Not-Quite-Liveblog: 2009 TdF, Stage 1

07.4.2009 | 10:16 am

Just a quick level-set here: I don’t actually plan to liveblog any of the stages of this TdF — the time the stages air conflict smack-dab with my riding time. And as excited as I am about this Tour, it’s more important to me to get a daily ride in.

Further, I’ve got a mental energy problem. Liveblogging requires that I be "on," and right now, my mind is elsewhere. So some stages, I won’t post anything at all.

Finally, you’ll want to be sure to be check in on Monday, because I’ll be announcing a very exciting new contest, as well as a giveaway exclusively for Team Fatty San Jose. I guarantee that the prizes for both of these contests are going to make your jaws drop. And I wouldn’t be surprised if a whole bunch of people suddenly join Team Fatty San Jose so they can get a shot at that prize.

10:44 – Please note that the times I’m posting are the times I watch, not the times the events actually occurred. Because, you see, I feel that the time I watch something is more important than when the event happened. I’m sure you agree.

10:45 -  Lance is the first person I see begin his stage. I have to say, this is a pretty exciting moment. Honestly, this is bound to be an incredibly dramatic Tour.

10:47 – In the pre-race show, I could have sworn that Team Fatty member Bob Roll pronounced "Tour de France" correctly. Slip of the tongue, or contractual obligation?

10:48 - By the way, Craig Hummer is anchoring. In the interest of blood pressure optimization, I hereby resolve to not get irritated by every little thing he says.

10:51 – In the interview before the Armstrong rides, it’s interesting to hear him say, "Contador’s the leader for now." Clearly, this matter is not settled.

10:55 – I watch these guys and the position they hold during these TTs, and I wonder how it’s possible to ride so flat for so long. I bet the fact that they don’t have their knees pushing into their stomachs helps.

10:57 – Armstrong through the first time check, currently in first.

10:58 – You know what’s fun? Listening to Phil and Paul gush over Armstrong again. Hearing these two go on about him is like coming home after a long trip.

10:59 – "There are no words to describe this magnificent athlete." Except of course the million or so words they’ll dedicate to him over the course of the next few weeks.

11:00 – Since I didn’t mention that I’d be delayed-blogging this, I’m pretty sure nobody is reading this as I write it. That is perfectly fine. I’m using this blog to write the things I’d say out loud if there were anyone in the room watching this with me. Except I won’t ask you to go get me another Diet Coke.

11:03 – Another thing I hadn’t thought of in years: Lance’s most identifiable feature during a TT is his hump. That hump is remarkable.

11:05 – Lance has the current best time: 20:12. With so many people still to begin, though, that time is just an enormous target. No way will it stand.

11:07 – The camera followed Armstrong for the entire TT. I wonder how many other cyclists will get the same kind of attention (hint: either one or none).

11:08 – Wow, Leipheimer’s socks seem especially tall. practically come up to his knees.

11:10 – Tony Martin’s time check is faster than Armstrong by 12 seconds. Phil and Paul commence Lance Armstrong apologetics.

11:12 – Not to be rude or anything, but Tony Martin just handled a downhill hairpin really badly. As in, I could do better. But on the other hand, I’ve never ridden a TT bike.

11:14 – Just zoomed past several commercials. Every commercial break has a Cadillac ad. Each of which features a sultry woman and does not even remotely pretend to mention that they also sponsor a cycling team (which is not at the Tour).

11:17 – David Millar’s on his way. Good for him.

11:18 – Hey, it looks like Versus is partnering with Bicycling Magazine for the TdF.

11:20 – And Leipheimer, who got around four seconds worth of video coverage during his ride, moves into top position. Tony Martin evidently overcame his prissy hairpin execution and was faster than Armstrong too. I must have missed that when I was talking about Cadillac. Priorities, you know.

11:22 – I really enjoy fast forwarding past commercials as I watch this. I think that even if I do have a stage I could watch live I’ll wait for forty minutes, just to give myself the pleasure of skipping the endless Cadillac and ED ads.

11:27 – Leipheimer’s being interviewed. Right after Leipheimer said he had a not-great ride, the interviewer asked how he felt about his ride. Nice work, Frankie. Sterling interviewing. Pfff.

