Wednesday, January 29, 2014

You'll Never Walk Alone

My friend Grogs said told me that whether Liverpool win or lose when your actually in Liverpool you win. I know hundreds of people who have spent many a weekend watching football, drinking swill, dancing at clubs, hitting the seedy streets on stags and hens, and everything in between In Liverpool. I however have not. Living in America most of my adult live has meant I’ve sacrificed doing things that my mates take for granted. Things like going to Liverpool for the weekend.

We celebrated like kids on Christmas when Stevie G calmly tucked home a peno (that shouldn’t have been given) to equalize against an organized and very up for it Aston Villa. We were going to win 3-2, maybe 4-2. We danced in the stands and sang with the Kop. But as the clock quickly approached 90 minutes it became apparent that a draw was going to be a goof result for us. Suarez was getting the crap kicked out of him. Sturridge slowed – lack of game time catching up. Steve G was off his game, and our full backs looked hungover. No super last minute thumper from Steve G. In its place, some golf claps and a slow exit.

My first Anfield experience in 20 years ended in a 2-2 draw. It was a game we were supposed to win at least 3-0. Myself and Grog did the shuffle out of the stadium onto Anfield road, heading toward the boarded up houses like something out of the wire. They call it the Anfield Regeneration Project. It was after a little bit of crowd bumping that we made the democratic decision to have a pint in the nearest pub we could find. This happened to be The Arkles and was indeed a pub for “home fans only”. You don’t get this in the USA. And it’s a shame it has to be like this in the UK but alas some things never change.
‘Order 2 each Kel’, shouted a buoyant Grogzer as he discussed the game in depth with a bloke from Cork.  “Johnsons shite”, and “what was your man Cissokho like? He was running all over the place doing nothing” The post game discussion was happening behind me while I waited for shoddy Guinness  served straight up in plastic glasses. And when I arrived back with the swill in hand and a couple of packets of crisps in each pocket it suddenly dawned on me that we were in Liverpool and despite the draw we were both in great form. Onward.

We took a cab with a bunch of Swedes and headed for a night in the city. Liverpool is friendly and they embrace the Irish as their own. Scoucers are pretty much a nationality themselves. And years of immigration by Irish, and the hoards that travel each weekend for Liverpool games have meant we are adopted. Myself and Grog embraced the welcome and had an amazing night which was part reliving youth and nostalgia. Nothings changed in the 30+ years I’ve known Grog. And while returning to the hotel, fairly steaming, after a great night, I thought it could have been 1994, 2004, or as it was 2014. This is why I like to think I have the best friends in the world. And this is why growing up doesn’t have to mean growing lame. If its too loud, then you’re too old. And believe me, its not even close to loud. 

Peace and Love

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Day In Manchester

After spending a week working in the office it was really nice to head into Manchester to check out the city. I met up with my brother and nephew who were over to see Man United play Swansea. It was great to catch up with family. It always is. The rest of the day was spent in record shops and searching for the elusive epic beer bar that I was sure existed in Manchester.

I could easily lose myself in Manchester's record stores. The city itself is really great with a wonderful old world architecture that blends with the new Europe. Take a five minute walk off the beaten track to the Northern Quarter and the streets turn from commercial chain shopping to Bohemia, with record stores, cafes, indy clothes shops, and cool people. The musical history of Manchester is on par with any city in the world. They love their sounds. Joy Division, The Smiths, The Stone Roses, Oasis, to name a few. The streets Ian Curtis walked have changed but the Northern Soul remains. And the record stores that don't exist in Boston are alive with slabs of vinyl from every genre.   
I was lost in the tunes despite not owning a record player in the UK or even buying anything. I just looked at all the records I will buy before I head back and went old skool at one store selecting a load of techno and listening to the records on a 1200 turntable. Brought me back to the old days of record buying. Its inspiring that it still lives and thrives in Manchester.

Next up was the search for some real beer. I heard Manchester had a decent subculture around craft beer. I saw a list in the Guardian Newspaper but none of the bars were located in the Northern Quarter, and I had to imagine that alongside great record shops and coffee shops there must be a decent beer bar. A quick look on the Google machine offered Port Street Beer House and it was perfect. I found home! Absolutely fantastic beer selection from all over the world including many of the beers I know and love in the USA. Obviously I was all about new experiences and some of the drinks were beautiful. I kicked the session off with some Magic Rock, a brewery out of Huddersfield. Started with the Cannonball IPA and then progressed on to the amazing Human Cannonball Imperial IPA at 9.2%. It actually had a very smooth taste and was almost too easy to drink. I'm not saying I'd put it on the level of Maharaja IPA or 90 minute but it was still very tasty.

