Saturday, September 29, 2007

2007 Rodeo Run Omaha Mile

The inaugural Rodeo Run was a quick. In fact, Ryan Kleimenhagen from Madison WI was the best of the elites, running a sub four minute mile. That was sick. It was also the first time that feat has been done in a Nebraska road race. Congratulations, Ryan!

As a prelude to the River City Round Up Parade, the Rodeo Run Omaha Mile has the potential to be a great race. It has solid race organization, cash prizes for top finishers and a downhill course that will surely draw runners seeking a fast mile.

Speaking of which, this ol' boy still has some kick. Thanks for the genes, Mom & Dad!

Oh I forgot to mention that I won the citizens race.

Kudos to Team Nebraska Brooks for hosting this event. Official Results.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Part VII: 1981 Suzuki GS250t

OK, this is cheating, but I did venture into motorcycles, or motorsackles as Mom likes to call them, by picking up this starter bike for $700 in 2003.

By that time, the GT Karakoram was collecting cobwebs in the basement and I hadn't yet discovered the joy of running. In fact, things weren't so great in general as I had just gone through a divorce. My way of coping with it was to buy a motorcycle. It probably wasn't the most mature way to handle it, but I suppose it's better than some.

The idea was to learn how to ride and then upgrade into some sort of bigger bike. I had my eyes on the Suzuki Bandit. Then later, I'd trade up again for a Honda sport touring bike.

For a small bike, this fella sure was a blast. It had surprisingly good power range and the five speed gearbox was fun to work. It was also in great shape when I bought it, having only 2,500 miles and no dings, scrapes or rust. Those chrome pipes gave it a nice cruiser look and were remarkably loud. It also got about 55 miles per gallon, so I had that going for me, which was nice. Despite its age, it started up faithfully each morning and required normal maintenance.

By 2006, the divorce crisis was behind me and I had been remarried. Along the way of working things out, I had gotten back into physical shape first by running. Then, I began cycling; even later, swimming. Triathlons and running races became regular events in my life. Indeed, my life had changed quite a bit in a few years.

As a result of all of these changes, the GS250t became the bike collecting the cobwebs. It was time to move on. I sold the bike this spring for $750 and used the cash toward the purchase of the Cervelo P2sl time trial bike. The GS250t was fun for a season, but I don't regret what I traded up for.

Next installment: a second life for the GT zr 4000 road bike.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Part VI: 1991 GT Karakoram

Going to college required an upgrade from my then worn out Traveler. It just wasn't hip enough for the roaring 90s. The Karakoram filled that void by splitting shifts between a college commuter and a weekend warrior trail-blazer.

So with this in mind, I bought the Karakoram brand-spanking-new for $565 in 1991. For you young'uns out there, that was when five bucks was five bucks. Yes, I remember nearly crapping my pants while signing the single most largest check I had ever written. Five hundred and sixty-five dollars!!! Yowzah! That was a lot of tacos.

Buyer's remorse quickly faded for this CroMo beauty with the black widow paint job. In a short time, this GT with the "Alpha" package left me satisified. Hey Matt N: what does "Alpha Package" mean in LBS speak, anyway?

The Karakoram came with Shimano LX front and rear dérailleurs, rapid fire shifters, a 46-36-24 triple front chain ring, 7 speed cassette, internal cable housing and double-butted "triple triangle" frame. That triple triangle geometry was GT's claim to fame. It was stable and strong, riding like an Abrams M1-A1 tank and felt like it weighed nearly as much.

Once, I escaped serious injury, possibly death itself, when I nearly launched off of a ten foot double retaining wall into a parking lot below. It was my lightening quick reflexes that saved me. I locked up both brakes when I saw that immanent catastrophe was upon me. The bike stopped with only inches to spare, but you see, I was left vertically opposed in a front wheelie while I peered down the precipice and the parking lot below.

I was like this for a fraction of a second before momentum and gravity began pulling the back tire over top of the front. I was going down, and it wasn't going to be pretty.

You know, when put to it, it's amazing how quickly you can sum up a bad situation and yet choose the best survival technique. Even though my dome had a helmet, I was astute enough to realize that I didn't want to land on my head.

In that moment of brilliance, I kicked out of the toe clips and simultaneously threw the handlebars beneath my legs to clear the bike and reverse the momentum of my fall. It worked. I came crashing through the brush hard but landed squarely on my feet.

