Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Nightmare on 52nd Street

Last night I had a nightmare. Maybe it was the undigested pizza seeking its revenge. Or, it could have been because my wife stole all the blankets, leaving me shivering in a shallow sleep, which is prime for dream-making.

So anyway, I was commuting home by bike. My commute was quite dark, as the quarter moon was late in rising. It was also very chilly and I wasn't fully prepared for the cold. I lacked adequate protection for my head and face. I had a very thin skullcap under my helmet and had nothing for my face. My 8 3/8" blockhead was uncomfortable, but manageable, for the five mile commute home.

While my headlight flickered on the patchy street, puffs of steam belched up from my breath fogged my glasses. Perhaps due to limited vision, I didn't see the old man in coveralls until he suddenly appeared from behind a Ford 150's shadow.

"You aught'n slow down," he snarled at me.

The patchy snow turned into a nasty sheet of ice in an instant. I heeded the old man's warning, clipped out with one foot and feathered the rear brake. It was dicey. But when I came safely to a stop, I dismounted and walked the bike through the ice field. After remounting, I rode home without incident.

Oh yeah, what's this about? Sorry! I digress. I was supposed to tell you about the nightmare I had the other night, not my commute home from work. I must have been thinking about my commute as I fell asleep. Shortly afterward is when I had the nightmare.

In my nightmare, I dreamed that I was sitting on a stationary bike in a gym. Awful, no? Well hang onto your foam-rubber stationary bike handlebars, because it gets worse. It was about 85F and humid in there. I was staring at a paint chip missing from the burnt umber colored wall. I was staring at the paint chip in a feeble attempt at quelling my raging mind, which teetered atop an abyss of boredom and insanity. While I attempted to focus my mind, I sat and spun on a dated stationary bike that looked like it just came off the set of Total Recall (1990, not 2012). On my left is a woman that looks like Jane Fonda, complete with her trademark neon knee warmers. She's chewing bubble gum, and when not blowing obnoxious bubbles, it sounds like she's eating a live fish. On my right is a dude that looks like he just walked off the WWF (wrestling, not wildlife) wearing purple and black zubaz pants and a tanktop that would make Sammy Hagar weep. He's also humming off-key to 90s hairband rock, blaring from earbuds connected to a Sony Walkman. Let's recap my nightmare: the heat, the humidity; GI Jane stripping her teeth over that fish and the Bret Michaels-wannabe humming Whitesnake's Here I Go Again. All this, while I'm sitting on a stationary bike. AHHHHHH! I couldn't take it! It was way too much for my brain to focus on that stupid paint chip. I went into overload and screamed aloud, waking up my wife in the process.


As you can see, I hate riding a stationary bike. Trainers, too for that matter. I'll ride them when its absolutely necessary. Last winter, I rode a lot, but only once during a spin class, once on a trainer and twice on rollers. I'm saying that not to brag, like I'm some tough guy for riding outside in the winter or something. I'm sharing so you know how much I'd rather be outside than inside. And, if that resounds in you, that it's something you'd like to try too, then what's keeping you from joining in? Here's my encouragement to you: get out there and see for yourself what it's like.

First of all I can tell you what winter riding is not. No, it's not this:

But with a little preparation, it could be this:

Obviously, it takes a certain level of commitment to assemble the proper clothing and gear to do it right. But rather than hash it out here, why not take your next coffee break and read up on it yourself? There are plenty of good sites out there. One site I came upon recently is It's probably as good a starting point as any.

I ride throughout the winter simply because its a lot of fun.

And it certainly beats spinning next to a guy in a pair of Zubaz.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bless His Dear Heart

You know it immediately when you're the recipient of a backhanded compliment. Like when you're having a bad hair day, and someone says, "Did you get a new haircut?" Or, when you do nothing different than your normal, everyday routine and someone says, "Wow, don't you look good today?" Thanks. Now what does that say about yesterday, or all the days before that?

Another personal slight comes in the form of veiled pity. Like when someone says, "bless his dear heart" while describing a dufus neighbor's attempt at wrestling an overstuffed garbage bag down the driveway, only to have it tear open and spew everything out three feet from the curb. Haha, bless his dear heart.

Only slightly less obnoxious is the guy who can't help but comment on the obvious. Like when you bang your head on the corner of an open drawer and your colleague says, "Oh man, I bet that hurt."

Something like the last one happened to me at the Heartland Park Topeka Grand Prix cyclcocross race this past weekend.

The Heartland Park Grand Prix venue is held on and around a "dirt velodrome" race track on the outskirts of Topeka. The course worked its way through technical sections in and outside the velodrome with two sets of barriers, one with a small fly-over with a ramp, and there was one small but very steep hill that followed a choppy technical section on the backside of the course. It was also a night race. Nothing like racing under the lights on Saturday night.

Anyway, there were 19 starters in the 40-49 masters race. My buddy Shim was there. And another Nebraskan, John Rokke, was in the field. I started in the back row, but by the end of the first lap, I had worked myself into the lead group of six, which included Shim and John Rokke. I sat in with them for the majority of the second lap. That was, until disaster struck: just before the steep hill, I bounced the chain off my front ring. Without power, I was forced to dismount, lug my bike up the hill and then go about resetting the chain.

That's when I first heard the voice from a bystander nearby: "Oh man, that's too bad you dropped your chain."

Yes, that was too bad, especially because after remounting, I had to burn a match to catch back on to the lead group, who were now in the process of trying to reel in a solo breakaway. But I did catch them, and when I did, I intended to sit-in for a breather. That was, until disaster struck for the second time. Again, just before the steep hill, I bounced the chain off my front ring once more. So I lugged the bike up the hill and reset the chain.

The same bystander took couldn't but comment once more, "Oh man, that's too bad you dropped your chain again."


I remounted, and furiously burned another match to catch back onto the chase group. By the time I had arrived, the leader was 10 seconds up the road, and another was attempting to bridge up to him. I didn't wait. I immediately counter-attacked my attack. Shim blocked while I worked on bringing back guy #2. By the time I did, I was content to sit on and catch my breath.

That's when disaster struck for the third time. Yep, another dropped chain -- this time on secluded section of the course. Whew! I wasn't sure how I would have taken hearing that guy tell me how bad it was that I dropped my chain again.

I remounted as the chase group came by and swept me up. We remained that way until midway through the bell lap. When the guy up front sat up on a flat section with a tailwind, I punched it hard. I figured I'd either succeed in creating a buffer, in the event that I had another mechanical, or I'd go out in a flame and let Shim reap the benefits of another awesome lead out. A chaser jumped on my wheel & Shim on his. In a short while, the guy behind me sounded like a horse in labor. We carried speed through the technical section just before the steep hill. And that's when disaster struck again: I heard the chain's unmistakable frame-slap a moment before I lost power. The moment of dread was upon me.

The dread was not that I had just dropped my chain for the fourth time in a race.

Nor was the dread a result of realizing that a chance at a podium had just slipped by.

The moment I dreaded was waiting for me at the top of that damn hill. Sure enough, as I worked that chain back on for the final time, that guy just couldn't help himself repeat once more:

"Oh Man, that's too bad you dropped your chain"

Looking back on it now, I'm sure he really meant what he said. It was indeed bad that I dropped a chain in a race, let alone four times. But c'mon. Offering pity once is understandable; twice is pushing it. But anything beyond that, bless his dear heart, was just speaking the obvious.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Stolen Trek X02 Cyclocross Bike RECOVERED


11/11/2011: My friend's stolen bike has been recovered from a local pawn shop. Call off the dogs.

Year: 2010
Make: Trek (cyclocross bike)
Model: XO2
Serial#: 165SZ0865E
Size: 56 cm
Color: Black/white/red. Terry saddle has Zebra pattern
Wheels: Bontrager Race Xlite rims, Fango tires

Call#: (308) 641-4191
Email: lkleager[at]gmail[dot]com

Last Seen:
12:30PM Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Union Pacific Railroad
1400 Douglas Street
Omaha, NE 68179

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Word From Our Sponsors

Around 10 AM Thursday, I took a coffee break to see what was going on in the world. My escape is When I got there, I immediately saw the BREAKING NEWS headline in the humongous letters. Apparently, word was out that Moammar had been hunted down and killed. I quickly clicked the link, but before I could actually read the BREAKING NEWS, I had to sit through a product endorsement for yogurt.

