Sunday, February 27, 2005

How many hours in a day?

It's Sunday morning and my head is spinning. On the kitchen counter is an almost empty box holding the last remains of what used to be a dozen doughnuts. I shudder at the thought of how many of these things I ate the day before at yesterday's Wakefield trailwork session. A pile of muddy clothes sits on my bathroom floor. Song lyrics and guitars are strewn across the living room. Yesterday was one of those "full" days where every hour seemed to be tied up doing something:

Wakefield: I woke up early in the morning to check the message boards for any last minute news on the trailwork. Then it's off with the sleepy wife and kid to go buy 3 dozen doughnuts for the trail volunteers. Off to my cousin Rose's to drop off the kid (thanks Rose and Lou!). Gina and I get to Wakefield at 9:00. By the time the work starts at 9:30 there are over 30 volunteers in the parking lot. Scud is there with the usual schwag, Cliff Bars, and good spirit. I'm glad to see some of my buddies who have chosen to be here instead of at other more fun "events" taking place that morning. After some instructions from IMBA rep Rich Edwards, we're off to work. Crews are sent to the race course hill and the powerline road for a day of gratifying hard labor. Snow and mud, cold, then hot. Anne from the Bike Lane shows up with a trunkload of pizzas for lunch (thanks Anne!). After a quick lunch, Gina and I are off to...

Ro-Ro's birthday: After cleaning up at home and a drive across town to pick up the kid from cousin Ro's, we drive into Arlington for Roel's 2nd b-day. Roel is my buddy Marlan's kid. Marlan and Leslie were our first buddies here in DC. Couldn't stay long, so after a second lunch it's off to...

Last practice session: We drive across town again to Rico and Badette's house for our last practice session before the big show that night. As we pull up to the house we realize it's almost 4:00. Forget the practice. It's off to...

Sound check: We get to G. Mason High School just as Angie Pepa is starting her sound check. She's only 15 but she's got major stage presence and can rock! Sort of like a young Alanis. I can see her going places. Next up it's us. I'm still hitting bad notes trying to harmonize with Badette's vocals on the first song. The second song goes a bit better and gets applause from the other musicians sitting around. Still, I'm nervous about those vocals. For the next 2 hours before the show, I'm practicing religiously. About 30 minutes before showtime it finally clicks. Perfection. We're ready.

Showtime! The house isn't full but there are about a hundred people there. It's an all acoustic concert. I sneak into the back row to watch. Angie opens the show drawing applause throughout her set. She gets the house really rockin with her closing number, a cover of "I will survive." Next up is Average Joe. They're everything but average. Lot's of good solid guitar playing with some quirky progressive/funky stuff that brought to mind... well never mind. They sounded like no one else. Even their cover of "Hotel California" had me thinking, "Damn, I've never heard it that way before." Can't wait for their CD. Next up were The Speaks. Well what can I say? They flat out rocked. They must have snuck an electric guitar onto the stage somehow beacuse it's hard to get that kind of intensity out of an acoustic set. After a brief intermission, Justin Moral hits the stage. She's 14 and she can sing. Mostly Broadway type ballads with an original Filipino composition to close her set. It was a good reprive from the adrenaline left over from The Speaks. Next up was Fractured Zone, the only group of all non-Filipino musicians. Good solid folk music that sounded like a good mix of Appalachia and James Taylor. Guitars, mandolin, harmonica: the peace and love vibe was working through the room. Then it was Rod Garcia's turn. Singer/songwiter/guitarist in the tradition of the 70s folk explosion of the Philippines. Socially conscious lyrics and simple but effective guitar playing: he was one of the main organizers of this benefit concert. Finally it was our turn. I'm bouncing off the walls with excitement. It's 10:00 by the time we walk onto the stage. We plug our guitars into the sound system and launch into the first song. I pluck a few chords and Rico launches into a banduria style riff that gets a roar from the crowd. After Badette's vocals kick in, Agos is officially groovin. It's a lot louder than during the sound check and the mics catch all the little nuances and flaws. Even with all that practicing, I still manage to hit a couple of bad notes on the backing vocals, but I catch myself and stop mid-phrase before I do too much damage (I hope). It's all a blur at this point. I remember jumping around the stage like a maniac having the time of my life, and being sad when it was over. I hope I get the chance to do this again (please Rico and Badette, forgive me for those sour notes!) and I'm still a bit freaked out about the whole thing. What really freaked me out though were the handful of people asking for autographs at the end. "I'm sorry," I remember thinking to myself, "but you must be confusing me with someone who doesn't suck. The Speaks are that-a-way!"

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

We Jammin'

Cover your ears and run, I've picked up my guitar again. I've even managed to swindle a couple of friends of mine to let me jam with them. That's Rico and Badette of Agos fame, and they rock! We've been practicing to play next week at "Bagyo Aid". It's a benefit concert so no free tickets, eh? Lot's of other bands and performers, unplugged. Anyways, I haven't been this jazzed about playing somewhere in a looong time. With all the biking I've been doing, it's been a while since I even touched my guitar. The fingers and ears were definitely rusty and it will take me a while to get my chops back (not that I ever had them in the first place). But no worries, the practicing is paying off, Rico and Badette have lots (and lots) of patience, and I'm slowly getting there, I think.

