Sunday, April 30, 2006

Ken Woods Memorial Road Race Wrap-up: Pain

Here's the deal:

I came to this bicycle racing thing from being a baseball player. Being in condition for baseball consists of repetitive, but not overly exhaustive, actions. The more repetitive actions you can get in, the more refined that your baseball skills will be until you reach the point where you maximize your baseball abilities.

For a pitcher on a college baseball team, these repetitive actions include lots of throwing, running, and stretching. And none of it is all that grueling. You know how to throw and you work on different pitches from time-to-time. Running gets you in shape, but you're not trying to break any land-speed records or anything -- just get in some decent miles. And you stretch a lot, before, during, and sometimes after a workout. That's about it.

I never had to challenge -- or even get within eyesight of -- my maximum pain threshold. Never.

Throwing a baseball off of a mound doesn't bring you anywhere near that pain threshold. And if it does, you should quit, because you're injured.

But bicycle racing isn't like that.

I heard Bob Roll speak at Freewheel Bike on Friday night. One thing stuck with me: you will never be a good bicycle racer until you understand what it is to feel near-intolerable pain and learn how to deal with it.

Now, keep in mind, your pain threshold is all relative to each individual and situation. The pain Bob Roll felt while trying to complete the three week-long Tour de France is much different from the pain I've experienced while racing a bike.

But, it's pain nonetheless.

And I'm still learning how to deal with bicycle racing pain.

Yesterday was the Ken Woods Memorial Road Race in Sogn Valley, Minnesota. The 42 miles went something like this:

It was raining all day long. So, before the start, I went out to get warmed-up with a teammate. This warm-up left me cold, wet, and cold. At the start line, I was looking around to see how many people were shivering. A lot.

Then the gun went off and we rolled out. About ten pedal strokes in, teammate Cuban's chain blew off his bike. He was ahead of me and looked confused, so I yelled to him that his chain had snapped. Day over for Cuban.

[photo caption] Cuban pulling his broken chain out of his gearing. His $25 entry fee got him about 25 yards of racing. That sucks. (photo courtesy SkinnySki.com)

The rest of us motored into the wind for about a mile, then took a right-hand turn into a left-to-right crosswind. I did my best to tuck in behind another rider to get the wind off.

Then we took another right, producing a wicked tailwind. And the peloton took off. I don't know whose idea it was, but racing down a road at 36 mph in cold rain isn't necessary. As the field was splintering, I was just hanging onto the back of the lead pack for dear life.


But I knew that if I could hold on for only a few minutes the pace would slow. And it did, and I held on.

I held on all the way to the big climb of the race.


This pain I couldn't overcome. My breathing grew more labored and my legs demanded more oxygen. Oxygen I didn't have. I unhitched from the main pack, dreams of a top ten finish disappearing.

Eventually, as I began the second of two laps for the day, I fell back into the first large chase group of eight other riders, including the token old guy who barks paceline orders for miles and miles but doesn't ever get the paceline to work and really doesn't do a good job of pacelining himself. I hate those guys.

In the end, four of us dropped the other riders. As we went up the big hill for the second and last time, I grabbed a wheel and let the lead guy pace me up. After falling behind two riders by the top of the climb, I stood up and raced back to them, eventually dusting one in a quasi-sprint while the third guy let me pace him to the line where he finally dusted me. Whatever. I may have finished in the top 20, but the results aren't out yet.
[photo caption] The author lets a Lake Superior Cycling Club rider pace him up the final climb. Thanks, guy! (photo courtesy SkinnySki.com)

But I did well for myself. I know that I can hang with any category 4/5 rider on the flat ground. If I can ever handle the pain enough to climb adequately, I could get myself in the mix for some field sprint finishes.

We'll see how that goes.

[photo caption] Pain. (photo courtesy SkinnySki.com)

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Iraq Veterans Against The War

I hope some arrogant, self-righteous conservative who has never done anything in any capacity for the betterment of his/her nation will have the stones to ask this group, "Why do you hate America?"

(photo courtesy Getty Images)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Vikings Unveil New, Uglier Uniforms

Though the official unveiling of the Minnesota Vikings' new uniforms takes place tomorrow, Tuffy has diligently worked to provide his readers with a sneak-peek a day ahead of time.