"HOLY SHIT!!" exclaimed this voice from the parking lot below. It belonged to a guy still in full crouching mode with hands over his head. After the ruckus calmed down, he told me that he thought it was some sort of movie stunt. No autographs this time, partner.

Fast forward to the present, the Karakorum is still being ridden and now has a pair of Freddy Fenders, a Blackburn rack and saddle bags (thanks, Brendan!). It's been a sturdy bike, requiring very little maintenance. Perhaps I'll get it back on the trails again one day, but for now it makes for a great commuter.

Tomorrow, the GS250t.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Part V: 1984 Schwinn Traveler 12 Speed

Didn't just go to eleven, this one went to 12 when I needed that "extra push over the cliff".

The Traveler was an 8th grade graduation gift from Dad. I dunno if Dad had sympathy for the pangs of my adolescence he saw me experiencing or that he was happy that my grades rebounded, but there it was: a swift new 12 speeder with my name on it.

1984 Schwinn Traveler 12 speed.

So other than the previous times in which I borrowed mom's Ladies Collegiate, the Traveler was the first multi-geared bike that I rode regularly. Like the one pictured above, it was cordovan brown with tan trim. The Traveler's assets included a chrome-moly frame, SunTour components, drop bars with foam-rubber grips, braze-ons for a water bottle cage and toe clips. Best of all, it came with a quick releasing front wheel for easy storage and transport. The back wheel still required a 5/8 wrench to remove it, and since I never carried that wrench, I always aimed to flat the front.

By 8th grade graduation, the worst of the self esteem issues were behind me. The acne on my face had mostly cleared up and I found out how to use deodorant effectively. I quit playing D&D and focused my energies on studies, sports and social life.

The Traveler played a part in my upgraded social life as I was now able to cover longer distances independently. For example, in the summer I would get up at 5:30 AM and ride the Traveler fifteen miles to deliver Dunkin' donuts to my girlfriend's front porch. Apparently it was a pretty big deal to get donuts delivered to your doorstep. It worked for me at least.

If not for the donuts, then maybe it was my new focus on style that caught the girls' eyes. In those days, my typical riding outfit from head to toe was something like this: Ray-Ban aviator sun glasses with wrap around ear pieces, wide striped polo shirts, Ocean Pacific "OP" brand corduroy-whale shorts, white Nike cross trainers and triple banded tube socks. Dang. I was oozing with coolness and thriving once again.

Although I rode it less after I got my driver's license, that 12 speed Traveler surely was an important part of the renaissance that I went through after the dark ages. Thanks, Dad!

Tomorrow: college commuting on a GT Karakoram.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Part IV: A Daisy in the Dark Ages

Before all the hooting and hollering begins, allow me the grace to be the first to admit that there were a few dark years in those days between riding the blue Stingray Deluxe and my next bike. I was scraping the bottom...

1974 Ladies Schwinn Collegiate 5 speed

By seventh grade, my face was pocked with zits and I horrendous B.O. As a result, the girls quickly stopped talking to me. In fact, if not for my smell, I completely vanished in front of them. My friend John (ponch) and I quit playing CHiPs for Dungeons and Dragons. My self esteem tanked and I stopped caring about things. I was a L O S E R.

The blue Stingray deluxe started losing its appeal as my friends got new BMX bikes like Mongoose, Torkers and Redlines with sweet mag wheels. Others got new multi-geared bikes: my older brother Matt's Schwinn World Sport and brother John's (Murphini) limited edition Bicentennial Varsity. However, I was in limbo, left riding a single speed cruiser in a changing world.

So if the Stingray had a flat, or if I just wanted to go somewhere faster, I opted for the only multi-geared bike available to me at the time: Mom's ladies Collegiate 5 speed. Daisy-yellow with full chrome fenders, upright handlebars, a five speed stem shifter and a spring-loaded seat, this bike was built for comfort. Oh yeah, it also had a baby seat mounted on the rear rack. Thanks for sharing your ride, Mom!

In fairness to Schwinn and my Mom, the ladies Collegiate offered an extremely durable ride that absorbed most road hazards. It took obstacles like curbs, small flights of stairs and medium sized retaining walls surprisingly well. And although it was a pig (not unlike Fred's LeMond) it could cook down hills. Oh, and could that thing ghost ride! With it's hefty cold steel handlebars and that solid frame, all it took was a gentle nudge to get it going and it would coast riderless without the slightest trouble. If challenged in a ghost riding duel, forget about it. You could bet the bank that the Collegiate would crush the competition, especially when the handlebars locked up.

