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Maybe throw a dart

imageI pulled the plug on my 600K at mile 302, according to Strava. A few miles less than that on the cue sheet. I was 33 hours into it and I couldn’t make the math give me a finish. The organizer had given me a pep talk over the phone when I called it in, and I got back on and did another half hour to find out how fast I could really go in the headwinds, but eight and a quarter miles per hour wasn’t going to get me a finish.
At the hotel, I had a beer and a bath and some real food and went to sleep. Then I went home.
I didn’t feel good about it, but I did feel basically OK. I’d done my best, and math is math. I could have finished the remaining 72 miles, up through the Pine Barrens against 30mph headwinds and a detour around a forest fire, with the knowledge that finishing a doomed attempt under your own power is an honorable thing to do, but making volunteers who are already dead tired wait an extra few hours while you make yourself feel honorable isn’t.
This was my first brevet season since before marital separation, and my stated mission was to see what I was capable of. My unstated fantasy was to get all the way through a Super Randonneur series, which is a 200K, 300K, 400K, and 600K in a calendar year.

I went into the first randonnée of my new life, a little 100K near Boston in April, nervous. I finished. It wasn’t very hard. Then I finished 200, 300, and 400, and was reminded that being up to it physically is only part of the sport; you have to have your stuff together in terms of gear and navigation, too.
Let’s just say it’s been an effective shakedown season.

A 2016 SR series is still within reach. I could find another 600 before the year is up.
But in order to return to randonneuring, I deliberately put aside something else I want to return to: fiction writing. I was once a novelist to watch, before I made some decisions that parted me from that route. Now nobody’s watching and I have a finished first draft (“finished” in that it has a lot of pages and says THE END at the end) that needs to be completely torn down and rebuilt—a job I guess I thought would click into place after I killed the 600. Just one success after another.
I am not recovered from separation, financially. Or from the recession, by quite a long shot. Or from the loss of the client into which all my eggs had been, by me, put. I shouldn’t be hammering on anything but new business, consistent craftsmanship, and relentless invoicing for Typeflow. And being a good dad. And maybe some dating. Oops, that’s three. And brevets. That’s four. And the novel. That’s five. Which has a short story in front of it first. Six.
And my house turned into a disgusting pit (seven) while I was chasing the SR, which—wait, was that even my stated mission? Didn’t I go into this saying I just wanted to see how far I could get?
Didn’t I find out?
Does everything have to go as far as I can push it just so I don’t feel like a quitter? Even if the win makes me fail at everything else?
Because I could. I could pull an SR out of this year. I could let the house collapse to shit again, fuck the novel, forget the short story, spend another, oh, five hundred or a thousand dollars I don’t have on registration, bike stuff, gasoline, tolls, hotel rooms, recovery days when I don’t have enough mental function to make any money, unexpected medical appointments, and win my self-respect and my trinket.
I still may. Bragging rights are really attractive, and so is quiet self-respect. Winning gets you your choice of both.
Or I could say I did what I came for: I found out. Done.
My weight loss has reversed. I’m gaining now because not only am I not training, but I’m not riding.
Simultaneously, I’m 2500 words into the short story. (Words written during the SR attempt: 0. Figuring things out so I could write more than 0 words: 0.)
And my kitchen, TODAY, FINALLY, is clean. It hasn’t been since April. It’s been frat-quality revolting. If you went barefoot in it, your feet turned black. I’ve had a thing of wipes near the bed just for decrudding my fouled soles before letting them touch my sheets. Which are overdue for laundering.
Yesterday I washed the kitchen floor. Today I washed it again, and walked around barefoot, and oh Jesus, it felt so good.
It was hard pursuing this sport married with a family. It’s easier as a single parent in that the decisions don’t require ratifying by anyone but me, with the exception of custody schedule changes. It’s also harder because no one else is taking care of anything while I’m off pushing pedals in little circles.
I may still go for the SR.
If I don’t finish it this year, I can start a new attempt next year. If I don’t finish the novel this year, it sits there looking at me forever. Failure as a randonneur is seasonal. Failure as a novelist lasts as long as you’ve got. It just keeps rolling over and getting grandfathered in.
Two ridiculous ways to spend time, competing with each other, when the obvious answer is grow up and forget them both; your business and your family need you more.
I don’t know.

