As my wife and I drove down Empire Road in Copake on Saturday, we came upon a yard sale. I saw, on top of a stack of books, “Slaying the Badger” by Richard Moore. I had heard of the book during an interview with Andy Hampsten. It is subtitled: “Greg LeMond, Bernard Hinault and the Greatest Tour de France”. (Moore discusses, at the end, whether it was the “greatest” TdF.) The Badger is Hinault and most people in the book simply refer to him as “Le Blaireau”.

It is the story of the 1986 Tour, in which Hinault was seeking his sixth win and LeMond his first. I use “seeking” advisedly because a central, and never quite resolved, theme of the book is whether Hinault was trying to win or whether, as he insists, he was helping his teammate LeMond to get the win (as LeMond had helped Hinault get his fifth win the year before). I remember watching bits of the event. I think by then, with LeMond and the appearance for the first time of an American team, 7-Eleven (with Eric Heiden among its members), it was carried in a stand-alone show on CBS. (NBC had earlier put highlights into coverage of other sports.)

The book is divided into two parts, the background of the participants and the 1986 race itself and, strangely, the second part is somewhat anticlimactic, in part because we know the outcome.  Were that all this book was about, it would be interesting but not much more.

What makes it more is part 1. Moore interviewed most of the major players, including the protagonists in their native habitats of Brittany (Hinault) and Minnesota (LeMond). We hear from Hampsten, Aussie Phil Anderson, Canadian Steve Bauer, Urs Zimmermann (of Switzerland, who would finish 3rd), and Jean-François Bernard (thought to be Hinault’s successor, he never quite made it), among others.

You would think at the highest level, there’d be a villain or two. We know that Lance Armstrong was a jerk, but although Hinault was a predecessor of Armstrong as Le Patron, or Boss, of the Tour, he comes off well. His motives in the 86 Tour may be suspect, but the Badger is seen as a incredibly motivated and stubborn fellow but ultimately a pretty nice guy. LeMond is universally seen, including by himself, as a flake, who proudly says he was “diagnosed” as having ADHD. There’s a hint of “Greg’s first thought was always Greg” but he too comes across as a really nice guy; he’s a great interviewee. (The one person who’s not so great is Bernard Tapie, owner of the team on which Hinault, LeMond, Hampsten, Bauer, and Bernard.)

Drugs? They’re not mentioned, but it seems plain that these guys were not using, although this is a reference to LeMond riding “with one leg”, which could be taken to mean he was not using while others (not Hinault) were. Indeed one of the funnier items is how LeMond dealt with drug-control at the 86 Tour. Not to cheat on it but to make sure that he had proof that his sample was untainted including by using spring water to rinse out everything into which his piss went and putting his fingerprint on the “B” sample vial because he was afraid that the French might spike his sample.

The big what-if of the story is what would have happened if LeMond and Hinault were on different teams in 85 and 86. That they both rode for La Vie Claire made things difficult. And it creates an air of artificiality in both Tours because it suggests that LeMond let Hinault win in 85 and Hinault agreed to let LeMond take the 86 title. Moore points out this tension and the fact that people don’t go into cycling as a team sport yet in the end they can end up being subject to team rules (while, it needs be said, benefiting from the strength of a strong team, as La Vie Claire was, a team built for the GC without a sprinter in sight.

There are a trio of books on the recent years of the Tour that tell the various stories. There’s David Walsh’s “From Lance to Landis” and Tyler Hamilton’s “The Secret Race“, the latter a must-read for those who want to know just how it was done. “Slaying the Badger” is about the era before the drugs took over. Naive? Hampsten has long been among my favorite riders. In interviews, he talks of how in the early 90s he was in the best shape of his career and suddenly he couldn’t keep up with the Peleton on the climbs. That’s when he knew there was a new world in professional cycling. That didn’t happen to him in 86, or in 88 when he won the Giro. I think of him as the Spotted Owl of the field.

