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I find myself filling out forms in regards to taxes, insurance, credit card, or anything medical and know that when I list Professional Cyclist in the box seeking my job title, it elicits a raised eyebrow or two. I’ve been in this game long enough to recognize that being a professional cyclist is a bit of a foreign concept to a significant slice of the population.
Here’s something that we can all understand: riding bikes is good. Now raise that to an even greater power — that is, mix in the very best time of year, add a healthy dose of exquisite food, naturally toss in (more than just) a generous pour of big California wine, and top it off with some awesome people and exemplary terrain — and what you have now is truly great.
Welcome to the Ted King California Weekender.
I’ve had the privilege of riding my bike in some of the world’s most spectacular places. Northern California, though, and especially the corridor from Mill Valley along Highway 1 as you soar over the Pacific, snaking inland on spectacular roads towards Sonoma, then rounding the bend and cruising south into Napa Valley, Holy Moly that is something more than special.
I therefore teamed up with my best friend, mentor, all around incredible guy — oh, and should I mention cycling guide — Joao Correia to bring inGamba Tours into the fray. I’ve been lucky enough to have imbibed on my fair share of fun tagging along on inGamba’s tours throughout Europe and quickly see that these “tours” are more than just you, your buddies, your bike, and a map as unfortunately so many other “tours” are operate. You’re immediately family with Joao. There’s an intimate and immediate relationship bonded that you won’t find anywhere else.
These are obviously open and public roads. If you want to go get lost riding NorCal roads, I trust you’ll have a good time. If, however, you want to ride some of the best roads you’ll ever pedal, eat some of the most divine foods you’ll ever encounter, stay in incredible hotels, and be indulge in hospitality like you’ve never soaked in before, …ah, and come ride bikes with me, then join us on the California Weekender. You will be blown away. Want to pick my brain about what life’s like as a professional cyclist? Come on out and ask away — I can answer those questions too.
To inquire email nate@inGamba.pro
November 1-5, 2013
It’s fitting that I finished today’s queen stage of the Tour of Utah up the fierce Snowbird finishing climb with Ben King. My (not actual) brother from another mother, Ben and I share a last name, are good friends, yet we are entirely unrelated. However, presumably because we are both awesome, the number of times people cheer for me and yet yell, “Go Ben” — or vice versa, motivating Ben onward with shouts of “Crush it Ted!” — is far beyond what we’re ready to count.
So finishing in a petite group of three with Ben, it made it simple for the hoards of fans to just yell Ted and Ben interchangeably and make us both happy.
And with that said, let’s go over some rules for cheering since some of the stuff we hear uttered borders on ridiculous, even though that’s seemingly not the intent. Here are a series of examples we hear along a finishing climb or otherwise tough section of bike racing parcours:
• “You can do it!”
Thank you. We know we can do it. We may look like we’re struggling or are in a world of pain, so even if we’re in the midst of some serious bike humping and/or paperboying, we’re not about to hop off our bikes and walk. Just like Obama says, yes we can… do it. We know that and don’t need this obvious encouragement.
• “Keep going!”
Much like the above, of course we are going to keep going. In all likelihood, even if we’re deep into hating life at that very moment of a climb, chances are that if we keep on going up, then down, then wherever else the race takes us, we will very likely be traveling the shortest distance to the finish. So unless you have a BBQ and exquisite selection of microbrews lining the road with your absurd cheers causing a detour into your front lawn, we will probably keep going.
• “You’re almost there!”
This isn’t so absurd. However we are generally quite aware of where we are in the race and within the climb itself. So please save this cheer for when we are actually almost there. A la, within sight or even spitting distance of the top/finish.
• “5 kilometers to go!” (or “1 kilometer to go!” or “so-and-so distance to go!” et cetera)
Again, similar to the above, this one can be shouted freely and with all the might of your billowing lungs, but for Pete’s sale, ONLY SAY IT WHEN IT’S CORRECT! To “warn” us that there are five kilometers to go when there are really, oh say seven or six or eight is just a real jerk thing to do. So kindly shut your mouth or else be at least mildly accurate.
As fitting alternatives to the above, here are a brief list of appropriate things to verbally spur us on:
• “Your King of the Road Jersey is Amazing!”
You’re absolutely correct, Not-Ted-King! Yes, it is. It looks like this and if you haven’t purchased one yet, then what the crap are you waiting for?!
