Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas in the Lion City

I've been away from home during Christmas before, but never this far. This year's Christmas was celebrated with Katherine's family in Singapore. Here are my observations.


Unlike in the United States, where 76% claim adherence to Christianity, Christmas in a country where only 18% of its residents are Christian is understandably a different experience.

Since most Singaporeans are buddhists, the observed holiday is mostly secular. However, there are traditional midnight masses and Christmas Day services for christians wishing to attend.

In general, the materialism of Christmas is not hyper-inflated in Singapore. Shopping malls have modest decorations of garland and some lights. Most malls do not have a humungous Christmas tree. Also absent is the ubiquitous Christmas music prevalent in the States. The main shopping district, Orchard Road is festively decorated with Christmas lights. But also curious to note was the Chinese New Year (Horse, Jan 31) decorations a few blocks away in the heart of China town.

Gift exchanging is not common. If there is an exchange of gifts, it's focused on the children. Even then, it's a modest affair.

The Christmas Eve dinner celebrated at my brother-in-law's household had a turkey and stuffing, but it also had pineapple fried rice, and we contributed a balsamic Waldorf salad. Interestingly, because most Singaporeans do not have ovens -- too much heat in the kitchen -- the turkey was catered in. I was actually quite surprised, and a bit delighted, to have  a traditional turkey dinner in Asia. From what I gathered, it's not too uncommon to have turkey for Christmas here. The bird was quite tasty, and also to my delight, not dry.

Christmas Day is an official holiday in Singapore. Government, banks, and most non-retail businesses are closed. Retail, however is a different thing. In fact, contrary to the States, on Christmas Day, malls are open at normal time and are bustling with shoppers. Entertainment venues like movie theaters and amusement parks are also packed. Singaporeans are hard working folks. Holidays are a treat to get out and enjoy it.

Katherine and I spent the afternoon with our niece at a water themed amusement park. 

Christmas decorations on Orchard Road

Santa in a carriage pulled by horses. Rudolf was drowning his red nose in a Singapore Sling down the road at the famous Raffles hotel. 

China town is ready for the year of the horse (Jan 31). This lead horse was pretty ginormous; about 50 other horses nearly as big galloped behind 

A suspended stream of coins symbolizing good luck and fortune followed the horses 

Smaller horses spotted on side streets of Chinatown district

Christmas Eve's turkey was followed by Christmas Day dim sum. 

I passed on the frog

Christmas day at Wild Wild Wet water park with Katherine and our niece Gwen

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Long Haul

There's really nothing graceful about flying economy coach from Omaha to SE Asia. The cabin space is congested with people all around you. Meanwhile, everything on an airplane is small: small seat, small tray table, small seat pocket, small bathroom, small pillow, small blanket. Fortunately, many asians are of smaller stature. And because they're also generally polite, encroaching on your space isn't very common.

The distances travelled are big. Long flights. Long layovers. When flying to SE Asia, you're in for at least two international flights over seven hours, and one lengthy layover. For example, on this recent trip, it was 12 hours from Denver to Tokyo and another seven more from there to Singapore. Add in the layovers (and domestic legs) and more than a day of your life has just passed.

There are some things that can help improve the situation. Book early and claim an aisle seat. Get up and walk lots. Pack a snack bag and an empty water bottle. Fill it often. A washcloth and a small toiletry kit. Personal headphones. Compression socks.

During the flight, I make an effort to take in the various cultures of people around me. What they wear, how they eat, etc..  But my favorite is listening to the Asian flight attendant's sweet voice speaking Japanese over the PA system. And thanks to the 80s hair band Styx, I know at least one word of Japanese. Still, that doesn't prevent me from attempting to translate:

船長は、あなたの席に戻ることを求めている。ありがとうございました。
into, "the Captain has asked that you return to your seats and put your seat belts on. THANK YOU."

By far, the worst part of international flying is trying to get sleep. I'm envious of those who can pull this off.

Once, there was this petite Asian woman who slept in the "crash position" from Houston to Moscow (11 hrs) and again from Moscow to Singapore (12 hours). For the entire trip she didn't eat, drink or get up. Ever. I wondered if she had died or had become a member of the undead shortly after takeoff. (She hadn't.) Later, when I saw her moving quickly to the terminal's toilets, I also wondered if she had begun to develop a urinary tract infection. (Prolly).

I typically take a 15 minute power nap on the first long leg. After the layover, and several hours into the second leg, exhaustion takes over and I shut down hard. I fall into a violent, semi-hallucinative dreams accompanied by uncontrollable appendage failings. At best, it's embarrassing. Fortunately, I haven't punched anyone. Yet. Seriously, it scares me to the point that I literally seatbelt-lock my arms to my body. And the legs? Well, the unfortunate person sitting in front of me is at least somewhat protected by a reinforced steel foot-cage. Uh sorry, petite Asian lady in the seat in front of me.

Oh wait, she's that zombie with the UTI assuming the crash position. We're good.

Friday, December 13, 2013

HUSKER POWER

Many of you know that I ride the city bus to work on a daily basis. I gave up driving to work years ago so I could have extra time to work out. At first that meant running home from work. But within a couple years, Omaha Metro added bicycle racks onto the bus. I've been bringing my bike along ever since. There are many other benefits to riding the bus. It's a low stress commute. It's green. It saves me money. But best of all, I have a community of (bus) friends that has developed over the years.

My buddy Scott is one of these friends.

Scott is a special needs adult. I've never asked him, but I believe that he has some sort of autism. He's highly functional. He's 30 something and has worked for more than ten years as a busboy/dishwasher at local restaurant. He takes the early bus to get to his workplace by 9:00 AM, easily over an hour before he's required to clock in. He's a dedicated employee, but doesn't necessarily do this to be to work on time. He gets to work early so he can devour the Omaha World Herald Sports section while sitting at the bar with an unending supply of Mountain Dew.

Scott's a rabid sports fan. Of course, the Huskers are his favorite team. I've grown to accept that not even six years of bus rides can come anywhere close to covering the breadth of his Husker knowledge. He's scarlet and cream omniscient. Like, pick a number, say #92, and he'll tell you their name (Kevin Williams), home town (Holland, OH), position (DT) and year (So). He knows who's being recruited, what their rivals.com rank is and how many recruits have already committed (19) for the next year's class. True story. He was telling me about next year's recruits yesterday morning.

Back in September, Scott told me that a friend of his was taking him to this year's Nebraska/Iowa game (November 29th). Scott was besides himself because not only was he going to the game, but he was also going to be watching from a luxury sky box. Oh gosh. I heard about the sky box practically every bus ride for the next two months.

Well to my surprise, my buddy Shim also had an extra ticket and invited me to the game a few days beforehand. It was my turn to be excited. Despite being a Huskers fan, I had never been to a game at Memorial stadium.

Scott and I had lots to talk about on the bus the next day.

The game itself turned out to be a bust. Iowa beat Nebraska at Memorial stadium for the first time in some 73 years. Despite a dreadful first half of poor field position and two interceptions, the Huskers were still in the game in the 3rd quarter. The crowd got behind them, and for a moment, the HUSKER POWER! cheer seemed to be working. The team was gaining momentum. Then a failed fake punt deep in Husker territory, another turnover (fumble), and a few personal fouls shut it all down. By the fourth quarter, a rout was underway and the only voice in Memorial stadium still yelling HUSKER POWER was Shim, and he was wearing Hawkeye black and gold. I failed to mention that Shim's an Iowa grad. Jerk.

It got worse. Head coach Bo Pelini had another post game press conference meltdown, saying that the referee made a chickenshit call (personal foul) when Bo swiped his hat in front of the ref's face during a heated argument. That, and Bo telling the press that the NU admin could go ahead and fire him if they wanted to wasn't exactly how you want to conduct a press conference. It was ugly.

