Friday, January 30, 2015

Flummoxed

One of the big stories this past week was the flare up of a 21st century measles outbreak. I'd like to say that the measles would get people to reconsider their anti-vaccination stance. But who am I kidding? Lookout, the return of the plague is right around the corner.

Speaking of viruses, this past week, my friend John Wait lamented about the horror of coming down with the flu during a bicycle ride. During? Yes, that is what he wrote. It sounded awful, and I do feel bad for him. Still, I couldn't help but be bewildered at both the precision of identifying when he came down with the flu, as well as the circumstances surrounding it --  while riding a bicycle. How could those even be related? I've since come to accept that it's possible, that one could get the flu during a bike ride, but it seemed so weird to connect the two in the same thought.

I'd like to say that's the strangest flu story I've ever heard, but there's one even greater. A friend once told me that she got the flu from eating a hotdog. I'm not kidding. A hotdog. This wasn't the false food-poisoning, "barfy-flu", either. I would understand that a hotdog could cause barfing, because hotdogs are simply gross. But no, this flu was the real deal: a high fever, chills, body aches, etc. Anyway, I remember being utterly mystified by hearing that string of words fall from her mouth. So after gathering myself, I asked her to repeat it, just to make sure I didn't mishear her. Again she said, "I ate a hotdog earlier today and got the flu." Until that moment, I never knew that those words could be assembled in the same sentence. It was an astonishing claim. More so than saying they got the flu while on a bike ride.

I don't know about you, but these stories have left me flu-mmoxed.

To John Wait and anyone else suffering the calamity of hotdog-influenza: A hearty get well soon!

Happy Friday.Thanks for reading.

Tim Kazurinsky as SNL's Dr. Jack Badofsky c.1982

Friday, January 23, 2015

Outrunning The Bear

Katherine and I watched the movie, The Imitation Game this past Tuesday. If you haven't seen it, or aren't familiar with the story, it's about how the real-life math genius named Alan Turing helped develope a machine that could decipher coded German Enigma messages during the Second World War. Turing's work has been estimated to have saved two to four years of the warring, and some 14 million lives. YPG. Anyway, like any historic fiction, the film took some artistic licenses as to the exact sequences and events of how it all came to pass.

One such contrived scene was when Mr Turing tried to improve office productivity by being unusually whimsical. This behavior was out of character for Turing, who was as seemingly arrogant as he was aloof. As a result, his staff hated him. What he did to try to win them over one day was to give each of his colleagues a small gift (an apple) before preceding to tell a joke. It went something like this:

Two guys were camping in the woods when a bear walked into their campsite. One guy starts frantically lacing up his boots as the other one asks, "Why are you doing that? Don't you know that you'll never outrun a bear?" To which the first replied, "I don't need to outrun a bear, I only need to outrun you."

--//-- 

Lately, I've felt like I've been running a race with a bear at my heels. If it's not a race at work, or a race on the bike, then it's a race to make ends meet. Yes, it feels like a bear is chasing me. But whereas in times past the bear was a person or a material thing, I've finally come to realize that the bear is not my boss, nor is it Chris Spence or Lee Bumgarner, and it's not a bill chaser. It's simply time. Time is the bear.

So as I look over my shoulder, I see the wall clock morph into the face of a Kodiak. The clock's hour, minute and second hands like powerful legs bearing down on me. Each stroke like a thunderous foot-fall of lean muscle closing in on its prey. Time is the bear.

As I close this week's post, I am grateful for the insight that I'll never have enough time to get it all done. That said, I'll do everything possible to deliver my best with the time I currently have.

And with that, my boots are laced, and I'm off running again, this time to catch the bus to work.

Happy Friday. Thanks for reading.


Friday, January 16, 2015

Priorities

As some of you may know, I am getting back into road racing this year. That means no triathlons and no running this year. I do intend to keep up with Omaha Masters swimming because it's great upper body and core work. Otherwise, it's all about the bike for 2015. To this end, I was recently asked about my motivations to get back into road racing. Here they are, in order of priority:

1. Safety, Having the Courage to Care



Safety is my top priority. I took that line from my employer's -- Union Pacific Railroad-- mission statement. At UP, safety is the first goal set for the new year, and it is the first performance goal reviewed at year's end. Practicing safety is something we do every day at the railroad. There's even a whole corporate culture even built around the phrase, having the Courage to Care.

On the bike, safety means being vigilant about the rules of the road. It means following and supporting all traffic laws, whether solo or in the group. Off the bike, it's taking a commitment to safely operating vehicles to and from races, group road rides, etc. This means wearing seatbelts, refraining from texting while driving, and designating drivers when alcohol is involved. Still, accidents can and do happen. That's why we must do everything in our power to mitigate the risk to avoid it. If we don't all come home in one piece, then we have failed this top priority.

