Friday, July 29, 2016

The Monkey On My Back

Yes, I raced with a little monkey in my speedsuit's back pocket this past Tuesday night. Thanks for noticing, Bryan Redemske.

The monkey was there to cheer me up. Not that I really needed cheering up, because bikes are fun. But I've been feeling off my game lately: fatigued, turning squares on a weary crank, and having very low motivation. I'm at a loss for an explanation for my general malaise. I've stayed very consistent in my training this year, and my ride log suggests that I should be on form right now. Yet this is hardly the case. Even worse is that there has been several times where I did not feel like riding recently. Last Saturday's pre ride pep talk included convincing myself that I'd feel better afterwards having completed the workout than blowing it off altogether. This is not a good place to be in.

I suppose I'm feeling this way because the end of the road season is upon me. I hit it hard for several months this spring and summer, and the miles have finally caught up to my legs and my mind. I'm simply tired. As Forrest Gump said after the end of his long run, "I'm pretty tired. I think I'll go home now." I'm not quite there, but something like that. Anyway, it's August.

So the monkey. Yeah. I can't recall exactly when or where, but I think I found that chimp abandoned along the roadside during a winter ride years ago. For the rest of the season, I had that little feller dangling from one hand from the back of my saddle. I even made him a winter weather outfit for him out of an old glove, complete with pants, a skull cap and even a little scarf. And I do say, that scarf completed the ensemble for my little simbian. He was a happy monkey. You want your monkey happy.

Since then, the monkey's mostly been hanging around our home. Every so often, he migrates from place to place, like our own version of elf on shelf. He's randomly appeared on window sills, on book shelves, dangling from a lamp, and on night stands. Every now and then, he still accompanies me on a bike ride. It's usually reserved for a special occasion, like the first Spring ride when it's warm enough for short sleeves, or the first WNW or cyclocross group ride of the year.

Last Tuesday, it was to remind me to have fun. I did have a good time despite not racing well. Thank you monkey.

He's off my back now and currently sitting on a shelf in the laundry room, probably dreaming about his next bike riding adventure.

A video posted by Brady Murphy (@brady.murphy) on

Friday, July 1, 2016

Messin Around

We ride for all kinds of reasons, but it mostly comes down to transportation or recreation/racing. You could probably guess that I prefer the latter, but someday when I don't (can't) race my bike anymore, I sure hope that I'll be able to ride for transportation and just riding around (JRA), you know, for tacos and stuff.

Yesterday, I was riding for racing. I was doing a hot and spicy anaerobic workout that Mark Savery gave me. Anaerobic repeats are not fun, but they are mercifully short due totally blowing up while doing each effort. Short bursts are important in racing. A good example is when one needs to bridge to a breakaway, like when Lee Bumgarner attacks so hard that when he achieves escape velocity, and he has entered into a super-aero tucked position, his bike continues to accelerate. Meanwhile, those left in his wake are throwing down copious amounts of wattage trying to catch back on his wheel. I'm one of those guys, and I'll only catch him if I'm prepared to do so. This is why I was doing anaerobic repeats yesterday. Honestly, it was because of Lee Bumgarner. Thank you Lee, and Mark Savery, for making me faster.

My buddy Fred Hinsley happened to be riding nearby when I was doing these repeats. Having spotted the familiar high-vis green kit and red Bontrager XXX shoes of Harvest Racing, Fred paid me a visit. I had just completed my sixth of nine anaerobic efforts, and I was a little breathy when he wheeled up next to me.

Huff huff huff huff...

I saw the Harvest kit and thought to myself, 'whatever Shim is doing over there looks crazy'.

Huff huff -- Un huh, yeah -- huff-huff -- what are you -- huff-huff -- up to?

Messing around.

Huff huff huff huff. Yeah, me too. I'm just -- huff-huff -- messin' around.

Ha! I can see that.

It turns out that Fred was on a recovery day, spending some time working on turning skills in the parking lot. I liked the idea and made a mental note of using my next recovery ride to also do some turning skills. We talked a little more, then I completed my workout as he did his turns. Since we're neighbors, we  rode home afterwards, just shooting the breeze.

We ride bikes for all kinds of reasons, whether it's for transportation or recreation/racing.

But really, it all comes down to just messin' around.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Snake Alley Recap

This past Memorial day weekend I raced the Pro 1-2 race at Snake Alley in Burlington Iowa. Built by German immigrants in 1894, "Snake Alley" features 1100 degrees of turning while climbing the 60 feet at a 21% grade. The road was intended to be a shortcut to the main street below in Burlington, with bricks being laid at an angle to allow horses better footing as they descended. It's also been the setting for a unique bicycle criterium race for the past 34 years.

I raced this event for the first time last year. Later that evening, I watched the Pro 1-2 race with anticipation of racing it with the big boys this year. The Pro 1-2 field's size was larger (100+) and longer (5+) laps than any race I did. It also had a steep attrition rate, with officials culling nearly half of the field after five of 20 laps, and then gradually pairing it down to the top 20 with about five to go.

When planning my 2016 season, Snake Alley got an "A" race designation. I worked with my coach, Mark Savery, to focus on very specific high-intensity intervals to mimic the up-over-down-and-around required at this race. Several weeks of these painful efforts helped my mind and body adapt to the stress of racing Snake Alley.

Over several months, I also moderated my diet by waging a war on added sugars, placing myself on ice cream and beer embargoes, and only allowing extra carbs to pre-load before long workouts or races. The results: I haven't seen this weight since high school.