On Monday, I met Scott at the bus stop. He was happy to see me. He asked what I thought of the game. I grumbled for a good minute, renouncing my allegiance to Pelini, to the Huskers, and to football in general: college, Pro, powder puff, you name it. I wasn't going to waste another minute of my life on football.

When I was done, Scott leaned in, dipped his head and said, "You just got discouraged, Brady. It's okay. You just got discouraged. That's all."

Now let me tell you, those words were the tonic I needed. And I'm not just talking about the Huskers here. Yes, that was part of it. I was bleeding Husker red. But other recent disappointments -- stuff at work, personal relationships, bike races -- these also lost their discouraging sting when I thought about his advice.

Now how could that be?

It way the way in which he said it. His tone. He offered hope for the future while giving permission to be momentarily discouraged. It was solid wisdom.

It's funny how giving someone permission to be discouraged can actually be encouraging.

Thanks Scott. Go Big Red. Happy Friday everyone.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Hanger

Not too long ago, Katherine and I were down in Kansas City. The occasion was my brother John's birthday. Most of the family was there, including my parents all my siblings, in-laws etc.

Anyway, John and Connie had us all stay in their home. It's spacious and comfy and stuff, but there were lots of people there. In the room next to us was younger brother Brendan and Karen and their two year old, Charlotte. Charlotte's my godchild. She's nearly always adorable. I say almost because 99% of the time she truly is a bundle of joy. That other 1% is when she gets hungry. And when she's hungry, look out.

One such hanger fit occurred at about 5:00 AM Sunday morning. Bless her dear little heart, screaming bloody murder for a cracker or something.

Anyway, once carbed up, she was all charm.

I suspect that the hangry gene runs in the Murphy family. There's no doubt in my mind that Charlotte inherited most of that from Brendan. For one, he was exactly like that when he was Charlotte's age. But even as an adult, he can still be that way. Don't get me wrong. My kid brother is one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. But when he's bonking, watch out.

Like that one time we ran 19 miles together in the rolling dairy land of the Wisconsin country side. It was supposed to be an easy seven mile jaunt before a family reunion. Eight miles later, we realized that we had made a serious mapping error: our round trip was going to be more than 15, quite possibly 20 miles.

At around the 12th mile, we stopped at a convenience store to ward off some pre-bonky feelings. Fortunately, Brendan had a few sweaty dollars tucked away in a pocket, so we had enough for two cokes and one Snickers bar.

That Coke and Snickers bought us about 20 minutes of happiness before things started going down hill. The heat was taking its toll. There was no breeze to speak of. We were both getting fussy. A melt down was immanent. The funny thing was how it was triggered. You'd think it would have been somebody yelling or throwing garbage at us from a passing car. Or a farm dog chasing us. Or a billboard of Rush Limbaugh sneering at us for a country mile. Nope.

It was simply the sound of my breathing. Only a few moments before, Brendan had picked up the pace without saying a word. He later explained that he was trying to drop me because my laborious breathing was annoying him. But at the time, not a word. He just started running faster. The plan probably seemed legit in his bonking stupor. But his folly was that he didn't count on me sticking with him at that fast clip. The faster pace only made my breathing louder.

Suddenly he stopped, turned and screamed in my face that my breathing was driving him nuts.

You see? Hanger gene dominance

We talked it out for a few minutes along the shoulder of that county highway. In the end, we decided that I'd go a half mile up the road before he started running. We soloed in the rest of the run that way.

An hour later, we were stuffing our faces with pulled pork and chasing it down with cold beer. All smiles. Yeah, pretty good. Hanger curtailed, we were good buddies once more.

Happy Friday. Thanks for reading.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Jolly Bumkins

It's late Thursday night. Fred and I were texting each other about this weekend's Frosty Cross race. After reviewing the list of pre-race rituals (cleaning bike, shaving legs and lots of pointing in front of mirrors) he writes, "btw. I forgot to blog. Maybe I'll do a 1 sentence post or something."

Oh crap. The blog. I also forgot.

This blogging experiment started well over 18 months ago. It was an idea hatched by Eric O'Brien. The idea was that each of us would post something on our respective blogs each week. We settled on a 5:00 AM Friday deadline and started posting the following week. I'll gloss over the fact that Eric has posted like maybe five times over the past year and half. But Fred and I have remained faithful to the pact.

Well, it's late Thanksgiving Thursday and I've got nothing.

Scratch-scratch. Here's something.

Everyone who has a dog has at least one nickname for their pet. Most have many.

From where does such frivolity spawn? I don't know. It's stupid. It's silly. It's a little kooky, too.

For some reason, I've been wondering about this as I began calling my dog Emmylou by her latest nickname, "Dolly Bumkins." I have no idea how those two words formed in my brain. Not only am I embarrassed to admit that my human brain formed those words, but I've also uttered them to my dog in public. I'm quite sure my neighbors have heard it.

Emmy don't care. She answers to Dolly Bumkins. Shoot, she'd prolly answer to anything so long as I used my special dog voice when pronouncing it, like I do with her other thousand nicknames. The special voice is the other part of this insanity. Katherine says it gives her groosepimples [sic] when she hears me use it.

I'm also quite sure that the neighbors have heard the special voice, too.

But Emmy knows that I'm speaking to her when I use that voice... "Right Dolly Bumkins?"



You see? The photo doesn't give it justice, but trust me, her tail is wagging.

It's a good thing she responds to it. Why? Because with the holidays and such, I just morphed her nickname once more. Say goodbye Dolly Bumkins and hello to Jolly Bumkins.

"Hello Jolly Bumkins!"

Emmy's tail begins wagging

And that's all I got to say about that, special voice or not.

Jolly good day to you. Thanks for reading.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Courage

I always liked that word, courage. I liked it more after looking it up:


Middle English denoting the heart as the seat of feelings, from Old French corage, from Latin cor 'heart'.

It takes a lot of heart to race a bicycle. I'm reminded of it every time I pin on my number with trembling fingers. Some of that is from excitement. But some of it is simply fear. Fear of the failure to perform, of not having the guts to endure more pain, of losing, of not making the podium, of not making payouts, of being dropped, of crashing, of finishing DFL.

It's silly, I know. I'm like forty something years old. You'd think by my age and with all the experience I've had, I'd have it figured out by now. Well, I haven't.

Now imagine being this kid.

Or this one:
If you look closely, you might spot her pony tails.
Imagine being that small and facing the daunting task of getting to the top of the very long, steep, and muddy hill known as "Mt Krumpit" at the Iowa State Fair grounds.

Do you remember when you were nine years old and everything seemed bigger? Being shorter/lower to the ground certainly makes things appear bigger. But a nine year old's stride is also about half that of a grown up's. It follows that it'd take a child nearly twice as many steps to cover the same distance as a typical adult. Now add the disproportionate weight of a kid's bicycle, easily weighing up to a third of their body weight. In comparable terms, it'd be like me dragging a 50 lb clunker up a hill twice as long.

Take a moment to imagine the courage it must have taken them to get up that hill.

Only moments before these juniors appeared on the scene, I had a knot of fear in my stomach thinking about that greasy hill. But when I saw these little half pints approach, dismount and shoulder their bikes up that hill, not only was the knot in my gut become eviscerated, but in its place, I became inspired.

Suddenly I began hearing my voice shouting at them, "FIVE MINUTES AGO I WAS AFRAID OF THIS HILL. SEEING YOU TAKE IT HAS CHANGED THIS OLD MAN. NOW I'M LOOKING FORWARD TO IT. THAT'S RIGHT. AND WHEN I DO, I'LL BE THINKING OF YOU."

