Tuesday, December 30, 2008

More Humbling

August 2007. I had recently purchased my first bicycle as an adult. I predicated on the decision for weeks, debating between the utility of a road bike vs racing triathlons on a time trial bike. In the end, racing won out as I purchased a Cervelo p2sl.

So I had a new bike. I was the shizznit and was in sensory overload. Crisp shifting from the 10 speed Dura-Ace group, the supple hum of 220 TPI Vittoria rubber on the tarmac and a sleek jet-black paint job edit: anodized finish shredded any sense of buyer's remorse.

Meanwhile, Old Yeller was in shambles. Its STI shifter controlling the rear derailleur had lost its ability to index, effectively reducing it to a triple ring three speed. Yeller's fate was still undecided as it hung on a hook in the garage. Not that it mattered. I really wasn't interested in riding it much since purchasing the p2sl.

So without a road bike, the p2sl was it. I rode it everywhere - on group rides, commuting to work, whatever. I never hoozier-stooped to wearing cutoff jeans while on it, but I did have my share of embarrassing moments in those early days. Still do. Here are a couple that I'm aware of:

1) Lights
If you happen to be a first time owner of a time trial bike, don't make the mistake of visiting your local bike shop and asking what type of light you can affix to an aero seat tube. Geez - what a freaking newb! Perhaps I should have asked for a clip-on generator for the back wheel to complete the set. Anyway, I did this. They made no effort to conceal their laughter from behind the counter.

Is Shim still here? Good riddance. Let's go on to #2

2) Track Stand
When the bike is so new that the tires haven't even worn off their nubs, you think you're invincible. This is especially true on a time trial bike. You're not.

Again -- having only one bike -- I brought the p2sl to work for a group ride drop-fest over the lunch hour. Fortunately, Fred suggested the airport loop, which is perfect for time trials. Thanks Fred. I was licking my chops and ready to feast.

A total hammerfest ensued for the next thirty minutes. To Fred's credit, he not only hung on but even pulled some. Those were the days when he was riding lots, had a high golf handicap and probably didn't mind converting bytes and string vectors very much.

Anyhow, after basking in an elevated state of self-aggrandizement for the better part of an hour, fate had its way of pulling me back down to earth. While waiting for the light to change at the corner of 24th and Cuming, I had the p2sl balanced in a neat track stand with a Munson head-wag or two to underscore the moment. When the light changed, I applied pressure to the crank and slipped the chain right off the big ring. Did I clip out to recover gracefully? On my day of glory? Preposterous! I was intent on riding this thing out. So in a desperate act of futility, I spun the crank up to about 180 RPM as gravity slowly keeled me and my brand-spanking-new TT bike right over. (If this was a scene in a movie, you'd see the Titanic's orchestra playing music while riding unicycles all around me.) What a jerk. As I lay beneath the p2sl, the group I had toasted only minutes before pulled away. I believe I heard Fred call back, "No...this way, Brady".

Ahhh yes. Delicious, sweet humble pie.

Monday, December 29, 2008


During yesterday's warm spell, I got out for a two hour solo ride on Old Yeller. The warm and sunny weather had me giddy. As a result, I spun it out too quickly and was burning through the carbs at a fast rate. Turning back south at Ft Calhoun brought me into a modest headwind through Boyer's Chute. The fuel tank was getting near empty. By the time I crested the Ponca Hills bluffs, I was running on fumes. At that point, the ride time was 75 minutes. From my running days, I would begin to go into glycogen debt right around this time. I was on schedule.

In the biking world, bonking means a total exhaustion caused by lack of sufficient food during a long race or ride. Everyone has different thresholds. I suppose that I have a fast metabolism that is not very efficient on longer rides.

The only way to correct the condition is to restore the blood sugar (glycogen) levels. Eat. I craved a pop tart. Gatorade would have been nice. Visions of a Dagwood Bumstead style sandwich were swimming in my head. But I had only water. As a result, it was up to my liver to reach into the body's fat stores and begin converting the fats into sugar.

It's a humbling experience and I struggled for the remaining thirty minutes of my ride home. Like, small ring & 23 tooth for a whopping 9 MPH on Cuming Street. And when low on glycogen, the brain's in a fog. In fact, the only time it comes into focus is when something courageously bubbles up into the consciousness, like, "YOU SUCK!!"

There aren't too many things more humbling on bicycle than experiencing exhaustion. I imaging crashing in a time trial would come close; maybe being dropped in the middle of nowhere on a group ride.

What do you think - is there anything more humbling than bonking on a bicycle?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Breaking the Ice

Enough is enough - time to break the ice on this thing.

Although it was -8°F this morning, I read Redd-Shift's blog and became inspired to commute into work by bicycle.

As a new cycling commuter, Scott has fully embraced the commuting by bike lifestyle. Over the past year, he not only purchased his first bicycle as an adult, but has steadily added equipment and clothing as the nights have gotten longer and colder. I got to hand it to him, if he can do it, just about anyone can.

Over the past few years, I've slowly chipped away at my cycling discomfort zone. And so with Redd-shift's inspiration and repeating the mantra, "You can do it!" (think Schwarzenegger), I peddled the Nishiki Project into the snot-freezing cold this morning.

Having never ridden a road bike in the snow, I was surprised how much traction the 27 1/4 slicks mounted to the rail car wheelset got on packed powder streets. I imagine that it also helped having the panniers over the back wheel for extra weight. Perhaps I'll bungee a $3 sandbag back there too next time. Here's what I've learned so far:

How to Survive a Commute by Bike at -8°F
1) Wear layered clothing* & Ski goggles when snowing or < 10°F
2) Avoid riding in snow or slush during rush hour
3) Pick the safest route possible if roads have snow/slush/ice
4) When possible, avoid brown stuff (slush). Use low gear for power
5) Be vigilant about bumps and potholes
6) Allow for extra braking distance; go slow on downhills.
7) Maintain straight lines as much as possible; ease through turns
8) Be extra cautious while sharing the road in snow or slush

*For the record: beneath helmet, I wore a skull cap and PI balaclava, ski goggles, craft thermal top, long sleeve tech shirt, woolie, full shell wind breaker, glove liners and PI Lobsters, Craft thermal leggings, amfib bibs, a pair of smart wool socks, mountain shoes and amfib booties. The toes were the only uncomfortable point.

Thankfully, I managed to make it to work without an incident. Keep on riding - You caan do eeeeet!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Last week while running home from work I dropped one of my shoes along the way. I discovered the loss about three miles into my five mile commute. As it was late in the evening, I decided to continue home. Fortunately, I found the shoe later on Creighton's campus:

I've lost stuff before: a pair of glasses during a Ponca Hills repeat (found unharmed in the middle of the street upon the next loop); a pair of really nice gloves during a commute by bus (#3: Did you Drop Anything?).

But I've become better about not losing things. I've learned the hard way that if there's a chance something wiggling loose, it probably will. So I've become more careful about closing zippers and such. I also do a backpack check at the first stop light and then at least one more quick check along the 25 minute commute.

Still, I occasionally drop an item. In the case of the shoe, my errors were twofold: 1) I didn't cinch the external mesh drawstring tight enough to hold my shoes securely. I should've known better. 2) I failed hearing the shoe hit the ground because the iPod volume was too loud. Note to self: turn the music down for safety as well as keeping track of possessions.

Of course, there are times when you find something else, some booty, on the street that a clod like me has dropped. By booty I strictly mean as a "thing" (as opposed to person) of value. Anyhow, I once came upon some booty in north Omaha. It was during the Run With A Heart 10K race. The irony was that this was one of the rare times that I was actually winning a race. As I followed the police motorcycle, my eyes were suddenly drawn to a wad of cash along the curb. It was tempting. Like the 70's game show, Let's Make a Deal, it was as if I was being offered cold cash in exchange for the unknown behind the curtain.

