Valentine’s Day Madness

(Below written Feb. 20th, today.)

I’m posting this ish today no matter what!  It’s been procrastinated on far too long now, and it’s not even that good of a post.  I am currently (that stuff below is not current, it was THEN, but not any more which is why I’m using italics to let you know that those past present tenses are actually long gone, so don’t get confus-ed and think that any of the horrible things from the past week are still going on in my life)–as I said, I’m currently sitting in the cafe section of Alfalfa’s, a trendy, spendy Whole Foods look-a-like here in downtown Boulder.  It’s a great place to drink decaf coffee, use the internet, and eavesdrop on homeless people’s conversations (usually they’re pretty good but right now these two women are just talking about the wind outside).  Plus they have lots of free samples here at Alfalfa’s and a good bulk food section.  About an hour ago, while riding to the post office–which is closed today because of Washington’s birthday–and then to the library–which is also closed today–I was almost destroyed by a car.  Well, I wasn’t almost destroyed, but the SUV right in front of me almost was.  It was INCHES away from being nailed by another SUV that blatantly ran a red light at 40mph.  This almost death happened not five blocks from my house amongst a sleepy neighborhood with a slow speed limit, not out in the back roads with some jacked up pick-up driving red neck who hates faggot cyclists, not during rush hour in a busy intersection, not down town with a bus merging into the bike lane, not at night, not in the snow, and not descending a mountain at 50 mph (all situations that I assume are the most dangerous while riding a bike).  Here’s how it happened: the stop light was red for me and for the car in front of me.  It was already sitting at the light before I got there.  The light turned green for us when I was about 25 meters from the intersection.  The car started through the intersection and luckily jammed its brakes on just in time to avoid getting hit by the other car from the right, as it ran a red light and didn’t even break to slow down.  I assume the driver was on their cell phone or some stupid shit, not looking at the road in front of them.  I was still just entering the intersection when I saw that the car, coming down a slight hill so therefore going extra fast, wasn’t going to stop.  But if I had left home five (5) seconds sooner, I would have reached the stop light just as it was turning green, I would have stood up to pedal hard and accelerate through the intersection and beat the car to my left to the crosswalk on the other side (because every race counts).  I would have come even and then passed that car that had been waiting at the light (I was in the bike lane and it would have been just to my left), and I might have noticed, in one split second, out of the corner of my right eye, a huge, black metallic beast careening towards me at bone-crushing speed.  The way I imagine it, I would have been partially sandwiched in between the two cars, with the SUV running the stop sign plowing into my front half and my back half being scissored off from the bumper of the other car behind and to the left of me.  I would not have survived and, despite wearing my helmet and thick puffy jacket, which in the past I’ve always assumed would be good enough to protect me (kind of like a motorcyclist’s mindset with leather).  Luckily, my appetite saved me and I had stalled momentarily in front of a bowl of fruit in the kitchen before I left, deciding whether or not to grab an apple for the road.  But now I’m safe and sound at Alfalfa’s and I’ll finish writing the stuff down below.

(Started writing the below on Feb. 19th)

