Friday, November 30, 2012

JC Rides a Mountain Bike

In my last post, I covered my mountain biking experience on Thanksgiving morning.

After that, I ate. And I ate. And then ate some more. And guess what, there was still more eating.

So by Black Friday, I was a stuffed pig. I decided to just chill out and do nothing.

I didn't get out of bed until around 9:30AM. I moped around for a bit, probably scratching myself here and there. Of course, I was hungry again, so after washing my hands, I opened the fridge to pick through the leftovers. I ate, and ate, and ate...

Sometime later, I changed out of my pajamas and then plopped down to watch the Huskers play Iowa. That game was probably equally frustrating for Nebraska fans as it was for Iowa.

I only got up on my feet once, when the Huskers called that play in which Rex Burkhead carried the entire State of Iowa for eight yards. That was awesome.

But the game made me sleepy. Then I got grumpy because I wasn't wearing my pajamas anymore and couldn't go back to bed without changing again. Instead, I napped on the couch. I woke up with a headache a couple of hours later.

I got up. Drank a glass of water, opened the fridge and started picking through the left-left overs.

By the end of Friday, I felt gross. I was sick in the head, and a little sick to my stomach, too. Even though I never left the house that day, I was wiped out: mentally, physically, emotionally.

I didn't feel better until I went for a second round of mountain biking on Saturday with Shim, James and Rebecca Swanson. We rode four laps, three fast, and one really fast. Afterward, though my body was physically tired, I felt totally refreshed and invigorated.

As I drove home, I reflected on how over the past 72 hours, I experienced a roller coaster ride of mountain biking highs and turkey-coma lows. Mostly, it was all self-inflicted by how much activity I had/hadn't applied.  The revelation was an epiphany.

So on Sunday, I decided to carry the activity experiment to church. When it was time to stand and for the Worship and Praise, I stood and gave praise. I didn't hold back either. I clapped and sang like I never sang before. I felt a little hot under the collar at first. But soon, the inhibitions went away and I was thanking God for all my worth.

Our pastor then preached from Psalm 103. For those unfamiliar with the passage, the psalmist David, having just lamented over the pits and despairs of his life in Psalm 102, was now praising the Lord with all his soul in Ps 103:

Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits--
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Suddenly, my silly little ups and downs was lining up with the Word of God.

Real, or merely a coincidence? And would God use a mountain bike to illustrate this point to me?

I am a believer.

Not only that, but I bet Jesus is a mountain biker, too. In his stable of bikes, he prefers a mountain bike over all the rest.

And I bet he can tail whip like none other.

Can somebody give JC a big shout for mountain biking? Hallelujah, Praise the Lord!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Excitebike Part II

Thanksgiving morning, I joined a group of 20 some mountain bikers on trails set in the bluffs of the Lewis and Clark Monument in Council Bluffs.

Hang on. Let's set this properly. I am not a mountain biker. I'm more of a reformed triathlete/roadie who also dabbles a little in cyclocross. Mountain bike?

I don't even have a mountain bike.  Actually, that's not true. I own a 20+ year old chromoly GT Karakoram mountain bike. It's sitting in my basement as I type this, still sporting tinsel, garland and Christmas tree lights from last year's Winter De'Lights night ride. The Karakoram is also a steel tank and its components are shot. It really wasn't an option today.

But before the ride, Shim said that he had ridden these trails on a 'cross bike before.  So armed with that bit of knowledge, I decided to go for it on the cyclocross bike. 

It wasn't bad. In fact, I had a blast. I think I described it afterwards as intoxicating.

There were a couple things I took away from today's ride. 

Firstly, when bombing down an unknown trail, and a 90 degree turn suddenly appears before the ledge of a steep precipice, one discovers an amazing ability to ride their bike like never before. In that instant, I learned that while grabbing a handful of brake, shifting your weight to the back wheel while rotating your hips towards the turn creates an awesome power slide that just may keep you on the trail instead of launching off a 15' wall. It did for me at least.

Secondly, when the others on suspension bikes ask you (the fool on the 'cross bike) how you liked the section where a gnarly drop had been built into the course, and you have no idea what they're talking about, your best answer is, "yeah, pretty good."

Hours later, I'm still unsure what "drop" they were referring to.  What this probably means is that that I wasn't riding the course like it was intended to be ridden.  Instead, I was likely taking that section more conservatively and didn't recognize what the others were salivating over because I didn't catch any air. In other words, there was no with tail-kicking flare from the dude on the yellow 'cross bike today. Sorry to disappoint.

It's okay. I had a lot of fun anyway. So much so that I came down with a case of jitters afterward. I think I'm hooked. 

You know what that means.

It starts with taking an inventory of my mountain biking equipment. Logically, that means contemplating yet another bike. Golly, will it ever stop?!