Cramping was a problem. It slowed me down on the first 200 hilly miles because I had to clip out to change my foot position to make the cramps stop, and then I did the rest of the ride with my cleats against the flat side of my half-clipless pedals. I also had to go a little easy to prevent more cramps. So I didn’t get to the sleep stop in time to sleep, and when I left, I was too tight against the clock—so I sprinted for the next control and burned the rest of my matches before the headwinds that finally did me in.
Or, put another way, I wasn’t up to this brevet.

There’s an October 600K in Nebraska that would work with the custody schedule, probably not make me cramp (because it won’t be 10,000′ of climbing in summer in New Jersey), and cost a lot, and the kitchen would turn to poop again by August.
Or I think I can get the short story done in a couple of weeks if I focus, and then start writing the draft of the book where I actually know what book I’m writing.
If I don’t do the SR.
I don’t know.
Maybe I’m done for the year.
Pick your failure.


July 5, 2016 · 8:58 pm

Two minutes in a quiet kitchen, with dishes

MONDAY THE ROADS were slick and slushy between Willoughby and the town eleven miles away where my kids live half the time, and my low-end Kia is terrible in any depth of snow, so I didn’t get the boy I was expecting. The new custody schedule includes twice-weekly “one-boy” nights, which are very important to me, maybe the most important thing in the schedule. Parents of more than one child know what I mean: Even ten minutes with just one is like a little miracle. There’s that little person you like, usually obscured by blankets of homework, sibling rivalry, chores, laundry…and then you have just one, and…hey, little dude! I like you! And we have TWO HOURS! What do you want to do?

I love it, they love it…and we didn’t get to have it. I’m sure they took it better than I did, since they still had each other and Mom. I hung their new magnetic dart board in their room; I was going to do that with them, after surprising them with it, but it cheered me up to think of them discovering it.

Today, Wednesday, it’s still below freezing, but there’s blue sky and sunshine, and the roads are passable. This is the other one-boy night, so even though I didn’t get Red Fish a couple of days ago, I pick up Blue Fish from school this afternoon, drive him back here, get his homework done in 90 minutes instead of his usual three hours, and take him to chess club at the library. It’s once a month, on Wednesdays, which is why I wanted Wednesdays to be my night with him. At last month’s, he ended up with his picture in the Willoughby paper because there was a reporter there.

And I’ll do dishes. I let things go more when the boys aren’t here, because there’s no one to be an example for. And I turn off the heat to half the house. On a predictable cycle, I live in a cold, silent building that resuscitates and warms up again for boys. If I wanted melodrama and sympathy, I’d chisel an epigraph on this entry’s headstone:

I dwell in a lonely house I know
that vanished many a summer ago

Except I like the house, and I’m pretty much never lonely. And it’s odd. I don’t miss my boys when they’re gone; I’m just thrilled to see them when they’re back.

Except when I’m supposed to have them and don’t. Then I miss them. So tonight is hugs. And chess. And darts.



February 11, 2015 · 12:27 pm

Lately I’ve gotten interested in my Strava heatmap. The randonneuring doesn’t show up on it much–I can see Patrick’s Queens-Montauk route, and little pieces of George’s up in the Hudson Valley, and the entirety of the Shore By Night, and I’m proud of those–but I didn’t get the Garmin until recently, and I didn’t use the iPhone much on brevets because it always died halfway through.

What I like is my tracks all over the grid of Manhattan, and the vectors radiating from it in all directions–East into Brooklyn and Queens, Northeast into Westchester, Northwest and Southwest into New Jersey. I’m a New Yorker, and I know these streets the way only a cyclist knows them. My legs drove every revolution of every wheel. I dodged all the cabs and potholes. It was me and the street and the bike in downpours, blizzards, blasting heat and perfect breeze. I did the uphills, I did the downhills, I dodged the trucks and stole interference from buses and deked around jaywalkers, and I fixed it or walked when it broke, or I broke it, or a mechanic broke it in a way that took 30 minutes or 3 days to show up. I leaned it against delis, I hit bad joints on bridges, I dropped roadies, I got dropped by guys with butts fatter than I accept that mine could possibly be.

“This is my city” is a nonsensical, gritty line written by writers who need another edit, but fuck yeah, this is my city. I laid the streets, I built the bridges, I mapped it. I rode it. This is my city. Whatever yours is, is yours. This one’s mine.

Keith’s Strava Heatmap



April 1, 2014 · 10:06 pm