Friday, August 29, 2014

Godzilla Rides a Pink Cross Bike

At swimming yesterday morning, the topic of discussion during the ten seconds of rest in between 200 m repeats was a recent study suggesting most people daydream 47% of each day.

There's no way that could be true. At least not for me. I'm a prodigious daydreamer. My daydreams are daydreams within daydreams.

Allow me to illustrate. At cyclocross practice the other night, my mind was racing all over the place right after we started. One minute, I was hammering it along a 200m straightaway, the next minute I'm daydreaming of lollipops and bunnys, and Ramno'ing bass. While my mind was actively adrift, I heard this fluttering into my consciousness:

Errrrrrrrnnnnh!

That sound was not part of Ramno'ing no [sic] bass. It came Fred's cantilever brakes on the pink cyclocross bike he was riding that evening. The pitch, high and nasally, sounded exactly like Godzilla when he's pissed.

Errrrrrrrnnnnh!

The scenery in my mind morphed from Ramno'ing to burbling water and white foam on the Missouri river. The water erupts into a vigorous boil as dark-spiny ridge appears, then a pair of enormous eyes and a long snout. In a rush of rippling waves,Godzilla's head, neck and torso appears. He steps on to the bank --

Errrrrrrrnnnnh!

-- SPOILER ALERT --

Did you see Godzilla (2014)? If not, and you'd like to rent it, then consider skipping the next paragraph.

Godzilla 2014 was terrible. Not Amazing-Spider Man II terrible, but worse than that because I had such high hopes for it. 80% of it was boring dialog, 20% action. They killed off their best actor, Bryan Cranston, in the first 20 minutes. The other actors were horrible. I take that back: Godzilla carried what was left of the movie. In fact, I got a little choked up on the scene where Godzilla got has ass handed to him and was left for dead by the other evil monsters. But like all Godzilla movies, you can never count him out. And when he comes roaring back, he has mysteriously gained the ability to shoot blue fire out of his mouth. He could have sure used that about six minutes beforehand when he was getting pummeled. Anyway, after a couple deep belly-breaths, Godzilla torches the bad guys with blue fire and then rips their heads in half by their jaws. Unfortunately, that was 20% of an otherwise boring movie.

-- END SPOILER ALERT --

Errrrrrrrnnnnh!

Back at 'cross practice, that sound could only mean one thing: Fred and his Pinkzilla 'cross bike were on the counter-attack. Gritting his teeth, Fred's was charging Eric O'Brien (EOB) with a vengeance. At this rate, there was no doubt he was going to catch EOB. The question was when: before or after Eric dispatched David Randleman, who was undermatched on a steel-is-real road bike with 28cc slicks. It was going to be close. Well, it would have been close until --

Errrrrrrrnnnnh!  

Blue flames suddenly shoot out from Fred's backside. EOB wasn't the only one not expecting this. Nobody saw this one coming. 


In the ensuing pandemonium, EOB goes over his handlebars after ditching to the right to avoid getting blue-flamed by Fred and Pinkzilla.

Errrrrrrrnnnnh! Errrrrrrrnnnnh! Fred's has the blue-flame afterburners on full throttle, frightening the daylights out of Randleman and everyone else who showed up for cross practice. As the screen in my mind fades to dark, Fred and his Pinkzilla ride off into the twilight until all that remains is a tiny blue dot before being swallowed up by inky blackness. The credits role. At the end, there's a final trailer: it's of David Randleman silently changing his underwear. 

By the way, Leah's dog Gander bears a resemblance to Godzilla. See Gandzilla for yourself:


Thanks for reading. Happy Friday.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Senator Palpatine Wrote the Triathlon Rule Book

I've been dabbling in the dark wizardry of triathlon too much this summer. Sure, I've had some success, but I'll be glad to be moving on after the Hy Vee Triathlon coming up this Labor Day weekend.