As a stopgap, Shim suggested borrowing his old Rocky Mountain mountain bike. He even said that I could strip it and paint it yellow.  

He had me at "paint it yellow." That's when that twitch started in my eyelid again. Hives will soon follow.

If I went with his suggestion, I would add a fourth yellow bike to my collection. Itchy-itchy, scratchy-scratch. Let's count them to be sure:
  1. Old Yeller (the original Old Yeller)
  2. Madone Old Yeller (code name: Princess Buttercup)
  3. Cyclocross Old Yeller (code name: Butter Knife)
  4. Shim's Mountain bike Old Yeller 
Awesome!  Itchy-itchy, scratchy-scratch.

But the thing is, itchy-itchy scratchy-scratch, I managed just fine riding the cyclocross Old Yeller (Butter Knife) bike today. And I feel like there's still a lot I can squeeze out of  it before I'm ready to upgrade.

Itchy-itchy, scratchy-scratch.

Ok, I give. When can I have that bike, Shim?

In the meantime, it looks like I'll be spending more time on Excitebike's level five:

Happy trails everyone.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Cyclocross Cybernetics

I raced the Greenstreet Cyclocross Weekend last weekend. The venue was held at the former Fontenelle Golf Course in central/north Omaha. Kudos to Randy Crist and company for getting that course set up for all of us to have some fun.  Good times were had.

The race and course conditions changed drastically between the two days.  Saturday was unseasonably warm at 75F. It was also very windy. Saturday night brought thunderstorms and a 45 degree drop in temperature. I don't think it got above freezing all day. The rain actually helped the course by softening it up, allowing for better bite on turns. That, plus running the direction the opposite way somehow gave more recovery between the hammer sessions.

I entered the open 1-2-3 races.  The fields were small on both days. I finished 6 of 12 on Saturday, and 3rd of 8 starters on Sunday. For not having trained much cyclocross this season, I'll take those results.

Since cyclcross is a combination of fitness and technical skills, some may wonder how I was able to dial it in so effectively. In truth, nobody probably cares. But I have a story to tell. So like it or not, I'm going to tell you how I did it.

I did it by practicing cybernetics.

My friend David Kohll reminded me about cybernetics a few weeks ago at swimming practice. David is a fierce competitor and is a multi-gold medalist of Masters Nationals Swimming.  So he's got some creds. Anyway, David was telling me that he uses cybernetics to imagine his races before the actual event by imagining the venue and how he would perform at it.

Think. Do. That sort of self-fulfilling prophesy mumbo-jumbo.

I took his advice to heart and decided to use cybernetics to prepare for this cyclcocross race and its venue ahead of time.

Fortunately, I had some electronics to guide my cybernetic therapy sessions. It's called the Ninetendo Entertainment System (NES).

The best cybenetics training device for your buck
Now for those unfamiliar with NES, getting it to actually work is half the battle. The NES is famously finicky about getting the system to accept the game cartridge in its input slot.  It's common to get a screen full of snow or pixilated images when attempting to boot up. But with a little finesse, these obstacles are easily  overcome. This usually involves taking the following steps in order:

  1. Plug in cartridge, turn on NES.
  2. Curse when system does not work.
  3. Pull out cartridge, blow dust off, twice.
  4. Re-seat cartridge, try system again.
  5. Curse when system does not work
  6. Get a different cartridge. Duck Hunt is an excellent choice. 
  7. Jam Duck Hunt into system; quickly yank Duck Hunt out.
  8. Re-seat original cartridge, try system again.
  9. Repeat la la, until you see this:

This is what I used to get my game on for the CX weekend.  Oh golly, the good times came rolling back when I heard Excitebike's 8 bit theme song:

Bahr bahr-bahr, bahr-bahr-bahr!
bahr bahr-bahr, bahr-bahr-bahr!
ba-ba ba-ba-dah,ba-dah 
ba dah-dah-dah-dah, dah!!

Lemme tell you something. 1984 old School NES was way ahead of its time. Everything was spot-on. My only issue was that Shigeru Miyamoto didn't provide an option to choose a yellow bike.

Oh well, I chose the blue bike instead.

From the starting line, my heart rate was rocking. Just like in real races.

And as in my cyclocross races, I also was beaten from the starting line sprint to the first berm.

As I recessed into a cybernetic stupor, I began to talk to myself on that blue pixilated bike. Encouraging stuff. Like, "It's okay, it's okay. Lots of time ahead. No need to panic just yet... baby step it through this technical stuff."

And you know what, it worked! I managed to get through that portion without a spill. 

A long straight away then followed. I looked for a wheel to duck behind. I latched on to a rider wearing what looked to be a red and white MWCC kit. 

