Maple syrup King

Last year, when I started drawing portraits of cyclists in food, Tim Johnson kept telling me to draw Ted King.

“Draw him in Justin’s almond butter or something,” he said.

Yeah, yeah, I said, because I was already drowning in names and ideas. King dropped out of the Tour later that summer and that was that. Burnt out after the daily portraits during the Tour de France, I turned to music in the winter. With the Classics over, I’m finally coming back into the cycling thing.

The same age as King, and as a graduate of another small liberal arts school on the east coast, I assumed that King had a few more seasons in him. Mostly because I like to assume that there’s always another season of whatever in me. Instead, I started this portrait (finally) the day King announced he would retire after this season.

It’s all a bit bittersweet, but I’m sure he’s going to make it an exciting summer. Here’s to another season of pro cycling and all the fun stuff you get to do/smoke when you’re done with it.

Cyclist: Ted King

Materials used: crushed maple cream cookies (I totally cheated and browned the crumbs)

tim johnson does tokyo...on tv

For the past three years, I’ve been bookending the cyclocross season from opposite sides of the world. It starts in the mid-fall in Massachusetts and ends in Odaiba, a man-made island in Tokyo Bay. Oddly, I watch the same guys race in both locations; first through dirt and grass and a New England fall, then through sand and a relatively warm Japanese winter.

Except this year, I caught the tail end of Holy Week in a dry Providence, Rhode Island and finished off the season of mud and cowbells on a slushy, snowy Tokyo beach.

To be honest, I spent the snowstorm on Saturday in the comfort of my own home while Chandler apparently raced through it. I dug out proper rubber boots for the following day and made plans to meet up with Tim, [his wife and former pro] Lyne Bessette, Chandler, and his pregnant wife, Jenny. As usual, fun times and general ridiculousness were expected.

I did not, however, expect to end up on Japanese TV.

When I finally caught up with Tim, he had a three man video crew following his every move. I had initially assumed that it was part of Cyclocross Tokyo; that maybe they were getting footage for a promotional video. How wrong I was. Tim had apparently agreed to be a part of the show “YOUは何しに日本へ?” [roughly translating into “Why Did You Come to Japan?”], in which a TV crew will select and follow a foreign visitor for a few days. They’d been with Tim, Lyne, Chan, and Jenny since the four had landed at Narita airport.

“So this is like ‘Tim Johnson Does Tokyo’?” I asked.

“Kinda,” he said.

In hindsight, the whole situation is more awkward than I’m currently comfortable admitting to myself. Even after I was informed of the reality of possibly ending up on national TV, there was a race to watch and the likes of Katie Compton, Wendy Simms, and Lyne Bessette to cheer on in the elite women’s race.

We speed walked through packed snow and slush, from the podium to the start line, and cheered as Lyne tore up the almost un-raceable course. Spectators yelled encouragement in Japanese as the American and Canadian athletes sped by, racing through slushy sand and heavy mud. It was the most exciting women’s race I’ve watched, in Tokyo.

Katie predictably took the win, and after congratulations were dispensed, the five of us, plus the TV crew, wandered around the course until the elite men started [Tim’s shoulder injury from World Championships kept him from racing this year]. The five of us screamed and cheered at Barry Wicks while being video-ed by the TV crew. It was awesome, albeit slightly awkward.

The men’s race ended with Zach McDonald taking the win, with Yu Takenouchi and Barry Wicks rounding out the podium. We watched Tim present the awards to the winners before calling it a day. Like every year, I came home exhausted, legs worn out, but happy and giddy. Road season is calling, but there’s nothing like ‘cross on a Tokyo beach in February.

[Tim also gave me an adorable bottle of maple syrup. So you know what that means: MAPLE SYRUP CHUGGING CONTEST!!! Also, more pictures here.]

life, relaxed

“Your blood work is great, actually,” the doctor had said, while clicking various parts of his computer screen semi-absent mindedly, the way some people do when they’re playing solitaire out of desperate boredom. “There’s nothing wrong with you that I can see. It’s probably not cancer.”
“That actually doesn’t make me feel better,” I wanted to say. I clutched my churning stomach instead.
And so, I was going to write something about how much time I’ve spent in hospital waiting rooms and doctor’s offices in the past four weeks, for being an otherwise healthy individual. But a few new prescriptions have gotten things somewhat back to tolerable, and with both the Australian National Road Championships and the U.S. National Cyclocross Championships on the same weekend, navel-gazing self pity no longer held much appeal. I was even able to crawl back on the bike and back into the gym this past weekend. I call that good progress.

A year or even six months ago, I would have called it lame, unacceptable, barely-counts-as-progress, progress. But the good thing about being sick and no one being able to actually fix it for good? It forces you to not be such a perfectionist lunatic. It takes everything you take for granted, takes it away, and makes you realize how good you have it when your body is sort of half functional. I don’t like the word “laziness,” so let’s just agree to call this new phenomenon going on in my head, “chilling the fuck out.”
This newfound attitude of mine means, of course, that I’m turning into the worst trainee ever. Or, as I like to think of it, just a less crazy one. For once, I didn’t beat myself up for not being able to train when I couldn’t even make it to work last week. I pushed out some intervals on the weekend, pat myself on the back for doing something and got on with my life. Fortunately, I don’t ride my bike for a living, so 1. I’m not going to get fired from cycling, and 2. no one is going to hate me for skipping a workout/underperforming/getting fat instead of fit [other than possibly my coach but let’s not worry about that for now]. It’s a pretty good set up for now, this whole “not freaking out” business. I’m enjoying it; savoring it like a fat kid’s first bite of a cheese fondue pizza.

I know I’ve lost a bit of my edge, my climbing ability, and overall power. I’m nowhere near where I was this time last year. But the ironic thing is that I think I’m happier for it. It’s not that the bike and I are breaking up; we’re just growing into a healthier relationship. You know, the kind where we’re not so codependent on each other. I still think there’s very little a good bike ride – or at the very least, a good bike friend – can’t fix; in the past four weeks or so, though, I’m getting around to not being so desperately needy about it. It took a while [like, three decades] but I’m learning to actually apply what I know to be true: the bike – like any sane male – will be there for me, always, but not if I get all crazy about it all the time.

That said, I was glued to my phone on Sunday during Australian Nationals, while baking banana bread with my sister. This involved doing the easy stuff like measuring out flour and making my sister do the actualy work like mixing and cleaning up while I kept tabs on Adam’s race. The walnuts we sprinkled on top got a little burned but I blame that on juggling a post-race congratulatory email, knitting on teeny tiny needles, and attempting to carry on a conversation at the same time. Still, the banana bread apparently came out amazing, Adam came in 13th at Nationals, Tim took the bronze the next day, and my legs were worn out enough from my weekend spins that I passed out at 9.45pm.
Life, relaxed, feels fucking pretty good.
[Special, super big thanks to BTB TV for letting this girl watch US Cyclocross Nationals live, all the way from Tokyo. You guys rock!]

october selection

All the treats from last month...
- I've never been into wooden bikes, but a Tokyo shipwright making pretty bikes? I like this man's versatility. [via T Magazine]

- "Ride with people who are excited, happy" and lots more food for thought in this interview by Velonews with Tim Johnson.

- The Cannondale p/b Team has a video out, with more coming soon! It's really well done. Go watch.

- And because I could happily live in Lululemon for the rest of my life, even if I'm not an indoor spinner [if only these Ride Inside Crop pants had some super invisible low profile chamois...]

- And if yoga pants don't turn you on, this should:

On to November...!