Friday, August 28, 2015

Motivation

Racing a bicycle takes heaps of motivation.

It's not required at the start of the race. It may take a measure of courage to roll up to the start, but not motivation.

The motivation I'm talking about typically isn't required until at last 3/4 of the race has passed. It's at that point when the relentless attacks have beat down the morale and willpower of the peloton so much that all naturally occurring gumption is gone. From then on out, it comes to the superior grit and resolve of the few to fight it out to the line.

At this point, injected inspiration is necessary.

Frustration may fuel some furious cranks. Being yelled at by teammates for not covering attacks, seeing stupid or reckless bike handling in the peloton, or even racing on streets so broken that it seems a tank battalion rolled through earlier that day are some examples of irritations that may spur action when things get spicy.

Positive thinking can also provide that little extra something-something when it matters.

I've heard that some people tape things to their handlebars. Jens Voigt was famous for his "Shut Up Legs" quote. Writing the name loved ones on handlebars is also commonplace, but I don't know of anybody who does this. Apparently, seeing their names will make you think of the sacrifices they've made to allow one to race in the first place. I haven't tried that yet. Maybe I should.

I've had several instances where a positive thought carried me through a rough patch. For example, while attempting to bridge, I may think about the time at the Twin Bing race a few years ago when I witnessed a racer successfully getting across to the winning breakaway in a horrendous crosswind. At the moment, I was gassed and could not fathom where he got the strength to make the jump and then toil through no-mans-land for several minutes before latching on to the break.

Another time came from earlier this season, when I witnessed 15 year old Dillon McNeill's Melon City M5 criterium race. Dillon got into an early three-man (two men and a child) breakaway with a pair of weekend-warriors riding real carbon racing bikes and wheels. Admittedly, I didn't give the young McNeill and his junior gearing much of a chance at holding on to the breakaway. It was a long time to be away, and the course had a long downhill section that would require him to carry a high cadence to remain in contact. But lap after lap, he was there. With about eight to go, a surge popped him off the back, but on the ensuing lap, he dug deep and caught back on. On the bell lap, the eventual winner attacked and opened up a gap on Dillon and the other guy. In the end, he was out-kicked for second place. It didn't matter to me that he didn't win, or even take second. What mattered was Dillon's tenacious persistence. The kid just didn't give up. He suffered for sure, but he kept the pressure on, clawed back when necessary, and held on. It made for a great race to watch, and a lasting impression on never giving up.

If you've raced, then you've experienced these moments too. I'm sure you have your own subroutines that kick in when it matters most. I know this because you've made me suffer more than I wanted to at the end of races.

So I'm curious, what gets you motivated?

Haha, I just heard my younger brother's voice in my head saying, "Donuts".

Hey, if it works, use it.

Thanks for reading. Happy Friday.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Look Ma, No Hands!

I raced the Bellevue Twilight and Papillion Twilight Crits this past weekend. I raced both nights well, but felt that Saturday was the better of the two. My results won't speak to my efforts, though, as my actions were largely spent on shutting down attacks and countering when I could.

The one thing I'd like to record for posterity's sake was how I managed to keep the rubber side down after a jarring hit from an unmarked 2" concrete lip in the road that caused both hands to drop from the handlebars. For a few harrowing moments at 30+ mph, I was riding no-hands while hovering over the top tube of my bicycle. I was aware that several trailing riders were depending on me to keep it upright; many of them personally thanked me afterwards for not crashing and potentially taking them down with me.

I'd like to say that my handling skills played a big role in keeping the bike upright. But honestly, skills had a minor role. And to call it skill might be a stretch. Experience is a better word choice. The experience I'm referring to comes only from lots of bike riding on and off road and in both good and crappy conditions. Especially in crappy conditions. I'm thinking of snow packed roads, and muddy cyclocross courses. There is a certain uneasiness that is experienced in those times that causes one's stomach to knot up. The natural tendency in those cases is to white-knuckle the handlebars, or to suddenly seize into action some counter measure to try to gain control of a mostly uncontrollable situation. Both of those actions can be disastrous. To panic is the worst choice. Instead, I recall following the advice of more experienced riders and allow the bike to mostly follow its own line. Remaining calm with very gentle guidance and a quick prayer are one's best options. The rest is up to chance.