Training for triathlons has made me feel like I've aged a lot over the past year. It's good for overall fitness, but the stress of doing only time trials feels harmful. Either that, or it's because of resisting evil and all the seemingly petulant USAT rules to abide by. In either case, I wouldn't be surprised if my blood contained an elevated level of cortisone in it. I can't blame anyone but myself for this. I mean, I put myself in harm's way by choosing this path. It's kinda like that scene in Star Wars Episode III where Senator Palpatine's evil force electricity is redirected back at him by Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson), wrinkling up his own face like an ugly old prune.

Lego scene: Lucas still has his grubby mitts on the royalty rights.

This summer, I've also come to realize that triathletes in general are not a fun bunch to be around. (I can say this because I'm one of them, and look how much belly-aching I've been doing lately.) Despite this, triathletes are among the most courteous and well-adjusted athletes I've encountered. It's odd. It's like we're friendly, yet passive aggressive -- nice on the surface, but boiling within. 

I've had a lot of time in the saddle and soloing down the road on my feet to think about this. I contend that it's not the triathlete that is naturally miserable, but it's the sport that has made them so.

It comes down to this that makes triathletes a depressed group:

1) Triathlons essentially mashup the least enjoyable parts of swimming, cycling and running as one race. It's basically back to back to back time trialing. I know of nobody who enjoys time trialing. Nobody. In fact, in road racing, most people suck at TT'ing because it's so dreadfully boring to train for. But as bad as it is -- and it's bad -- at least you're still riding a bicycle. For those who've done an hour time trial on a bicycle, imagine swimming your ass off for over 20 minutes beforehand, then jumping off the bike and running a 10K as fast as possible.

2) All those rules. It's bad enough that triathletes have to suffering through three time trials; why add so many rules? I'd agree with most of them if they were there to promote safety. But the rule book explicitly states that safety is not the reason for the rules. After the title, the very first words of the USAT rule book are:

The Competitive Rules are intended to provide for the orderly and consistent administration of events sanctioned by USA Triathlon and are not designed to establish standards of care for the safety of participants or other persons. 
If not to establish standards of care or safety, then for what? Order and consistent administration of events?  In short, I was penalized two minutes for being a slob with my swim cap. What a load of crap!

But that's not it. There are even more preposterous rules. Like this one:

5.1 Propulsion. All bicycles shall be propelled only by human force and human power. Other than pushing a bicycle, any propulsive action brought on by use of the hands is prohibited. Any violation of this section shall result in disqualification
Can somebody please tell me what this means? Other than pushing, how else could anyone gain an advantage propelling the bike forward with their hands? Can you picture it? I laugh when I do.

It gets better. Check this one out, under running conduct:

6.1 Permitted Conduct. A participant must run or walk the entire portion of the run course... A participant who gains forward progress by crawling or otherwise violates this Section and shall be disqualified.
Is it me, or does this even make sense? Since when does crawling or otherwise (what, like doing the 'worm or something?) become an advantage over walking or running?

Who wrote these rules?

I'll tell you who. Senator Palpatine did.


Oops! Wrong file. Let's try that again.

*Ahem* I'll tell you who wrote them. The Dark Lord Sith did:


Bleh.

Anyway, I've already moved on. As a result, my general disposition has changed for the better over the past week. It started when I raced a crit last weekend. The next day, I drilled it on a fast and furious 42 mile corporate cycling challenge group ride.

Then on Wednesday of this week, I announced that my focus has switched to cyclocross (cx):


That's 1.5 hours a day, four days of week of glorious 'lawn racing' over the next four months.

Speaking of 'cross, I jumped into cx practice this past Wednesday night. It was an oppressively hot and muggy afternoon, but for the two laps I completed before I broke yet another spoke, and had to pull the plug, I was enjoying myself on the bike. A lot.

The end of summer season means that a transition is naturally upon us. I'm not disappointed I raced triathlon this summer, for I achieved about as much as I hoped for. But now I'm ready for a change.

My friend Rafal summed it up best when he sent me an SMS comparing triathlon to cyclocross:


I think what he's trying to say is that I don't have to worry about being penalized for losing my swim cap at the Trek Cyclocross Collective Cup on September 20-21. Yeah, something like that. YPG.