Since Snake Alley seeds riders by order of registration, I made sure to sign up early. I was assigned bib #20. Having a low starting number on this course increases one's chance of staying up near the front at the start of the race, which is important considering the half of the field would be whistled off the course within 15 minutes.

The Race
The start was like a cyclocross race, full-bore from the whistle. Despite being in the fourth row, and getting a good start, the outsides swarmed inward and I got pushed back to about 35-40th position by the time we entered the snake. We rode three abreast going up the blue-clay bricks, which required full concentration to manage holding position, adjusting for speed to keep from overlapping wheels, and keeping an eye up the hill for trouble.

After exiting the snake, I put in a few extra pedal strokes to accelerate past those who sat up after cresting the hill. Then came the first harrowing descent over some of the *finest* Midwest concrete, which includes two off camber 90 degree turns, and a final turn at the bottom where cracks and broken concrete are tagged with neon-orange spray paint in several places. All this, while descending at 38 mph, in traffic. By the way, these precious seconds of descent also double as the only recovery section on the course, so don't forget to relax and enjoy the view.

After exiting the descent, a flat headwind required ramping up the power once more through three 90 degree turns, then a false-flat to the 200m straight-away to the start/finish. As we approached the start/finish, I shifted into the small ring and spun up the cadence to get up the hill efficiently while accelerating around others mashing it.

The next few laps were pretty much the same. Then around lap five, a couple of riders got tangled up on the snake a few places ahead of me. The ensuing chaos resulted in snapping the string of riders in several places. I was sitting pretty far back and had to get to work, or risk being pulled. Over the next several laps, I moved up by passing one or two at a time.

I made a final move to secure my spot in the selection with about ten to go. At that point, one rider was in a solo breakaway, I could see the main chase group of about dozen on the snake itself, and another medium sized group approaching its mouth. I escaped my group by punching it up the first hill and entering the snake at full steam. I stayed on the gas while climbing the cobbles, catching the second chase pack as they were exiting the top. As soon as we exited the snake, our group split into two as I watched the first three ride away. I was gassed and had to sit on for a bit to recover. From there, it was a race of attrition to the finish, where I ultimately crossed the line 20th uncontested and feeling both relieved and elated.

For many, finishing 20th wouldn't be much to write home about. Not me. I spent a lot of time and energy preparing for this race. This goal stretched me. I worked for it, and as a result, it gives me a lot of personal satisfaction in achieving it.

Here's to season's goals. May you get yours.


photo: Big Country 1031

Friday, April 29, 2016

Harvest Racing Weekend: Iowa City, Madison

This weekend, the Harvest team is split squad: half of us will be in Iowa city, while the other will be in Madison, Wisconsin. Here's are the lineup:

Chris Lillig/Old Capitol Criterium:
Lucas Marshall (P 1-2)
Brady Murphy (P1-2)
Jordan Ross (P1-2)
Greg Shimonek (P1-2)
Paul Webb (P1-2)
Tyler Reynolds (M3)
Cole Limpach (M4)

Rapha Prestige: Madison, WI
Ryan Atkinson
Mark Savery
Matt Tillinghast

Wish us luck!

Happy Friday. Thanks for reading

Check out out the latest news, race recaps, social media and other updates on Harvest Racing's website

Friday, April 22, 2016

I Just Washed My Bike

Whenever he rolls through a puddle, my buddy Shim will lament, "I just washed my bike". He says it a lot. So much so that I believe that his bike must be the most washed bike in the city of Omaha, if not the entire state of Nebraska. I'm not kidding. It's like his personal mantra.

But I hear what he's saying. Rolling through a puddle after just washing your bike with Scrubbing Bubbles, or whatever he uses to do his thing, is kinda annoying. Really. I feel bad for him. It's true -- a little piece of my heart melts whenever I hear him grumbling about just washing his bike. As Bill Clinton so famously once said, "I feel your pain".

As an aside, Shim is a big fan of the Clintons, especially Mr Clinton. In fact, the only person Shim admires more than than Bill Clinton is Nancy Polosi.

Anyway, lately I've been thinking about some of the annoyances that get in the way of the ordinarily wonderful pastime of riding one's bicycle. You know, those things that just remind you that despite feeling like you're in heaven while riding you bike, you're really a mortal, stuck on earth, and in a fallen world. Sigh.

So here's the list of grievances that accompany cycling, in no particular order:

Dropping one's sunglasses from their helmet, resulting in a chipped lens directly in front of your line of vision.

Mechanicals. Unless it's a mercy-mechanical, where on a particularly hot and spicy ride, the entire group laments about having to stop while secretly being relieved to have been granted the mercy of a few moments of precious recovery.

FTP tests on bad weather days.

FTP tests on good weather days.

FTP tests. Period.

The Garmin Edge User Interface.

People who ride fast when you want to dawdle. Hi Shim.

People who dawdle when you want to ride fast. Hi to everyone else but Shim.

Wind. It blows around here. It's also quite windy.

Half-wheelers. We already abused Shim for that offense some time ago.

Wheel-suckers, especially the silent, unknown, uninvited tail-gunner picked up on the pedestrian trail.

The guy on the group ride who talks and talks and talks and talks...

Strava KOMs. Man, those things are really annoying.

Receiving a notice that one of your Strava KOMs has been taken. Definitely annoying.

Receiving a notice that one of your Strava KOMs has been taken by Jonathan Wait. The worst.