Yup, that’s a real ax, those are real logs, and I really have not personally chopped them. And profits go to a real charity.
• “Pedal faster!”
We actually hear this one a lot. It’s astute, to the point, and does the job. Because pedaling faster will make us go faster which will make us, err, ride faster. Plus it’s curt and witty and is just annoying enough to make us pedal faster.
• This isn’t actually something to yell, but we encourage you to HAND OUT DOLLAR BILLS!
There’s some dude here in Utah who is in a Sasquatch suit (or maybe it’s a ghillie suit, but it looks hot and miserable in the Utah’ah heat so I doff my hat to you) and he hands out dollars to cross eyed cyclists. You’ll see us pedal just that one iota harder when we see a dollar or twenty on the line.
Yeuup, the dollar you see atop this post is the actual dollar bill from today’s race. Thanks Ghillie Man!
• “There’s a burrito at the finish line for you!”
Just like the above, this will have a lot more meaning if a) there is a burrito at the finish line for us or b) there is a burrito cart at the finish line, so while the burrito is not yet built, the potential is there so in due time there will be a burrito. This, however, is rare — in fact, I’ve never seen such a thing. The European alternative to a burrito is a kebabs; meat and veg and a little splash of authentic sauce all wrapped up in a warm and comfy flour tortilla-like thing: YEAH delicious food!
Oye, massage time. G’night.
Yuup, the restorative power of lobster! With it’s generous helping of bone healing protein, as well as vital minerals like calcium, iron, and magnesium, plus plenty of invigorating vitamins, it pretty much sells itself to an injury cyclist nursing his wounded wing. Of course with that being said, I would happily crack through dozens of lobsters even if it was horribly laden in fat and cholesterol (…umm, much like the butter you dunk it in). And why do I need bone-healing lobster with merely a separated shoulder…? Stay tuned.
First let’s backtrack.
Ahh, home sweet home. Amid an incredible outpouring of support — for which I’m eternally humbled and forever grateful for your emotionally charged comments/emails/phone calls/texts/tweets/messages — I bid the Tour de France goodbye. Doing my best not to stew on the situation, I next gave my supportive and impressively globe-trotting parents a tour de Girona for a few fleeting days, before making my way back to America. The first order of business was seeking more thorough medical care than what’s found in the quick diagnoses found at the Tour de France. At Access Sports Medicine in Exeter, after thrice x-rays and 45 minutes in the MRI machine…
…I learned that in addition to my separated shoulder, I also have a fractured coracoid, which is part of the scapula. And as tough-guy as it sounds to say that I broke my scapula, in reality the coracoid is a fairly obscure bone. So as BA as I am, in practice this diagnosis means:
a) I’m all the more impressed with myself for having grit through three more stages of the Tour de France. Sheesh, let alone saddling back up and finishing the first painful stage.
b) I never had a mid-season break since I segued the Tour of San Luis to Paris-Nice to the Classics to California to nationals to Suisse to the Tour de France, and therefore I suddenly was handed this ideal time for a quick rest. Which in turn means…
c) it’s time to go to Maine! I was in Vacationland literally for just a few short hours, but given the support from some of my favorite fans under four-and-a-half feet tall, I just had to make the trip. Coincidentally, they just may be my cousins. Or “cousins-once-removed”. Or “second-cousins”. I don’t know how that works, but they’re rad and definitely help stoke the ego.
Now jump ahead eight days off the bike later (yes, with one evening spent eyes deep in lobster to help mend my ailing bones), I was back on my steed. With the help of European jet-lag plus an American sized helping of coffee, I’m able to stay busy in my typical New England swing. I saw some of my best friends, ate some amazing meals, rode my bike once or twice, cooked one final thank you dinner for my parents and another amazing hometown friend, and just cleared my head. T’was glorious.
But it’s now business time and therefore time to get ready for the next round, which may involve training at altitude here in Colorado as well as the use of an electric bone stimulator. Yes, an electric bone stimulator. That’s a fun addition to the daily routine because I get to say, “Yes, that’s a bone stimulator in my pocket AND I’m happy to see you!”
But before you break out the well off-color jokes, it’s applied to my shoulder to stimulate bone growth, not my nether regions. I’m also icing on the reg’ since after some proper bike riding, my shoulder gets sore and ice is magic.