Thanks for Reading. Happy Friday.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

2014 USAT Nationals Race Report

I raced the USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals on the previous Saturday. As you may know, the race was held in Milwaukee, right the heart of downtown in/along Lake Michigan. There were 215 men in my age group. The course was flat and fast and there was lots of suffering to go around.


I had a great race. In fact, it was a personal best time of 2:03.11 for an "Olympic Distance" triathlon. That time was good enough for 7th place in my age group. With a goal of top 20, and a double-secret-tell-no-one goal of Top 10, I was ecstatic with my results after the race. I had finally put together two solid hours (+3 mins to be accurate. 11 seconds too) of essentially three time trials: a 1500 meter open water swim, a 40K bike TT and a 10K run. I had PRs in all three segments of a triathlon race and improved my Olympic distance time by over five minutes.

A top 10 finish meant standing on the podium. But to my cycling brethren, don't get too excited. Non-Pro triathletes are ineligible for cash prizes. What a podium meant was photo proof and a special plaque that I accomplished something. Pats on the back and handshakes would be plenty, too.

But several hours after the race, as I was starting to get comfortable with seventh place, I discovered that I had been assessed a two minute penalty on the bike course. I was like, what? Where? How?


The penalty -- errrr adjustment -- was simply tacked onto the live results sheet as if an afterthought. One moment it wasn't there, the next it was. There was no explanation, either. Just two minutes added on to my time. I clicked here and there for more information. Nothing.

As a result, I had suddenly slid from seventh to sixteenth place.

This is where I started losing my mind.

I searched in vain all over the race website for protest procedures, of where and when penalties were posted. I found nothing. It was infuriating. It felt like one moment I was happily humming a tune while skipping down the street, when somebody randomly kicked me in the nuts, and then disappeared without a trace. Something like that.

The best I could do was find a general email box to post questions about the race. I quickly sent them a note to ask when and where I could find more information about the penalty and to whom I should address a protest. I knew it would be several days before I would hear from them, but it was the best I could do.

It took six days before I heard back from USAT. But before I read their email, that same morning my friend and fellow triathlete Adam Little told me that he found the explanation of penalties on pages 91-92 of a 92 page PDF of all printed results. How could I miss something so obvious?

But finally, I had an explanation for my infraction: Rule 3.4.h: Abandoned Equipment.

In the first transition zone (swim to bike), I dropped my swim cap while pulling the goggles from my head. As it was, with dozens of caps, gels and gu packets littering the ground, I thought nothing of a 99 cent latex swimming cap. And though I had read about the abandoned equipment penalty several times before, somehow it just didn't occur to me that a swim cap qualified as such. For one, I had never heard of anyone being penalized for this before. Secondly, try telling that to one's brain while running and removing a wetsuit moments after going full throttle for 21 minutes in an open water swim. The swim cap shot off my head and was the least of my worries at that point.

I certainly would have picked it up if I understood that it would cost me a penalty. And a two minute penalty at that. Seems excessive? Yes, so do I. Welcome to triathlon.

After seeing this explanation, I went hulk (as in Bruce Banner) for a while. Fortunately, I didn't speak to anyone or HULK-CRUSH any stuff during this time.  After I cooled down, I exchanged correspondences with the chief race official asking for clarification about the rule, about when penalties are posted, protest periods, etc.

Though I disagree with the penalty, a rule is a rule. I was guilty of breaking it. I started feeling better after thinking about it some more and the exchange of information with the chief referee. I mean, I would have still been angry if I was flagged for something on the bike, because I was extra careful not to draft/block on a congested course. But I could live with abandoned equipment, and have since moved on and accepted the official 16th place finish.

But what truly made me feel best this past weekend was getting out on my road bike and riding with friends again: I entered the masters race at the Papillion Twilight Crit on Saturday and did the Corporate Cycling Challenge on Sunday.


Riding bikes always seems to help.

That's it for now. Happy Monday.

Friday, August 15, 2014

On Vacation

I got back late from vacation last night. This week's deadline will have to come and go without a real post. I mean, technically I still made the 5:00AM deadline and such, but...

