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

Friday, July 24, 2015

Unpossible

At work I listen to a Pandora station called "Emancipator" to blot out chatty colleagues. I wouldn't know how to define the station, but Pandora describes it as "heavy use of samples, electronica roots, R&B influences; headnodic beats."

Anyway, a sample from this song caught my attention recently:

Our language, you might say our language lacks a word.
We have the word: impossible.
But we need to differentiate between two sorts of things.
The impossible is that which, by definition can never be done.
We need another word -- unpossible --
that which can't be done just yet.
-- The Unpossible by  Kaleidoscope Jukebox
Unpossible? That concept resounded in me.

When I first started racing my bicycle, Mike Munson was the best cyclist I knew. He was a seasoned cat 2 racer, with lots of palmares. Me? I was a newbie with spotty cat 5 results. I would sometimes wonder, would I ever get there? I had my doubts. My lackluster cat 5 results were proof enough. It seemed very unlikely at the time. I might have even considered it was impossible.

Obviously, that wasn't true. It wasn't that it was impossible, but more that it was just not possible yet.

I've been thinking a lot about what's possible lately. I have wondered how often I've sold myself short, or given up on some dreams I once had. Maybe it's only a matter of redirecting my thinking from what was once considered unattainable, to not attainable just yet.

Now, I'm not suggesting that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. There are the laws of physics to deal with. Only in the movies could those laws be abandoned. But even there, I'd probably still have my doubts. For example, let's say that I was in the Star Wars Universe. As much as I'd enjoy raising an X-Wing fighter from a Dagobah swamp as the next padawan, I would probably agree with Luke Skywalker and also say that it was too big, and dismiss it as impossible.

Sidebar: I could hear Yoda's voice in my head grumbling, "and that is why you fail" as I typed that.

Anyway, there are some things worth revisiting. I'll be challenging myself to think of the potential, rather than the impossible. I will look for how to reach a difficult goal, rather than blindly dismiss it because I felt it was unattainable.

Who knows. Perhaps one day in the future, in a galaxy far, far away, I'll be standing on some exoplanet's swampy surface with an astromech droid and a little green dude by my side. With my one arm extended, an X-Wing fighter will be gliding effortlessly above us as the John Williams orchestra -- also levitated from my other extended arm -- will be filling the air with a musical crescendo so beautiful it makes one weep. At that moment, I will look with confidence to my little green buddy and say, "I once thought this was all unpossible."

And in reply, he will grin and say, "And that is why you have succeeded."

Happy Friday. Thanks for reading.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Courage

Last weekend's races at Clear Lake were humbling. I went in with a plan and high hopes. I even wrote about my aspirations beforehand, asking for serenity, courage and wisdom. With our team struggling for results, I wanted us to have something to be proud of for our efforts.

As it turned out, I had my worst racing results till date. The team didn't fare much better. What was even more difficult to process was how I raced: I lacked the courage to act when it counted.

After the time trial that put me in the bottom half, I went into the criterium with hopes of doing better. I figured that although I may not be the fastest of the bunch, and I don't have the bursty speed that most of my competition has, I am a decent bike handler with good enough torque to manage the course's technical turns and punchy hill. All I needed to do was to line up early, get a good start, and stay up front and things would take care of themselves. In fact, that's how it all started. But within a few laps, I started getting swarmed. Rather than fighting for position, I let others take my line. A short time later, a nasty crash happened right behind me. That got me rattled. And a few laps after that, my front wheel got channeled into a crack at 30 mph, spooking me further. It was also around that time that I noticed there were still 32 laps remaining. Oof.

My courage suffered a lot. I was gassed way too early, and fighting at the back of the pack -- not to move up -- but to simply hang on.

Fast forward to 10 to go: I reached for my water bottle and noticed that it was also dangling: one bolt was missing, and the other was backed half way out. I decided that it was enough of a safety issue that warranted pulling into the pit. If that meant abandoning the race, so be it. But the pit judge had mercy, and after a cage adjustment from SRAM neutral support, I was pushed back into the pack for the final 15 minutes of racing. A mere three laps later, I was dangling at the back again, this time with cramping from my quads. With five to go, I was separated from the peloton for good, and was pulled from the race, finishing near DFL.