I like yogurt. And I don't have complaints about the commercial content: smiley, happy people enjoying a delicious snack that was conveniently fortified with calcium for strong bones and teeth. And the kicker was that a portion of the proceeds goes towards the Susan G Komen breast cancer foundation.

Now I'm all for smiley faces, strong bones and teeth. And healthy breasts are about as wholesome steel-cut goodnessey as you can get. But these were the furthest thing from my mind when I was trying to find the low down on ol' Moammar, who was apparently not only way dead, but was also quite gruesomely so. After the 30 second spot, the commercial transitioned to the following:

So like you did and are about to do again, I clicked on the following (be forewarned) link.

Nothing like a side of bloody Gadhafi's face with my wholesome raspberry yogurt. Mmmmm, yogurt. Mmmmm, Moammar.

I understand that somebody's got to pay the bills. I really get that. But yogurt? Now?

Look, if you're gonna be all gristly and such, then why not pitch rifle ammunition, or bludgeoning devices like Louisville Sluggers? Those make far better product-placements than flashing my retina with pro-biotic yogurt a moment before trotting out the bloody boogie man.

Thanks CNN, now I have to find a substitute smoothie mix-in. Bloody Moammar face yogurt isn't going to cut it anymore.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I Prefer Barry

Hello, my name is Brady.

No, it's not guy.

Nor is my name Dude, although I have a tee shirt that says so.

My name is simply Brady.

But Every once in awhile, somebody gets it wrong. That happened to me the other day, and it triggered an unfortunate memory and subsequent venting about That Guy Who Called Everybody Guy.

Don't fret. We're not going back there again today.

The other day, a colleague called me by the wrong name. He called me Barry. Twice, actually. This colleague travels frequently and is rarely in the office. Having returned from a long absence, he needed some assistance installing a printer to his new laptop. So while I was downloading the driver, we passed the time with the small chit-chat that normally occupies office space. He remembered that I was a cyclist and a swimmer. We talked about our families a little. Then, after successfully printing a test page, he thanked me for getting him hooked up. That's when he called me Barry.

I gave him the benefit of doubt. Perhaps the chatter of the printer made me mishear what he said. But then as we were walking out, he praised me again -- this time distinctly as Barry -- for my efforts.

It was okay. It wasn't the first time I've been called Barry.

Over the years, I've been called a lot of names besides Brady. The most common has been Brad. I hate being called Brad, but not nearly as much as I hate being called guy -- whoops, there's that guy word slipping in again. --  I'm surprised at how much I dislike being called Brad. It's a mystery because I have friends named Brad. I suppose it's because of the context. I'm usually called Brad by a bank teller or someone trying to sell me something. Uh sorry, but Brad's not going to be buying any Florida swamp land from you.

Besides Barry and Brad, I've also been called Grady, Bradley, Brandy, Braddy, and even Bob once. Bob? Here's how that one went:

Me: Hi, my name is Brady.

Them: Nice to meet you, Bob.

Me: Um, you too, guy.

Anyway, about this Barry thing. The first person to call me Barry was Mr. Conway, my high school religion teacher.

Mr Conway was an icon at St. Louis University High School. By the time I sat in his freshman theology class, Mr Conway had served in various roles in the school administration and taught nearly every subject. He had a wealth of experience and was an excellent teacher. The finer details, like remembering the name of another know-it-all-snot-nosed punk sitting in the second row, just wasn't that important to Mr Conway anymore. He just called it the way he saw it.

I can still picture him sitting behind that big old oak desk, his bright, wide eyes staring at me through his Mr Magoo-like glasses, while asking me something like, "How old did the Bible say Methuselah was, Barry?"

I had corrected him a couple times early in the semester. He'd call me by my proper name for a few weeks before being drawn back towards his old standby, Barry. So by the time we were through the Pentateuch, my new name, Barry, was firmly rooted. I/we all kind of got used to it. It was fine.

It was that way until late in the semester. We were studying the minor prophets, when classmate Leonard Shelton broke the silence. He just couldn't take it anymore.

Mr Conway: ...Popular belief is that the Bible says that Jonah was swallowed by a whale. But did the Bible really mention anything about a whale? What does the Bible say, Barry?

Barry/Me: The Bibl --


Mr. Conway: Because he looks like Barry Manilow.

The classroom roared with laughter. Mr Conway lets everyone continue for a moment before raising his hand to silence the class

Mr. Conway: So what were you about to say, BARRY? Was there a whale?

Barry/Me: ... no, Mr Conway.The Bible never mentions anything about a whale, it just says a large fish swallowed Jonah.

Mr. Conway: Thank you, Barry. Now Leonard, come put your demerit card on the corner of my desk...


From way back then until till now, many years have passed since I've been called Barry. I still don't mind that one.

This much's for sure: being called Barry is much preferred over being called guy by the guy who called everybody guy.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Don't Be That Guy Who Calls Everybody Guy

Years ago, I met a person who called everybody 'guy'. His name was Vinnie, but for all intents and purposes for the remainder of the post, I shall refer to him as 'That Guy Who Calls Everybody 'Guy,'' or TGWCEG, for short.

Now some of you may guess where this is going. Yeah, yeah, so Brady knew a guy who called everybody guy. Big deal. Who hasn't met someone like that? But I'm telling you, TGWCEG was something special. Let me explain.

I was a college freshman when I met TGWCEG. He was a classmate who also lived on the same floor of the dorm I lived in. TGWCEG was immediately one of the most popular kids in the school.

He was also the most hated.

I came to find out in short order that it didn't matter if you were an acquaintance who and hadn't seen him in years, or if you just met him for the first time. Regardless of the circumstance, he'd slip you a cold fish for a handshake and say, 'how's it going, guy?'


Yes, it was amazing. TGWCEG would walk down the campus and greet everybody that way. It didn't matter of you were male or female. 'Guy' was that -- uh -- guy's go-to word for all people in all occasions.

Like this:
To me, upon our first meeting: How's it going, guy?
To a former girlfriend, on her first meeting: How's it going, guy?
To the tenured professor, right before midterms: How's it going, guy?
To the University's President, at commencement: How's it going, guy?...

TGWCEG was incredible. I mean, the kid was either extremely confident or simply stupid. I never bothered to find out because he grated on my nerves so much.

He grated on everybody's nerves.

Imagine being his roommate. TGWCEG's first dorm roommate only lasted a couple weeks before dropping out of school.

His second roommate lasted a little longer. Once, when TGWCEG was away for the weekend, roommate #2 had a few of us over for pizza. He needed to vent. While we ate and listened, roommate #2 nearly broke down and cried while talking about the living arrangement. Later, when we thanked him for the food, roommate #2 confessed that the pizza was paid for by taking TGWCEG's chemistry book and selling it back to the bookstore earlier that day.

Unfortunately, roommate #2 didn't make it to the end of the semester either. After that, TGWCEG had a private room.

Anyway, something triggered a memory of the guy who called everybody guy, today. I feel better now having expressed this. Thank you for allowing me the space to vent. Whew! That was needed.

So what have we learned here today? Unless you want your possessions sold for someone elses' pizza, don't be that guy who calls everybody guy.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Gravel Worlds 2011 Recap

Around 100 riders of this year's Gravel Worlds rolled out of the Lancaster Event center in darkness and thick humidity to cover 153.7 miles of mostly gravel roads near Lincoln this past Saturday. A double pace line continued for much of the first 15 miles. The beginning of the race is always exciting, rubbing elbows with many friends. Excitement is high. Lots of smiles and chatting. That part of racing never lasts long enough.

Then we hit the first of many minimum maintenance roads (MMRs). Minimum maintenance roads are country roads without gravel. And since it rained much the night before and was wet throughout the week, the MMRs were basically a ribbon of thick, unrideable mud. But the first section of mud that we hit was relatively dry. That section was actually still a gravel road that had a very short dirt section. Somebody inspired by rideable condition called out, "the gravel gods are smiling on us today". We'd soon find out otherwise.