A final point. One of the twists in the 86 Tour was that the riders had no radios. LeMond and Hinault agree that they make race more of a test for its participants, even though LeMond missed an attach by Hinault which he would have learned of had he a radio. Riders nowadays say they need the radio for safety, and can point to the disarray this year when a bus got caught under the finish banner and the race finish was moved up. It takes one more thing out of the race. I think that’s bad.

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I wrote about my run last Saturday with VCTC. I ran with them — actually with one person — yesterday and it was another enjoyable day in the park, a bit over an hour, close to 8 min. pace.

Before starting, I made a video of the Van Cortlandt track. After the run, three local runners, I think they’re Ethiopian, were circling the track metronomically, looking to be doing beautiful tempos.

I haven’t posted in quite a while. The vagaries of my running since the last one helps to explain that.

Today I had a good run. I’ve been plagued by stuff and when it finally seemed behind me I was having basic-running problems. In the spring, I found that if I found my Goldilocks pace, I was fine. But I’ve had trouble re-finding it. Plus no matter how slowly I went, I died. I was in a 20-30 minute rut with runs of Herculean struggle in their final stages. So last Saturday I decided to venture down to Van Cortlandt  to run with the Van Cortlandt Track Club. (Right now, I am running unattached (insofar as I am running). I planned to join VCTC a while back, but running set-backs have put such plans on hold.)

I figured, correctly, that if I ran with some of those guys at a more-controlled pace, I could sustain a decent run. This would be in contrast with my old runs with Warren Street or with Bobby, Paul, et al. at the Rockies in which I found myself struggling to keep up. So last week it was around VCP’s parade grounds — the flats for XC races — and then up the Putnam Trail, into Westchester (where it is paved). I turned at 25 minutes and headed back on my own, getting to 45 minutes, over 15 more than I’d managed for months. Plus while I was tired late, I never had the blowing-up struggles of prior runs.

This was a turning-point for me. I followed it with a 40 minuter on the roads and 37 from home onto Nature Study and back, both in high humidity. Beautiful weather today. But there was no one from the club who would be going fast enough so I headed out on my own. I did the same as last week, hitting the 25 minute mark at almost exactly the same spot as last week but continued until just past 30. The paved path in Westchester is flat at first but then begins a gradually up-incline. (This is the South County Trailway and you can take it all the way through the County.) I turned just past 30 minutes and now had a very nice slight downhill. Of course this meant that my pace started to pick up and I found myself locked into a pretty solid pace.

It’s amazing how free one can feel on a path in the Bronx. Low 7s/high 6s but I felt great. The feeling that sucks you into this whole running insanity. Off the trail and up to the parade grounds, now with numerous college and hs teams milling about in their matching warm-ups. This, of course, meant that there could be no easing back. I decided t complete the counter-clockwise loop and finish at the XC finish line. That last half-mile from the north edge was not pleasant but when I crossed under the banner I stopped. 55 and change.

this bell’s been run many times before. Like running, though, this stuff can only be taken one step at a time.

For a while I’ve been playing with an acoustic meetup group in Larchmont.  I bring my guitar, but generally play electric bass. The format: each participant brings copies of a song, passes them around, and away we go. Often, the first run-through is pretty ragged so we do it again. Then it can sound quite good. I find a bass-line, most of the guitars get the rhythm, and the rest put in nice fills. It’s something you can do with acoustics but more than a couple of electrics is really hard to pull-off. Neil Young, Stones, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell. That kind of thing. A broad range of ages. Ten or more guitars and the bass. Last night, I brought in Jackson Browne’s “Late for the Sky”. In college Browne and Springsteen were the pillars of my musical tastes (and when Browne was inducted into the hall-of-fame it was Springsteen who introduced him).

After everyone finishes after an hour-and-a-half or so, there’s a “performance” segment. When I was last there, I wasn’t willing to try one of my own songs. I thought of Julie doing her stuff on stage but wimped out. You see, doing so means I have to sing, and I’m not confident in that.

