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.


Oops!

Better: Hey man, that was an $8 inner tube.

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.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Hot Wax and TT Bikes (This May/May Not Be What You Think)

My back isn't (wasn't) very hirsute. It's just that the hairs tend toward long and unsightly, especially when wet. Since I'm in the swimming pool year around, I decided to do something about it. So, I had it waxed. I did this for the sake of the others. That, and for when I flex and point in front of the mirror at home.

Anyway, I know that this material has been covered in movies/TV shows before, but still I would like to confirm to you that there is a price to pay for getting waxed. The price is pain, and the pain is for real. Now, the shoulders and upper back are not an issue. You can wax up there all day long, no problemo. But the patches above the kidneys? I just had a visceral reaction recalling it. And, how about the small of the back?

YPG.

With surprisingly little resistance from my wife, I found myself getting prepped for the "treatment" at the Dundee Waxing Room. Small talk accompanied shop owner Lindsey as she began applying a warm, soothing balm to open the pores on my back. The room had a pleasant floral fragrance. The talk, and warm soothing goodness put me at ease.

"So, do you have any vacation plans this summer?" Lindsey asks.

She applies another swath of warm balm over my lower back. It smells delightfully of orchids. I could fall asleep it's so nice.

"Well, my wife and I just returned from Colorado, but nothing else planned this summer."

"Colorado? What did you there?"

Reassuringly, she places the palm of her hand gently on my back. It was starting to feel like a Swedish Massage. I'm enjoying every part of this very much. So much that I was regretting that the treatment would soon follow. I guessed I had at least five more minutes before the real fun began.

"We visited family and went for a hike in the mounta --"

-- Riiiiiiiiiiiiaaaaaaaappppppppppp!!!!!

A searing flash of pain instantly electrifies my spinal column, seizing several muscles en route to exploding in an array of complicated emotions in my brain.

"Did that sting a little?" Lindsey asks, mostly out of courtesy.

 "Yah!" was the best I could muster.

"I'm sorry, but I've found that the element of surprise works best for my clients. Believe me, I've tried doing the countdown. But each time, the client says that anticipating only makes it --

-- Riiiiiiiiiiiiaaaaaaaappppppppppp!!!!!

"... worse."

"Well, perhaps for me you could give the countdown another --"

-- Riiiiiiiiiiiiaaaaaaaappppppppppp!!!!!

" -- try."

And so on and so forth until the agony was over. I will tell you this: I didn't cry. Well not very much at least.

In hindsight, I will agree with Lindsey's professional assessment that the countdown would never work. What did work was changing my perspective. Instead of anticipating pain some of the time, I switched gears to expecting pain all of the time. That way, when I did get the hair yanked out of my back, it was kind of like a mini-vacation from the other pain.

I accomplished this feat by imagining racing my TT bike while Jordan and Spence were my +/- 30 second men. It was beautiful. I was suddenly in complete agony 100% of the time. That made all the difference.

Riiiiiiiiiiiiaaaaaaaappppppppppp!!!!!

A big toothy grin transforms the agony to joy on my face. A moment later I'm back on my TT bike, HR red-lining, lactic acid boiling in my blood. My clenched teeth are being mashed to pulp. Fighting like hell to not let Spence catch me, sweat stinging my eyes as I'm pushing the big ring up a hill at over 500 watts ---

Riiiiiiiiiiiiaaaaaaaappppppppppp!!!!!

A big toothy grin transforms the agony to joy on my face. A moment later I'm back on my TT bike, repeat etc...

--//--

I'm glad we covered this on my blog today. You're welcome.

Happy Friday. Thanks for reading.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Fourth of July Weekend Festivities

I had a terrific childhood. I loved summers best of all. Especially the festivities of a Fourth of July at the swimming pool.

At around 2:00 PM, our swimming team coach, Jim Wheeler, would close the pool for a special events swimming meet. The swimming races involved completing one length of the pool using a modified stroke and a special skill, like swimming one-armed backstroke while reading a newspaper aloud. Not only did the participant have to be heard reading the paper, but the winner had to also correctly answer a quiz afterward to collect a prize. I believe that my buddy, Brian Denby, won that event one year. His fish-wrap, a local grocery store insert, was neatly folded over and dry when he completed the race. And when asked how much bananas were selling for a pound, he proudly stepped up to the microphone and said, "11 cents." He was correct. Smart kid. He took home a 200g Whammo Frisbee for his efforts. That disc was the real deal.

After the individual events were completed, a greased watermelon water polo game ensued in the deep end. It was done no holds barred, bloody American style. The game usually ended when one of the 15 year old boys (already growing a full beard) would gorilla press the watermelon over everyone and onto the deck, where it cracked open and spilled its red guts all over the place. The game was then declared over, and its remains were carved up with a long butcher's knife for all to enjoy.

Yeah, pretty good times.

Thanks for reading, and keep all your fingers (attached) this weekend. Happy Independence Day.

