Friday, May 30, 2014

A Monkey's Wedding

From Wikipedia:

A Sunshower is a meteorological phenomenon in which rain falls while the sun is shining. In many parts of the world, folklore suggests that this is a time that a clever animal, like a monkey or a jackal/fox, can get married.
A friend of mine from South Africa told me about this monkey business legend several years ago. That summer, we were both lifeguards for a neighborhood swimming pool. On that particular day, dark clouds suddenly appeared over the swimming pool. Within a matter of minutes, a heavy downpour ensued despite the fact that sun remained shining. That's when he told me that back in Johannesburg, they used to say on such occasions that it was the only time in which monkeys were allowed to be married.

I thought that was a strange belief. I wondered whether DOMA had provisions covering that. Just kidding.

Fast forward to this past Tuesday night, where a group of us gathered for our regular interval workout. Because it was the last Tuesday of the month, our workout organizer, Gerald Kubiak (Team Nebraska Triathlon), called for us to do three by one mile repeats. We do these in Elmwood park.

After a two mile warm up and some running drills, we began the main set. As we ran the first mile, ominous clouds quickly approached from the north. I could tell by their size and shape that they were going to be trouble at some point, but I figured it would be much later in the evening. I was quite surprised when the clouds were directly overhead  during our second mile repeat ten minutes later. Meanwhile, the sun remained shining brightly down upon us from clear skies to the southwest.

Suddenly, the clouds burst open, and a heavy downpour ensued. It was a rare sunshower.

The sunshower didn't deter us. In fact, the conditions made the run more enjoyable. The sweat, grit and drudgery of intense running were all seemingly washed away by the cooling rain. As a result, our running pace picked up. I ended up negative-splitting the three miles (5:47, 5:36, 5:26).

Running in a sunshower was a memorable -- perhaps even magical --  event that I doubt I will ever forget. Who knows, maybe the monkeys in Henry Doorly were having a memorable moment, too. The South Africans would certainly think so.

Thanks for reading and Happy Friday you cheeky monkeys.

Friday, May 23, 2014

A Boy Can Dream

I had this silly dream last night. I dreamt that I was some guy named Barry from Omaha. I still rode a bicycle -- thank God -- but I was dabbling in triathlons instead of racing my bicycle. Yuck! 

But there were times that I still raced my bicycle. They met for midweek group rides known as Wednesday Night Worlds. Anyway, I dreamt that I was in this past WNW. I know, I know, it's so odd. Here I am in Italy, wearing pink, and I'm dreaming that I'm participating in a small, but feisty, group ride in the 'States. 

So anyway, in this dream there were these guys who could really ride. Everybody wanted this one guy's wheel. His name was Jordan. Jordan was fast, although he was trying to fool others into thinking he wasn't so. He did this by putting Barbie tassels on his drops. Somehow, those glittering little things were supposed to make you think that when he was accelerating to 60 kph he wasn't really going that fast. Meanwhile, the rest of the group would tuck in behind and chase. Let's see, I even remember names. There was one woman, a fast Swiss Miss named Leah, a guy named Lucas in a Skratch labs kit, Paul in full beard, Limpach  with a mustache, Eric in Stars and Stripes, Peter the goat, Mod on a cross bike, a dude that went by "Fredcube" and some guy they called Shim, but I swear it Gregory or Greg or Mack or Buddy. 

We were riding tempo in a pace line through Boyer's chute. On one rotation, Shim -- who's riding Jordan's wheel -- says to me, "take a long pull up Ponca Hill". I go to the front and kick up the watts just as the tarmac pitches up. The sounds of labored breathing and the hum of the drivetrains accompany me as I lead the pack through a long false flat and on the way up the second hill. It feels great: the wind tossing my Euro-trash mullet around as I spin the cranks almost effortlessly. For a moment, just a brief moment, I think that I'm at the front of the Giro again. That's when I hear the unmistakable sound of a pending attack: click-click-click. Jordan and Shim and Mod and the entire pace line rushes by in an instant. I think to myself, Barry, you're winning the Giro, you've got this. So I downshift and stand on my pedals, planning not only my way back to the front of the pack, but the ensuing counter attack I'd slaughter them with once I got there. But instead of blistering speed, my attack goes like this: clunk-clunk-clunk. The last thing I remember before losing contact was hearing Shim's voice as he's cresting the hill, "You can do this, Barry!"

