Friday, July 27, 2012

Tasty Day

Bryan Redemske's been lamenting recently that it's been a long, hot summer.

With the type of heat we've been having around here lately, it's made it difficult to remain focused on training. And with local road cycling being mostly wrapped up for the season, there's even less to get all worked up about.  Still, on August 18th, the race calendar is double booked with the Papillion Twilight and Gravel Worlds.

That's a solid three weeks of training in this heat before race day.

Well, take heart Bryan and company, I've got some ideas -- only one actually -- that you might pay a veteran coach good money for. And today only, on Wholesome Steel-cut Goodness, it's yours, gratis of WSCG.

True story: I once was paid to be a coach. I trained 30 athletes at my peak.  They weren't cyclists. Nor were my athletes adults. OK, so I coached eight and unders swimming. That's still gotta be worth something, right? If for nothing else, how do you think I'm able to demonstrate such patience with Shim?

Anyway, when I was 18, I lifeguarded and coached swimming at a private neighborhood swimming pool called Hills West in Denver. The neighborhood was still under construction when I was there.  They had built up a nice community center with a six lane, 25 yard swimming pool. The neighborhood association wanted a swimming team and splurged on professional starting blocks and top quality lane lines to dress it up.  They only needed one thing: swimmers.

That's where I entered the scene.  Over the next couple summers, I literally taught nearly all the eight and unders how to swim. First, in group lessons, then graduating them onto the swim team. The kids were troopers. They could barely complete a single lap when they joined the team.

The Hills West Waves were in the "D" bracket in the first season. The D bracket was reserved for the least competitive swimming teams. That year, we lost every meet. We were the Bad News Bears of summer league swimming.

One day, after witnessing one of the kids bawling her eyes out after coming home empty-handed from yet another soul-crushing loss, I came up with a great idea to motivate them. FOOD.

Seriously, this is good stuff. Hang with me.

At the next morning's practice, I gave the "how proud I was of them" speech followed by "it's not always about winning..." rhetoric.  Their wandering eyes indicated I was losing them. I switched gears and agreed with them that winning was fun and encouraged them that they weren't far from tasting victory.  All they needed to do was to practice more and to give it their all instead of quitting on themselves when it got difficult. In short, they just needed more volume to get stronger.

OK now pay attention, this is where the coaching tip worth good money is.

Then to motivate them, I promised I'd treat McDonald's breakfast to whomever completed the entire practice on the following Friday.

Jeffrey Gaston, one of the eight and unders suddenly blurted out, "Sweet dude, it's gonna be a tasty day!"

Apparently, Egg McMuffins have some pull with the 8 & UN summer-leaguers.   Who knew? Over the next serval practices, the kids took to the water with purpose.  There was fire in their belly for greasy American fast food, and by hook or crook, many were planning to be among that number going to McDonalds.

When the test day finally arrived, Jeffrey Gaston was there early, wearing a small backpack. He looked like he was ready to embark on a cross-country trip. He reiterated his mantra, "it's gonna be a tasty day," as I unlocked the gate.

Not everyone made it through the entire practice that Friday. For those who didn't, they ether didn't care that much about swimming or flapjacks at McDonalds.

But the ones who succeeded were obviously motivated.  In the end, we took 19 in a caravan from the pool.  Jeffrey Gaston was among those counted. He had himself a tasty day.


In summary: simple rewards are strong motivators.

Wouldn't you agree Rafal? I mean, don't Bacon Rides make for tasty days?

There you go Bryan. Go get you some.

Happy training everyone.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Could'a, Should'a, Would'a: Sprinkler Dash

I had a healthy respect for my Dad when I was a kid. Still do. Back then, it was kinda like the fear of God thing. Dad came from a strict upbringing. He was disciplined as a kid by my grandmother, Nellie Murphy. I only knew the sweet, wholesome steel-cut oatmeal cookie version of Grandma Nellie. But from what I understand, she was a real whipper snapper in her day. When my Dad got out of line Grandma Nellie would tell him to go find a switch from the thicket out yonder. And before he could get out the door, she'd add, "if you don't find one of adequate size, I'll find one for you."

We depended on Dad for most things. He ran a very traditional household: he was the bread winner and Mom took care of the daily house duties and raising five kids.  Mom and Dad made up a good pair in many ways. One of the things they did well was the good cop/bad cop routine. Mom was good cop, Dad was bad.  This basically meant when we kids would mess around, she'd threaten, "Wait till your Dad comes home..."

