends in tow. WTF? I screwed my fists into my eyes to make sure I was indeed seeing what I was seeing and it wasn't a sleepy-headed hallucination, but it was true: They were hotter than a summer day on Mustafar.)

A dozen screens were in use for the midnight show. It took awhile to flush them out. Then there was a problem with the digital projector. Then there were 20 minutes of trailers. My 3 a.m. show didn't start until 3:50. When I finally got home at 7, my alarm was going off, still set from when I'd woken 25 hours earlier for time-trial practice.

Photo taken: May 19, 2005


May 18, 2005

The only good meme, I always say, is a meme deleted with a mournful sigh.

But Matt asked nicely, so I'll play along.


Total volume of music on my computer:

22.33 GB (5,980 songs)


The last CD I bought:

Andrew Bird, "The Mysterious Production of Eggs"


Song playing right now:

Lambchop, "Life's Little Tragedy"


Five songs I listen to a lot, or that mean a lot to me:

  1. "Fanfare for the Common Man," performed by Woody Herman. My father is not a music lover, but he would put this on whenever he was entertaining students. I regard it as the family anthem. When I am dead and the bicycle parade is sprinkling my ashes through the streets of Chicago, this had better be playing on the loudspeakers.
  2. "Gonna Fly Now," either the original Bill Conti or as performed by Maynard Ferguson. I rely on this when I am at the end of a hard run. After 20 miles I neither mind nor notice how corny it is.
  3. "Thank You," by Led Zeppelin. Long story.
  4. "Lilac Wine," by Nina Simone.
  5. "It Never Entered My Mind," performed by Miles Davis.

Five people to whom I’m passing the baton:

Let's see -- five people who are aware of my wee blog here.

Fingers tapping ...

Crickets chirping ...

Ghosts moaning ...

How about:

  1. Sandy and/or Sarah
  2. Jim
  3. Mikal
  4. Ted
  5. Darth Vader

May 17, 2005

Mary Chapin Carpenter, Saturday, 8 p.m.

(No, I did not go.)

Photo taken: May 13, 2005


May 16, 2005

Three recent moments:



We're discussing a friend who a few years back got the Kansas state motto -- "Ad astra per aspera" -- tattooed "right above her butt crack." I point out that it's a good thing she's from Kansas and not Illinois or else she'd have "Land of Lincoln."

But then someone from New Mexico points out that "Land of Enchantment" wouldn't be so bad.

(It turns out that Illinois' and New Mexico's mottos are in fact "State sovereignty, national union" and "Crescit eundo," respectively, the latter of which would be entirely inappropriate.)



Bob brings two friends to poker. On the first hand one of them loses 20 percent of her chip stack to me, and I feel terrible: Here Bob ropes these nice people into filling out our table and has failed to tell them how good we are. This isn't nickel ante at summer camp. Plus, she's a librarian, so I suspect $20 is an entire day's wage.

She spends much of the night sighing silently and furrowing her brow. Meanwhile, I play uncharacteristically loose and am the first to run out of chips. Toby exits soon after, and then Bob and Sandy go out on the same hand ("You stayed in and you didn't even have the flush!?"). It's down to her and Jason, and after a dozen hands that go nowhere she finally wins it all with a medium pair.

I still feel terrible, but obviously for different reasons. Maybe this is why we never let women play with us.



I'm watching the Giro d'Italia on a live feed of Italian television. I don't remember any of the Italian I learned in college, and we never got to the chapter on cycling terms anyhow, so the announcers are but white noise. Yet I'm transfixed. I feel like I'm back at the Uffizi and staring at one of its masterpieces: Even though I have only a slight idea of what's going on and the nuances and characters are well beyond my ken, the canvas is beautiful and humbling.


May 15, 2005

Everything was going great until I fell into that ditch.

Saturday's road race was very similar to my last one: three loops for a total of 41 miles near Baraboo, Wis. The course's main hill was much larger, however, a 360-foot climb stretched out over about a mile. Nothing that would challenge a proper cyclist, but significant for us Chicago flatlanders.

Starting up the hill the first time I was near the front of the pack. By the top I'd been gapped by about 30 meters. Fortunately the lead group slowed down in the flat and a few other stragglers and I were able to catch up.

Alas, what goes up must come screaming down, and the descents here were much steeper than the climbs.

On the first of two descents I topped 46 mph, the fastest I have ever gone without the aid of internal combustion.

The second descent had a brief flat spot and a slight turn at its midpoint. Feeling tentative at that midpoint, I tapped my brakes, but that created more of a wobble, so I had a choice: slow down or turn. I chose to slow and quickly ran out of pavement. Fortunately the ground was damp from the night's rain and slurped up my wheels, allowing me to come to a safe but humiliating halt in a grassy ditch.

This would be the last I'd see of the leaders. I hadn't thought I'd be able to stay with them the whole way, but I'd hoped to at least finish a lap with them, and I'd hoped to get dropped because I was going too slow, not because I was going too fast.

