Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Back From Vacation

 Katherine and I were on vacation in Texas this past week.

The first half of the week was spent helping move a friend from Omaha to Houston. We rented a car, packed it full of stuff and drove down Monday. It took the better part of 15 hours. We got a late start on Tuesday, then helped get settled in. The next two days were spent in Houston.

While in Houston, I was able to jump in with the Rice University Masters swimming team.

Rice University's Swimming Pool
While the team size and coaching was similar to what I experience at Omaha Masters, the pool atmosphere was much different. For one, the Rice Masters team swims in an 8 lane, 50 M Olympic sized pool. It's also an outdoor pool. That means that in the winter months, the Rice swimmers start morning practice under a canopy of stars in the dark of night. Only the pool is illuminated from within. It was like swimming in Sea World or something. That was wild. And with an outside temperature at 50F , the chilly air on one's skin and in one's breath made for a much different tactile experience than swimming in an artificially lit and heated indoor natatorium.

I also brought my road bike to Texas. I found that riding a bicycle in Houston was a frustration experience. Granted, we were in the heart of downtown/galleria area. But still, other cities manage. Houston's congested roads and aggressive motorists made for a hostile and dangerous cycling environment.

Fortunately, we also spent a couple days in San Antonio, and that was a delight.

If you have an opportunity for a road ride, do the 20 mile Historical Missions loop. While there, see about visiting the Alamo's basement. Tell them that Pee Wee Herman sent you.

Our final day was spent at Padre Island. The forecast called for sun and warmth (80F), but what we got instead was 50s with clouds and strong winds. That didn't prevent me from plunging into the churning tempest for a dip.

I made sure to bring my gun show along with me when I did. It was Texas, after all.

So there you go. You made it through the dreaded vacation slide show. Congratulations.

Now I hope that you can forgive me for not posting last Friday. Interestingly, what I found was that in my absence, a couple other blogging newbies have stepped forth and delivered their own perspectives.

One is from teammate Jonathan Wait.

The other is Shim. Oh boy. Fred's gonna like this one. I sure did.

Happy Tuesday everyone.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Why I Continue to Ride Through Bad Ju-Ju

There is a lot of animosity in the professional cycling world right now. Cheaters and liars. Filthy money. Egos. Yuck.

Thankfully, I will never know what it means to be in those circles.

Still, these issues cause one to step back and ask oneself what are your motivations to ride. I suppose if I had to put percentages, it would go something like this:

  • 30% Social aspects
  • 30% Physical/Mental Wellness
  • 30% Outdoor Awesomeness
  • 10% Racing/grueling training/ HTFU (rule #5 )
You may be surprised that I consider racing only 10% of what motivates me to ride. Don't get me wrong, I like being all buff and stuff. YPG, but that's not why I do it.

When racing, you have little time to appreciate the route, social aspects or how awesome your gun show is since there isn't any floor-to-ceiling reflective glass alongside any road course I'm aware of. Instead, you spend the majority of time facing down a host of internal demons, all of whom are having a good time telling you how weak and puny you are. I truly don't understand why people love racing so much. Must be sadists.

But bad riding is part of the game. You must find ways to cope with it if you're gonna stick with it. I ride through the bad ju-ju mostly because it's a pleasure to be out on the open road with friends. It's for the exercise, the fresh air and natural wholesome steel-cut beta endorphins produced along the way that I do it.

Given the above, here's a tip how Barry copes with grueling hammer sessions. It's vitally important when he's dog-tired and on the verge of bonk-- err -- dawdling off the back of the pack so as to not disrupt the pace-line that he leans on friends to get through the rough patches.

The same applies to crappy weather rides. Who here has endured riding in the cold and wet, and through miserable cross winds only because your friends held you accountable to such folly? I know Barry has.

Last week I encountered one such occasion while riding with Leah Kleager after work. At 34 F, it wasn't that cold. But it was extremely windy (+25 MPH w/35 MPH gusts), and humid (85%). That humidity made it bone-chilling cold. And because the forecast called for warmer temps, I was poorly equipped. I wore a nylon skull cap, non thermal gloves, a light weight long sleeve jersey over tech shirt, bib shorts, knee warmers, wool socks and mountain bike shoes. I was miserable right from the start.