I wake up in a cold sweat, thanking the heavens that my name is not Barry from Omaha, but Rigoberto Uran from Columbia. Whew. What a nightmare. I switch off the light and toss and turn a few times, thinking about the Giro. Cadel's gonna be hungry tomorrow. I'd better get some sleep, there's a pink jersey with my name on it.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Best Bacon Chedar Cheeseburger I Never Ate

Barry's* talking with his brother John. My eyes (and nose) have devoured that wood-fired pizza on the counter several times by now. My stomach growls. I'm hungry. I'm always hungry. Why is that? Sigh. They're still talking. When are we going to eat? Impatiently, I move closer to help myself. As I do this, John slides the pizza off the cooling rack and onto the cutting board. I inch in closer as John reaches into the drawer for the pizza cutter -- wait -- what? That's no pizza cutter. He's got a bottle opener. He opens two bottles, one for him and one for Barry. They forgot about me. I'm about to open my mouth to protest when he reaches back into the drawer. A glint of light flashes off the rounded steel pizza cutter as his hand reemerges from the drawer. With a crusty-crunch, he drives the disk through the pie, first into halves, then quarters, then eighths. Finally. John offers Barry a piece as the melty-cheese stretches from cutting board to hand. He then takes one for himself. Pigs. They forgot about me once again. I open my mouth and these words fall out:

"Arf-arf, arf."

Crap. That's not what I was thinking. I clear my throat and try once more.

"Arf, arf-arf."

Again? And why is my stupid tail wagging? I'm a dufus, that's why. They're eating pizza and all I can do is bark and wag my tail. I give one last desperate plea:

"Arf, arf-arf"

Oh the calamity of being a dog.


Several months ago when Katherine was in Singapore, I took my dog Emmylou on a road-trip to visit my brother John and Connie in KC. One of the several highlights of that trip was enjoying wood-fired pizza straight from his outdoor brick pizza-oven. Till date, We've never had better pizza than at John's house. By "we" I mean Emmylou and I. Yes, she eventually got some pizza.

Of course, dogs always seem to be hungry. Maybe it's because they're bored with their boring old bland dog food. It probably makes the food we eat smell especially tasty. Regardless, they always seem to be hungry.

The closest I can come to replicate that feeling of being extremely hungry is when I bonk on a bicycle. At the point that I'm depleted of carbs, almost everything seems edible. If it's even slightly appealing to the nose, then even more so.

Case in point: last Sunday I was scheduled for a two hour ride on my TT bike: a 30 minute warm-up, followed by a best effort 30 minute time trial, and then ride tempo for 60 minutes.

This type of workout requires preparation. Topping off one's carbs and being well-hydrated before riding is advisable. My hasty preparation cut a lot of corners. This isn't advisable. I left the house with a slice of toast washed down by a cup of coffee. Then, 30 minutes into my warm-up I grabbed the water bottle to find that only a couple good chugs remained. Now, a wise person would have waited to refill their water bottle before throttling up to TT speed. Not me. I gulped down the last of it, hit my lap button, and dropped the hammer for the next 30 minutes.

To my surprise, I had a fantastic TT. I just felt great. Even more, after completing the test I rode at a strong cruising tempo for the next 20 minutes. Then all so suddenly, I felt altogether woozy. A few minutes later and I was in a full-on bonk, wearily cranking away at 9 mph.

Meanwhile, all I could think of was the Culver's restaurant a few miles up the trail. Refilling my water bottle wouldn't be a problem. But food was another issue altogether since I was wearing a skin suit that had no pockets for cash/cc. I was penniless.

When one's bonky, perspectives change.

I then considered dumpster-diving. Sure, the fries might be a little soggy from ketchup, old oil, etc, but it was still starchy potatoes. And salt. I found new motivation to turn the pedals. My speed increase to 10.2 mph.

After reaching Culver's, I refilled my water bottle before checking out two trash cans for scraps. Nothing.

I looked lustfully upon customers stuffing butter burgers and onion rings down their pie holes. My ears perked up when I heard a morsel fall with on tender thud onto waxy paper wrappers. And the delightful smells that flared my nostrils were none other than delicious, deep golden crinkle-cut fries.

"ORDER 42 FOR RANDY!" a guy from behind the counter called.

I spun on my carbon sole and saw a burly man in coveralls step up to the counter to collect a Cheddar Butter Burger with Bacon combo. My eyes followed him from counter to soft drink fountain where I stood. He filled a cup with Root Beer while I was awash in the smells of the juicy beef, smokey bacon,  tangy cheddar, spicy mustard, sweet ketchup, sour pickles, salt and pepper. I could practically taste each and everyone of them, right through the paper wrapper covering it. My eyes then followed him to his booth, where upon he sat down, and unwrapped that 741 kcal package of greasy goodness before sinking his yellowed teeth into it.

I look directly at you now and say, "this is what a dog must experience 24x7x365. Pretty much exactly."

In the end, I left Culver's without consuming a crumb. While I pined for that cheeseburger, my liver was converting enough lipids into glycogen to get me the ten miles I needed to get home.

About an hour later, I had a nice little feast at my house. So did my dog, Emmylou. We were both fat and happy that afternoon.

Speaking of fat and happy: Happy Friday. Thanks for reading.

Friday, May 9, 2014

My Socks are Dysfunctional

I have a pair of socks that are dysfunctional. I mean, they do their job when they're on my feet, it's just what happens in the time between wearing them that makes me question their behavior.