A shrewd man would have stepped off the course and collected the cash prize. Me? I passed on the buyout, won the race and collected the gold-painted medal. There's always at least one ass in Let's Make a Deal.

Have you ever lost something of value while out on the road? What have you found?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Suffer More Than Anyone Else

I saw a friend and fellow triathlete, Kurt, at last weekend's Cranksgiving-Omaha event. Kurt is as fierce as any competitor in a race. But outside of that, his easy-does-it attitude spiced with humor is disarming. But while we were talking about this past year's races, he said something that has turned into a repeating scratched mental record in my head. Paraphrasing, he said, "in triathlon racing, there's a fine line between pain and pleasure - that's why I do it."

Saaay what?!

Now I've often wondered what motivates someone to do ultra distance events like an Ironman. It's one thing if you're trained and truly racing the entire thing, but it's an entirely other thing when you're out there just to suffer. But Pleasure-pain? With the thousands of Ironman entrants, maybe Kurt's onto something here. Perhaps many triathletes are in some sort of 18 hour pain n' pleasure erotica fest. (If you've ever been to a triathlon, you may agree that this accurately fits the bill.)

Regardless, in my world there's a huge gulf separating pain and pleasure. I'd guess that my Mom would be happy to know that I'd fail at being a masochist. Indeed, I think I'm quite able to differentiate between agony and joy. If you're in doubt about your ability to distinguish between the two, try this simple test. Load your iPod with Barry Manilow, set it to shuffle, then blindfold yourself and push play. If you like what you hear, then you should be competing in Ironman events.

Still, I've got to hand it to Kurt, for he caused me to stop and question my motives in racing and training.

Then today, I read Josh Horowitz' Levi Leipheimer interview. In it, Josh asked Levi how he motivates himself to race, to which Levi replied, "In order to win, you have to suffer more than anyone else and you have to believe you can win to push yourself to that point."

I carefully re-read the part about "suffer more than anyone else". He didn't say a word about pleasure. It was just simple good old pain and suffering.

Thank God! Now there's something I could relate to.

Like Levi related, pre-race knowledge of immanent suffering can be a mental barrier well before reaching the starting line. This is especially true when you've done the training and have set a very specific goal that you'd like to reach. Training, too, is prone to a loss of motivation due to the suffering factor - be it intervals, a time trial or a long workout. I mean, wouldn't it be nice to rip up the hills and destroy the competition without slaving hours on end on the trainer, the treadmill or in the pool? Even environmental factors such as rain, snow, wind and extreme temperatures can be a drag on the mental mo-jo.

So why do I do it?

I searched the depths of my soul for answer. Seconds later, I had these: 1)Being physically fit has its rewards in good health, 2) The soothing effects of beta endorphins during post-workout recovery, 3) Refueling (and a good BM after that) 4) Measuring progress, and 5) Meeting of a goal and/or achieving a victory.

In my search, I discovered something. Boiled down it comes to a word: SATISFACTION. Hmmm, I suppose there is a little pleasure in it after all. By golly, Kurt's been vindicated!

Oh crap. It's 60 minutes in Zone 4/5 on the trainer this evening...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Nathan Reflective Vest

You guys made great points about being seen in the dark.

So on yesterday's ride in to work, I busted out my Nathan Jr vest for extra visibility. I originally got this thingy ($12 at Dick's) for night time running.

Until I upgrade to a high visibility windbreaker with detachable sleeves, the re-cycle of this reflective tunic and upgrades to my life insurance policy is money well spent for Ms Katherine.

Oh and one more thing. The bonus of the wearing the Nathan Jr vest is that Shim makes fun of it. Hey Shim! I'm wearing the crossing guard uniform I stole from your kid's school!

Anyway, I'm off for Bryan's Cranksgiving Omaha tomorrow. Have a good weekend everyone and ride safely.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

On Being Munsoned In the Middle of Nowhere

Last night, I rode home wearing a black woolie and black tights. It was an exceptionally dreary night: dark, wet and cold. In many ways, it reminded me of one of my favorite albums, Smell the Glove. It's like, how much more black could this be? and the answer is none. None more black.

But wait, there's more: my tail light's battery was dead. It was like I was riding in a vacuum.

I stopped at the Quick Shop at 38th and Leavenworth to replace the tail light's batteries. Unfortunately, as I removed the light from the seat-tube, I snapped it off its plastic mount. Crap!

Let's recap: I was wearing black, it was extremely dark, cold and rainy and now I was without a tail light. I suddenly realized that I was Munsoned in the middle of nowhere.

A lesser man would have called for a ride home; a foolish one would have ridden in the dark and taken his chances with the Grim Reaper. But faced with adversity, I did what Munson would do and unmunsoned my way out of a mitmon.

Others have already written plenty about Munson. But while it's easy to chip away at his character, one thing that I really appreciate about this fella is his gritty resourcefulness. You see, Munson has embraced his inner-Munsoness. Like a kung-fu master, he has turned what would normally be perceived as a weakness into a strength. And in doing so, he's become quite able at turning a bad situation into a good one (and on the cheap). For instance, when Old Yeller's original RSX shifters blew up, it was Munson who duct-taped it back together.

So I feared not, for Munson's can-do attitude was with me on that dreadful night. Resolutely, I pushed open the Quickie Mart door (and after the fog cleared from my glasses) grabbed a pack of triple-A batteries and clear packing tape. With steady hands, I ripped and taped until that blinker was fixed to a highly visible place on the back of my Giro. Shoot, I now had more visibility than ever.

Thanks, Munson. For a moment there, things looked bleak. Then I realized that I too could become a Munson in the middle of nowhere.

Monday, November 10, 2008

What's Been Goin' On

Over the past two weeks, I've got back in the pool five times, weight room four times and commuted to/from work by bike and foot every day. While I haven't had a long run or bike ride, I've been fairly consistent on getting in at least forty to sixty minutes of riding/running during the work week.

New Gear: AMFIB Bib Tights
Today, I commuted in to work with a new pair of Pearl Izumi Amfib bib tights. They're fantastic: bibs and amfib booties kept the legs nice n' toasty on the 25 minute ride in at 26 F. In contrast, I under-dressed the upper body in a short sleeve base and long sleeve woolie. Quite a difference in warmth between upper and lower. Also, because I lent a pair of lobster gloves to Munson for this weekend's cycling/camping crazy fest, the hands were a tad chilly in full-fingered mtn bike gloves. A full face balaclava under the helmet was just enough to keep the head warm. But as for the bib tights, I'm looking forward to see how they perform on colder and longer rides.

During the past two weekends, I've been catching up on household maintenance: repairing a wooden fence in the backyard, concrete on the front steps, staining the back deck, winterizing and other honey-dos inside the house. The result has prevented longer rides and training runs on the weekend.

However, I've kept the calendar free for this Saturday's Omaha Cranksgiving event hosted by none other than Bryan Redemske.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

45 Minute Power Lunch

Got a power lunch ride in with the big guns at UP today, including Wes, Ed, Brant and Shim. At 50F and sunny, a mini-social ride was a glorious way to spend lunch.

Of note, Shim was riding a fixed gear. I dialed in Ol' Yeller to a similar gear to ride along with him at the same pace. Save for the limited time on Murphini's "phixie", I've had little experience riding on this type of bicycle.

So in my pseudo-fixed gear experiment, I found it annoying to have to pedal so quickly on the downhills to keep up with gravity's pull on the bike. It ended up being quite choppy in the saddle. This is obviously not part of the pleasure of riding a fixed bicycle, but it makes for good riding form.

You fixed gear riders will have to comment: do your legs ever really "learn" how to smooth out the cadence to accommodate reasonable downhills? And if you practice regularly, how soon did you start seeing an improvement in your mechanics?

If I ever go fixed (and I don't blow up my knees), then my goal will be to ride as smooth as Eddy Merckx on rollers..

Dang! That's amazing!

