Friday, August 28, 2015

Participation

Wanky's post from Thursday about women's racing and equal payouts got me thinking. I should probably stop doing that. We differ on why people do or don't show up for races, and how to increase participation. While I've never been wrong before, I am self-aware enough to realize that the remote possibility does exist. Wanky and I race in very different worlds, so what might be true in mine may not be true in his. I don't really care, as long as I'm right.
 
This year the Arctic Bike Club Road Division awarded the GC podiums cash prizes in the upper classes. While it's common practice in the Lower 48, I can't remember the last time we did that. We usually race just for bragging rights and a maybe trophy crafted from old bike parts.
 
Attendance was down this year. Obviously the promise of money didn't drive racers away, but it didn't attract them either. While I appreciate the board's willingness to try new things, this is certainly something that shouldn't be repeated. Let me elaborate.
 
First, I'll start with the positives. We have a schedule packed with races. The only weekends we usually don't have a race scheduled during mid-April to mid-August are usually occupied by a triathlon or some other major race. Often we have mid-week races as well. The last few years have had a couple smaller stage races thrown in there. Limited opportunities to race is not a problem we have.
 
It isn't excessively expensive to race. We require a $20 Arctic Bike Club membership, which is far cheaper than a USAC license. Our single-day races are $18 if you pre-register, which is about half of what some races cost in the Lower 48 (no payouts, though). Our races are well-run, but bare-bones affairs. The organization has evolved for the local environment.  While the carbon arms race has started to hit the lower classes, it's still possible to be competitive without a second mortgage.
 
That said, there are some issues.
 
Like everywhere else in the world, women are underrepresented at races. The last crit had a total of ONE female racer. The women's racing series (Pocket Full of Posies) is packed every year, but mixed-gender races are always sparse. A participation boost of even a handful of racers would likely make all the difference, because the social dynamic would take over. Women don't want to be in a field of three, especially when one or two of the other racers will drop you. Nobody likes paying to ride alone. Getting those extra riders to fill out fields should be a top priority for the club. Every male racer I've talked to wants to see more women out there, because they make the experience more fun. They balance out all of us aggressive, type-A hackers.
 
Since I am a self-proclaimed expert on all things female, allow me to offer a couple of suggestions for improving participation that will likely have no real effect. The first is to actively recruit during Posies as much as possible. Let's be honest- the top 4 or 5 Posies racers aren't our target audience, because they're usually the ones racing the regular season. What we need are the mid-pack females in the various categories, because they are the ones that bridge provide the glue between the front and the back of the pack. The gaps don't seem quite as big when spread evenly across the field. Attract the pack fill, and the slower racers have something reasonable to shoot for.
 
To get them in the door, offer a free regular-season race entry. Even better, refine target your freebie to a road race of some type (RR, crit, circuit). The reason I say this is that time trials and hill climbs are usually individual efforts, and the social dynamic isn't as strong. Pick a race either during or immediately after Posies that can handle the larger fields and offer it to all pre-paid series participants.
 
Next, don't let ignorance be an excuse. Make the regular season's calendar part of the race bible. Print it out and hand it to them with their bib, rather than telling them to go to the website. Make it part of the conversation while Posies is still going on, instead of an afterthought. The regular season should seem like a natural progression from Posies, rather than a separate entity, populated by aggressive, mouth-breathing men.
 
Last, following ArcticCross' example, put on clinics. Crits and other pack races can be intimidating. A couple seasoned racers can provide a few pointers that will ease a lot of fears and make newer racers more comfortable riding and cornering in a paceline. Anchorage does not have a group ride culture, and the group rides I've participated in didn't have enough riders to simulate the race experience. A little guidance will go a long way.

None of this may have any effect, but the cost is negligible. It costs more not to try. If you can hook one out of five Posies (a big task, I know), soon we'll be talking about why more men don't race. 

Aside from the ongoing female issue, there is the drop in participation in the lower categories for the men. Maybe they just miss me. A couple years ago it was the Open/Expert field that was tiny, but a rough upgrade policy resulted in a larger field and less-predictable racing. The same old faces aren't dominating every race, and that is a very good thing. Unfortunately, the lower fields that feed Open/Expert aren't flourishing.
 
Mirroring my expertise in women, I am also a board-certified expert in all things related to men's racing- and I have the blog to prove it. Here's where I would look to improve the "feeder fields", and perhaps build a sustainable structure for the future.
 
First, the goal is repeat customers. Handing out cash and expensive swag to the podium is not going to inspire the pack fodder. I should know, because my chances at receiving anything of value is nil unless the payout runs up to 10th place and the stage races are comprised entirely of flat, sprint stages. I race because... racing. When I won at the lower levels, the podium swag was less important than the competition itself. Sure, a trophy is fine, but it wasn't my reason for being there.
 