At the first real MMR, the mud was so thick that nobody could ride it. In the lead group, two had their rear deraileurs snapped off. Everyone was forced to portage their bikes while thick, viscous mud caked shoes. It was like hiking through peanut butter.

The first checkpoint of Valparaiso followed. Leah Kleager was there. It was the first of many times that I gladly accepted her support throughout the race. Some may say that having a support vehicle is not in the spirit of such an event. They might be right. But then again this is the Pirate Cycling League, people. Yeah, it fits inside the pirate's code of ethics. Anyway, thanks Leah, that was huge.

While we were refueling in Malcolm, Jim Winklepleck and Chris Hansen slipped away quietly. Shim, Lucas and I were soon on the chase. The second MMR followed about 10 miles later. While we were hiking through it, Eric Brunt comes riding down the center of the mud. He was on a single speed and just made up huge ground on us. I stood with jaw agape while Lucas called out, "Nice job, Eric." He made the selection. Soon, we were cleaning our bikes and riding again. We stayed together most of the way to Malcolm, where we caught up with Chris Hansen. Hansen hadn't seen Winklepleck so we were now at the lead of the race.

Hansen, also on a single speed, rode out of Malcolm solo. Shim, Brunt and I followed. Lucas was inside filling bottles and had to burn some matches to catch back on. Hansen took some long pulls while I was thinking, what's up with these single speeders? It was amazing.

At about 80 miles, Brunt attacked. Again, another shocker: a single speeder was attacking three guys on geared bikes. But there he went, blazing a trail while we watched. He was pulling away at good speed. After awhile, I went up front to bring him back. I took a long pull. While doing so, Shim said that Lucas and Hansen dropped off. Shim came around for a turn. After my next pull, I could no longer hold onto Shim's wheel. He went ahead while I sat up and waited for Lucas and Hansen.

The three of us rode in together to the secret checkpoint Oasis at mile 102. By that time, Shim and Brunt had six minutes on us. After refueling, we hit the road as Dale Pinkelman pulled up. Soon, Pinkleman was closing in on us. I picked up the pace and ended up going solo beyond the next checkpoint in Hickman (mile 115) and until I caught Eric Brunt at a MMR around 130 mile marker. Eric had GI issues and had to let Shim go ahead.

From there, the two of us rode together to the finish. At one point, we actually saw Shim. I told Eric that I had already helped pull Shim back in a race earlier in the year and I wasn't going to help if he tried. Eric was cool with that. We agreed to ride in together and not let anyone catch us. It was good riding with you, Eric. You rode very well Saturday.

Shim had finished 7 minutes before us. Gravel Worlds Champion can now be added to his list of palmares. Congratulations, Shim.

Greg Shimonek, Gravel Worlds Champion 2011

Thanks to the PCL for all the work required to put this on. We're grateful for your efforts and will look forward to next year's event.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Hello Gravel Worlds

I'm intrigued. I'm excited. I'm all in.

150 miles of Gravel Worlds goodness awaits 08/20/2011.

Happy Friday, everyone.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Art of the !Pro (commoner's) Build

As somebody mentioned before, the devil is in the details. And though I've marveled at the art of the pro build, I've never worked at a bike shop to hone my bike building skills. Come to think of it, I don't believe that I've ever honed anything. Regardless, if MOD is the Michelangelo of Pro bike builds, then I'm that PBS guy with curly hair who water colors a grove of trees next to a lake.

Anyway, whether or not I've honed anything isn't the point. What I'm trying to say is that you can ride a decent looking cyclocross (CX) bike -- and on the cheap -- if you put a little effort into it. Here's how I did it.

A couple years ago, my friend Mike Miles overheard me pining about getting into cyclocross. Now Miles is a purveyor of bicycle goods. He's not quite on the level of your local bike shop, but chances are, he's got what you're looking for.

The CX Frame
Miles produced a Scattante CX frame and fork that was collecting cobwebs in his garage. A Scattante frame wouldn't have been my first choice, but like they say, don't look a gift horse in the mouth. Or in my case, don't look a gift CX frame in the headset, because when I did, I discovered that the integrated headset's bearing was missing. That's bad. But a quick call to Performancebike produced a headset in the mail a few days later, free of charge. I was impressed. That's better service than I would have expected from an online retailer.

Anyway, I decided to customize the frame. Choosing the color was easy for me because I have a fetish for yellow bicycles. I stripped it myself ($8) and then had it powdercoated signal-yellow for $40. I like the powercoat look. Its elegance is its simplicity. And powdercoating is bombproof. There's no need for frame protectors bespoken from branded bar tape provided by sponsors.

The rest of the CX stuff
I asked around some more. With Jim Maaske I bartered a set of well used Rolf wheels, handlebars and avid shorty brakes in exchange for regular barbs towards Shim on this blog. Which reminds me, what four letter word begins with a J and ends in E-R-K? Answer: SHIM. Ka-ching! There's another payment in the books.

From Munson, I acquired a front brake lever, a used nine speed Tiagra brifter, an Ultegra triple chainring with razor sharp teeth and a very worn in set of Vittoria cross tires.

What I contributed: the rear derailleur, pedals and chain, all castaways from Old Yeller.

Now here's the important part. I didn't have the tools or the whereabouts to get all of these parts assembled onto the bike. So what I did was to have the Omaha Trek Store do that for me.

Since I did the project on a small budget, I was able to add a Salsa Ring Dinger bash guard and an N-gear Jump Stop to keep the chain in place on race day. I estimate that I spent $500 on the project, and about a quarter of that was for labor at the shop. And of the amount that I spent on labor, about 15% of that was spent on beer to keep the mechanics happy. That's smart money, right there.

My CX bike may not look like much, but it's been great fun to have. I've raced it, banged out some long winter gravel rides on it, and have used it as a dirty commuter.

There you go, the art of the !Pro (commoner's) build. If I can do this, you can too.

Happy Friday, everyone.

Friday, July 22, 2011

How I Could Talk Then

Sunday's road race was long and hot. Like I said earlier in the week, I was surprised when the high tempo and attacks came early in what was going to be a test of endurance in the upper 90F heat and high humidity. Despite sitting at the back for the first half of the race, I still felt like poo. I'd describe it as a feeling of riding a bicycle while running a fever of about 102F.

I was able to regroup after the break got away and the peloton settled down. We were riding at a much more comfortable pace. I had also unzipped my jersey for extra ventilation. But the biggest factor was the ice-cold water bottle hand-ups from MWCC volunteers Mike Munson and Kevin Gilinsky. That was huge.

Photo by Dan Farnam

Post-race, Eric O'Brien and I talked about our race strategy. Eric confided that the hill taxed him mentally. I agreed that it was tough, but continued to say that I focused on the cold water bottle at the top instead of the battle in the heat of the climb. In the end, my success was largely due to the cold water bottles.

I offer the following as testimony. At the base of the final climb, after nearly three hours of suffering in sultry heat, the pack was beyond beaten down. It was eerily quiet. There was no chatter. None were motivated to launch a preemptive strike. We were all simply toiling away towards the finish line.

But just as the road pitched up for the final time, I was suddenly overcome with a rush of adrenalin and found myself announcing to the pack, "Hey everyone, Spence just told me that he has volunteered to lead a bonus lap after we all make it to the top."

I'm not kidding, I really said that.

Chris Spence was wasn't in the mood. He bared his teeth and bellowed back, "How in the hell can you even talk right now, man?" He might have said a few other words with it, but that's the gist of it. Anyway, after saying that, his body seemed to deflate over his bike. He was a broken man, riding backwards as the pack surged ahead.

My hamstrings seized when I stood a moment later. I too was riding backwards. But at that point, it no longer mattered. For I knew that just a little further up the hill -- beyond the finish line -- a cold water bottle was waiting for me.

And that's how I could talk right then, Chris.

Happy Friday, Spence. Happy Friday, everyone

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

If the Skinsuit Fits, Wear It

This past weekend’s TT was the first time I had a complete aero getup. Most of it wasn’t mine. In fact, the only things that were mine was my 2007 Cervelo p2sL frame, a Giro TT helmet and my race shoes. Let’s talk about how I came about the rest. There’s some good stuff there.