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Required Uniform

Back from Singapore, I've noticed that the weather is no longer tropical. So I'm shopping for some cold weather gear for the legs and am wondering what you prefer in tights.

I'm looking for something to wear on longer group rides in colder weather (below 30 F). Note that I already have a pair of knee and leg warmers and a light weight pair of running tights.

Weight: How warm?
Style: Normal or Bibs?
Chamois: Yes or No?
Brand: What do you prefer?
Likes/Dislikes: Would you recommend the pair you currently own?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Back from Singapore

My intentions were to blog frequently about our travels to Singapore. Alas, time was better spent elsewhere. Needless to say, we had a terrific time in the "land of the Lion" (Singa = lion - poura = city). In case you've wondered, Singapore makes a great starting point to seeing Asia. Here are a few traveling notes...

First, Singapore is not China. It's one of only a few truly independent City-States in the world on a small island 80 miles north of the equator and below Malaysia. Because of this, it's warm (75 - 90 F) and humid (+80% humidity) year round.

Brief History:
Former Dutch and then British Spice trading colony, the Malaysian Federation was granted independence in 1963. Singapore broke away from the Malaysian Federation in 1965 and has been an independent since.

With little natural resources to speak of, this country relies on the sweat and blood of its people to crank out a vibrant and extremely modern country. Singaporeans are known for electronics, shipping, logistics and financial services. With little corruption and a lots of money in savings, Singapore has been among the least affected Asian countries during economic downturns.

The island is about 40 x 30 miles - roughly the size Omaha to Lincoln's border. There are 4.5 million inhabitants who mostly live in apartments (flats)
People Groups
As a major trading route, Singapore is one of the crossroads of Asia with a lot of diversity. Majority are ethnically Chinese, followed by Malay, Tamil and Caucasians. Honkeys like me are locally nicknamed the "Ang Mo", which is Mandarin for "red hair".

Despite their ethnic majority, I found it interesting that even Singapore has it's own China town.
It also has its own India Town where everyone shops at a local electronics store called Mustafa.

Mustafa is the NFM of Singapore
The language of business in S'pore is English. Everything - street signs, restaurant menus, media, etc is either written or spoken English. Like I said, it's extremely easy for the Ang Mo to travel there.

Public system is excellent. European "green" buses and a modern/mature subway system are make getting around the island simple and affordable.
Taxis are everywhere and also relatively cheap
As mentioned in a previous post, the local foods are best found in hawker center and Coffee shops. To a midwest American Ang Mo, some of the foods freaked me. Frog Porridge has replace my Pig Organ soup as my favorite. And yes, you can go vegetarian at these places too.

I found a replacement for my fixation on Starbucks. It's a local coffee from Indonesia that is extremely strong and is served hot, cold, with condensed milk, ginger or even mixed with Indian Tea. Fantastic.
I'll likely post in a separate follow up on this one.

That's about it for now. Jet lag calls for a nap

Friday, October 3, 2008


I've begun the final year of my fourth decade on this planet. Dang, I guess I'm getting old. How and when did that happen?

Oh well, I guess I'll have to toss down an extra Singapore Sling or two (or four) at the Raffles Hotel tonight.

Anyway, thanks for having me Mom and Dad!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Original Singapore McRib

Recently, Katherine and I met up with our Singapore family at a traditional "Hawker Center" for dinner.

Hawker centers are covered outdoor venues that are very common throughout Singapore. Their charming authenticity and homemade food has been both cheap and accessible for generations of Singaporeans. While the food is also considered "fast", it is a far cry from Western fast food.

The most obvious difference is in the southeast Asian menu, where you can find all kinds of treasures for the palate including: Hainanese Chicken rice, fried intestines, sauced chicken feet and my personal favorite, roasted pig organs.
I doubt I'll ever see these items on a McDonalds menu board. Of course the actual ingredients of the McRib is unquestionably suspect, but I don't expect to hear "gimme a McPig Organ extra value meal" uttered in my lifetime.

Please don't get me wrong. I love these places. Indeed, the unique charm of these Hawker centers have won this expatriot over. The variety and quality of these meals have left me hungering for more.

Now let's see, I think that I'll have a rainbow Ice Kachang - the Singaporean corn-filled snowcone - for dessert. Ah, now that's life.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Searching For Dr Strangelove

I'm here:
A one hour crew-change has turned into a seven hour delay in Moscow's Domodedovo Airport. Apparently, a small part is needed for the Boeing 777ER jet purchased last year. When it comes to parts, I say the wait is worth it.

It's OK though. Life is good. Singapore airlines has bumped me gratis into the Air Austria Lounge, which compared to the smoke filled corridors of this airport, is a piece of heaven.

Recap of my current adventure:
I left Omaha for Houston about 19 hours ago. After a one hour lag in Houston, I then then departed for Moscow at 6pm, arriving here 11 hours later. Singapore airlines has got to be the most wonderful experience. In fact, it's unbelieveably remarkable - even in economy class (there are apparently suites in the above first class but I wouldn't know). Like, are we going to heaven sort of thing. It doesn't translate well on blogger, but if you have the means, I highly recommend it.

Well, I think I'll go meander over for some wine and cheese in this fine lounge. I'm on vacation, you know, so I gotta live it for awhile.

God willing, I will prevail in cathing up with my Singapore girl Ms Katherine, in peace and freedom from fear, and in true health, through the purity and essence of my natural... fluids. God bless you all!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Checking Out

This just in: I'm on vacation and won't be posting for a few days, which really isn't out of the ordinary - it's just that I have a legitimate reason this time.

In the meantime, I suggest reading a good book, like Catch-22. I hear that it's better than the movie anyway.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Corporate Cup 2008 Recap

I ran in the Omaha Corporate Cup 10K this past Sunday. It wasn't my best performance by the clock, but it was a memorable race nonetheless.
Here's my friend Gerald Kubiak flexing like SNL's "Hans". But look at the fella in the red circle above his manly bicep! Behind that blurry image is none other than steel-cut and he's waaaay back from a pack that also includes Kraig Vanderbeek, Craig "Old School" Christians and colleagues John McVay and Luke Christiansen (not pictured). Pictures courtesy of Gary "el D" Dougherty ndorfnz.com

Throughout the race, I had been steadily losing ground to this pack of runners so that by the fifth mile, there was a gap of at least 50 meters between us. Now 50 meters may not sound like a lot (especially if you're watching amateur racers from the sideline), but trust me...when you've be been running hard for thirty minutes, it can be quite a formidable challenge. Imagine doing anything for 30 minutes (but keep it within reason as this is a family-friendly blog) and then try doing it faster. Yeah. Motivation wanes and fatigue hampers performance. More likely: doing it doing (whatever you imaged) for about three minutes, capitulate and then raid the fridge for a *ahem* post-workout snack.

So - when all I really wanted was some cold pizza - I knew that with just over a mile left it was the time to close the gap.

Fortunately, at that moment another runner blasted by. I instinctively switched off the brain and went into full pursuit, allowing him to pull me along. Cyclists will know this as drafting and bridging a gap. Until then, I had never successfully pulled that maneuver off in a foot race. In fact, if it hadn't been for all of the *lovely* experiences of bridging gaps on punishing group rides this past year, I don't believe I'd have had the confidence to try. But after a minute of hanging on to the rabbit in front of me, I found myself tucked into the back of this pack and catching my breath.

The recovery period didn't last long. Sensing the race drawing to its close, the pack picked up the pace again. All of those interval sessions throughout the year paid off: active recovery between hard sets reinforced the ability to recover quickly and hammer it out over final quarter mile of the race. Here's how it played out:

Two racers dropped off the back as the pace quickened. As we began a slight incline I saw John begin to pull away. I jumped into a full sprint. Luke fell out of my periphery. In the final 200m, I managed to out-kick Craig Dye but just missed catching John. While the official results show the same clock time, John was just enough ahead of me that I could have only grabbed (yanked) his jersey if I stretched for it. I was tempted.