I hopped back onto the road and caught up to my teammate Dave. He'd been dropped from the pack back at the hill and had came just short of getting back to the pack. We rode together the rest of the way.

The hill seemed easier each time we took it. Part of that was knowing that there was indeed an end to it, something I wasn't so sure of the first time. The third time we hit it, Dave and I were in a group of five and were 10 meters behind a group of eight from the masters race that had started five minutes after ours. I surged ahead of the 4/5's I was with, and then one by one I passed the masters.

In the flat I was in the middle of the masters pack. I wasn't sure about the etiquette, so I asked whether it was bad form for me to ride with them. "Um, yes," one said, so I peeled off and enjoyed the scenery until Dave and the three others caught up.

Except there weren't three others: It was just Dave and a young rider from Sturgeon Bay. The three of us rode together for the balance and it was almost a replay of Baraboo: I attacked going up the final hill and got a good gap but was unable to hold it long enough. I'd promised Dave that if this happened I'd try to lead him out, but I didn't have enough left to help him much, and the Sturgeon Bay kid beat both of us.

Rain started to fall as we hit the finish line and grew into a downpour as our team debriefed under a tree. We'd have no chance for a cool-down ride, so 24 hours later my legs are still stiff.

Photo taken: May 14, 2005


May 11, 2005

I've seen plenty of improv in Chicago, but this weekend I went to my first Second City show.

The sketches were borne of improv but came to the stage scripted and rehearsed. As a result the comedy was polished, smart and very, very funny. And the players clearly understood that the most impor-TIMING!

An unadvertised aftershow featured Second City alumnus Jim Belushi. (Speaking of funnier, more gifted older brothers, Happy birthday, Hank.)

Most of the crowd was from out of town -- the Ed Debevics caps and tank tops gave them away -- and they ate him up. A celebrity! A TV star at Second City! For them it was like going to Wrigley Field and catching a home run, a bonus thrill that all the folks back home will be doomed to hear about. They didn't seem to mind that he was unfunny, flat and possibly a little drunk.

I found the rest of the cast to be much funnier and sharper, so it was strange to see them fawn over him, too. They were the All-Star pitcher and he was the washed-up slugger, and they were letting the ball run through their legs in order to make him feel better.

The final bit was the common improv game of freeze. In it, two players act out a scene. At any time someone on the sideline can call "Freeze!" and then tap a player, assume their position and take the scene in a new direction. Once Belushi got on stage, each cast member in quick succession tapped whichever player was opposite him, all for the sake of briefly sharing the stage with The Celebrity. Meanwhile, he was stuck there like a mannequin -- an unfunny, flat, possibly drunk mannequin.

For the record, if I were to guess who will next make the jump from stage to screen, my money would be on Antoine McKay. I just hope that when it's his turn to return to the stage as The Celebrity Alumnus he acquits himself better. It will help that he has a fantastic sense o-TIMING!


May 10, 2005

Three recent moments:



I'm at a seedy bar with a beer show-off. He's the type who takes two whiffs of a Belgian ale and tells you the cassock size of the Trappist monk who brewed it.

The selection is limited and difficult to make out, so he orders what looks like the most exotic bottle in the refrigerator. It appears German. The bartender, one of three curvy Russian blondes behind the bar, pops the cap, puts the bottle on the counter and spins it to reveal the three most horrifying words my friend has ever read: "Bucklers non-alcoholic beer."

I spring for a Pabst so he can drown his sorrows properly.



I attempt a 27-mile run, per the online advice of running coach Jeff Galloway. At the turnaround I start Mahler's Symphony No. 2, "Resurrection," but I have mistimed it and the resurrection comes too late. By 20.5 miles I have bonked and am worrying about pain in my knee, so I abandon the run and walk to the Clark and Division El stop.

At the station a 1-year-old girl sits in a stroller nearby. I know she's 1 because an elderly polish woman is gushing over the young mother and asking about her child's age, name and siblings (1; Amber; a brother, he's 4).

I hang my tongue in defeat, and the girl responds in kind.



I'm still getting used to my shaved legs. Their smoothness often startles me in the morning: "Oh! Who do we have here?" (Let's just say it's a question that doesn't get asked much around these parts.) I'm sucking on toes and well on my way to third base before I realize it's just me.


May 8, 2005

Saturday I competed in my second criterium, the Monsters of the Midway down at University of Chicago.

This one yielded a Schmalz Suck Level of 6.

My first crit was a Cat 5-only affair. There were only 25 riders and the pack stayed together the entire race. Saturday, on the other hand, was both Cats 4 and 5 and there were about 80 riders, nearly all of whom had many more seasons of exerience than me.

