Friday, June 29, 2012

Wheelers Peelers

I grew up in Kirkwood, a suburb of St. Louis MO. We lived on the 18th hole of a golf course. The swimming pool was probably 500 yards from our house. In the summer time, I lived at the pool.

I started with swimming lessons when I was four and joined the swimming team when I was five. At swimming meets back then, the only kids who got ribbons were those who finished first, second or third. The only participation prize you received was a small commemorative plaque given to all swimmers at the end of the summer. I didn't earn a ribbon until I was six. It was a blue ribbon for 25M breaststroke. I was hooked.

My swimming coach was Jim Wheeler. He was the pool's general manager, swim coach and all-purpose rock star. He really did have a rock band. In fact, they were quite good. They played a full set in the clubhouse ballroom after our home swimming meets. And it wasn't any of that soft rock crap either. He covered the Stones, Beatles, Eagles and Clapton like the best of them. We kids paired up with our age group girlfriends to dance slow songs; for the faster ones, we'd scream along the words while he played. It may seem tame in modern times, but I still find it remarkable that when he sang the words, she don't lie, she don't lie, she don't lie... we kids would answer: COCAINE!!

And that was when I was eight years old. Then again, it was the 70s.

Our team was awesome. We won the swimming championship almost every year. Jim Wheeler was the glue to our team. He was a motivating coach: an encourager when you needed a boost and an admonisher when you got out of line. And at night, he was a rock star. Mostly because of all these traits, he retained a solid core of kids to swim for him each year. Though our team was called Greenbriar, we knicked named ourselves, "Wheeler's Peelers" in honor of our coach.

Wheeler's Peelers - can you find me?
As I mentioned earlier, I lived at the pool in the summer. From 9AM swimming practice until the pool closed at 9PM, I was there. Our practices were an hour long and twice daily. We also had a diving team. I did that, too. My skin bronzed and my hair turned straw white. I would have grown gills if I could.

I was decent at all the strokes, but was a natural at breaststroke. As a result, I often swam the 100 M Individual Medley (IM).

Later on in high school, I also played water polo. I was the deep-end goalie. Unless you're 12 feet tall, you can't stand on the bottom there. My Mom said that I looked like a duck jumping across the surface of the water to block the shots that were rifled in at me. My waterpolo coach instructed me to position myself by throwing my head at the incoming ball. He reasoned that if I didn't block the shot with my arms, my face would.  I had a lot of zits on my face back then. I didn't mind sacrificing my face so much.

I stopped playing Waterpolo and competing in swimming meets when I graduated from high school.

Then a few years ago I joined the Omaha Masters swimming team to get in shape for triathlons. I've been swimming year-around since.  We work out at 5:30 AM at the College of St Mary's.

When I heard that Omaha was going to host the Long Course Masters Nationals Swimming Championship this summer, I decided that I would suit up for it. I have since entered both relays, the 100 Free and two grueling events: the 400 Free and 400 IM.  The meet is next weekend, July 6-8th. While I've had this meet on my calendar for 18 months now, I have only given a higher priority to swimming during the past month. I'll need it. The 400 IM isn't for slackers.

When I was four years old and learning to swim like a Wheelers Peelers rock star, I had no idea that decades later I'd be climbing onto the starting block once again to compete in a swimming meet.

Thank you Jim Wheeler. I'll represent. I'm a Wheelers Peeler.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Time Trial Prep

Sid Dillon's Omaha Cycling Weekend is upon us, where this year's State road race and time trial championships will be awarded. While the road race returns to South Bend, NE for the first time in six years, the time trial course is on familiar territory in Yutan.

I'm excited about the races. Really. The road race is on a course that newer riders have never competed on. That's good for local cycling. And who isn't excited about time trialing? You know, just you against the clock?

OK, so I wasn't kidding about the road race. But let's face it: time trialing sucks. I mean, I respect it and all, but riding on the rivet for an hour in an uncomfortable position isn't exactly anyone's idea of a good time. That is, unless you also enjoy kneeling on tacks while yanking clumps of hair from your nose, or something. But still, I respect it -- at least enough to get out and ride my p2sl TT bike over the past few weeks.

So like your crazy neighbor who just has to show you vacation pictures, let's take a look at some of my TT training.

Workout #1 One day I brought my p2SL time trial bike along with me on the bus to work.

Tyler, a colleague also on the bus that day, was eyeballing my TT bike. After stating that this was the fifth bike he's seen me on, he then pointed to the aerobar's elbow pads and said, "do those things make it more comfortable"?

Yes, I suppose that's why the elbow pads are there. But really, there's no such thing as comfort on a TT bike. Time trialing is all about pain. Take Joe Friel's words:

Trialists have a superior ability to concentrate despite great suffering (The Cyclist's Training Bible,69)

While concentrating despite great suffering, I've never thought about the comfort those elbow pads brought me. In fact, I don't think about them at all. I suppose I might have noticed them if I had rubbed my elbows with 80 grit and soaked the pads with kerosene...