I don’t actually ice my head, though. I ice my shoulder. I have it on my head because everyone who sees my awesome ice pack is amazed that they actually exist. They’ve only ever seen them in cartoons on cartoons’ heads when they bump their noggin. Friends, they actually exist and they work really well.
In an ideal scenario the rather hermit-like routine reads something like this: wake up, ride bike, ice shoulder, stimulate bones, rest, and repeat. The ol’ wing is getting better at an exponential rate, day by day, and seemingly hour by hour. While the first few rides even after the lengthy time off were drenched in a world of pain, each ride is considerably more comfortable and feeling just plain NORMAL than the last. And not just saying that to make everyone say, “Aww Ted, that’s just super great!” I mean it — every ride is way better than before!
Enough sappy talk though, it’s time to win some bike races!
I hit the ground at 53kph. With no more protection than a millimeter or two of neon green spandex plus some aerodynamic styrofoam atop my head, I didn’t stand a chance. My jersey has a some tears and my helmet received a few minor dings, but instead of a glancing skim across the asphalt, the crash was a shockingly brunt impact directly into my left shoulder. People talk about “learning how to crash” — that’s ridiculous. In the frenetic final few minutes of a bike race, when you’re moving at speeds over 30mph and then in the snap of your fingers three riders touch the barrier and come crashing down directly in front of you on, in reality all you do is wish for luck.
A cheetah’s body is like an elastic — over eons of natural evolution, its body bends, contorts, and stretches to comply with the demands of striking its prey and abruptly crashing to the ground at 60mph. Evolution in the human body, though, has not caught up with the speeds of our modern age. The airbags and crumple zones that provide emergency measures of a car are equivalent to broken bones and torn skin on the human body at these unnatural speeds. As beautifully pure and elegant as bicycle racing is, it can also be violently inhuman.
Rules are a critical part of the sport of cycling. We can agree that an absence of rules in a bike race quite simply results in one-hundred and fifty guys (or gals) effectively out for a group ride. By in large rules are inherent and obvious. They present the course and provide a definitive barrier so that all riders are on the same page, racing the same race. This being a professional sport with very high stakes, inevitably the boundaries are brushed up against which will result in one of two options — they excitingly push the sport forward or catastrophically tear it down.
My crash in the closing kilometers of stage one of the Tour de France resulted in a separated shoulder. The pain at the time was incredible, but paled in comparison to the thought of leaving my first ever Tour. With the race doctors’ reluctant but understanding approval, I gutted through two tough stages before we bid farewell to Corsica and were onto the team time trial in Nice. As I comfortably stretched my long American legs from my exit row window seat, I distinctly remember looking outside as Corsica disappeared into the distance thinking that things would be perfectly alright.
In practice, this diagnosis of torn and sprained ligaments in the acromioclavicular joint of my shoulder means I can’t yank aggressively on the bars, so standing to sprint is nauseatingly painful. But sit on the back of a team time trial train? Psshhh, I have Tour de France fitness ten years in the making! Separated shoulder or not, Ha, I can do that all day long.
Thirty-two minutes, twenty-four seconds of competition later (or roughly eight seconds longer according to some), I was cut from the Tour de France. This is the result of a rule — a line in the sand dictating that any rider finishing outside of 25% of the winning team’s time is withdrawn from the race. It’s a rule that I recognized, was fully aware of, and respected. I suppose it’s the ambiguity of my finishing time on a bike without a transponder and the discrepancy between my powermeter’s time and the time given to me by officials that provided me the most grief.
The following morning while mentally in tatters, I was hoping for a glimmer of humanity from the race jury. It’s the Tour de France! It’s the historic one-hundredth anniversary and my debut Tour! I absolutely wanted to be reinstated on the grounds of empathy found in a few slender seconds. It’s exactly the inhumanity and unnatural take on my situation that pushed me in the deepest rut.
But I’ve been propped back up. The sport of cycling is an adventure story spun by two wheels, and I quickly discovered the Tour de France is like a mythical epic, a league of its own, complete with incredible personality and emphatic emotion unlike anything I’ve witnessed before. In an ironic contrast, the lack of understanding offered to me by the race jury was compensated for by its exact opposite — that is, the tremendously compassion provided by family, friends, fans, and a myriad of supporters throughout the world is precisely the empathetic crutch I needed for support at this tough time.
