Monday, June 30, 2008

Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey Saw Me Riding into Work This Morning

Late last night, I sent Bryan a note about meeting at Crane Coffee for a commute into to work. Bryan was a no show, but that's OK, because Mayor Mike Fahey saw me instead.

It's true: Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey Saw Me Riding into Work This Morning.

He waited patiently in line right behind me. I think that he ordered a tall coffee. Black. He's a no nonsense kind of guy. You know, straight to business and skip all that foofy-foofy stuff.

Since I could tell that he was waiting to ask, I told him that I appreciated the efforts he was making for the Omaha cyclists.

He then paused long enough to make me wonder if he thought that I had actually said "psycho-ists".

Crap! Why did I have to mumble at such a grand moment?!

Finally, his mouth formed the words, "Thanks, I enjoy it."

Whew! The Mayor saved the day once again. You see, ambiguity is what makes politics great. He was happy. I was happy. And nothing was accomplished. Fantastic!

And with that, he exited the coffee shop and got into a black SUV that his driver, errrr carpool, had idling outside.

Thanks Mr. Mayor, I enjoyed it, too.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Looking for Roger the Shrubber

The Omaha hurricane with 100 mph straight-line winds wasn't so kind to us yesterday. It could have been worse, indeed. Afterwards, it was as if a hurricane went through this place. Anywhere east of 90th Street had no power. Grocery stores were cash only and the lines at fast food drive thru windows stretched a block down the road. People had to eat!

Back home, a heavy oak branch punched a couple holes in our roof. Our neighbor got most of our oak on top of his garage and driveway. So we've been busy clearing the driveway so he can get his car out.

Soon, the insurance agent will settle to allow the reconstruction work of the garage, deck and fence, roofers and of course, the Shrubbers. Ni!

Oh well, we've done our part - time to go for a bike ride!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Grim Reaper Saw Me Riding Home from Work Today

While cruising Old Yeller down that big hill on Farnam just before Saddlecreek, this car suddenly makes an aggressive U-Turn about 20 yards in front of me and proceeds to cut across my lane. The driver didn't see me.

I yell, "AHHHHHHHHHHHH!" like really loud because I didn't have time to think of anything more witty to scream.

That's when I saw the Grim Reaper. He was standing at the entrance to Don And Millie's parking lot, which was where the car was about to run me over.

I'm still yelling, "AHHHHHHHHHHHH" as I quickly turn and bunny hop the half-curb driveway entrance at about 30 mph. Brakes were not even an option.

The car screeches to a stop only inches from me. I could feel the heat of the radiator on my legs and as I whizzed by the Grim Reaper. I think that I heard him snap his fingers and say, "shucks."

Other than the embellishments about the radiator heat and the Grim Reaper stuff, it was all frighteningly true: I was almost a goner!

When I came to a stop, I verified that the car hooked around a concrete median and crossed a solid double yellow line. It was bad enough that I had nearly been in a serious accident, but the thought of my life ending over such stupidity, and for what -- a Millie burger and a cheese frenchie? Getting mad. Madder....


With adrenaline surging through my veins, I turned Old Yeller back around and confronted the driver getting out of her car. Well, it was more like a rabid dog's barking than a verbal assault. I believe I conveyed the point that she almost killed me while making an illegal turn for fast food, but it's hard to say. After giving her a good verbal tongue thrashing, I heard her say, "I already said I was sorry".

Thankfully, it was only my anger that she had to be sorry about.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Fred Didn't See Me Riding To Work Today

This morning I dropped off the car at Heavy T's Automotive in Bellevue, down by the infamous toll bridge that charges cyclists 50 cents to cross. I unloaded Old Yeller from the car and wished for a long ride into Glenwood, IA. But responsibility called and I turned northwards.

Along the way, Fred didn't see me while he commuted by bike to his new job not at the UP. Having Fredcube work elsewhere bums me out because the therapeutic United Way campaign haiku sessions won't be the same anymore. Bummer #2 is missing Fredcube fending off the attacks by Reed and Wes over lunch rides.

Such is life.

But I know that Fred didn't see me while riding to work today because I didn't hear him curse and swear at me as I rode by. He also mentioned it that he didn't see me on his blog.

I'd like to imagine what if Fredcube saw me while he rode to not-UP today. Long before he could recognize that it was Old Yeller approaching, venom would have been flowing. In his mind's voice, he'd be critical about the way I was riding, or the clothes I was wearing. Maybe even the bike I was riding. But as I approached, Old Yeller would have struck fear in his heart. In his weakened state, would he let it out, or bottle it up only to go critical-mass on some helpless chap down the path?

Anyway, driving the car 19 miles in the opposite direction from work to only then ride by bicycle back was a good way to start the day. But it came with a twinge of guilt. I mean, I'm riding to work and enjoying the exercise just after dropping off old smokey to be fixed. Indeed, it is not unlike smoking without inhaling?