My anxiety over riding in such a large, fast group proved unfounded when I got dropped early. Suddenly I had all the space in the world. How early I got dropped I'm not exactly sure. Maybe on the first backstretch, when we hit a headwind. I can remember very little about the first few laps. Usually I'm able to replay every turn of a race in my head, but in this case there's an amnesia.

Around the 10th of the 15 laps the main pack lapped me. They screamed by like a train. At least one screamed at me for not pulling far enough to the right.

I wasn't sure if I was allowed to continue after that, but no official pulled me off and the small group I was with kept going. Our sprints weaved through the faster riders on their cool-down lap. I attempted a bike throw at the finish line to contest 70th place -- this is a guess; officials stop counting after the first 30 or so, so I'll never know my precise placing -- but I was just short.

Beyond my inability to sprint or corner, there are plenty of reasons I don't care for crits, fear of death and dismemberment among them. Mostly I prefer the road race because I find it to be a much more honest test of strength, endurance and character. Yes, there's drafting and tactics, but there's no hiding: The wheat will eventually drop the chaff.

A crit tests other things, such as handling, teamwork and acceleration, noble skills all. But it seems that placement hinges most on how well a rider can weasel a good position on the last lap. (I hope this is an honest observation, and not just the sour grapes of someone yet to finish in the top 80 percent of a crit.)

Me, I just want to ride long, ride hard and ride fast. I'll save my bike handling for when I'm dodging cabs on Michigan Avenue.

Riding home the wind off the lake was so fierce I could barely maintain 15 mph. At the Museum Campus I cut over to city streets, hoping the buildings would block the Hawk for me. I was still wearing my team jersey, so I resisted the usual temptation to flip off Hummers, lest I bring more shame to my squad than I already had.

In Uptown I crossed paths with a guy on a 10-speed with a torn-up leather jacket, coonskin hat and big, droopy mustache. (No, it wasn't Bob Conrad.) Attached to his rear rack were two speakers the size of suitcases. They blasted AC/DC. A bright-orange novelty license plate read "HOFFA."

Something told me that if there were a bad-ass cyclist at this intersection, it wasn't me.

As penance for the day, I headed up to Highland Park this morning to do hill repeats.

Photo taken: May 7, 2005


May 7, 2005

On Michigan Avenue.

Photo taken: May 6, 2005


May 6, 2005

Young blue eyes.

Photo taken: May 1, 2005


May 4, 2005

Pronunciation: &-'prE-shE-"At, -'pri- also -'prE-sE-
Function: verb
Etymology: Late Latin appretiatus, past participle of appretiare, from Latin ad- + pretium price
1 a: to grasp the nature, worth, quality, or significance of b: to value or admire highly c: to judge with heightened perception or understanding : be fully aware of d: to recognize with gratitude

Merriam-Webster, "Appreciate"

Two, four, six, eight -- Whom does President Bush appreciate?

I decided to find out, but after 150 instances my head started to hurt and I stopped looking. Nonetheless, it's a fascinating study in rhetoric.

Most of the time the president uses his appreciation as a form of roll call. He starts most speeches by naming others in the room and whether he "appreciates" or "appreciates so very much" their presence.

Sometimes he uses it as a synonym for thanks, but with a dose of ambiguity. Like when he says "I want to appreciate your wise counsel" -- it's not clear whether he appreciates it or not, nor how wise he truly considers your counsel. I want to think he's being a smart ass here.

Often he appreciates things that don't necessarily exist -- "strong bipartisan support," "the courage of most Americans," "your understanding" -- as if by "appreciating" them he can will them into being, like the sign in the diner restroom that says "We appreciate your cleanliness" whether you're smearing feces on the walls or not.

I think the foible I appreciate most is the way he appreciates things that he likely does not in fact appreciate. Questions, for example. Whenever a reporter asks a real stinker, President Bush likes to say how much he appreciates the question. But a president who averages less than one prime-time press conference a year does not strike me as a man who appreciates being questioned. Perhaps "I appreciate that question" is a code phrase to the IRS, meaning, "Commence the audit."

At any rate, I hope you appreciate the hour or so it took me to document all this.