While 35:56 (5:29, 5:51, 5:52, 5:54, 5:48, 5:47, 1:14 - 5:47 mi avg) wasn't a PR, I'd say that I couldn't have run a smarter race than the one I put together on Sunday. And at 15th place overall, it's not much in terms of bragging rights. Heck, race winner Levi Ashley busted out a 31:38 and didn't get a lot of press; the fish wrap also only printed ten deep. 15th of +7,000? Hey Bryan, can you buy me a cup of coffee at Starbucks tomorrow for this accomplishment?

Anyway, the tangible thrill of successfully bridging that gap and the kick to an exhilarating finish ranks right behind last year's Rodeo Run Omaha Mile race.

Congratulations to all who competed.

Now excuse me, I believe that there's some cold pizza with my name on it in the fridge.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Nishiki Project - Phase 1

I have completed the "make road worthy" phase of my project bike. It's gone from this

To this:

The Commuter
It's a late '80s Nishiki Sebring 12 speed that I picked up off of Craigslist - Omaha. It's going to be my winter/bad weather commuter. I've already ridden it to work a few times and have found the delight in being able to wear simple clothes as opposed to kitting-up on Old Yeller. The bike is kind of a tank - 29 lbs of cro-moly (naked), but it takes bumps and vibrations noticeably smoother than 'Yeller.

The Original Specs
Serial #G0683 3684274. Decoded, this means that the Sebring was built by Giant in June, 1983. I'm not sure what the sequence 3,684,274 stands for.

cr-mo 4130 tubing
Suntour AR front and rear der
Sugino 170mm crank w 52x40 chain rings
Avaya rims
Suzue hubs
DIA Compe brakes
Avocet touring saddle
Seat tube mark: 73
headtube marks: 73 top and 59 bottom by fork

The Mechanicals and Mods
It will also be tinkered with a lot to raise my mechanical abilities. Expect to see future modifications.

Since acquisition, I've purchased and installed:
* Bar tape
* Freddy Fenders

I've swapped/spared parts in house:
* Shimano SPD Pedals
* Terry saddle and saddle bag
* Blackburn rack & panniers
* Front and rear lamps

Completed Minor Tune-up:
* Removed, cleaned and lubed the chain
* Cleaned and re-greased brakes
* Cleaned and adjusted stem
* Installed bar tape for the first time - not bad!

More to come!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The KOC Spin Test

Taking a segue from Obama's spin of putting lipstick on a pig, I'm going to discuss spin today, as in wheelset spin.

This thread actually started from Murphini's friend Kevin (KOC) many months ago. I like KOC because he's in the cycling lifestyle for many of the right reasons. One of those happens to be compulsive obsession. Apparently, KOC is OCD about how (in)efficient his wheelset is. For instance, after a ride of being dragged through the hills, he claimed that his (crappy) wheels put him at a competitive disadvantage to the alpha dogs of his pack. This condition festered to the point where he put on a impromptu wheelset spin test to compare his wheels.

The KOC Spin Test
As it happened, KOC flipped each of their bikes over and proceeded to hand crank the RPMs up faster than an organ grinder on crack. He then clocked the spinning time on his stop-watch.

While you could have seemingly grabbed a bite to eat as Murphini's Campy wheelset sustained its momentum, the rest of the results were clear: KOC's wheelset did indeed suck. At the moment it's still unclear whether he's looking for a grinder monkey to collect upgrade cash, but as the rest of the group's wheels spun freely for well over two minutes, KOC's rotated for less than 90 seconds.

Last night I decided to do a little testing of my own. I modified the KOC test by putting the Nishiki project bike and Old Yeller on the trainer for my own comparisons. I backed off the fly wheel for full tire clearance and then cranked it up. The Nishiki chattered noisily on its original equipment (Suzue hub and Araya 27" alum rim) and lasted a dismal 67 seconds. Dang, that blows worse than KOC's! Old Yeller's Bontrager Race Lite wheelset was silent and smooth, lasting for 2 minutes and 34 seconds. Not bad!

I'm calling for a peanut gallery poll. Here's your task: do the KOC Spin Test and reply with the wheel/hub type and time of rotation. Let's let our boy KOC know where he falls in the suck spectrum.

So does the wheelset make that much of a difference on a group ride? I dunno, but claiming that as the reason you were dropped is questionable at best. Then again, if you dress it up and apply a enough lipstick...

Monday, September 8, 2008


Congratulations are in order for Karen Melliar-Smith's top 10 finish, and to first time Kona World Championship qualifier Brendan Murphy, whose race time of 9:51.58 made the cut for the Ironman Hawaii.

Katherine and I drove out to Madison and joined brother Matt, Katy and family to watch them compete among 2500 others who did the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile marathon ultra-endurance event held this past Sunday, September 8th.

The cannon and the roar of the spectators at sunrise started the mass-wave in chilly (50F) air temperature. It was quite a spectacle seeing over 2000 swimmers churning through the lake from the same start. After 52 minutes, Karen was the second female out of the water. Amazing! Brendan followed a short time later, ranked 20th overall.

After a quick transition through the Frank Lloyd Wright's Monona Terrace, it was on to the bicycle course. At mile 40, Brendan met some adversity with a flat. There are no support vehicles in Ironman; if you flat, you're on your own. And as anyone who rides tubular tires knows, fixing this type of tire is tricky. Adding that to the stress of fixing it in the middle of a race can ruin a day's performance. But he handled the challenge well and was back on the attack within ten minutes. Even with the flat, he completed the 112 mile bike course in five hours and 21 minutes (21 mph pace).

From there, it was on to a run course that looked more like a medical chart's ventricular fibrillation than a marathon course. While it was punishing to the athletes already 114 miles into the Ironman, the double out and back through downtown Madison made for great spectating among the many cafes dotting State Street. While we spectators felt a slight twinge of guilt munching down pasta for lunch and Ben and Jerry's for dessert, Brendan and Karen held to their paces in the Marathon - Brendan running his second best Marathon ever in 3:28.12; Karen in an amazing 3:37:39.

I can only imagine the joy and relief in seeing the finish at such an event. I've heard that some people trudge through the 140 miles only to experience the final 1000 feet to the finish line. But let me be the first to tell you: they both not only finished it, but they finished the race well. Karen powered into a top ten finish; Brendan with a sprinter's kick and high-fives for the spectators. It was exhilarating. Seeing this accomplishment was a privilege and a memory I won't forget. And judging by how fresh they looked afterward, you'd never know what they just went through. They made it look easy.

Final Results here for Karen and Brendan.

Congratulations again, and see you in Kona on October 10th, 2009. You are an Ironman!!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Tour of Missouri Charity Ride

The following contribution is from my brother (and fellow cycling freak) Murphini, who's also afflicted with the so-called confused Murphy genome. What follows is an open invitation to join him in a KC TOM course ride this Sunday. As an added bonus, he's also provided a bio of each of the members of his cycling group joining him in the ride.

While this guest blogging is experimental at steel-cut, so were most of the '60s, which also happens to be the decade that was instrumental in Murphini's formative years. And just like that wacky decade, it's fly by the seat of your pants Friday here. So without much further ado, my hippie bro Murphini: --WSCG


As many of you have come to know, our gentle Steel-Cut author Brady is witty and urbane, soulful and introspective, pompous and arrogant, righteous and incendiary, prolix and verbose. He’s can also turn out a paragraph or two. But what he can’t do is come to Kansas City this weekend to ride the course for the Tour of Missouri.

Brady is being a good brother to our other Brother Brendan & his fiancĂ©e Karen, traveling to Madison Wisconsin to watch them compete in a full Ironman Distance triathlon. I on the other hand am choosing to spend Sunday here in Kansas City riding with several hundred people on the course that the Tour of Missouri will be held on Monday. Oh yeah, there is a lot of free beer afterwards on the Plaza courtesy of Boulevard Brewing Company. Here’s an open invite/shout out to join me and my pals on the ride.