That solitary person walking on the pedestrian trail that intersects with you and the opposite approaching cyclist at exactly the same point and time.

A visit from Crashy McRoadrash. This one truly sucks, especially if you're laid up with a long recovery that only eating a tub of peppermint ice cream while watching the Giro feed can temporarily relieve. Get well and soon, B Redemske.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and taking a step back, most of these are petty grievances if you think about it.

Yes. Cycling is pure enjoyment. Today, let's end with a blessing, which I've adapted from my Gaelic ancestors

May the road rise up to meet you.
May a stiff tailwind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
and may the rain's puddles stay off your just washed bike
until we meet again, on our bikes, on the open road,
God's blessings to you. Amen

Thanks for reading. Happy Friday.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Rest Days and Dawdling Course Records (DCRs)

I was a summer-league swimmer when I was a kid. The team I joined was called Wheeler's Peelers, named for our coach Jim Wheeler, and it was a force to reckon with. Over the span of a decade, I think we lost one meet. There were several close calls. I can vividly remember one time when it came down to the last leg of the final race, the girls 15-18 medley relay. Our team was anchored by one of our best swimmers, Donna Diemer. She was 14 years old a the time, and was swimming up with the big girls (15-18). Anyway, it was all riding on her shoulders, and she managed to out-touch the other to seal the victory for us. It was high-stakes drama for all involved, and it was a ton of fun to be on the winning side of that experience.

I was a better than average swimmer, but not by much. The thing about me, even back then, was that I didn't mind the training. I put in the time, and did everything my coach asked of me. I honed my craft by doubling-up on both morning and evening practices. All that swimming developed some muscle tone. I'm not kidding you when I say that I had a six pack when I was eight years old. I have to admit, it was pretty impressive.

Apart from the six pack abs, I owe a debt of gratitude to Jim Wheeler. He taught me how to swim, then how to train, and then to compete. Yeah sure, it was only summer league, but running the tables for ten years didn't just happen automatically. It took a lot of organization and commitment from both coach and athletes to succeed each year. 

Coach Wheeler expected us to work hard, but he also expected us to rest well, too. On competition days, he'd plan an easy morning workout, even for summer league standards. For the all-club meet, he'd taper us over the course of a week. During rest days, he cautioned against strenuous activities, and heavy chores were forbidden. Everyone liked this clause, because it meant getting a free pass on mowing the lawn for the day. 

Jim wanted us fresh so that we could perform our best to score points for the team: five points for first, three for second, and one point for third. Every point mattered. Sometimes, like the case above, it came down to the final race. 

I find it interesting that I learned the value of taking rest days when I joined Wheeler's Peelers way back when. Today, as a forty something year old competitive cyclist, I respect my recovery time. When my legs feel like poo, or when I find myself getting irritated by seemingly trivial things, or when my training log reflects fitness in the red, I will gladly take a rest day. If I still feel like riding, then I'll go for a super-easy 45 minute spin at about 100 watts. We call riding at this easy pace "dawdling," and I excel at it. In fact, I am proud to say that I own several Dawdling Course Records (DCR) around town.

Now, if I could only get my spouse to buy into the free pass from strenuous activities clause. Then I'd have it made in the shade. I can just picture it now. "Sorry Katherine, I can't mow the lawn today, my coach has scheduled a rest day." Yeah, that's probably not going to happen anytime soon.

Happy Friday. Thanks for reading.

Friday, April 8, 2016

On Throwing in the Towel

I've been mulling over the motivations behind quitting a lot lately.

Take the Tour De Husker race a few weeks back. I was in the first chase group that was attempting to bridge up to the five money spots represented by the breakaway. Then I got dropped, and was absorbed a few miles later by the next chase group. We had about 20 miles to go, and apart from personal pride or general racing experience, there was nothing else to race for. I was more inclined to sit-in and save my legs for the following day's race. With about five miles to go, a teammate was showing signs of fatigue, leaving me wondering what to do if he should get dropped. Should I save my legs and ride it in with my teammate, or pursue the race for the experience? I tried to protect him from surges, but he was ultimately popped off the back when the leader of our group guttered us on the yellow line during a long stretch of nasty crosswinds. My hand was forced. I chose to race.

The second time I was questioning my resolve pertained to the weekly installment on this blog. I wrote about dissolving our pact and letting go of this commitment on last Friday's April Fools post. I meant it, too, at least in principle. Time is short these days. Going forward, this blog will be the first thing to get dropped when I'm pressed for time. Sorry folks, but that's the way it's got to be.  I'm not conflicted by this decision.

The third case of questioning my motivation came during a scheduled FTP test last weekend. To begin, it was a horrible day for an FTP test. Granted, most cyclists would say that any day involving an FTP test is a horrible day. But that day was particularly awful due to 40mph winds. Testing in such conditions is challenging, if not impossible, to get accurate results. Some would say to not try at all. Still, I was determined to stick with the plan. Anyway, half way into the 20 minute test, I glanced at my Garmin Edge 510 to check on my progress. To my dismay, the device was showing zero watts. I pressed on while toggling through the screens with the hope that the UI would somehow wake up from some stale state and show the watts again. Nope. The problem was in the powertap wheel. It was at this point that I had to decide to quit, or to continue on for the duration, knowing that the test results were bogus. I chose to throw in the towel. I have mixed feelings about this.