Chance is actually the biggest reason why I didn't crash on Saturday. It was incredibly fortunate that my front wheel bounced mostly straight after my hands fell from the handlebar. It was also so that my torso fell straight down -- that my weight didn't shift much -- so as to not cause the bike to wobble heavily and change course. Had either of those gone the other way, well, it would have gotten ugly.

I find it remarkable that I wasn't spooked by this during the race. It's funny. I've had plenty of lesser close calls before that have shaken my confidence enough to effect my performance. But not this time. It's hard to put my thoughts into words, but I think it was because in this case, I could instantly sense that the bike had chosen a good line. At the moment when I had little control of my destiny, I felt good about my chances of making it through ok.

Perhaps I should mention all of my mamma's prayers at this point. Yes. That may have had a lot to do with it.

Anyway, that's all I've got to say about that.

Thanks for reading. Happy Friday.

The raised concrete lip with a water bottle to show perspective




Friday, August 14, 2015

Polarize

It seems that more than I can ever remember, people are gravitating towards the poles, and there is little middle ground to negotiate anymore.

I used to be more of a middle ground kind of guy, but when I take a step back, I see that I have moved away from center. It's easy to see in my athletic endeavors: I used to do triathlons, but I have given it all up for cycling this year. I literally have not run one mile in 2015. Not one. That's hasn't happened since about 2002. And I quit swimming in the spring. Everything has gone into one bucket: cycling.

My views have shifted too. I'm not just talking about politics. I mean my views of life. I see more black and white than the greys these days. Is it that I'm getting older and find myself wanting to shout GET OFF MY LAWN more because of it, or do I really want people to get off my lawn?

It may be somewhat of a stretch, but I blame technology for the polarizing trend. Not only tech, but social media even more so. I seems to me that social media has made each of us a little bit more judgmental. I think this is because we have more exposure than ever before of what our family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances think by way of the pictures, posts, tweets and likes they post on social media. As a result, we have more clarity about our collective view of people that matter to us than ever before. This brings stuff into sharper focus more for me. With more precise focus comes more decisiveness. And it seems this leads to polarity more often than not.

All of this makes me think of the Babel Fish from the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy:

The Babel Fish is a small, leech-like, yellow fish, and by putting this into one's ear one can instantly understand anything said in any language; this is how Arthur Dent is able to understand the other beings he encounters on his travels. The Babel fish has led to important profound consequences for the Universe; apart from the philosophical implications the Babel fish has started more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation.
Unlike the Babel Fish, social media probably won't start any won't. Probably. But who knows? Perhaps we shouldn't know that much about people outside our immediate small circle. Perhaps some boundaries are good. Yes. I think I'll stay away from social media for a while, and erect some media fences for my sanity. Fences can be good. Robert Frost said so many years ago.

At any rate, I think I shall go ride my bike. I always feel better after a bike ride. That, and Shim's Instagram posts. Oops, there I go again with social media. Sorry Shim, I'll have to go without.

But speaking of bicycles, it's an Omaha bicycle weekend. Yay Omaha!

I'm racing all three days, and have my eyes set on taking the Omaha Corporate Cycling Challenge stage outright.

Race schedule:
Friday: Arrows to Aerospace Twilight Criterium (7:20pm)
Saturday: Papillion Twilight Criterium, Papillion (7:00 pm)
Sunday: Corporate Cycling Challenge!!

Happy Friday. Thanks for Reading

Friday, August 7, 2015

Shawshanked

"Shawshanked" -- that's how Rafal put it.

What he was referring to was my dog Emmy's failed attempt to go on the lam after busting out of my backyard the other day. Or in other words, shawshanking me.

As we rode home from Wednesday Night Worlds, I told Rafal how Emmy escaped through a breach in my backyard deck's lower lattice work. Normally, she wouldn't have been able to access that hole because it is beneath the walking surface. But since we are re-planking our cedar deck, and I had previously removed all the top boards, she was able to squirm her way through a labyrinth of lower frame joists and support beams to find her way out onto 52nd Street.


