Friday, July 30, 2010

Tell Them Why My Company Is So Hip, Munson

The new Corporate Cycling Challenge poster just came out at the company I work for. To the casual observer, it may look like just another promotional poster. It's not.

I know of two people -- actually one now that Sheldon Brown has passed -- that could take one look at this poster and immediately tell you the cycling innovation that is being suggested here.

Go on already Munson, tell them why we're the hipsters of cycling.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Freak Show

Last weekend I was working in the yard, clearing the remnants of two eight-foot sections of cedar fence that were crushed by a fallen limb from a recent storm. It wasn't fun. It was hot and humid and the fence had a lot of under growth and weeds. The hardest part was removing the concrete post hole. That one required renting a jack hammer.

Somewhere along the way, I brushed up against some poison oak. That plus the heat and humidity caused havoc on my immune system. An allergic reaction erupted into huge patches of hives on my legs and arms. Due to itching, sleep was miserable on Sunday night. Work was barely tolerable on Monday. But when I awoke Tuesday morning, things were starting to get downright ugly.

Did Ever see that scene in Hitch when Will Smith discovers that the food he's just eaten is known allergen?
That's how I felt when I looked into the mirror Tuesday. My face, arms and knees had puffed up considerably. Maybe not as dramatic as Mr. Smith's. But still, a freak show was in the making on 52nd Street. For example, normally I'm able to cup my wrist with my thumb and middle finger. But on Tuesday, the swelling in the wrist created a gap of nearly an inch. My appearance also spooked Katherine when she woke up. But at least my dog still wagged her tail in the morning when I fed her.

Over the next 48 hours, I popped Benedryl like Pez, called in sick, took a couple ice baths, got a doctor's appointment and filled a prescription for Prednisone. The Prednisone is the one that is finally getting things under control.

Man, if there was only a carnival in town. I could have made some good money.

Post Script:
I still managed to make a brief appearance at the Wednesday night group ride. There's this Italian restaurant called "Mangias" at 90th and Irvington Road that the ride passes every week. I've always wondered how the pizza was. Tonight, I went to find out. And when the group came rolling by at 6:23, I let others in on the pizza too while running alongside the peleton like one of those nut jobs at the grand tours. I didn't hold back. I was shouting pigeon-Italian while offering slices right out of the box to whomever wanted one. Shim, Paul and a couple others took a slice.

"Buona fortuna," I yelled as they pedaled down the road. With pizza dough and mozzarella cheese in their guts, they needed a dose of good luck when the sprint to Ft Calhoun kicked in.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Jens Voigt Spotted on Old Yeller?

It's been pointed out to me that Jens "Shut Up Legs" Voigt was photographed on a loaner bike after crashing on Stage 16 of TDF. The loaner bike bears a remarkable resemblance to my road bike known as Old Yeller.

You be the judge.

Jens Voigt on the loaner bike

WSCG himself on Old Yeller

Something doesn't quite look right. Yeah, someone photo-shopped Jens to make it appear that he's on Old Yeller.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Experience Gained

Cat. 4 racing has been good to me. Yes, there have been successes. Even a victory or two. But it's more than that. There have been adversities and failures that have taught me much more about racing than success ever has.

At the Cornhusker State Games TT last summer, Cat.4 competitors Pete Duryea and Brandon Fenster put the fear of TT discipline in me. More than ever, to be good at time trialing, I realized that I would have to spend time in aero position, in the weight room and beg-borrow-steal better equipment.

At last year's State Road Race Championship, I gained a new appreciation for the skill of sprinting from a pack. Going into the last turn, I was fifth wheel. I finished 16th. Even more, I gained an appreciation for the promoters and race officials who actually put the race together.

Then there was a lesson in humility at this year's Twin Bing Classic. Jumping into a three man break 15 miles into a hilly 45 mile race with prevailing winds proved to be too much. Eight miles from the finish, I cramped and got popped off the back. The ensuing chase group then caught me, but I was too wasted to latch onto them. I finished 8th and learned how strong I wasn't. What a wonderful, miserable race that was. I can't wait to do it next year.

Then there was sweet success at the Capital City Crit. Having never raced in a crit before, I was jittery before the race. A tall coffee with a shot of espresso beforehand may have contributed to the yips, but the truth was that I simply nervous. The mystique vanished when the race got rolling. Carving turns, taking a flier and sprinting for primes proved to be quite a rush. Yes, I learned the thrill of racing there. Finishing second was the exclamation point to fun day of racing.

At the Pioneer's Park Gran Prix, I discovered how not to finish a race. Thinking back to the failure at last year's State Championship Road Race finish, I decided that a sprint from the pack wasn't among my strongest suits. So I worked with Jesse Petersen, Kyle McClellan, Nathan Hicks and Dan Ertz to create a gap from the peleton. It worked. But when it came to the final hill, I attacked early in attempt to ride away from them. It got very quiet near the crest of the hill. Just as I thought the plan worked, I saw cyclists sprinting around me on both sides. Apparently, I learned how to give a text book lead out.

At this year's State TT Championship, I learned how to deal with the adversity of flatting and taking a DNF.

