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.