2. Having fun
Of course, road racing isn't easy. It's grueling work, with long hours in the saddle. That's not always fun because, well, it's work. But all of the other stuff that comes from putting in that effort should be happy times. I'm thinking of times like riding in a paceline while Shim belts out a Rolling Stones tune horribly off-key, or being present when Lucas spontaneously decides to bicep-curl the host family's cat. True story. These are good times and is why I value this as #2.

Lucas bicep-curling the host family cat
3. Supporting the team (Winning)
There's no doubt that winning is fun, as it is contagious. Conversely, losing sucks and can chip away team morale. But losing, or winning for that matter, should never come before being safe and having a good time. I guess what I'm trying to say is that my ego isn't pinned on whether I/we win or lose. Certainly winning is the more enjoyable of the two and I will do my best to support these efforts to climb on top of the podium.

A podium shot during the 2014 cyclocross season
4. Personal Development (skills and fitness)
As a junior member/cat 3 racer, my role is support for the cat 1-2 racers in open races. I hope/expect to gain experience simply by racing. Along the way, there may be some opportunity (Masters races and cat 3 races) where I will have a chance to work on attaining upgrade points, but only if it makes sense to do so. Anyway, since I've mostly sat out of road racing over the past couple of years, I have a long way to go before I have a chance at even considering upgrading. And like I said in #3, my ego isn't dependent on upgrading.

The other part of personal development comes in better fitness for fall's cyclocross season. Road racing and cyclocross complement each other nicely in this manner.

And that's it. Thanks for reading.

Happy Friday.

If only

Friday, January 9, 2015

Yoga in My Team Kit

It's come to this. While some of my friends are down in Austin at Cyclocross Nationals, where it's reasonably warm -- balmy compared to the upper midwest -- I've been relegated to workout inside by riding the trainer, swim, and/or do group fitness classes. To be specific, in the past week, I've been on my rollers/trainer three times, gone to Omaha Masters swimming practice twice, and have done a couple core fitness classes.

And then there was the day that I did yoga in my team kit.

Shim sent me an SMS saying that he and Leah were going to be doing the Yoga class at UP's Fitness center over lunch. I replied that I'd join. But when I arrived at the gym, I discovered that I didn't have the appropriate attire in my locker. All I had was a (clean) cycling kit. For my regular readers, you know that I normally keep extra sets of clothing in my locker for such occasions. But as this was just coming off an extended holiday break, I was negligent about restocking my locker. So in short, I was left with a choice: 1) go back to my desk, or 2) don the spandex and go for it.

I chose the latter and got crap for it later.


As Leah points out, Shim is fine with wearing cycling clothing to yoga, so long as it's not a full kit, and he's wearing it. Good one, Leah.

Oh well, I didn't care. In addition to getting my downward-dog going, I was able to make a fine plug for my team, the great #trekbicyclestores #MWCC. Of course I would have preferred making that plug at the starting line in Austin today.

Happy Team Kit Yoga Friday. Thanks for reading.

Friday, January 2, 2015

A Pedestrian Resolution

I first heard of the term "Zebra Crossing" while traveling in Singapore.

In Singapore, crosswalks are respected by vigilant motorists. The only place that I can think of that is similar is San Francisco, where I once held up a heavy flow of automobile traffic as I approached a crossing where there was no traffic signal. I was stunned that traffic on both sides came to a complete stop to allow me to cross. If I had tried that in Omaha, I'd likely be dead by now.

Last year, I made a secret resolution to completely respect the space of the pedestrian crosswalk. I didn't tell anybody about it because I thought nobody would care about such a pedestrian (pun) resolution. I also wondered whether or not I'd keep the resolution. Well, I am happy to report that I kept the resolution, and have decided to tell you about it to encourage you to do the same if you aren't doing so already. It's actually quite an easy resolution that you can put on your list.

Anyway, what this means is to make an effort to simply stop your vehicle -- or bicycle -- behind the crosswalk at every traffic light, and/or when pedestrians approached one where there was no crossing signal (like in Elmwood park).

What some consider the best album cover ever was at a crosswalk 
Imagine what the cover of Abbey Road would have been without crosswalks. Inconceivable.

I have some resolutions for the coming year as well, but I will spare you from them until I master them. Until then, please join me in continuing to respect the zebra crossing.

Happy New Year. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Very Murphy Christmas

I am the fourth of five children. Our family was considered big back then. It certainly would be considered so now.