Of the three cases above, quitting the FTP test is the one I'm not sure I handled correctly. From a pure fitness point of view, there's probably no harm in skipping that test. Ten minutes is not going to make or break anyone's fitness. But in doing so -- by actively choosing to abort a difficult challenge in progress -- how does that affect one's mental fortitude? That's where I'm conflicted.

These thoughts have been bouncing around my skull lately. After the Tour De Husker, I asked my teammate Jordan Ross what he'd do if he were in my shoes: out of the money spots, racing the next day, and a teammate struggling to hang on. Jordan agreed that I made the correct decision to continue to race when my teammate was dropped. But then he also offered a stern word of caution about the dangers of quitting a race in progress. Very much Yoda-like, he said that once you start down that path, quitting becomes easier each time you do so.

As an aside, if Jordan had said, "...once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny..." then I would have known that he had copped that line from Yoda, and I would have written him and his advice off as fraudulent.

But I digress. Jordan was correct. Quitting a race is unwise as long as you're physically capable of completing it.

Okay fine. The timing of this evolving Yoda/Jordan/BCM Pep talk is good, as this weekend I'm joining the green and grey of Harvest Racing at one of the toughest venues around: The Twin Bing Classic. With lots of rolling hills, preposterously strong winds, and a formidable two-step hilltop finish, this race a toughie. On top of all that, this year's edition has an extra twist in that it is going to be held as a Gran Fondo format, which technically isn't a road race at all (but we're going to race it like it is one). In short, it's going to be hard on the body, and even harder on the soul. Thankfully, I've spent the past few weeks preparing for what's to come.

Thanks for reading. Happy Friday

Friday, April 1, 2016

Something's Gotta Give

First, an apology: I am sorry that I didn't post an update to my blog last week.

I have been a bit overwhelmed lately by work, household and play. After taking a step back, I've come to realize that I was foolish to think that I'd continue to have time to write while in this space and time. My current lifestyle is unsustainable. Not only that, but my personal relationships are beginning to show signs of fatigue. And my health has been teetering on breaking down due to not getting adequate sleep.

Something's got to give.

So it pains me to say this, but for now on, the first thing to be dropped is going to be this weekly post. If I don't have the time, which is seemingly more the case lately, then I just won't throw something up here because of a commitment I made to do so. Anyway, my posts have been rushed and/or not developed to my liking. This has often resulted in yet another story about my dog, which according to Shim, you've all had enough of.

So starting with today, I am stepping away from my weekly commitment to a post here. I relinquish Fred and Bryan from this pact as well. However, I won't dismiss Eric O'Brien from this pact, because after suggesting that we do this weekly, he has not written a single story. Not once. You're still on the clock, EOB.

Now this being all said, I'll still write when time allows. Check back here from time to time, regardless of it being a Friday or not. Chances are, you'll may find a new story about me, my bike, or my dog. Or all three.

And just like that, my commitment to a weekly installment is over.

Thanks for reading. Happy Friday.

Friday, March 18, 2016

An Inside Look

5:13 AM

Bleary-eyed, I shuffle into the kitchen to fix a single cup of coffee. Moments later, the Bunn coffee maker hisses life, pushing a cup of near boiling water through coarse coffee grounds.

I take it black, dark enough that I can easily spot the crows feet near my eyes as I lift the mug to my face. They're getting darker, more pronounced.

My fourteen year old dog, Emmy, has roused from sleep. She used to get up right away when she'd hear me walking around. She's been slowing down more lately. I suspect that her hearing is going. Apart from that, and her whitened face, you wouldn't know she was fourteen. Her frequent bouts of playfulness, and wrestling with me, belie the senior dog that she is.

Emmy waits for me at the edge of the kitchen, then escorts me to the dining room table where I take a seat. She plops down on the floor next to me.

As I gather up to take a sip of the inky goodness, I mentally scan the day ahead: a one hour conference call with the offshore team at 6:00AM, followed by picking up Katherine from her night shift, walking the dog, then commuting in to work by bike and bus. From there, back-to-back mid-morning meetings will bring me to 11AM. The only other work commitment is a 2:00 PM meeting. That gives me enough time for an hour workout over lunch, which according to the TrainingPeaks calendar feed, is a set of five nine-minute functional threshold efforts with 2.5 mins of rest between. I visualize a crisp spring wind in my face as my legs burn with lactic acid while driving the big ring of my road bike around the airport's service road.

I'm invigorated by the the thought of it.

A wisp of steam rises from the mug, bringing me back to the moment. Emmy rolls gently to her side and stretches all four paws at once, back arched, head extended. She lets out a satisfying sigh. I reach down and give her belly a rub. She thumps her tail a few times in approval. I take another draw of coffee.

I'm enjoying the solitude before the the onslaught of the day begins.

After finishing my cup, I stand and cluck my tongue. Emmy perks up, head titled to one side.

"You wanna go for a walk?" I ask while signaling my intent with both hands in American sign.

Emmy hops up on a fours, shakes vigorously, then runs towards the back door. I grab a light jacket and her leash from the peg.

"Let's go!"

The day has begun.

Friday, March 11, 2016


Several weeks ago I wrote about how I go to the airport -- my "workbench" to do interval workouts. With wide open space, little traffic, and predictable conditions, it's an ideal setting to get it done. The thing is, it's not the most exciting place to ride a bicycle.

Well, allow me to let you in on a little secret on how I cope with the mundane, especially when a grueling workout calls for several iterations of the BCM Pep Talk to psyche myself up. Through this little secret, I can put it into overdrive and zip through the session.