Greenbriar Hills 4th of July Special Meet
06 and Under: 1,000 Penny dive in the shallow end. Most pennies wins.
08 and UN: 25m breaststroke, ping-pong ball on spoon, clenched in mouth.
10 and UN: 25m breaststroke, blowing ping pong ball entire length
12 and UN: 25m one-armed backstroke while reading newspaper aloud. Paper must remain dry and the participant must pass a quiz afterward.
13 and Over:  25m three-legged, three armed boy-girl race.

Watermelon Polo
Deep end Greased Watermelon Water Polo for 12 and Under
Deep end Greased Watermelon Water Polo for 13 and Over

Bonus Events
75m Family side-stroke relay (3 lengths of pool)
Stevie Robbin's 1M Belly flop contest
Don Ussleman's 3M Gainer Challenge

Prizes:
Wiffle ball and bat combo
Fat bat and ball
Whamo Frisbees
Water rockets
nerf footballs, basketballs, soccer balls

Friday, June 27, 2014

Group Workouts

This past Tuesday afternoon's mile repeats at Elmwood Park was incredible. Well, I suppose as incredible as running can be.

Now hear me out (you running haters), I promise this will not only be short and sweet, but universally applicable to anyone reading this.

Have you ever had a chore that you hated doing? Or, how about a looming workout in which you lacked the necessary moxie to get it done? Well, that was the state of my mind entering this past Tuesday afternoon's running workout. Track practices are tough. The only thing I can compare it to is the intensity of a hard group ride.

Anyway, my attitude changed quickly after I arrived. There was something intangible in the air. The mood of the others who showed up -- 10 men and six women -- was electric and uplifting. Sincere words of encouragement, youthful enthusiasm, and abundant high fives got my legs turning over in short order. As a result, joy had replaced my dread before the first mile repeat was completed.

In short, it was fun. That's saying something, because running mile repeats in humid weather would otherwise suck.

The group that afternoon made all the difference.

I am fortunate. I have great people to run with, swim with, and yes, some of the best cycling buddies around. If I didn't, then I'd probably find another group to run around with.

Indeed, the group can make all the difference.

If this sounds appealing, but you don't have what I have, then I encourage you to not settle. Join a group, or if the one you're in is bad news, then find a better one. Training with negative people is a drain. You're probably better off by doing it yourself if that's all you've got.

The groups I train with not only hold me accountable to keep at it, but they have helped me achieve goals I probably wouldn't have attempted without their support. If I'm in one of your groups, thank you for this, and thanks for sharing in the good times along the way.

Here's to more.

Happy Friday.

--//--

Track workouts are a great way to become a more efficient runner. Interested in joining this group? It's free. Just show up and be prepared to throw down.

Team Nebraska Triathlon (Facebook link)
Tuesdays, 5:45 - 7:00PM

Norris Middle School
2235 South 46th Street
Omaha, NE 68106

Friday, June 20, 2014

KOMs Gone Bad, Addendum

We all love to capture a Strava King of the Mountain segment. They're fun, and they say something about our fitness level. But that should be the end of it.

Risking limbs, or worse, should never be a part of the KOM discussion.

My last two posts (My First KOM, Earned the Hard Way, Gibson's Attempt at Danger Pass) have hopefully illustrated the futility of getting KOMs. If not, then read this account of a friend of mine who went down hard trying to take a dangerous KOM.

Edit (thanks Fred): Firstly, KOMs don't belong on public use bike/run trails. Ever.


It should go like this: if one gets injured while attempting to capture any KOM, then the KOM should be flagged as dangerous and removed from Strava. End of story.

That's hopefully the last I have to say about KOMs-Gone-Bad.

Oh and by the way, KOMs are really worth nothing.

There, I said it.

Boo

Gibson's KOM Attempt on Danger Pass

As kids, we used to cruise the golf course on our bikes on Mondays when the course was closed for maintenance. The golf cart paths were perfect for this. Without any golfers around, it was our own private circuit, and a long one at that.

Hole #16 (par 3, 172 yards, blue tees) was one of our favorites. Starting from the #17 tee box, it descended with a sweeping turn that flanked a densely wooded embankment hiding a rocky creek some eight feet below. Normally, this hill wasn't a hazard for golf carts because they typically went uphill to advance to the next hole. Nevertheless, the golf course engineers mitigated the risk by building a railroad-tie curb and a three foot high, braided-steel cable fence to catch any troubled carts from going off the path and into the creek below.

But riding the four-foot wide path downhill, with all those hazards, on bike with only a coaster brake, was exhilarating as it was nerve racking.

We called it Danger Pass.

By now, there is no doubt you can guess where this is heading. Shall we continue? Good.

One Monday, my buddies Gibson, Burkemper and I were riding the course. As we approached #16, Gibson impromptly blurted out that he was going to set the course record on Danger Pass. For those regular followers of this blog, you may recall Gibson. He's stuntman Sam, the same guy who also attempted to jump #7 pond on the same golf course.