This time I was determined. So I went through my stuff and came out with my sappiest one, “Awake”. It’s a simple song and not too long, which is why I picked it. I wrote it after awakening from an involuntary nap on a Saturday afternoon. When Guy asked “does anyone want to perform?” I said I did.

It’s a slowish piece, although it picks up towards the end with a key change. (Nothing fancy, from C to G.) It starts with a simple finger-picking (I don’t use a pick) of the melody into an Am, G, F, Em, F, G line. The playing didn’t go as well as I hoped. There are folks at the meetup who really can play the guitar. I’m not one of them.

Fortunately, the song turns into basic chords, so that was when I felt more comfortable. C, F, C, F, C, G. I soldiered on, emotions mixed between enjoying the fact that I was doing it and hoping it would just be over. To me the performance is not the performance per se but the chance to perform my music and my lyrics. People did say nice things about the song, which I like to think were heart-felt.

AWAKE

C
Did I fall asleep?
F C
Did you wake me up?
F C G
Did you tell me you love me?
C
Or am I dreaming still
F C
Am I all alone?
F C G
Far From where I should be
G Am G F Em F G
I’ve known what it’s like to be lonely
G Am G F Em F G
I’ve known what it’s like to be loved
C
When I am by your side
F C
With feelings no dream can hide
F C F C
Will you tell me you love me?

On many mornings
On many evenings
I reach to be sure you’re there
And when I can
Hear you breathing
I know I’m safe in the bed we share
I’ve known what it’s like to be lonely
I’ve known what it’s like to be loved
So when it’s true
That I’m next to you
I can sleep because you’re there.

G
With you I’m no longer the dreamer
C Em Am
Who fears waking up every day
Dm G
Who finds things so much cleaner
Em D D7
Without reality to get in the way

G
When I fall asleep
C G
Please wake me up
C G C D
And tell me you love me
For no matter what the dream
I’ll be all alone
If you’re not next to me
D Em D C Bm C D
I’ve known what it’s like to be lonely
I’ve known what it’s like to be loved
I’d rather stay awake
With your love to take
And know you are next to me
G b ccc d e f e c def ec e d

Not me:

This is me, recorded at home. 2013_07_20 Awake Electric

I thought of doing a program on RunnersRoundTable on building a running-trail site, like WestchesterTrails. I realized video would be the way to go. So I tracked down a site that allows for making videos of screen activity, ScreenR.com, and away I went.

This is how to build your own running-trail web-site from scratch in 25 minutes.

Not much, but more than I expected. Now, at about 6, my right calf is a little tender, but otherwise I am much more optimistic than I’ve been for a while. This was the first run in about three weeks, not counting one in which I made it about 1/2 mile before having to stop. At the Rockies, the group is Bobby P, Charlotte, one of Charlotte’s daughters, and her friend from Rye Brook:

Of course the prior video, from Mount Vernon High School seems like a different world. Ewen suggested that I might want to avoid intense speed-work for injury-avoidance purposes. He may be right. For now, it’s trying to get things back.

Having taken up the bass, I decided to write. It’s hard to do that on the bass so for that I revert to the guitar. I took an on-line course from Berklee College of Music in Boston, as part of the coursera system. On song-writing. There’s a bias that one needn’t/shouldn’t need a course to learn how to write. I found it useful. Boy things can be complicated. But the ideas were mostly about coming up with a structure for your songs.

In the recent Eagles documentary, Glenn Frey said that one has to write lots of bad songs to get a good one. When you write, though, it’s hard to tell which are “bad”. I use time on the subway and bus to write. Lyrics first. Then simple chords. Then fleshing out. I’m having problems with choruses. Strangely, the tunes that bounce around my head are of songs that I’ve written. Each has its own personality and they needn’t be autobiographical, although some are.

I can’t sing, but that doesn’t matter in the confines of my den, where I usually play. I want to improve because I enjoy singing them. And there’s the dream of doing it before other people.