After the Magic Rock I moved onto Kernal Brewery out of London. They have very minimal labels on their beer and a lot of IPA's with different hop selections. I tried the 7.2% IPA with Centennial and Amarillo hops. Smooth and very solid IPA, similar to Founders Centennial. Its so great to see these breweries popping up and churning out IPA and 2xIPA. I missed the rise of this in USA so its nice to see it happening first hand. My conversation with the bartenders was joyful, and then I met Des. Good beer bars bring beer lovers together. Des is a local beer obsessive and he gave me an education like I've never had before. He has fallen on tough times and his hobby, and the thing that keeps him sane, is his passion for beer. Im gonna meet him again in a couple of weeks and we are going to tour the best beer bars in Manchester starting off in Salford, home to a great Belgian beer bar. He is also gonna take me to Salford Lads Club so like every other raincoated lover I can get my picture taken.
Leo pulling the pints
I started to get drunk and I don't know what the IPA I had on the right is!

Des gave me the heads up on all the great beer festivals in Belgium so I am gonna hit a couple. Bruges has a world class Beer Festival that happens on the same weekend as Cyclocross World Champs. I need to figure out how I swing both. If I have to sleep on the street I'll make it happen. Its all about experiences, right?

Solid first week in the North West and settling in nicely. Missing my friends back in BOS but if every week is as quick as this first one I'll be back before they know I've left.

Peace and Love,

Monday, January 6, 2014

Warrington, UK

I am going to start blogging again. Not because I've been inspired to write - I never could write to begin with, but because a significant life change has happened upon me and I want to capture it. It started today. I arrived in Warrington, a small town between Liverpool and Manchester to start work for New Balance Europe. Its a short term gig, maybe 8 months. And as much as I'm super down to be leaving my hometown of Boston, I am also relishing the opportunity to embrace the European lifestyle. Truth be told, its not a move I wanted to make, it was my only option, and was given to me by the awesome company I work for. I am so grateful to NB for how they have looked after me. My GreenCard has been held up by the Government shut down and therefore I need an extended time away from USA. Another company would have said tough luck, but NB found me a job and I need to embrace this. Its amazing that I feel so sad to be going away for a short period of time. And the more I look at it I realize that its circumstance that has me sad. I would probably be pretty sad if I was still in Boston but I'd feel more in control. How to combat this is to embrace the new experiences. Basically I am gonna become more like my old self and I am gonna fit more into the next 6 months than most fit into a lifetime. Only wonderful experiences, things I talk about doing but actually never bother to even try. Yeah work is gonna dominate, and thats my priority, but I will ride my bike up the great European climbs, I will drink Trappist beer - straight from the source, I will see football matches and go to festivals, I will drink espresso in every small village I can visit, I'll see all the great cities. Maybe I'll make some of the best friends in the world. Or I will meet a lady who will like me for me. Either way its gonna be an adventure and I am gonna capture it.

I set the bar low coming to Warrington. I had no reason to do this. I just love Boston so much that it can only pale in comparison. However, day one wasn't too bad at all. The people in the office are incredible. The place is very friendly, the staff in my hotel are some of the nicest I've come across in many years of travel. And through contacts I am quickly being plugged into a social scene of great people. My plan to get back to Drogheda every other weekend is already cracking. I want to get after it and not miss an opportunity to have a great experience. Manchester has a great music scene. The history is incredible and some of my favorite bands hail from the grim streets. The Smiths. Joy Division. Stone Roses. I'll be walking those roads. Lots to come.

In the meantime, I am digging the new Bombay Bicycle Club tune Luna. Its very poppy and makes a middle aged dreamer smile.

Peace and Love


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Radiohead Dreams

Three days in Santa Monica followed by three days in New York before Radiohead in Kansas City. It was a wonderful 7 days on the road. Last time I saw Radiohead was on the in rainbows tour. Atoms For Peace doesn’t count even if it was Thom playing Radiohead songs.  Full on Radiohead was last seen in Montreal, standing in the middle of Parc Jean Drapeau . It was a great gig and I didn’t think it would be 4 years till I got to see them again. I wasn’t too concerned that no East Coast dates, north of Atlanta, were announced. Obviously they would play in the North East but I still couldn’t deal with the waiting and when Mike Rockingguy Richardson told me he had a ticket for me to see the show in Kansas I booked a flight and let the excitement take over.

As I get older the small intimate settings trump the massive  arena shows. A gig at The Paradise Rock Club is far more appealing than going out to Great Woods in Mansfield. Radiohead, as is the case is with all big bands, rarely perform in small venues. They will do some theater stuff – like Atoms For Peace – but in order to meet demand they have to play the arena or the large outdoor park/amphitheater shows. However, if one band can make a 17,000 seater stadium seem like a tiny rock club its Radiohead. The quality of the production from the sound to the lightshow is so crisp that one feels like they are watching a HD recording of a show in the front room. I really didn’t notice people around me, I was completely fixed on the stage and all the magic that was unfolding right in front of me.