There really aren't many changes to the jersey itself. Additions are the "Vikings" above the numerals on the front chest and the helmeted Viking emblem added to the upper back of the jersey.

Subtractions are more apparent, however. Gone are the white/yellow/purple shoulder bands. Gone, too, is the helmeted Viking emblem from the sleeves; again, he's been moved to the rear of the jersey.

The biggest change to the uniforms will be the return of purple pants -- last seen on the Vikings in the 1970s. It is rumored that the helmeted Viking will appear on the pants -- most likely on the upper hip area.

As well, the horns on the helmet will be more three-dimensional -- like those present on the Vikings' home page.

[images courtesy of Vikings.com and ProFootballTalk.com]

Monday, April 24, 2006

Chatter Box Dress Code

[photo caption] This is the best picture of the Chatter Box on the web? Are you kidding me? How 'bout a little help here, Ray? (photo courtesy World Wide Web)

And you thought that the vibe at the Chatter Box was pretty cool, hunh? Just some organic, hip, mod food and drink place in south Minneapolis?

Turns out that it's a little more pre-meditated than that.

Here's the dress code for the Chatter Box:

Dressing for work at the Chatter Box

Front of house dress guidelines

As a member of the Chatter Box staff, you are part of the richly colorful atmosphere and as such you are expected to dress "in character".

Although you will be wearing your own clothes to work and enjoy the freedom of self-expression, please remember that dressing for your shift at the Chatter Box is not an occasion to dress down or even necessarily to dress as you would on your own off time.

The essence of Chatter Box style is original, colorful, creative, friendly, polished and professional. Think in terms of what kind of colorful character you want to play.

Here are some ideas to get you started:
Urban Hipster
Urban Retro Cowboy/Girl
80's Retro,
Bohemian Chic
Vintage of any era
What are your ideas?

PS: The Chatter Box's new "get on the list" policy sucks, too. In a very mean way, I hope their Highland Park branch fails. Viva la Nook!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Photo Blog: Madison

For those times when you're jonesin' for a 3-pointer.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Photo Blog: Creepy Billboards

This is perhaps the most seemingly harmless yet scary billboard I've every seen. It's located on top of the Turf Club in St. Paul -- though it faces *away* from University Ave.

My guess is that it's the date that SuperRookie finally wins a race.

With himself.

To the refridgerator.

PS: If you check the "MapStats" thing on the bottom right side of the page, you'll notice that Lance Armstrong reads this blog. At least that's what I tell myself.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Photo Blog: Washington, D.C.

Security Guard: Sorry, you'll have to check your water bottle at Guest Services.

Tuffy: Really? Why?

SG: Because you might damage some of the paintings in the museum.

Tuffy: Well, I promise you I won't.

SG: Ok. Take a drink of your water.

Tuffy: What?

SG: Take a drink of your water so that I know it's water.

Tuffy drinks some water.

SG: Ok. Here. You can keep your bottle with you as long as you put it in this bag. And don't open your bottle in the museum.

Tuffy: Uh, Ok.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Photo Blog: Aple Leaf Gardens

This is another photo from Road Trip '05. The longtime home of the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs, Maple Leaf Gardens is a storied arena full of hockey lore. Unfortunately, since the Maple Leafs moved in with the NBA's Toronto Raptors in the Air Canada Center across town, the Maple Leaf Gardens have been largely ignored. To wit, notice the marquee lists the building as the "Aple Leaf Gardens". Add that to the homeless sleeping in recesses along the exterior of the building, and, well, its not a pretty site. When this photo was taken, work had just begun on the Gardens in an effort to reshape it into an urban market / bazaar to be anchored by a grocery store.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Photo Blog: Boston

In the Summer of '05, I spent three weeks driving and riding my cyclocross bike up and down the East Coast, spending a lot of time in places like Washington, D.C., Baltimore, New York City, Boston, and Toronto.

These are two pictures from Boston that I took while standing in the same spot. We were walking along the "red line" path that takes you past all these historic spots in Boston, and when these photos were taken, we were heading up to Bunker/Breed's Hill.