She made it all but ten houses down the street before being captured by a neighbor.

An hour after telling Rafal all about this, I received this follow up text from him:
As many of the locals around here know, I spoil Emmy rotten. One of the things I do is to make her a mini turkey sandwich for her bedtime snack. It's not just a plain old turkey sandwich. It's actually more of a club sandwich because I also toast the bread, slather some mayo on it, and if I have it, throw a slice of bacon and/or tomato on it.

So Rafal's correct. Why would anyone run away from a turkey/club sandwich every night?

My parents also happened to be passing through town this week. They stayed with us on Wednesday. When I told my Mom about Emmy running away, she suggested that perhaps Emmy was out searching for me. Like Lassie, perhaps Emmy was on a hunt and rescue mission.

It then occurred to me that maybe Rafal and my Mom were both correct, but each had only half of the story. The most plausible explanation was this: Emmy was looking for me to fix her a club sandwich.

Yes, that is it.

Dogs are funny. When I'm at home, Emmy stalks me everywhere throughout the house. Often, I'll catch her spying on me. Like, she'll sneak up and peek around the corner to see what I'm up to. Obviously, she's wondering if I'm fixing  her a club sandwich. As if she's thinking, is he doing laundry, or making a sandwich? Watching TV, or do I smell bacon? You get the point.

Recently I was telling my kid brother about Emmy's spying, and how BB8 in one of the Star Wars Force Awakens trailers reminded me of her. The scene is when BB8 is looking around a corner in the Millennium Falcon.

See for yourself:
BB8 spying and quite possibly wondering if the Wookie is making a turkey club
 I've seen Emmy do this a thousand times, if I've seen it once. 
--//--
Emmy's going to be without the turkey sandwich guy for an evening this weekend as I travel to Des Moines for the Sakari Road Race and East Village crit. Maybe I'll prepare a couple extra sandwiches ahead of time for Katherine to give her. Des Moines is a long haul on four legs, but I wouldn't put it past her to go Shawshank it and hunt me down.

Happy Friday. Thanks for reading.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Ride Sponsor

This thread started a few years ago when Fred showed up on a UP lunch ride. Unfamiliar with the route, Fred continued going straight when the group made an unannounced right turn. The outcomes from this event were: 1) a big brouhaha from Leah's bike being nearly t-boned by Fred's bike, and 2) the resulting development of the "Ride Sponsorship Program".

Now it took some time to work out the details (elect officers, pass by laws, etc...), but after nearly 20 seconds of deliberations, the group laid down the foundations of our new program.

RIDE SPONSORSHIP PROGRAM
1) Any newcomer shall be welcomed with an introduction to the group
2) A ride briefing shall be conducted before shoving off, highlighting the route and every Strava KOM ever held by Gregory Shimonek.
3) Newcomers shall be assigned a guide ("sponsor") whose responsibility includes checking in on their protégé, pointing out turns, hazards in the road, and most importantly every Strava KOM ever held by Gregory Shimonek.
4) All shall return safely  Nobody shall crash into Leah, literally or otherwise.

Anyway, I'd have to say that the ride sponsorship program has been a smashing (figurative) success. Take yesterday, for example. Two UP employees, Liz and Mike, joined the famous UP Lunch Taco Group Ride for the first time. Liz' sponsor was Leah, and I took Mike under my wing. After introductions and ride briefing, we pushed off, rode through downtown, across the Bob Kerry bridge, celebrated every Strava KOM ever held by Gregory Shimonek, and had the most delicious food truck tacos. Can it get any better than that?

Yes, it can.

Along the way, Nebraska Cycling Association president and USA Cycling Official Darrel Webb pulled up alongside to heckle us from his car. Oh, and Fred was in the group too, and he didn't nearly crash into Leah, literally or otherwise. And best of all, the World Champion himself, Mark Savery was an added guest. In all, quite a magical group ride. For proof, one only needs to look at the smiles of Leah and her protégé Liz:

Liz (left) and her sponsor Leah. credit: lkleager instagram
Yes. Here's to Ride Sponsorship. Here's to bike rides. Cheers.

Happy Friday. Thanks for reading