And by overdrive, I'm not talking about an over-sized chain ring like this jobby here:

No. While I certainly have chain-ring envy on that ^ ride, the one I'm talking about is the smartphone app called OverDrive that allows me to connect and download audio books for free from my local library. Here it is:

Thanks for supporting Omaha Public Libraries, Mayor Stothert!

Anyway, my buddy Lucas told me about OverDrive app some time ago. He said that he liked to listen to non-fiction -- biographies and such -- while sitting on the rivet. Following Lucas' lead, I tried a few from non-fiction, but as exciting as the "Biography of Henry James" might be to some, it just wasn't cutting it for me. So I wandered over to fiction and found a treasure trove of audio books. I've "read" several of these over the past couple months. Mostly current stuff, including those adapted into films like "The Revenant", and "Bridge of Spies". I then turned to the list of 100 books everyone should read, at least according to the I've read probably 80% of those already. Overdrive has knocked off a couple more in audio format, including "The Help", and "The Book Thief". Tina Fey's "Bossy Pants", however, has not yet made that list, but it is available on OverDrive and it was as insightful as it was entertaining.

So, my workouts at the airport haven't been a solitary adventure. I've had great company on my rides. In fact, the stories have interwoven with my efforts, but only during recovery portions as it would be too difficult to absorb the content of the story while producing ridiculous feats of strength.

That's why if you see me at the airport, you may notice that my face is wet and contorted in agony. It's either because of the physical exertion at 105 RPMs, or because of an emotional ride at 40 RPMs. In either case, you could say it's because I'm in overdrive, and it's cathartic by all accounts.

Happy Friday. Thanks for reading.

Disclaimer: I don't recommend using earphones while riding your bike on the open road. If you do not heed my advice, then for goodness sake don't be a moron; turn the volume down so you can hear the surrounding traffic. 

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Cyclist

At the beginning of every bicycle ride, there is a familiar sound of a plastic cleat crunching into a spring-loaded pedal. Their union forms a bond that connects flesh and bone to rubber, steel and carbon fiber. In doing so, it transforms two formerly distinct objects into one: the cyclist.

Upon pushing off, the cyclist must momentarily let go and trust the irrational -- that willpower and the slightest shift in weight will overcome the uncertain wobbling that accompanies the first revolutions of the wheels.

This is the magic of riding a bicycle. It is present during every ride. It is the same experience from the last ride to the very first that occurred long ago. Back then, it might have taken a few tries before getting the hang of it. But after that, irrational fears were supplanted with confidence. Then, the feeling of not knowing how to ride a bicycle was nearly completely forgotten.

It is still possible to experience the magic of riding a bicycle today. When pushing off, the faintest echo of uneasiness may still be sensed as the wheel begins its first revolution. Search for it. It may take some effort, but with deliberate focus, it is still possible to reconnect with the irrational and the magic that overcomes it. It is at this moment when the thrill of letting go is as titillating as it was back then.

It's been said often that you never forget how to ride a bicycle.

If you pay attention, you may also remember how it is to ride one, too.

Happy Friday. Thanks for reading.

Friday, February 26, 2016

The BCM Pep Talk

"What are you doing?" a male's voice says to somebody, breaking through the rumbling of the westbound #2 bus on Dodge Street.

It was the end of a long day that started with a conference call before the crack of dawn. I put in nine hours at the desk, and another hour and some during a rigorous workout over a cold and blustery lunch hour. Now as the sun was setting, I was heading home. My bike, a 2008 Trek Madone -- dollied up with a set of deep dish carbon fiber wheels -- sat in the well-rack at the front of the bus.

I was quite tired. I'd by lying if I said I wasn't enjoying the warm bus ride home.

"You're a cyclist, right?" the voice persisted.

I opened my eyes and looked in the direction of the voice. It belonged to a teenager. I had never seen him before, but his words were unmistakably aimed at me.

"I am."

"Then what the hell are you doing here on this bus? That is your bike up there, isn't it?"

I nodded, the smallest grin forming on my face.

"Then, um, shouldn't you be riding it?" he shouted again over the Detroit Diesel. "This is a city bus, you know."

"Yeah, so what. I rode the bike over lunch today." I said unaffected.

The kid collapsed all at once onto the bench across from me. His lanky body was swimming inside a Central High sweatsuit, making him appear like one of those Salvador Dali paintings, melting all over the place. After a moment, he gathered himself up and leaned in towards me.

"You look like a cyclist, and that bike up front ain't no commuter. That bike was meant to be ridden, and more than during recess time, or taking Joe Businessman to-and-from his daily bus stop."

The kid was landing verbal punches left and right, but his smile broadcasted his intent to chide, not incite.

"Right. Well the truth is -- "

As I formed the words to reply, my mind shifted from my lunch workout that I could still feel in my thighs, to the several hills that stood between the office downtown and home. It was cold and getting dark. The bus not only a convenient option, but the best choice that evening. Or so I told myself.

But the kid wasn't going to have any of that.

"-- the truth is that I'm lazy" I ended up saying.

"Lazy?" His eyes lit up like a wildfire. "And you call yourself a cyclist? Ha! You need to ride that thing home next time. Got it, man?"

I liked this kid. A lot. He was giving me what my buddy Fred likes to call, the BCM Pep Talk.