In the lower categories, a win in a stage race results in upgrade under the current system (I'll get to that later). That can be intimidating, especially in the jump from Intermediate to Open. My suggestion is that the award for winning a stage race in any class would be free entry into the same stage race next year. Win the Spring Stage Race Intermediate Men's Division? Free Open Men's Spring Stage Race next year. The 2nd place racer could get next year's ABC dues comped. Third could get a free single day race entry. Instead of giving away money, you're making an investment in the future. If it goes unused, you're not out anything.
 
In the Open Class, it encourages those really, really fast guys to come back year after year. Some of them get bored being so fast that they start to fantasize about peeing in wetsuits and running. Steer them away from the dark side. The more fast guys we have fighting it out for the win every race, the better the development of all of the racers behind them.
 
Again, the board should be commended for trying something new. I just think cash is the wrong allocation of funds in this environment.
 
Next, you have to recruit. Looking at a map of Anchorage, you might notice Joint-Base Elmendorf-Richardson sitting on top like a bad toupee. The Arctic Bike Club (ABC) usually views it simply as a venue for races, but I'd like to point out that over 40,000 people live and/or work on that installation (about 1/10 of the local population). Generally speaking, the military members are more inclined towards fitness than the local populace, and you'd expect there would be a handful that would be sick of the gym or ruining their knees on pavement. However, their tours up are short enough that they may only have two or three summers before they're off to the next assignment. I was riding a road bike for 3 years before I ever heard of the Arctic Bike Club, and that was 6 years after I was first assigned to Elmendorf. Since I had never raced before, it didn't occur to me to ask the question. It never crossed my mind.
 
This year I did two road races organized by the base. While the level of competition wasn't high (which explains my results), there were probably about 20 riders not involved with ABC between the two races who would mix it up well in the Novice or Intermediate classes. Those were just the ones that competed, and they would be relatively low-hanging fruit to reach out to. There are other riders on base, but your window to reach them is limited. It would have to be an ongoing effort as people transition in and out, but to fill out the lower packs it might be a good investment.
 
To reach the general population, I'd enlist the local bike shops. There shouldn't be a road bike sold in this town without some sort of refrigerator magnet or flyer attached to it. Put the idea in their heads that the possibility exists. Let them know you don't have to mainline EPO like Lance to line up, and that there are ability-based classes. Open the door.
 
Finally, once they're in the door, provide them with a concrete progression for development. The current system dealt with a short term deficiency, but isn't much of a roadmap. As it stands now, the upgrade system is seen as a "Sword of Damocles" rather than a reward for getting better. A lot of guys under the USAC upgrade system kill themselves trying to reach the next Cat. Guys up here shuffle their feet and hide when talk turns to them moving on. The upgrade policy is not spelled out clearly, is weighted oddly, is less than comprehensive, and clearly needs to be revised.
 
While I am an undisputed subject matter expert (with a blog), even someone as omnipotent as I can admit other factors affect participation. The explosive growth of cyclocross and fatbike racing in the area may leave people burnt out by the time road season rolls around. The unseasonably pleasant summers the last couple years might have people looking other directions for recreation. My well-worn, sheer bike shorts might make people uncomfortable in the paceline... It could be nearly anything, in any combination. However, not investigating possible areas for improvement will result in the road division mirroring what has happened in Fairbanks road scene over the last couple years. When Fairbanks is on the leading edge of anything, you know you're in trouble.
 
Now is the time to avoid that horrible, horrible fate.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Numbers Game

Ever since I received Wanky's Rules For Wealth Through Blogging, I've been making an effort to post semi-regularly. With this increase in posting frequency came an increase in people actually reading the blog. I have this neat little graph that tells me how many people viewed this page on a given day, and a map to show where they are from. Apparently I'm huge in Turkmenistan.
 
If you watch the numbers, day after day, you become fixated upon them. It's kinda like being a group ride leader. You wonder why one day was attendance higher than another, and why some days nobody shows up. Was it something you said? Was it something you didn't say? Is your mouthwash still cutting it? Why don't people like you?

Usually bumps boil down to a mention in someone's Facebook timeline. I wrote about Joey Bacala, he said something nice about it on Facebook (I have it framed if you want to see it), and I almost crashed the Google servers with over 5 views. Joey has these things called friends that apparently are vulnerable to suggestion. The next day I was back to flat-line.
 
Dips in readers could be attributed to anything. Sometimes I'll get a drop of 50% or more and wonder if that guy in the mud hut is sick that day or had to work late with the flock. We're not talking Kardashian-scale numbers here. No matter how many Twinkies I eat, my butt isn't going to break the internet.
 
At the end of the day, I have to remind myself it really doesn't matter. I do this for me, and if anyone cares, they can read my Crayola scribblings. When I get tired of doing it, I can follow the example set by 99.992% of bloggers out there and stop.
 