It is now February 19th and I’ve almost wrapped up another very heavy, hard week of trainings, including some good days of intervals and my first real group ride in months, the Gateway ride.  The legs are strong, but the mind is stronger still.  I’m very excited to see what this last chunk of training has done to my fitness once I rest up for half a week before my next block of hard work.  I’ve finally had a minute or two to finish writing what I started earlier this week.  The past week has been packed full of activities.  To name a few: bike riding, more bike riding, working 5 days in a row at Ras Kassa’s, which is almost 35 HOURS of standing up, walking around, being polite to strangers, and carrying things (not a cyclist’s forte whatsoever), finishing Twilight Break Dawn Part 1 (a highlight of the week, which took me three different tries to get through), posting sarcastic comments about people’s beliefs on facebook (a civil duty these days), and last but not least: I was walking through Sunflower Farmer’s Market the other day, mouth full of bulk food, grocery cart full of cheap bananas and lettuce, when I happened upon a loan loaf of bread sitting in a discounted bakery basket stand thing.  I normally don’t buy bread, as I don’t want to get really, really fat, but I had a long ride planned for the next day and I was chalk out of my banana bread and rice cake ride food.  I quick, guilty thought raped my mind like a raccoon stealing a new garbage bin’s virginity.  Discounted oat bread fresh from the bakery+grind your own honey-roasted peanut butter+jam.  This may not sound like anything special to any of you, but it was the BEST thing I ate in a long time.  Like at least 40 minutes.  Once I got home I immediately cracked open the bag and had myself one and a half slices to get a taste for the next day’s ride before.  The ride tasted wonderful (I associate how my ride will go based on the food I bring–this is a given).  The bread, discounted for reasons I do not know, was fresh, super soft, yet dense and packed full of grains like Bob’s Red Mill.  But the best part about it was that it wasn’t pre-sliced, meaning I could cut extra thick chunks–not slices–of the the delicious, mouth-watering whole grain goodness.  I’ve always known that non-sliced bread is the best thing since sliced bread.  Once the PB&J slid down my gullet my mind went on a wild rampage, very forcefully trying to convince me that it would be a good idea to down the entire loaf right then and there.  After all, I needed the energy for tomorrow!  But I thought better of it as I came to a more rational rationalization, for I still had over a POUND of salmon to eat!!!! Yes, I had gone all out and bought a big as (<–the New Zealand version) chunk of salmon to bake.  And guess what else was on sale at my favorite grocery store of all time, Sunflower Farmer’s Market?  Strawberries for a buck a pound!  That question mark seems misplaced but it’s not.

Note: image in image is larger than it appears.  This was a lot of salmon, trust me.  But still not nearly enough.

To accompany the salmon, I had quite a few strawberries and a dish full of cooked mushrooms, onions, and asparagus.  Man I STANK the next day!

(Started writing the below the morning of Feb 15th).  

My legs have not been feeling very good lately.  I haven’t been able to put out good power in the cold, and on top of that, each cumulative hour spent with numb hands, feet, face, and core take their toll more I ever think.  The riding has been miserable.  You know that numbness you get in your forehead and face that makes your eyes go crossed?  It’s pretty much a general rule that this will happen riding here lately.  After coming in from the cold I go immediately into the shower and stick my face in the hot stream of water and it comes back to life, my eyes slowly and stiffly unfreezing and returning their gaze straight ahead instead of towards my nose.  I’ve trained myself to ‘enjoy’ the pain of blood rushing back into my hands and feet once the hot water hits them.  I turn the heat up extra and flip the drain shut to make a bath for my feet to thaw in.  I use extra hot water to train myself to deal with a little extra pain.  Is it bad to force all those blood vessels open like that?  Maybe.  I’m not sure, but I don’t care.

The mental aspect of this continuously shitty weather is the worst part, since after we get snow and cold for a few days the weather forecast looks like it’s about to start warming up.  Then, as soon as the thought of warm, dry roads has planted itself in your mind, another snow storm and cold snap comes along and ruins everything.  Luckily I think (I’ve thought this before though) that we’re out of it for good now.  Yesterday and the day before were both 40 degrees and partly sunny.   Very nice riding conditions.  Unfortunately I did not take advantage of them since I needed some rest days.

Despite telling myself that training in sub freezing conditions must have some benefit, I know I’m lying and it’s just causing extra fatigue and slowing my recovery.  Yesterday, Valentine’s Day, I went out to attempt my first set of v02 intervals of the season.  I had high hopes for good numbers, as I always do, especially since it wasn’t freezing out.  I did the first interval with a lot of effort and not a lot of power.  It hurt way more than it should have.  A little discouraged, I shrugged it off as a combination of things: not being used to v02 at altitude, not having done many efforts this intense yet this year, and unopened legs.  Interval two would be better since my legs were definitely now open.  One minute and 20 seconds into the second interval I stopped and rode home.  My body was having none of it that day.  I called it a rest day before I did any serious damage and would try again tomorrow.

Well after writing the above, I’ve now decided to post pone those intervals until the 16th.  It’s maybe 30 degrees outside right now (the warm weather I was hoping for didn’t come) and I slept in past 11, meaning I was extra tired to begin with.  I had a late night last night on Valentine’s Day, but not because I had a date.  I had a late night because it was the BUSIEST and most HECTIC day of the year at Ras Kassa’s and I didn’t get off work until midnight.