For those not in the know, the Brady Christopher Murphy (BCM) Pep Talk primarily comes in two flavors. The first is to level-set the appropriate amount of dread for the horrendous task you've decided to undertake. You know, just in case you wondered if there was any hope of success of ahead for you. (There isn't). The BCM Pep talk involves taking the last 30 seconds before the whistle to attempt to psyche oneself up before enduring an arduous task. For example, I've employed it in the starting chute several times before a race. Like, getting the gumption to ascend a Mt Krumpit saturated in mud the consistency of peanut butter; or in contemplating how to sprint to the front from a 15th row's starting position at Snake Alley; or while preparing to race my first cat 5 criterium while sickly green storm clouds gathered to drop a torrent of hail stones 15 minutes later into the race. As if the perils aren't already known enough, the BCM Pep Talk is there to underscore the futility of the whole endeavor. Somehow, paradoxically, this version of the BCM Pep Talk is meant to inspire a heroic effort despite the likely outcome of failing.

The second version of the BCM Pep Talk is to call one out when they are not living up to their potential.

Having a racing bike with racing wheels on the front of city bus qualifies for option #2 of the BCM Pep Talk. Especially when the commute is only four miles.

The truth is that I was being lazy. I knew it. More importantly, the kid knew it, and he was giving me the proper BCM Pep Talk that I deserved.

As I got up to pull the stop cord, he told me that he was going to buy a road bike one day.

"I'd better not see it on the bus."

"Not a chance."

Thanks for reading. Happy Friday

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Workbench

The airport service road is a downright dreadful place to ride a bicycle. Sure, it's safe and all, with its light traffic, and its unobstructed views. That and its better than average concrete surface makes it a perfectly suitable place to ride a bicycle. Nobody disputes this.

Still, its a dismal place to ride a bike. In all, the six miles of service road that nearly encircles Eppley Airfield has got to be among the most boring stretches of tarmac in the greater Omaha area. For one, it is pancake flat. For another, it has very few trees, or any other remarkable features that makes for an interesting place to ride a bike. Apart from the 75 flights that takeoff per day, or the occasional spotting of an eagle, there is very little else that breaks up the monotony of riding there.

Otherwise, it's dreadful. But I go there often, and encounter many other cyclists who do so as well. What it lacks in scenery, it more than makes up for in utility. It is a wonderful place to do interval workouts and testing protocols because of those boring traits: it is flat, virtually straight, has light automobile traffic, and has excellent surface quality.

And then there is the wind.

Because interval workouts are best done alone, the wind is one's constant riding partner. Admittedly, the wind is not a relished companion to ride with. Apart from the annoyance of it in one's ears, intervals and power tests would be more precise without the wind. But since a single trip around the airport brings headwinds, crosswinds and tail winds, a sort of power canceling effect kicks in. That, and it presents the rider with the opportunity to consider aero positions and proper gearing selections as wind angles change while completing the loop.

I've ridden this loop hundreds of times over the years. I typically don't enjoy it while I'm there. That's not it's purpose. But I respect what it has to offer.

If I see you out there, chances are that I may simply nod my head in acknowledgement that you've discovered the purpose of riding there as well. Socializing can wait for another time; work is what gets accomplished there.

Happy Friday. Thanks for reading.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Sick in the Head

I've got some sort of ick going on inside of me.

I've felt like crap since early Tuesday morning. It's in my head, nose and throat. After going to be symptom free Monday night, I awoke three hours later with a raging sore throat and a headache. I took Tuesday off and slept a bunch. By Wednesday, the sore throat was gone and I felt good enough to return to work. Still, I wasn't a 100%, and by Thursday afternoon, I was feeling fairly awful again. The headache had returned, but the sore throat was replaced by a runny nose and burning, itchy eyes. My evening consisted of dinner, a nap, waking and going to bed again (I went to bed really early).

At first I thought it was a virus. But the later symptoms are allergy like. Still, it's February and I used to think I was only ragweed sensitive. Ragweed pollen is extremely low right now. Who knows.

Anyway, it's Friday and I still feel like poo. It's funny that when you're not your normal self, fun things seem like a chore, and motivation drops for all but the essentials. Apparently, committing to a weekly blog post isn't one that made the essentials list, and I wouldn't have written a word otherwise had I not made a commitment that one of my readers, the Real Wes J, would hold me accountable to.

So this one's for you, Wesley J.

Now please allow me to put my head on my desk for the next nine minutes of my lunch break so I can sleep and dream of something pleasant, like being choked to death, or falling into an icy river.

Happy Friday. Thanks for reading.

Friday, February 5, 2016


People must think I have a foul mouth. Maybe I do. I haven't really considered it till now.

Take for instance a family reunion a few years back where one of my relatives thought that a karaoke machine would be a good source of entertainment to accompany drinking copious amounts of beer. This was a good thing for several members of my family who have the gift of music and great voices. Unfortunately, I'm not in that subset of Murphys. So you can understand my apprehension to get up and sing in front of anyone. But it looked fun, and what better place is there to try something than in the safe confines of a family reunion? Still, I had my doubts. So I recruited my brother and his then four year old daughter to get up sing with me. We flipped through the catalog while one of my uncles with a golden voice crooned yet another Sinatra tune. I decided right then and there that if we were going to do it, we'd mix it up and put some funk into the reunion. The song I selected was "Play That Funky Music".

