The Desert Roadie: riding in Washington DC

It has been just over a week since my initial post where I promised to regale you with my experiences in the slums of McLean; where is that I hear you say? Before, we go there, a quick mention of the 2011 Tour De France is a must. It is hard to believe that it is possible to win Le Maillot Jeune without winning a single stage but that is just what Cadel Evans managed to achieve. I suspect that he will not be a popular winner amongst the French, or indeed the Europeans, because he carried on the stardom cult started by Lance Armstrong by reinforcing this perception of separation from the supporters using bodyguards. By contrast, Andy Shleck will come away from this year’s race with the lesson that you have to attack on more than a single stage. Such are the vagaries of bike racing. A good read on such vagaries is Tim Krabbe’s The Rider where he describes road racing as being the equivalent of “licking your opponent’s plate clean before beginning your own meal”.

So what of the slums of McLean? I was lucky enough to secure an overseas posting to Washington, DC in 2008 where my family and I would get the opportunity to live and work in the USA for 2 years. The price for such an opportunity: a 2nd tour in Afghanistan. So in February 2008 as I depart for Helmand province I am notified to say that when I return in August that I will be heading out to Washington, DC. I was incredibly fortunate to see the tour through unscathed and within 10 days of returning from the depths of Helmand, I was sitting at my desk and looking forward to 2 years of the American Dream. The fact that I had been in Helmand for the bulk of the Spring and Summer meant that my bike training had gone down the pan. Luckily, the austere conditions meant that my weight was well within range so I simply needed to get the miles in. So, when I got to DC, that is what I did. Contrary to some bad press, DC is not bad for cycling. There are plenty of trails and paths and I could ride the 20 km from McLean to Crystal City mostly on paths. There was a stretch of 5 km from our house to the trail but the rest was a pleasant ride along the Potomac river and under the flight path of the aircraft coming into land at Ronald Reagan airport.

About 4 weeks into our adventure, it was the 25 Sep to be exact. I was riding home and was almost there with about 800m to go and one more junction. There was a light drizzle and I was cruising along at about 38 kph when BOOM – I vaguely recall the lights of a car right in front of me and then it was over.

I awoke in the hospital as the CT-Scan was making a horrible sound and doing its thing whilst I slowly regained consciousness and caught my reflection in the polished white of this noise-making machine. What I saw was not a pretty sight. I could just make out puffed out eyes and lips and . . . . no front teeth. To add to my woes, I had 14 stitches across my temple and another 10 down the front of my shin. As it transpired a 16 year old female that “didn’t see me” was pulling into her drive without indicating and before I knew it I was part of the A-Frame of the car. I was incredibly lucky to have been wearing a helmet because that is what saved me from having much worse concussion. As it stands my balance is a little wonky in my left ear but I was thankful to survive.

The experience that I had at the hands of the US emergency services left a lot to be desired. Given that I was unconscious with no medical insurance (which was held as a group piece) I was provided with emergency cover only. So they stitched me up, put a few patches on there and sent me home. In fact, so cursory was the treatment, that a follow up session a fortnight later revealed that I also had suffered a fractured upper-arm. Suffice to say that I survived and managed to get back racing the following year.

The racing in DC and Northern Virginia was very good. Great teams, great weather and great support. So what of the slums of McLean. McLean is actually a very affluent area and we were very privileged to live there. A friend of mine nicknamed it the slums of McLean given the number of complaints that he heard from his neighbours on life, the universe and everything. Given that this friend had been born and bred in Limerick (think Angela’s Ashes) we used to laugh at the trials and tribulations of living in McLean and all those decisions that had to be made.

I will close by way of an excuse. I apologise for my tardy blog this week but this is due to the HDD on this laptop crashing earlier in the week which has caused a world of pain. I was tempted to forego my writing commitment and leave Richard to it but that would not have been the right thing to do. I will close for now. Next week, I return to good old Blighty before heading off to Ireland to see the folks and then the family holiday. This year we are going to France and, of course, we are bringing the bikes. That will be the next instalment of the Desert Roadie. Until then . . .

Soto 40’s – a class to watch ( and race if you have the money)

Watching the Audi med up I was amazed by the racing TP52’s speak for themselves but the smaller boats the soto40’s were amazing too although racing in a fleet of 4 was about 8 boats short of a proper fleet.

Reminded me of a posting on sailing anarchy some time ago encouraging the soto 40 growth – just need all the Italians to start campaigning these boats instead of the big heavy farr’s.

big pimpin’

sex machine

soto%2040%203.jpg_sml.jpgHere it is… the Soto 40 OD. 40 foot of marine SEX wrapped up in a quality product backed up some passionate people who know their stuff. Check out the square-top main, the hiking wings, the enormous cockpit and all the good gear on board – this thing just wants to GO. And there’s nothing like it around. You were looking for a replacement for the aging Farr 40?