Shortly thereafter, I crashed during a training ride and had to deal with uncertainty while recovering from an injury for the first time.

Finally, there was a lesson in every race of the Omaha Cycling weekend.

It started with the Time Trial, where I missed my start. Warming up near the starting line, I somehow managed to not hear the announcer repeatedly call my name. I'm a knucklehead. Fortunately, with the help of a fantastic set of aero wheels, gratis Bryan Redemske, I still had a strong enough ride to account for the time I had dallied away.

At the Papillion Twilight later that afternoon, I experienced two firsts: tactical racing and overcoming doubt to finish the race strongly. Fellow team members Jonathan Wait, Mike Bartels and Ben Perkins gave us the tactical advantage to control the race. That, and being away when another racer flatted opened up a significant gap between the field and me. As the race progressed, the chase was closing the gap. But as I delved deep within the pain cave, the thought of the Jens Voigt "shut up legs" video that somebody linked to on their blog recently kept coming to mind. Success was ultimately a combination of gritty determination and the help of my teammates, Jens and whoever posted that video.

And then there was the Babcock Memorial race.

From all of this, Cat. 4 racing has served its purpose.

Thanks to all who've contributed to my growth as a cyclist. It's been good racing with you, and I look forward to lining up with you again soon.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Cats and Dogs

Yesterday was a case of extremes in Omaha Weather. First was sultry stuff that pushed the heat index to 115, then came a walloping storm with some 70 mph winds.

The two extremes -- the heat before and the threat of severe weather later -- resulted in a low turnout for our normal Wednesday night Trek Store group ride. In all, 12 of us pointed our front wheels into a NW headwind as foreboding clouds gathered on the horizon. At Democracy Park, we decided to push forward to HWY 36. Bryan said he was going to turn back once we got to 72nd Street, while other suggested alternate routes.

30 minutes into the ride, the group had fragmented into three groups: breakaway, chasers and the recreational riders. I was among the chasers, which included Sarah Viamonte and Alexander Sanchez. By the time we arrived at HWY 36 & 72nd ST, nobody was to be found. At that point, the clouds appeared to be tracking NW of us, and the skies looked good enough to the south. Because of this, we decided to try our luck with a longer route continuing east along HWY 36 to the River Front trail, then southward through the airport and downtown before heading northwest again to the Trek Store.

We got as far as the airport when the skies got really dark, really fast. A quick change in plans had us drilling it for cover downtown. We didn't make it.

A quick change in plans had us drilling it for cover downtown. We didn't make it.

We got as far as the entrance to Gallup University when the brunt force of the wall cloud hit. I had to clip out to prevent being pushed over. From there we scrambled for cover at the River City Yacht Club. Thankfully, they were open and let us ride out the storm.

What a view afterward.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Accidents Happen

After winning the Cat 4 time trial and Papillion Crit yesterday, I abandoned today's State Road Race Championship after getting in a bike tangle with Sydney Brown.

Today's race was chaotic, to say the least. Thunderstorms overnight flooded the lower half of the course, resulting in a 45 minute start delay while race officials rerouted the race. In the end, the officials lopped off roughly four miles -- including a long hill climb -- from the original seven mile circuit loop. The entire dynamic of the race shifted from one that favored hill climbers to one that favored the flat lander power racer.

The race officials had their work cut out for them, keeping the many different racing skill levels separated within the three mile loop. The fields included: Men Cat 1-2-3, Men 4 & Women 1-2-3, Masters 40+, 50+, 60+, Cat 5 men, women Cat 4-5 and juniors. Added to the mayhem was the necessity of all the race officials' cars, wheel trucks, and later: ambulances and firetrucks. All on a tight, three mile loop.

About thirty minutes into the race, the Mens Cat 1-2-3 passed us. The race officials had the Cat 4s field slow to a neutral (easy with no-attacks) pace until the 1-2-3 men passed. I'm quite certain that the entire Cat 4 field realized that with two more hours of racing, there would be a lot of this stop and go stuff. Perhaps because of this, the attacks began shortly thereafter. I presume it was to create a gap that could leverage an advantage when the next neutral period occurred.

I was in one such attack with seven other riders that included fellow Midwest Cycling team member Ben Perkins. As the attack began to fail, I came around from the back to the outside/center line to drive the pace. As I came around, I looked over my right shoulder and motioned to Ben to latch on. When I turned back to look forward, there was forearm-to-forearm contact on my left side. It was Sydney. She yelled. We tangled and in a blink of an eye, she went down hard on her shoulder and face. I nearly followed.

What do you do in that situation?

I looked back and saw her crawling to the side of the road. 200 meters ahead was the roadside paramedic. We alerted for help as we rolled by. Of course, nobody knew how badly she was hurt. Since the circuit would bring us back the the scene minutes later, I decided to wait and see on the next pass.

When we returned, Sydney was lying on her back while the paramedic was treating her shoulder. Her race was over.

Having gone through something similar recently, I could empathize to some extent what she must have been experiencing. And since I was the one that got tangled up with her, I just didn't have the heart to race anymore. As the peleton rolled along, I delivered the news to my teammates and abandoned the race on the next loop.

