Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Swim Bike Run Saturday

If you don't want/have to swim, join us for the bike time trial at 8:00 AM. It's flat, fast and short (6.55 miles). Last weekend, the fastest averaged 25.9 mph.

Where: Lake Manawa North Shore Park
When: Saturday May 31st 7:15am

Swim: 7:15am to 7:45am.
* Water is panic-stricken chilly, bring your wetsuit!

Bike: 8:00am - Four 10K Bike loops
* Loop1 – Group Ride (warm up)
* Loop2 – Solo Time Trial separated by 20 -30 seconds.
* Loop3 – Group Ride (recovery)
* Loop4 – Pursuit Time Trial separated by 20 – 30 seconds.

Run: 10k loop

Eat at Perkins Council Bluffs afterwards.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Steve Lemans

With every day that passes, I get more sucked into the cycling subculture.

Take the Giro d'Italia. Last year, a Giro was just another Greek food; now it's a Greek food (like a balaclava) that also has a cycling connotation. Fantastic! And this year, I've learned the names of a few more riders. I watched as David Millar took an agonizing groin shot to the top tube when his chain snapped 1K from the finish. I've also have been cheering on that little Italian climbing phenomenon and veteran Leonardo Piepoli.

I've come to realize that cycling has more retina staying power than non-mainstream sports. Must be because of the cycling gear: the brightly colored uniforms and cycles. Let's face it, outside of Ringling Brothers, you don't see this much vivid spandex. If only the Italians would follow their circus cousins and grow mustaches to look like their mothers.

Running, in contrast, has no such appeal. You've got boring singlets and running shorts. Oh, and some flashy shoes. With this drab outlook, there's little sense of team competition. Even in cross country, the colors are often so muted like burnt umber or a dull cyan that it just too depressing to view. And while the 1980s had a fair amount of almost-mainstream runners: Rodgers, Prefontaine, Salazar, Beardsley and Samuelson, I challenge you to name a prominent runner today. Can you?

But cycling has its share of recognizable names. Of course, there's Armstrong. Some may recall Floyd Landis. And then there is Greg Lemond.

With a flame out with Trek bicycling company, Lemond is still vying for attention in the public eye. Regarding his image, it does seem as though he has a hard time of letting go of things. Like Pizza. Yet I got to give him credit, because the public still remembers his greatness in Paris.

Take yesterday, for instance. I was riding home from work on Old Yeller in my Midwest Cycling Community kit. As I approached 15th and Farnam a jaywalker yells, "GO STEVE LEMANS!" Um. Lemans? ... Steve? I could be wrong about this, but I think he meant Greg Lemond. But perhaps he meant Lemaze. Lemond does look like he's about to birth something, so I could see that. But I'm pretty certain he said Lemans. Of course, due diligence followed as I later Googled "Steve Lemans." The Google was also a bit confused and fired back "Did you mean: steve le mans". I clicked the link to discover references to Steve McQueen and the 1971 movie "Le Mans". This really got interesting because of the Steve McQueen - Sheryl Crowe connection, which brought me back to Lance. It's a stretch, but I really doubt that's what he meant.

Regardless of what was actually said, it still made a difference on my ride. A toothy grin erupted on my face while the heart rate and cadence picked up. Indeed, I felt a special new connection to the cycling community in being compared with the greatness of the one and only Greg Steve McQueen Le Mans Lemond.

Like Steve McQueen
All I need's a fast machine ....

Commute to Work by Bike

Extension of Bike to Work week: come join Derek and I for a commute to work by bike tomorrow morning!

Meet at Dr. Donut's on 72nd and Pacific

6:15 AM, Wednesday May 21st

72nd and Pacific to 1400 Dodge

The route along Leavenworth is a good choice because of its wide shoulder and moderate hills into downtown. My primer is here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Prince of Greenbriar

In any family with multiple siblings, there's bound to be some rivalry no matter how tight knit the family is. This cannot be more true than in a family that includes one girl followed by four boys.