Above is a cool shot of a new bridge in Boston. I don't know its name. If you do, put it in the "comments" area. Anyway, the bridge is amazing to look at. And for all of you St. Paulites, this was similar to one of the designs rejected for the Wabasha Bridge reconstruction project that ended a couple of years ago.

Below is a photo of some rocks below the bridge I was crossing at the time. I have no idea how that jockstrap got there. It baffles me just as much as shoes on the highway. I don't get it.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Culture vs. Economy

--Who are you?
--What is your destination?
--Who is your captain?

These are three classic questions signaled from passing ships. H. Michael Hartoonian, an expert in the field of American cultural studies, asks these questions routinely while giving addresses.

The point, obvious or not, is to incite the individual to conduct a philosophical analysis of one's self. This is not meant to be a one-time inquiry, however. Instead, the hope is that through careful introspection we uncover who we really are, our wants and desires, and our ability to take control of our own lives and culture.

Speaking of culture, Hartoonian has also proposed that we look at "culture" and "economy" as two entities on opposite ends of a continuum. Like this:


You might remember this continuum from your high school government class:


These two continuums are not (necessary) related to one another, but I digress. Anyway, Hartoonian claims that our society is constantly defining itself along the culture/economy continuum by the decisions we make in our private, public, and political lives.

What does this have to do with anything?

A lot, and anyone who saw yesterday's Paris-Roubaix bicycle race saw this culture/economy battle play out on the biggest stage in one-day bicycle racing calendar. Mere kilometers from the finish line, a freight train forced two groups chasing the race leader to slow, with one group forced to stop completely.

[photo caption]World Champion Tom Boonen, Alessandro Ballan, and Juan Antonio Flecha are forced to yield to a French freight train. (photo courtesy: Graham Watson)

Somehow, some way, the "Queen of the (one-day) Classics" -- an immense cultural event in both the cycling world and in northern France -- was brought to a complete standstill by a train carrying economic wares.

The final score from yesterday's Paris-Roubaix classic:
Economics: 1
Culture: 0
[photo caption] Though Boonen would later say, "Normally you don't have the chance to look around like that. The birds were flying, the sun was shining and a train passed us, it was beautiful," this photo seems to depict Boonen frantically looking behind him in an effort to spot any chase groups behind his own. Awfully nice of him to insult our intelligence after the fact, however. (photo courtesy: Graham Watson)

PS: Belgian racer Peter Van Petegem receives "props" for calling all of France out, declaring, "It was all very strange that in one of the top races in the season and a train is passing that could make the difference between winning and losing. In Belgium for sure they would try to stop the train." Petegem, who finished third, was later disqualified for going around the railroad crossing arms.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Borton - Whalen = Mess

[photo caption] University of Minnesota womens' basketball coach Pam Borton with the player she owes her job to -- former Gopher All-American Lindsey Whalen. (photo courtesy Augusta Chronicle)

With regard to the exodus en masse from the University of Minnesota womens' basketball team, Tuffy has learned so Tuffy must report the following:

--Contrary to media reports elsewhere, the reason that five players announced that they were quitting the team is fairly straightforward. Keep reading.

--According to Tuffy's sources, exit meetings for all players took place early last week. During one of these meetings, Coach Pam Borton was told by one prominent outgoing senior in no uncertain terms that

1) The players no longer respected Borton, largely based on her treatment of forward Jamie Broback this season, which included a month-long suspension early in the season and repeated benchings late in the season
2) The players were disgusted at the way that Borton ripped Broback in the media, especially late in the season
3) The players were tired of Borton openly and often publicly calling some of her players "selfish"
4) The players felt that the only capable and knowledgeable coach on the staff was Assistant Coach David Stromme
5) The players felt that certain players were being discriminated against

--Following this pivotal meeting, Coach Borton notified Stromme that his contract would not be renewed, essentially firing the coach most popular among the players.

--While Stromme's firing was announced to the media on Tuesday, both he and the team had been notified last week. It was Stromme's firing that "broke the dam", so to speak.

--Soon after Stromme's release, Lauren Lacey and Brittney Davis requested and received release from their scholarships at the university to pursue transfers.

