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


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.


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


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.


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