I have some theories as to the reason. You see, I watch public television and I'm a better man because of it. Usually at around 9:00 pm, PBS airs nature programming like the Prince of the Alps about the plight of a young red deer struggling for survival in the Austrian mountains.

From the moment he is born, a red deer calf faces a life-long struggle to survive in his new home -- the mountain wilderness of the Austrian Alps. His first six weeks are filled with exploration and discovery of his world.

I've come to realize that Nature's truisms are often replicated in the dense cohabitation of families. It often boils down to some form of competition for resources among siblings: an extra portion of potatoes, the attention of parents or for that new toy with a limited budget. This animus must be leftover wiring from evolution --if you're not from Kansas and believe in such theory. Just like in nature, it's usually the older and bigger sibling that gets the lion's share. Their size and maturity simply enables them to bully, cajole, or outright take from their hapless younger siblings. In this crucible of pressure, the smaller ones often develop some sort of inferiority complex that takes either takes years of counseling to work out, or results in the development of some bizarre talent from channeling the energy of fierce competition.

And so it was with my family.

Let's go back to the late 1970s. The location is the suburban St Louis neighborhood of Greenbriar. I was nearing ten years old and my kid brother Brendan was barely four. Theresa was a high school frosh, and Murphini was an eighth grader. My next closest brother, Matt, was in fourth grade.

On a cool misty morning, Murphini and Matt were were preparing to ride the four miles from Greenbriar to school on a wooded and hilly route aptly named Highland road. Murphini was preparing his ten speed while Matt was riding metallic deep blue Stingray.

Matt: John, can I ride to school with you today?

(Murphini flicks his center-parted feathered hair backwards)

Murphini: Yeah, just don't make me late. I want Julie Ray to see how much of a stud I am riding to school.

Matt: Julie Ray? She's a dog.

(Murphini dips his mirrored "I Ski" sunglasses to peer into Matt's deep blue eyes)

Murphini: Like you'd know. She dances like Olivia Newton John. I want to impress her with my White Lightning Schwinn Varsity.

Matt: You're a jerk.

Murphini: Don't make me pin you down. C'mon, get your crap and let's go.

(Five minutes into the ride, destiny moves her hand: the Stingray's front wheel comes off, causing a spectacular wipe out that could have made Evel Knievel wince)

Matt: John!! Wait!! Help! Ow -- my wrist!

Murphini: I knew it! I should have never let you come along. You're gonna make me late! Get up you sissy!

Matt: My wrist really hurts!

Murphini: (mockingly:) My wrist hurts -- Stop crying, you baby. Can't you just get that wheel back on your bike? What's wrong with you?

Matt: (choking back tears) It's my wrist, I can't move it.

Murphini: What a wuss. Get out of my way. Lemme put the wheel back on. GEEEZ! I have to do EVERYTHING for you!

(Tears silently fall from Matt's cheeks while John works furiously to hand tighten the axel bolt to the fork)

Murphini: There - your bike's fixed. Now get on and let's go. I won't wait for you again...

It's 30 minutes later. Julie Ray gave up waiting for Murphini and let Dave Finder walk her to class. The fourth glade classroom has just finished pledging their National Anthem. Matt's wrist is throbbing and he's still wearing the jacket that he rode to school in.

Teacher: Matt, why are you still wearing your coat?

Matt: 'Cause I can't take it off.

Teacher: What? Why not?

Matt: My wrist doesn't work. I can't pull the jacket off.

That, my friends, is the correlation to everything I've learned from PBS: from natural selection to survival of the fittest. For what else would explain the sex drive of a teenage Murphini or the inexorable persistence and courage Matt displayed to complete the ride with a broken wrist? What else explains how in the present day Matt beats him in golf outings despite Murphini's liberal use of mulligans? Is it much different than the red deer's competition for resources in a challenging world?

Seven months into his life, the little prince is left alone and his chances of survival are slim. But when the sights and sounds of spring once again appear, and the red deer mothers and calves make their way up to the high mountain pastures, a one-year-old red deer calf with tiny antlers sets out with them. He has earned his place as Prince of the Alps.