Workout #2: Another photo from the time trial training folder:

This workout brought me to the Ft Calhoun gas station where a mural depicts Lewis and Clark at Calhoun, the site of the Council Bluff.  Note in this picture that the army soldier is sitting on my TT bike while yapping it up with Meriwether Lewis at the campfire. Also note that this is the only photo I've ever seen where somebody's smiling near that bike. 

Workout #3 Some of you know that my cycling roots began with triathlons and time trialing. Eventually, I decided that I liked social/group riding more than trialing and became a road racer.  I haven't done a triathlon since.  I don't run anymore and I've lost contact with my old triathlete friends. The people I ride with now are roadies.  Therefore, I was surprised during a recent lunch ride when Wesley rolled out in a 2011 HyVee Triathlon jersey.

Now I know Wesley. He's picked up running over the past few years, and he mashes the big ring like nobody nowhere. But I'm not sure if he can swim. That's kind of a big deal for triathlons. So I asked him about the jersey.  He glanced back over his shoulder and said that it was given to him as part of a goodie bag from a recent charity ride he completed.

Oh, that explains it.

Wesley then clarified it further. "I would still be swimming since 2011 if I did that race."

I then rolled up to Wesley to inform him that in Nebraska, triathlete jerseys looked like this:

photos courtesy of Leah Kleager

I further clarified that in Council Bluffs, this is what was also called "riding a bike"

On a more serious note, I read recently that my buddy Eric "EOB" O'Brien broke his hand at last weekend's State mountain biking championships. That's awful.  You'll be missed at this weekend's road race.

You'll be especially missed at the time trial.

photo courtesy of David Seevers
Get well soon Eric.

Happy Friday everyone.

Friday, June 15, 2012


While lurking on Facebook recently, I spotted this update by Sean Craig.

Looks like Sean's pre-ride ritual order got jumbled up.  It made me wonder if anyone has ever put their contacts lens in after applying Mad Alchemy's Madness embrocation.


Sorry in advance if this is too much information, but I'm not a Assos/DZ Nuts/BodyGlide chamois cream user. It's not that I haven't tried it before, but generally speaking, I just don't chaff down there. Even on long rides. I suppose if I did, I would use the junk, because nobody wants to be all numb and stingy, especially down there.

Still, it makes me wonder: do those who do use the stuff apply it every time they ride? Has it become some sort of ritual to just slap some of that grease on the undercarriage beforehand, regardless of the anticipated ride time?

Or, do some only use it on rides longer than say 30/45/60 minutes? What's the threshold?

One of things I don't like about cycling is all the pre-ride stuff that has to take place before one can actually ride their  bike. Mine goes like this: put on bibs, jersey, socks, shoes, cycling cap, helmet, sunglasses, sunblock, gloves, water, food, phone, money, ID, check bike's tire pressure & saddlebag (tools, pump/air, inner tube). That's a lot of to-do before clipping-in.  I suppose adding chamois butter at part of that ritual wouldn't be that much more effort.

Runners have it much easier. Because most training runs are less than 60 minutes, there's no need for the stuff. Runners simply dress and run.

Still, runners are not immune to rituals, but it's typically reserved for the distance folks. There's a guy at work -- let's call him "Guy" --  who runs marathons. Marathon runners like Guy can get friction burns on their nipples during the course of long runs.  The solution is to apply Vaseline or Band-Aides over the areolas.  But, again, I believe that nipple-chaffing occurs over long, sweaty runs. So (again) it makes me wonder: why does Guy put those pasties on before every 45 minute lunch run?  Is it because he has extra-sensitivity there, or is it due to some mindless ritual?

I've thought about asking him. It'd go something like this:

The scene is the employee locker room. It's the lunch hour and it's very crowded and noisy

Bill: Hey Shim, you doing the Taco Ride today? ... blah blah blah ...

Wesley: I've got to be back by 12:45 for a meeting at 1:00PM ...

Ed B: Are you doing Ride the Rockies again this year Brant?...

Brady: Hey Guy, why are those Band-Aides on your nipples?

-- queue chirping crickets sound effect--

No, that isn't gonna work.

I suppose Guy puts his Band-Aides on for the same reason that most cyclists put chamois cream before every ride. It's just a habit. 

While writing this, I was also reminded of another guy in the locker room who has a peculiar habit of standing naked in front of the mirror, and with one leg propped up on the sink, proceeds to blow-dry his undercarriage with the hairdryer. True story, as Fred would say.

But that one will have to wait for another blogpost, because I'm up against the deadline to get this thing posted.