Anyway, check back sometime later. I may get something put together about the USAT Nationals race last weekend.

Until then, happy Friday

Friday, August 8, 2014

USAT Age Group Nationals Saturday

By the time you're reading this, I am already en route to the USAT National Championships in Milwaukee, WI. The race is the Olympic Distance National Age Group Championships on Saturday.

I originally qualified for this race at last year's Hy Vee Triathlon. For age group triathletes, this is the fastest race around. And it's a huge one with 5,700 entrants signed up for the race. Anytime that many people gather for a competition, it's bound to be fast.

The race is apparently going to be streamed here. Given that there are so many entrants in this race, I would probably have to break the tape in order to have a chance at making the stream. That would be quite a feat, especially considering the fact that my age group (45-49) doesn't start until 9:40 AM, or over two hours after the first wave starts for a sub-two hour race. I'll need a cape, or a time traveling machine capable of hitting 1.21 GW to do that.

Regardless, I have my work cut out for me. I would be very happy to make the top 20 in my age group.

Anyway, that's all I've got today. Thanks for reading and Happy Friday.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Fellas, I'm Ready to Get Up and Do My Thing

foreword: the following is what results when a commitment to write a weekly blog post runs smack up against an 11th hour attempt to write about something -- anything -- that comes to mind. In this case, it was the Best of James Brown that brought out the goodness trainwreck you're about to read. Brace yourself, it's worse than a Sharnado jumping a snakes-on-a-plane/train wreck. Let's just say you've been forewarned.

The godfather of soul, James Brown, was apparently a tyrant in the studio. A perfectionist who was abrasive as he was petulant, Brown's band essentially hated him. As a result, his original band walked out on him, forcing him to create a new one.

Bobby! Should I take 'em to the bridge?

But his fans adored him. When Brown shouted out riffs like "take 'em to the bridge," he did it more than to announce a short instrumental solo linking two musical movements together. The chatty improv also served to link his audience to him through his band. While band members probably wanted to jump off the bridge, his fans couldn't get enough of him. It was because of this type of connection that made him such a popular entertainer.

Bobby! Should I take 'em to the bridge?

Take 'em to the bridge caused me to pause and think about the Wednesday Group ride. Specifically because the route literally takes us to a bridge -- the Mormon Bridge -- where we normally wait for everyone to regroup. Well, that didn't happen the last time I did this group ride. Nope. What happened was that I was dropped hard when some fool attacked on a closed section of Boyer's Chute road, where remnants of recent flooding still covered the surface. At the time, I was frustrated by the stupidity of the attacking there. It was stupid because it was unsafe. I intended to air my grievances when we regrouped at the bridge. But when I arrived, nobody was there. Frustration boiled over to anger.

Bobby! Should I take 'em to the bridge?

YPG.

Queue: I'm ready to get up and do my thing. This lyric comes from the first single with Brown's new band, the J.B.'s. When the J.B.'s were formed, the course of funk was forever changed. Instead of a heavily scripted bass that had previously marked his sound, a busy, improvising one came from replacement bass player William "Bootsy" Collins (later of Parliament-Funkadelic). This was the new "thing" James Brown announced at the beginning of the single, Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine. That, and the other innuendos that that [sic] "thing" implied.

Fellas, I'm ready to get up and do my thing also sums up what I've been doing since my last group ride. For the past month, I've been singularly focusing on improving my time trialing skills in preparation for the USAT National Championships in Milwaukee, August 9th.


Developing time trialing skills are what I need at the moment. None of the group ride stuff matters for a triathlon.

I'd have to say that the self-imposed exile from group riding has been a good reprieve. It's given me a chance to work on my time trialing skills, as well as providing an opportunity for me to cool off. I've been enjoying riding by myself during this time, but I've also begun to miss being a part of the pack.

Until I return, Fred will be my proxy. He's a fine choice as he's plenty capable of providing funky good times. Yes, I do declare, Take it higher, Fred.

Fred, Fred, Fred?!?

And Maceo? Don't get me started on Maceo.