Not only did those little halflings inspire me, but they taught me a thing or two. For starters, many demonstrated how to shoulder a bike with good form.

The second lesson received was in showing me the best line to take up the hill. For the first two laps, all the junior riders went up the left side of the hill. It made sense. It was the most direct path to the top. However, on the third and final lap, a rogue racer took the longer, right-side ascent. In doing so, he passed two riders along the way.

As he approached me, I asked him why he chose the path less traveled.

"The left side is getting all mucked-down and sloppy. The right side is the way better path.Way better," he squeaked as he went by.

And you know what? He was absolutely right. That tip helped me pass more people than anywhere else on the race course. Thanks kid.

So here's to courage and the free tutelage on Mt Krumpit last weekend.

Happy Friday. Thanks for reading.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Delirious

I have a fever. I'm delirious with blurry vision. My cleanly shorn legs have goose-pimples and cold sweats keep me up at night.

And the yips, oh let's not forget the yips.

I'm sick I tell you. Plain sick. The bug? Cyclo-cross. I've been bitten and I'm afraid I'm swirling in the wake of its thrilling racing, of its rabid fans, of its drum-lines and hooligan hill bands.

Who wants -- scratch that -- who needs more cowbell? The guy sitting at this keyboard with two thumbs pointing right here. That's who.

And though there's still a couple more months of this year's CX calendar, I'm afraid that this weekend's Jingle Cross Rock race is the beginning of the end for my CX 2013 campaign. Sure, I may have a couple more race weekends ahead, but nothing will compare to the competition of this coming weekend. At least, not on what's left of my 2013 calendar.

Wow. I've come a long way. I used to get somewhat annoyed by merely talking of lawn racing. I suppose that it wasn't so bad when cyclo-cross ramblings were in-season (Autumn). But when the likes of Savery or Rafal or Redemske began talking about the pending 'cross season in June, I was like, really?

Not anymore. It's CX 24x7x365, baby. That's right. Brace yourself. I'm just getting started.

So get this and get it now: I've already begun planning for CX 2014. Sure, it may seem like a long way off, but in my hyper-spastic brain, CX 2014 is right around the corner. With this in mind, I'll be doing some extra run ups and Mt Krumpit descents for good measure.

At any rate, I'd better get busy. CX 2014 is only nine months away.

Let's ride. Yah!

NE CX State Championships 2013  photo credit: Michael McColgan

Friday, November 8, 2013

Piano Lessons From the Church Lady

I had a big presentation at work the other day. Months of research and analysis has been poured into this presentation. It was being reviewed by a panel of 15 of internal customers, a few teammates and my boss. As a result, I was feeling a little bound up.

Or was that from all the cheese I had been eating lately?

The meeting was scheduled for 2 1/2 hours. There were lots of pages to review, charts, diagrams and a few TPS reports to cover. Standard stuff really, and unless you're a railroad foamer, quite boring.

The feeling I had in my gut before the presentation was not unlike the feeling I used to have as a kid before a piano recital.

Back in the day, my elder brother Matt and I took lessons from a neighborhood piano teacher named Mrs. Eiter. Long before there ever was one, Mrs Eiter looked and acted a lot like Dana Carvey's SNL church lady character.


Like the church lady, my piano teacher was an angry woman.She'd probably have smacked me with a ruler for insubordination if she could've gotten away with it. Instead, she chose passive aggression, and plied it thickly.

"Welllllllll, I see we haven't practiced much this past week, have we hmmm? Too much dodge ball to learn your scales, huh? Or has the swimming gotten your fingers too waterlogged to practice your minor triads, hmm? Hmm?!?"

The metronome tick-tock, tick-tock punctuated the silence.

"Why do you come here week after week? Do you not enjoy playing the piano?"

Tick-tock, tick tock....

Mrs Eiter shook her head and sighed deeply.

 "Alrightyyyyy then, let's take it from the top."

This went on for weeks, for months. Years. I hated every minute of it. And recitals? OMG, they were absolutely the worst.

But at the end of one such recital, Mrs Eiter gathered everyone around the punch bowl to announce rather abruptly that she was retiring from teaching piano, effective immediately. Gasps and murmurs filled the room while I scanned for my brother Matt. When I found him, the look of jubilation on his face validated everything I was feeling. It was as if we had just been paroled from life sentences for crimes we didn't commit.

He could hardly wait to get outside to high-five me.

And with that, we were done with piano lessons, recitals and the church lady piano teacher.

--//--

The apprehension before my presentation this week reminded me of the feelings I'd have before one of Mrs Eiter's piano recitals.

This time, I dealt with the stress by kitting up for a solo bike ride an hour before the meeting. The sun's rays took the edge off the otherwise brisk wind. As my drive train and bike's tires harmonized melodically down the tarmac, I took the moment to lose myself in the vibrant reds, glorious yellows and tangy oranges of the Autumn foliage. In a word, the ride was fantastic.

I was refreshed when the meeting started. The meeting itself wasn't so bad after all.

Happy Friday. Thanks for reading.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Pang Sai Manuever

As I turned it over and over again in my mind, it finally came to me. The word I was searching for when Mark said banzai manuever was pang sai (/bəNG' sī/). Yes indeed, pang sai.

Allow me to tell you about a lesser known strategy called the Pang Sai maneuver.

On a fine day a few years ago, Katherine and I were walking through a shopping mall. There was some commotion up the way. Someone was yelling something or other at another. I couldn't quite make out what was being said. As we got closer, I discovered that it was actually an Asian couple shouting in a Chinese dialect across an open atrium. Anyway, the white noise from shoppers and a nearby water fountain washed out their voices. They were failing to communicate.

Suddenly, in one of those rare moments when everything that produces noise -- the shuffling of feet, the fountain's watery splashes, even the pesky Mediterranean women pushing their wrinkle creams upon unwary customers -- all those noises ceased abruptly. You could hear a pin drop. It was at that precise moment that the Asian male flipped from all-Chinese to an English-Hokkien Pidgin slang:

"I NEED TO PANG SAI," he yelled.

His voiced gushed clearly across the open atrium, crashing through the sun-glasses huts and poster kiosks, around the Gaps and Banana Republics, rippling past the coffee shops and through the food court before washing out at the bookend stores: Sears, Penny's and Dillard's.

In all, just a fleeting moment before the oblivious shoppers began milling about once more.

Meanwhile, Katherine's squeezing my arm. I looked to find that she's besides herself, shaking to suppress laughter.

"What?" I ask

She can't speak. She sits on a bench, trembling.

"What?" I repeat impatiently.

After several minutes, she pulls herself together to inform me that to pang sai is Hokkien slang for going #2.

"You mean to tell me that our man just yelled across the mall that he needs to take a shit, and nobody but his wife and you understood him?"

New waves of giggles cascaded over her.

--//--

Banzai Manuever? Pang Sai Manuever? Execute both well, and you may reap high rewards.

Executed poorly? You might be in the pits for awhile.

There. I feel better now. Happy Friday.


The Banzai Maneuver

This past weekend, I made a last minute decision to ditch racing Boss Cross in KC for the Gateway Cross Cup in St Louis.

I raced the Masters 40+ races both days. I had a good race on Saturday. I managed to keep the bike upright for the entire race for the first time this season, and had consistent power throughout. My lap splits verified this consistency: the largest time variance between laps was only three seconds. As a result of good handling and decent power, I was able to pick my way through the field to the second step on the podium.

Sunday's race began a lot like Saturday's. Starting again from the back row, I was sitting third at the beginning of the final lap and second place was only 50 meters up the road. I punched it and caught second place, then sat on for a quick breathier before I'd attempt to pass on the next straightaway.