V-DAY

The hype had been building over the past two weeks.  Valentine’s Day would make or break me and would be my final initiation into Ras Kassa’s.  I was told horror stories of how busy we’d be, with dozens of inpatient, angry people waiting at the door and standing in the bar area, of horror stories of things going wrong when they absolutely could NOT go wrong, like the dishwasher breaking or the computer crashing or something catastrophic like that.  On a normal busy night like this past Sunday or Monday, even when it’s busy I get to sit down at the bar and drink water or eat food once in a while.  It’s strange: the days leading up to and the days following Valentine’s Day are all extra busy because of people not being able to go out on the actual day of Feb. 14, so they celebrate it earlier or later.  I wasn’t even aware Valentine’s was an actual holiday people pay attention to.  I’ve always assumed it’s a greeting card holiday.  Not so.  It’s a restaurant holiday, and the most stressful night of the year at Ras Kassa’s.

Here’s a run-down of the characters at play, their nationality, and the languages they speak.  Kind of like I did with my teammates.

Tsehay, pronounced ‘sah-hi’ and also known as ‘Ma’: Ethiopian.  Speaks Amheric, which is just one of the 90 languages spoken in Ethiopia.  She also speaks English and some Spanish.  She’s the owner of Ras Kassa’s, having opened the restaurant south of town 24 years ago in a tiny cinder-block building.  The place still exists as a legend and any Boulderite that’s old enough to remember it still rants and raves about how amazing it was back then, having to wait outside in a long line to be seated, buying beer at the liquor shop next door and taking it into the restaurant to drink since at the time Ras Kass’s didn’t sell alcohol, and then once they’d ordered at the register and had taken their seats around their tables on the low stools in the tiny one-room building, leaning against the person behind them for support, back to back, since the place was so packed and the stools were backless.  Tsehay is a short, round woman with a huge laugh and an amazing ability to hug and smile away stress.  If a customer is pissed off at me or one of the other waiters, Tsehay can and WILL fix the problem no matter how mad they are and she’ll have them laughing and smiling within 30 seconds.  I don’t know how she does this.  I guess my fake smile isn’t very convincing.  If things are getting stressful for the staff, even while we have twenty things to do that were supposed to be done ten minutes ago, she’ll trap you in a hug and tell you how happy she is that you’re here and how good of a job you’re doing.

Malang: Senegalian.  Speaks English, French and one of the languages in Senegal I think.  I’m not sure which one.  Malang abandoned his goal of playing for his country’s national soccer team to come to the States and play the drums, which is one of his other professions aside from working at Ras Kassa’s.  Malang is always really excited and rushes around like mad doing the work of three people most of the time.  His catch phrase for almost any situation: “I’m telling you man…”  He’s easy to get along with and seems to have a continuous 5-Hour Energy IV drip.  He and Jason are both on rival soccer teams.

Jason: American.  Speaks English and Spanish.  Jason is 24 and is going to school at CU.  He’s originally from New York, but you’d never guess it due to his laid back mentality.  Jason can go on for hours talking to the guests and has a knack for entertaining the single cougars that come prowling to the bar.  His work history is pretty rich, with the coolest sounding job (to me anyways) being a year working on a produce farm outside of town where he was part of a long line of field-men who’d lift and throw watermelons rugby-style to each other and onto a tractor all day long.  His shoulders are at least twice as broad as mine.  Jason has done most of my waiter training and I couldn’t have asked for an easier-going person to teach me the ways.

Abesha: Ethiopian.  She speaks Amheric and is learning English.  Being a waiter and not speaking English seems like a tough task, and it is.  I think her job is three times harder for her than for everyone else since she’s in a constant state of confusion due to language and culture shock.  She’s only been living in the States for six months now, having come over from Ethiopia’s hot, 8,000 ft highlands to Boulder’s frigid “low lands.”  Abesha is short and thin, built for the heat and is not at all used to the snow.  I thought she was 16 or 17 when I first met her, but she’s 23.