Having just acquired a time trial skinsuit (we'll get to that later), I needed a set of aero shoe covers. The local bike store didn't have any so I went to the twitterverse for a pair:

BradyMurphy Brady Murphy
No TT shoe covers for tomorrow. That's ok, Munson says he create duct-tape shoe covers *and* a duct-disc wheel out of my Easton trainers

ericeobrien Eric O'Brien
@BradyMurphy I have 3 extra pairs, but you can't borrow them. You're already too damn fast.

BradyMurphy Brady Murphy
I'll only wear 1 pair of shoe covers. Promise! RT: @ericeobrien:I have 3 extra pairs, but you can't borrow them.You're already too damn fast

By the way, if anyone could make a duct-tape disc wheel, it's Munson. In fact, my money says he already has.

Eric relented on the shoe covers. When I dropped by to pick them up, he also lent me his Flashpoint 80mm aero rear wheel. He was going to be using a full disc and could loan the Flashpoint to me. Thanks, Eric.

Then the next morning, Mike Miles lent me an extra Zipp 303 front wheel that was apparently collecting cobwebs in his garage. Thanks, Mike.

Now for the skinsuit. It's a throwback HighGear/Lincoln Bicycle Company suit. As Bryan pointed out to me, both of those entities are now defunct. Lincoln Bicycle company disappeared over three years ago. High Gear was renamed the Trek Store Papillion when it moved last year from LaVista. Even more, High Gear was also the original name of the Midwest Cycling Community race team. That team name goes back at least five years. Yes, this was a vintage skinsuit. It has been around the blocks a few times before I ever laid eyes on it.

Ok, I’ll just throw it out there: it belonged to Munson.

Yes, my boys were down there in Munson’s old skin suit. I know. I know. Ick, right? But detergents like OxyClean have progressed so much over the years. And it was clean when I picked it up, but just to be sure, I soaked and washed it again.

Nonetheless, the attacks came, and they were brutal.

Bryan: Take that thing off. I’m not standing on that podium next to you, while you’re wearing Munson’s defunct skin suit. Anyway, that’s just gross.

Brady: But it was clean. And to be sure, I washed it with Oxy-

Marc W: --moron. You washed it in oxy-moron.

Brady: No, I pre-soaked it before - -

Bryan: - -boiling it. Please tell me you boiled that thing - -

Marc W: - - on the stove, in a big vat of Miller High Life, before putting it on ...

And so forth.

Yes, I was desperate for a skinsuit. But I gotta say, this skinsuit had no funk other than my own when I was done with it. It looks pretty darn good if you ask me. And apparently, Munson left a few good time trials in it before handing it over. Thanks, Mike.

Hey, if the skinsuit fits, wear it.

Photo by Dan Farnam

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

2 Timothy 4:7

Photo by Dan Farnam

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith." NASB (©1995)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Omaha Weekend Race Report

The Cornhusker State games time trial was the first of three races I competed in at this year's Omaha cycling weekend. The out and back 13.6 mile TT course was redesigned this year, and it's a good one. It features long sections of relatively flat roads on a new asphalt surface, a steep descent with a sweeping turn, and a helluva steep climb about three miles from the finish. I had a good race. I lit the jets from the start, stayed aero through the descent & turn, held steady on the flats, powered up the steep ascent and punched it for the last 2K home. I covered the 13.6 miles in 30 minutes and 13 seconds, which I'm proud to say is the first TT in which I broke through the 27 MPH avg ceiling. Results

Photo by Dan Farnham

Later that day, I raced the cat 3 Papillion Twilight crit. The course is in downtown Papillion, featuring a long false flat through the first four corners, a short descent followed by a small but steep climb in corners 5-6, a long descent and a wide sweeping turn on corner 7 before a sharp turn and 150m to the start/finish. Saturday was miserably hot. Like 95F with a heat index of 110. Our race started fast. The break occurred about ten minutes into the race. In it was Lee Bumgarner (Flatwater), Kyle McClellan (KAOS), Darren Richter (unattached), Ryan Feagan (MWCC) and I. While we still had 40 minutes of racing, this group had a decent chance at staying away because the big teams were represented in the break. We held a good pace to distance ourselves from the peloton. With teammate Feagan in the break, I attacked twice. After the second attack, Bumgarner countered, forcing me to dig deep to latch back on. Our attacks ended up shedding Richter and Feagan. That didn't work as planned. Sorry, Ryan. Then, Bumgarner kept the heat on for the next three laps, burying me, too. I gave in, sat up and waited until teammates Feagan and Jonathan Wait (MWCC) bridged up . From there, the three of us held tempo for the last seven laps. Ryan unselfishly led us out for the finish. Wait took third, I was fourth, Feagan fifth. Congrats to Bumgarner and McClellan for first and second respectively. Results

Finally, the Dave Babcook Memorial road race on Sunday was a war of attrition. The cat 1-2-3s started together for a 72 mile race on a seven mile circuit course, covering much of the same ground as the TT the day before. On a scorching day of 97F and 115 heat index with a steady 15-20 MPH southerly wind, a four hour road race with 10 trips up a steep hill wasn't going to be pretty. Given all this, I was surprised that the attacks came often and early. We weren't even five miles into the race before somebody up front gutter-balled the pace-line on a crosswind before the first hill climb. It didn't stop there. A short while after climbing the hill, the next furious attack and more gutter-balling came on an even nastier crosswind section. It was like this for the first three laps, or until Lou Waugaman (Velosport Iowa) and Marc Walter (KAOS) got away. But with 50 miles to go, they sat up after a couple laps and were brought back in. The group chilled out through the next lap. At least most of us did. That's when many of us in the peloton found out that we were actually chasing Justin Maresh (KAOS) and Lee Bumgarner (Flatwater), who were apparently 1:25 up the road. We let them go and over three laps put 4 minutes on the peloton. With three laps to go, some of the 1-2 guys got motivated to shake their numbers down. The attacks started again. Redemske & I marked cat 3 Mark Merritt (Joy Ride) when he went with the chase group. I managed to hold on while Bryan fell off. When it came to the final hill climb, my quads seized. Merritt rode away to take second, I took third. Congratulations to Maresh and Bumgarner for their impressive victories. Results

A big thanks goes out to race directors Craig Tuttle and Mark Stursma for coordinating these events. The races were very well organized and had terrific payouts. And many thanks goes out to the scores of volunteers, especially those handing out water at the feed zone, Sunday. There could have been a thousand other things that you could have been doing with your time than standing alongside a country highway-- in that heat and humidity-- handing up cold water bottles to us racers. I can't tell you enough how much we appreciated it. Indeed, well done all.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Vampire Threat Level: DANGER

Once again, we're on the verge of another TT, the Cornhusker State Games TT, which of course brings out the best among us. And by best, I mean super-human, non-dead, flesh-eating-gory-best. And as sure as I am to being dropped on the sprint to Ft Calhoun, my arch enemies in Lincoln, the KAOS Vampire coven, have been fasting and sharpening their vampire fangs, or whatever their pre-slaughter ritual is, for this event.

So will the MWCC Lycans/werewolves (dogs) answer the call and show up to the race? Well, with the moon at full phase on Saturday July 16th, I'd say the chances are good for a show down.

But, who knows? MWCC's Kevin Burke is going to be out of town. And while it's true that Paul Webb's broken elbows are mending well, they still might be a little tender for the aero position. And that dog Shim will probably be saving his legs for two crits. That, and marking every tree along the Papillion course as his 'territory'. Kent's probably recovering somewhere along the Italian riviera from his most recent eurotrash gran fondo. And there's a good chance that MOD will be sitting in his underwear, roto-tweeting how his man-crush Philip Gilbert is faring on the Col de Latrape.

Sorry, KAOS. I think you guys will be on your own again.

Regardless, it's gonna be a hot & sunny one out there on Saturday. And that got me wondering, how is it that vampires can now brave the flesh-burning sunlight?

Well, one theory being tossed around is that a former teammate of yours is openly dispensing KAOS team secrets on gamjams-midwest. Yes, Bryan Redemske is a recovering vampire and a current pet-project of the MWCC lycans.