  1. "Fidel, I appreciate your tone, I appreciate your constructive work on this issue." (May 4, 2005)
  2. "I appreciate you letting us use you as an example, looking forward to meeting the kids." (May 4, 2005)
  3. "I appreciate you bringing the payroll taxes in." (May 4, 2005)
  4. "I appreciate you bringing that up again, Elizabeth." (May 4, 2005)
  5. " I appreciate you saying I brought up an issue that I didn't need to bring up." (May 4, 2005)
  6. "Thanks, Sam. Good job. I appreciate it." (May 3, 2005)
  7. "I appreciate you understanding that you're going to get your check." (May 3, 2005)
  8. "And I appreciate that gesture ... And I appreciate that gesture." (April 28, 2005)
  9. "I appreciate that question." (April 28, 2005)
  10. "I appreciate the strong bipartisan support for supporting our troops in harm's way." (April 28, 2005)
  11. "I appreciate his courage and the courage of those who are willing to serve the Iraqi people in government." (April 28, 2005)
  12. "I appreciate such a generous welcome." (April 27, 2005)
  13. "I appreciate the courage that Marianne has shown and her determination to succeed." (April 27, 2005)
  14. "I appreciate the fine job he's done ... I appreciate the ambassadors who are here ... And I appreciate you all giving me a chance to come by and visit with you." (April 27, 2005)
  15. "I appreciate the fact that our small business owners are taking risks and pursuing dreams ... I appreciate the fact that the small business entrepreneurs are some of the great innovators in our nation." (April 27, 2005)
  16. "I appreciate the fact that the Senate has passed a version of the budget." (April 27, 2005)
  17. "I appreciate the leadership in the House." (April 27, 2005)
  18. "I appreciate Mike McIntyre from North Carolina joining us ... I appreciate Michael Steele, the Lieutenant Governor from Maryland. I appreciate Gordon England, who's the Secretary of the Navy ... And I appreciate Vice Admiral Rod Rempt for your hospitality at the games." (April 20, 2005)
  19. "I appreciate Secretary Don Rumsfeld joining us today ... I appreciate Secretary Francis Harvey ... I appreciate the family members who have joined us today ... I appreciate Chaplain David Hicks, for his invocation." (April 7, 2005)
  20. "I appreciate citizens from Iraq who have joined us. I appreciate my fellow citizens who have joined us." (March 29, 2005)
  21. "I appreciate the determination of the Iraqi electoral workers." (March 29, 2005)
  22. "We appreciate the fact that Canada's tar sands are now becoming economical." (March 23, 2005)
  23. "I appreciate the meetings we've just had." (March 23, 2005)
  24. "I appreciate the commitment of the prime minister and the president toward a spirit of partnership to outlast whatever politics may occur." (March 23, 2005)
  25. "Thank you, Paul, I appreciate that very much. " (March 23, 2005)
  26. "I appreciate the fact that the unemployment rate here in Colorado is 4.9 percent." (March 21, 2005)
  27. "I appreciate the idea." (March 21, 2005)
  28. "Yes, I appreciate you saying that." (March 21, 2005)
  29. "I appreciate so much, Senator, your willingness to join in this issue." (March 21, 2005)
  30. "I appreciate the world leaders taking my phone calls." (March 16, 2005)
  31. "I do appreciate the public concern about the use of steroids in sports ... So I appreciate the fact that baseball is addressing this, and I appreciate the fact that the Congress is paying attention to the issue." (March 16, 2005)
  32. "I appreciate the fine example that you have set for aspiring young scientists." (March 14, 2005)
  33. "I really appreciate what Boston does off the field, too ... I appreciate what individual players do ... I appreciate what the Red Sox are doing in the Dominican Republic with Seor Octubre." (March 2, 2005)
  34. "I appreciate the willingness of these men to take on these tough new assignments in an extraordinary moment in our nation's history." (Feb. 17, 2005
  35. "Thank you all very much for your attention and questions. Appreciate it." (Feb. 17, 2005)
  36. "I appreciate people bringing forth ideas." (Jan. 26, 2005)
  37. "I appreciate that question." (Jan. 26, 2005)
  38. "I appreciate His Majesty's understanding of the need for democracy to advance in the greater Middle East." (Jan. 26, 2005)
  39. "I appreciate your hard work. ... We really appreciate you having us. I appreciate the Justices of the Supreme Court being here... I appreciate General Myers ... I appreciate Barbara and Jenna." (Jan. 20, 2005)
  40. "Fuel -- I appreciate Fuel being here." (Jan 18, 2005)
  41. "Yes, I appreciate that question." (Dec. 20, 2004)
  42. "Well, I appreciate that, Ed, but we did take on Medicare." (Dec. 20, 2004)
  43. "Yes, I appreciate that." (Dec. 20, 2004)
  44. "I appreciate the nations of Great Britain and Germany and France who are working to try to convince Iran to honor their international treaty obligations." (Nov. 26, 2004)
  45. "I appreciate his work to fight Internet pornography ... I appreciate his service and wish him and Janet all the best." (Nov. 9, 2004)
  46. "I appreciate that. Listen, I've made some very hard decisions." (Nov. 4, 2004)
  47. "I appreciate all people who voted." (Nov. 4, 2004)
  48. "I appreciate you being here to watch it. And I really do appreciate working with Mr. Chairman ... I appreciate other members of the congressional delegation who are with us today ... I appreciate my friend, Jim Leach being here ... I appreciate his hard work on this bill and I appreciate him working with Chuck Grassley to get the bill done ... I appreciate members of the ex-governors club who've joined us today. ... I appreciate their friendship ... appreciate you coming." (Oct. 4, 2004)
  49. "I appreciate the members of Congress who are here today." (Oct. 4, 2004)
  50. "I appreciate the strong leadership of the -- of those who represent the armies of compassion." (Sept. 30, 2004)
  51. "I appreciate you serving your respective countries and working together to make the world a better place." (Sept. 22, 2004)
  52. "I appreciate your courage. I appreciate your leadership ... And I appreciate your will, and I appreciate your strength." (Sept. 21, 2004)
  53. "I appreciate his courage."(Sept. 21, 2004)
  54. "I appreciate you giving me the chance to come on and have, what we say in Texas, 'Just a visit.'" (Sept. 28, 2004)
