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.