Photo credit: David Allen Seevers

By the way, Bryan's rehabilitation is coming along nicely. We're on to the final step of recovery, which according to the 12 Step Vampire Recovery Program, consists of daily feedings of Heinz 57 splattered on the neck of a used department store mannequin.

Anyway, here's how a recovering vampire copes with the sunlight.

It doesn't take long in the summer to burn your dome if its left unprotected. In my experience, Ozone Sport pretty much takes care of that. It's SPF 60 — pretty heavy-duty stuff... only one application for a five-hour ride.

Great. Thanks a lot, Ozone Sport. We're spared skin cancer in exchange for Count Dracula on a TT bike. So with five hours of protection and no MWCC dogs to boot, I'd say the KAOS coven is going to destroy whatever's in their path.

To this bit of ominous news, I heed the warning provided by my friend James Peters, who wrote me this recently:

My wife and I were up in the pacific northwest last year. Apparently we drove into Forks, WA and didn't realize that's where the Twilight series was filmed. Based on the recent entries, I think you may want to include this in your next vampire entry.

Vampire Threat Level: DANGER, indeed.

See you at the races. Happy Friday everyone

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Mr Kitty, the Garage Door and the Pet Cemetery

Steve Tilford's blog has had a thing or two about rescuing cats lately. It got me thinking about my childhood cat, Mr Kitty.

Originally, the family cat's name was Jade. Dad got him and his litter mate, Misty, on a business trip while selling banking equipment to a rural bank. Apparently, the transaction wasn't going too well until Dad agreed to take home a couple kittens that the branch manager wanted to unload. So Dad closed the deal and brought home the two cats in a cardboard box. Win-win. My sister named them Jade and Misty for their solid grey coats with greenish blue eyes. Misty's name stuck. But not Jade's. He went through a bunch of names before we finally settled on 'Mr. Kitty.'

The name of Mr Kitty was given to him by our piano tuner, Mr Brooks. Mr Brooks was a black man from the deep south. He liked to talk to our cat with a raspy southern twang while tuning our piano. Why, hello dere Misser Kitty! Well take a look at you, struttin' yer stuff.... Aint ya proud, Misser Kitty!.... and so forth. Anyway, the Mr Brooks' nickname stuck and from then on the cat was known as Mr Kitty.

Years later, my parents went out for a date one evening, leaving us kids behind. Dad backed out the 1976 Pontiac Grand Safari 'catholic-cruiser' station wagon from the garage while Mom stood by the garage door's button. Mom was at the garage door button because there was something wrong with the door's remote controller. Or more likely, there wasn't a remote controller because back then, the 400 MHz rolling code transmitter/receiver unit hadn't been invented yet. Regardless, after the car cleared the garage, she punched the button and scurried beneath the closing door and into the car waiting in the driveway.

Dad was about to continue reversing when he noticed that Mr. Kitty was also scurrying to avoid the closing garage door. But while Mom ran across the garage floor, Mr Kitty was running upward along the outside slope of the closing door's panels. Yes, like he was on a huge treadmill. But unfortunately for Mr Kitty, the treadmill was coming to an end, and it wasn't going end pretty. Mr Kitty would either fall to the ground or get wedged between the door and the top of the garage.

How Mr Kitty got up there will always be a mystery. We figured that he jumped up on top of the door while it was open and the car was parked beneath it. I suppose to a cat, a warm high perch away from the hustle of a bunch of kids made a lot of sense. Apparently, his exit strategy was to jump down on the car beneath. Unfortunately, he lacked the foresight of knowing that the car might not always be there.

I doubt that was going through Mr. Kitty's mind at that moment. That goes for my parents, too, as they watched in horror as Mr Kitty kept running upward while the door continued closing.

Mom bolted out of the car before the final panel sealed the door and Mr Kitty to the top of the garage. But she didn't run toward the garage; she ran towards the front door. Remember: Mom was effectively the garage door's remote control, and now she had to go through the house to get to the button.

We kids were watching TV. Vanna White turning letters on Wheel of Fortune or something of the like while our cat was wedged into the top of the garage. Who knows, somebody might have been buying a vowel while poor Mr Kitty's head was about to pop off. All of a sudden, the doorbell was ringing like crazy. So fast, you could only hear the ring of the first chime among the flurry of electro-static buzzing that came from an over-loaded switch.

We all ran to the front door. From Mom's nearly unintelligible words, I managed to hear that Mr Kitty was stuck on top of the garage door. Mr. Kitty, stuck and garage door all seemed to work neatly together, but on top? Now, that didn't make sense at all. But there was no time to question it. We raced back through the dining room, kitchen and family room. I was the first to the garage, but I had run so fast through the garage access door that I shot past the garage door button and stumbled down the steps. Two of my brothers also tumbled behind me, Keystone Cops style. Finally somebody managed to push the button. The door opened and released our poor cat from the top of the door to the concrete below.

Dad said later that when the garage opened, Mr Kitty hit the ground like a sack of potatoes. Mr. Kitty laid there motionless. He appeared to be dead.

But after a few moments, Mr Kitty stirred, got up and stumbled away from the garage. Pilled-up furballs fell from his body. He wasn't happy and his meows sounded like a warped vinyl record, but he was alive. Dad scooped him up and loaded him into the Grand Safari, and with all of us kids, drove to the vet to have him checked out. In the end, other than some very heavy bruising, he was fine.

There. That's it folks. No Vampires, no lycans; no shark jumpings and no reanimated cats from pet cemeteries in today's post. Just a simple house cat that got pinched at the top of a garage door that lived another day. In fact he did more than just that: Mr Kitty thrived another 15 years before dying at the ripe old age of 22. He was an awesome cat.

Happy Friday, and RIP Mr Kitty

Friday, July 1, 2011

Stuntman Sam

Among the many things that come to mind when I think of the Fourth of July is Evel Knievel. That starry red white and blue jumpsuit probably has something to do with it. He also did a lot of jumps in the summer, many of them televised around the holiday weekend. I loved the thrill of watching his jumps. I even had one of those action figure and motorcycle get-ups that I'd launch down a flight of stairs.

I've always been somewhat a sucker for cheap thrills. Here's one such incident that also came to mind when I thought of Evel Knievel.

Back in second grade there was a rumor going around that a fourth grader named Sam Gibson was going to attempt to jump his bicycle over a local golf course pond. It was being billed as something like Knievel jumping the shark tank, only this was a 4th grader on a bmx bike jumping over lake carp. Anyway, I was intrigued. I pushed my way up through the cafeteria line to hear the ring leader, Mickey 'Jonesy' Jones, telling a bunch of us wide-eyed kids what 'Stuntman Sam' Gibson was going to do later that day. Jonesy worked up the hype until he had us all feeding out of his hand. Then he hit us with the unexpected: Gibson was going to charge 50 cents admission to watch it.

In cafeteria terms, 50 cents was a lot when you could buy a box of lemon-drink for a dime, a bag of BBQ potato chips for 15 cents, and a rectangular slice of soggy pizza or a soybean hamburger for 40 cents. Shoot, that was good money.

But Jonesy was selling it like a carnival freak. He had me dialed in on the pitch: Today only, a caped Stuntman Sam Gibson, flying over Greenbriar Hills #7's pond on a jet-black wonder bike. My stomach growled. I was hungry. But no soybean burger was going to satisfy the hunger I had that day. My appetite was whet for thrills. So I stepped boldly forward, plopped down two quarters and told him I'd be there.

The afternoon's phonics lessons were a total loss. All I could think about was Gibson's dare-devil feat. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the dismissal bell rang. I made like the wind for the golf course to get a front row seat.

Greenbriar Hills hole #7 is a 97 yard par three over a small pond. The tee box is elevated 30 feet above the pond. I arrived to find two people standing next to a 2 x 10 plank ramp propped up with a cinder block at the foot of the pond. One person was another classmate, David Carey, the other was the event promoter, Jonesy. I was dismayed by the low attendance and reasoned that perhaps 50 cents was too steep a price for admission. But more importantly was the noticeable absence of Gibson. I held out hope that he hadn't gone yellow on us.