That straightaway was a good place to pass because it was tailwind-assisted and followed a deceivingly easy right turn. The tricky part was a small gully that bisected the straightaway. The gully featured a small ledge that separated the grassy slopes on both sides from pavement. Under normal speed and circumstances, that hazard wasn't a big deal. However, it became dicey at attack speed because you had to lift your front twice: once to keep the bike level during the drop-off, and once again to keep from burying the nose into the other side.

With high risk comes high reward. As we entered the straightaway, I attacked and passed the rider just as we were dropping into the gully. I was going well over 20 mph when I hit the bottom. I hit hard. Really hard, with a loud thud. My back wheel immediately went squishy. I knew then that I had pinch flatted and kissed second place goodbye.

Afterwards, I explained to Mark how and where it all went down.

"You went for the banzai maneuver," he said.

Banzai?

Mark continued, "Yeah, the banzai maneuver is a smart risk early in the race, but probably not the best for the final lap ..."

Mark's words were flittering away as I mulled over that word, banzai. It reminded me of something, that word, banzai. But what was it?

Oh well. No biggy. I thanked Mark for his assistance in the pits and chalked it up to experience. Overall, I had a great time racing at Gateway Cross Cup. I hope to do it again next year.

Thanks for reading. Happy Friday

Friday, October 25, 2013

Hey, You Suck!

In cyclocross, there's a strong tradition of heckling competitors. This is a parodox, because cycling is already a painful race. Incredibly painful. You'd think because of this a little encouragement would be in order. Nope. Just pain and shouting.

Except for the brainless tedium of a road race's time trial, I submit that cyclocross racing is the most painful of all cycling. There's simply no break from the raw pain. In 'cross races, one manages their red-line for 60 minutes while punching up snarky hills, through greasy off-camber turns, and dismounting and running through barriers. The weather is chilly and quite often clammy. If you're lucky(?) the course is dry, but is usually muddy. Or icy. Or an icy-muddy rut field quagmire.

BikeSnobNYC sums it up best:

Cyclocross. Do it wrong, and it'll be the coldest, muddiest, most painful hour of your life. Do it right, and it'll be the coldest, muddiest, most painful hour of your life. It'll also be the most fun you'll have on your bike all year. Cold, mud, and pain are non-negotiable. —BikeSnobNYC

All this and heckling too?

As an infrequent cx racer, I remembered the physical pain. Unfortunately, I had forgotten about the heckling. As it was, I was barely coping with the physical stress. The jeering at my last place during a recent race didn't bode well. Not at all.

A few days later, some of us were riding cx laps at the park. During a break, Randy Crist asked me if I had a bad start at the race. While relating the early troubles I was having, I also mentioned being annoyed by the incessant heckling at the race.

Lucas perked up. "You mean you took it personally?"

Lucas' questioning was like a tight slap in the face.

Well since then, I've been asking around about the cyclocross heckling culture. Apparently, heckling is part of the cx deal. I just need to suck it up if I don't like it. Otherwise, I should consider sticking to triathlons, because there's lots of coddling going on over there. At any rate, these two cyclocross primers  (#1, #2) are worth a quick read, especially if you're new to the sport and/or are as plain ignorant and thin-skinned as I was.

Perhaps this heckling culture is best summed up by our resident world champion, Mark Savery:


Ok fine. I'm good with this now.

Whew. It's been a productive couple weeks around here nailing down these tacit cyclocross rules. Last week, it took us 20 comments to get a call up list strategy put together. This week, heckling.

With that, I'm now ready for the remainder of the 'cross season. Call me up or not, jeer at me, spray beer in my face. Whatever. Do your worst.

Happy Friday Everyone

Friday, October 18, 2013

Nice And Tall

On a recent bus ride to work, my friend Scott was talking with another rider, Jane. They were talking about her son Jason's high school football season. Apparently, Jason's quite an athlete and is being recruited by Bo Pelini to play for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Jane was very proud of her son. She gushed about him to a captive audience on the bus.

When she paused to catch her breath, Scott commented that he had noticed how Jason has bulked up.

"Yeah, he's small, like your buddy there," she says while nodding at me, "but Jason's got way more muscle than him. Way more."

I'm nodding along like a dope -- wait. What? Did she really just say that? I looked around. Everyone on that bus was giving me the up and down. She didn't even wait for the bus to stop to throw me under it.

Oi, it appears that everyone around me is getting taller. Or I'm getting smaller. Or both.

Exhibit A: The Training Ride
Mod captured this scene on a training ride. I'm on the yellow bike on the left. To my right is my buddy Noah.


Mark: Awkward draft behind these two.
Rafal: Danny devito and Arnold like


Danny Devito? Really? I suppose if Noah can be Arnold, then why not.

Exhibit B: 2013 Corporate Cup 10K:
Everyone is taller than me in this photo. Everyone.


I felt like this kid:



Exhibit C: My Junior Bike
Remember when Jens Voigt crashed in the 2010 TdF and took some kid's junior bike for a harrowing descent in order to make the stage time cut?


Jens is tall. When he's not stealling kids bikes, he rides a 60cm. I'm not so tall. I ride a 54cm. My colleague James Peters is about Jens' height. Like Jens, James also rides a 60cm. This is photo at the rack of my junior bike next to James' Jensie bike.


If you look closely, you can see daylight between his drops and mine. Dang.

Exhibit D: The Call Up List
In cyclocross, there is a starting line tradition to offer front row call ups for those who've earned it. Call ups are not only an honor, but they can also affect the outcome of a race as those in the front row are less likely to encounter bottleneck traffic from tight turns, barriers, mud and sand pits.

Having been the runner up at this past weekend's Omaha CX race on Saturday, I was expecting a call up on Sunday.

It didn't happen. As a result, I started in the back, got tangled up in a crash in the first sand pit, where somebody else stepped on my shoe and sheared a buckle off, yada, yada, yada...

I commented to Fred afterwards that perhaps it was a simple oversight that I wasn't called up. I rationalized that since I registered day-of, my name wasn't on the preregistration list. It was plausible theory that race official Darryl Webb could have pulled the list from preregistered racers and forgotten me. Why not? It had to be a simple oversight on his part, right?

"Or maybe he just didn't see you at all," Fred said.

Ouch. Thanks pally.

At nearly 5'9", I'm not exactly short. Nor am I tall. And till now, I've never had an issue with my size before. Now I'm beginning to wonder if I should.

Yet to my dear Mom, I'm a giant among men. Katherine likes to remind me this from time to time. She once overheard my Mom asking for assistance: "Brady, you're nice and tall, could you reach that bag of flour on the top shelf for me?"

Nice and tall. Do you see that Mark Savery and Rafal? James Peters? Fred Hinsley? And you too, Darryl Webb? Shame on all of you.

And don't forget to call me up next time.

Nice and tall. Thanks, Mom. I feel better now. Or at least an inch taller. Whatever. I'll take it.

Happy Friday Everyone

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Strong Program, Part II

This past week, my mom and dad were on a road trip that brought them through Omaha. Katherine and I put them up with us in the yellow house on 52nd Street. It was grand. We had a fun evening catching up. When it came time to retire, I commented that I was planning to get up for 5:30 AM swimming practice the next morning, but to help themselves to anything should they get up before I returned.

Mom was already up when I went to make coffee the next morning. She asked if she could tag along with me at swimming practice.

I thought watching swimming meets were boring, but watching a swimming practice? Eessh.

Still, who am I to deny such a request? Especially from my mother?

We arrived as practice was starting. Coach Samland was busy delivering instructions to the 35 or so gathered on deck. After warm ups were underway, I introduced them and then hopped in. At the end of warm up, my friends were asking what was up. Some of them had already guessed that it was my Mom. One of the younger female swimmers said that she was "so cute, with the biggest smile on her face while watching me."

