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 palmar├Ęs 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.