It didn't go well. I'd have to say that "Play That Funky Music" is not a wise choice for an audience of senior white folks. Duh. What I obviously didn't take into account was the audience. Most had never heard this song before. That was immediately apparent as I scanned the audience one verse into it. I saw a lots of confused and unhappy looks. By the time we got through the chorus, my Dad was frantically waving us down and signalling for us to stop. So we did. His anguished questioning afterward was: how could we -- me, my brother and his four year old daughter -- how could we be singing a song about the "F" word at a family reunion?

Funk,  Dad. The word was funk. 

Yeah, pretty good. Apparently, all my relatives think I have a foul mouth.


Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I got a one-word SMS response from my kid brother. It said "okf".

Upon receiving the text, I assumed that he had fat-fingered a letter "f" when he typed, "ok". I dismissed it and moved on.

But then a few minutes later he replied with another "okf" to something else. Brendan's texting is typically precise. He rarely butchers things more than once.

So curious, I asked what the "okf" was all about. I had never heard/read it before.

It should be noted that other than fat-fingering, I never ascribed any meaning to the trailing "f" here; my mind was simply pure in wonderment.

He replied: "Okay Fine".

He immediately followed up with an explanation that the IT professionals from India like to say "Okay fine" in place of the simple, "Okay" when they are in agreement on something.

Okay fine. I got it.

I listened for the "Okay fine" on my next conference call with my colleagues in India. Suddenly, that's all I heard. It was as if somebody turned on the Okay Fine spigot and it was flowing freely like never before.

I decided right then that I'd adopt this saying in my own speech, and begin sprinkling the shorter "okf" in my SMS messages as well.

So the first chance I got, I sent an "okf" to my buddy Fred.

There was a pause before the bubble indicated he was replying back to me. He didn't mention anything about the "okf".

I replied with another "okf" shortly after.

Fred didn't ask. But he noticed. When I told him later about "okf", he laughed and said that he thought I was saying "Ok F*cker" in my replies to him.


So keeping score, in addition to all present at the Murphy family reunion, Fred also thinks I have a filthy mouth.

Okay fine. It's okay that Fred et al think I have a filthy mouth, but I never expected my wife to say the same thing.

But sure enough, using "okf" with Katherine brought the same confusion that Fred experienced. In fact, she vehemently protested with lots of exclamation points to stop texting,"okf" in my replies to her.

I asked her why.

She replied that it wasn't nice.

I pressed and asked her what she was talking about.

She stated that I shouldn't send "okf" because the single letter "F" means a lot of things, most of which are not nice to say.

Okay fine. Who knew "okf" would cause so much consternation?

In any case, lots of people think I have a dirty mouth. Okf, maybe I do, but I haven't considered it till now.

Happy Friday. Thanks for reading. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Unnoticing One's Future Home

The move went well last week. It happened in a domino effect: we closed on the house an hour after our (former) house was purchased by our buyers, and an hour before the sellers of our house closed on their new place. Fortunately, everything went according to plan, and within hours we were unpacking boxes.

Our new(er) home was built in 1948. It's certainly not "new" by any stretch, but it's a quarter century younger than our previous one. It has unmistakable mid-century modern architecture. For one, it has that Kitchen of Tomorrow look with original "St Charles" steel cabinets, complete with swiveling drawers, a built-in cutting board, all sorts of cubby holes, and my personal favorite: the spring-assisted, rise-to-counter-height drawer/shelf (probably for a mixer) with an electrical power port built in. As they might say in the 50s: it’s fat city.

I also appreciate this house’s understated appearance. You could drive by it a thousand times and never notice it. It's a plain brick ranch with a two car attached garage. The landscaping is nice, but not extraordinary. It symmetrical, has clean lines, and is simple. It's not unpleasant to the eye, but it doesn't jump out at you either. In fact, you'd probably miss it if you weren't looking out for it.

I rode past this house and not noticed it for the first time on July 4, 2007. Fred and I were at the end of my first group ride. Ever. True story. As asides: I met Munson and Redemske that day. I also gave the flags that I had used on my bicycle to recognize our Nation's Independence day to Fred's son Jack, who was getting ready to join the Fourth of July neighborhood parade as we rolled up. Anyway, Independence Day 2007 was the first day I rode by and unnoticed my future home.

The Murphys have moved in. There goes the neighborhood.

Happy Friday. Thanks for reading.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Moving Day

Today is our moving day. I've spent the better part of the past 48 hours boxing up stuff that we've accumulated over many years in this house. I haven't seen my bicycle once during it, but I'm nevertheless physically exhausted.

Packing up involves purging things: selling, giving away or making runs to the dump.The exercise is a valuable one to go through as it is very much an in-your-face lesson about the impermanence of stuff. Stuff that was once considered valuable, stuff that once held a meaning or purpose but is of no longer value for the given moment. It's all just a lot of stuff. Still, I'm a sentimental person, and it came as no surprise to me that letting go of some of this wasn't easy. But for the most part, I got through it pretty well. I suppose what I'm saying is that regardless of whether one is invigorated or exhausted by the act of purging, letting go is nevertheless a necessity.

That's life.

In a few hours, we will be signing paperwork and handing over the keys. Soon, these walls will be occupied others, and like Katherine and I, and those before us who've called this address their home since 1926, they too will one day be in the position I am in right now.

It's been a good house and a great home. I am grateful.

Happy Friday. Thanks for reading

Friday, January 15, 2016

By Grabthar's Hammar

What's this world coming to in 2016? First, it was David Bowie, and now Alan Rickman.

Now I'm not going to pretend that I know much about Mr. Rickman. He was a villain in Die Hard, Sheriff Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. And of course, Snape in the Harry Potter movies. He was great in all of these.