I sorta felt like I was in sixth grade again, and mom had the dreaded playground patrol. Imagine how mortified I would have been if she started doing calisthenics right then and there on the pool deck, like she did on the playground back in the day, bless her dear heart.

But truly, it was a delight having her there. I'll always have the memory of that big grin on her face. Or, how she was clapping for me when I emerged from the water when practice was over.

Afterwards, she had nothing but compliments to hand out to my friends. She remarked how wonderful it was that so many people, spanning multiple generations, got up that early to workout. She even said that she was inspired to get in the water when she returned home.

I hope she follows through with it. My parents recently moved to a condo that has a heated indoor pool with lap lanes a few hundred feet from their front door. And she'd have a partner, too. Dad's already a regular swimmer these days.

Swimming is an activity one can do for a lifetime. It's never too late to start. Affordable adult swimming lessons are widely available at YMCAs, fitness centers and many local universities.

You can do it, Mom. Shoot, in no time, I bet you'd have your own strong program.

Cheers and happy Friday







Friday, October 4, 2013

Farty Far Debriefing

As many of you know, I celebrated another birthday yesterday: 44. Or as I mentioned in my facebook selfie, "farty-far" as they'd say in St Louis.

Like a lot of places, St Louis has evolved its own dialect over the years. Though it's a Midwestern city that prides itself as the "Gateway to the West", it retains a lot of eastern ties. Perhaps with its Irish influence, it thinks of itself as a smaller Boston. Or the Italian neighborhoods on the hill are reminiscent of a slice of the Bronx. St Louis seems to embellish these traits.

But what about the city's southern influences? While eastern influences have been flaunted, southern tendencies have seemingly been suppressed in almost all areas except its lexicon.

While I could go into an in depth study on the subject, this is not the appropriate place nor time to embark on such a grand scheme. Trust me, it would be fun to try to trace the etymology of how the word "Hoosier" (and its variants 'hoos', and the well-to-do, 'hoos-wah-zie') went from being a term of honor and distinction in the state of Indiana, to becoming one of the most derogatory terms a person could be called in St. Louis.

But I'm getting off subject. The point I'm making is that St Louis is a great melting pot of people, and try as they might to suppress it, the southern contingent is there for the long haul.

I'm somewhat of a subject matter expert because I grew up in the St Louis suburb of Kirkwood. We lived near Interstate 44. I never noticed that a lot of St Louis folks spoke with a southern draw until somebody told me to listen how the number "forty four" was actually pronounced in common, every day speech. The very next morning, I heard the radio traffic reporter clearly state, "Expect a 20 minute delay along eastbound highway farty-far."

Farty far?

Yep, that's the one. And try not to confuse it with farty (hwy 40). Farty runs parallel to farty-far, see?


That's all I've got today. Besides, it's time for some more birthday cake.

Cheers everybody.

Friday, September 27, 2013

This Little Piggy

Recently, I won a Ginny Award for being the best LT story teller while one tries to hold on to a paceline. An award like this deserves to be ensconced in olive branches and displayed among all my other palmarès on this blog's sidebar.

The story I told to earn this Ginny is also an example of the power of suggestion.

The power of suggestion is a strange phenomenon when someone imagines something happening before it actually occurs in the real world. It's as if their suggestion caused it to happen. For example, there are countless reports of people who had earthquake premonitions days before it actually happened. Closer to home, the power of suggestion kicks in when someone says that they had a dream that Rafal's crank arm fell off during a race. That particular dream must be a recurring nightmare, because Rafal's crank arm falls off quite a lot. 

You get the point. The power of suggestion is real. Word.

Anyway, my Ginny Award connects the old school playground game of tetherball to an incident that happened in the NFL recently. My story goes back to my college years. It's about my friend Matt Brennan, who told me of the time he had to move a tetherball stand across a school's parking lot. In the process, he dropped it on his foot. 


Tetherball is that game that Napoleon Dynamite liked to play. It's rad. It's a poor-man version of volleyball. But you don't need a net. You don't even need other players. All you just need a ball, a rope, a steel pole, an old wheel and some ready-mix concrete to anchor it all in. Only in Matt's case, the tetherball pole wasn't anchored to a wheel, but to a rusty 55 gallon steel drum half-filled with concrete.


The drum was very heavy and awkward to maneuver. As a result, he only managed rolling it a few feet before he lost control and dropped the drum on his foot. There was a flash of searing before he was able to lift and remove his foot from beneath it. Aside from his big toe throbbing a little, he was otherwise fine. Matt shrugged it off and pressed on with his task until the tetherball stand was moved off the parking lot.

By this point, his big toe was throbbing pretty hard. He sat down to take a look.

When Matt removed his shoe, he was surprised to see that his sock was bloodied. He remarked that that was odd since his leather shoe was not cut. He peeled off his sock and casually dropped it to the ground.

That's when he heard a soft but distinct "thud".

A moment later, he was staring in shock at a bloody stump where his big toe once was; the stump squirting its rich maroon ink all over the blacktop.

Fortunately for Matt, his father was a local surgeon. He picked up his sock with toe still in it, hobbled to the car and drove himself to the emergency room, whereupon arrival, asked the ER nurse to page his Dad to sew his toe back onto his foot.

Matt's dad was no plastic surgeon, but by golly, aside from some jagged scars and a permanent 7° loft, his big toe had been successfully grafted back onto his foot. Why, covered with a pair of heavy wool socks, you'd barely even notice the 'frankentoe.

That's the story that I told Fred while riding in an LT paceline. It was an honor to receive a Ginny for it. 

But what's amazing is what happened two days after I received my Ginny.



Apparently, during punt coverage, Rashad Johnson (no relation) somehow lost the tip of his finger and didn't discover it until he removed his glove. He said that he doesn't know how it happened. Well, I do. It's called the power of suggestion. Sure, there were no tetherball drums, but a digit was severed completely off that was later discovered in an article of clothing. That, only two days after I won the Ginny for a similar story. Coincidence? No way. That's the power of suggestion.

At any rate, I couldn't help but wonder if Rashad Johnson first saw that his finger was missing, or if he heard a soft "thud" while tossing his removed glove aside, and then saw the bloody stump.

The power of suggestion is real, my friends. Stay healthy, and may you keep all your toes and fingers safe in the coming days.

Happy Friday. Peace Out.


Friday, September 20, 2013

That Guy From Spain

I ran the Omaha Corporate Cup 10K last weekend. It was a tough race. The 33 or so years previously had been run on a very flat and fast course with one turn. I'm sorry, two turns. This year's new course had 17 turns and just about as many hills. It didn't make for fast running.


I'm in this picture. I'm in a blue kit in the second row on the right hand side, tucked in behind Luka Thor (#10820) and Luke Christiansen (#8974). I drafted both of those guys for about 20 paces before they ripped my legs off. I'm still looking for them. My legs.

Still, I ran a respectable 37:16. That was good enough for 15th place overall. The winner's time was about a minute and half slower than last year's best. Since I ran a 35:54 last year, I suppose I ran comparably this year. I'll take those results.

But don't tell my Mom that. My Mom thinks I'm a super elite stud or something. She even brags about it to her friends. Check out this email thread where she's boasting about my recent Hy Vee Triathlon performance.


While it's true I won my age group, it was in the joe six pack citizen race. Can you swim, and do you own a bicycle? Any bike? Good. Then you could have entered the citizen race, too. And I was sixth overall in the citizen's race, not third. At any rate, I wasn't two, nor five places behind that "guy from Spain" who won $100,000. Ha! That guy was in the pro's race. His name is Javier Gomez and he's also the current ITU World Champion. He beat me by well over 25 minutes in a two hour race. That's huge. And there were about 100 men and women who placed between me and Javier, that guy from Spain.