11:29 – Wow, Millar locked his bike up in that hairpin, barely missing the barrier in a hairpin. I should probably revise my assertion that I could handle those hairpins better than these guys. Cameras often make slopes look a lot flatter than they are.

11:31 – Millar’s across, doesn’t beat Leipheimer, but is good enough for fifth (for now). I think I’ll fast-forward a bit.

11:34 – Just hopped forward 45 minutes or so, and feel pretty pleased with myself for having done so, because the top 5 has not changed. I believe I’ll zip forward another fifteen minutes.

11:36 – OK, now I’m on Dave Zabriskie. But not literally. Do you suppose he applies DZNuts even for a short ride like this? Because he should. He should make a point of wearing it ALL THE TIME, NO MATTER WHAT. Including when he’s not riding.

11:38 – And there’s Kloden. Evidently I magically fast forwarded right to the correct spot to start watching again. I am so pleased with myself. In fact, I feel downright smug.

11:47 – Susan’s awake now, so I’m putting both this Liveblog and the watching of this stage on hold for a bit.

4:51 – OK, I am back. Aren’t you relieved?

4:52 – I’ve been watching some of this while I made guacamole for the impending family barbecue. During which Kloden moved into first place. I posit, indeed, that Kloden moved into first because I was making guacamole while I watched him race. Even though he had actually raced approximately five hours before I made the guacamole. Such is the power of the avacado.

4:56 – Everyone’s on the road.

4:57 – You know, Contador doesn’t have a lot of excess fat. He also doesn’t have a lot of non-excess fat.

4:58 – It occurs to me that doing these non-live blogs is a bad idea. I don’t read your comments as I write, because they have spoilers. And you can’t follow along the race as I write, so my comments are kind of non-contextual.

5:00 – Contador has the fastest time at the time check.

5:01 – I will never ever ever get used to the crowds getting so close to the cyclists. Cadel Evans hasd a couple of yahoos standing and yelling right where the best line looked to be. I propose that as bikes get lighter and lighter, cyclists should be allowed to mount small cannons on their handlebars, the weight of which would be included in the UCI bike weight.

5:03 – Bradley Wiggins moved in to first place.

5:04 – You know I didn’t really have any expectations for this stage, but from the look of the road, this is really a tricky and interesting course.

5:06 – Cancellara moves into the lead Or rather, he roughly shoulders everyone aside moving into the lead. Twenty seconds, this late in the stage. Wow. Phil and Paul go crazy.

5:08 – Contador takes what would have been first place if it hadn’t been for Cancellara’s incredible performance. Now it’s good for second.

5:09 – Consider how many Astana guys are in the top 10. Is it conceivable that Astana could sweep the Paris podium? That would be incredible.

5:10 – Cadel Evans takes 5th. A solid effort, upon which he could have improved by going faster.

5:11 – Here comes Carlos Sastre. This guy’s one of my favorite perennial TdF contenders, but he seems to be getting a little b5:it of the Rodney Dangerfield treatment. 21st over the line.

5:13 – Naturally, Phil and Paul are obsessing over the "Who leads Astana?" question. They’re treating Contador’s impressive performance as the answer. I assert that’s a little bit simplistic.

5:20 - Cancellara’s come up and got his big collection of leaders’ jerseys, and now I find, to my surprise, that I am hanging around to watch the post-race analysis. Here’s the thing: I really love hearing Phil, Paul, and Bob chat.

5:23 – I’m not the only one who finds the Garmin-Slipstream skinsuits disconcerting, right? The long sleeves are close enough to fleshtone that it looks like the skinsuits are sleeveless.

5:26 – Contador gets the climber’s jersey. Why do I find that funny? I can’t help but imagine Contador feels such a jersey might be beneath him.

5:27 – A shot of Phil and Paul, who evidently have no air conditioning in their booth. They are sweating heavily.

5:28 – Another Cadillac ad. Do you suppose they don’t know that Rock Racing isn’t in the Tour? I mean, it’s not a big stretch to imagine Michael Ball implying to the GM brass that they were, without technically lying. "It’s the biggest race in the world. Of course we’ll be there." (Not to race, but we’ve got awesome roadside observation points staked out.)