Brady: Hey Jonesy, where's Gibson?

Jonesy: Relax kid. He's getting ready.

Getting ready? Where? While there was a half-way house nearby, it was closed during the 0ff-season and it's bathrooms locked up. Other than that, there was only open space surrounded by a thick line of trees marking the out of bounds territory.

Jonesy then clears his throat, takes a step forward, opens his arms and calls out:

Jonesy: Ladies and Gentlemen may I have your attention...

I looked at the other person standing there. Carey rolled his eyes while Jonsey bantered on...

Jonesy: ...Today only, for the amazingly low admission price of 50 cents, you will get to witness "Stuntman Sam" Gibson attempt to do what no other fourth grader, or possibly anyone ever, has ever tried: to clear Greenbriar Hills country club's #7 pond on a bicycle. Many have likely considered it, but none have been so daring as Stuntman Sam! Let's give him a big round of applause.

Jonesy looks at me and makes me feel uncomfortable. He's actually expecting us to clap. He nods his head in encouragement and apparently won't continue until we comply. We being to clap feebly. Jonesy turns to face the #7 tee box and continues

Jonesy: ... Stuntman Sam, are you ready?

From the thicket behind the tee box, the pre-pubescent voice of Gibson squeaks out "READY!" My heart rate kicks up a notch. I wasn't going to be disappointed.

Jonesey: Drum roll, please!

Another a glance toward us, the two spectators, to animate a drumming sound. We eagerly join in this time.

Jonesy: OK Stuntman Sam, this is it. On your marks, get set, Go!!!

Gibson comes charging out of the thicket on his black bmx wonder bike. He's also dressed in all black, but best of all was a flowing black cape.

I should also point out that he wasn't wearing a helmet. But back then, nobody wore helmets.

A transformation had taken place in my eyes. No longer was Sam Gibson a simple fourth grader. No, he had become a dare devil stuntman that was spinning like a monkey toward that plank. At that moment, I believed he had a legitimate chance to clear the lake.

Reaching terminal velocity, Gibson's front wheel enters the ramp. A moment later, he's airborne, flying over the lake --

^^ CHOMP ^^

What the -- ??

I felt a sharp, stabbing pain in my neck, and through my peripheral vision, I see Jonesy's vampire fangs...



Gotcha again.

Happy Friday everyone

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Vampires on TT Bikes

Yesterday, Ian Robertson posted a theory that pitted Lincoln's KAOS roadies as vampires against Omaha's MWCC lycans (warewolves).

I have a theory that Cat 1-2 Kaos riders are vampires and Cat 1-2 Midwest Cycling Community riders are lichens and they can’t be in the same race at the same time.

It got me thinking. Perhaps Ian is onto something here. But why restrict it to just the KAOS riders? Perhaps all Lincoln roadies could be infected by the blood-sucker's bite.

So what if Ian was also a vampire? It's been said that vampires don't cast a reflection. Perhaps his race timing chip was affected by this phenomenon, because the chip apparently didn't reflect his official time, either.

I can imagine the scene at the Velo-GreenStreet Team HQ last Friday night as they went through the final race day's checklist.

Duryea: Did you get the timing chips picked up, Randleman?

Randleman: Yeah. I picked up the TT-1000 Timing Chip system today.

Duryea: What?! The TT-1000 system is total crap! I told you: get the TT-2000 because it's paranormally-tuned and undead compliant.

Fortunately for Ian, Garmin saved the day

Nice job to Jarred for putting 39s into me over 24mi. Still lusting after that wind-tunnel experience of his!
53:39 for 24mi today (no idea how correct that distance measurement is until I get the Garmin downloaded) … Hoped to do faster, but never really felt on top of the gear. Note to self – ride tt bike more

I don't know about you, but TTs are already scary enough. And now, thanks to Garmin, vampires' times can also be recorded when they throw the 55-12 hammer down at local TT races.

But I still wasn't satisfied. So, looking for more clues, I studied David Seever's photos from last week's State Championship TT. Tell me if you don't agree with my keen eye at picking a vampire

Overall TT Winner, Jarred Berger, and a Lincoln KAOS vampire

Joe McWilliams, from Lincoln KAOS, another one

Marc Walter, Lincoln KAOS and possible vampire

Ian Robertson, also from Lincoln, also a vampire

Greg Hagele, Ian's teammate and member of the Flatwater coven

MWCC's Kevin Burke. The first flaw in Ian's theory. But as the founder of KAOS and a Lincolnite, Kevin is quite likely a vampire

Eric O'Brien. Whoops, an Omaha MWCC dude. Oh well, there goes Ian's theory. But hang on, Eric's also a transplant from California and likely a repressed vampire, resorting to drinking pig blood.

And what about Shim? He's like older than Methuselah. I bet that he's a vam --


Hang on, somebody's at my front door.

Well Hi, Ian. Why, that's funny, I was just blogging about your vampire theory when, wait a minute. You don't look so good. You look absolutely famished, and your eyes...they're are all red and stuff. Are you alrig --

^^ CHOMP ^^



Friday, June 24, 2011

Flashback Friday: If Paul Harvey was at this Year's Norfolk Classic

Hello Wholesome Steel-Cut Goodness readers. You know what the news is, and in a minute, you're going to read... the rest of the story.

Reel 1:
It was the Norfolk Classic Road Race weekend and everything was all abuzz. Yes, there was lots of excitement in the air, for this was no ordinary road race. It was the one to settle them all. For the year 2011 at least, one victor would climb the stairs at the end of the race to stand proudly above the rest, adorned with a shiny gold medal signifying his glorious achievement. Yes, indeed folks, it was the State Championship road race weekend, and the Norfolk Classic was the gracious host.

And it was a beautiful day in hand for this year's Classic. Now let's pick up on the action, where this day's news of most lasting significance is about to be told.

The scene was a county highway, a flat section alongside vast cornfields famous for whipping up notorious crosswinds. The group had just gone through a feed zone and no one in the pack was motivated to move. Our good man was getting antsy. Time was running short. He carefully chose his moment, and swinging wide to the outside, dropped the hammer and pinned it. He got clear! Our man was on the attack and he was making good ground.

That's when he looked up and saw the rollers approaching down the road.

And by rollers, I don't mean hills. No, my good friends reading this story today, by rollers, I mean a Nebraska State Patrol car.

Yes indeed, our man was caught in a predicament and probably wouldn't want us to mention his name right now...

Perhaps this young man would have seen those rollers sooner if he had taken his Hi-Health dietary supplements like I do. Have you heard about the good news from Hi-Health? Developed from the extracts of neolithic Scandinavian tundra that have been scientifically reconstituted in hydroponic labs in Scranton, PA, Hi-Health supplements have not only stabilized my vision, but improved it drastically. Why just the other day, I was able to clearly see from three bike lengths away that my friend's unidirectional ten speed Dura-Ace chain was installed backwards. Hi-Health is where it's at, folks. Remember that name: Hi-Health supplements.

Reel 2
No, those rollers weren't hills. It was the Nebraska State Patrol's Dodge Charger that was barreling toward him. And it was not the Norfolk Classic that our good man was in that early Saturday morning. No, it was the pre-race race to the Norfolk Classic. You see, the feed zone he just passed through was a McDonalds restaurant, and it wasn't exactly fast-food that morning. So due to an extraordinary long wait for an order flapjacks, he was making up for lost time on a stretch of Hwy 275 just outside of West Point.

When he saw the cruiser, our man quickly shifted the foot from the accelerator and started applying pressure to the brake. The needle was falling, but not fast enough. He was doing well over the posted speed limit of 60.

Meanwhile, NSP Trooper Bruning had him dialed in on his radar. He swung wide onto his shoulder and flipped the u-turn to chase the speeder down.

I imagine it was quite a scene from a rear view mirror: a thick dust cloud kicked up from the shoulder formed a marvelous backdrop while the Charger pursued with lights-a-blazing. The gap was closed quickly. Another speeding ticket was about to be in the books.