About 40 minutes into the ride, we came upon an unplowed section of trail that required us to hike our bikes throw snow. Nice. After the hike, I flatted a quarter mile down the road. It gets worse. I then discovered that dufus here didn't bring a pump and didn't have a spare tube (rule #83). Hi, I'm stupid. Thankfully, Leah lent me a road tube for my cross bike's 32 mm tires. On first attempt, the tire didn't seat properly onto the rim due to the tire:tube difference. Rather than riding a clown wheel, I deflated and burned the second of three co2 cartridges to get the wheel rideable. Meanwhile, my hands. Oh, my miserable hands. Handling a snow-packed cross tire and a cold aluminum rim turned them to blocks of ice. They were shaking uncontrollably. My brain mistakenly took this as a sign of hypothermia and told my entire body to follow suit. I must have looked like I was having a violent seizure while reassembling my bike in the driving wet wind.

Finally back on the bike, we turned back home into a cross-headwind. With the wind screaming constantly in my ears, and buffeting gusts nearly pushing us over, and while my hands were transitioning in and out of freeze/itch/burn cycles until we got home, I remember thinking at least a half billion times that I wouldn't be a cyclist if this is what every day on a bike entailed. No HTFU way.

That was third worst ride I've ever had. For the record, Kevin Limpach was present on all-time #1 and #2 worst rides; Shim was also present on #2. Redemske and Munson were there for #4 and #5. But those stories will have to wait for another time as the editor is screaming at me to get this turd to the press.

I tell you, if not for friends, for beta endorphins and for great scenery, I'm not sure I'd be still riding a bike.

Happy Friday everyone.

Friday, February 8, 2013


As many of you already know, local cyclist Mark Savery recently won the cyclocross Masters 40-44 World Championship title in Louisville, KY. In doing so, he's earned what many covet and very few receive: the World Champion's rainbow-striped jersey.

I have no rainbow jersey. I never will. I will never understand what it truly means to have one.

About the closest thing I have in comparison is a trophy I won in 1977 for the Most Improved 12 and Under Swimmer. I was seven years old when I received that distinguishing honor. That was thirty six years ago, but seemingly as fresh as if it happened last week.

I remember it so vividly because I couldn't believe that I actually won it.

It's not that I didn't work for it. I attended two-a-day practices that summer. I did 20 push ups after each practice. That's 40/day for those keeping score. Not bad for a seven year old. And then there was the time that our team showed poor sportsmanship during a swimming meet, and Coach Jim Wheeler disciplined us the next day with butterfly. An entire practice of it. Actually two entire practices of it. I attended the morning and evening practice that day. That's a lot of butterfly.

By summer's end, my puny seven year old body still looked puny, but it was strong. The stop watch proved it: my swimming times dropped in huge chunks from the previous summer. But I thought nothing of it then. I was just doing what I thought every other kid who was serious about their swimming career did to hone their skill. I worked it.

At the awards celebration, our coach highlighted a few accolades of the 12 and U Swimmer of the Year. Among others, the list included:

  • Swimmer who attended the most practices
  • Most push ups: >1600
  • Attended both butterfly-only practices
  • Biggest personal record time drop from previous year.

I was clueless about who he was talking about. Truly. Hey, I was seven and naive. As I followed along, I can remember thinking that I did two-a-day practices, that I did a lot of push ups and I even went to both butterfly-only practices. I reasoned since I was there for every practice, I only needed to scan my memory and pick out who did all of those things. It must had been one of the fastest swimmers, Stevie Robbins, or Pat O'Brien. And since Pat had undergone puberty hard the previous winter, and could grow a full beard at age 12, he was most likely it. At any rate, I was no match for those giants.

So when coach Wheeler peeled back the electrical tape covering the engraved name plate, and proudly revealed to all in attendance that that year's Most Improved 12 and Under was seven year old Brady Murphy, I was like whha wh wha what????

To my left, friends Jeff Griege and Tim O'Brien were leaning forward, already grinning back at me. To my right, Tom Chiapelas and Mike Cicci were nodding and slapping me on the back in congratulations. I was stunned. Just stunned. How could it be? I'm wasn't the fastest, I didn't have a beard, heck I wasn't even aware that the coach knew my name. But there I was, the improbable kid from lane one who busted his tail all summer long, hoisting up a sparkling trophy with my name engraved on it.