The Turkmenistani people might miss me, though.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Nesting in the Trainer Dungeon

It's been getting slightly cooler and darker around here. As much as I want to avoid it and as much as global warming seems to be intent on preventing it, it's going to get colder. Eventually it will get cold enough that my mileage will drop off significantly. Shortly after that, I won't go anywhere. My bike will be chained to the LeMond Revolution in my trainer dungeon.
 
Since I can see it coming, some of my projects around the house will involve cleaning up the mess I've created in the garage since last spring. The piles are overflowing into the narrow path I trod to get to my bike out the door every day. Dancing around tricycles, tools, extension cords, ski gear, and all sorts of other expensive-but-now-neglected stuff in cycling cleats keeps me nimble, but eventually that piece of derailleur cable housing is going to roll underfoot and cause me to rethink my organization strategy.
 
I need some room to build up the various frames I have hanging from the ceiling so I can sell them to suckers... ahem... new cycling enthusiasts in the spring. The parts that I have strewn across the garage can find homes. I might even notice I have several extra of a particular component, purchased because the garage was in such disarray. I'll have a chance to tear down long-neglected bikes, making them shift and brake as if they were new again. I'll finally get ahead of the game, or so I hope.  

A big part of the plan is to clean up and improve my cycling dungeon before I actually need it. Maybe clean up the cassettes, old chains, and other parts that were left laying around as I rushed off to some very important race. Sweep up the leaves that blew under the garage door and mop up last winter's sweat residue. Improve the sound insulation so the baby won't be woken up by Paul Sherwen's dulcet tones at 3:30 AM.
 
Part of the upgrading process is to drag my video stimuli into this century. A big part of enduring the trainer is distraction, and for the last few years I've used DVDs of professional races to keep me going. Last year I noticed after 40 or so viewings of the same series of videos the effect was starting to wear off. I have most of World Cycling Production's catalog, but as they no longer make DVDs I am left to find my inspiration elsewhere.
 
Folks 'round here tell me there's this thing called the interweb where you can find just about anything you want. I'm not 100% sure, but it might be owned by Amazon or Walmart. So, this year I'm going to dip my toes into the wild world of streaming video and Zwift. My previous excursions didn't go so well, mostly because my computer has been carbon dated back to the first Bush presidency. So, I get to spend a whole lot of money on a computer that will reside in a garage and be pawed at by a sweaty man until it dies a premature death. Sounds pleasant.
 
I'm not in any hurry to lock myself away in a cold garage again. The skies are more or less blue, the temperatures are good, and there's still plenty of pavement out there. Despite all of my big plans, history has shown that I usually wait until it's too late to get anything started, and then reconfigure the piles of debris for increased volume and height.
 
Don't worry. I'll take care of it next spring.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Mileage

Pete and I did a longer ride Saturday.
 
While I have been getting more volume in this year, it's been spread out over the week instead of a series of shorter rides followed by one long ride on the weekend. Compared to last year, the strategy worked, as I had the endurance to hang on to get some decent sprint finishes. There was a time, thanks to a weird work schedule, when I could sneak in two or three long rides a week. Now it's a special event when I can get in over two or three hours.
 
Saturday was one of those special events.
 
I rode out to meet him at his house, and we rode to the Eagle River Nature Center. I hadn't ridden out there in a couple years, because of ongoing road construction. Being told by a flagger that you would have to put your bike in the pilot car for the duration of the construction kinda takes the fun out of riding that road, so I just rode elsewhere. It's a shame, because there's a lot of nice, rolling hills back there and little traffic- although the traffic you do see is in a serious hurry to be somewhere else.
 
I thought they were pretty much done with the paving. I was wrong. We had a couple miles of chewed-up asphalt and hot, freshly-laid tarmac before we got past the construction. We alternated between having the lifespans of our tires and adding more material to them as we moved from surface to surface.
 
Once past the construction, there was great pavement and no traffic. We cruised along, talking about whatever popped into our heads. I told Pete that I won a sprint against a black bear a couple days before. I was riding on the back side of the base when the fat, berry-stuffed bear popped out of the alder on the other side of the road, heading the same direction. I let him know I was there, and while he seemed surprised by the news, he took it remarkably well. I maintained my course and speed, as not to arouse his predatory instincts or give the impression that I was a threat. I was already moving along at a fairly decent clip, and he might have been unaware that we were racing for that speed limit sign, but a timely bike throw allowed me to nip him at the line before he ducked back in the alders to hide his shame. Add that one to my palmarès.
 
Pete mentioned that he hated me, mostly because I dragged him out to a hilly ride and made him hurt. I was taken aback, as we had bypassed several harder climbs during our journey. I had thought myself quite benevolent. We kept the pace fairly conversational on the way back, kicking it up here or there to chase down a geriatrics on WalMart mountain bikes that dared occupy the road ahead of us.
 
