Friday, December 17, 2010
Thursday, December 2, 2010
It’s black. Completely black. Slowly, I’m starting to see some light on the periphery of my vision and then some very cloudy images are coming into focus. The darkness is fading into a bright white light. Grandma! Is that you? No it’s some guy in spandex. OH NO! I’m going the wrong way. The big guy upstairs has to know that the “two nuns walk into a bar” thing was just a joke. Someone has sucked all the oxygen out of the air. I’m sucking at the air, clawing for a breath and nothing is happening. Weird sounds are coming from my mouth. Sounds that I’m not controlling, a gurgling slurping sound. A flounder on the dock, dying for one more breath sound. “Dude! Holy $hit are you ok?” My gurgled response makes no sense. Then the PAIN starts.
Coming out of checkpoint # 3 at mile 60, I’m kicking A$$. OK, kicking a$$ is a bit of a stretch for 42 year old with mediocre athletic abilities. 60 miles, just over 4 hours. Pretty damn fast in the woods for me. I’ve got a solid groove going. For 2 years, hardly a day has passed that I haven’t thought of the Wilderness 101, (a 101 mile mountain bike race with over 10,000 feet of elevation gain up and over the ridges of Rothrock and Bald Eagle State Forests just East of State College PA) where despite my best efforts I came within 5 minutes of reaching the magical 10 hour mark in 2006. Lot’s of places to make up 5 minutes during 10 hours of riding covering 101 miles. But not for me in 06.
Four riders involuntarily work as my carrots coming out of checkpoint # 3. I’m chasing them like they are dangling from sticks out in front of me. They have a couple minutes on me climbing the impossibly steep, technical, tortuous 1500 vertical feet up over the next 3.5 miles. I catch glimpses of them every once in a while between the blueberry bushes and it seems like I’m reeling them in. A short fast decent leads to another good climb. YES I’m gaining on them! They are going down. A quick single track section dumps us out onto a dirt road and I’m picking them off. 1,2,3. The forth beats me to the next section of single track. But he’s mine. This section of trail is a tight, twisty, gnarl of wicked tombstone sized rocks, tossed at improbable angles. Some of the most challenging trail in the race. I hang back 10 feet or so waiting for a chance to pass the last of the group with the other 3 hot on my heels. The trail takes a hard left and we are presented with an 18-20” rock ledge that you must bunny hop up and ride over or dismount and run. My prey comes up short and I try a stupid move and accelerate hard to wiggle around him on the right side of the rock ledge, oblivious to the obvious lack of a line. The blackness comes quickly and without warning.
I’m being crushed! Suddenly I’m suspended between two knife’s edge shaped rocks about 18” high supporting my rib cage on the right side and the outside of my right quad. In short, choppy, gasping, hyperventilated, slurps, I’m squeezing air back into my lungs. As I’m gaining perspective, I tell the four riders to go on. Someone else will be thru in a couple minutes if I need help. As I try to stand, I realize the clamping pressure on my ribs is not my only problem. My thigh has taken a major hit as well. I can’t support my weight on my right leg. Oh God…my race is over. I try to lift my bike and have to contort my body to exert enough force to get it rubber side down. The good news, I’m at the top of the ridge and only have 7-8 miles to the next checkpoint. If I can get there, I can get medical attention and a lift back to camp, maybe a hospital? The bad news is that the checkpoint is in the valley and I have to negotiate those miles on a sketchy, rocky, bone jarring downhill. Not easy when I can barely reach the handle bars with my right hand or apply any pressure to the pedals with my right leg.
I waver into checkpoint 4 having to concentrate to keep the bike upright. I decline the food & water the volunteers are offering me and instead beg profusely for ice packs and ibuprofen like a crack whore looking to score. Gingerly I lay myself down in the dirt under the bridge and access the damage. I can’t take a full breath. My thigh is throbbing. Some medics come over and look me over. Their advanced medical training pays big dividends. “Jeez, might have broke a rib there. No way to tell without an x-ray.” Thanks Socrates! Very helpful. Glad I didn’t pony up my co-pay for that visit! So I lay in the dirt for 10-15 minutes contemplating my options. #1 Get an ambulance and go to the hospital-Nah too dramatic. #2 Hitch a ride back to camp, ice up, have a beer and reassess-now this has some promise. Or #3 I could try. If I can make the climb out of the valley, maybe I can limp in to the finish??? It’ll be a hard 25 + miles. If I can’t make the climb, I can always coast back to checkpoint 4 and revert back to plan # 2. A damn good backup plan I must say.
So # 3 wins. I waddle over to my rig and throw my leg over my bike from the left side. The fact that it’s the left side is important cause over the last 15 minutes I’ve really stiffened up. I can no longer reach the handle bar at ALL with my right hand while sitting on my bike. I dismount and try from the other side. I can make it by cheating with my hand already on the bar and throwing my left leg over the seat. The stretch back to my seat feels more like soft tissue tearing, kind of like tearing a piece of cantaloupe in half. It hurts, but I can reach. The climb up the ridge ain’t fun. My leg is screaming with each pedal stroke. Pain shoots across my chest when my lungs expand from breathing too deeply or at the smallest jolt radiating up from the wheels as I pass over any tiny bump in the road or trail. Damn hard tail.