--Then, on Monday, Broback announced she was leaving the team. Broback did not seek a release.

--On Tuesday, Broback's roommate Liz Podominick also announced she was leaving the team. Podominick will continue at the U, focusing on her abilities as an Olympic-class thrower on the track and field team.

--Then, on Wednesday, Natasha Williams announced that she too was leaving the school, requesting a release from her scholarship.

Where do we go from here?
--Athletic Director Joel Maturi is risking setting a dangerous precedent if he would fire Borton due to complaints leveled at her by her players. This is dangerous because it could put a seed in other athletes' minds in other sports at the U that if they complain loud enough, Maturi just might listen.

--Based on the concern above, Tuffy is predicting that Maturi will wait until after next season to fire Borton. The logic used at that time will be declining success of the team, as the team went to the Sweet 16 in Borton's first year, the Final Four in year two, the Sweet 16 in year three, and a first round NCAA loss this season. It looks to be nearly impossible for next year's team to make the NCAA tournament, making Maturi's decision next spring fairly easy.

--Something else to consider is how much of Borton's success should actually be attributed to former Head Coach Brenda Frese. Frese, known as Brenda Oldfield during her year with the Gophers, coached the team during the 2001-02 season and recently took her new team, the University of Maryland Terrapins, to the NCAA Championship. And it was Frese, not Borton, who recruited a lot of the talent that allowed the Gophers to make the Final Four in 2004.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Dan Barreiro vs. Tuffy

[photo caption] Twins catching sensation Joe Mauer. Or, in Barreiro's world, embattled Twins catcher Joe Mauer. (photo courtesy TwinsFanatnicks.Blogspot.Com)

I have a guilty habit: I listen to talk-radio. A lot.

And much of the time I end up being disgusted in what I hear. The simple-minded, non-original logic used as well as the endless raping of the English language employed is killing my brain cells at a higher rate than my drinking in college ever did.

Whoops, I just dated myself.


This morning I arise to hear the sounds of the Tuffymutt crying to be let outside (followed soon after by the sounds of the Tuffymutt crying to be let inside and out of the rain).

Then, I logged-on to the computer, and I tuned-in the last fifteen minutes of the "Sunday Sermons" show on KFAN hosted by Dan Barreiro.

I didn't have to wait long for my brow to become furrowed, as Dan was railing (again) against Twins' catcher Joe Mauer, stating that "Mauer cannot be considered a great hitter until he drives in more runs (RBIs' in baseball parlance)."

Now we need to provide some history here. Dan Barreiro has been against Joe Mauer since the day the Twins drafted him directly out of Cretin-Derham Hall High on June 5, 2001 with the first overall pick in the draft. At that time, Barreiro was livid that the Twins had chosen Mauer ahead of University of Southern California pitcher Mark Prior.

To be fair to Barreiro, the prevailing thought at the time was that Prior would be a sure thing -- a perennial 20-game winner and the ace of a team's staff for years to come. Unfortunately for Prior, chosen immediately after Mauer by the Chicago Cubs, his career thus far has been something of a disappointment, suffering a seemingly unending string of injuries and never winning those 20 games in a season (though he did reach 18 in 2003).

Again, to be fair to Barreiro, it was also very clear that part of the reason the Twins selected Mauer was a flagrant attempt to raise attendance once Mauer, St. Paul's native son, reached the big leagues.

But Barreiro has never been fair to Mauer. Never.

Once Barreiro declared that the Twins made a mistake in picking Mauer and that Prior would end up having a far better career than Mauer would, Barreiro has failed to see the error of his ways. Even though Mauer has meet or exceeded all of the Twins expectations thus far -- and that Prior's long-term career outlook is in doubt -- Barreiro refuses to reassess his original statement from 2001, admit that he was wrong, and move on.

No one would fault Barreiro for doing so, but his immense ego will not allow him to fess up.

It has gotten to the point that Barreiro has turned into the boy who cried wolf -- a character who is so baseless in his proclamations about Mauer that no one takes him seriously on the subject anymore.

Fast forward to this morning, with Barreiro declaring that, "Mauer cannot be a great hitter until he drives in more runs."