By the time I dropped off Pete and made it home, I was just a couple ticks short of 80 miles. You know it's a good ride when fatigue overcomes OCD and you don't add just enough distance for a round number. A few years ago when I rode more, 80 miles wouldn't have seemed all that great. However, with my current time constraints and general fading enthusiasm for anything over 75 miles, this was a solid number.
 
Now that race season is pretty much over (other than some rumored crits and a couple races I'm not remotely interested in), I'm probably going to try to get in a few more of these rides. 'Cross season is approaching, but in the interest of my physical health and self esteem, I've decided to retire from the sport. Just like every other year, the idea is to squeeze in as many miles as possible in the fading light before the snow falls and I'm back in the trainer dungeon. I've got all sorts of outdoor yard projects that I need to take care of before they're covered with snow, and the wife has her own list that grows exponentially every time I check off one of the tasks.
 
I need to get in the miles, if only to stay sane.
 
By the time

Monday, August 24, 2015

Cold Snap

I was excited about last Tuesday's crit. After being prevented from racing there all summer because of paving projects and eagle nests, we could finally ride around in circles on my favorite crit course. It has just enough hill to make it selective and enough technical turns to make it interesting- without making it a crash-fest. In fact, to my knowledge we've only had one wreck there, and that was a touch of wheels in a straight section. For a crit course, that's a pretty impressive record.
 
After a few days of rain, it finally looked like we would dodge a bullet. The roads were drying out, and blue skies were peaking through the clouds. A couple short showers fell, but everything was lining up.
 
The night's plan was to run two races. The first was for the lower male categories and Christina Grande, who's another one of the people who make cycling so awesome. Christina works for Dark Lord of the Sith Bill Fleming at the Trek Store. Bill just returned from Europe, where he rode all of the famous Tour de France stages in the Alps, and was riding the first race so he could attend to visiting family. A few of us Masters lined up at the back to warm up and/or just have fun. Due to the time-compressed schedule, that was about all best warm up we can get in before our race.
 
Bill took off from the gun, and within the first couple laps the race was splintered. I hung with the front pack and drifted back to try to help the dropped riders who were flailing in the wind. Either they were completely gassed, didn't understand my intentions, or preferred chasing alone. Maybe all three. Most of the Masters drifted and spun around the course, staying out of the way as much as possible. Ed Sniffen and Bill were up front, driving the pace for the pure joy of racing. Eventually a few of us pulled off to the side and watched the fun as the young guys beat each other up.
 
Right as the first race was wrapping up, the first drops started to fall. I was wearing kit that emphasized cooling, dictated by the warm, sunny weather we were having when I made the decision. The drop in temperature and cold rain made me re-thing that decision, so I was making a move for the stash of warm kit in my car when the race directors lined up the second race and 123GO we were off. Within 100 yards I was drenched, but I hoped trying to keep up with the Open field that hammered from the gun would keep me warm.
 
After a dozen or so laps, the Open field began to pull away from the Masters and a sole Open rider who didn't make the split. My legs and lungs were hanging in there, and I was able to respond to surges and bridge gaps when necessary. Since no Masters were up the road, most of us were content to ride our own race. Not our lone Open straggler. After a couple attempts, he opened a gap and started chasing. Jens Beck jumped on his wheel, and they began to slowly diesel away. We probably had the firepower in the remaining group to pull them back, but for whatever reason we couldn't get organized. Instead, we attacked each other and ensured their escape was successful.
 
Around this time I started noticing a tension in my back, especially when accelerating out of corners. The cold rain had done its work, and it was only a matter of time before my race would be over. A few laps later, two spasms rippled across my lower back and I sat up. I was done at the halfway point. There was no sense in risking further injury. Andy Duenow has been yo-yoing off the back of the pack all race, and decided that my race strategy was probably the right one for him to follow as well.
 
I was covered from head to toe in a fine film of gritty mud, which immediately transferred itself to the interior of my rain jacket when I put it on. My teeth had a crunchy feel to them. The white stripes on my kit were a subtle shade of speckled gray. My shoes shot streams of water out of the holes with every step.
 
I stood around in the rain watching the remaining racers ride around in circles. There was little chance of me getting wetter, and my back had settled into a tolerable dull throb. Riders were dropped, lapped, latched back on, dropped again... Jens and his Open buddy were lapped, but managed to hold onto the Open pack, lapping the forlorn Masters racers that wouldn't give in. The finish was a combination of aggression, resignation, and confusion. Richard Tilton powered away from the Open pack for the win, who mostly seemed anxious to get it over with. Jens rode in easy, his Masters victory already secured. Markus Doerry had no problems sprinting for a distant second, as my teammate, Craig Walker, didn't realize that it was the final lap.
 
