Tour of the Hilltowns race report

Four years ago, I drove down to the Housatonic Hills road race by myself, a 3-hour trip into deepest, darkest central Connecticut. I did that brutally hilly race without teammates, got dropped early, and groveled to the finish. Then drove 3 hours back home, ruminating on my weaknesses and mistakes. I made myself a promise on the way back: if I ever got the itch to drive to a long, hilly road race, I for sure wasn’t going to go by myself. This weekend, I got to make good on that promise in Windsor, MA at the Tour of the Hilltowns. After inital arrangements fell through, I met up with my 50+ clubmates Brian and Anthony, loaded them up in the man-van, and made for Windsor.
I took the start and immediately felt like I was on the defensive, hanging onto the tail end of the field. We turned onto 8A and my eyes lingered on a rider from an earlier field, now laying motionless on the shoulder with two or three people attending to him. We managed to make it through the first stint on 8A safely, and 116 also passed without incident, but when we turned onto the second part of 8A and began the big descent, we had two crashes. The second came just as we hit the rough pavement about halfway down, and was fairly big – riders all over the road. I went from about 40 miles an hour to 12 in a couple of seconds, locked up my rear wheel, and then picked my way through the carnage. Of course, the front of the field never slowed down, so I had a good gap I had to make up…if I had the legs to do so. Which I didn’t. I kept them in view for a while, but never got back up.
After that, things get a little hazy. I was with a small group at the foot of East Hawley Road, but we didn’t stay together. I died a dozen times on that 4-mile climb, which naturally coincided with the sunniest 20 minutes of the race. I just kept grinding away, with dull legs and hoping for a double flat or cracked seatpost or some excuse to hang it up and figure out how I’d get back to the car. But, no such luck. Eventually the entire 50+ field came past me, and even the leading group of Cat 5s went by before I finally found the finish. At least I kept the green monster at bay.
Did I learn anything? Well, maybe tackling a 90K road race on limited sleep and reduced training volume the two weeks prior isn’t such a hot idea. Or, maybe my training volume isn’t up to 2+-hour races, or hey, maybe I’m just not good enough for anything longer than a local circuit race. And I knew hanging out in the back of a big field is asking for trouble…but I was in trouble from the start. My body was there, but my legs sure weren’t.
Is it cross season yet?

Health care: why is it so expensive, anyway?

For various reasons, health care issues are seldom far from the front of my mind these days. There’s some good stuff in the “Affordable Care Act” that was passed earlier this year, but implementation takes place from now until 2014, and I’m skeptical that the measures will do much for cost control. Even if they do, ACA doesn’t do much of anything to fix some of the fundamental flaws in our health care system.
So why the heck are insurance premiums rising so much? The problem, as some medical types would put it, is multi-factorial. This isn’t really my area of expertise, either, but I’m trying to piece together some understanding. As I run across info, I’ll post here and ruminate a bit.
This article on the Washington Monthly’s website caught my attention this week. It describes the workings of Group Purchase Organizations (GPOs), and how the unintended consequences of some well-intentioned changes in regulation resulted in GPOs raising the cost of hospital supplies and reducing competition among suppliers. I suspect that at least one of the 2.5 people who will read this might know a whole lot more about GPOs than I do, so I invite comments with counterpoint.
I don’t mean to imply that GPOs are the biggest problem in health care. This is just a reminder that health care is a business and the profit motive is as alive here as it is in any other industry. That’s not necessarily all bad, but we shouldn’t fool ourselves that health care as a business has some moral imperative that insulates it from selfish behavior.

Pan-Mass Challenge 2010: Please sponsor me

It’s that time again: for the 5th consecutive year, I’m riding the Pan-Mass Challenge to raise funds for cancer research and treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute here in Boston. I plan to raise $7000, and, well…I’m not there yet. I need your help.
Once again this year I’m riding with Pedals for Pediatrics. The money we raise goes directly to support the families of children with cancer. That’s one special thing about P4P. The other special thing is that we, the P4P members, meet, consider grant applications and decide where the donations go. Some projects sound mundane, but ease the burden families carry when their children are in treatment – parking vouchers, lodging and housing assistance, and food and entertainment for inpatients may not sound like a big deal, but help alleviate day-to-day concerns and let parents focus on supporting their sick kids. Other projects are more aspirational: we’ve purchased lab equipment that allow researchers to do more experiments in less time, and video teleconferencing equipment to help Dana-Farber staff collaborate and support their colleagues across the world.
This is truly inspirational stuff, and I’d love for you to be a part of it. You can donate online here, or, if you know where to find me out in real life, you can make out a check to “Pan-Mass Challenge” and give it to me.
Thanks for reading, and thanks for your support.