You didn't want to hear that.

Dad was much softer on us kids than Grandma Nellie was on him. I never had to find a switch. Instead, Dad went to the leather belt. In truth, we rarely got the belt. Hand spankings were common (and plenty). What Dad did do with the belt was to fold it over and snap it together loudly. CRACK!! That got your attention quickly.


The swimming pool was open six days a week. It was closed on Mondays for maintenance. When the pool was closed, we had one legitimate option for cooling off: the golf course sprinklers. Pool-hopping was strictly off limits. Dad once told us that summer would be cancelled if he ever caught us pool-hopping. I'm not sure exactly what he meant by that, but I made a mental note of it that I didn't want to find out.

I came pretty close to finding out once. One summer Monday, I had invited my friend Tom Chiapelas (hi Tom, I live in Omaha now: brady dot murphy at gmail) for a sleep-over. Tom was one of the coolest kids I knew: he was good at just about every thing he did, he played all the sports, dressed well and listened to the best music. He just oozed of smug coolness and having him over for a sleep over was a big deal.

That particular summer Monday was a scorcher. The heat and humidity drove the heat index over 100 F. As such, Tom wanted nothing to do with the golf course sprinklers. Instead, he suggested to my older brother Matt and I that we forgo them for pool-hopping.

Instantly, I heard Dad's belt cracking inside my head. I envisioned a hand-painted "SUMMER IS CANCELLED" sign hanging on my bedroom door. I opened my mouth to protest, "But what about Dad --"

Matt cut me off.  "Shut up Brady, we'll be fine. We'll only go for five minutes. It's now five o'clock.  Dad doesn't come home from work until 6 PM. Trust me, he won't even know."

They grabbed some towels and were out the door. I followed sheepishly.

I have to admit, the pool was refreshingly cool that day. Five minutes slipped to ten. Then ten to 20 minutes. By then, we were going off the diving boards. First the low board, then the high one. Time kept slipping by: the clock now said 5:40 PM.

It was about then that I saw Dad's company issued fleet car, a maroon Buick Century, enter the neighborhood. And as he drove by, I swear I saw his head turn and take a long hard look at the swimming pool. He was keen as a hawk. At that very moment, my buddy Tom was standing on the high board, getting ready for yet another cannonball.

"IT'S DAD!!!"  I yelled in panic.

Tom, still standing on the high dive, sorta crouched and covered himself as if he suddenly realized he was naked or something.  Meanwhile, all that was left of brother Matt was a trail of wet foot prints across the pool deck that ended abruptly at the fence. From there, at about 100 meters, I picked up his trace. He was sprinting ass and elbows towards home.

I was quickly at his feet. Till this date, I wonder if I had ever run any faster.

Now remember just a few paragraphs ago that I said that Tom was good at just about every thing he did? Well, he sucked at running. Really. He was an awful runner. I mean, he must have had double-triple-jointed  hips and knees, because when he ran, it was comical.

Somehow, Matt and I beat my Dad home. With a whoosh of the sliding glass door, we were back inside our living room where we had plopped ourselves on the couch. We were fully dressed, and our chlorine bleached straw hair was mostly dry.  Matt flipped on the boob-tube's Wheel of Fortune just as Dad had walked in. He had a surprised look on his face.

"I just saw some kids up the pool. I thought they were you for a second," Dad said.

"Nope, not us, Dad. We've been watching Vanna," Matt lied.

"That's good. You know how I feel about pool hopping."

"Yeah, Dad, summer will be cancelled or something."  Matt was pushing the envelope.

"That's right," Dad said as he fiddled with his belt-buckle. "You two will be sorry if I ever find out you're pool hopping on Monday."

-- uncomfortable silence --

"I thought Tom Chiapelas was spending the night tonight?" he continued. "What happened to him?"

-- whoosh, the sliding door opens. It's my buddy Tom. He's panting out of breath, dripping wet and standing in a speedo --

"Hi Mr Murphy! Did you have a nice day at the office?"


Tom's parents had arrived to pick him up before his hair had dried. Party over.

Matt and I were spared the belt and/or switch. We were too old for that stuff.  If I recall correctly, we were grounded from the pool for a week and had to do manual chores like weed pulling and hand-picking dirt out of the carpet.  Dad called that the "human vacuum cleaner". It was one of his go-to favorites.