Am I sorry I dropped out? Nope. I got what I wanted, which was a little intensity. What I didn't want was weeks of back pain, so it was the right choice. I love this course, but I don't think I've ever had a decent result on it. It's fun to mix it up, so the results don't really matter to me. Sooner or later I'll probably stumble my way into a victory when pack configuration allows it or my investments in carbon start paying off. Until then, it's a great place for the big kids to go and play bikes.
 
As long as it doesn't rain.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Sad

Recently a judge accepted a plea deal. A drunk and stoned young woman backed over a local cyclist, then drove away while he died without rendering aid in any way. This is not in dispute by anyone, on any side of the courtroom. She received 1 year and 10 days in jail.
 
I've tried to wrap my head around this from any number of directions, and it just makes me sad. Not for her. As far as I'm concerned, she has no place in society anymore. This is not her tragedy, as much as the defense tried to paint it that way while deflecting blame to the victim. I've harbored evil fantasies of vengeance that I'm not at all ashamed of. So much ink has been thrown out there about this that I'll just include a couple links to provide a more complete picture for those of you who haven't followed the story:

http://www.adn.com/article/20150812/prosecutor-teen-used-drugs-alcohol-hit-and-run-collision-killed-cyclist

http://www.adn.com/article/20150819/anchorage-teen-receives-1-year-sentence-hit-and-run-death-bicyclist

What this tells me is that my life is essentially worthless in the eyes of the local court system when compared to an entitled white girl with a history of substance abuse. At least now I know where I stand.
 
What tore my guts out were the victim impact statements. Jeff was me. No, by all accounts Jeff was a far better person than me. Please take the time to read the victim impact statements from Peter Van Tuyn and Madisen Dusenbury below. Imagine it was your family and friends grieving you in this way and facing this in court. You'll be gutted, too.
 
Victim Impact Statement from Peter Van Tuyn  
    Jeff’s death is a kick in the gut, for me and for many people. I first felt it the moment Steve Klosiewski and I biked onto 84th Street that morning, saw the ambulance and other emergency response vehicles in the distance, and realized that could be why Jeff was not at the meet-up for our planned ride. I have felt that kick in the gut many times since he died. I feel it now.
    Jeff and I have – had -- been friends for a long time. We used bike and ski races as an excuse to get together to bike and ski. And we did that a lot.
    Devil’s Pass. Fireweed like we’d never seen, all purple acre-after-acre, mile-after-mile, right at eye level.
    Johnson Pass in October. Clear and crisp. A lynx. We saw not one person.
    A snow bike race in Talkeetna in February. As Jeff and I finish Mike says “You idiots, why did you go for the second lap when you knew how bad it was going to be!?” Melissa smacks him on the arm and says “C’mon Mike, you know Jeff’s motto – why suffer a little when you can suffer a lot.”
   Jeff was one day older than me. We had similar experiences. We both sowed some oats, and are some of the most fortunate people we knew. We live in Alaska! We are in love with our wives. Our kids are amazing.  We have meaningful jobs, and we take pride in doing them well.
    We strive to give more than we take. We think being a good person is more important than nearly anything else.
    We shared our own jokes. He beats me in a race: “Good job old man,” I’d say. I beat him: “Well, you can’t discount the age factor.”
   It is a safe bet that all of his friends have similar stories and experiences. Time with Jeff was special.
    No more of that.
    I’m older than Jeff now.
    After Jeff died, people came from all directions to grieve together, and to support Melissa and Madisen. Why? Because he was real. He paid attention. He listened. He got to know you. He was no actor. It was never an act.
    You look around at the memorial service, make eye contact with someone you know from a different, non-Jeff, aspect of your life. “You too,” our glances would say. “You too were lucky enough to have called Jeff your friend, and have him call you his.” “Yep,” the glance would say in return, “me too.” Ten fold. A hundred fold. It still goes on.
    I am humbled by Melissa and Madisen’s strength and grace in the face of such a loss. Strength and grace that has been tested not only by the loss of a husband and a father, but by the aftermath of his death.
    So here we are. The day they have dreaded and yet also sought. The sentencing of Ms. Ellis. The last formal act they must go through related to Jeff’s death.
    Neither is naïve enough to think that all will be well after this date. Their pain at his loss is not tied to this case. Yet the manner in which he was snatched away from them demanded, demands, attention. He died at the edge of a park, on a dead end road, on a sunny Saturday morning. If Jeff – of all people -- was not safe going for a ride in this community, no one is safe.
    They honor Jeff by seeking to hold Ms. Ellis accountable for what she has done. Justice. Not vengeance.
    They honor Jeff by doing what they can do to limit the chances such a tragedy will befall others. Doing what they can to ensure that the direct victims of crime will be respected and considered. Make some good out of this tragedy.
    Under no circumstances did they foresee the twists and turns that this case would take. Yet they stayed focused on their goals.
    Jeff would be proud. “Why suffer a little when you can suffer a lot.” It means that you face your challenges head on. Whether you choose your goal or have one thrust upon you, go right at it, do not waiver.
    It means you need to go through the tough stuff, not around it.
    In this whole matter Bill had one thing right – Jeff would want Ms. Ellis to have the opportunity to live a productive life. Juvenile treatment though? No hit and run? One year as in the plea deal? That is not right.
The sentence before you undercuts the societal contract that is intended to protect life in our community, and it should not be sanctioned. So please don’t.
    The most direct path to rehabilitation for Ms. Ellis is to own what she did, and to own it unequivocally.
Ms. Ellis should not let fanciful and fictional accounts of what transpired that day cloud her memory. She needs to face what she has done head-on. She will be the better for it.
    If she owns what she did, and works hard to make better choices, she will come to realize that the world can be a good place for her. Instead of accepting the label “She was drunk; she killed a good man” write her own “That woman drove drunk and killed Jeff. Look what she has become! He would be so glad.”
   She can do this! She is loved. She has a strong support network. These people are here for her in her darkest hour. They are tempered hard steel for her after this experience. And if she makes the right choices others can and will be there for her too, and it may even surprise her from which direction they come.
    As for our part, those of us who don’t have as much at stake here as Melissa or Madi, or Ms. Ellis, we have choices to make too.
   Hold on to anger. Anger at Ms. Ellis, at each other, at this imperfect process.
   Or let it go.
   Let it go. This community needs to heal too.
   Channel our emotions to a better place. Be more like Jeff. Listen, appreciate, enjoy, love. Reach out.
   Encourage a friend. 
   Pay attention to a kid. Heck, just put a helmet on one.
   Watch out for each other on the roads.
   Lend a hand. Stick out a hand.
   Be passionate.
   Be compassionate.
   Go right at the tough stuff.
 