In a sport that can be so cruelly inhuman, I was provided more humanity than I thought possible.
I just had a shot of maple syrup. Needless to say, things are looking up.
Ahh yes, and Peter took a strong hold on the green jersey with his second consecutive second place stage finish so that’s superb.
Let’s now backtrack and assess the past 72 hours.
Stage 1 of the Tour de France was excellent, until very quickly it wasn’t.
The first, oooh say, 97% of the race was chugging along nicely, and then after riding with a feeble metal barrier seemingly not doing much on the left side of the road for a long while, three guys directly in front of me went into the barrier and violently went down. I took a stab at impersonating Superman before I realized that I can’t fly, and then drove my shoulder into the pavement. In summary, I separated my shoulder. To which a lot of concerned people ask, “That’s horrible — did you put it back into place?!” That’s a great question if I had dislocated my shoulder. As the son of an orthopaedic surgeon and as the product of a rough and tumble youth, I know the distinct difference between a dislocation and a separation. Here’s WebMD‘s explanation differentiating the two; basically I’ve torn some ligaments and pushed some bones out of place, which results in a lot of swelling, a ton of pain in the entire region since I obviously absorbed some trauma there… and then for insult to injury, there’s road rash. But not terrible in the grand scheme of things.
The feeling a) is wicked frigging bad and b) elicits a similar sensation somewhat akin to breaking a bone. That is, there’s a gritty, “this bone doesn’t feel like it’s in the right place” feeling, much like a piece of sand in your mouth. Only instead of sand it’s my skeletal system and therefore my livelihood. With no diagnosis right there on the side of the road and with my mind spinning some hybrid of curse words and “What the crap do I do now?!” I saddled back up and grimaced all the way to the finish.
So a lengthy trip to the spiffy-new-for-2013 Tour de France x-ray truck and I was getting x-rays. A series of radiation blasting proved that I had broken my l-clavicle long before (true) and that I had in fact separated my shoulder a long time ago too (fact). But just to get the true Tour de (Corsica) France experience, we then went to the Corsican hospital. A handful of my cycling colleages were in various states of waiting room, emergency room, or hanging out on gurneys. From there a CAT scan proved that my shoulder was separated. Yup, fact and they found another fracture from years ago. But that’s not important. By now it’s about five hours post race, we’re then checking out of the hospital with the good news that if I can suck it up I can play ball.
And now a short video. Please click here for a word from me to further shed light on the situation.
Sunday was stage two, and after a lengthy night of sleep where I slept like a mummy – flat on my back, hands crossed on my belly – and didn’t move for the entire ten hours, besides when I got up to pee, which was a reminder that I didn’t just separate my shoulder, but my entire left side of my body underwent some wicked impact yesterday and therefore getting out of bed is horribly painful.
But I managed to get through it. The first hour made me nauseous with pain, but that settled down and it was truly a learning experience. I learned what I can do. I learned what I can’t do. I can’t stand and pull on the bars, which is inevitable when you stand. So in general I sit. Sprinting, in reality, is a series of rapid, abrupt, and violent movements and son of a nutcracker, wouldn’t you know that that’s really hard too! But when you’re climbing seated full bore, you end up tugging on the bars and that tends to hurt it too. I also can’t put on socks. Putting on a jersey is painful as heck. I can dole out water bottles, but so far not very well. But you know what, I can pedal my bike. In the Tour de France. And that’s what I’m here to do.
Here’s a very well thought out chart to analyze where I’m at in the grand scheme of things. First you’ll see that I chose wood at the substance for this chart, cause wood is natural and tough and I’m natural and tough so I thought this was an apt representation in a chart. I don’t want to lose you here, so please pay attention. Jumping right into things, you’ll notice that in the “Pre-Race” area, I was humming along around an arbitrary 100. The stage 1 crash took me down to the 10′ish region, which is not optimal at all. But there is still a lot to be thankful for — friends, family, tremendous support, my team, my wherewithal after a crash, and the ability to ride on. Then you can see by stage 3, by learning the nuances of what my body can do, I’m up to a respectable 15. Still a far cry from 100 as we see pre-race, but I can get back there. Soon. I’ve been speaking at length in these interviews that a Grand Tour is a one-day-at-a-time adventure. This holds all the more true in my current state of affairs. So while not trying to get ahead of my self, this rate of recovery in the coming day is going to resemble more of a parabola with ever increasing rate of return. Expect to see a lot more natural and tough material to the right of that chart very soon.