Let's call him Shim.

I sat on Shim's wheel to catch a breath. For a long time. He pulled for like the next four laps. It was awesome.

Somewhere along the way, he started getting cranky. Probably because he was tired of pulling. 

His bike handling skills became sloppy. We crossed wheels and crashed. I tapped the A and B buttons rapidly to scramble back on the bike.  That's when Shim said it was my turn to pull.

I punched it and went around him while catching some sweet air.

At this point, things were looking great. I had fresh legs and only one last technical section remained: the barrier section. 

My thumb was already numb and stingy, but I squeezed the "A" button nonetheless.  My thumbnail had gone white.  

Shim was charging and trying to pass.

We hit the barriers at the exact same time. We both chose to bunny hop the barriers.

The checkered flag was just ahead. I punched the "B" button (turbo) to sprint the last 40 meters.  My temperature gauge alert was screaming at critical level. 

Just a little further.... It was going to be a close finish...Who was it going to be for the win? Shim? Me?


Wait, what was that? That sound wasn't coming from the NES.  But yet, it sounded vaguely familiar. My cybernetic fog was starting to burn off my brain. In its place, a woman's face began to resolve.


There it was again.  Ah! Now I recognize it -- that was unmistakably the sound of my wife's voice, and it was quite terse.


"Uh, yes dear?"

"You left your glass on the coffee table again!  How many times do I have to tell you that you're gonna cause a ring stain if you leave it there?!"

I looked back at the screen just in time to see the finish: Shim tail-whipped me into the ditch a moment before taking the checkered flag.

Bahr bahr-bahr, bahr-bahr-bahr...

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday, November 2, 2012

Not Skinny, Small Boned

For the past few months, I've been doing a little soul-searching on why I choose to live an active lifestyle.

I know the benefits: excellent health, clothing that fits right and being able to do stuff that I enjoy doing.

Still, it never hurts to examine one's motivations.

Career requirements can put a wrinkle in training from time to time. Meetings and deadline can often spill over into lunch and late into the night. Balancing career and stuff outside (health, family,etc) is always somewhat of a dance.

Change in Season
The change in season has also contributed to my recent ruminating. Truthfully, since the road season ended in June, I haven't had the urge to race my bike. Instead, as the weather has cooled and daylight has become shorter, I've swapped spandex for hipster threads on more than one occasion.

I've also wandered onto the sidelines to watch my friends compete in cyclocross. That's a first for me. Normally, I suit up for these local races. So far, not this year. Anyway, here's an example of me on the sidelines from last month's Omaha Weekend:

The caption above says that I was giving Rafal some pre-race tips. Nuh uh. If anything, Rafal was giving me the racing advice, like "Hey Brady, can I tell you something? You should be out here racing with us instead of painting your house."

Actually, Rafal did say that diddy about painting. He noticed and commented about the white paint on my hands from painting the windows sills I had repaired earlier that day. True story.

Health Reasons
Recently, someone said to me, "you're so skinny from riding your bike, I bet you can eat whatever you want."

Truth is, I'm not skinny, I'm just small-boned. Though I've never been overweight, I have a looming potential to be so.  But I currently appear 'skinny' because being so is a side effect of doing something I enjoy.  If I didn't enjoy it, I probably wouldn't do it. And with the 4,000 calorie diet I'm on, I'd sure look different than what you see today. Therefore, perhaps I'm contingently overweight.

But what if I stopped being active?

Till now, the thought of being out of shape has been my final, fail-safe motivator.  When I've got nothing else, this is what gets me out of bed for early morning swimming practice. It's what keeps me riding over lunch or after work, whenever.

And if that goes. Oh boy.

Former swimmers are the worst (best) at letting it go. I've known a couple former All-American swimmers who totally let it go and have realized their maximum contingency.  They were once ripped and could eat whatever the wanted. But that (swimming, not eating whatever) ended when they quit swimming.

Swimming rewards a voracious appetite.  Aggressive swimmers are just plain hungry all the time. That hunger manifests itself in and outside the pool. They're hungry for yardage, for food, for accomplishment.  A 12,000 yard practice? How about a 12,000 calorie breakfast to match?  The thing is, once the swimmer hangs up their speedo, only the grueling workouts end. That hunger never ceases.

I'm sorry to say it, but I predict that within ten years Michael Phelps will bump Kirstie Alley as the Weight Watchers Spokes person.  I don't say this to be malicious. The fact is that he is a very driven athlete who has won more Olympic medals than any other before. And now he hates swimming.  But I bet he still throws down three fried egg sandwiches, choc chip pancakes and five egg omelettes and such for breakfast on a regular basis.

The hunger never ceases.

YPG. I gotta wrap this thing up. Swimming practice is at dark thirty.