But a Mom can dream. And brag. Bless her dear heart.

Shhhhhh. This is our secret. Don't ruin this.

Happy Friday.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Foam Roller Foamer

As I mentioned in last week's Tri Barry post, I suffered a severe calf cramp a few miles into the run. I was hobbled, but I gutted it out to finish the race. Had I not been racing, I would have pulled the plug and called for a ride. It was that bad.

My calf muscle was very sore for a few days following the race but has made good progress since. I owe a lot of this to my Foam Roller coach, whose prescribed methods of foam-roller therapy has smoothed out the knot that the cramp created.

Wait, what's that? A foam roller coach?

Yes, you heard it correctly. I have a foam roller coach.

I have lots of coaches.You're already familiar with some of them. There's coach Shim (cycling), who yells "pedal faster" when I need to pedal faster. And there's coach Mod (Cyclocross). Actually, Mod doesn't know he's coaching me. I've been secretly poaching Mod's 'cross workouts from his Strava feed. Shhhhh. This is our secret now. Don't ruin this.

Well, in addition to these two, I also have a foam roller coach on the dole, and his name is Dr Peter.

I first met Dr Peter years ago on a Wednesday Night Worlds group ride. At the time, Dr Peter was in his 50s, and he was killing it. In a strong headwind, he had broken away from pack, soloed up the road and was holding off a chase group for a good ten minutes. It was an impressive effort. Especially for someone like Dr Peter, who's of smaller stature and weight (5'7 and 135 lbs). But there he was, 200m off the front and putting the hurt on the group.

A few years later, I bumped into Dr Peter again, this time at Omaha Masters Swimming. I may not have recognized Dr Peter at first. But on that day, Dr Peter didn't have proper swimming gear. Instead, he swam in the next best thing: over-the-shoulder MWCC cycling bib shorts. If the suit fits...

As I got to know him better, I found out that Dr Peter is very competitive. Allow me to illustrate.

Earlier this Spring, I began doing a couple bonus sets of push-ups at the end of swimming practice to strengthen core and upper body. I did this on my own initiative and without telling anyone about it. But people took notice. After a couple days, some started asking questions. Dr Peter wasn't one of them. Instead, he began critiquing my push-up form: my arms were too wide, my back sagged, my nose didn't touch the floor, yada yada yada. But telling me how simply wasn't enough. He then preceded to get down and show me how a manly-man does push-ups.

The problem was that Dr Peter was conducting this impromptu push-up clinic in the locker room shower after practice. He was also quite naked.

"Hang on a second," I said. "Let me get my camera and take some photos for Facebook."

Laughter erupted in the locker room.

Dr Peter retorted, "No way, that'd be too kinky."

"I'm afraid it's too late for that."

More laughter.

Anyway, what Dr Peter knows about push-ups pales in comparison to his experience with foam rollers. He owns at least a half dozen of them of different shapes, colors and sizes. Yes, we're still talking about foam rollers here. Anyway, he swears by the effectiveness of a foam roller massage, and rarely skips a day without using it.

Unless you really want to know and you have the time for a five minute 'speale on the benefits of foam rollering, don't ask him. You'd be cheating yourself of a good education, and more importantly, the opportunity for Dr Peter to tell you about it. He's passionate about the foam roller and pitches it like the As Seen on TV® guy.

If you had the time, it might go something like this:

"Hey Dr Peter, I was doing some push-ups the other day and felt a slight strain in my upper back."

"Oh, push ups, huh? How many? Last night, I did three sets of 20: hands wide, hands under shoulders, and hands together. Let me show you --

~ You catch Dr Peter mid-stoop and wave him off ~

"No, I know you are awesome and that my push-up form sucks. What I need is a little advice on foam rol--"

"-- Foam rollers?"

~ you may be imagining it, but you swear he's beginning to foam at the mouth ~

"...did you say foam rollers?!" He's nearly frothing now. "I foam roller! Every night. I have a several --"

"Yes, yes, Dr Peter, you have a half dozen of different shapes, colors and sizes. You've already told me. Anyway, I was wondering if you could recommend a particular set of roller exercises for my upper back..."

~ Dr Peter takes a step back. The lights directly above him power up a dazzling 400% while those above you fade to black. Suddenly, his voice crackles with the electricity and static of one of those chintzy road-show kiosks ~ 

"The Body Solid Full Foam Roller can be used in a variety of different ways. Enhance your body awareness, muscular flexibility, dynamic strength ..."

"Let me get my camera," you say to nobody in particular. "At least this can be posted on Facebook."



Friday, September 6, 2013

Tri Barry

Rule 42 from the Velominati's Way of the Cycling Disciple states that a bike race shall never be precede with a swim and/or followed by a run:


I have recently violated this rule by competing in the Hy-Vee Triathlon last Sunday. Not only does that place me in the cycling penalty box, but I suppose that also makes me a regular Tri-guy.

I prefer Tri-Barry.

For my regular readers, it should come as no surprise that a common theme around here at steel-cut goodness is that I try to keep the playing field level. When I pick on something -- or tease someone-- it's usually because I'm just as guilty as charged on the subject matter. Promise. This was the case with triathlons. You see, back in June when I lamented about the tri-guy, I had already signed up for the Hy-Vee Triathlon. In short, I was already that tri-guy, guy.

Not only that, but I had also begun super-secret triathlon training. Secret, if you don't follow my Strava feed, because it was all laid out there. Triathletes do specific bike-run workouts called bricks. I also did open water swims before many of these bricks. And plenty of track workouts (run). All of these were dutifully recorded on my public Strava feed.

Some of my Strava friends took notice. Jordan Ross and my brother Brendan gave Kudos for a couple of my brick workouts. And Dr Eric O'Brien commented on one of my open water swim segments that he didn't know me anymore. The same goes for Paul Webb, who had left this ribbing on my MWCC Trek Team Triathlon kit:


As a result of this specific training, and the amount of time I invested into the race, I recently skipped the Papillion Twilight Crit (bike) race and volunteered as a corner marshal instead. While volunteering, I bumped into a friend I hadn't seen in a while. She commented that she heard that I had gotten into mountain biking this summer and wondered how that was going. Mountain biking was so two months ago. So while I explained that my current focus was getting ready for Hy-Vee, she cocked her head a little sideways, then said, "Mountain biking, road racing, triathlons... you're kind of all over the place, aren't you?"

"Well, Jackie," I said, "I just really enjoy riding my bike a lot, and -- squirrel!!"


The race itself was a lot of fun. The Hy-Vee triathlon is an olympic distance (1.5k swim, 40k bike, 10k run) race. It's also huge in terms of participants -- well over 1,000 entrants. Why so many? For one, the winner gets a $100,000 pay check. But it's also managed well, and comes with a lot of extra goodies besides prize money.

Leading up to the race, my training bricks were going well. Swims and bike were good. And I ran a number of sub 40 minute training 10Ks right off the bike. As a result, I was excited to toe up to the starting line. In fact, I was ready to open up a huge can of whoop ass on the field. The problem was that, as an age grouper who's no spring chicken, I had to wait a long time before my wave started. On top of that, a thunderstorm delayed the race start 45 minutes. So I waited an extraordinary long time. In fact, the pros had already finished their sub two hour race before I even started. So what did I do during all that extra time?

I peed. A lot. In the lake. And it was good.

The swim portion is in Gray's Lake. A better name should be Yellow Lake. Or, Lake Ur-In. Because I peed in it at least six times before my race started. That's a conservative guess. True story.

