Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Very Murphy Christmas

I am the fourth of five children. Our family was considered big back then. It certainly would be considered so now.

Christmas was such a fun time when I was a kid. We always had a real tree with a model train circling it. The tree was trimmed with all kinds of kitchy ornaments, lights and popcorn strings, and finished off with tinsel. Oh, how the tinsel popped. Several years also featured the "special" blinker bulb that added that touch of pizazz that only a multi-colored strand of bulbs blinking on and off could bring.

I've come to realize that the best part of Christmas is sharing in each other's company. There's nothing inside a gift-wrapped box that can capture the joy of simply being with loved ones.

Free hugs to loved ones. Merry Christmas. Thanks for reading

Friday, December 19, 2014

Everything But the Kitchen Sink

I've got this locker at work, in Union Pacific's fitness center. Because of demand and slow turnover, it took about four years of sitting on a waiting list to get this locker assigned to me. I've had it now for ten years. Like I said, slow turnover. Anyway, it's small, one of those half-sized jobbies, as opposed to one of the large, public daily-use lockers. I rent this one for $12 a quarter. It's a pittance to pay for a nice perk.

In fact, next to having the top notch, 24/7 fitness center that Union Pacific also provides gratis -- with (free) towel service to boot --  this tiny locker is one of the best perks around. It's well worth the hassle of writing that check every three months.

As you can see, I make use of all of the space allotted to me. It may not appear so, but I've made a number of mods to improve its efficiency. The deep drawer is for toiletries and such, and a three-tiered shelf for smaller items in the back. I have also installed three hooks: two for clothing and one specifically measured for my bicycle helmet's straps. The helmet itself becomes a hanging basket for other smaller items, like hats, glove, pumps, tubes, etc...

In the summer, things stay nice and tidy in that space. But come winter, like in the picture above, it's a chaotic mess. This is mostly due to clothing redundancies for key pieces of cycling gear required for winter rides.

Like shoes. There's road, cyclocross, running and dress shoes that are all vying for space.

Exhibit A: the shoes in my locker on this past Monday

* Two pairs of standard road shoes (+ winter shoe covers)
* One pair of standard mountain bike shoes
* One pair of winter (mtn) boots
* Two pairs of running shoes
* One pair of dress shoes
That's seven pairs of shoes. Seven! Can somebody give a shoutout to Imelda Marcos? Okay, some of that maybe overkill. Like, I probably don't need two pairs of road shoes. The same goes for running shoes.

Regardless, besides the shoes, my locker has all the normal gym stuff: toiletry kit, a towel, a pair of running shorts, a tech shirt, two or three pairs of socks.

In addition to the above, it also has a summer cycling jersey and bib-shorts for indoor spinning, or to use as a winter base layer.

And then there's all kinds of extra winter riding gear: a long sleeve base layer, a long sleeve thermal jersey, thermal shoe covers, arm and leg warmers, gloves and hats.

Finally, there are some bicycle repair stuff in there as well: a foldable road tire, an extra inner-tube, chain lube, some tools, even a brake cable. I'm not even sure what I was thinking that I may need to repair a brake cable, but it's in there in case I do.

As you can see, the locker is well-used.

I think you can readily agree with me that this is a perk that I get a lot of use out of.

Well, that's all I've got today. Happy Friday and thanks for reading.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Soft Pedaling 1.5x4x180

Ah, the cyclocross season is over. It couldn't have ended for me any time sooner either. I'm afraid that if it went any longer, you just might have lost me for good, for I was beginning to go a tad bonkers.

Sitting in the Trek Bicycle Stores sprinter van after the Iowa State championships last weekend gave me some time to reflect about this past cyclocross season.

I learned a lot, like how to train and race better, and being better prepared by having more equipment choices. I learned some strategy, like not simply drilling it until I blew up.

I also experienced some firsts, like attending a pro-led cyclocross clinic, cracking into the Top-5 at a big race (Jingle Cross), and reaching the podiums of both the Nebraska and Iowa's Open 1-2-3 races.

Iowa State Championship podium. photo: Brittany McConnell
Nice Photo-bomb, Kent McNeil. Ha! What a lurker.

Anyway I can look back at this season and say that I reached heights that I had never attained before. But as you can see, it wasn't high enough that I couldn't resist the urge to still stand on my tippy-toes when I got there.

This is the real reason why my Mom thinks I'm nice and tall
Regardless, I leave this season with a sense of satisfaction, yet hungry for more. This is good. I am eager and already excited for next year.

But first, I'll be soft-pedaling 1.5 hours by four days a week for the next six months (180 days).

Happy Friday and thanks for reading.

Lucky #ƐƖ at Oakley Night Cap, Des Moines
Gateway Cross Cup, St Louis
Spooky Cross, Des Moines

Start of Jingle Cross Day 2, Iowa City

Nebraska State CX Championships, Lincoln   photo credit: Matt Steele
The Trek Bicycle Stores Omaha, Kansas City, St. Louis, 

Friday, December 5, 2014

I'd Rather Be Good than Lucky

Cyclocross has a little bit of everything in it, including the element of chance/luck. These past few races I haven't been so lucky. Or as Ray Charles might have said, "if it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all."

For instance, in my Saturday Jingle Cross race, I dropped my chain in a crash. The crash itself was a bit of bad luck in itself. Dropping the chain made it worse. But where I was really unlucky was how the chain dropped to the inside, becoming wedged in between my crank and frame. That cost about 45 seconds and several places before was back on the attack. Then on the first lap of Sunday's race, somebody dumped it right in front of me, forcing me to dismount and run through an icy/muddy bog, This resulted in frozen debris solidly jammed into my right cleat.

There was no amount of smacking the pedal that would dislodge the sediment. As a result, I couldn't clip-in for the rest of the race. Fast forward to the next week at the Omaha Weekend, when I flatted after clipping a course marker with two laps to go. And at Frosty Cross this past weekend, a section of course tape snapped in heavy wind and blew right into my drive train as I rode by. If I had been a fraction of a second before or after, it's unlikely I would have had an issue. As it was, I lost precious time getting off my bike to unspool the tape from my cassette.

Granted, I did a lot of this to myself by taking higher risks than necessary, like hanging fat turns that put me closer to tape/marker stakes where calamity could happen (and did). There's a fine line between risk and reward. I'm at that phase where I'm still figuring out where that line is.

On the road back home from Frosty Cross this past weekend, Mark, Lucas and I were talking about our training plans. Lucas said, "in cyclocross, you get out of it what you put into it." Those words are simple, but so very true. Cyclocross demands focused work, in both being able to repeatedly drill it on the rivet, and in being able to handle a bike in the corners. If you neglect cornering skills, then you won't have a chance to recover. If you neglect power, then you won't be able to hang with the big dogs on the straights. You simply need both.

Cyclocross isn't meant to be easy or lucky. It's difficult. Those who prevail do so by putting in. In the end, you get out of it what you put into it.

That's why I'd rather be good than lucky.

Thanks for reading. Happy Friday

Snychronized Dismounts at Frosty Cross. Photo courtesy of Ian Richards