Victim Impact Statement from Madisen Dusenbury:
    My name is Madisen Dusenbury, and I am Jeff's daughter, his only child. To be able to fully articulate the impact that my father's death has had is overwhelming and impossible. No one will ever understand what it was like to have my dad as a father; therefore no one will understand what I have lost. I have written this statement in my head numerous times since Alexandra Ellis decided to get behind a wheel after a long night of drinking and partying with friends. That decision not only killed my father, but my family.
    Since his death, my father has been discussed in the spotlight as a victim of a crime, a cyclist who was killed recklessly. While both of those facts are true, and he was passionate about cycling, my father was so much more than a cyclist and his identity does not lie in being an anonymous victim. I want to briefly share with you who Jeff Dusenbury was to me – an incredible father who loved his family and his community.
    My dad’s true identity lied in the love he had for his girls. He was an amazing husband to my mom for 27 years. In his relationship with her, I learned what it meant to love someone unconditionally and whole-heartedly. He not only showed me what I want in my own marriage, but made others want and work to have the kind of relationship he had with my mom. My dad was not only our family’s protector and provider, but also a great listener to me. He allowed me to share my emotions freely and show my vulnerability.
    Whenever I felt overwhelmed my dad always asked me, “How do you eat an elephant?” I’d always answer “one bite at a time.” My dad had a lot of quirky little sayings. In fact, he was really goofy. He taught me to live and enjoy life without caring what other people thought. That’s the thing – my dad didn’t care what anyone thought about him. He was who he was because of the goodness in his heart. He didn’t have a need for material things. His friends, family and adventures were his treasures – the things he was most proud of.
As you read or hear about people’s experiences with my father, I have no doubt that not only his positive spirit but his kindness will be brought up. Whenever we were together, my dad was constantly running into friends or making new ones. He had this ability to make each person feel like they were the most important person in room. Everyone felt like my dad was their best friend, which explains why there were 1500 people at his funeral. His acts of kindness were a lifestyle and not an afterthought. He’d do kind things, not for recognition, but just because he loved people.
    On July 19, 2014, I feel like both my parents died. Having no other biological family in Alaska, my parents and I were extremely close-knit. I still lived at home with them and we were always together. It was important for us to talk multiple times daily, have family dinners and spend the weekends together. My parents were always encouraging, positive and full of love for each other, and for life. When my dad was killed, our life not only came to an abrupt halt, but I watched the liveliness in my mother's eyes die and become replaced with worry, confusion and most of all, pain.
    My heart will forever ache for her as her hurt is immeasurable, and there is nothing I can do to ease it. Not only have I lost both my parents, but I mourn the death of my own identity. I now assume the role of the parent, the glue that tries to hold what's left together.
    There are many nights when I have had to cradle my mother in bed as she weeps for my father, and many nights that I cry myself to sleep. I have lost close friends because of how I have changed as a person. I have become disconnected, distracted and angry as I fight to keep my life together and care for my mother. I struggle with my life daily as I mourn my dad while trying to fill the void left in my mom’s life.
    Fathers and daughters typically have a special relationship, and ours was no different. I was a daddy's girl; no one could understand or relate to me like he could. He was my everything, and I know he loved me with every ounce of his being. Growing up, he used to sing me songs to sleep every night. As I got older those songs were replaced with stories and fairy tales he would make up. Up until the day he died, my dad would still come give me a kiss goodnight and lay in bed next to me, and we’d talk about life until I'd fall asleep.
    Today and for the rest of my life I am missing my confidant and partner in crime. We were a lot alike- we had the same sense of humor and we bonded over our love for music and for football. For as far back as I can remember, my dad and I always had father-daughter dates on Wednesday nights. As I got older, we added weekly lunch dates to the mix. I would have never thought that our lunch date on July 18th would be our last. I never thought a lot of things that week would be our last.
    Alexandra Ellis took a lot of things from me. They are things that she will be able to have regardless of her sentence. Instead of going to the park strip to fly kites like we did every Father’s Day, this year I laid flowers at my father’s memorial. Instead of cheering on the Vikings together, I watched it alone, pathetically talking to air, pretending my dad was there and could talk back. Instead of writing an acceptance letter for the job I was offered before he died, I wrote my father’s eulogy.
    I won't have my father there to walk me down the aisle. I won't get to have that father-daughter dance that we practiced for when I was a little girl. My children will never know their grandfather. I will never go on father-daughter dates. I don't have my dad to hold my hand or tell me it's going to be okay. My dad isn't hear to protect me anymore.
    Holidays and special events now have a dark cloud that hangs over them. They serve as reminders of the piece in our life that is missing. There is no one to carve the turkey or hang Christmas lights. My birthday is this Friday, and he will not be here to celebrate with me- he will never be here to celebrate anything anymore. More importantly, I find myself feeling terrified of what the future holds. I am scared that the one person who was supposed to protect me can’t, because he was taken suddenly due of someone's recklessness and disregard for human life.
    I am haunted daily that my father was killed in such a senseless way, left dying on a road like he wasn't even human. My father was taken in a way that no one deserves. It will disturb me for the rest of my life that the State of Alaska dropped the obvious act of the hit-and-run.