Setting a record on Danger Pass was a gutsy call. Long before there was commercial GPS or Strava, we kept track of course records on Casio digital watches. If no one wore a wrist watch, then counting Mississippi's was the next best thing. A King of the Mountain was still a KOM no matter how it was recorded. Even back then, a KOM still meant nothing, and everything.

Now when a kid said he was going to do something this monumental, his word was final. There was no talking about it, either to encourage or dissuade him. At best, a simple head nod was all that was necessary when such a claim was staked.

So like when a golf pro attempts a daring shot, a sobering hush fell over Burkemper and I as Gibson lined up his approach atop #17's tee box (green arrow). Gibson paused as the wind tousled through his curled hoosier-mullet. Then, he stood and deftly drove the force of his leg into his pedal, setting into motion the historic run at Danger Pass.

Greenbriar Hills CC #16, AKA Danger Pass
One Mississippi, two Mississippi... Gibson was a quarter way into the turn and was making good speed. At three Mississippi, he had stopped pedaling, his inside leg tucked in high and tight as he leaned into the turn. His line was good, approaching from outside to the inner apex.

At four Mississippi things started to go awry (yellow arrow). His front wheel bobbled over a patch of rough asphalt. He attempted to correct it, but alas, the sharp corner was all over him, or he was all over it (red arrow). And just like that, his front wheel drove into the railroad tie while the three braided steel cables snared his bike, catapulting him over the handlebars where a mouth in the dense foliage formed and opened wide, swallowing him whole.

"Gibson!"

We hurried to the spot his bike had come to a rest. The trees burped up muffled moaning as we bushwhack towards him. I spotted him first.

You know that scene in Extra Terrestrial (1982) when E.T. had all but given up hope of ever returning home, and they found him all pasty looking in that creek bed?

Amateurs. 

E.T. had nothing on Gibson

Gibson looked far worse. Far worse. His skin was as ghastly white as E.T. was, but c'mon you could tell E.T was a rubber suit. And where was the blood? Gibson had all the pastiness that E.T. had, plus the blood: a bloodied face, arms, knees, and a deep gash on shin.

I could go on and on about how Burkemper was slapping leaves on Gibson's wounds, and how he started to take off his belt to apply a tourniquet to Gibson's leg, but in the end, Gibson managed to walk home on his own power. When it was final, he had a broken collarbone, eight stitches in his shin, and lots of small cuts and bruises all over.

We gave the KOM to Gibson. As far as I know, that was the last time anybody attempted the Danger Pass KOM anyway.

There. I'm done with KOMs-Gone-Bad for awhile.

Happy Friday and thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

My First KOM, Earned the Hard Way

It all started this one hot and oppressively humid summer day. The thermometer was pinned at 100 F. Without a lick of wind, the heat of the midday sun was scorching.

Days like that were made for the swimming pool. That's where I was, cooling off. But when the lifeguards called an "Adult Swim" rest break at the end of the hour, what was a kid to do to get out of the heat? I cupped my hands over my eyes and scanned the pool deck for a spot of shade. Everywhere I looked, from large deck umbrellas to the shade beneath the trees trees, was already claimed.

It wasn't that my search was in vain. While scanning the deck, I spotted a radio flyer wagon. I had a new plan: I was going to beat the heat by taking that wagon for a joy ride down the steep hill behind the pool. The wind would cool me.

I wheeled the wagon down the pool deck, past the curious eyes of my friends, through the gate and around the backside of the pool where a ribbon of asphalt descended the hill. Surveying it from atop, I noted that the hill wasn't particularly long, maybe 150 feet. But what it lacked in length it made up in slope. There was also one technical section at the bottom of the hill where the path forked 45 degrees: to the right was the tennis courts; to the left, the golf course. I decided that the best line was towards the golf course.

My skinsuit that day was rather spartan, consisting of a lyrca Speedo. Wearing just and only that, I loaded my scrawny 45 lb body into the radio flyer, pointed its front wheels downhill, and shoved off. The wagon quickly accelerated to its terminal velocity. Before I could even appreciate the wind's cooling effects, the forked turn was upon me. I quickly lurched the wagon's handle to navigate the sharp turn. This was where the plan went off the tracks. To my surprise, instead of the wagon hugging the turn, as I had envisioned it moments before, I was suddenly sailing through the air, completely free of the wagon.

For a very brief moment, I noted how refreshingly cool the air felt as heat radiated from my body. It was the slightest of moments, here and gone in a flash. Then things turned ugly.


By the time I stopped tumbling, I had a fair amount of road rash over my body. I mean, the Speedo did its job protecting what it could. But the rest? Esssh.

I was told later that my screams were so loud that the head lifeguard hurdled the 4' pool fence in a single bound as he hurried to my aid.

That's how I earned my first King of the Mountain. I earned it the hard way.

Thanks for reading.