Friday, January 21, 2011

Meet The Frickers

Yesterday evening, I was getting prepared to ride home when I saw that Rafal had wall-posted a Facebook invite for Jonathan Neve to join him for an evening run.

hey dude noah and are going running tonight

Though I wasn't invited, a spontaneous thought popped into my head: flash mob! I quickly decided to join in on the festivities unannounced.

Having ridden the famous UP lunch hour ride with buddies Shim and Leah earlier in the day (image -->), I had plenty of warm clothes from my winter kit to ride over to Rafal's house. Fortunately, I also had a clean pair of sweat pants and running shoes for the run portion in my locker at work. So I gathered up my stuff, kitted up and rode over to crash their party.

The impromptu flash mob consisted of four people: Rafal, Noah, Jonathan and I. I suppose running five miles had something to do with the poor turn out. It was also after work on a Thursday evening and quite dark . And it was 4°F.

Not very many takers for a bike-run flash mob this evening.

Triathletes have a term for bike-run workouts. They're called, 'bricks.' Now if a bike-run is a brick, I suppose it follows that a brick completed in the winter would be a frigid brick, or a 'frick', and it's participants would be known as 'frickers'.

Now I could attempt to expand this section into a bad parody called, 'Meet the Frickers', complete with innuendos of how much fun it is to frick, how good it is for your heart and how the chics really dig it. (They may say otherwise, or attempt to get out of fricking by complaining of headaches, but trust me, they do really dig it.) Regardless, that 'Meet the Fockers' franchise has already run its course and we refrain from entertaining such vulgarities here on Wholesome Steel Cut Goodness.

But just in case, hey RedHourBen, I'm available for casting. And for cheap.

Happy Friday everyone.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Facebook Before Facebook

In the comments from Monday's post, my brother Murphini said that I had some issues to work out.

To you Murphini, I have a two word response: no shit.

Of course I have issues. What gave it away? Was it the ranting or the public urination?

Anyway, I decided to do a little soul-searching after my big brother's comment. So last night, as I lay my big fat head on my snow white pillows, I reflected about what those issues could be. To quiet the mind, I drew a long breath into my lungs and expelled it slowly. And waited. I did it again. And then waited some more. A good five seconds later, I concluded that I did indeed have some issues. Thankfully nothing too major, like Bryan Redemske's sock fetishes or issues with frosty beards, but really, who among us is free of being a tad unbalanced from time to time?

Rather than brush this wonderful insight aside, I capitalized on the moment and said this little prayer of serenity:

Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the Shim I cannot change,
The courage to change my attitude about Mark Savery,
and the wisdom to ignore all social networking provocations.

And all the voices in my head said, AMEN!

In truth, I felt refreshed while riding in the cool, crisp air this past Sunday. It's good to get out of the group from time to time for a little solitude, to enjoy the peaceful stillness that only a winter day can bring. Don't get me wrong: group rides are still the best, but there's typically one dude in the mix who likes to run his mouth more than Rush Limbaugh. Perhaps that's the original reason why a rotating paceline was created: everyone's got to take a pull.

But in the solitude of winter, you have the time to think in peace. To sort a thing or two out and learn something along the way. On Sunday's ride I learned some things about winter riding, the greatest of which was my apparent need to hydrate more. I mean, did anyone even notice the dark, golden-amber color of the snow? Golly! You would think that I was pissing India Pale Ale right from the tap.

The truth was that peeing on this route was by far the most refreshing part of the ride. It was way more than a simple biological relief. It was cathartic. I mean, it was like, so primal to mark (yes, pun) Savery's territory.

Now it's common knowledge that long before there was ever a Facebook or Twitter, and long before there were petroglyphs and cave paintings, we animals simply peed to mark our social network and boundaries. Peeing was essentially the Facebook before Facebook.

But somehow, today's digital age lacks the same punch that only voiding can produce. By comparison, without that distinctive urine odor that permeates and never ceases, today's social networking is not only sterile, but is soon written over and inevitably forgotten. For example, I present to you this post:

Good pissing on your territory today, buddy!

While there's a chance you'll remember that Facebook stinger, you'll never forget the smell of that tawny stain behind the toilet seat of your first apartment.

What I also learned on Sunday was that it's difficult to hydrate with a frozen water bottle. I've read that there are solutions for this, including using insulated water bottles during frigid rides. I've also read that those insulated bottles suck. A solution for this dilemma is to ensure that the route passes a convenience store to refill from the coffee machine's hot water spigot. The heated water lasts at least 30 minutes in 15F temps at ride pace before beginning to freeze again.

Unfortunately, I discovered this hot water ditty a little too late. And that's the reason why I couldn't complete my yellow fresco in the snow. You see, I had originally planned a much bigger mural on that snowy canvas. Plans that included peeing 'MOD' with a smiley-face next to the date of "01 16" that I managed to squirt out. But the lack of urine in the tank and its dark color could only mean one thing: I was dehydrated I'll have to be better prepared next time.

If for nothing else, Mod, you've taught me the importance of being properly hydrated during a winter ride in your territory.