5:31 – And there’s Roll and Hummer. Bob looks sad. Except whenever Hummer says something stupid, at which time Bob has a very particular smile. Hummer’s clearly learned to recognize that smile, and when he sees Bob use it, he quickly rephrases or starts over.

5:33 – Bob asserts that Astana was dominant today. Good thing we have post-race commentary analysis to help us catch the details that we would otherwise miss.

5:35 – Frankie asks Cancellara what it was like to put on the yellow jersey. Cancellara affirms that he liked it. Seriously, Frankie, you need a new guy to feed you questions.

5:37 – Hummer wraps up, and you know what? He did a good summary. I am hopeful.

Okay, that’s it. I will not be liveblogging stage 2 or 3, though I may possibly liveblog other people’s liveblogs. Just to be ultra-meta.

And now, I’m off to get to work on the burgers and set things on fire. Happy Independence Day, U.S.A.!


Fifteen Minutes of Shame

07.2.2009 | 12:54 am

A Note from Fatty: Thanks to everyone who commented yesterday and thanks especially to the dozens of people who sent email volunteering to help out with plane vouchers. Susan took much less pain medication on Tuesday, and the nausea stopped. Susan spent most of the day sleeping. Since the pain is much worse when she moves, we agreed that she should stay in bed yesterday. We’ll take each day as it comes as to what to do next.

Yesterday (Tuesday), for the first time since I was in college, I went to court. Back in college I went because I heard you could get the fine for a speeding ticket reduced just by showing up, and back then I had more time than money.

This time, I went because Dug and I had thrown a rock off Vertigo Void during last RAWROD (and Brandon had captured the moment on video with his Blackberry), and a court appearance was mandatory.

The Part About Throwing Rocks Off Cliffs

Before I got a call from the Park Service on May 18, I had no idea that throwing a rock off a cliff was an illegal act.

Well, it is. And there are good reasons, too.

  • You could hit a person
  • You could hit an animal
  • You could hit something of historical significance, like a rock carving

Now, when Dug and I had thrown that rock off Vertigo void, I had perfect confidence — it’s an overhang, not a cliff, with a clear view of the area where the rock will land — that we would not hit a person or any animal larger than a chipmunk (by the way, a chipmunk has made its home in my garage, and I would appreciate tips on getting it to relocate).

But could there have been rock carvings I hit and ruined without knowing? Yes. And that makes me feel bad. I’m never tossing another rock off Vertigo Void or elsewhere. Because it’s not legal, and because it’s possible to do real damage to something valuable you don’t even know exists.

The Part Before the Hearing

After talking with the ranger the first time, I started thinking about what I had done. I really didn’t like the idea of damaging anyone or anything.

So I called the ranger back.

I told him that I have a blog (it turns out he already knew, even though it didn’t come up in our first conversation, since the rock tossing didn’t appear or ever get mentioned in this blog, and in fact I hadn’t known it was even filmed ’til after the ranger called). And I told him that if his aim was to get the word out that this was a bad idea and that it’s illegal, that I could help. I told him that I’d talk about it in my blog. I told him that this could turn out to be a good thing, that I could be his partner in stopping what he clearly sees as a serious problem.

Perhaps, in return, I said, he could recommend that instead of a court date — which he had strongly hinted was otherwise looming — he could send over whatever stiff fine he felt was warranted, and let me use my time to further his cause instead of going to court.

The ranger told me he appreciated the thought and I’d see something in the mail one way or another within the next couple weeks.

200907020045.jpgThe Part About the Hearing

Of course, we got summoned to court. So yesterday, dressed in our Sunday best, Brandon, Dug and I carpooled over to the court in Salt Lake (the ranger had considerately arranged it to be close to where I live because of Susan’s sickness, and I really appreciate it).

As we drove over, we all wondered aloud the same thing: “What special thing do they want from us that can only be obtained in a court?” All three of us had already admitted our part. All three of us said we’d pay a fine if sent one.