  55. "I appreciate the hard work of the commission over the past 20 months." (Aug. 24, 2004)
  56. "I appreciate the Senate's work." (Aug. 9, 2004)
  57. "I appreciate the solid and bipartisan support of this bill. I appreciate both people -- people of both parties coming together to support our troops." (Aug. 5, 2004)
  58. "I appreciate so very much those in my Cabinet who have worked hard to make this agreement come true." (Aug. 3, 2004)
  59. "I appreciate Prime Minister Howard, he's a strong partner in peace." (Aug. 3, 2004)
  60. "I want to know the facts. I appreciate the fact-finders working hard." (Aug. 9, 2004)
  61. "I appreciate -- listen, one of the reasons I enjoy working with LULAC so much is I appreciate your commitments to freedom and to entrepreneurship ... Once again, I appreciate the good work of LULAC." (July 8, 2004)
  62. "I appreciate your understanding for the need for us, whoever is traveling with me, to get moving." (June 10, 2004)
  63. "I appreciate your willingness to work on promoting freedom around the world ... I appreciate your government's good work. I appreciate very much the Chancellor's help in Afghanistan ... I appreciate our mutual work on the U.N. Security Council resolution on Iraq." (June 8, 2004)
  64. "Thanks, Gerhard, I appreciate you." (June 8, 2004)
  65. "I appreciate the fact that we've got scholarship and award recipients who are with us. And I appreciate the distinguished guests who are here, as well." (May 19, 2004)
  66. "I appreciate his good, strong advice." (May 19, 2004)
  67. "What I appreciate is the fact that in the contracts you sign with the players that you include a commitment to participate in at least 10 public service events each year. I appreciate the commitment. I also appreciate the players' commitment, as well." (May 10, 2004)
  68. "I appreciate Sununu, the Senator from New Hampshire." (May 10, 2004)
  69. "I appreciate the dramatic comebacks that you were capable of making. I like it when a kicker ends up winning the game." (May 10, 2004)
  70. "I appreciated your strong words, and I really appreciate your faith." (May 5, 2004)
  71. "Thank you for what you do. I appreciate you." (May 5, 2004)
  72. "I appreciate your vision and your understanding of that, Your Majesty." (May 6, 2004)
  73. "I appreciate your friendship, and I appreciate the opportunity to hear your thoughts on a range of issues that face your country." (May 6, 2004)
  74. "I appreciated your advice, Your Majesty." (May 6, 2004)
  75. "I want to appreciate your wise counsel, Your Majesty." (May 6, 2004)
  76. "I appreciate you coming." (May 6, 2004)
  77. "I appreciate the Prime Minister understanding that vision." (April 16, 2004)
  78. "No matter where they may stand on this war, the thing I appreciate most about our country is the strong support given to the men and women in uniform." (April 13, 2004")
  79. "I appreciate the candid discussion we've had." (Feb. 25, 2004)
  80. "I appreciate you bringing up the Russian bases problem." (Feb. 25, 2004)
  81. "I appreciate his willingness to go to Iraq and I appreciate his willingness to gather facts." (Jan. 27, 2004)
  82. "I appreciate your friendship, I appreciate your strength." (Jan. 27, 2004)
  83. "I appreciate David Kay's contribution." (Jan. 27, 2004)
  84. "I appreciate Ozzie Guillen being here." (Jan. 23, 2004)
  85. "I appreciate the fact that Josh Beckett -- a big, old Texan I might add -- (laughter) -- is involved with youth baseball." (Jan. 23, 2004)
  86. "I appreciate the joint efforts of the Russians with our country to explore ... I appreciate the astronauts of yesterday who are with us as well, who inspired the astronauts of today to serve our country. I appreciate so very much the members of Congress being here. ... I appreciate your interest in this subject." (Jan. 14, 2004)
  87. "I appreciate Commander Mike Foale's introduction. I'm sorry I couldn't shake his hand." (Jan. 14, 2004)
  88. "To John Travolta. (We shall call him 'Moon Man' from now on.) I appreciate your friendship. I appreciate your love of flight. Thank you for being such a fine entertainer." (Dec. 17, 2003)
  89. "I appreciate so very much American heroes who are here, well-known and not so well-known heroes." (Dec. 17, 2003)
  90. "I appreciate that question." (Dec. 15 , 2003)
  91. "I appreciate the fact that durable orders for durable goods are up." (Dec. 15 , 2003)
  92. "I appreciate the Hot Shot team members from the great state of California." (Dec. 3, 2003)
  93. "I appreciate the representatives of the conservation groups who have worked in a constructive way to help change the attitude inside the halls of the United States Congress." (Dec. 3, 2003)
  94. "I appreciate the fact that the Indonesian government was able to accommodate my desires to come here." (Oct. 22, 2003)
  95. "I appreciate Vin for the short introduction. I'm a man who likes short introductions. And he didn't let me down. But more importantly, I appreciate the invitation. I appreciate the members of Congress who are here, senators from both political parties, members of the House of Representatives from both political parties. I appreciate the ambassadors who are here. I appreciate the guests who have come. I appreciate the bipartisan spirit, the nonpartisan spirit of the National Endowment for Democracy." (Oct. 16, 2003)
  96. "I appreciate very much your commitment to trade and markets ... I appreciate your honesty and openness and forthrightness when it comes to battling the pandemic of AIDS ... I appreciate your leadership, and I appreciate your friendship." (Aug. 12, 2003)
  97. "I appreciate her strength; I appreciate her courage. And I appreciate you being here today, Madam President ... I appreciate President Arroyo's leadership." (May 19, 2003)
  98. "I appreciate his advice, I appreciate his counsel." (April 29, 2003)
  99. "I appreciate those who are members of the faith-based world who have answered the call, the universal call, to help a brother and sister in need." (April 29, 2003)
  100. "You asked about sharing of intelligence, and I appreciate that." (March 6, 2003)
  101. "I appreciate societies in which people can express their opinion." (March 6, 2003)
  102. "I appreciate that question a lot." (March 6, 2003)
  103. "I had a chance to tell both soldier and loved one alike that their service to our country was noble and strong and good. And I appreciated that very much." (Jan. 17, 2003)