The boys were in a jovial mood. It was certainly the most animated Thom Yorke I’ve ever seen. Thom is not one for too much crowd interaction so it was very surprising to see him joke around with other band members while talking to the crowd about everything from annoying dogs to the random and strange day he was having. The mood of the band was as infectious as the music. Its easy to tell a band that is going through the motions and a band that is truly enjoying their music. This was the happiest Thom Yorke I’ve ever seen. 

The set lists have been pretty consistent with 5 or 6 songs of 23-24 changing. We were lucky to get 2 tour debut songs Super Collider from the record store day release and the amazing How To Disappear Completely, which left everyone feeling numb. Magic stuff. The actual setlist is below,
01 Bloom
02 15 Step
03 Morning Mr Magpie
04 Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
05 All I Need
06 Pyramid Song
07 The Daily Mail
08 Supercollider (tour debut)
09 Nude
10 Identikit (with false start)
11 Lotus Flower
12 There There
13 Feral
14 How To Disappear Completely (tour debut)
15 Reckoner

16 Separator
17 Myxomatosis
18 Idioteque
19 Lucky
20 Everything In Its Right Place

21 Give Up The Ghost
22 Paranoid Android

The highlights for me were the entire encore, Identikit false start and all, and All I Need which I thought sounded even more haunting and beautiful than I remembered.  During Myxomatosis the crowd started losing it, when Idioteque kicked off before we could get a breath I knew the night would go down as one of the best Radiohead shows I've seen. For the final track it was between Street Spirit and Paranoid Android - I believe SS was on the set list. Given the energetic response from the crowd Paranoid Android was the right choice. It closed out an amazing night. Mike, Jen, and I left the gig speechless and given about 25+ Radiohead shows between the two of us that says a lot. 

The Boston, Montreal, and Toronto shows can't come soon enough. The boys are really on right now, and nothing seems to phase them. To see Thom laugh and poke fun at Clive for his mistake during Identikit was so uplifting. It made me really happy and sharing these experiences with good friends and fellow Radiohead fanatics leaves a lasting impression. Everything in its right place.

Peace and Love,


Never seen or hear Thom act so playfully before.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Twitching & Salivating

Hanging on during the last five miles of my last bike ride was a bit of a gut punch. But the weekend and everything before that was entirely optimistic. Dereck "D-Rock" Tredwell came down for some training camp - or as much training as 2 days and some socializing allows. I got up early on Saturday to watch Liverpool lose to a far weaker Arsenal side. As a friend on twitter wrote, hitting posts and cross bars is not bad luck, its poor finishing........

Saturday was a wash so Tread and I hit the trainers for a couple of hours while watching some pro guys show us how its really done at Strade Bianche. We hit some tempo efforts mimicking the attacks of the riders on the computer screen. When they climbed, so did we. Off the bikes we went for a run, triathlon style. We only did 2 miles but it was enough to make me tired and wonder how guys race marathons off the bike.

Next up was a visit to ATA Cycles where I was scheduled a fit session from Husam Sahin. Husam is a bit of a genius. He makes his own contraptions the analyze position and measure power output using real simulations rather than video alone. We kicked off the session with all the usual measurements and some more thorough information using lazers (I'm not sure really but everything sounded awesome so I rolled with it). We then used Retul for the first position. Usually this is as far as a fit goes however Husam took the measurements from Retul and applied it to his hydraulic bike. Once I moved bikes I was set up in a new position. I rode here for a while holding a certain watt range - about 330 watts - until I was comfortable. Then he started to adjust the bike as I was in motion. The movements were so small that I didn't notice however I did notice the watts jumping up to 335, then 340, then 350 even though I was holding the same effort. When he returned me to my initial position my watts dropped and I had to pedal harder to get back to 350. Once I did he adjusted again, back to my new position and with the same effort I was pushing 365. I know there is a mental component to it but the increase at some level was real. We stopped playing around and I kept riding with my hands resting in the 3 typical positions.  Husam then adjusted my bike to the new position. He raised my saddle, shortened my stem, took out a spacer from my headtube, rotated my handlebars down slightly, and moved my saddle position. The overall affect was pretty amazing when we captured the new position on Retul and contrasted it to my original position. Everything looked more aero, smoother, and more powerful. Now I need to put it to use in the real world.
 The Kyphosis is always going to be a problem but hopefully the new position will allow me more comfort in the drops. I tested it next morning on the long ride and everything was smooth. No pain whatsoever, until the last 5 miles of course. For some reason I went from feeling amazing to rocked very quickly. Just holding Dean Phillips and Skip Foley's wheels was a test of mental strength. I suffered and it was joyful. With a week of work travel ahead of me and a Radiohead concert on the horizon I had every reason to feel happy. Group riding is awesome. Most people prefer to train alone but to me biking is a social outlet and lifestyle. I like to share it, albeit with stronger riders, most of the time.