Well you've made it to the end. Let's recap: James Brown and time trialing. I suddenly have a massive headache behind my right eye. I need a nap. Or a blunt object. Or both.

Thanks for reading. Happy Friday.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Racing

I would like to ask you to consider why you like racing, either as a passive spectator (eg horse racing),or as an active participant racing in the field. 

For the spectators, would you continue to tune if you were prevented from knowing who won? Let's say you're watching the Kentucky Derby on your big screen at home. The horses are galloping around Churchill Downs, and suddenly --  inexplicably -- the network switches to the Blimp view several thousands of feet away for the final stretch call. Would you feel slighted? Would you tune in again if that's how it's always done?

I wouldn't.

For the active participants, would you train for several months (and pay good money) to enter a competition where nobody would be declared the winner at the finish line?

Again, I wouldn't.

The dictionary defines a race as a competition between runners, horses, vehicles, boats, etc.., to see which is the fastest in covering a set course.

We are fascinated by racing because we want to see who is the fastest in covering a set course.

If I'm in the race but am not capable of being the fastest on that particular day, then I'll strive for a PR, or being faster than someone else in my class/category. Either way, winning the race does matter.

Racing is an honorable pursuit. To be an active participant in the race is something special. To vie for the victory, all the more so.

So I say, hail to the victors, and let us fĂȘte our champions for their achievements.

Otherwise, what's the purpose of racing?

Please don't say it's to receive a participation medal.

YPG. Thanks for reading.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Lost and Found

My phone buzzed with another unknown local caller. I momentarily panicked, wondering if it was election season again. It wasn't. I let the call go to voicemail. Would it be a wrong number? Or would it be some seedy phishing scam, like the guy last week who identified himself as "Luis from Sprint," and proceeded to offer me warranty insurance on phone model I don't own, from a carrier I don't use.

It turns out I was wrong. The caller identified himself simply as Joe, and he wanted to return the bidon containing a small bicycle repair kit that I had lost, and he had subsequently found, on the Keystone trail a few weeks ago. I was astonished. No political survey? No scam? Just somebody wanting to return something I had lost? I nearly dropped the phone.


It may not sound like much to lose, but that bidon contained an 80mm stem inner tube ($8), a c02 pump ($20), a 17 use multi-tool ($20), and a couple tyre [sic] levers ($2). That's $50 of booty that I had already painfully accepted as gone for good.

And now it was coming back to me.

Joe found it on the footbridge crossing the creek just north of Dodge Street near 24hr Fitness. Apparently, the bidon was on the on the edge of the bridge, dangerously close to falling into the creek below when he found it. Although he's a cyclist, he was unfamiliar with a bidon tool kit, and was hesitant to open it at first. He said that the strip of electrical tape I used to seal the lid caused him to wonder if it was some sort of bomb.

As he was telling me this, I could almost picture the hazmat firetruck detonating the bidon, along with the Keystone footbridge splintering into thousands of shards as collateral damage.

Awe man, that bidon had an $8 inner tube in it.
But a cooler head prevailed. When he uncapped it, he found a trove of goods that he could have easily claimed under the finder-keepers clause. But he also saw my name and phone number on the inside of the cap, which ultimately prompted him to call me.

As an aside, this wasn't the first time that I've unknowingly ejected a bidon from my cage, only to have a random act of kindness return it to me later. The last time this happened was this past winter, while doing some hot laps on my cyclocross bike at Tranquility. I'm not sure when or how it happened, but after the ride, I noticed that it was missing. I re-rode the course backwards until I found the bidon (white) wedged in a tree branch. It was brilliant putting the bidon in the tree; I probably would have never found it in the white snow.


Perhaps Joe is a mountain biker, too?

Anyway, I arranged to meet Joe this past Tuesday morning. At the exchange, I pulled a crisp $20 out of my wallet to thank him for returning the stuff, but he resolutely refused the reward. Instead, he settled for a handshake and some good old fashioned small talk about the local cycling and running communities.

Thanks, Joe. A simple act like this does a lot to restore some lost faith in humanity.

Thanks for reading. Happy Friday.