Elizabeth: Mexican, speaks Spanish.  She’s the head cook.  She’s friendly and is willing to let me practice my Spanish on her all night long.  She always makes a huge community dinner for everyone and likes us all to gather round and eat at the bar with her before the customers start arriving.

Eric: Mexican, speaks Spanish.  He’s a cook sometimes and a dishwasher others.  He rarely smiles and seems pretty angry most of the time.

Mitch.  American.  Dishwasher.  The only white kid in the kitchen and he doesn’t speak Spanish, so he gets ganged up on somewhat when things get hectic in there.  I don’t know him that well yet but he’s recommended some good authors to me.

There are a couple other people that come in pretty usually to help with dishes and to hang out and eat some food or whatnot.  People that either used to work at Ras Kassa’s, who help out with the restaurant’s advertising, or are just friends of people who work there.

Now that I’ve written all this I don’t really feel like writing about the actual Valentine’s Day night.  I’ll sum it up quick.  I got to the restaurant early, prepared a lot of injera (the bread all the food comes with), we all ate a huge platter of food that Elizabeth cooked, and then people started coming in before we even opened, at like 4:45.  The place was soon packed and there was a constant door-jam of 20-30 people waiting to be seated.  We’d moved the tables closer together to make more room, littered the place with red shiny tinsel and Valentine decorations and candles, dimmed the lights to the lowest setting, and were playing love songs on the speakers instead of the traditional afro pop we usually jam to.  We were extremely understaffed, with one waiter not coming because she was sick and a dishwasher just not showing up, so there was no time to think.  Just take orders, bring food, clean tables, repeat.  Customers would ask for water or extra napkins or whatever and sometimes I wouldn’t get back to them for half an hour (if I remembered at all) since there were so many other things to do.  A minor disagreement broke out in the kitchen from the plates stacking up and things falling on the ground, an angry patron tried to get extra food, tried to get a free drink, failed at both, Abesha soon became shell shocked from the stress, we ran out of injera like three times that night and had to make more, I dropped some glasses, Jason dropped glasses, people were eating at the bar so there was no room to make drinks, the floor was sticky with champagne (we were giving free champagne and chocolate brownies to everyone), my insulin was JACKED the entire night from the brownies and adrenaline…the madness didn’t stop until well past 11.  Though it was stressful and packed the entire night, just about everyone who came in left super happy (it’s the best restaurant in town for crying out loud).  And with most people ordering the special Valentine’s day feast, all of us servers made more money than a super solid day of snow shoveling.  Success.

This is a picture of a re-furbished ride food sandwich I had yesterday.  I made a monster, triple decker sandwich of strawberry jam, a small avacado, and a banana about a week ago for a big ride.  I ended up turning that ride into a recovery day since I was too tired, but I didn’t want to let the sandwich go to waste.  So I froze it.  I forgot about it for a week or more, then remembered it yesterday.  But after I thawed it out it was so soggy that it would have fallen apart in my pocket, despite being wrapped in tinfoil.  So first I toasted it in the toaster oven.  Then I made a batter of flower and egg, spread it on both sides and cooked it in a pan.  Then I dipped the still-soggy ends in corn flour and cooked it some more.

And there we have it.  A treat not to be beat, lest ye eat the feet of a sheep, which are so tastey I’d bleep a bleep.

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2 thoughts on “Valentine’s Day Madness

  1. DavidA

    Do you have to dress like you’re going for a moonwalk with those temps??? Also, when is your warm-weather training camp….like Sacto, Ca on the American River Bike trail….its 72-74 degrees there right now. You can ride 1-way to Folsom Lake 40-50miles. Plus do the City Bike training rides, I guess it is one of the fastest training rides in america. You’ll probably due interval and sprint training at your camp. Dude, you are so ready to win a kermis in Belgium this year. im going back to Holland and Belgium in May to see some of my friends and adopted familie from back in the day.

  2. kennettron Post author

    Man, sounds nice there David. I’ve ridden around Folsom lake before, nice area I have relatives that live close by. The team is doing its training camp in Agoura hills, CA starting on March 9th. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s warm today, but too windy to ride. Gusts of 70 mph. A trainer day. And yes I hope I can get back over to Belgium again this year and win one of those races! Have a good time over there in May.

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