Reading Steel-Cut blog, I know how bike gangs are. My gang is almost as dysfunctional as you all seem to be. Our crew consists of:

KOC (Kevin)
An Omaha Boy who worked for UP as a gandy/dancer during his years going to UMO. He is talkative, inattentive, prone to wandering in corners, surges early on hills only to be caught 2/3rd s the way up, and has a wheel fetish….he loves to turn your bike over to do the Gauge R&R test on how long your wheels spin. (He thinks his hubs are filled with glue & gravel, the rest of ours spin like perpetual motion machines….) He does bring good humor and cold beers to all our rides.

BT (Brian T)
Another Omaha-esque/KC transplant. BT grew up in Council Bluffs, his 83 year old father still lives up there, saw Brady’s name in the paper for winning the Black Squirrel Triathlon. BT is an attorney with an early 1990’s lugged carbon Trek that has been upgraded to STI’s with Mountain DX derailleur. He’s sneaky fast, single, so we live vicariously through tales of his serial monogamy. I don’t, but the other guys make him talk so I OCCASIONALLY listen.

TL (Tim)
Another attorney, friends with BT from Law School, lives in Lawrence KS. TL is a recent father so his riding time has been down, but can still kick it in. He did several days of Ragbrai with BT, came back much stronger. BT was disappointed that TL didn’t party enough in Iowa. He wears a Greatful Dead jersey & has many hidden stories about BT and the next guy on the list that someday I want to hear all for blackmailing purposes. He does like his Old Milwaukee Light.

BP/Zoolander (Brian P)
BPZ is auguably our strongest rider, (or at least looks he is) and is a MTB racer for the SKC team, recognizes Munson’s name from past races. He is dabbling in Road and we’re both going to do SS Cyclocross this fall. We generally ride from his house on Wednesday evenings where he hands out the Hamm’s award for most aggressive rider, or the Old Milwaukee for the King of Mountain. Then we break into the good stuff. BPZ loves to get kitted out, spends much of his time striking Zoolander-esque poses, and can’t resist chasing you down when you make a sneak attack from behind. (From the bike that is)

MD (Matt)
MD is a Team360 roadie that would win the King of the Mountain each time, but luckily he has to get home to his 19 (or 4) kids. Since he is on a time crunch, he pushes (punishes) the pace before he turns and rides home. To him, he’s JRA…..(Just Riding Around). BPZ likes to sit on his wheel and pose while I struggle to keep up.

RB (Ryan)
RB has been on injured reserve with knee surgery much of the year. He is our beer connoisseur/Star Wars expert. Think Mario Pantini, (had he lived) but after a few years of pizza, procrastination and sloth. He’s heart is there, his fred-tastic enthusiasm is firey, but the injury has kept him off the bike. As his knee heals, he will also be sneaky fast. Until then, the next guy on the list keeps asking him if he’s going to sell his bike since it isn’t being ridden….

WB (Wade)
WB (missing this weekend) is another SKC mountain biker, rides road on his 1994 GT Fury with the weird frame—sort of like Ole yeller. WB is the ultimate wolf in sheep’s clothing, always lurking in the pack until the hills, where he air’s it out, modestly of course as he pulls away without looking back like Lance did to Jan Ulrich on the Alpe d’Huez. Ain’t never seen him breathe hard. I think he would be reincarnated as a well-behaved Border Collie.

If you are coming, respond with a comment and Brady can get you my phone number. I’ll be riding my Specialized Tarmac with the RacerX jersey. I look like Brady, just taller, heavier, balder, and more vindictively cunning.

Tour of Champions Charity Ride
benefiting WIN for KC and The Dream Factory
Sunday, September 7, 2008 @ 8:00 a.m.
Registration Fee: $30
Sign up by September 5 to receive a T-shirt!
FREE after party with breakfast burritos and beer provided by ReVerse Restaurant and Boulevard Brewery.

Route Options:
All beginning at ReVerse Restaurant on the Plaza (at the corner ofJefferson & Ward Parkway)
14 Miles (to Downtown)
36 Miles (to Parkville)
70 Miles (to Weston)

Bring your family, friends, and neighbors to ride the route of the Tour of Missouri champions! Rest stops will be available at each turnaround point to keep you fueled and hydrated!

Registration here

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

So Long White Pants

Lo, what happened to the golden days of summer? The vibrant foliage wastes away into the muddled browns and grays of autumn right before our eyes! Oh Chronos, you commit larceny on a grand scale yet again! Lamentations are upon us!

Letting go is not one of my better traits. It's with acerbic regret that I record the passage of time as I packup flip flops and white pants, flaunted here by Remington "I'm not steel-cut" Steel. So kindly allow me to indulge in a few memorable moments of late:

  • IronmanKansas, CSG and Black Squirrel triathlons
  • Commuting to work by bike with colleagues
  • Getting licenses:Katherine (LPN); Brady's CAT-5!!
  • Tuesday night track workouts; Wednesday night club rides
  • Day trips to KC for Dim Sum & socializing w/Murphinis
  • Mayor Fahey & the Grim Reaper seeing me on Old Yeller
  • Joy-riding an unknown's bike!
Alas, as summer passes by quicker than Munson sprinting to the city limits during a club ride, I say that the season deserves an appropriate send-off. So ciao to the 16 hours a day of the fiery globe that pinkens noses & ears under the helmet. Auf viedershen to rashes and chafing that blister beneath supercharged lycra! Au revior to TT'ing in choking dust below the scorching sky. And before I break out the winter woolens, I make a final charge by calling out, "long live the pit stains and crusty salt rings earned on two wheels!"

Oh with great sadness and joy I so bid this summer a fond farewell.

Now prepare the way and brace, for autumn and winter is nigh!

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Hound and The Furry

A shrill whistle pierced the air and awoke him from a deep sleep, a slumber that comes only from a fifteen hour work day that starts with milking Holsteins followed by toiling in the autumn harvest with time only long enough for breakfast of steel-cut oats, a hearty dinner and a supper of tomatoes and beans.

The promise of that whistle signified that this day was going to be special.

Before his cold feet hit the floor, John could hear the anxious whining and tap dancing of their dog Rex on the maple stoop outside the screened door a floor below. He yawned and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. Jerry and Joe were both sawing logs. Jim rolled over and mumbled something incoherently. A freight train couldn't wake baby brother Mike. John knew better. While he would get a reprieve from today's morning duties, his brothers would pay for their slothful indulgences in milking cows and sundry chores later.

As John hopped out of bed, the late August sunrise was struggling to burn off the cool mist lingering at the tree line of the Murphy farmstead in Crawford County just north of the home of Gideon's Bible in Boscobel, Wisconsin. He pulled his bib-jeans over his shoulders, grabbed a trusty but threadbare denim shirt and his rugged boots before bounding down the hardwood stairs. Through the murky window pane he could see they were beyond the weathered picket fence; his father Vince with his 22 and Rex gingerly picking a path through the cornfield's discarded chaff while steamy breaths dissolved into the azure-to-crimson quilted sky. With trembling hands John pulled up those worn leather Sears and Roebucks by the bootstraps and then ran like the wind to catch up to them.

As if sensing the excitement, Rex bolted away from him at a full sprint towards the creek that ran through their farm. Vince was stoic, glancing toward his son briefly before turning and walking resolutely toward the creek. At about 20 paces, he stood in his tracks while Rex barked and thrashed in the bushes dotting the stream. A furry rodent suddenly blasted out of a dirt cloud and the near-fatal ensnarement of Rex's canines--snapping shut a fraction too late. Up a cottonwood tree it went while Rex leaped at its bushy tail.

Stepping over that old cottonwood's gnarly roots exposed by erosion and time, Vince paused momentarily to give Rex a pat on the head, then lifted the rifle with a steady hand and took aim with his piercing blue eyes.


Squirrel meat never tasted so good.