Summary of events:
Shot of maple syrup, Peter in green, an interesting test tomorrow how well I can crunch into the TT position, friends have begun arriving from America, parent arrive tomorrow, and we’re on mainland Europe instead of la isla de Corsica.
One day at a time…
Last big ride here in the Pyrenees before jetting off back home and then onto Corsica. And by jetting I mean driving. A car. Back to Girona. Tomorrow.
Hot diggity, it was a beauty of a day here today. You see, while nearly every European pro is stressfully racing their national championships this weekend, I was blessed with a block of time to train at the place of my choosing, at the pace of my choosing. So today was exquisite in the bike riding department and similarly this entire week has been just what I needed. It was a perfect, head clearing chunk of time to prepare for Le Tour. Or The Tour as I say since I don’t speak French. Holy moly I’m psyched! Oooookay, down to business. Here’s a photo from today:
And now let’s jump to the category of random news of late:
–I enjoyed this article and am loving the corresponding website. It’s like my own personal coffee shop ambiance right here with me to go along with my hot water maker and AeroPress. Dang, I’m so hip. Listening to it now, which is why this entry is so creative.
–I also saw a cow on my ride today. I swear he was looking at me and we were totally engaged in conversation just seconds earlier. But then I got my camera out and he immediately became camera shy. I wonder if he’s going to tell his buds that he’s now on the internet.
–Oh, naturally if you haven’t done so already, you’re going to want to spend about two minutes and twenty-four dollars here for the following reasons: 1) King of Style approved. It’s exceedingly stylish, bordering on dangerously stylish. Prepare to fend of t-shirt fans with a blunt object. 2) It’s made of extremely soft and absurdly comfortable fabric. 3) Profits go to the Krempels Center. Look, you’re winning x 3! If all life decisions were this gratifying, we would call this planet Eden.
–Speaking of our friends at the amazing KC, check out this video which serves as your friendly reminder to sign up for the Krempels King of the Road Challenge!
–And lastly I think you should scope out these fine folks and their take on life. We live in a world with a lot of pre-set standards. Breaking the mold is often the fast track to an exciting life.
A person who makes maps is called a cartographer. I read Ken Jenning’s Maphead and he says that people who love maps are mapheads. He had a series of other names, but Maphead is the most memorable, probably because of its eponymous nature.
I’m a big fan of maps. Probably from poring over them for so many years in search of awesome bike rides. Or else it’s genetic cause my mom has been loving maps for years and if it’s hereditary then I surely inherited this map gene from her.
I was just studying a map of yesterday’s ride and see that I started in Spain, rode into France briefly, next rode through the enclave of Llívia which I didn’t know existed, but provided me a good reason to look up Llívia. Then back into France for a while and then came a stone’s throw close to Andorra, which is also fascinating since it’s a “microstate” or principality yet still only the sixth smallest country in Europe. Yeaaa facts! Next it was back to Spain.
And if that doesn’t interest you, that’s perfectly fine as well. Hopefully this photo will suffice of two dinosaurs I saw two days ago.
I’m in the midst of one of the most relaxingly days in recent memory. I have the day entirely free from the bike so more than anything I’m trying to meld into my surroundings. By that I mean that I only recently arrived to Europe and I already leave for the Tour of Suisse tomorrow, so these precious hours are spent adapting to the new time zone, the new climate, and (ahem) the day’s regularity — highly important for a professional cyclist on the go. So far so excellent.
(It’s worth your time to visit the Tour of Suisse website because I’m that handsome devil leading the pack. Good work ToSuisse webmaster!)
Perhaps you’re now wondering how does one occupy a day off the bike here in Girona. Or maybe you’re not wondering that at all, and if so then just click on this link and watch this highly entertaining video.
The morning routine involves making coffee, some reading, and a vigorous half hour of core, stretching, and getting limber in order to vigorously tackle the day ahead. With that out of the way, I visited the local Red Market. This is among central pillars of town and a magnet for locals, tourists, and everyone in between. I’m all the more entertained when I therefore Google “red market Girona” and find that iamtedking.com provides the first three hits. Internet victory!