Peace and Love,

New Orbital video is bizarre but the song is beautiful  and with Zola Jesus on the chanting duty it makes for magic sounds.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Hold On

I need to explain myself. I wasn't clear in my post yesterday about Suffering. A few emails came in asking me if I was suggesting Running was easier than the bike! Absolutely not! Any opinion I share on here is taken from my own experience. I could never race marathons as much as I desperately wanted to. And when I say desperately I really mean it. I was depressed when my body wouldn't let me run, and I will NEVER get over it. Marathon running and the training associated with it is similar to bike racing. A good marathon runner can train close to their threshold for long periods of time. We do tempo runs of 8 - 12 miles or longer depending on the philosophy and these are run at marathon pace or a little quicker. The length of time means that only small drinks from the bottle are needed and the work should be very tolerable. Once you cross the line, the pace slows and the race or training is over. You can't sit in and coast in a draft for a while eating a clif bar and drinking 22oz of thick carbo fuel. Once your done its over (save the few bizarre comebacks). This is the fundamental difference I am talking about. After 3  hours of riding, especially if its hilly and hard, the body is starving for food and cyclists can eat, replenish, and recover all the while maintaining a hard pace and elevated HR. In a 5 hour race a rider can be dropped only to be paced back up in a draft and have enough in the tank to attack.  Throughout the whole experiencee its never comfortable, hence the suffer part. My experience of hard running was like getting hit with a baseball bat really hard for a short period of time while cycling is like being hit really hard and then tapped incessantly for a while with an occasional hard whack again. A different system and one that requires a lot of concentration for a much longer period of time. There is no doubt that when you cross the line in a running race you suffer. My initial point is that this pain is awful and there is no coming back, no drafting, no food, no push of the back up a hill. Its just get to the finish line without injury.

I've heard some people say that the Tour De France is like running a marathon everyday. Complete nonsense, but a good example of what I am trying to say. You suffer for hours in the hills but next day the fatigue is tolerable and the rider can go out and do it again, maybe even faster. Have you ever seen an elite marathon runner the day after Boston or New York? Their bodies are shattered. Its such a deplorable effort for a little over two hours that it can take 2 -3 weeks or longer to recover and start again. Elites run 2 marathons a year, a pro cyclist can ride 3 grand tours and 50 other races. Thats the difference. If runners didn't have the limiting factor of pounding and intense muscle and joint breakdown they would race every week. I know I would have, for sure. Even the Ironman triathlete can do more long course races because its that slower burn. The breakdown is nutritional, physiological, muscular, mental etc. But they can come back and do another one 2 months later. This frequency of hard marathons happens in running but is rare and careers are very short lived. 

At the other end of the spectrum is track work. This is similar to track bike racing. Extremely hard and intense. When I think suffering I think long periods. Suffering in a jail cell for years or suffering from an illness. The mental  and physical toll of track racing is completely different. My good friend and amazing runner Mark Carroll used to have sleepless nights before hard track workouts because they were so hard. It may be a session such as 5 x 1km, meaning the intervals would last 2.5 minutes each and be repeated 5 times for a total hard running workout of 12.5 minutes. But those reps require everything from the body. Very difficult and a completely different system then what we use on the bike.

So in a nutshell, I love the term suffering on the bike. You can just deplete yourself to bonking and do it again the next day with the same vigor. Its a new realm for me and I can approach my free weekends knowing I'll bury myself but feel no real pain in my body afterwards. Unlike after those wonderful track sessions and hard cross country reps I'll wake up and bounce around my apartment. Sure I'll be tired but not sore. And I'll be ready to do it all again.

Great tune by The Chain Gang Of 1974 - Hold On. Listened to it on my trainer tonight and it made me happy.

Peace and love

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Waiting for the weekend so I can suffer. Maybe my favorite thing about cycling is this word - Suffer. Its not used in the running game so much. Most likely because for me running was relatively short and intense. The pain feels worse than suffering, its comfort then a feeling like either something is going to break or I'm going to pass out. Cycling is a slow burn. You can keep up, but be on the rivet for a LONG time. The pounding is such a limiting factor, or at least over the last few years it was for me. Invariably my legs would hurt before my heart and lungs. On the old bike, much like in XC Skiing, the pain is drawn out over a long period of time. Simply eating some food can take you from the depths of despair to the front hammering and all the time a feeling of suffering. And bike racers embrace this. They love to talk about suffering on a ride. Now I find myself using the term all the time. Since I've done no exercise all week I can't wait to suffer. We'll be hitting the hills and putting in time on the saddle. Perfect.

I heard a new remix by HEALTH of the wonderful Suffocation by Crystal Castles The tune is short which is a shame because its great. Loving the electronic music this week.

Peace and Love