Hey Murphini, how'd I do? I'd say there's one less issue that I have to work out now.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

It Was Good Riding with You Today Buddy

This past Saturday, a group of us were to meet for a gravel ride, leaving from the Bob Kerry pedestrian bridge at 10:30.

I was one of the group. I was excited about the ride. In fact, I boasted the day before on Munson's blog that I'd be there regardless of the weather.

Do your worst, old man winter. See you at 10:30

At 9:45 AM Saturday, I was kitted up and about to head out the door to ride to the bridge. That's when the work phone rang. It seems that there was a major issue at UP that the primary on-call support person couldn't handle. I was his backup. This was irregular indeed, so I quickly remoted into work, not even taking the balaclava off my head. The problem was a level one issue that required hot attention. It wasn't going to be a quick fix.

I sent a text to Shim and Leah to tell them I wouldn't be joining because of work, took the balaclava off my head and began digging into application log files. It wasn't how I wanted to spend the morning, but somebody's got to keep the lights on. I was disappointed, but rationalized that it was work and there would be other rides.

Later that afternoon, Mark Savery mentioned me in a tweet

Hey @BradyMurphy my ass was at the BK bridge at 10:30, where was yours?

I missed that tweet. Must have been still fixing problems at work.

Mark also wrote on my facebook wall:

Good riding with you today buddy.

Hey Mark: sorry that I couldn't join you and Rafal and Mike Miles and everyone else that was able to make it. Shim probably told you that I suddenly got called in for work.

Also on the facebook replies, Kevin wondered if Old man Winter was too much.

Hmmm. Maybe you guys thought I bailed because of the cold weather. But I had messaged Shim. And since I had never bailed on account of the weather in the past, why would anyone make that conclusion?


Well, Sunday was a new day. Weatherwise, it was nearly identical. Actually, at 12F, it was colder at 10:30 AM on Sunday than the same time Saturday, but why split hairs?

Apparently, Ryan Feagan had previously tweeted about a ride leaving midtown at 10 AM. Lucas and Jonathan Neve were game, but there was silence from the rest of you.

In fairness to you Mark, I did catch a post about you going out cross-country skiing in between the play-by-play account of the world championship cyclocross race feed that you retweeted for the entire Twitterverse to see. I mean, gosh, thank you for that wonderful service. I could hardly tear myself away from that feed.

And Rafal? Miles? Never heard from you guys Sunday morning.

And Shim? You canceled your gravel ride because, as you said, no one had any interest -- actually heart -- after yesterday's cold ride.

Now was that a fair account of how the group felt? Nobody had the heart? Wow, it really must have felt really cold yesterday to break the will of all you tough guys from going out for another ride today.

So at around 9:00 AM, I began tweeting Ryan, Lucas and Jonathan about where to meet for the ride. Jonathan promptly replied that he was out after a night of too many beers. Good for you. I can understand that. And thanks for the quick reply Jonathan.

By 9:45, I still had not heard from Ryan or Lucas, so I saddled up and rode to Askarben Village. Nobody at Scooters reported seeing any cyclists. I continued onward.

I did receive a reply from Ryan many miles down the road. Ryan's reply was short but sweet:

Not gonna do it, too few replies, too late. I gotta board a plane at 4. Missed you yesterday.

Thanks Ryan, I missed riding with you yesterday, too. Sorry that we couldn't hook up today. You must have been busy getting ready for traveling for work. Have a prosperous trip.

So with apparently too few replies, I was by myself. That was OK; a stretch of road awaited me. It turned out to be a nice ride, Sunday, spanning many hours and lots of miles.

I went along one of your favorite routes, Mark. Applewood Ave is beautiful this time of the year, by the way.

I had to stop and take a few pictures for you since you couldn't make the ride today. Enjoy:

Oh and I almost forgot the best part: I marked your territory.

Ah, now that felt good.

So Mark, to answer your question, while yesterday my ass was stuck in front of computer getting a fortune 500 company out of a mess, today it was crossing the Bob Kerry bridge at 10:30 AM while you were a tweeting fool.

It was good riding with you today, buddy.

And Shim: Screw you too, you backstabbing wheel sucker. You of all people should appreciate being accountable to job responsibilities. No, I guess you chose to disregard this value when you piled on me yesterday. Hypocrite.

And another thing: you could have ridden today, Shim. But instead of admitting that you too didn't have the heart, you blamed it on the rest of them for canceling today's ride. Oh no, we all know that you're tough. You can take the cold. It was them I'm sure. Not you.

It was good riding with you today too, buddy.

So to be clear, I may be a lot of things, but two things I am not: 1) a slacker and 2) unable to take cold weather.

Revenge is a dish best served cold. See you jerks out on the road.

post-edit: if you liked this, there's a follow up here

Friday, January 14, 2011

Commuter Cowboy

This past Monday morning, while the city was besieged by a 48 hour snow storm, I decided to opt out of taking the bus and took it directly to the streets.

I snowshoed into work.