This ridiculous statement forced me to send an on-air e-mail to Barreiro that read as follows:
You show your baseball ignorance when you disparage Joe Mauer's low RBI numbers. RBIs are largely a function of the batters in front of Mauer getting themselves on-base and into scoring position. Look into it.

Immediately coming out of the next commercial break, Barreiro responded to my e-mail on-air claiming that the ability of the batters in front of Mauer getting themselves on-base and into scoring position is not the only factor determinant of RBI production while also challenging me to come up with my own research.

Umm, isn't that your job, Barreiro? Or is your job simply to vomit up baseless proclamations?

But I'll take you up on your challenge. Here goes.

First, some baseline stats regarding Mauer's hitting prowess:
--Mauer's career batting average is .297
--In his first (injury-shortened) season in 2004, Mauer hit .308
--In 2005, his first full season, a 21 year-old Mauer hit .294
--Mauer's career on-base percentage is .371
--Mauer's strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2005 was 64/61, a near 1/1 ratio, which is incredibly rare in the major leagues
--Equally incredible, Mauer hit .364 with a 1.000 on-base percentage when he was down in the count 0 balls and 2 strikes
--And, evidence of the opposition's fear of Mauer, he was 4th overall in the major leagues last year in intentional walks, garnering 12

Now, admittedly, none of these statistics specifically addresses Barreiro's concern regarding Mauer's RBI production.

This stat does, however:
--Mauer's batting average with runners in scoring position in 2005 was .331 -- 37 POINTS HIGHER THAN HIS OVERALL BATTING AVERAGE!

Barreiro argued that Mauer's slugging percentage (the amount of bases gained per at-bat) was limiting his RBI output. So, let's look at that:
--Mauer's career slugging percentage is .440
--In 2005, Mauer's slugging percentage was .411

Comparing Mauer to other elite catchers, we find that Mauer's slugging percentage-to-RBIs were comparable in 2005:
--Joe Mauer (MIN): .411 SLG / 55 RBIs
--Ivan Rodriguez (DET): .444 SLG / 50 RBIs
--A.J. Pierzynski (CWS): .420 SLG / 56 RBIs
--Paul Lo Duca (FLA): .380 SLG / 57 RBIs
--Javy Lopez (BAL): .458 SLG / 49 RBIs
--Jorge Posada (NYY): .430 SLG / 71 RBIs
--Mike Piazza (NYM): .452 SLG / 62 RBIs
--Jason Varitek (BOS): .489 SLG / 70 RBIs

Again, Mauer's slugging percentage-to-RBIs statistics are comparable to the elite catchers in the major leagues. And note: I did not include the middling to poor catchers in the major leagues for comparison, whose numbers Mauer dwarfs.

Closed-circuit to Barreiro: Mauer is doing everything within his abilities to gain RBIs. The fact of the matter is that the batters ahead of him are not, themselves, getting in scoring position.

I did your job for you, providing you the research, and filling at least 20 minutes of your show time next week.

You're welcome.

Now, feel free to go back to your mindless banter.


Saturday, April 01, 2006

I Need These

HED Stalingrad Wheel

Steve Hed hand casts each wheel from extra virgin Minnesota taconite. The new HED Stalingrad. The world’s first cast iron wheel. Light doesn’t always mean right. Ever wish you could soar down a mountain like Paolo (Il Falco) Salvodelli ? Are your descents as slow as Beloki’s and equally as frightful ? Well fear not. Adhering to his philosophy of “optimal wheel choice tailored for the factors inherent to each particular race” , Steve Hed has once again forged ahead in developing a revolutionary new approach to wheel design hand casting each wheel from extra virgin Minnesota taconite. In tribute to the Red Army - whose brave few (1.7 million) surrounded and steamrolled the frozen remnants of the invading German 6th Army at Stalingrad - and, in keeping with the success of our Bastogne wheel - we proudly offer the ultimate descent wheel. With a weight just under 47 pounds, you too will be able to descend like a Russian submarine. And when riders hear you rumble up behind them - demanding their surrender - you’ll surely hear them mutter to each other “... get the hell out of the way, this guy is nuts...!”

Quantity in Basket: none

[advertisement courtesy World Cycling Productions, www.worldcycling.com]