  104. "I appreciate you all. giving me a chance to talk about a significant problem which faces America." (Jan. 16, 2003)
  105. "Thanks for your good work, and I certainly appreciate it all." (Nov. 19, 2002)
  106. "I appreciate those kind remarks, Rosario. You're a gran amiga. Buenos dias." (Oct. 17, 2002)
  107. "I appreciate so very much the chair of the Board of Directors of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. I appreciate so very much the President and CEO." (Oct. 17, 2002)
  108. "I appreciate their spirit. I appreciate their love for country ... I appreciate the spirit in which members of Congress are considering this vital issue." (Sept. 26, 2002)
  109. "I appreciate the government of Portugal for its strong support in the war against terror." (Sept. 10, 2002)
  110. "I appreciate the way the House voted the bill." (Sept. 5, 2002)
  111. "I appreciate so very much Vice President Cheney's hard work on this issue. I appreciate Colin Powell and Ann Veneman, who ably serve in my Cabinet .... And I appreciate Elaine Chao as well. ... I appreciate so very much Cal Dooley, and a guy I call "Jeff", William Jefferson, Congressmen from California and Louisiana ... I appreciate your leadership and I appreciate your work and I appreciate your help." (Aug. 6, 2002)
  112. "I appreciate so very much Senator Rick Santorum and Congressman Steve Chabot from Ohio for sponsoring this important piece of legislation. I also appreciate Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Congresswoman Melissa Hart for coming, as well ... I appreciate Hadley Arkes." (Aug. 5, 2002)
  113. "I want to appreciate Chip's support of the tax relief plan." (Aug. 7, 2002)
  114. "I appreciate the long hours that they're putting in. I appreciate their love for America and their patriotism during this trying time for our country." (July 16, 2002)
  115. "I appreciate so very much his leadership and his continued willingness to find a new common ground in this most important relationship." (June 27, 2002)
  116. "I appreciate you saying that, Martha. I appreciate you hear me say that I appreciate the fact that our country prays for me and Laura." (June 27, 2002)
  117. "I appreciate her leadership. I appreciate her concern." (June 25, 2002)
  118. "I appreciate the good -- I appreciate, I want to thank Chad Ettmueller, who's the -- I guess the man in charge of the Red Cross here." (June 25, 2002)
  119. "I really appreciate the theme of this conference and the importance of the conference." (June 19, 2002)
  120. "I appreciate you answering my mail, Mr. Congressman." (June 19, 2002)
  121. "The thing I appreciate is that you understand education should prepare children for jobs, and it also should prepare our children for life." (June 19, 2002)
  122. "I appreciate you qualifying it that way." (June 13, 2002)
  123. "I appreciate all the Mexicans who are here today." (May 3, 2002)
  124. "I appreciate President Fox's leadership in our hemisphere ... I appreciate his vision." (May 3, 2002)
  125. "I told the Crown Prince how much I appreciate his vision for a peaceful and integrated Middle East, and how I appreciated his leadership in helping rally the Arab world toward that vision. I also appreciated the Crown Prince's assurance that Saudi Arabia condemns terror." (April 25, 2002)
  126. "I appreciate that, respect that, and expect that to be the case." (April 25, 2002)
  127. "I reminded him how much I appreciated his statement toward Israel ... Then he went and sold that in Beirut, and I appreciated that, as well." (April 25, 2002)
  128. "The government has been acting, and I appreciate that very much." (April 25, 2002)
  129. "I deeply appreciate President Fox's early support and his continuing advice." (March 22, 2002)
  130. "I really appreciate the fact that my National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, is here to offer prayer. appreciate the members of my Cabinet who are here." (Feb. 7, 2002)
  131. "I appreciate her example of faith made stronger in trial." (Feb. 7, 2002)
  132. "I appreciate the work the airlines have done with the Federal Aviation Administration." (Nov. 19, 2001)
  133. "I appreciate Norm Mineta, who is here." (Nov. 2, 2001)
  134. "I appreciate the patience of the American people." (Nov. 2, 2001)
  135. "I appreciate the courage of most Americans." (Nov. 2, 2001)
  136. "I appreciate diplomatic talk, but I'm more interested in action and results." (Oct. 11, 2001)
  137. "I personally think that a -- and I appreciate Tony Blair's -- and I've discussed this with him -- his vision about Afghan after we're successful -- Afghanistan after we're successful." (Oct. 11, 2001)
  138. "I appreciate the actions of that government." (Oct. 11, 2001)
  139. "I appreciate my friend Tom Ridge." (Aug. 26, 2001)
  140. "I appreciate a straightforward fellow, a fellow who you know where he stands." (Aug. 26, 2001)
  141. "I want to appreciate and thank the U.S. Steel and its workers for a good conservation policy." (Aug. 26, 2001)
  142. "I appreciate your strong stance on holding the line on cutting the car tax in Virginia." (Aug. 26, 2001)
  143. "I appreciate so very much the supplemental that got passed." (Aug. 26, 2001)
  144. "Mr. Prime Minister, I appreciate your leadership." (Aug. 23, 2001
  145. "I appreciate so very much the Italian leadership in the Balkans." (Aug. 23, 2001)
  146. "I appreciate so very much President Putin's willingness to think differently about how to make the world more peaceful." (Aug. 22, 2001)
  147. "I appreciate this attitude so very much with President Putin." (Aug. 22, 2001)
  148. "I appreciate you bringing such nice weather." (April 30, 2001)
  149. "I appreciate what's going on here." (April 25, 2001)
  150. "I appreciate your service to the country." (April 23, 2001)
  151. "I appreciate that so very much." (April 23, 2001)
  152. "I appreciate the members of the press." (March 30, 2001)
  153. " I actually said this in New Hampshire: 'I appreciate preservation. It's what you do when you run for President, you've got to preserve.' I don't have the slightest idea what I was saying there." (March 30, 2001)
  154. "I appreciated the vote." (March 29, 2001)
  155. "I appreciate the hard work that's being done on the legislation." (March 29, 2001)