I speculated that they were going to press for some very specific things for me to talk about in this blog. That I would make it a primary focus. That there would be interviews. That there would be so many words, so many installments, so many case studies.

We arrived an hour early, and continued to speculate. We had heard that the prosecuting attorney might want to talk with us prior to the hearing, so we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to cooperate and hopefully not have to pay the full $500 fine (each!) we had heard they’d be pressing for. And come to consensus on exactly how much and what topics I’d cover in this blog.

200907020047.jpg When the door opened, we went in and sat down. Then a guy in a suit came in, laughing. Hard. He asked us if we were the guys who threw rocks off cliffs.

I refrained from saying, “you mean allegedly.” My brain-mouth filter was on at 110%.

He then introduced himself as our court-appointed attorney.

Wait. We get an attorney? Awesome. I think.

Anyways, our attorney said he got an email about this case yesterday and ran around the whole office, showing it to everyone. They all thought it was the most hilarious thing they had ever seen. He really really really wanted us to go with “not guilty,” so he could take it to trial. But yeah, we’d have to come back for another day in the courtroom. Saying “No Contest” meant we could pay the fine and be done with it.

At that point, the prosecuting attorney and the defense attorney started their pre-hearing negotiating. “We’re going for $200 each, because this was an outrageous offense by these three mature adults,” said the prosecutor.

The defense guy started laughing his head off. “I’m asking for no fine at all. Everyone throws rocks off cliffs. Until I saw this email, I didn’t know it’s illegal.”

And then, the prosecutor said that the ranger had asked for “something about someone writing something in a blog or whatever those Internet things are called, but I’m not going to bother asking for that.”

The prosecutor then made some sort of dig at the defense attorney that I’m still trying to parse: “Is it true that before work every day, defense lawyers go into a dark closet and laugh for an hour?”

It was both cliche and baffling. How is that possible?

I looked over at Dug to see how he was reacting, and noticed he was biting his tongue so hard that blood was coming out of both corners of his mouth.

Then the hearing itself started. The prosecutor asked for $200 from each of us, the defender told a story about how last weekend he and his whole scout troop had been chucking rocks off cliffs.

The judge said he was going to give us the “collateral” fine, which was $50, plus the $10 processing fee. $60 each.

Then the court clerk guy (quite possible that’s not his official title) chimed in, saying there’d be an additional $25 fee having to do with something about this originating from the Canyonlands.

“What?!” said the judge. I may be reading unintended emotion into this, but it seemed to me that he found the idea of $85 per person ridiculous. “They should each pay a total fine of $60,” concluded the judge.

And it was over. The prosecutor vanished quickly, having successfully garnered 1/8 of what he was asking for and 1/10 what I had been prepared to pay if they had just sent a ticket.

Of course, I still started this post by telling the truth: I’m never throwing rocks off cliffs again. But that’s because I really think the ranger was a good guy doing the right things for the right reasons.

But they could have accomplished — and got — a lot more if they had thought about having a penitent partner, instead of what amounted to 15 minutes in court and a tiny fine ($180, total), which the ranger earned with what looks like around 100 hours or so of research, interviews and investigative work.

Miscellaneous Interesting Facts

As our parting court gifts, we were each given a CD with photos of Vertigo Void and a printout of all the ranger’s notes. Which means that all of the following information is now part of an official court document:

  1. “RAWROD stands for Ride Around the White Rim in One Day.”
  2. Vertigo Void is named such because “When a person lays down on the overhanging rock surface with his or her head beyond the edge, the person can look straigth down approximately 400 feet to the floor of the box canyon and underneath the overhang into the eroded void. This action often produces a sensation of vertigo.”
  3. “‘Fatty’ is the nickname of Elden Clyde NELSON of Alpine, UT.”
  4. “ANDERSON is seen in the video wearing a green bicycling jersey with a white star on the back and plaid shorts.” (Note: am I the only one who thinks that this, too, should have been a misdemeanor? At least?)
  5. “NELSON was unwilling to disclose the name of the other person who helped him throw the rock over the cliff because it did not feel right to him to do so.”
  6. “NELSON said he and ANDERSON are best friends.”
  7. Anderson says “He knows NELSON pretty well.”
  8. “ANDERSON is a conservationist.”
  9. “The possibility of archeological site damage makes [ANDERSON] feel a little bit bad.”
  10. “SMITH inquired as to whether there is any option for SMITH to receive a $50 citation and a warning and denounce the activity on his blog instead of going to court.” (Note: if the ranger had gone along with this, Brandon would have wound up paying $25 more than we did after going to court, once you factor in the $35 worth of fees he would have gotten with that citation.)