I rest my case. Thank you PBS!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Bike to Work Week

With the Big 'O Bicycle commuter challenge kicking off this week, it's time to discuss the basics of commuting by bike to work.

Ride Like a Boy Scout Seeking a Merit Badge
Time to reinforce the basics. Wear a helmet. Obey Traffic rules. This includes stop lights and stop signs. Signal your turns even if you never do while driving your car. Don't tailgate. Back in the day, I rolled over the trunk of a 1976 Coupe De Ville when it came to a sudden stop. I was Ok due to the aircraft carrier like trunk that I landed on, but the bike got a bent derailleur hook when it fell to the street. Don't make that rookie mistake: keep plenty of braking distance for obstacles.

It's also a good idea to use marker lights in the city. On occasion, I ride with elite cyclists who regularly use front and rear lights. If they do it, then you should too.

I have also had the unfortunate experience of riding with some tri-geeks. When it comes to safety, they epitomized the exact opposite good urban riding skills. Recklessly pulling out in cross traffic, and bounding to and fro like a squirrel on I-80, it's no wonder that they get such a bad rap as cyclists. I'm not kidding: it was so bad that I was embarrassed to be seen with them and relieved to see no one injured in the ordeal.

Pick A Safe Route
My to-work commute is mostly on side streets. It's typically safer and you're less likely to have somebody give you the finger or have folks pelt you with rocks and garbage. Bike paths are always a great choice but you still have to be alert for other riders, runners and walkers. Announce your approach and pass elderly, children and pets with extra care and reduced speed.

Flat route there, head for the hills afterwards
Use topo maps ( to help pick a route that's as flat as possible. Avoid areas on the topo that looks like spaghetti. This will especially be helpful if you or your co-workers desire a fresh arrival. After work, hammer the hills to your delight and let the dog lick the sweat off your legs.

Pack for the Commute
I ride with a backpack that includes work clothes and shoes, a lock and my lunch. Peanut butter and jelly still cuts it for me.

It's also a good idea to get a saddle bag with small toolkit that includes an extra inner tube, tire irons, patch kit & pump are good investments. Spend the twenty minutes learning how to remove the tire so you can handle the inevitable flat.

Cleaning Up
I'm fortunate that the U.P. has a full shower locker room facility with towel service. I even have my own locker with a picture of Eric Estrada on the inside of it. For those without such luxuries, I've heard that sponge baths work pretty well.

Make Lunch Plans
My favorite part of biking to work is in being able to go for a ride during lunch. Given the shortened time frame, it's a fun social ride with plenty of machismo to go around while attacking the hills of south 'O. At the end of the day, the commute to and from work and the lunch ride adds 28 miles to training log.

Enough of my preaching. Get out and ride!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Lincoln Half

Recently, I postulated that being fit allows one to accept an open invitation to become an active participant of the great outdoors. I admit that I was mushy about nature.

But don't get me wrong. While I attempt to reduce my carbon footprint as much as possible, I haven't gone O/C on it. Yet. I respect nature, but I'm not about to retread my Nikes with old bicycle inner tubes and homemade adhesives concocted of honey, kerosene and egg whites.

And while it's nice to preserve and conserve, nature somehow manages to carry on, oblivious to the idiocy of what we inflict upon it. For example, time and time again soldiers journal that they hear birds singing among the most horrific battlefield scenes. I just don't get that worried about the future of life on this planet. It may not resemble what we have now, but it will endure.

So I don't obsess about it. In fact, I drive a car daily. Sometimes, it's for training or to enter a race. If I was gonzo - environmentalist, training and racing would be off my list.

But it's not. I enjoy being fit to enter races, too.

This past weekend I ran the Lincoln Half Marathon. The weather was perfect: 40 degrees, little wind and brilliant sunshine at the start. Such a difference in conditions from last year.