    Alexandra Ellis should be taking responsibility for this. Not only is leaving the scene without rendering aid factual, but it was the intentional act. When she left my father on the side of the road without stopping or helping him, her act of killing him became intentional. Leaving him there to die was inhumane, as if his life didn't matter - as if her life was more important than his.
    Your Honor, Please think about what we are facing for the rest of our lives. My mother and I received a life sentence. There is no parole for us.
    I have no father, and my mother's husband is gone. I am left with the sole responsibility of taking care of my mother, stepping in as her husband. I am no longer able to listen to my favorite songs or go to some of my favorite places, as the memories are overwhelming and serve as reminders of what will never be. I find myself not being able to look at another father and daughter without resentment. I was not able to enjoy summer, as the bicyclists around town serve as a constant reminder that my dad should be here too.
    Nothing else caused my father's death except Ms. Ellis’ irresponsible and reckless adult decisions. The wooden post buried deep into the ground was supposed to serve as a deterrent to cars, to protect children that play in the park. That post did run into her, just like I know my father did not run into her truck. There is a credible, unbiased eye-witness who has told her account– a significant, factual account that has seemed to be overlooked.
    The juvenile system has not only failed Ms. Ellis, but it has failed our community. The juvenile rehabilitation program that Ms. Ellis has been through 3 times now, has obviously not worked. This is not only supported by the fact that she killed my dad after successfully completing rehab twice, but is also supported by the way she still refuses to take full responsibility thus far, following her third completion.
    I believe when a person is truly remorseful, they admit their wrong-doing and accept the consequences for their actions. Alexandra Ellis has not done that. Instead, she has passed the blame and thought of any excuse, dragging my family through hell for the last 13 months. That is not true remorse, and true remorse is the first step in true rehabilitation.
    In the past month, I have reached out to Ms. Ellis; I asked to meet with her, just her and I, two young adults. I wanted to give her the opportunity to express remorse and take responsibility. I wanted an opportunity to forgive her. She denied the opportunity to meet with me. This seems to be a strategic game to her, and I suppose this gives her the upper hand. But your honor, this is so much more than a game to me. I just want my dad to have justice, for his death to not be in vein, and to be able to forgive his killer so I can move forward. But, how can I forgive someone who won’t admit they were wrong?
    I’m sure Ms. Ellis will give an emotional statement; I hope it is one that she wrote, and not one that her lawyer wrote, like he has been doing for her since the beginning. I’m certain she will be apologetic and say all the right things. I just hope that it is truthful, and she isn’t pretending and acting so she doesn’t have to face the consequences.
    Ms. Ellis made adult decisions that killed my dad. Today, she is legally an adult. All along she has been my peer. She is responsible for herself, her actions and for what is said in the courtroom. I hope she realizes that she will have to live with these actions - not her parents, not her lawyers.
    More importantly, I hope that she realizes that regardless of her sentence, there is an even bigger judge in Heaven that she will need to make right with.
    Your Honor, I hope that she understands that any amount of sadness she has will never equate to the pain that I feel.
    I do not hate her. I pray for her - that one day she will realize all of this and this tragedy will change her positively from the inside out. That is what my dad would want for her. That is what I want for her.
    I pray that she learns from this. It concerns me that if that if Ms. Ellis does not take responsibility and is not rehabilitated appropriately, it will just be a matter of time before she senselessly takes another life.
    I believe that God is at work even through the toughest trials, but I still find myself asking why would God put us through this pain? Why is he putting the community through this pain? It just doesn’t seem fair. But I have faith that God is still sovereign, and in the midst of this, is still in control. Going through the legal process, the injustice in our legal system has been made obvious. I can understand the community’s outrage in how we were mistreated and how this case was mistreated. I can’t help but wonder about all the other cases - how many times has there been injustice in our state? I’ve read about cases where some serve 18 years for a less heinous crime, while some receive significantly less time for a more reckless and intentional crime.
    Your Honor, I don’t know what the correct sentence for Ms. Ellis is. However, I can’t help but think that with the attention this trial has received, it is meant to set an example for the community. We must show underage, and of age, drivers that drinking and driving is not tolerated. That there are consequences if you get behind a wheel and make deadly decisions - that it is inhumane to leave someone to die on the side of the road. We need to show our community that such reckless acts are inexcusable.
    In my opinion, this case has played out in the courtroom all wrong. It shouldn’t be a matter of Allie vs. Jeff or who can outfox who. It shouldn’t be a compromise between the defense and the prosecution. I, along with the community, are passionate and confident about the severity of this case, and that it has been handled wrong.
    Your Honor, you have the opportunity to make it as right as you can. I’m begging you, to please reclaim the justice in our state. Please don’t let my dad’s death be in vein.
    I am told that we will eventually find a new "normal,” but I still don't understand what that means. What is normal to us has been taken away by Alexandra Ellis. I know that Ms. Ellis' punishment will never fit the crime; it will never equal out to the void that we feel in our hearts. But once Ms. Ellis has served her sentence, she will go on to live her life and return to what is "normal." She will go on to get married and have children. She will be reunited with her father, who will get to walk his daughter down the aisle and be there to celebrate holidays. I will never be reunited with my father on this Earth. We will never have our life back to normal; we have been given a way worse sentence than Ms. Ellis will ever get.