Christmas was such a fun time when I was a kid. We always had a real tree with a model train circling it. The tree was trimmed with all kinds of kitchy ornaments, lights and popcorn strings, and finished off with tinsel. Oh, how the tinsel popped. Several years also featured the "special" blinker bulb that added that touch of pizazz that only a multi-colored strand of bulbs blinking on and off could bring.

I've come to realize that the best part of Christmas is sharing in each other's company. There's nothing inside a gift-wrapped box that can capture the joy of simply being with loved ones.

Free hugs to loved ones. Merry Christmas. Thanks for reading

Friday, December 19, 2014

Everything But the Kitchen Sink

I've got this locker at work, in Union Pacific's fitness center. Because of demand and slow turnover, it took about four years of sitting on a waiting list to get this locker assigned to me. I've had it now for ten years. Like I said, slow turnover. Anyway, it's small, one of those half-sized jobbies, as opposed to one of the large, public daily-use lockers. I rent this one for $12 a quarter. It's a pittance to pay for a nice perk.


In fact, next to having the top notch, 24/7 fitness center that Union Pacific also provides gratis -- with (free) towel service to boot --  this tiny locker is one of the best perks around. It's well worth the hassle of writing that check every three months.


As you can see, I make use of all of the space allotted to me. It may not appear so, but I've made a number of mods to improve its efficiency. The deep drawer is for toiletries and such, and a three-tiered shelf for smaller items in the back. I have also installed three hooks: two for clothing and one specifically measured for my bicycle helmet's straps. The helmet itself becomes a hanging basket for other smaller items, like hats, glove, pumps, tubes, etc...

In the summer, things stay nice and tidy in that space. But come winter, like in the picture above, it's a chaotic mess. This is mostly due to clothing redundancies for key pieces of cycling gear required for winter rides.

Like shoes. There's road, cyclocross, running and dress shoes that are all vying for space.


Exhibit A: the shoes in my locker on this past Monday

* Two pairs of standard road shoes (+ winter shoe covers)
* One pair of standard mountain bike shoes
* One pair of winter (mtn) boots
* Two pairs of running shoes
* One pair of dress shoes
That's seven pairs of shoes. Seven! Can somebody give a shoutout to Imelda Marcos? Okay, some of that maybe overkill. Like, I probably don't need two pairs of road shoes. The same goes for running shoes.

Regardless, besides the shoes, my locker has all the normal gym stuff: toiletry kit, a towel, a pair of running shorts, a tech shirt, two or three pairs of socks.

In addition to the above, it also has a summer cycling jersey and bib-shorts for indoor spinning, or to use as a winter base layer.

And then there's all kinds of extra winter riding gear: a long sleeve base layer, a long sleeve thermal jersey, thermal shoe covers, arm and leg warmers, gloves and hats.

Finally, there are some bicycle repair stuff in there as well: a foldable road tire, an extra inner-tube, chain lube, some tools, even a brake cable. I'm not even sure what I was thinking that I may need to repair a brake cable, but it's in there in case I do.

As you can see, the locker is well-used.

I think you can readily agree with me that this is a perk that I get a lot of use out of.

Well, that's all I've got today. Happy Friday and thanks for reading.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Soft Pedaling 1.5x4x180

Ah, the cyclocross season is over. It couldn't have ended for me any time sooner either. I'm afraid that if it went any longer, you just might have lost me for good, for I was beginning to go a tad bonkers.

Sitting in the Trek Bicycle Stores sprinter van after the Iowa State championships last weekend gave me some time to reflect about this past cyclocross season.

I learned a lot, like how to train and race better, and being better prepared by having more equipment choices. I learned some strategy, like not simply drilling it until I blew up.

I also experienced some firsts, like attending a pro-led cyclocross clinic, cracking into the Top-5 at a big race (Jingle Cross), and reaching the podiums of both the Nebraska and Iowa's Open 1-2-3 races.

Iowa State Championship podium. photo: Brittany McConnell
Nice Photo-bomb, Kent McNeil. Ha! What a lurker.

Anyway I can look back at this season and say that I reached heights that I had never attained before. But as you can see, it wasn't high enough that I couldn't resist the urge to still stand on my tippy-toes when I got there.

This is the real reason why my Mom thinks I'm nice and tall
Regardless, I leave this season with a sense of satisfaction, yet hungry for more. This is good. I am eager and already excited for next year.

But first, I'll be soft-pedaling 1.5 hours by four days a week for the next six months (180 days).

Happy Friday and thanks for reading.

Lucky #ƐƖ at Oakley Night Cap, Des Moines
Gateway Cross Cup, St Louis
Spooky Cross, Des Moines

Start of Jingle Cross Day 2, Iowa City

Nebraska State CX Championships, Lincoln   photo credit: Matt Steele
The Trek Bicycle Stores Omaha, Kansas City, St. Louis,