May 2, 2005

I'm completely hopeless at this. I brake too often, and at the wrong moments. My back wheel keeps trying to skid out from under me, I wring my way clumsily through the curves. I started this sport too late. My muscles were able to fit themslves to my bike, they actually liked it: muscles are tractable and learn tricks fast. But racing downhill is a matter of nerves, and from the very start my nerves have thought: to hell with you and your bicycle racing.

Tim Krabbe, "The Rider"

Saturday I rented a car and drove to my first road race, a course of three 13.5-mile loops through the hills of southern Wisconsin.

I'd been excited about it for weeks, but my race almost ended before it started.

Knowing that there would be hills, I had earlier in the week looked up "descending" in the index of my cycling book, much like how on the night before his first operation a doctor might look up "surgery, open-heart" in his medical textbook.

One of the things my book advised was to test how fast your bike can go before it starts to shimmy. I never got around to doing this. Suddenly I was on a warm-up ride with my teammates Saturday morning and without even meaning to I was going extremely fast down a steep hill.

30 mph. 35 mph. 38 mph.

And then I had my answer: At exactly 39.6 mph my bike, the Colonel, begins to shimmy like a jug-band handsaw. Duly noted.

Bob was riding behind me and told me later that he was certain I was going down. I was certain, too, and was calculating the best way I could land and protect my bike. Fortunately I was able to tap the brakes gently enough to regain control. I was shaken, but wiser and safer for it.

There were nine of us from my racing team competing. We were all Category 5 riders and the race would be a mix of 4's and 5's, but we figured that we could parlay our numbers into success by taking control of the pace from the start.

Our plan derailed immediately. An initial descent and tailwind conspired to quickly bring the pace to 28 mph, much faster than we had anticipated. A small crash in the first mile created gaps in our line. Then came a steep climb and we were irrevocably strung out.