I wonder if I inhaled the exhaust my car had just created when Fred didn't see me riding to work today.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Not In Kansas Anymore

90 minutes into a five hour race and I was already having doubts. Pain and fatigue had set in and my focus was waining.

An hour earlier, I completed the 1.2 mile swim where I was punched and kicked many times by fellow triathletes. It was not unlike a hockey game in there. Once, I was kicked so hard in in the face that a knee jerk reaction resulted in a severe right hamstring cramp. Stopping to stretch in a middle of a deep lake among thousands of swimmers and a 1/2 mile yet to go posed quite a challenge. I managed.

But it just wasn't working on the bike. Lactic Acid coursing through the veins and that hammy threatening to act up, I had a moment of doubt. Would I even finish the race? My mind started to drift.

I thought of all of the training I had completed over the months. The long rides with my cycling friends Munson and Bryan, the weight lifting, the early morning Masters swimming practices and the long runs I had completed with this day in mind. There are always the what-ifs and wishes for more training, but I knew I was pretty well prepared.

I thought of Katherine and brother Murphini who were somewhere out on the course cheering me on. That helped carry the burden.

A cyclist or two passed me. No big deal. A hill was approaching where I'd reel them back in.

I thought of brother Brendan who had surprised me by rolling up to Murphini's house late Friday night from Colorado to compete with me. He was racing with elbow-to-wrist and full calf raspberries from a training ride crash only days before; the crimson scabs caused many to wince at the pre-race number markups. Dude's as tough as he is and nuts. Along with him was another triathlete and friend, Ryan, who was also racing. And joining us on Saturday was Brendan's girlfriend and professional triathlete, Karen. I was in excellent racing company and I sponged up as much racing advice and encouragement from them as I could soak up. Indeed, I was as ready to take a chance, go fast, pass on turns and feed the anyone could be.

Reaching the peak of the hill, the road turned into a strong headwind and a series of rollers with another menacing climb five miles down the road. Morale sank even lower.

In truth, the bike course favored my smaller size. While I spun seated in the hills, most of the others stood and labored. I'd make huge gains on the climbs only to having some of that erode on the downward slope and flats.

Knowledge of my cycling advantage did little to help my spirit. Even without the heart rate monitor, I knew that I was near my red line and I had a lot of distance to cover. Heat was also becoming a factor as I continued to struggle with motivation.

Then I remembered my cycling friend Munson telling me how he endured the physical pain of time trials: distraction. He copes with the pain by mentally picturing happy thoughts, like lollipops and bushy-tail bunnies. I tried, but Charms Blow-Pops and Br'er Rabbit just floated on by. Something else lurked in the shadows of my subconscious. I concentrated a little harder as a human figure began to form. It was holding a drawn bow and arrow. What figure would emerge from this archetype? Was it Apollo hunting, or the brave warrior Geronimo?

To my horror, the image that resolved was a pot-bellied Athena bow hunting carp in a camouflage bikini during a recent time trail training session at Lake Manawa in Council Bluffs.


I was cured. I was now grateful for the remaining 41 miles of torturing hills and the half marathon that would distract me from that cross-breed between Vince Neil and what I imagine to be Ted Nugent's soul mate. I tucked into a tight aero position and began counting the cyclist I passed. It was a good bike ride from then onward.

Transition from the bike to run is never fun. A mile into it, the hamstring finally seized up. Fortunately, another triathlete who might as well have been Jesus in Asics gave me a package of salt tabs with the instructions to take two with water every four miles. Hallelujah! It cured the hammy, but for the next five miles I still fought GI issues and bloating while struggling to find my running form. After taking a port-a-potty pit stop at mile six, I felt well enough to race and completed the half marathon in one hour and forty-one minutes to the cheers of Katherine, Murphini, Karen and Brendan (who finished the race some sixteen minutes ahead of me). Nearly five hours had passed since diving into Lake Clinton; Iwas quite emotional as Katherine hugged me just beyond the finish line.

Official Results:
53rd overall, 22nd Citizens, 7th Age Group
Swim: 0:33:04.9 -- 01:34.0/100m pace
Bike: 2:32:22.9 -- 22.1 mph pace
Run: 1:41:57.0 -- 07:47.0 min/miles
Total Elapsed Time: 4:50:30.3

I am happy with the results, especially considering it was my first at that distance as well as the challenging nature of the course.

Finally, a super-huge shout out goes out to the Murphini family for hosting us over the weekend. We appreciate you loaning us Guz, for feeding us, chauffeuring and just making sure that three racers under your roof could prepare for the main event. Thank you - you guys were terrific!

Well what's next? Unpacking, laundry, yard work, the list goes on. Sigh. Indeed, I'm not in Kansas anymore!