With the Kansas long course triathlon five weeks out, I approached this race as an opportunity for high end training. No taper. This included normal weekly workouts and a moderately hard 90 minute ride into a stiff north wind to Ft. Calhoun late Saturday afternoon. At the gun, my legs were not exactly fresh. But I remained patient and settled into a comfortably aggressive pace right above for the first half.

At the second half, I gradually picked up the tempo. The legs were no longer feeling heavy and cardio was strong. While others around me wilted at the 10th mile hill, my pace remained steady. I continued to apply more power throughout the race. The clock shows that my fastest miles were the final two at 5:58, 5:55. Overall, my final six miles (36:53) were a slightly faster than the initial six (37:09). In the end, I barely missed reaching a goal to run it in under 1:20 (1:20:37 chip), but that's OK. I'm very satisfied with how I ran the race.

It's also notable that my average heart rate throughout was 167 BPM. The peak of 182 that likely came as I approached the finish. 167 BPM is right above my lactic acid threshold, which I believe is a good sign for a half marathon. I may have been able to push it a little more, but that's fine for a B race.

What this shows me is that training has been effective. In many of my interval workouts and time trials, I've focused on starting at around 80-85% effort and gradually building power throughout the effort. I believe that this has ingrained into my muscles a race-day strategy that is becoming routine. Race experience also helped as I didn't get swept up into the rush at the start but patiently allowed the race to unfold as I envisioned it.

Aside from last year's full marathon, I've never run the 1/2 for a competitive split. Sunday's effort was a de facto PR that will still pose a challenge to eclipse in the future.

Finally, on a sidebar, Ol' Yeller made an appearance afterwards as I rode support for a colleague in the marathon. See! Look at the sippy cup I'm holding for my friend, Derek. What's funny was that while I was on the bike, a runner confused me for the special guest of the day, ultra-marathoner Dean Karnazes. I'm not kidding. This guy, who could've been hallucinating from funk-induced glycogen debt, starts yelling at me, "Dean! Dean Karnazes!" Um, no. Must have been the dazzling effect Ol'Yeller has on folks that caused it.

In the end, a good day of memories, racing and extended training.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Nature Boy

The past few weeks have been extremely taxing at work. That and my home PC's harddrive crashed, requiring a trip to the local computer store for a new HD and the tedious work of rebuilding the machine. Blogging and precious training time had to be sacrificed. Please accept my apologies for the silence.

Not too long ago, I joined Bryan, Mike and Joe for an 83 mile group ride along the scenic Loess Hills Highway to Glenwood, IA. Among the memories that persist from that ride came immediately after a ten mile ascent approaching Glenwood. With heart rates at red lines, we rounded the final bend in the road and came upon a pack of horses in a meadow. Without hesitation, they jumped up for the chase and galloped alongside us. Unless you've had a similar experience, it may be hard to appreciate the feeling of powering a bicycle alongside of a galloping horse. It was quite euphoric to say the least.

Regardless, it reminded me of a long run with brother Brendan a few years back in Wisconsin. While at a family reunion, my kid brother had a great idea to go for a nice little run, you know, to shake the legs out. I should have heeded the warning signs when I saw him triangulating the route on the five miles to centimeter Quickie Store map. Big mistake. That seven mile run ballooned into twenty in the end. In the midst of that weary slogging through Holstein country, Brendan caught the attention of a group of horses. It was on the clover filled land my father once farmed. I can still see him high horsey-stepping and clucking his tongue at them like it was yesterday. It wasn't having any effect, but he persisted doggedly. While bonking in glycogen debt, it was quite irritating. I was about to tell my Tarzan wannabe brother to shut it when he got the big brown male trotting. Soon, the rest of the pack was in tow. I had never experienced anything like that before. While that run was the first time I went more than 12 consecutive miles, it's the horses that I remember more than the big 20 or the aches and pains that followed.

I bring this up because nature is one of the many things that I can appreciate while being an active person. I'm mushy like that. Whether it's running with horses in Wisconsin or cycling beneath the shadow created by a hawk circling above Boyer's Chute, the great outdoors are more than merely accessible; indeed, you become an active participant.