When I say each has its own personality, it’s that they each have, I think, a unique sound. Even if there’s overlap on the topic.

I read this article, on a 2 train in Brooklyn as it happens, about the “Brooklynization” of music. It’s a call-to-arms of maintaining one’s own, or at least one’s own regional, sound. As a guy writing on subways and playing in a den, it’s a reminder akin to what bloggers should remember, that no one else cares what you say, or write, or sing. Or that you should act as if no one does and then everything is gravy.

You create characters. On Friday, for example, I put together some lines on the subway and got a verse-and-a-half. I had no idea where it was going  but when I put it to music — C F C G F C, as simple as it gets — hitting the lower strings of the guitar it had a Springsteen “Nebraska”-era sound. The start could have gone either way, but as lines were added I realized that the guy I was writing about was going to die. Turns out, he died in a “silly street fight” after “he was caught up in a lie”. I don’t know his name, in fact he went to a new town where “no one knew his name”, but he left a young child (the toddler next-door wandered about as I was working), a daughter, in a town far away, who he never really knew and would always wonder why he “gave up on her”.

New Town
                       C
He didn’t know anyone cdcdec
C
But he went anyway cddcde
 C                       F
He needed something different cdcdfc
F                        C
So he couldn’t just stay cdcde
                        G
It was a long trip ffefgd
                         F
Made longer by delay dddcde
                          C
He didn’t know anyone cdcdec
G                       C
But he went anyway cddede

Wasn’t what he expected.
He thought it right for a new start.
Sure it had museums and things.
He hadn’t come for the art.
Soon he was settled in
In the next to the toughest part.
Wasn’t what he expected.
He thought it right for a new start.

Chorus: G   C   G   F  C   G

Things had not gone the way he thought they would.
Sometimes he didn’t understand; he always tried to do good.
Was it too late to change? He needed to know.
Which is why he couldn’t stay but needed to go.

The days were getting longer.
Lots of things to be thought through.
He left a small child,
Who he never really knew.
He felt it made him a coward.
But it was all that he could do.
The days were getting longer.
Lots of things to be thought through.

He started as a stranger.
No one knew his name.
Free of all the baggage
He’d shed before he came.
Hoping that having done so,
Things wouldn’t be the same.
He started as a stranger.
No one knew his name.

[CHORUS]

But it didn’t matter.
He was the same man deep down,
Whether he had stayed home,
Or moved to this new town.
He couldn’t change things,
In the end he’d have to drown,
It just didn’t matter,
He was the same man deep down.

It was a silly street fight,
And a stupid way to die.
He had gotten hostile,
When he was caught up in a lie.
He had the chance to back-out,
He didn’t even try.
It was a silly street fight,
And a stupid way to die.

For no reason
He’d orphaned his flesh and blood,
Who’d never understand
Why he just gave up on her.
He never really knew her,
Didn’t want to drag her through the mud.
For no reason
He’d orphaned his flesh and blood.

(All rights reserved.)

Things were going well. Then they weren’t. So no need to choose between the Litchfield and Rockies races. After everything was falling into place — solid long runs at a proper pace, some track speed, dreams of racing — I was hit with a pain in the hamstring. Just when I was getting through that, on an eight-miler I was hit with something in the Achilles tendon at five-and-a-half. These are things that even a few years ago would be gone in a few days. Now it’s a matter of weeks and I feel no closer to being able to run today than I did a week ago, when things collapsed a half-mile in.

So I don’t know whether this is the end.

Sunday Morning Racing Blues

Gm Blues: Gm, D7, Gm, Gm,  Cm, Cm, Gm, Gm, Cm, D7, Gm, D7

It’s nearly seven and I can’t find my racing shoes.
I should’ve taken them out, I can’t find my racing shoes.
I really need to calm down.
I’ve got the Sunday morning racing blues.