Bagyo Aid: Acoustic Benefit Show for Hurricane Victims in the Philippines
George Mason High School
, 7124 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA
$20 Donation to relief fund
February 26, 2005, show at 7pm
The Speaks, Agos, Odie Sotomayor, Angie Pepa, Rodney Garcia & more

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Elizabeth Furnace

Woke up early Saturday morning a little before rickyd and Jo showed up at my place. Gina, rickyd, and me were heading up to Elizabeth Furnace for a day of riding after the last snowfall had made the local trails unridable for the last week. Jo was very kind (Thanks, Jo!) and offered to watch Sagada while her bad parents left her to go riding. I'd only been to EF once before and from my experience, it had lived up to it's reputation as one of the area's more advanced trails. The plan was to join up with the MORE folks for what was billed as a "casual" ride. Hmm, a casual ride on an advanced trail is still an advanced ride according to me. So I was a bit worried about Gina since she hasn't spent much time on the trails lately. I really should have been watching out for myself:

Photos by Peter Beers

That was our first stream crossing (or in my case, stream swimming) of the day. I had watched about three other people ride across this stream ahead of me. So, with a bit too much confidence in my "skills," I gun it hoping that momentum would carry me over the rocks. Well it sorta did. As in over the bars and into the rocks. Even though it was about 40 degrees that day, that water was freezing cold.

Turns out that Gina did fine. Except for some cramping in her legs from all that hike-a-biking, she had fun, probably more than I did. I even think she enjoyed watching me take a dive. In a way, I actually enjoyed that dive as well. As far as I see it, there's good pain and there's bad pain. I've experienced them both and consider myself lucky to know the difference. Bad pain is what you feel when you're sick and stuck in a hospital bed thinking you're gonna die. You hit the morphine button, but that 2 minutes before it takes effect seems like hours because your insides feel like they're tearing themselves apart. It's the result of years of neglecting your health, whether it's because of school, work, a poor diet, whatever, it's all the same. Good pain, I've only discovered recently. It's that burning sensation that starts in my legs and works it's way into my lungs during a long climb up a steep fireroad on my singlespeed. It's also the sensation of a tree trunk crashing into my ribs as I lose control in a turn because I'm trying hard to keep up with my friends at the races. It bothers me when I hear someone say that they don't like to exercise because it's too hard, or when they see all the bruises on my shins from biking and wonder why I put myself through that. As far I'm concerned life is painful by nature. If you are able to, you just have to choose between the good kind and the bad. Damn, this was supposed to be just a ride report. Happy thoughts, happy thoughts...

Photos by Peter Beers

Thanks for having such a great camera, Peter!

Tuesday, February 08, 2005


I just yanked your bottom bracket from the Monkey. Did you put Frame Saver in it? That thing is rustyyyyy. Your bottom bracket is roached. Your crank is roached. I haven't taken apart your SISS yet, but I have a feeling that bottom bracket is roached also. Pads don't last long, especially when riding in the wet and muddy stuff. I should report you to Larry Cautilli! You didn't tighten your pedals to the cranks enough. It was working itself loose. Put it on tighter next time! Your chain is on its last legs. It's tired and ready to be put down to sleep.

Bottom line: you have to stop spending time with your family and dog, and spend more time on your bikes! Ask yourself, "What is my priority? Do I want to be a racer for the ages? Do I want the Pinoy community to be well represented? Why am I wearing a dress?"

The words tear at my soul as I read the email from rickyd. I'm a bad parent; I've neglected my bike and let it fall into disrepair. It will grow up hating me. When I ride it to the trailhead, it will look around at all the nice bikes and wonder, "why am I not loved?" Soon it will start hanging out with other neglected bikes who will give it hallucinogenic lube and other illegal substances. It will start off innocently enough, but it's all downhill from there. It will turn into a lube addict. It will break into my house and steal my TV to get money for lube. Then, when it's too weak and drugged out to steal, it will whore itself out for "the lube" and fall victim to the pimp bikes. I'll be wandering the red light trails hopelessly searching for my bike. "Surrleeeeeey!" I'll cry out in desperation. But I'll hear nothing but the distant turning of squeaky cranks in the stillness of this desolate bike wasteland...

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Too much of a good thing

Sunday morning I wake up to a beautiful snowfall. Took a hike out the backyard with the whole household: wifey, kiddie, doggie, me-ie, and maybe the kitties, but I wasn't sure because one of them is all white and hard to see in the snow. There were ducks swimming among ice patches in the stream, deer tracks following the contours of snow-covered singletrack, and snow falling like giant flakes of dandruff sticking to my clothes. Had to stop and take pictures of course:

Afterwards I chat with my neighbor. He's a cyclist too, mostly of the competitive roadie variety but he can also rip it up on the trail. Says he was out yesterday for two and a half hours riding the Wakefield/Accotink/etc circuit. Grrr, I can't let him get away with that. I gear up to do the same. With all the snow I saw on my hike, I thought nothing would be really rideable, but I was wrong, gladly. Stayed out way past my curfew. After about two and a half hours of riding my left knee joint starts hurting. Unfortunately, I'm still pretty far from home, so I have no choice but to keep pedaling. By the time I get home the pain is bad enough that I can barely walk.

It's a couple of days before I can walk straight again. Meanwhile, I'm getting lots of good advice from people on the MORE forum about what to do with my trick knee. But upon close inspection, I find the source of the pain (I think). My left pedal cleat is on wrong causing my left foot to be toed in. I changed pedals recently (Eggbeaters to Times) and was too excited to try out the new peds that I was rush-rush with the setup. It's a quick adjustment to fix it but I'll have to wait for a longer ride to see if it works. Enough with the self pity, time to think about the weekend.