Fast forward to the present: Golf course sprinklers are an excellent way to cool off during the dog days of summer.  I've been checking out the local scene. With this drought, they're running the sprinklers every night at the Elmwood Park golf course. So in honor of my good old buddy Tom Chiapelas, who chose pool hopping over sprinklers, I propose a could'a, should'a, would'a re-do for him/us to get it right.

I'm serious. Here's what I propose:

The Inaugural Tom Chiapelas Sprinkler Dash 5K
Where: Elmwood Park Golf Course
When: Friday July 20
Meet: 9:30PM in the Elmwood Park Pavilion parking lot
Pace: what, are you kidding?

Bring: running shoes and extra clothes. And a towel.  Don't forget your towel.  Whatever else --  speedos --  I don't care.

First round of beers on me at the Crescent Moon to whoever joins in.

Hope to see you at the park.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Strong Program

During one of my warm up sessions last week I took some tips from one of the Masters swimming coaches. He was helping me with my start from one of those new-fangled, rhomboid starting blocks with the finned tail on the back. We were working on my track-start. I felt like a rock star.  Back when I was swimming summer league and high school, we started off blocks.  Just square blocks. 

Anyway, that volunteer coach gave me some good pointers. And he also seemed genuinely impressed that I signed up to do the 400 IM and 400 freestyle in my first meet in decades.  He called it a "strong program."

I felt pretty good about my strong program until the meet announcer drew my attention to Bob Doud, who was swimming the 100 butterfly just two hours after competing in the 400 IM. I should also mention that Bob Dowd is currently 89 years old. Dang Bob, that's a strong program!

And then there was Joan Campbell, who started swimming masters at age 59, and was competing in the 200  butterfly at age 82. She also swam the 1500 free, 400 IM, 400 free, 200 breaststroke and 200 free. Dang, Joan, that's a strong program!

This swimming meet was an eye opener. I had a great experience both competing in, and witnesses some fantastic swims from all ages and abilities. I'm looking forward to exploring more of these events in the future. Heck, I've still got nearly 50 years to prepare for doubling up on the 400 IM and 100 butterfly.  

Do your worst, Bob Doud. I'll be bringing my strong program.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Could'a, Should'a, Would'a - Swimming Edition

This past weekend, I entered the 2012 Marriott Summer Nationals Swimming meet, hosted in Omaha's Olympic Trials pool. I competed in the 400 Individual Medley (IM), the 100 Free and the 400 Free.

The 400 IM went better than I anticipated. I settled into a solid rhythm in the 100 fly and then negative-split the next 100 meters of backstroke. When I pushed off the wall at the beginning of the 100 breast, I was in fourth place in my heat. My breaststroke leg was solid. I overtook 3rd place and began to close the gap on second. But my power waned and I wasn't able to close the gap. Still, I managed to hold off any challenges to finish 3rd in my heat. When all the heats were completed, I ended up 6th overall in my age group, earning a medal (top 10), and five points for the united Nebraska Masters team.

I didn't fare so well on the 100 Free. Whereas the 400 IM is a race of muscle-endurance/attrition, the 100 free is an anaerobic thrashing. I took out the first 50 meters harder than I should have. I panicked and throttled-up too early when I felt that the field was slipping away in the first 50 meters. As a result, I struggled to maintain form on the final 20 meters of the race. If I had swam the race as my coach Todd Samland had advised, I probably would have performed better.  I finished 29th in my age group.  That was a let down.

I got some redemption in the 400 Free on Sunday. I swam a much smarter race by following the advice of my coach. I took the first 100 out pretty quickly, then brought it back a notch and slowly doled out the power over the course of the next 300 meters. For my cycling friends reading this, the 400 free is a race much like a time trial, where you try to 'roll out the rug evenly' until you're giving everything you've got left over the last 50 meters or so. That strategy paid off. At the 200 M mark, I was in second place by well over a body length. But over the next 200 meters, I was able to overtake the leader of my heat and then drop him. To those watching the race, it appeared as though I accelerated to overtake him, when in fact my evenly distributed splits suggested that I maintained power while the competition faded. I won the heat and managed to slip into 10th place in my age group for another medal and a point for my team.

While I was proud of having the courage to enter the 400 IM, I had the most satisfaction of racing in the 400 Free, especially after tasting disappointment in the 100 the day before.