Deep breath, I’ve got everything, time to head into town.
Ready as I’ll ever be, time to head into town.
I’ve been doing this a long time.
Yet each race I get so tightly wound.

Check bag, pin number, do some jogging and I’m good.
I’ve made it here, things taken care of, and I’m good.
Get to the start line.
Try to line up where I should.

A little bit of a wait now, try not to lose adrenaline.
Feel excitement fading, try to keep the adrenaline.
You just have to trust yourself.
And the shape that you are in.

Finally the horn goes, bit of jostling left and right.
Now people are moving, bit of jostling left and right.
I need to keep my composure.
Not let the leaders get out of sight.

Suddenly it’s Cat Hill then float through mile one.
Wave to the cat and then float through mile one.
Time to check and collect myself.
This race’s only just begun.

Starting to get tough, three to go and running fast.
Opening juice gone, three to go and running fast.
Breathing harder, quads streaming.
I swear this race will be my last.

Heading to the transverse, 2 mile water stop coming up.
Left on the transverse, 2 mile water stop coming up.
Douse myself with the first, drink the second cup.

Turn left on the West Drive, and starting to feel the pain.
This is where it all matters, starting to feel the pain.
I just want to stop and not do any of this again.

Somehow I drag my bones and get through the third mile.
Over those little hills and somehow through the third mile.
Although it’s mostly downhill, the final stretch will take a while.

Finally the last left turn and the finish comes into view.
Around that Webster statue and the finish comes into view.
Pick it up a little bit, to gain a second or two.

Through the finish and all I want to do is stop.
Please Mr. Marshall just give me a moment and let me stop.
Keep on moving they tell me, which I should do or I might drop.

Every time I do this I hate it hate it hate and vow not to come back.
It’s like this every time, I swear I won’t be back.
Now that it’s over I want to shave a few seconds, see you Tuesday on the track.

Mary Cain ran a 4:04.62 1500 last night in California. It would apparently be the second-fastest 1500 ever by a US collegian (behind Jenny B.) if Cain weren’t a junior in high school. And the second-fastest 1500 runner in a US high school is Jordan Hasay, all of 10 seconds slower.

Although I’ve been paying attention to what she’s been doing I’ve not written because she has moved on.  A friend who was much more knowledgeable than I could ever be pointed out to me last fall that Cain already had done the high-school team thing about which I said she would be missing. This year she’s shown on the track that she is in fact well beyond the high-school racing thing. I don’t know that she’s elite quite yet. She is knocking on the door. She’s learning how to race and is showing no intimidation. She seems to be racing a lot, but I’m sure everyone is being very careful about it. It is clear, though, that she is well past high school and may have leap-frogged most college runners (she’s beating them routinely now).

It is unfathomable what she goes through. We get anxious about our little 5Ks, races about which no one else cares. For her, there was a LetsRun thread before last night’s race speculating on how fast she’d run (including “let’s get real, sub 4:06 isn’t going to happen this season”, apparently from a Romney pollster). Every couple of weeks we get a where-is-she-going-to-college? thread (and there’s a when-is-she-going-pro? thread now).

Yet she hasn’t had a sub-par race. To the contrary, she’s faster. The last disappointing race I recall from her, going by memory, was indoors in 2012 when she was racing at a high level although not doing much speedwork so it was only disappointing that she was not winning for those who thought she was in full racing-shape at the time when she was training for outdoors. In fact, since I started paying attention, I think the only truly disappointing race she’s had was in the 1500 at Nationals as a freshman, the day after her 2:03.74 800 leg, and I think that she suffered from that 800 in the 1500. That’s a virtually unblemished record under incredible scrutiny.

She just turned 17.

I almost ran into her last week. We were both doing speedwork in the same lane at the same time in opposite directions. She deferred to me, I to her. We missed.  (She was just doing end-of-workout 200 pick-ups.) Yes, there’s a reason one goes counter-clockwise doing speedwork.

I thought Alberto Salazar gave a nice interview about the race and Cain’s progress.

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