Mom's Collegiate unfortunately bore the brunt of my many pent up frustrations from those transitions years. Sorry, Mom: I owe you an amends. Not to justify it, but the Collegiate handled the punishment exceedingly well.

Schwinn captured some magic in those days before the 1980s. I can attest that the Collegiate had style and function and was just as much a joy to ride for an adolescent boy with self esteem issues as it was for the women to which it was marketed.

So there it is: a dorky, spoiled kid with zits & BO riding mom's daisy-yellow ladies collegiate during his dark years of transition.

Tomorrow: Traveling down the road on a new Schwinn 12 speed.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Part III Blue Schwinn Stingray Deluxe

1975 Schwinn Sting Ray Deluxe
Sparkling metallic blue, the first of a hand - me - down bicycle from brother Matt in 1982. Thanks, Matt!

The blue Stingray was a model year older than my yellow Junior Stingray, but it was bigger and had a knobby rear tire. Plus, it was a deluxe. Now, that was hot.

One day when we were ten and eight years old, Matt and I went for a long ride on our Stingrays. While our parents thought we were at the neighborhood swimming pool, we rode from our home in Kirkwood to purchase forbidden fireworks in Valley Park, MO. The route followed busy roads, State Highways and meandered through industrial parks. Cement trucks and 18 wheelers were just a few feet away throughout the trip. Of course we weren't wearing helmets, but no one wore them back then.

After what seemed like eternity, we could finally see the fireworks tents. But first we had to cross this old green suspension bridge that spanned the Meramec river. It was a terrible sight for an eight year old. Even worse, the sidewalk was missing several wooden planks, which elicited a rare and powerful F bomb from Matt.

I could see plainly that Matt wasn't deterred as he looked at me. My eyes shifted to that gaping hole. I felt nauseous and began to cry. Matt encouraged me to turn back and start riding home by myself. I wiped my tears and stood my ground. I knew that that this was some serious shit. Matt then picked up our bikes and heaved them over the gap. A moment later, we made a jump for it.

The noise of the industrial trucks, the cars and the thump of the expansion joints on the bridge...they all became quiet as we leaped for our lives, and more importantly to us, the fireworks. The mighty Meramec churned chocolate brown below while the wind tussled our hair. Other than that last embellishment about the hair, it was just like the movies. I'm not kidding.

To this day, it was one of the dumbest and most daring things I've ever done. Obviously, we safely accomplished our mission. Our parents never found out and we managed to keep from blowing our fingers off with the stash of m80s that we acquired.

A couple years later, Matt upgraded to a Schwinn World Sport and the Blue Stingray Deluxe became mine. And while it never made another trip to Valley Park, it was a kick ass bike to do wheelies and patrol the neighborhood as CHiPs officer Jon Baker.

Tomorrow: a bright daisy in the dark ages.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Part II: the Yellow Schwinn Stingray Junior

1976 Schwinn Sting Ray Jr. Yellow

My first bike and a birthday present from Mom and Dad. As a Stingray Junior, it was a smaller frame, but shared most of its styling: single speed cruiser frame with sparkling yellow banana seat and grips. The one styling difference between the junior and the original was that the junior came with a full chrome fender on the rear wheel (The picture above is not my original bike). That full fender gave it a vintage retro look, but was trouble when it came to popping wheelies.

Dad taught me how to ride it on the first try. No training wheels, thank you, just plopped me on the seat, showed me how to use the coaster brake and then jogged along gently until I was riding on my own. Thanks for getting me going, Pops!

I rode the Stringray junior throughout the neighborhood with my friend John Guerrerio, mostly pretending we were CHiPs. I was Jon Baker and he was Officer Francis "Ponch" Poncherello because he was Italian and looked more like Eric Estrada than I did. That was a frequent source of frustration because Ponch always got the coolest slow-motion crashes. And the babes, too. Anyway, we seemed to work it out, at least better than our on-screen counterparts.

And with my older brother Matt on his blue Stingray, we rode on a secret quest to buy fireworks in another county one Fourth of July weekend. But I'll save that story for tomorrow's Part III installment: the Blue Schwinn Stingray Deluxe.

Part I: The Big Wheel

Here is the first installment of a multi-part series on the various bikes/trikes I've ridden over the years.