Most Improved 12 & Under Brady Murphy celebrating with Tom Chiapelas and Tim O'Brien
Like it was last week, I tell you.

If that's even remotely how Mark Savery feels about winning a world championship, I can kinda, sorta relate. Geez, I hope it's not offensive to him that I'm comparing winning the Most Improved 12 and Under Summer leaguer to a Masters World Championship, but that's all I've got, and I'm going with it.

Anyway, it's late, the 5AM deadline looms. Congratulations Mark Savery.

Happy Friday everyone.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Wonder Bread and Carl Budding Diet

I once saw a man eat an entire loaf of sandwich bread in one sitting. Actually, that's inaccurate. It was a loaf of bread AND six-to-eight packets of Carl Budding corned beef deli meat. No condiments. Just bread and meat. And I didn't see it happen once. It happened nearly ever day over the lunch hour.

The man who did this was Ken Grolsch. Ken was the manager of a local swimming pool and a former boss of mine.

Ken had some nicknames. Simply "Grolsch" was what he preferred. But he'd be called other things. Like, "Kan of Grolsch" (beer) or "Can I have a Grolsch?" Ken's name also morphed into "Keg" and "Kegger". The one that he was referred to as most, however, was "Keg On Legs Grolsch".

Ken was a jovial giant. He always had a rosy-cheek smile on a face that sat atop a portly mid section and disproportionately small legs. At just over six feet, Ken was easily north of three bills. Most of that came from a belly that didn't appear to abide by the laws of Newtonian physics. It was uncanny how it just sort of hovered there, as if it was filled with helium or something. Others likened it to girdled half-barrel. That's why "Keg on Legs" stuck.

It wasn't always that way. Back in the day, Ken used to be the best swimmer in the State. He had superb physique that was akin to Phelps or Lochte. Throughout his age grouper years, he held a number of records, mostly in distance freestyle. In high school, he lowered the mark on the State's only distance event, the 500 yard freestyle, each year. He lowered it to four minutes and 30 seconds at the State meet his senior year. Four minutes and 30 seconds for 500 yards is flying. His record still stands.

Ken went on to swim in college and would have been an All American had he not blown out his shoulder. When his shoulder went away, so did the funding for his swimming scholarship. Washed up, Bob dropped out of school and found a job at a local health club as the swimming pool manager. And that's where he had been ever since.

Most days at lunch, Ken would clock out and walk over to the 7-11 across the street. There, he would purchase a loaf of fortified Wonder sandwich bread and a half dozen packs of Carl Budding deli meat. It was almost always corned beef. He loved that stuff. Couldn't get enough of it.

I say most days because 99.999% of the time is pretty darn good. There was one time that he went to the Chinese restaurant in the same strip mall as the 7-11. He ordered four things of chicken fried rice. It happened just once. But that's another story.

As I was saying, most days Ken would get his loaf of bread and sandwich meat. He waddle back across the street to plop down at the manager station desk and begin assembling nine sandwiches. Why nine? Though the loaf contained twenty slices, Ken hated the ends. He'd save those for the pigeons. But that's another story.

Ken made a production out of his sandwich assembly. He grunted and gasped. He whistled and whooshed. He muttered and sang a little.  After the sandwiches were assembled, he'd slowly draw in long breath while creating a loud slurping sound. And with a sandwich clenched between two meaty hands, he'd yell out, "Oh boy, this is going to TASTE SO GOOD."

Then the mowing would commence.  Down the pie hole went his fortified Wonder bread and Carl Budding corned beef sandwiches without any condiments. Gnashing and gulping and belching and farting accompanied packing those things into his gut. It took about five minutes to get it all down and was sort of like watching a python devouring a large rat.

After Ken had finished dabbing up all the crumbs with his thumb, he'd grab his goggles and saunter over to the swimming pool. A very light stretching regimen ensued for all of the next ten seconds. He'd then dive in and proceed to swim about 4000 yards over the next 40 minutes.

While he no longer had the physique he once had, Ken "Keg on Legs" Grolsch never lost his form. Fueled by a diet of fortified Wonder bread and Carl Budding deli, his stroke effortlessly propelled him through the water at 100 yards a minute.

I wonder what Ken's been doing since Wonder's demise. Chicken Fried Rice? Yeah, pretty good.