Since I've owned them, they have refused to remain happily paired. They separate from each other nearly every time I launder them. I don't mean that they momentarily detach, only to be found later while folding clothes. I mean that they put distance between them. Like, one is in freshly laundered and the other is still in the clothes hamper, or wadded up somewhere in my gym bag, locker, etc.

It's uncanny. My other socks aren't like these two.

Born 18 months apart, my older brother Matt and I are practically Irish Twins. When we were young, we were like those socks. Mostly, we couldn't stand to be near each other. When we were together, we fought. For about 10 years, we were in a constant state of war. There were no truces, no peace treaties, nor any amnesties.

When we fought, Matt easily got the upper hand because he had about 40 pounds on me. He'd proceed to pin me down and sit on my chest. Then he'd taunt me while slapping my face, picking my nose, and giving me wet willies in my ears. After all that, he'd dangle snot bombs over me. Inevitably, one of his goobers would snap. That's when I'd go berserk. Adrenalin coursing through my veins, I'd power-lift him off of me before unloading a torrent of bare-knuckle punches towards his face. At that point, our Mom would rush in and break things up. That usually meant calling for our Dad to step in.

Dad was once an advocate of  "spare the rod, spoil the child" discipline. As a result, we were spanked when we misbehaved. Later on, he became more creative with meting out punishments. For example, we'd have to pick a grocery bag full of weeds from the yard. On other occasions, we hand-picked the carpet as "human vacuum sweepers." But his favorite correction was to have us stand in the middle of the living room and hug each other for ten minutes. Now pay attention, because here's where it gets good: he'd tell us to hug each other like we really meant it.

Matt and I would proceed to crush the living breath out of each other for the next ten minutes. It was brutal.

I'll tell you what, that was the most effective punishment ever. Tolerance became the new norm after that.

Back to the socks. It's usually a day or two before I'm able to find the missing sock and pair them up once more. But there have been a couple times where they have remained separated for months.

In fact, I just got them back together again after one had been hiding beneath the bottom drawer of my dresser. When I paired them and neatly tucked them back into the sock drawer, I commanded them to hug each other.

Dysfunctional? We'll see about that.

That's all I have today. Thanks for reading. Happy Friday.

Friday, May 2, 2014

I Run Like the Pigeon Doesn't Fly

Many of you know that I've been dabbling in the dark side of triathlons once again. You may recall that I did a couple of triathlons last summer. The races went well enough. But I realized that in order to get faster, I need the most work on the run.

Earlier this Spring, I bought my first pair of running shoes in three years. I hit the bricks, adding miles and frequency of runs sensibly over the past two months. Over that time, I rediscovered my joy for running. Strike that. It went like this: I discovered that I hated it. Then I re-experienced a runner's high and the joy of running followed. That's more realistic.

Two weeks ago I had my first running setback, slightly injuring my left calf muscle during a long run. It wasn't a sudden thing: no snapping, popping or sudden stabby feelings. It was more of a dull ache in the mid-upper, exterior part of my calf. It wasn't much, but just enough to hobble my stride and cause increasing discomfort as I pressed on. I laid off it a few days before trying it out on an easy run. I managed ten minutes before the ache returned. I shut it down.

Since then, I've stretched and foam-rollered the calf muscle regularly. Fortunately, it doesn't trouble me on the bike or during swimming. It manifests itself when I run, and only as I'm springing off my left leg.

I know I could run on this leg right now. It wouldn't be pretty, but I could gut it out. Here are a few times that I'd consider running on this sore calf muscle:
1) I'd run the last two miles of a race in this condition
2) I'd run to catch thief stealing my bike
3) Id run from this bear

Bear chase or not, I just don't want to be nicked up. Being healthy is good.

Since I'm a firm believer in physical therapy, I paid a visit to local PT/cyclists Amy Collison (Premier Physical Therapy) this past Wednesday. While laying prone on the PT table, Amy quickly identified the area with this *lovely* muscle scraping tool called a "Gua Sha Massage Board". It's also known as a Buffalo Horn. I call it the yowchy-thingy.

After 10 seconds of the yowchy-thingy, I've decided to add it to the list of things I'd run from:

4) Amy Collison wielding a Gua Sha/Buffalo Horn/yowchy-thingy muscle scraper.

After the lovely experience with the Buffalo Horn, Amy videoed my gait as I ran on a treadmill. She said a lot of technical stuff about muscles and tendons that I never knew I had. But from what I gathered, I run slightly pigeon toed, which is causing stress and pain up-leg in my calf. To fix this, Amy has given me a set of strengthening exercises. 

At least I'm consistent. Last summer, I was told I ride knock-knee'd. And now, I apparently run pigeon-toed as well. Soon, it will be that I dolphin kick knock-knee'd and pigeon toed.

Anyway, I hope this gets resolved soon. I'm enjoying running again and would like to do so pain free. Running pain free is important.You never know when you may need to outrun a bear a PT with a Buffalo Horn.

Thanks for reading. Here's to another Friday.