1974 Big Wheel

On Christmas Day 1974, I experienced new bike lustre for the very first time. Yes, it was a big wheel, and while technically not a bike, it was in the mind of a four year old. I recall the box that it came in was the biggest thing near the tree, which only built up the hype. Dad couldn't assemble that thing fast enough.

Before long, I was throwing the blue hand brake and doing 180° spins, as seen on TV. I was riding that thing all over the neighborhood. I even got welts on my back from friction burns against the plastic seat.

Unfortunately, the big wheel phase of my life was short-lived as the front plastic wheel wore out after one summer. Alas, at age four, I knew the feeling of broken components as I sadly watched them haul it away in the garbage truck.

Still, if they made an adult version big wheel today, I'd own it. I'm not talking about one of those fancy trikes you see on the Keystone trail. What I mean is a 9/5 version of the plastic one I rode as a kid, complete with the yellow and black mag wheels and handle bar tassels. That would be something. In fact, I wouldn't miss the opportunity to do the signature Munson head-wag and flash a toothy grin as I passed recumbent-riding freds at the Corporate Cycling challenge. It would be grand.

Tomorrow, my first true bike: the Schwinn Stingray Junior.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

2007 Omaha Corporate Cup 10K

This year's Corporate Cup 10k was the watermark event for many local competitive runners. It was for me at least.

Take a look at that fella in the front row!

On a redesigned and even flatter 10K course with near ideal racing conditions, I set a new personal 10K record.

I had little idea that I would run like this. I thought I'd do well, but a PR?

You see, this year I cut my running training mileage in half to cross train for triathlons. But while swimming has helped cardio strength and riding has maintained endurance & leg strength, I was clueless about pace since I haven't run a pure foot race since my last marathon.

What's more is that it actually felt good. In fact, I've done training runs that hurt a lot more. Relaxed for the first three miles, I didn't start laboring until the 6th mile. There might have even been smiles on my face from time to time.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Bip, Bomp, Bam Alakazam

I've heard that jumping rope is an excellent cross training technique. Unfortunately, I never learned as a kid. And while Ms. Katherine claims to have been able to the double dutch in her youth, she's out of form now.

So, I did some research.

This little fella has more skills than me:

Maybe he always will, but here is my goal:

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Black Squirrel Triathlon

Despite missing a turn on the bike that caused a mile detour, I still had a pretty good race.

People laugh when I tell them that the swim was in Lake Manawa. They think it's like the East River when that served as NYC's sewer. Come to think about it, it is kinda funny that we swim in that Council Bubba cesspool. It actually justifies the wet suit & goggles. Thankfully, my mouth was clenched-shut too.

Anyway, I felt like death after the swim. Not because of the water quality, but because I wailed and flailed. Here's a post-swim picture that scares me.

Swim: I remember feeling as bad as I look. In truth, I felt worse. Note: secondary protective skin, goggles and cap.

Swim to Bike Transition: Here, I have recovered a bit. Gee. I wonder if the American Red Cross can find my vein to draw blood. I'd better have that looked at.

Next, I'm getting ready to transition off the bike to the run. I normally ride with my feet in my generally works better that way. But here the photographer captured a time-saving technique of spinning on top of the shoes during the last quarter mile. Earlier, my calves were cramping on the first five miles before I settled in to a 21.8 mph avg. time trial.

Unfortunately for you viewers, there isn't a photo of me running. It's too bad because I really felt like barfing at the run transition and couldn't get the breathing managed for the first two miles. This would have made for a fine photo opportunity. Still, after the first two splits at 6:50, 7:34, I ran negatives splits from there (6:34, 6:09, 6:09, 6:08).

With this race, I have completed my transition from just a runner to a triathlete.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Competitve Eating

The Black Widow ate 173 Buffalo wings in 12 minutes to cap off a summer of competitive eating. That's quite a feat!

Just two months ago, six time defending hot dog champ Takeru Kobayashi devoured 63 HDB (hot dog and buns), eight more than his previous best, and finished second to Joey Chestnut. Golly. How'd you like to eat 63 HDBs and finish second?

Anyway, these competitions seem to favor the sprint-eater. These are short events, ending in 15 minutes. Couldn't they host a marathon eating competition for the slow-twitch jowlers? I mean, could you imagine what a person could put down in a two hour competition? A whole side of beef?

Perhaps the Old Country Buffet could host it. I have witnessed such athletes working up a sweat while eating there.

Let the games begin!