The Soto 40 is not an idea or a set of VPPs – the fleet are racing NOW and have been doing so for the past year. There will be ten Soto 40s fronting the start line at Ilhabella Race Week this July and there’s currently another five in the construction queue. And the whole Soto 40 story has happened in just 18 months, from idea to fleets in Argentina and Brazil. Torben Grael liked the Soto 40 so much he bought one for himself (Magia V) and will be a part of the fleet at Ilbabela.

With the ‘going global’ of the Soto 40 the builder, M Boats, is fixing the price at US $297,000 for the rest of the year… pretty good value if you compare it against anything new out there in the same zone. Add some water, sails and dials and you’re a part of the fastest production 40’s going around at the moment.

soto%2040%204.jpg_sml.jpgNow that it’s all go, go, go in South America the Soto 40 juggernaut heads to Australia and Asia with meetings being held in Singapore and Hong Kong this July to discuss the establishment of fleets in the region. You can register on the Class website if you’d like to attend and be involved in getting exciting OD racing back on the calendar in the region. There will be a few surprises and some special offers to those who can get along to the meetings.

Unlike your latest 40 ft IRC boat or box-rule flyer, the Soto 40 One Design is a yacht for 2010 and beyond. And definitely faster too. If you want to do a bit of IRC? ORCi? Performance? – all good, with the numbers and performance to back it up. It’s not a ‘rule’ boat and has simply been designed to be a light, fast, simple yacht built to strict one design guidelines.

Other exercise – chopping wood

Spent the day chopping wood yesterday and woke up this morning aching from muscles unused in a long time (since I last chopped wood in fact) but nice to have the next years wood sorted and another 2 cubic metres chopped up to season.

Off to France and italy sans bike but with running gear so looking forward to that ….

You going anywhere nice on holiday?


Cinelli Skate Shoes


Collaboration with legendary Italian cycling company. Improved CT-C technology: now with dual stiffners for less flex. Custom hidden tongue panel that also serves as a lace protector. Cinelli branded foxing label, tongue label, and sock liner. Reflective foxing tape stripe, heel label, heel tab, and flag label. Classic Cinelli inspired colorways. Cinelli and Italian colors on lace aglets and heel embroidery detail. Super soft and comfortable full grain leather. Hidden Cinelli Vigorelli smiley face under tongue lace protector. High abrasion rubber outsole. Lower profile foxing tape height.

Beer and Running – in my dreams

This from – ooh I want to believe it

If you’ve ever been to a marathon, you know there’s usually a big celebration afterwards, rife with beer and other spirits. This isn’t surprising—it’s not unusual to find runners who are also avid beer drinkers, and it turns out, all their beer drinkingmay just help their athletic performance.

According to a study by researchers at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen at Klinikum rechts der Isar, the compounds found in non-alcoholic beer—alcoholic beer—play a part in recovery and illness prevention in athletes.

The Research and Results

The study titled “Be-MaGIC” (Beer, Marathons, Genetics, Inflammation and the Cardiovascular system) was led by Dr. Johannes Scherr and followed 277 participants three weeks before and two weeks after the 2009 Munich Marathon. The study was focused on the effects of the rich and varied polyphenols found in wheat beer—a type of beer popular with marathoners and tri-athletes.

The participants were separated into two groups, the beer drinkers and the abstainers. The beer drinkers drank up to 1.5 liters of the non-alcoholic wheat beer each day, while the abstainers drank an identical amount of a placebo drink. The placebo drink looked, smelled and tasted like the wheat beer, but it lacked the polyphenols found in the true non-alcoholic beverage.

Researchers found that marathon runners experience an inflammatory response after running a marathon. This is due to the increased stress placed on the body when competing in such a strenuous event.

The inflammatory response causes the immune system to be suppressed temporarily, leading to an “open window” for cold viruses and other illnesses to get through. Researchers found that the beer drinking participants experienced a less pronounced immune response, and as a result, experienced fewer illnesses and infections than the abstainers.

Overall, findings showed that:

  • Beer drinkers experienced a greater support for the immune system.
  • Beer drinkers experienced fewer colds.
  • Beer drinkers who experienced colds had shorter, more mild infections than the abstainers.


The Takeaway

If you’re training for an intense event or you regularly put your body through the courses during strenuous workouts, don’t stress about throwing back a few beers. Just keep your consumption moderate and look at your beer drinking as a training tool. If you don’t like beer, consider trying wine or grape juice instead. These drinks are also known for their healthy polyphenols.