Happy Friday everyone.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Taco Truck Trail

While riding the elevator at work recently, I overheard colleagues discussing the Taco Ride.  For those unfamiliar with this local tradition, the Taco Ride is a 10 mile cycling trek along the Wabash trail every Thursday night, from Council Bluffs to Mineola, Iowa. While some may do it for the exercise, most do it to socialize over cheap tacos and margaritas at a steakhouse in Mineola.

But here's the thing. The Taco Ride I overheard them talking about wasn't that one. They were talking about the new Taco Ride on Thursdays: The UP Lunch Ride's Taco Ride.

Yes, that's right. There's an upstart taco ride happening every Thursday over the lunch hour, from downtown Omaha to the taco truck at 24th and Vinton.  Come join us. We leave the UP bike rack at 11:45 every Thursday and make our way along the Taco Truck Trail to the best tacos and burritos in town.

Here's the route

Taco Truck Trail, South Approach (from Downtown)

Like the Hipster Highway, the Taco Truck Trail also follows a street's bike path to get from downtown to south Omaha.  Let's take a look at some of the landmarks along the way.

At 16th and Harney Street, the Taco Truck Trail passes a gem of Omaha: the Orpheum theater.

Not far from there, we encounter a couple other familiar land marks, starting with the beautiful Greyhound Bus terminal ...

...followed immediately by the Douglas County Sheriffs Office/Court Services Bureau at 16th and Leavenworth. Wow, who knew that's what it's called? Most folks call it by local term that rolls off the tongue a little easier: Jail.

Stay on 16th Street. You'll notice here at 16th and Martha that there's even a bike lane.

At the 16th and Vinton, veer right. You can't miss it -- it's in front of the South 'O Mexicana Meat Market...

... and the Vinton St. Tobaco Shop.

Just a little way down the road is another South O landmark, Louie M's Burger Lust.

Now you're almost there. While the UP lunch ride hooks a left at 20th and Vinton and works its way through the neighborhoods, you can continue to 24th St. 

From there, the Taco truck is just one block to the south, parked in the O'Reilly Auto parts store lot. You can't miss it. There's always a long line.

Here are some happy people who've wandered to the end of the Taco Truck Trail. Some even drove their cars. 

 ¿Aceptara esta AmericanExpress tarjeta de credito? 

Just be sure that when you make the trip, you bring cash. Shim may even tell you about the time I tried to pay with my American Express card.  Anyway, $5 is all you need for 3 tacos or a burrito, and a coke.  The food is fantastic. All smiles here.

Oh and a shout out goes to Ed Brown for lending me a pair of socks.

The socks were one time favor. You'll need to bring your own socks. Thanks Ed.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Prozac Nation 2.0

Had a checkup recently. Physical health is good. But the doctor sensed something not right mentally. She picked up on some anxiety, and noted that I mentioned a lack of appetite at times. I saw the her writing something on one of those pharmaceutical notepads. She tore it off and gave it to me: a prescription for Fluoxetine (Prozac). I shrugged and thought we'd give it a try. I had it filled yesterday.

The patient's name on the bottle: Emmylou. I should mention that Emmylou is my dog and the vet wrote the script when she had her shots updated last week.


Technically, Fluoxetine is not a drug for the crazies -- you'd need something a stronger like Thorazine for that.  Prozac is an selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI) that is used to treat major depression, OCD and panic disorders. Apparently, as with humans, it also does wonders on dogs suffering from anxiety related disorders.

Emmy's a very good dog. She's friendly, great around people and other dogs. She's just a little nuts. Oh, sorry: suffering from major depression, OCD or panic disorder.

Whenever I'm around, it's always been "go" time. Wherever I walk, she paces behind me, step-for-step. When I sit, she loops repetitively from the backdoor to me. She just can't sit still. She rarely naps. I used to think she was incapable of napping.  In fact, it wasn't until she was seven years old that I caught her napping for the first time. Actually, I heard her snoring in the other room and when I tried to sneak up on her to catch her in the act, the wooden floor creaked before I could get there. She stood up, shook and kicked off the pacing routine once more.

Lately, she hasn't been eating as much. She's also been moping around the house. I even hear her cry herself to sleep sometimes.

Maybe the Prozac will help?

It's been said that you can tell a lot about a person's mental state by looking into their eyes. I looked into Emmy's eyes and discovered that she's got one of those lazy eyes. But does that make her nuts? A more reasonable conclusion for a lazy eye is that she'd be slothful. We know that's not the case.

I posted this photo on Facebook and mentioned the lazy eye.  Fred pointed out that Emmy has a lazy ear, too.  See for yourself:

So I have a dog with a lazy eye and a lazy ear and is suffering from major depression, OCD or panic disorder.

If the Prozac doesn't help her, perhaps I'll end up taking it instead.