Mend well, Sydney. You're in my/our thoughts and prayers for a speedy recovery.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

My Territory

I've been riding around Omaha for a couple of years now and have gotten to know a lot of roads that I would never have taken by car. As a result, my appreciation of what Omaha offers, and as I'm learning, what lies just beyond Omaha, is growing.

Sometimes when I'm with Katherine, I'll take one of these off the beaten path routes and declare, "this is my territory." Katherine's heard that a thousand times if she's heard it once. "Yeah, yeah, what around here isn't your territory," she replies.

Until last night, County Road 49 wasn't. But due to a wet summer and more rain throughout the day, our normal route home through the Boyer's Chute wilderness area was flooded out. As a result, we were forced to reroute our ride through higher grounds along County Road 49. It was a first for me.

From HWY 75 heading south, County Road 49's surface is chipped gravel over pavement. But it's an easy ride on a road bike, especially if you follow the well-worn tire ruts. A sharp but short kicker brings you to a section of tree-lined fields to the east and an expansive valley to the west. This is Nebraska country scenery at its finest.

The road rises slowly into a false flat, followed by a moderate climb that brings you to the top of a long paved descent through a wooded area. Ultimately, County Road 49 terminates at the volunteer fire department of Ponca Hills. From there, we went east and drilled it through the valley, saving the hill repeats for another day.

This ride almost didn't happen due to weather. But local weatherman and avid cyclist CT Thongklin reassured me that the skies would part and the roads would be dry. And sure enough, at 6:00 PM, the sun had returned for nearly perfect riding conditions: 75 F and little wind.

The ideal conditions and the discovery of a new route is cycling at its best.

I'm happy to say that County Road 49 is now my territory.

Friday, July 2, 2010

30 Minute Japanimation Morality Plays

Back in the late '60s, Japanimation cartoons like Speed Racer were more than simply after school TV. They were art films that depicted a morality play in 30 minutes.

It was true that each 30 minute episode also had a total of about 30 frames, but boy did they tell a story of a fantastic race car, its special powers and a driver who raced it with fierce integrity. Fist fights, jealous girl friends, spectacular crashes and death -- cartoon people death -- were in every episode. Man, those were the days, camped out in front of the TV with a PB&J watching Speed go for another checkered flag. Today's NASCAR is lame by comparison.

The Snake Track episode with race car driver Rock Force was one such classic. Rock had a special driving technique of taking corners on two wheels (it was faster than on four) A favorite to win at the local snake track, Rock took a bribe to throw a race. But after taking the money, he disobeyed and won it anyway. Then the mob boss got mad and had his henchmen cut off Rock's right arm so he couldn't drive a stick shift anymore. Rock had it reattached, but it never quite worked as well.

That's when the hero, Speed Racer, enters the scene. Speed befriends Rock to learn his special cornering technique. By then, Rock was driving an automatic-transmission race car, but it gets smashed up by the angry mob. Speed promises to repair the car if Rock would teach him how to corner better. He does, they race and Rock wins. But the mob attempts to get Rock DQ'd for driving with one arm, a violation of safety rules. A gratuitous fist fight then ensues (gotta love Japanimation). While Rock is smashing the mob guy's face with his right arm, Speed exclaims, "Huh? Look Rock -- you're using your right arm!"

Awesome. Rock Force is my inspiration.

My right shoulder isn't 100%, but it's getting stronger each day.

Perhaps I should get into a fist fight with Shim after next Wednesday night's Trek Store ride. Now that would be inspiring.

Go Speed Racer, Go!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Enigma II

side note: don't worry, other than the title, there's nothing in this account that relates to the the other post bearing the same title.

Last night I jumped in with the Trek Store ride for the first time in a few weeks. To say it went well is an understatement. I rode this piss out of that bike last night and it felt great.

I was fairly confident that the shoulder had healed enough to ride hard without safety issues or injuring it any further. No, I was more concerned about how my breathing would be affected by sore ribs. That, and the deep bronchial cough had me wondering how the cardio would take it. And of course, I had no idea what to expect from my legs. But none of those issues manifested. I rode hard and hung with the lead pack throughout the ride. After 16 days off the bike, who'd figure?

I certainly didn't.

Granted, it wasn't the fastest of group rides. While there were aggressive moments, there was also a large pack to hide in and recover. Also, some riders were coming off a race weekend and others were saving it for big races coming up.

I suppose fresh legs could have been part of it. After the accident, I took the first week totally off to concentrate on arm exercises. Then this past week, I did two stair master sessions and two runs at 45 minutes each. There was also that easy 90 minutes ride on Sunday and I lifted (legs) once on Tuesday. So it wasn't that I didn't do anything. But still, cycling requires muscle-specific training.

Oh well, what can I say? I suppose my cycling legs didn't have know that they're supposed to be weak.

When his team was drudging the bottom of the division a month into the season, Charles Barkley answered his critics by saying, "The bad teams just don't know that they're bad yet."

Perhaps the same could be said of my legs. It's an enigma to me.