PS: Last night Lance Armstrong posted a really thoughtful tweet, which was followed by dozens of retweets. Thanks very much to all of you.   

Update on Susan: July 1

07.1.2009 | 8:19 am

For the past two weeks, I’ve been off work. This is made possible by a really wonderful program Jamie Lewis, CEO of where I work — Burton Group — put into place: employees have the ability to donate their vacation days to another employee. When I put out a request for donations to the company, my fellow employees responded with more days off than I could have ever expected.

Knowing that I have several weeks of time at my disposal has removed a huge mental burden.

I tell you what: Susan’s ordeal with cancer has taught me that given the opportunity, people love to do something good for other people.

And hey, if your organization in the market for in-depth, IT research and advisory services to executives and technologists, now you know that in addition to being stuffed to the gills with tech geniuses (me excluded), Burton Group is also a company with its heart in exactly the right spot. And that counts for a lot, I think.

Time Off

Anyway, after Susan’s collarbone broke, I decided I needed to take three weeks off work, just to spend time with Susan. Mostly, this was because I was panicked that this was the start of a cascade of new problems, and that I needed to take care of her and be with her before the inevitable ramping up of pain medications made it hard for her to focus on the present.

It’s been a terrific two weeks. We haven’t done anything major: just hang out, talk, watch MythBusters (our whole family’s favorite show), and take afternoon naps.

Yesterday, though, things go rotten.

Over the past couple weeks I’ve been perfecting a technique of moving Susan into a sitting position without exerting any strain on her arms at all. I do this by putting one hand under her back, another cradled under her knees, and then swiveling and lifting her in one smooth motion. As I did it yesterday, I actually felt a little rush of pride because I had handled it very fluidly; I assumed it would have made the painful transfer as comfortable as possible.

Instead, Susan started gasping and squeezed her eyes shut. She couldn’t breathe and felt like her ribs were being squeezed.

I got her oxygen machine back on and to her to let her recover before I moved her to the wheelchair. But she wasn’t recovering. She still hurt, bad.

We had to decide: was it better to just lay back down in bed, or finish the transfers out to the family room so she could be with the family? We agreed it would be better to go to bed, but that’s not what she wanted to do.

So I moved her, and she tried to act like it wasn’t that bad. But we both knew it was.

All yesterday, then, I loaded Susan up with morphine from an eyedropper. Even at four times the amount I usually give her, it wasn’t making a dent in her pain. It was, however, making her nauseous, probably because she simply could not eat.

So I sat with her and tried to distract her by reading aloud The Graveyard Book, a Neil Gaiman novel we both started a while back as an audio book, but never finished because we got too busy.

It is so frustrating / enraging to watch your wife suffer and be at a loss as to any way to help.

We always knew things would get worse. We thought that the time of relative ease and stability (I sometimes think of what an odd yardstick we’ve developed for “ease” and “stability”) would make us readier for the bad times.

But they don’t. I don’t think anything really gets you ready. I don’t think that if there were something that got you ready for this that I’d want any part of it.

Help Me Fight

People are of course always asking how they can help, and to tell the truth I often have no idea what kind of help I need. But here’s something some of you may be able to do, if you want.

As you know, one of the ways I’m coping with all this is by trying to convert it into something good: raising money to fight cancer. I’ve got ideas and plans for some really great new giveaways, but a lot of them involve travel, and that’s one nut I have not been able to crack.

So. If you have a lot of frequent flier points, or are sitting on a free flight coupon or otherwise have ways of making it possible to give someone else a round trip ticket, and you’re willing to use your power of flight for good, email me.

I’ll have more updates soon. Meanwhile, thanks for your support. I owe all of you a lot.

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