As the dust settled, Trooper Bruning stepped out of the cruiser. A Smokey Bear hat, a crisply starched khaki uniform and spit & polish black boots that crunched the gravel with authority, he was all business. There would be no soft warning today, folks. Bruning informed our man that he was doing 74 in a 60 MPH zone, then asked for license, registration and proof of insurance. He wrote the ticket, explained that he could pay the fine, protest in court, or take a STOP class to have it expunged from the record. The officer made a final plea to drive safely and let our man go about his business.

I'm sure right about now, our good man would not want his name revealed to our reading audience...

Reel 3
The whole affair took about 15 minutes. 15 minutes of precious time whittled away from the clock. And now, speeding to the race was out of the question. But without breaking any laws, he made it safely to the race to join his MWCC teammates with only minutes to spare.

Who was this spurned speeder?

Was it MWCC's Feagan, Marshall, O'Brien? How about Redemske, Savery or Webb? They were all at the race that day.

I will give you a clue. Our man wasn't at last Wednesday night's group ride either. No, he had chosen instead to take the STOP class this past Wednesday.

What about Shim? Was he the guilty party? While he missed the start of Wednesday's ride and has received a speeding ticket in West Point on Norfolk Classic race weekend, it wasn't from this past year's classic.

If not Shim, then who?

Our good man, the one who received the speeding ticket in West Point that day, and the same person who sat in the Red Room at the Ramada for eight hours this past Tuesday and Wednesday nights was Brady. And in the 25 years of driving, it was his first speeding ticket to boot.

And now you know the rest of the story.

Signing off as WSCG... Good day

Friday, June 17, 2011

Cats Are Steve Tilford's Kryptonite

Since gamjams-midwest began picking up feeds from professional cyclist Steve Tilford sometime last year, I've become a regular follower of Steve's blog. I like his blog because I'm a relative newbie to road racing and could use as much good advice as I can get. He brings plenty of that.

But what I also like about his blog is that it's not always about cycling. Take this past Wednesday's post, where Tilford suffered another cat bite:

I was trying to catch the mother cat yesterday to take to the vet to get spayed and thought I was past the cat-bites-the-human part of the relationship, but I was wrong. She chomped down on my finger pretty good. Nothing hurts more initially that a good cat bite. I think it is because their teeth go all the way to the bone.

Something's amiss. In his lengthy career, Tilford has been involved in more crashes than I care to think about, but seemingly nothing hurts more initially than a good cat bite? Yeesh. Unconvinced, I did some research on Tilford's injuries. Here's what he had to say in Pez Cycling news last October:

One time in the Milk Race I broke my leg, hand and collar bone and was back racing at the Coors Classic within five weeks. I've broken my collar bone pretty often, that heals in about three weeks.
-- Pez-Talk, American Legend Steve Tilford

Did he really just trivialize broken collarbone(s)?! And the Coors Classic in just five weeks from multiple fractures? No wonder he's called the 'cyborg'. And yet, because Tilford doesn't have a spleen (afraid to ask why), this cat bite will probably sideline him for a month due to the risk of blood infection.

Let's recap: that's five weeks for broken leg, hand and collarbone, four weeks for cat bite or three weeks for a routine broken collar bone. Wait. What was that -- a month for a cat bite? Suffice it to say, it's probably not the crashes that keeps Steve awake at night. No, it's being bitten by another cat.

Cats are apparently Steve Tilford's kryptonite.

Anyway, I may not be able to offer any cycling advice to a seasoned pro like Steve Tilford, but I have successfully caught an angry cat or two in my time. And since Steve has had more than one bad cat nabbing outcome, I'm assuming that (he's reading this and) could use a tip here or there to get him through the next time he squares up against his feline nemesis. So while that finger mends, pop another antibiotic and read on, Mr. Steve Tilford, because this one's for you.


On a bitterly cold winter night years ago, I awoke to hear my cat Newton making those really low, guttural tones that escalate slowly into the higher decibels. I got up to check out what was going on. Newton was upset that a feral cat was at the sliding glass back door. It was definitely a stray: an unkempt orange tabby with a chunk of ear missing. And, one couldn't help but notice that the family jewels were well in-tact. Yes indeed, this fella was a wild one, and he either wanted to come in from the cold, or make a territorial claim against Newton.

Newton, RIP 2005

With the wind and all, the temperature outside felt like -20F. I assumed that the tomcat wanted to come in from the cold. But it was 1:00 AM, what could I do? I went back to bed and wrestled with my conscience under a heated blanket. I wasn't about to let a wild cat into my house, so I decided on a compromise. I setup a space heater and some of Newton's bedding in the three-season, enclosed porch and then let the tomcat in there. My guilt relieved, I went back to bed.

But in a short while, the tomcat and Newton started that eerie trash-talking again.

So I got up once more, put some water and cat food out there and then covered half the door's window panels with paper so the tomcat couldn't see inside to Newton. Heat, food, water and privacy. That's pretty good for a stray cat. Contented once more, I went back to bed.

The peace and quiet lasted all of about two minutes before the commotion started again.

So I got up for the third time. This time, I found that the tomcat had climbed all the way up the backside of the porch door and was hanging from his front paws to look through the top row of uncovered windows. That cat didn't want shelter from the harsh weather outside, nor was he hungry or thirsty. All along, all he wanted was to rumble with Newton.

Now I was determined to resolve the issue once and for all. So pay attention Tilford, here's what I did. I got fully dressed in cat-catching garb, which included jeans, a heavy flannel long-sleeve shirt, leather boots and heavy leather work gloves. I then grabbed a large cardboard box and duct tape and went to work at catching a feral cat that was set on staking a territorial claim.

It wasn't pretty. The tomcat put up a good fight with lots of hissing, kicking, clawing and attempted biting as I hauled him in. But by the time all the fur-balls settled, I was scratch-free with one very pissed off cat sealed inside a cardboard box.

I then loaded him into the car for a drive. Now my friend Shim probably would have driven to the Mormon bridge and thrown the box with cat inside into the icy Missouri river below. But what I did instead was to take the cat to the Omaha Humane Society. Even at 1:30 AM, our local Humane Society accepts strays. As an aside, the Omaha Humane Society is truly humane to our dumb friends. They have a heated room with an empty cage for strays that's monitored by the Humane Society's staff 24/7. See Shim, no need to dump cats in rivers.

So there you go, Mr Tilford. You probably already knew this stuff. But just in case, wear some heavy work gloves the next time you need to grab that mother cat.

It's either that or another ten days of horse pills and a month off the bike.

Mend well, Steve Tilford.

Happy Friday, everyone

Friday, June 10, 2011

State Championships Are Earned at State Championships

I used to follow Charles Schultz' Peanuts when I was a kid. Sunday comics, books and holiday specials brought the peanut gallery to life. Favorites included Linus and the nativity scene, Snoopy as the Red Baron, Peppermint Patty and who could forget Pig-Pen.

But if I had to reduce it all down to one frame, I'd pick Charlie Brown, Lucy and the football. Somehow, Charles Schultz managed to capture the essence of Charlie Brown's tenacious character in that scene. How many times would he line up to kick that ball only to have Lucy snatch it away at the last second? It seemed that it appeared in in the Sunday comics about once a month, was in every comic book, and in every holiday TV special.

You got to hand it to Charlie for never giving up. For better or worse, he was resolved to accomplish that goal of beating Lucy at her own game.

My friend Mike Miles reminds me a little of Charlie Brown's character. Not in the blockhead sort of way, but because of Mike's tenacious character. Since I met him in 2009, Mike's road racing has seen more than a fair share of good chances at a podium snatched away by defeat near or at the last moment of the races. I can imagine the frustration of being so close and yet seemingly so far away. But despite the setbacks, he's one of the most dedicated racers around.

I've ridden a lot with Mike. He handles his bike well. He has good power numbers that come from calf muscles that look like volleyballs. Sprinting is one of his strengths. So you'd think he'd do well in a field sprint.

But like I said, often with the finish line in sight, victory has been snatched away. At last year's Babcock Road race, he was in good position for the field sprint when carnage broke out that sent him into a ditch. At the Pioneer Park Grand Prix a few weeks ago, another rider crashed in front of him, forcing him off the course. And if not for interference from other riders, then it's been a host of mechanical setbacks -- flats & dropped chains -- that have kept his number from making it into the final selection.