Frrrp

Frrrrrrrrrrrrrrrppppppppppp.
 
I stopped to readjust the rubber straps that hold the front fender in place. After yesterday's soaking and subsequent aches and pains, I decided to go a little more prepared this time. Rain jacket, fenders, shoe covers, wool socks, cycling cap... There really isn't a need to be miserable when you're trying to have fun.
 
I was going to get wet. The ran always finds a way in. However, if it's a gradual process and the clothing is right, it's less of a soaking and more of a squish. Your body heat has a chance to warm the water into something approaching tolerable.
 
Eventually my brain and my legs reached an accord as to the proper amount of effort that this day required. It was a contentious debate, as my head was convinced I should push it, while my legs maintained that today should be dedicated to long, slow distance. My stomach, which wasn't invited to the summit, was out in the parking lot demanding to be heard. Something about only having a small bag of pretzels in the last six hours, but nobody was really listening.
 
Water, water everywhere. It dripped off of my cap's brim. It shot out of my front fender in a sheet that was eventually deflected backwards by the wind onto my legs. It oozed through the holes in my shoe covers and into my shoes, giving them a swampy feel. It filled the low spots in the road, creating puddles that I tried in vain to avoid. Never know what's at the bottom of a puddle. Could be a pothole or glass, and fixing tubes in the rain is never a whole lot of fun. I forgot my water bottle, but never really felt a need for it. Water was there for the asking.
 
I thought about how I was out there "training" while the competition was sitting home. I wasn't going to let the form leak out and the weak seep in just because of a little rain. Stupid. I had a whole decade of weak to make up for, and they probably need the rest. I'm behind the power curve. I'm always behind the power curve.
 
I'm glad I rode. Rides like that allow me to reflect on my life and the world around me, resulting in the creation of brilliant solutions to universal problems that are promptly forgotten once the endorphin rush is over. I come home level-headed and calm, so I can deal with everyday chaos. Rides like that clear the slate.
 
I'm glad tomorrow is a rest day. It's supposed to rain.