In the (Feed)Zone - The Winter of My Discontent

By: Mark Swartzendruber
Posted: Feb 6, 2014

It’s no secret winter of 2013 – 2014 will go down as one of the most torturous in history.  The Midwest, in particular the upper Midwest has been under a weather anomaly called a Polar Vortex in which arctic air normally reserved for Midwestern and Eastern Canada pushes down into the US.  When it’s not been snowing the temperature here in Chiberia as it’s come to be called has been below 20 degrees consistently since early December and as low as 20 below F.  When the mercury has ventured north of 20, it’s snowed.  We’re currently in the 3rd snowiest winter in Chicago history.  I’ve been outside on my bike exactly 3 times since December 2nd.  Once so far in 2014 and that for an hour and 45 clicks.  I’ve maintained somewhat of a riding schedule, all indoors of course, riding anywhere from 1:15 to 2:30 5-6 times a week on my indoor cycling simulation apparatus but without the occasional break of outdoor riding, I’ve died inside.  It’s largely uninspired riding.  I listen to beat music and turn my legs over to the rhythm of the beat and watch bike races on the DVD player with the sound muted.  Such is the life of a bike racer in Chiberia who won’t be racing until April.

I’ve seen Facebook pictures of you people in California doing team camps and racing already at Boulevard and Red Trolley out in San Diego.  My brother in Santa Cruz had been piling up miles and my team mate Ugly Kid Joe who’s now a pilot living in Roanoke, VA has gotten a lot of riding in as I follow him on Strava.  I’m not jealous at all.  People who have died inside don’t feel emotions such as jealousy, joy, sorrow or the like.

I’m not a winter person to begin with, but this winter has been particularly hard for me.  Maybe it’s the relentless nature of the deep cold and the fact that TLK has been on the road with work.  It leaves me with nothing to do after I am done working from my home office but to head upstairs to the indoor cycling simulation apparatus, pound out a couple of hours, make myself dinner (a highlight) and then drink heavily as I watch hockey on the TV machine.  Those of you who know me know I’m a helluva cook and it does provide me with an outlet of creativity in the otherwise normal haze of winter.

I think it has something to do with having been ill with pneumonia in late September and missing riding during my favorite time of year this fall.  We had a truly spectacular autumn but I wasn’t on my bike. When I was finally over the effects of the pneumonia by November the weather began to get spotty and outdoor riding was an iffy proposition about half the time.  In early December I came down with a brutal case of bronchitis and sinusitis simultaneously that knocked me out for most of December – I’m deficient in both vitamin D from lack of sunlight and endorphins from lack of activity.

As a result of the inactivity and the fabulous cooking, I’ve also developed a rather healthy slab of back bacon.  My dry, itchy winter skin is unusually pale and the whites of my eyes have yellowed from the drinking.  I’m a broken shell of the man I used to be.

Normally when people greet another person they’ve known for a while they will casually ask “How you doing?” not really expecting an answer.  My friends – the few I have left – have instead begun conversations with “Are you doing okay?” with an earnest look which suggests they’re actually looking for me to assure them that yes, I am doing okay, or at least not thinking of jumping off a bridge into the frozen Chicago River.

TLK recognized the gravity of the situation before I did.  Once a person has died inside they’re blind to their own death, much like Bruce Willis’ character in the M Night Shyamalan film The Sixth Sense. I walk around like any other person, not realizing I’ve passed.  “Druber you need to get out of here.  Go see The Rhino…Go see your brother…The depression and drinking are one thing but that slab of back bacon you’re growing needs to be addressed.  It’s downright disgusting”.

As fate would have it I’m waiting to board a direct flight from ORD to SJC on the very day yet another snow event is scheduled to batter the City of big shoulders.  The Weather Bug app has been blowing up my phone with Winter Weather Advisories and Winter Storm Warnings…It’s gonna start this afternoon and not stop for 2 days. My scheduled flight just arrived and is pulling into Gate H15 as I type and barring unforeseen disaster I will be riding a bike that moves when pedaled not wearing 15 lb of thermal gear in the sunshine in a place where there isn’t 15 feet of snow piled up on the side of the road this time tomorrow.  I will report on the riding.



Thanks largely to the efforts of Jane Vanni-Noone and Sierra Siebenlist we are proud to announce our new women’s team. Based primarily in Indianapolis our women’s squad will be donning the scarlet and black with the support of Matthews Bikes shop in Indianapolis and NUVO magazine.  We’re looking forward to seeing them ride.  They’ve already begun team building camps by doing computrainer rides together.

Scarlet Fire Racing Women’s Team p/b Matthews Bikes Roster:

Emma Coughlin

Ashton Dehahn

Anne Gerard

Valerie Gossage

Betsy Kieffer

Stacy Appelwick-Mosora

Katy Sahm

Sierra Siebenlist

Emily Tortorelli

Jane Vanni-Noone

Claudia Witzig

Look for them.  Or, look out for them depending on your perspective.

Druber, Out.