I suspect that all that peeing had some effect on my performance. And not in a good way. My quads started quivering to the point of cramping near the end of the swim. Fortunately, I had no troubles on the bike. But I suffered on the run: my left calf cramped so severely 20 minutes in that I had to walk for a moment to let it relax. From there in, I gutted out 7:15/mi for a +42 minute run (results).

Oh well, I still had a lot of fun hamming it up with the rest of the tri-dorks afterwards. Here are a few pictures from my post-race press conference:


So yes, Jackie, I'm all over the place. Especially if there's a bicycle involved. Does that make me an obnoxious, over-the-top tri-guy?

If the tri-suit fits, I'll wear it.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Gimme Eat!

I ended last week's post by saying that I was going to pour my sixth bowl of Lucky Charms. If I must be completely honest, I haven't had a bowl of Lucky Charms in years. It's a dietary thing. You know, it's all about Wholesome Steel-Cut oats, now.

Still, I have my lapses. Recently, I had to stop for fast food. I say "had to" because there weren't many other options. Fast food is just gross. And I say "gross" in the kindest sense of the word. While waiting in line, I was amazed at the manner in which customers ordered their food: "gimme three Whoppers", or, "I need a bacon double cheeseburger."

Gimme?

Need?

Uhn excuse me, but did you recently get plunked from a life-raft adrift at sea or something? It may smell like it, but it certainly doesn't look like it. No. I dare say you don't need that revolting McRib sandwich any more than we need to see you lick its tangy sauce from your plump, sausage-like fingers.

Look, take a little pride in yourself. Finger-comb that greasy mop you call hair. Pull those damn shorts over your filthy underwear, and tuck in that pit-stained bro-tank. For goodness sake, pull yourself up by your shit-caked boot straps. And while you're at it, try saying please every now and then.This is 'Merica after all, dag gummit.

To be fair, I was once like that. Well, even then, it was extremely rare when I skipped showering (with soap) before going out in public. And though my clothes may have been wrinkled, at least they smelled reasonably fresh. What I'm trying to say is that while I took some measures to project an otherwise clean outward appearance, I used to pollute my body with fast food fairly regularly.

The beginning of the end of all that started years ago when I brought a sack of Wendy's back to work for lunch. As I tore open the paper wrapper surrounding a double cheeseburger, I caught my colleague, Seamus Walsh, staring at me with a certain look of disgust. Now, Seamus was somewhat of an an all-natural body builder/fitness freak. He was a purist, especially when it came to nutrition. Put it this way: he considered a can of Chicken of the Sea® Tuna, in water, as junk food. Anyway, just as I was about to mouw into that burger, Seamus puts down his Beefcake 2000 protein shake (2 scoops mixed in with organic non GMO soy milk, bananas, raspberries, kumquats, egg whites and wheat grass) and rhetorically asks, "You're going to put THAT in your body?"

Too late. I destroyed it in about 20 seconds. And it was delicious. Never mind how gross I felt afterward.

But Seamus' words that day had the effect of planting a seed in my brain. It took some time, and a lot of bacon double-cheeseburgers, but miraculously, that seed germinated and took root. I nurtured its early growth by replacing commercially-prepared foods with more raw ingredients, fresh fruits and produce. I began substituting frequently dining out with dining in. After awhile, I started giving up the really bad stuff altogether. Like donuts. Cheese. And, my gosh, even pork. I still abstain from pork today. Pork chops? Nope. Ham? Bacon?!? Nope-nope. At this point, everybody can wave goodbye to Rafal Doloto, for he just unfollowed this blog.

It took time, but I was finally able to go for long stretches without any fast food at all. For many years even.

Inevitably, I capitulated on the fast food thing. I'd like to say it was due to inconvenience. In a sense, it was. I found it too inconvenient to live life without french fries. The Irish love their potatoes. So now we make occasional visits to a few fast food joints. My wife's indulgence is KFC. She can have her nasty, finger-lickin' chicken so long as she doesn't give me the stink-eye when I shovel McDonalds French fries down my pie hole.

So that brings me to my typical lunch. Aside from the Thursday Taco truck ride, I pack my lunch most days of the week. And let me tell you, my packed lunch is so awesome that it borders on obnoxious. It's like the lunch scene from the Breakfast Club (1985) where the athlete, Andrew Clark, unpacks a grocery sack of about 12,000 Kcal worth of grub, the prissy Claire has sushi, and the geek, Brian Johnson, has PBJ with the crusts cut-off. Well my lunch is a smorgasbord of all three characters combined.


So here's my lunch today:


Without a doubt, the heaviest item each day in my messenger bag is not a laptop.


It's my lunch. It also occupies the most space.  Then, there's what's on the inside. Oh, my, just marvel with me what goodies awaits the lunch hour! Besides the sandwich and veggie-straws, there are:


In season-fruits and vegetables --  grapes, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries often make the list; 'cukes, red and yellow Zima tomatoes -- even an avocado made it on the menu today.

Now, having a lunch like this draws attention. In fact, I do believe that my colleagues both admire and hate me because of my fantastic lunches.

You'd think that the fresh fruit, or the sliced avocado would send them in a tizzy.


Wrong. It's the citrus-infused, Brita®-filtered water that drives them bananas.

My colleagues often tell me that my nutrition habits are inspirational. I don't know. I try not to think about what else is going into my water when I'm not around.

Speaking of being not around, Happy Labor Day weekend, everyone. Ciao.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Wrecks Racer

Against his father's wishes, young Rex Racer took the family owned race car and entered a local race. He was only 18 years old. Practically a boy, racing against veterans who knew every turn and chicane on the course. But the kid was a natural with uncoachable talent. He picked his lines through the turns with ease. He worked his way from the back of the field all the way to the front. Incredibly, without any previous experience, Rex was leading the race with only one lap to go. He could practically taste victory. Oh, sweet victory.


But it wasn't to be. On that final lap, Rex lost control of his car and plowed it into a wall.


After emerging from the car unhurt, Pops was furious at Rex. Furious for wrecking the car. Furious for disobeying his orders. Furious that a snot-nosed kid was talking back to him in front of his peers. Where was the respect? Kids, these days. GET OFF MY LAWN! -- That kind of stuff.

The argument resulted in Rex running away from home. From then on, he hid his identity from everyone, including his family. He took on the new persona of the mysterious Racer X.

And though his younger brother Speed and Pops both would eventually concede that Racer X was the most skilled racer around, Racer X would unselfishly sacrifice victories to protect and allow his younger brother Speed to win every race he entered.

I was probably five years old when Rex' crash was etched onto my retina. I'm quite sure that I was in front of the boobtube, wearing pajamas (with footsies), soggy Lucky Charms in a bowl of sugary milk, and eyes wide open while the drama unfolded before me. That single episode changed me. Forever. From that point forward, racing was in my blood. My lessons were the 52 episodes of syndicated Speed Racer anime, dubbed/voiced-over in hilarious fashion. The latter just added to the enjoyment. But the racing instruction was top notch. My coach was Pops. My teammate, Racer X. Speed Racer was my avatar. And my mechanic was Sparky. And I'm sorry, but no girlfriend could ever, ever compare to Trixie. I mean, she was all that and could pilot a helicopter, too? Hubabuba!

Don't even get me started about the fabulous Mach Five race car.

The late '60s Speed Racer cartoon was, in a word, AWESOME.

Oh snap. Hello there, audience. I have a point to make here. Really, I do. I am sorry, I get carried away sometimes.