Snowshoeing as a means of commuting has been a work in process that began when I left the car at home and started taking the bus to work six years ago. At the time, I had little idea how much fun I'd have. In fact, I mistakenly thought that hitching myself to public transportation meant giving up a personal freedom. But I quickly discovered otherwise: I could take the bus for one leg and commute by my own power -- running or biking -- for the other. This is what's called being a multi-modal commuter.

Being a multi-modal commuter was initially exciting, like being part of a counter-cultural revolution or something. At first, it meant simply commuting to/from work by public transportation or my own power. Later, I used the bike & bus for errands and such. I never went cold-turkey on my car. But I began trying to find ways to be efficient without it. In my mind's eye, I was like a commuter cowboy and damn proud of it.

Over the years, I've learned the best routes to run and bike. In that time, I have also witnessed the growth of alternative commuting in Omaha, as city streets were transformed overnight into bicycle-friendly roads with newly painted bike lanes.

I have also learned how to dress appropriately for the cowboy commute. I picked up a skiier's backpack to carry a change of clothes. During winter, I discovered: wool, running in yaktrax, and how to outfit my bike with fenders for the slop.

And for a long time, I was satisfied, and it was good.

But inevitably, those paths that were once vibrant became dull and well-trodden to me. Many of the routes I discovered independently had become painted bike lanes, and later faded, and re-painted once more. Some lanes were abandoned, some new lanes were added, and some even became sharrows.

Something was amiss. What was once exciting had become commonplace. The thrill was gone, baby.

So I began seeking new adventures. I've considered: unicycling, street-luge, roller blading and swimming the Missouri river from the North Omaha railroad swing bridge. Adventurous yes, but all impractical.

I had all but given up hope when local weatherman and avid cyclist CT Thongklin posted an early warning forecast on his Facebook page last Friday. A forecast promising a 48 hour snow event culminating in bad roads during Monday morning's commute.
Looks like about 8"-9" for the Omaha metro...forecasting a significant snow event a couple days in advance.

When I read significant snow event a couple days in advance, the idea to commute-by-snowshoe crystallized in my numb skull like water vapor depositing into a snowflake.

As CT predicted, Monday morning was a snowy mess. While others likely fumbled for keys and cursed digging out their car from the snow, I laced up my running shoes and strapped on the snowshoes. Car tires spun in futile attempts for traction while my snowshoes settled into a light clippity-clop rhythm. A little while later, someone shoveling his driveway paused to catch his breath and remarked, "you've got the right idea."

I thought so, too.

I plodded along as the snow fell softly, snowshoeing through neighborhood roads and alleys, a roundabout, two city parks, and one green space downtown. In all, it took about an hour to cover the five or so miles from home to work.

And with that, I can now ink "snowshoeing" to the cowboy commuter list I had sharpied to my cinder block basement wall.

Perhaps swimming the Missouri will join that list one day...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Snowshoeing Season

With up to eight inches of new fallen snow in Omaha, it's time to break out the snowshoes.

For the uninitiated, there's a great snowshoeing primer in the latest edition of Subaru Drive magazine. It's a quick read. Even Shim could probably have the patience to trudge through the entire story. There's lots of pictures!

My first snowshoeing experience came a couple years ago when my younger brother Brendan took me out for a run just outside of Keystone, CO. Yes, run. On snowshoes. Brendan's a little nutty that way. In fact, he's more than just a bit eccentric. Afterward, he told me that he once experienced the mercurial taste of blood in his mouth during a sprint finish at a snowshoe race in altitude.

Perhaps he should have shared that before inviting me to go snowshoe running.

But alas, there was no blood-spitting at the end of that run. It turned out to be a good time as we attacked fresh powder on a forest service road with his dog Jack.

With last year's huge amounts of snowfall, I decided to invest in a pair of snowshoes. I did some research discovered that the magic price-point for a good pair of snowshoes is around $200. Now, you can buy some entry level ones for around $100, but you might as well duct tape Billie Jean King tennis rackets to your feet for a comparable snowshoeing experience. Admittedly, $200 is a little steep for a few months of use per year. But a good pair should bring enjoyment for many seasons.

Whether you're running or walking, there are many benefits to snow shoeing. Research shows that it's one of the best ways you can find to burn calories while exercising (I stole that ditty from the Subaru Drive Magazine article with pretty pictures that Shim didn't read). But the the real benefit is that it offers a superb cross-training option when the snowy streets make cycling or running otherwise impractical.

Turns out lots of people around Omaha have a pair of snowshoes. In fact, last winter many local cyclists met regularly to snowshoe Jewell Park. You'd be surprised at how different the trails look when the trees are barren and powder covers the single track you once thought you knew like the back of your hand.

Consider picking up a pair. Local bike shops often carry them (eg: Trek Omaha), sporting goods stores like Canfield's and on-line retailers like REI the Sierra Trading Post typically stock them in winter months.

Some places also rent them. Locally, UNO's venture center has some very nice hiking snowshoes for rent. And on the cheap. Just make sure to call ahead to reserve them as quantities are limited.

Otherwise, you and your best duct taping skills can make Billy Jean King proud.

Hope to see you on the trails soon.