I had succumbed to tunnel vision on the way up, observing nothing but my breathing and my pedaling. I had no idea what was going on with my other teammates. At the top I saw only one friendly, Dave, but I didn't know if anyone was ahead or how far back people were behind. Should we chase? Should we wait? We hesitated, then joined with some other riders. We wouldn't see another teammate for the rest of the race.

For the next 15 miles Dave and I rode in packs of between three and seven. Between the hills and the bends in the road, it was impossible to tell how far we were from the leaders, or how far we were ahead of the nearest riders behind.

On a bike your consciousness is small. The harder you work, the smaller it gets. Every thought that arises is immediately and utterly true, every unexpected event is something you'd known all along but had only forgotten for a moment. A pounding riff from a song, a bit of long division that starts over and over, a magnified anger at someone, is enough to fill your thoughts.

During a race, what goes round in the rider's mind is a monolithic ball bearing, so smooth, so uniform, that you can't even see it spin. Its almost perfect lack of surface structure ensures that it strikes nothing that might end up in the white circulation of thought.

Krabbe, "The Rider"

Strategy was an afterthought for me, insofar as one can have an afterthought when there is no thought to begin with. My mind was a vacuum, a slave to the road. Pedal, the road said, and I pedaled. Pedal harder, the road said, and I pedaled harder. Obeying the road is all my mind was capable of. Plan a breakaway? Plan a sprint? It would be like a man on the gallows planning a vacation.

At the halfway point Dave and I were in a group of seven when someone took charge and organized a rotating paceline. These guys were out of my league and I got dropped faster than I could say "Wait, how again does a rotating paceline work?"

I rode the next 14 miles with someone from Stone Creek who was also doing his first road race. After a few steep descents and corners I got dropped from him, too, and found myself about 100 meters from his wheel and 100 meters ahead of two unfamiliar riders behind me.

This was a decisive moment: Do I push hard to catch up to the solo rider, or do I relax and create a three-man paceline with the others? The worst thing I could do was to do nothing, to waste energy in limbo. If I were one to find meaning and weight in everyday things, I would suggest that this offered an analogy for many of life's decisions: Struggle and claw for advancement, or relax into comfort and safety? I'm not one for such metaphor, however, and then I got lucky: Topography made the decision for me. We were once again at the steep hill that had earlier broken my team and I was able to climb it better than the Stone Creek rider. I caught up to him easily and never again saw the two riders behind us.

Around the 30-mile mark we caught up with Dave, who had been dropped from the same paceline that had dropped me and was riding alone. The three of us rode together, splitting pulls pretty evenly.

When I have 6 miles to go in a long ride or marathon, I like to project my commute on the balance. 6 miles? That's nothing. That's Foster to Grand. I can do that in my sleep. 5 miles to go? I'm at Montrose Avenue. Easy.

The last big hill came with 2 miles to go (Armitage Avenue). At the top I had created a 20-meter lead over the other two. This was another decisive moment. Anything shorter and I might have held back to work with Dave, but I decided to test what I was capable of. With a mile and a half to go (North Avenue! Hang on!) I had opened a lead of around 100 meters.

Once again my tentativeness on descents and corners did me in. No doubt the scare before the race contributed to my hesitancy. Like Tim Krabbe, I am fearful of descents and corners; I much prefer going up hills than down them. My nerves took away the ground my legs had fought so hard for, and my pursuers caught me a half-mile from the finish (Chicago Avenue).

I was vanquished and wiped out. I didn't even have the good sense to fall behind one of their wheels. Instead I let myself tow them to the finish. An official got excited about a possible sprint, but I had nothing left, and Dave didn't have much more. The Stone Creek guy crossed first, then Dave, then me.

Twenty minutes later I was standing at the officials trailer and reading the results. Of 45 riders, 31 had finished. I was the 22nd. This meant that I had already met the first benchmark of my racing career: finishing in the top half of the field. But then I overheard a rider complaining to an official that his name was not among the results. The official checked the film and sure enough, this rider had finished 8th. So now I was 23rd, and no longer in the top half.

In retrospect, that's exactly how I should have played that finish, even if it were a contest for 21st and not for 1st. I sprint like a school bus, so my only hope was to attack on the last hill and use my climbing abilities to create an insurmountabe lead. It almost worked. If only the last hill were a half-mile closer to the finish. Nonetheless, it pleases me to think how seamlessly theory translated into action. My body didn't need any input from my mind. It just did what it was supposed to do.

Later I was taking pictures of the Cat 1/2 race when two local girls drove up and asked what we were riding for. I think they thought it was a charity ride.

"It's a race!"

"How far?"

"41 miles."

"Ohmygod I'd die!"

My lungs were shot, and I nearly died myself hacking out a laugh.

Photo taken: April 30, 2005


May 1, 2005

Category 1/2 men ride the Circuit of Sauk in Baraboo, Wis.

Race report TK.

Photo taken: April 30, 2005