Anyway, I was reminded of the legend of Racer X at this past weekend's Arrows to Aerospace Cat 1-2 Criterium in Bellevue, NE. The course was punchy and technical, causing a number of wrecks earlier in the evening. There was also a crash early on in the cat 1-2 race, too. But after about a half an hour of solid racing, a break was finally established that included Nicholas Coil (Trek Think Finance), Jordan Ross (Kaos) and Jonathan Wait (MWCC). The trio worked well together, keeping the chasers away at a 20+ second gap. There was lots of suffering and stuff shared among those three. But the real drama unfolded after the final lap's bell rang. Wait punched it through corner #1 and opened a small gap while climbing the ensuing hill. But Ross and Coil chased and quickly closed it down. Then, on the backside of the course, Ross countered with an attack of his own, opening up a three bike length lead. The three racers were flying through this stretch. As they entered the final two corners, Wait was closing the gap before they disappeared behind a row of trees obscuring the view. The grand stand's spectators stood in anticipation as to who would be leading into the final sprint.

Surprisingly, Coil was the first to emerge.

Then there was a lengthy and dramatic pause. Ross and Wait were nowhere to be seen. And Coil wasn't even standing to sprint. Race announcer John Lefler Jr's voice then crackled over the PA system: Ross and Wait were involved in a crash in the second to last corner. A few people started running down the sidelines to check on them. Meanwhile, the entire chase group came barreling around the corner at full gas for the sprint.

It was pandemonium.

A short while later the sprinters crossed the line. Then, Jordan popped out around the corner. He was evidently fine, slowly riding his bike towards the finish line. He was followed a few moments later by Jonathan, also relatively unscathed. Jonathan, however, was walking his bike: its handlebars were pointing sideways, and his chain wrapped up in places a chain shouldn't be. He walked the entire final stretch, crossed the finish line, racked it, and then headed over to where his wife stood, embracing her when he got there.

There was no yelling, no glaring nor any finger-pointing afterward. Certainly, nobody ran away to became a masked racer. Yet it was nonetheless quite dramatic. A victory so close, and yet so far away, a mysterious wreck, and some minor family melodramatics to cap it all off.

[video: 2013 Arrows to Aerospace Cat 1-2 Criterium finish]

Witnessing that finish took me back. Way back.

Now please excuse me while I pour my sixth bowl of Lucky Charms.

Friday, August 16, 2013

First Day of School

Instead of walking home from the bus stop at the end of my first day of kindergarten, I followed a classmate all the way to his house. I didn't walk with him, but hung back a few steps. I don't recall why I followed him. Kindergartners are curious little folk. I suppose I simply wanted to be his friend. So instead of heading north to my house, I followed him at an inconspicuous distance of about 10 feet. That's a nearly imperceptible span for a kindergartner.

At any rate, when he arrived at his house, his Mom opened the front door and asked, "Well, who's your new friend? Are you going to introduce me to him?"

The kid I was actively stalking spun around to see me standing at the foot of the stoop. With his jaw agape, he preceded to shrug his shoulders and say that he didn't know who I was.

We fixed that right then and there with proper introductions. Milk and cookies followed while Steve's Mom phoned my Mom. After dusting off the cookies, we moved on to teleporting Cpt. Kirk and Mr Spock on Steve's sweet turn-the-dial transporter/NCC-1701 Enterprise bridge playset. Cookies and milk and Star Trek? That sealed the deal for me.

The rest is history. Steve and I have been best friends ever since.


Happy new school year everyone.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Cannonball


Summer's gone by so fast, it appears that somebody has done snatched the water out from beneath me.

CANNONBALL!

Happy Friday and back to school shopping everyone.

Friday, August 2, 2013

KOMs Are Worth Nothing and Everything

Strava King of the Mountains (KOMs) are worth nothing. And they're worth everything.

Allow me to explain. The following scene is taken from Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven (2005), where the terms of Jerusalem's surrender are being discussed by the Crusader Balian and the Muslim Sultan Saladin. Balian asks Saladin what Jerusalem is worth. Saladin dismissively says, "Nothing" and walks away.


But then the Sultan turns back around to exclaim, "Everything!" It was a dramatic scene. Ridley Scott has his moments.

I wish Ridley Scott could bring to the big screen the drama, the political back biting and raw savagery that a Strava King of the Mountain (KOM) segment brings out among us cyclists. I'd volunteer to write the screen play. I'd lift much of it from Ridley Scott's big hits, like Blackhawk Down (2001), Gladiator (2000), and Thelma and Louise (1991).  Wait, what? Thelma and Louise?! How'd that get in here? I meant Alien (1979) . I'd love to take a crack at re-imagining the alien scene*-- you could take it to the bank that the little alien feller'd be ripping out of MOD's guts and stuff before the credits rolled.

But really, I'd steal only one idea from Mr. Scott, and that's from the The Kingdom of Heaven. It's the notion that the Strava KOM is the new Jerusalem, worth nothing and everything simultaneously.

For those not in the know, Strava KOMs give anyone with a bicycle and a GPS-enabled device a chance to race by comparing performance on the same course, even if it's one solitary hill. Over time, a tough KOM becomes something every local cyclist knows about, as well as who owns the KOM. If you happen to be that top dog, then you're kinda special.

But not really. It's truly worth nothing.

But take one's hard-earned KOM away from them? Ah, now there's the rub. It does mean something after all. And not just something, it means everything. I've seen it. The taunting. The bullying. Even war mongering. Looky:


It took some time, but Fred's Hipster Cruise KOM was inevitably taken from him.


Though MOD waged war, the Hipster Cruise KOM was taken by none other than local legend and budding hipster, Jonathan Neve. Oh the irony, and lost by 10 seconds to rub it in. See? Bullying, I tell you.

Many times, those dethroned will reclaim their KOM within 24 hours of losing it. The only known exception to this rule is Jonathan Wait, and only when one of his KOMs is lost on a late Saturday afternoons. Why? Because Jonathan chooses not to ride on Sundays. Therefore, take his KOMs late Saturday and you can rest assured that it will stand for at least 24 hours, maybe even more. In fact, take one on Saturday that's at least 50 miles away from his home, and you're golden. He'll be forced to take a 1/2 day of vacation on Monday to reclaim it.

Because, though it is worth nothing, it is worth everything. Especially to Jonathan.

I typically give Kudos to those who capture a Strava KOM. I do so because I'm aware that they recently had snot bubbling out of their nose and lactic acid burning in their legs as they huffed and puffed their way to Strava glory. I know. I've been there. So why not share a virtual thumbs-up with them?

Because really, though it's worth nothing, it's worth everything.

So there you have it. In short, KOMs are worth nothing and everything. I think this subject has been covered sufficiently and I have nothing else to say about it.

Happy Friday Everyone.

*** Lifted Alien scene cut from Strava KOM screen play ***

MOD is huffing and puffing up Surfside KOM at 37 MPH. Snot's bubbling out of his nose and sweat is flying off his brows.  At this blistering pace, he'll claim another KOM to his list of palmares. Suddenly, his stomach doesn't feel so good. He wonders, was it the Total Stress Score (TSS) that was causing it, or the remnants of last night's wine skin enema gurgling and swishing around in his upper colon? He can't dwell on it, there's only 500 meters to go. He turns his pedals in fury. Screw Brady. This KOM is worth everything. A jolt of adrenalin sends a sharp pain to his gut. Though the crest of the hill is within sight, he looks down at his rainbow striped skinsuit to see a bulge beginning to protrude from his belly. Oh my, it can't be!  It.. can't... be... 

RIP RIP AIEEEEEE SNAP-SNAP.... HISSSSSSSS SNAP-SNAP HISSSSSSSS !!

An alien with Shim's face has suddenly popped out from Mod's midsection. It jumps up onto the handlebars, throws his little alien arms over his head and hisses,"yesssssssssssssss" while capturing the Surfside KOM by a fully-extended set of inner pharyngeal jaws.

Roll credits.