Stone fruit is currently KILLING IT. (Translation: stone fruit is very much in season) So these first three days on the Continent have been spent buying and consuming peaches of all varieties, nectarines, apricots, and cherries. Then more peaches.
Interacting with the local old lady vendors is a fun exercise and I generally want to leave every conversation by giving these mujers a high five. But I don’t. Instead I then decide that I want to take a picture of all the heads of animals I see in the market. Just a reminder, this “Red Market” is primarily vending fruit, vegetables, seafood, spices and frutas secas, meat, poultry, and so forth. Each station sticks to what it knows, so there are some veggie only sections, fruit only, fruit and veg, red meat, all meat, dairy, etc. But the local red meat dealer isn’t going to be selling fresh figs just as the spice lady isn’t going to sell lamb. I don’t know why I’m telling you this, but now you know.
Back in America with the exception of lobster, we pretty much never see the heads of the protein we’re eating. In fact, lobster is a two-fer since we virtually never see the animal alive so close to consumption time and even more rarely do we kill the animals themselves. To me (and presumably most of the world) there’s something off-puttingly sterile about that. If you’re going to eat an animal, you may as well be at least mildly invested in it. You should know that it was once a living, breathing creature, and is contributing – voluntarily or otherwise – to the circle of life. To YOUR circle of life no less. Anyway, here are a collection of heads from today.
Returning home and having eaten most of the fruit in my satchel en route, I then gave myself a hair cut. Heading to a bike race with recently shortened hair is my psychological advantage. Having not won a race in a while, maybe I need to up the ante and shave my head or look for a new psychological advantage. More reading ensued and then it was time to venture back into town for a few more checks on the To-Do list. Two postcards written and one cappuccino later (why my cappuccino says “ONE” is beyond me)…
…I then went to the Vodafone store and recharged my Spanish cell phone with twenty Euros worth of pre-paid-goodness. What normally should have taken 45 seconds turned into a 45 minute trip because there’s something wanky with my phone. Forgive me, but it’s a Blackberry so wankiness is the least of what I would expect. That said, considering this entire interaction took place in Spanish AND the fact that it was ultimately resolved makes this a successful trip.
It’s funny, if this were an example of my day in America I surely would consider it frustratingly slow. The relative inefficiency of the European market as compared to the simple and ginormous American supermarket, and the near hour it took to resolve the issue at Vodafone would drive me bonkers if the Atlantic were to my east. But there’s something charming about it in Europe. Or maybe I’m just a hopeless romantic entirely too proud of my rudimentary dozen-years-removed-from-high-school-level Spanish.
On the trip home for lunch, I went to the clothes store. I can’t tell you how badly I wanted this hat. Actually I can: I wanted it, but not badly enough to buy it. Plus I’m not very good at cricket.
Lunch time! With altogether too much pasta on the horizon at a week-long bike race, I decided that a protein and iron rich lunch was in store. Below you will find a nice cut of steak (fairly central), a pair of petite livers — one rabbit and one chicken (resting on the fork and to the right and hidden underneath), beets two ways (chopped to the left and that shredded pickled kind in the foreground), mushrooms (central and far away), black tomatoes (right). T’was divine.
Not much else to report. I’ve written about 45 emails today, researched real estate back stateside, did laundry, Skyped with some friends, considered starting to pack, watched the tail end of a bike race, watched the end of Argo, and thought long and hard about the avocado and banana recipes as found here. Post Tour of Suisse recovery food? I think so. It’s nearly 4pm, so this being Spain I still have half the day ahead of me.
Best news of the day is that I found maple syrup here in Girona in my first attempt looking for it on this return trip. Canadian. Sure it’s not New England’s liquid gold, but it’s extracted exclusively from a tree and therefore entirely worthy. Better yet, it’s C-grade, which I’m yet to have ever seen in America. Coincidentally it’s also arguably the best since it’s thick like warm molasses and the color of used motor oil. Ironically C-grade is dirt cheap by American standards while in America. Yet probably ten times the price it would be in America when you buy it here in Spain. It reasons as much since it surely costs a lot to ship thick motor oil across the Atlantic.
If this doesn’t make you happy or hungry or want to visit Spain… then dang, I don’t think we can be friends.