Results from some black squirrel hunting I did this past Saturday while accompanied by Katherine, Grace, Shannon and Craig. Thanks for cheering me on!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Confession of Compulsive Joy Ride

In light of recent anti-theft posts by Bike Snob NYC, I have a confession to make.

At the bike rack a few weeks ago, I noticed a late 1990s Cannondale CAAD3 left unlocked outside of work. Granted, it's Omaha and theft isn't very common. But still, for goodness sake lock your bike! Don't you know that you're asking for trouble?!

At first I was surprised by how cavalier the owner was about this bicycle, leaving it unlocked and such. I guessed that s/he forgot their lock and was playing the safety in numbers theory. But when I rolled up on the second day and found the bike was unsecured again, I became alarmed. On day three I laughed. Day four: irritated. Day five: angry. By day six I was incredulous. This was reckless!!

Admittedly, I can easily become attached to a bicycle: mine, yours, whoever's. This had certainly become the case for the CAAD3. And so it followed that I fretted about it getting stolen. I acknowledge having a problem with this attachment disorder, but I rationalized that there were worse forms of obsessive compulsions. To cope, I popped an imaginary happy pill and let the gripping anxiety break away like the peloton at the end of a furious club ride.

It wasn't but a few days before I found myself itching and scratching around that unlocked Cannondale again. I couldn't take it anymore. Something in my mind snapped as allowed myself to become deeply lustful of that butterscotch bomber.

Originally an aluminum road bike, it had since been reconsigned to commuter work with a mishmash of road, mountain and cyclocross parts. Its allure was in its unashamed nakedness and exotic blend of components that made it stand out among the big box store mountain bikes and roadies.

I couldn't stop myself from thinking about it. I just had to take a ride. Just one spin around the block, I reasoned, wasn't going to hurt anyone...

So the next morning, I boldly slipped that CAAD3 out like a thief in the early morning light. The flaws of the bicycle were immediately noticeable -- the rubbing brake pads against a front rim in desperate need of truing; a rear derailleur that sounded like it was thrashing wheat -- but I didn't mind. It was simply delightful to give into my desires.

The sparkling sunlight danced off of the smooth asphalt tarmac as I sped away from the stresses of work, deadlines and dreary project meetings. With each downward thrust and quick circling motion of the crank, I became more engaged in this covetous act. I rode past the first city block without a thought of stopping. I breezed through a handful of intersections while sweat beads began forming on my brow.

Just ahead in the distance, a blinking hand at the crosswalk became a foreboding omen. The freewheel spun as I paused to consider that the responsibilities of work and life. Work or play? The hesitation was momentary. Jumping into a full sprint, I hammered through the intersection with rocketing heart rate. And as I coasted through the yellow traffic light and gulped in the sweet air, I swear I could hear the satisfactory hum of it's 700x38C knobby tires.

A good 20 minutes later, a funky patina clung to me as I returned the bike to the rack. It was more than simply angry bacteria festering beneath my arms. What stunk was my guilty conscience. I reeked of it. And while wisdom told me that the urges were momentarily satisfied, it would only be a matter of hours before the craving for another tryst returned.

I had to find a way to prevent recidivism. Acting quickly, I scribbled an anonymous note to the owner, mentioning the stuff about getting the wheel trued and lubing the drive-train. Closing, I underscored the value of getting and using a lock. As I slid the note between the brake cable and top tube, I said a desperate prayer that it would be taken to heart.

So there it is. I publicly confess to you, my steel-cut readers, that I've become attached another's bicycle and am in need of penance.

Sadly, it's been two weeks and that bike still remains unlocked. While I've managed to restrain my urges, my lecherous eye finds that chocolate dream long before Old Yeller's wheel stops rolling up to the bike rack. My diseased mind is fixated on it. I yearn for another ride.

Help me help myself!

Monday, August 18, 2008

The CCC 2008 Recap

Nebraska's Corporate Cycling Challenge (CCC) came and went yesterday. Billed as the Midwest's largest single day bicycle ride, it was estimated to have 4000 entrants. Apparently, it broke the attendance record. Perhaps it would have been higher if the price of gas remained around $4 a gallon, but at $3.50 I'm sure quite a few bikes returned to the dark recesses of the garage to await the next oil crisis. Still, a record is a record and 4000 bikes are a lot to throw on any street.

There's some 100 corporate teams that formed to raise awareness and funds for Nebraska walking/bike trails. There are three distances to choose among: 10, 25 and 42 miles. I opted for the latter and joined the big guns of UP that included Wes, Shim and Ed.

Road, mountain, hybrid, tandems and recumbent bikes were all in force. Even Munson had a little surprise by showing up on his new mount: a Gary Fisher Wingra commuter that he's been tinkering on at the wee hours of the night. This crouching panther has aggressive geometry, is lightweight (aluminum) and is black as night. While it came stocked with a flat bar, he swapped it for drops and has added a few special touches. One such add-on is a handle bar granny pack. The jury's verdict is still out on that one. I liked it, but I could tell that Shim nearly stroked-out when his eyes fixed on to that beauty. One thing's for certain: the air dam that pack creates at 25+ mph results in a massive low pressure vacuum that pops ears within a city block. Nice ride, Munson. Enjoy it!

Let's be frank, every year there are a lot of challenges in this ride, but the biggest challenge is in the art avoiding the plastic water bottles that are littered within a mile of the start. It seems as though freds who don't know any better accept hand outs from the freds (handing out the freebies) who also don't know any better and fail to advise them against strapping the ill-fitted bottles to their bikes. Complicating the matter is the route that winds its ways through an industrial area with two sets of railroad tracks and one of the worst maintained roads in Omaha by Carter lake. It's a recipe for disaster.

This year, I decided to avoid this hassle by jumping up to the front row. You'd think that no one up there - where Nebraska men with shaved legs and cycling jerseys are plenty - would make such a blunder. But alas, there I was on the Carter Lake "technical section" of potholes when I was nearly taken out by a Gatorade bottle ejected from a Serotta road bike with a rider wearing a full kit. Is no one immune to this pandemic?

Shim said that the another challenge was the long climb at the beginning of HWY 75. Apparently in years past, only a handful of riders remained together at the top of the hill. So with unresolved issues from a lack of hill climbing performance on Wednesday's club ride, I stepped up the pace with visions of a CCC KOM jersey in the mind's eye. After cresting the hill, Shim and another rider broke away from the group while the remaining fifteen of us formed a disorganized group. Attacks and poorly managed pace lines failed to catch the breakaway riders by the turn around point at Ft Calhoun. From there, I re-grouped with Munson and BikerBob for an up tempo ride back.

Citius, Altius, Fortius
Latin for "Faster, Higher, Stronger", this motto has been a theme of the Olympics since 1894. Perhaps the Beijing Games has driven a meaner, more competitive edge to the CCC this year than in years past. Bryan, who was absent from yesterday's ride, would have been happy to know that the Zorinsky hammers were out in numbers during the final drive into Omaha. Because of the staggered start, nearly all participants complete the ride together. That makes for a lot of traffic near the finish. For most, this is a time of prudence. I mean, there are very young children on Barbie bikes, burley trailers and such on the road. But for the thrill seeking, this just only ups the ante. Indeed, with freshly ejected water bottles from titanium bottle cages, the Z-hammers were lighter and more aggressive than ever. All of those days of training at Lake Zorinsky served the singular purpose of successfully navigating the humans-on-bicycles slalom course and pot holes at a blistering pace around Carter Lake. What a rush!

Next year, I'll be even more ready than ever for the the hills, spills and thrills of Nebraska's Corporate Cycling challenge.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Hill Climber

Last night I was able to catch a group ride with the big guns from Trek Store Omaha (Midwest Cycling club). It was the second time I joined this weekly 6pm ride but the first time I was able to complete it with the group. Last time, Munson had one of those miracle flats right at Ft Calhoun, only minutes after a torrent pace with numerous attacks that resulted in cramping calf muscles for me. As a result, the group rode on without us and I didn't experience the full ride.