However, my favorite role of his was Alexander Dane/"Dr Lazarus" in Galaxy Quest (1999).

Rickman's Alexander Dane/Dr Lazarus is loosely based off of Star Trek's Spock. He wears a prosthetic head piece to make him appear like an alien. From the beginning of Galaxy Quest, we quickly realize that the glory days of his character have long past. Unemployed, he tours the science fiction conventions, where he is asked repeatedly to quote his famous line, "By Grabthar's hammer, you will be avenged" to geeks seeking autographs. His disgust in palatable: disgust for those words, for his charcater, his fans, his fellow cast members, and for his life of an unemployed actor who has to whore himself at Sci-Fi conventions. However, as the plot develops, Alexander Dane goes from not wanting to even hear the line being said, to embracing his character and those words fully when he's thrust into comforting a friend dying in his arms. How Alan Rickman took a line that was scorned to moving drama was magical. That's acting right there.

If you haven't seen Galaxy Quest, it's currently streaming on Netflix. You don't have to be a science fiction fan to appreciate this quirky comedy. The cast is star-filled (Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shalhoub (the "Monk" guy)), the script is quite clever, and the action keeps building. But what Galaxy Quest does well is that it goes from seemingly lampooning its fan-base to embracing it in the end. Alan Rickman's acting was a large part of making that transition happen.

By Grabthar's Hammer, he will be missed.

Friday, January 8, 2016


I've seen The Force Awakens three times now. Thrice. Can you say nerd alert?

Anyway, as I'm sure you've seen or heard, it's good. It is nearly as good as The Empire Strikes Back (TESB). Though TESB is a perennial fanboy's favorite in part due to Frank Oz's Yoda, it was also the first Star Wars film to introduced puppets. This was bad because the puppets gave Lucas a green light to bring on the Ewoks (n'yub n'yub) in Return of the Jedi. Boo! But the Ewoks were nothing compared to what came next: CGI Jar Jar Binks. Ugh.

Too much of a good thing is not a good thing.

But then again, if we didn't have Jar Jar, then we wouldn't have this lovely Robot Chicken short:

So back to my main point. In TESB, Yoda challenged Luke to unlearn what he had previously learned. I like that. I've used that line several time when attempting to change something faulty in the way I think. Executing this successfully often proves to be more difficult than it seems. Even the simplest thing can be difficult to unlearn.

Take the Alphabet Song. Like most Americans, you probably learned the letters to the alphabet by singing it to that jolly old tune:
♬ A-B-C-D-E-F-G
Q-R-S, T-U-V. 
W-X, Y and Z. 
Now you know your ABCs 
Next time won't you sing with me 

This is a marvelous mnemonic. It has a simple melody and rhythm that incorporates the letters into rhymes to reinforce memorization.

Well, the alphabet song is done differently in Singapore. They use the same tune. That's not the problem. The issue is that they messed with the rhythm and have completely disrupted the rhyming letters. And there's also the problem with how they pronounce the letter "Z". Because Singaporeans got their English from the Brits, they call the final letter "Zed". Zed? Now how is Zed going to rhyme with anything in the alphabet song? (it can't)

So here's how Singaporeans sing their alphabet.
A-B-C-D-E-F-G   /* so far so good */
H-I-J-K-L-M-N       /* um what? */
O-P-Q-R-S-T-U      /* off the rails now */
V-W-X-Y- ZED     /* ew! that's just wrong! */

I'll tell you what. That's poppycock. That's what that is. Pure poppycock; a total hack job that has butchered the rhythm and rhymes.

There are some things worth unlearning. The alphabet song is not one of them.

I think Yoda would approve of this message.

Happy Friday. Thanks for reading.

Friday, January 1, 2016

2015: Flux

2015 was not more of the same 'ol same 'ol. It was different. Things happened. Stuff changed.

For one, this happened:

Katherine and I decided to put our house up for sale after many good years in it. It was a great home, and it gave us very little troubles. But as it was on a busy street, and we wanted something more private. That, plus an attached garage. So after spending much of the year sprucing up the place, we listed it this Fall and had it sold within a few weeks. Fortunately, we're happy to say that we found something that fit our needs on 59th and Blondo. It's not far from where we live now. If all continues to go well over the next couple of weeks, we will be moving by the end of the month.

2015 was also a year of making over my athletic endeavors. After joining Harvest Racing Team in January, I hung up my running shoes and quit swimming so I could put all of my training time into cycling. I also hired Mark Savery to coach me. This was the first time I hired a cycling coach. Mark had me peak in early June, and the efforts I put in paid off. I was able to podium twice in both the masters (2nd) and cat 3 race (2nd) at Snake Alley. A week later, I was second at the KC Cliff Drive classic (cat 3), and did well enough in the other races to win the Tour of Kansas City's Omnium. Later that month, I took a cat 2 upgrade after winning the Nebraska Omnium Weekend's Ashland Crit (cat 3). Finally, I raced more in the same season than I had ever done before. From March through August, I competed in 28 road races in five States; a good twenty of them were new experiences for me.

2015 was a year of flux. Unlike other years, where things seem to follow a familiar pattern, this year was quite different for me than any I can think of. It seemed that between sprucing up the house and racing my bike, the year demanded a lot of energy from the first of the year until the end.

Still, I feel invigorated. We're looking forward to settling into our new home. And I can't wait for the 2016 road season to begin.

Happy New Year. Thanks for reading.