That's bike racing sometimes.

So at this past weekend's crit, our good man Miles was looking great, riding third wheel with a half lap to go. It was like Charlie Brown lining up to kick that football out of Lucy's hands once again...

The field rounded the last corner and began the final 400 meters of frenzy. It was going to be decided in a large field sprint. Though he was third wheel moments before, Mike was nowhere to be found. At about 150m, I distinctly remember thinking, 'where is he?' It was at that moment that Mike made his move. Suddenly, I saw his head pop up as he came out from hiding and was in a full standing sprint in tight traffic. John Lefler Jr. was swallowing the microphone calling the exciting finish.

photo credit: Devin Bethune
Looks like persistence paid off this time.

Congratulations on a State Championship, Mike Miles. That was a well-earned win.

Happy Friday, Mike Miles.

And happy Friday, everyone else

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

State Championships Aren't Decided on Wednesdays

Some might say that the Nebraksa State Championship road and criterium championships were soured by a low turnout among the Cat 1-2-3 field. Yes, that was disappointing. I can imagine even more so for the organizers of the event, Elkhorn Valley Cycling club.

But make no doubt about it. The low turnout was not a reflection of the quality of the races that were put on this past weekend. The Norfolk crew and local race officials deserve accolades for the race they put on. Thank you!

But I still wondered, was the low turnout at a State Championship weekend due to it being hosted (remotely) in Norfolk? At more than two hours by car, Norfolk is just far enough to make one choose between the lesser of two inconveniences: a five hour round trip each day, or in staying overnight. But as a State Championship venue, Norfolk also makes for an ideal location because of its neutrality as its nearly equidistant from Nebraska's most populated areas of Omaha & Lincoln.

Perhaps it was due to a lack of motivated racers in Nebraska? But this is obviously not the case. Last Wednesday night, there were 39 riders on the local Trek Store Omaha ride. No, there's a healthy appetite for racing around here.

Perhaps it's because of us. You and me. Perhaps we roadies simply need to do a better job of recruiting.

Recruiting is simply a matter of asking a non-racer, "When are you going to start racing?"

That's all it took for me. Four years ago, I didn't even own a bike. At the time, running filled that competitive void for me. Sometime later, my brother gave me a very well-used road bike and suggested doing triathlons. Soon, I was joining in on small group rides. Then came the Wednesday Night Worlds (WNW). My bike handling improved tremendously. So did my triathlon bike splits. I soon found myself looking forward to cycling more than running.

But I was still on the fence about racing.

If not for cyclists asking me when I was going to start racing, I may never have moved beyond the WNWs and inked my name on a single-day cat 5 license at the Norfolk Road Race two years ago. I've been all-in ever since.

Like me, did you wonder where the cyclists were this past weekend? It wasn't because of the the race, nor because of the location.

I say it's because of us. Recruiting grows our sport and makes for larger fields in all categories. It may take some time to get the younger riders into more competitive ones, but it's worth the effort. The benefits will be seen in more balanced teams and better competition. And as much as I enjoyed racing with the cat 1-2 field, as a cat 3 racer, I don't belong there. Wouldn't it have been great to see a field of 30, 40, 50! pro-1-2s duke it out for all the glory?

So next time you see that dude in the Pink Floyd jersey who shows up week upon week at your WNW ride, ask him when he's going to start racing for real.

Soon enough, you'll see him frantically pinning his number to his jersey in the parking lot on race day. And when you see this, make sure you go up to them and congratulate them for being there. Chris Spence did that to me. I'll never forget that.

So who's in with me?

Friday, June 3, 2011

There Will Be No Bacon Without Blood

This past Sunday, I joined up with eight others on what's known locally as the Bacon ride. It was my first undertaking of such an event.

Bacon ride participants Jonathan Neve, Mike Miles, Mark Savery & Eric Brunt. Not pictured: James Peters, David Randelman, Chris Goodall, Rafal Doloto

For those not in the know, the bacon ride is a round trip between Omaha and Platte River State Park, where a breakfast buffet complete with salted pig meat awaits. Much of the ride is on gravel and crushed limestone. As a result, most choose to ride cyclocross bikes.

It was a wet morning. A thunderstorm passed through at 4:00 AM, and another was threatening when we pushed off. Fortunately, we missed the storm and only had a few bouts of sprinkles. Still, the ground was soaked. The gravel wasn't too bad, but the crushed limestone was mushy in parts.

James Peters hydrates in Walnut Creek

There were many memorable moments on this ride. One of them was Rafal's crash on an old steel-trussed bridge spanning a swollen country creek.

Remember when Curly the Stooge would step on a wooden plank, only to have it come up and smack him in the face? Well, it was kinda like the inverse of that. As Rafal crossed the bridge, his front wheel neatly slipped into the expansion joint between two wooden planks. The wheel seized instantly. That's bad, especially when you're going about 20 mph, like Rafal was. However, the bike didn't stop moving. No, it continued to rotate around the front hub. Rafal had no time to react as the bike bucked him violently over the handle bars and onto the bridge decking.

Fortunately, both he and his bike were fine.

The same couldn't be said about his bibs:

Rafal's tattered bibs and road rash

I rolled up next to him a few minutes later to check how he was doing. What he said next was verbatim:

There will be no bacon without blood.

Yes! Our man was on a mission, and he was not going to be denied a seat at the Platte River State Park breakfast table that morning. Tattered bibs and road rash seemed to only motivate him more.

But before we got there, there was one more crash. A few miles down the road, Chris Goodall and I were riding and chatting side-by-side. We approached a sketchy corner at Hwy 50 and Hwy 66. As Chris rounded the inside corner, his tires washed out and slid into mine. Both of us went down. Then came a prolonged noise of aluminum scraping over wet concrete.

Remember folks, there will be no bacon without blood.

We were fine. Chris had some minor road rash, but otherwise okay.

The rest of the ride was relatively uneventful. In all, we covered 70 miles of beautiful country field roads, wooden planked bridges and crushed limestone trails.

Most importantly, Rafal got his bacon. In fact we all did, and even got some free high-fives to boot from the Lincoln crew who also rode in.

Good times.

If you haven't done a bacon ride, you really owe it to yourself to do so. I'm not saying that there'll be blood every week. There will certainly be bacon. But who knows? If you're lucky enough, perhaps Rafal will demonstrate how to wedge a front wheel into a bridge expansion joint just for giggles.

Happy Friday, everyone

Friday, May 27, 2011

Lawns Are For Mowing

While the patch of zoysia I keep on my front yard for my golf short game is still brown, the Kentucky bluegrass has finally starting taking hold. The recent re-seeding and the wet spring has sprouted into lush green that is now ready for mowing.

And yet people are already talking about cyclocross, or "Lawn Racing", as Shim derides it.

Mod got the cyclocross discussion started on Facebook this week:

I've been working on something special for CX season. It's about ready. Full zip, ankle to hip warm up tights

Really, 18 comments on cyclocross and it's not even Memorial Day yet?

Not to be outdone, Bryan Redemske dropped a cx bomb of his own:

Cronus CX built. And now I wait for my new shoes

Did anyone else catch that, or was I the only who detected a note of impatience from Bryan, who, having just built a top-of-the-line cyclocross bike, also has to go through the indignity of waiting for new shoes?

I've got two words for you, Bryan: boo hoo.

Now for goodness sake, can the two of you psychos show some constraint, already? Yes, yes, we all love 'cross. And as much as we're dazzled by your latest bike, shoes and zippy pants, cyclocross season is like four months away.

Oh what's the use. I give in. The truth is that I'm simply green with envy over Bryan's new bike and Mod's new duds. There, I admit it. I'm jealous. Yes, it's a cool bike. Enjoy it, Bryan. I wish I had one.

Oh well, I can probably afford to put in an order for the warm up tights.

Yes, you may even catch me wearing those warm ups on a cool summer morning. On that day, I'll zip up those full length jobbies, walk past the Madone, and choose to take my lawn rig out for a spin

At least for now, lawns are for mowing.

Happy Friday, everyone