My meet results here

Thursday, July 5, 2012

July 5th At The Redemske's

My brother Matt has always been a shrewd business man. Even as a kid, he knew how to finagle and bargain to get the best deal possible. It didn't matter if we were playing a game of Monopoly or he was haggling the neighbor about raising the rates to cut their lawn, Matt was always good at sales.

I thought of Matt's the other day as I read yet another Bryan Redemske anti-fireworks social media tirades.  Bryan is a fireworks hater. He may tolerate the pros, but I'm quite certain he's annoyed by the locals shootin' off their bottle rockets, their shells and cherry bombs in his 'hood.

Back to Matt. My brother gets great pleasure out of shooting off fireworks. He always did, always does,  always will.  Matt represents everything Bryan hates about small-time pyros.

Let's recap. Matt has always been a good salesman. Bryan hates fireworks. Matt loves them.


Fenton, MO. July 5th 1985, 4:55 PM  Employees at a fireworks stand were about to start rolling up their tents. Another year in the books.

My brother Matt, 17 at the time, steps out of the 1981 navy blue Dodge Omni. His red-striped Nikes crunches the alabaster gravel as he approaches the entrance to the tent.  Inside, he heads towards the two men behind the counter, each with a beer in hand while a bunch of empties were scattered on the grass behind them. It was scorching outside, and not much better beneath the tent.

Matt was a shrewd business man. He quickly assessed the situation to find the weaknesses to exploit. It was hot. They were drinking. It was closing time on the last day of fireworks sales and there was a lot of merchandise left on the tables.

Matt:  Hot one out here today, huh?

Bubba:  Shoooot, I'll tell you what, it's hotter than a pair of sweat pants full of barbeque.

Matt: You guys closing up here, soon? How's business been?

Jethro: Not bad last week, but lately we couldn't sell ice to an eskim--

Bubba: Hey Jethro, you got it all wrong. Nobody sells ice to an eskimo.

Jethro:  "Really?" Jethro chugs another beer, belches and scratches his belly beneath his pit-stained tantkop.  "Then how they keep their beer cold?"

Bubba, annoyed with his cousin Jethro, turns towards Matt and continues.

Bubba: Listen kid, I don't mean to rush or nothing, but the store closes in five minutes. We're sold out of the  blackcat bottle rockets, but have pretty much anything else you want.

Now some people are artists and can paint anything you ask them. Matt wasn't like that. But he was still an artist. His artistry was driving a hard bargain. And Bubba, Jethro and that fireworks tent was the canvas on which he was about to paint a masterpiece. Matt took off his cap, wiped the brow of his forehead, and began his first stroke.

Matt: Since there's only a few minutes left, and you guys still have a lot of merchandise left on your hands, how about playing a little round of  Let's Make a Deal?

Jethro:  I love that game! I get to be Monty < -- belch-- > Hall!

Bubba:  Dammit Jethro, shut your effing pie hole or I'll give you a mouthful of teeth.

Jethro: I'd like that Bubba, seeings that I only gots four teef left, three if you count dat loose one. Jethro wiggles the loose one with a dirty finger

Bubba:  Shuddup yer face, Jethro. So help me God, I'm warning you!  He turns back towards Matt with a sly smile  What do you have in mind, kid?

Matt:  "How about this: I give you twenty bucks for that basket there and thirty seconds to grab whatever I can put into it."  Matt flashes the crisp Hamilton in front of Bubba's eyes.

Bubba: "You're on kid" he says as he snatches the twenty dollar bill from Matt's hands.

Matt instructed me to hold the basket while he dumped baskets of m80s, smoke bombs, missiles and whistler bottle rockets into ours.  He then built up a supporting wall of roman candles, effectively extending the depth of the basket, then went after the big shell artillery. Meanwhile Bubba was on the count-down, counting aloud the final ten seconds. By the time had expired, we had stuffed the basket easily three times over.  I'm not kidding. It took five paper sack grocery bags to carry our loot back home.

When we got home, he dumped the haul onto his bed to take them all in at once. He then produced a calculator and started adding up their retail value.  When it was all said and done, that one teetering basket, producing five grocery bags of fireworks tallied over $700 worth of stuff.  It was a breath-taking masterpiece.

Fast forward to the future. I wonder what would have happened if grumpy old-man Bryan Redemske was our neighbor when we were teens.

See Bryan, you don't have it so bad.