Yesterday, I was able to leave work early, but much later than I wanted, forcing me to TT through the hills of midtown Omaha to catch the group. But I managed to catch them as they entered the Keystone trail near NFM. I don't know very many riders in that group. Munson already told me that he wasn't going to be there. Bryan and Sean ride with another group. Fred? He's disappeared again into parts unknown. So that left Shim, Lucas and Eric as the only people I knew would be there among at least 30 cyclists.

For those of you who've never experience a big group ride, you're missing out on some good fun. The colorful jerseys and bikes, the camaraderie of working together in a pace line, the antagonists who attack and intentionally work apart and the exhilaration of the sprints are easily some of the reasons that keep 'em coming back. Omaha has a few of these group rides that leave from the following bike stores weekly: High Gear on Tuesdays at 6pm, the Trek Store and Bike Masters on Weds at 6pm. Typically, there are two groups and is an unsupported ride. If you'd like to join, it's a good idea to brush up on some group ride etiquette ahead of time.

The Trek store ride begins with a 15 minute easy spin north along the Keystone trail before hopping off at Fort Street and then continuing northwest through state roads towards Ft. Calhoun. By the time you see cornfields, you'd better be ready to step on it. It's then up-tempo, attacks and sprints until you see the gas station in 'Hoonerville (Ft Calhoun).

The return trip from Ft Calhoun meanders its way through some of my favorite riding in Nebraska: the Boyer Chute Reserve and Ponca Hills. Flat and wide as the eye can see, it's a good place to practice pace lines and such while enjoying the scenery. But don't get lulled into thinking it's gonna be easy. There's a pretty good climb into Ponca hills looming in the distance where the men separate from the boys. (To be politically correct, yesterday there were in fact no women on the group ride).

So while I'm riding, Shim's chattering away about Old Yeller. That and nudging me as to how to ride the pace line, as in "follow that guy in front of you and do what he does" sort of thing. Thanks Shim! As we approached the Ponca section and I'm drifting towards the back of the group, he says, "that hill climbing yellow bike aught to be up there in the front." Shim's referring to Old Yeller's rear cassette. He once implied that it was an easier, big-geared mountain bike cassette tailored to climbing mountains as opposed to a road bike's configuration for speed. For the record, it's a Shimano 105 road racing cassette. Anyway, I looked ahead and saw the group slowly pulling away. I retorted that there was a lot of hill yet to climb and felt smugly confident that I'd catch many that were pending blowing up but just didn't know it yet. I mean, I felt good and had no signs of fatigue that I was aware of. But when I started to spin up to reel them in, I simply didn't have it. It was like: clunk-clunk. What?! That's it?! Sure enough, I was toast as I saw the group putting even more distance between them and me. Then there's a longer gradual portion before the final steep ascent that I attempted to bridge the gap. I managed to pull within about 100 meters before the group punched it up the final portion and left me for good.


I am, I am Superman and I can do anything... What a wake up call. What hubris. Old Yeller may/may not be a climbing bike, but I didn't have the engine yesterday.

Thankfully, the ride re-groups at OJ's restaurant a few miles down the road for the overconfident riders like me. From there it's a few more rolling hills back to the Trek store for the group; I peeled off at 52nd ST and quietly limped home.

Still, what a ride! Looking forward to next time.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Leg Hate Me

I'm not quite sure what Rod "He Hate Me" Smart thinks of this picture, but it's what comes to mind when I think about the Raven's Nest 5K Trail run I participated in this past Sunday morning.

My legs hate me.

A trail run through a hilly wooded section is part fitness, part finesse. You've got to be in good shape to take the extremely steep climbs and punishing descents. Your ankles and knees also need to be able to bear the pressure of running sideways along the pitch. And you've got to be to handle the sudden hairpins that is typical of switchback trails. It's more than just being alert. I believe it's having an uncanny ability to sense the trail and tread lightly upon it.

Multiple repeat winner of this event, Ivan Marsh, must be part Jedi knight. He looks the part (pictures Teri B - light saber's all mine). Maybe I'll ask Qui-Gon Marsh to train me next year for this race.

What you lack in grace your body absorbs. It's truly amazing what kind of punishment that the body can take. While stumbling over roots, rolling ankles on stumps and bounding down steep grades, my joints somehow managed not to break or snap off. I must be pretty flexible. Or have a lot of those midi-chlorian thingers in my blood. Anyway, I'm too old for Jedi Training.

While preparing for this race, I envisioned what a 5K would be like. Any 5K is short enough that there's no excuse not to run very near the red line. It's highly taxing to the cardio system. So the night before, I went through the mental imagery to put myself in a position to endure 15 - 20 minutes of torture that I imagine feels somewhat like suffocating. Since I've never done a trail run, I just focused on the gasping for air part.

On Sunday morning, I picked up my friend Mike for the drive out. This was Munson's second time at Raven's Nest. As a cyclist, Mike appreciates the running for its cross-training cardio burn. The Raven's Nest hill also provide a good quad workout. Anyway, we went through Starbucks drive-thru for a cup of coffee and got an ear-full from the super most friendly and chatty attendant Starbucks has to offer. You can't fool me, evil Starbucks Barista! I thought we were going to hit critical mass. I mean, here I was sitting in between nice/evil Munson and his Starbucks counterpart who was already buzzing on caffeine. It was the perfect storm. I quickly paid the bill and hit the road.

Joining Munson and I at the race was Bryan. When it comes to running, this is Bryan's element. Bryan's roots are in running. Before making the switch to focus on cycling, he's raced everything from trail races to marathons. He's done the Raven's Nest race every year since moving to Omaha. This year, he finished 6th. That was a day after a completing in the Cliff Drive cycling race in KC. Oh, and he hasn't run in like six weeks. Not bad, kid. After a brief warm up in which Bryan showed us the beginning and ending of the forest section, it was off to the start.

Shortly after the gun went off, I found myself leading the pack. That wasn't such a good idea, because anyone who's led a race at any given moment knows that only two things can happen: you win or lose. If you've haven't led, you don't experience the sensation of losing because you were never in contention to begin with. But there I was, a running fool, frantically tree-bashing through the woods. for a about a mile, I managed to hold off what sounded like a pack of wolves behind me. Then on one of the major hill climbs, the overall second place dude passed me. Shortly after, Ivan skipped by. The hills became like roller coasters: long steep ascents with perilous serpentine downhills. At the bottom were the sand pits of despair that ended up being more like doing the merengue than running. A final climb and exit from the woods brought the welcomed sight of the finish line.

Place: 3rd Overall
Time: 20:10

Afterwards, while I was vomiting gelatinous lime-green Gatorade within a stone's throw from the finish line, the events that just transpired came quickly into perspective. I've run 5Ks three minutes faster than that effort. I've also run many 10Ks at a faster pace than this. I saw my body twist and turn in ways I didn't know were possible. Heck, I haven't barfed after a race in over four years. Indeed, the Raven's Nest 5K was one of the most physically demanding run I can recall till date.

So allow me to be clear. While the race was extremely well organized on beautiful rolling, wooded farmland, I did not have fun running the race or throwing up afterwards. Two days later, I don't appreciate the reminder in the pain I feel in my feet and ankles. It's just not worth it. I appreciate my health.

So if I do it again, it will not be for speed, but to enjoy a run in the woods with friends.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

How to Survive the CSG Triathlon

This year's Cornhusker State Games (CSG) Triathlon had a new "Championship Heat" category. It's purpose was to put the aggressive competitors into the first heat to duke it out together for the overall victory. The men and women champions would then be invited to represent Nebraska in the "Best of The US" national sprint distance amateur triathlon later in the fall. Perhaps because it was the first year of the championship heat, some of the faster competitors may have missed the new category designation and signed up for their own age group. As a result, the overall winner came from the male 20-25 age group. My friend Lucas Marshall was third overall but wasn't in the championship heat. Another age grouper was also in the top five. So that's how I ended up third in the Championship Heat but sixth overall.