I struggled after the race to get my brain right. As much as I attempted to force bravery upon it, it didn't take much resistance to fill it up with doubts again. As a result, Sunday's road race was more of the same story. I rode to survive. Riding to survive is not racing. It certainly isn't team racing. It's selfish, and frankly, pointless to pin a number on. I mean, I practically did nothing to ensure the success of anyone on my team. But survival is what I did, at least until around the 75th mile. That's when I started cramping again. However, unlike the previous day's cramping, this one culminated in what felt like a knife stuck in my quad. It tightened up so much that I couldn't turn my pedal. My race was done.

I've spent some time soul searching this past week. I thought about the fine racing that both Shim and Chris Spence did, and the tactics of others that raced well. I recalled hearing the confident discussions among the peloton about the immanent attacks that they were about to launch (and did successfully). I wanted nothing of it at the time. It's because I lacked confidence and courage.

It comes to this: I've got unfinished road racing business to attend to. Last week, I had plans. I had the serenity to know what I could and couldn't change. And I dare say that I even had the wisdom to know the difference between the two. Despite this, I lacked the courage to race my bike fearlessly. These thoughts have fueled my workouts this past week, and will be on my mind for some time to come, resuming with tomorrow's four hour ride.

Courage and miles won't take care of themselves. They both need tending. It starts by getting on the saddle, clipping in and turning the pedals. Somewhere down the road, I hope mine is restored.

Thanks for reading. Happy Friday

Friday, July 10, 2015

A Road Racer's Serenity Prayer

Bicycle racing is a lot like that Serenity prayer that Al-Anon users recite:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

Serenity
I cannot change the conditions of the course or weather.
Nor can I change my fitness by the time I roll up to the starting line.
And I certainly cannot change the racing tactics of my competitors --  even my teammates for that matter -- although I may be able to influence them to help shape the outcome of the race.

Courage
I can steel up courage to accept the harsh conditions of a technical course.
I can gird my resolve to welcome gnarly crosswinds, to endure in sultry heat, or to thrive in sheets of downpouring rain.
And I can search within for the bravery to chase down attacks -- and launch counters of my own -- against seasoned pros with palmares that span decades.

Wisdom
God, if I only had wisdom. Truly, wisdom's the key above all the rest.

God, grant me the wisdom to know what I can/cannot change, 
and the courage and strength to respond when it matters. 
Amen.

--//--

Harvest Racing is pinning on numbers at the Bicycle Blues and BBQ Festival in Clear Lake Iowa this weekend.  The squad in the Mens P/1/2 race:
Lucas Marshall (cat 2)
Brady Murphy  (cat 2)
Greg Shimonek  (cat 2)
Paul Webb (cat 2)

Happy Friday. Thanks for Reading.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Tour of Lawrence Review

My first cat 2 races were nothing to write home about. But since my Mom and Dad will be reading this post, I suppose there's that. And I saved a postage stamp.

The venue for my first p/1/2 race was the Tour of Lawrence. I had heard about this race a few years ago and wondered what it would be like to race it, especially the criterium in downtown Lawrence.

To my dismay, Saturday's race was moved from KU's campus and on to a new location at Haskell College. The old (KU) course had hills, which I typically like. The new one appeared to have hills on paper, but in reality, it amounted to nothing more than a couple false flats on a level course. Sunday's race remained in downtown Lawrence, where it was also flat. Each course also had plenty of room to maneuver through the pack. I wouldn't describe either as technical, although Saturday's race featured an S turn that was fun to carve at top speed.

Traditionally, I do not fare well on flat, non-technical courses. Flat courses tend to keep the pack together, favoring the sprinters at the end of the race. My sprint isn't so good. The results reflected this: I finished 29th/50 on both days. Oof.

Racing bikes is fun. There is no doubt about that. Winning, or doing something particularly well, makes it even more so. Though I was happy to be in the elite field representing Harvest and Midwest Cycling Community, I wasn't particularly fond of how I raced either days. I struggled with patience. I also got lazy and failed to work at remaining up near the front of the pack. These are the keys to flat and fast races. In short, patience and pack surfing are not as glamorous as attacking the field or carrying speed through technical corners, but both skills are obviously required if one wants to place better than 29th.

That's all I've got to say about that.

I have the weekend off, then next week I'm jumping in for a trip to Clear Lake's Blues Booze and BBQ bike festival where I'll have a chance to apply what I've learned on another flat and fast course.

In the meantime, I plan to do some local training. Perhaps I'll tape an American flag or two on my bike, though I might have to steal them back from Fred's son Jack (see photo at the bottom of the post). In order to do that, I'll have to build a time machine to travel back to the future eight years ago.

Nah, I think I'll just go ride my bike.

Happy Friday. Thanks for reading.