It was a fun race and well organized. It's great for spectators to see racers six times from the same place. And Team Nebraska Triathlon puts on a nice cookout following the awards ceremony.

As for the competition, there are three types of triathletes at the CSG: 1) The Type-A, 2) the Weekend Warriors and 3) the Fitness / Recreationalists. With over 400 entrants in the CSG race, it is wise to formulate a survival strategy. So without much ado, here are a few freebies:

Nebraska Type-A racers swim 100m intervals at a 1:30 pace and practice multiple times per week. If you can swim like this, you belong at the front of the line in Nebraska triathlons. The weekend warriors - those who swam in high school and currently practice less than once per week will hang with the Type-As for the first 200m before lactic acid overtakes them and the pace falls off. The Fitness and Recreational group is often better prepared than the weekend warrior but lacks the swimming background. They will be more likely to pace themselves for a steady-state effort and even catch many of the weekend warriors. But the fitness group should look out for the warriors who've fallen back -- while the warriors' tired arms may no longer flail with gusto, there's still plenty of kick to take one in the face.

Because each successive loop on the four mile course adds another 100+ cyclists onto the course, it can turn into a war of attrition. By the time the final cyclist is on the road, it's like downtown Bangkok during rush hour. Negotiating the flood of squirrely cyclists while maintaining pace on a boxy and hilly course becomes a real challenge. Ideally, slower racers will stay to the inside and allow the fasties to pass on their left. Also, it'd be nice to think that all cyclists would hold their line, but c'mon we're talking about triathletes here. The fact that we can turn the bike 90 degrees without falling over is a miracle in itself. My advice: stay alert and hope to avoid the pile up when someone suddenly decides to make the full lane sweep in front of you.

By the time you enter the run course, it's likely that you're in a lot of pain. This is especially the case in a sprint triathlon. Complementing your sky rocketing heart rate is the discomfort of switching muscle groups from cycling to running while dealing with the rising heat of the day. It's not a graceful moment that can get ugly. For example, one racer (pictured) attempted to box me out while passing on the run. It wasn't subtle. As I approached, he crowded me to the outside of the path and nearly forced me into the grass. To perhaps his and my surprise, I fought back. I raised a forearm and Heismanned my way to a clear path. It was a steel-cut moment if there was ever one. Was it necessary? Probably not. But neither was crowding me. You mess with the bull...

In truth, this is supposed to be a low key event. Yes, competition is fun and all. And there is some bragging rights to medaling in your age group or finishing among the top 10 overall. But really, this is the CSG. It's a family event. Play nice, smile, thank the volunteers, etc.

For Next Year's Competitors

  • Don't swim over top of slower swimmers; go around them.
  • Don't make violent sweeping turns in front of other cyclists.
  • Mount and Dismount your bike at the marked transition area.
  • Wear your bib number on the run. Don't stuff it in your Speedo to only make it magically reappear from beneath your sweaty lycra loin cloth at the end of the run. I mean, that's just simply gross.

For Race Officials and Volunteers
  • Thank you. It was a well-coordinated Race.
  • Championship heat was a welcomed addition. Consider inviting top 20 next year by email
  • Consider capping it a 400 entrants or change venue
  • Penalize rule breakers
  • Cook out was great. Thanks!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Cornhusker State Games Triathlon

The Cornhusker State Games Triathlon is this Sunday. It's my second triathlon of the year, but a vastly different race than the long course event I did earlier in the Spring. This one's a maximum burn sprint.

Where: Holmes Lake, 70th and Normal Blvd Lincoln, NE
When: 7:30am Sunday, July 27 2008
Swim: 750m
Bike: 20K
Run : 5K

The swim is triangular course in Holmes Lake. The three-loop bike course is boxy (mostly right turns) with a couple short hills of medium grade. The run is out and back on a crushed-gravel trail with one hill.

The Competitors:
Omaha cyclists will recognize current Cat3 racer and former triathlete Mark Brackenbury. He put four minutes on me at last week's TT. Ouch! When not on the bike, he cross trains by running and swimming. Look for a strong performance.

And then there's CAT 1-2-3 rider Morgan Chaffin. Her fearsome attack on the bike can make grown men cry. Oh, and she's great swimmer, too. She's going to do really well.

As for triathletes, former Cornhusker State Games Triathlon champion (2006) Scott Bredehoft will be there, as well as contenders Lukas Marshall, Scott Bowen, Jorge Zuniga and Andres Traslavina to name a few.

Enough of the talk, let the hammerfest begin!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Bicycle(s) You Own

In the past week, I've talked with three people at the U.P. that have purchased new bicycles recently.

Scott picked a new Trek 7300 commuter as his first "grown up" bicycle purchase. He is actively putting it to use commuting to work and experimenting with routes from the 50th and Grover area to downtown. Any suggestions?

Tracy also bought a Trek commuter as her first bicycle as an adult. She lives a little further out west and has transported it to join the UP lunchtime riders over the past two days.

A few weeks ago, Wes was rear-ended while transporting his 2006 GT Series 1 roadbike. From witness accounts, he was more distressed about his totaled bike than his totaled car. The good news was that he was fine and the insurance covered the damages to car and bike. Now he's riding a 2008 fully-carbon GTR Team bike w/ Dura-Ace components, Dura-Ace tubeless wheelset and a Ritchey stem and fork. Dang that's a nice upgrade, dude! During our lunch ride yesterday, I struggled to hang on his wheel at the levee hammerfest north of the I-80 bridge. My hope is that he enters that thing in a Cat5 race with me next year.

Congratulations on the new bike purchases to the three above. Enjoy them and be safe.

While purchasing a new bike is always a titillating experience, shopping for a pre-owned bicycle also has its rewards. Craigslist is a great place to start, especially if you're looking for an entry level bike.

A month ago, I bought a 1987 Nishiki road bike for $40 off of Craigslist with the goal of overhauling into a single speed during the off season. Advertised as a CroMoly "lightweight", it has enough extra steel to be recycled into a manhole lid. Heck, calling the derailleur guard a pie plate is an understatement; it's more like a charger plate. At first, it will be a rebuild on the cheap. New bar tape, brake pads and a spacer kit are the only parts I hope to purchase. I will swap the 27 inch wheels with a spare set of 700s if the existing dia-compe brakes are long enough to reach. The original peddles are also going into the manhole lid effort too. In doing this overhaul, I hope to build a bullet proof commuter while learning more bicycle maintenance.

If time permits, I may even take it to the Omaha Bicycle Co-Op just south of California Tacos on 30th and California. Katherine and I dropped by there recently: a Creighton student named Emerick Huber has built this grassroots co-op with the help of other students, the neighborhood association and contributors (bike shops, electricians, carpenters and such). It's a pretty cool place. The basement has like a jillion bicycles waiting to be restored. What used to be a kitchen contains bins of spare parts. The former dining room, living room and bedroom are now fully stocked mechanic stations. When we visited, all three mech stations had a volunteer working with a neighborhood kid on simple bike maintenance such as flats and brakes. They even have a deal that if you go through their volunteer mechanic training program, you can build your own bike out of the parts other have donated. Bike cost = your sweat. Volunteers are needed with even the most basic bike maintenance skills. If you can fix a flat, you're ready to volunteer at the Omaha Bike co-op.

Finally, as many of you know, my current multi-use bicycle "Old Yeller" is a hand me down from brother Brendan. It was in pretty dire shape when I got it three years back and lasted for another five hundred miles before the indexing blew up on the 8 spd Shimano RSX shifters. That was a year ago next week. Munson came to the rescue with a cache of quality used parts and reassembled it into what I've got now. While the bike is worth $300 on paper, it rides and looks great. In my estimation, it's priceless.

So what is it about your "grown up" bike that you like? What would you change now if you had the cash/time?