The next 20 miles are a confusing combination of measuring my efforts to control my breathing on the uphills and wishing I had a bullet to bite during the kidney-splitting downhills. I catch a glimpse of my watch around mile 90 and it dawns on me that I still have an outside chance of breaking the 10-hour mark. Elapsed time: 8 hours forty minutes. Eleven miles left. 1 significant climb. I buckle down and focus on just turning the pedals. Somehow I cross the line at 9 hours and 51 minutes. I am too spent to ring the celebratory gong at the finish line, a small joy that has brought many tired horses back to the barn in these races. I collapse just pass the finish line and I’m immediately struck by a blanket of pain. Pain that 15 minutes ago was present but distant is suddenly in my face demanding attention. My ribs are on fire! My thigh is pulsing! I’m half sit/ kneel/ squat/ on the ground, kind of twisted because my ribs hurt too much to lie all the way down and my leg throbbing too much to stand back up. I gratefully accept a handful of ibuprofen from Regan and a beer from Doug. The self-medication has begun. In a couple hours, after some of the edge is off, I actually ask, when’s the 101 next year?
Sunday, October 31, 2010
The Start of a Movement
Most people at some point in their lives have a moment, some point of clarity that might even be construed as an inspiration. One of mine occurred a short while ago. It wasn’t really a moment or single instant but rather a slow simmering of an idea that evolved over a couple of weeks and came together when all the stars aligned.
My first moment of inspiration came about when I decided to host a bike race. Now hosting a bike race isn’t really that monumental of an idea. Certainly not an epiphany by any stretch. That will come later in this story. But of course my idea of how to properly hold a bike race runs tangent to what most would consider normal. No surprise there. My basic thoughts were 3 fold. First in any race there is too large a disparity between the fastest and slowest riders even when broken out by ability categories. Secondly there seems to either not be enough racing, or maybe too much of the same thing. Finally, so many race venues and the surrounding vibe are just plain vanilla boring. So I set off to “fix” these problems and Double Cross was born.
To solve issue # 1: How can I level the playing field to even out a rather huge range of talent. Hmmmm? Double Cross # 1. The race director (me) has the right at any point in time make riders repeat parts of the course. That’s right, kind of like Chutes and Ladders. Ride too fast and BAM you go back and repeat a section.
Issue # 2 was a little more challenging but ultimately helped with issue 1 as well. We would hold 2 races back to back. Double Cross or 2 cross races. Now the beauty of this second race allows the race organizer (me again) to again handicap the faster riders. The start sequence for race # 2 will be reverse finishing order of race number one with some predetermined time gap between racers. So the slower races will in effect get a head start on the faster ones.
Issue # 3 was perhaps the biggest stumper. How can we make cyclocross racing even more fun than it is? Well for starters we will need a groovy sound track with some thumpin’ 70”s disco music. Throw in a disco ball, some beer and the hottest gogo/podium girls in all of Saltsburg and you no longer have a bike race but rather an unbelievable party. And sure enough when all these items came together it became an epic event by all accounts!
Now let’s move to the true epiphany that befell me in a rather serendipitous manner. (Where is my creative writing teacher who failed me for poor vocabulary now?) Anyhow back to the breakthrough. After the blowout success of Double Cross I was behind me, it was time to up the anti. How can I make the whole bike race thing even more fun? Well like so many other things….make it stoooopider silly.
Right then, clunker cross was born. Let me explain. Clunker Cross started as an idea where riders would bring any old beater to race on a short course cyclocross style track with lots of tight twisty off camber turns that would make bike handling difficult at best. The original idea was for everyone to draw a random clunker from the pile and then have a mass start race in excellent view of the spectators where they could watch and laugh at a bunch of buffoons racing ill equipped bikes and crashing all over the place. Well the spectators would have an excellent view except for the race being held at night, but that’s another story. At least that was the plan until only a couple clunkers were deemed worthy of racing. Then a second bit of serendipity occurred. Mark showed up with a clunker. A truly worthy candidate that he was very stoked to show me. “Check out this baby Mike,” he exclaimed. There she was, an early 80’s teal green Schwinn Woodlands comfort cruiser, complete with spattered black paint accents. It was spectacular! Perfect for Clunker Cross. I know that many of you bike snobs are having a hard time getting jacked about such a bike. And typically I wouldn’t either. Except I had the exact same bike, sitting in my garage, also waiting to be ridden in Clunker Cross. That’s when it happened, the birth of The Woodlands Memorial Double Cross Clunker Relay Race.
So now the second race for Double Cross II was going to be a team relay race where each team would pass along one of the wonderful Schwinn Woodlands to his teammates, like a baton. Well like a baton except this baton has two wheels and you ride it. To add to the stupidity, we’d add a mandatory beer hand-up right after the start of race. If you can imagine a bunch of mediocre bike racers riding around a challenging course in the dark on ill equipped bikes while being at least marginally incapacitated equals way too much fun and just perhaps the start of a movement!
Sunday, October 10, 2010
- 6:00 course opens for practice
- 6:45 KIDS race
- 7:00 DC # 1- 4 lap race-course similar to last time. Lights will be necessary. (and yes you will have to hit the gong)
- 8:30 DC#2-Clunker Cross. If possible, bring a beater. ANY kind of bike will do. Road, MTB, Cross, BMX, comfort, tricycle. ANYTHING. Flat pedals on the clunker please. Street value of your clunker under $100. Clunker Cross will be short cross format
- 9:00 General frivolity, camp fire, live music, fun
Monday, September 20, 2010
Fast Like Pancakes Race Promotions
What? 2XCross race. Well actually 2.
When? Friday September 24, 2010 Preride course starting at 6PM. First race at 7PM. Second race at 8PM or 10 minutes after the last rider finishes the first race.
Where? Saltsburg, PA (Specifics handed out to the invited only)
Why? Cause you can’t 2Xcross enough.
Entry fee-One six pack of beer. You are welcome to drink your entry fee or that of the other racers before you leave, (please be responsible), while you are racing, between races, or after the races. I’m keeping what’s left.
Awards/prizes=none but the glory, and maybe a picture with a “podium” girl.
Course description-tougher than you think. Tight twisty off camber turns, 2 run-ups, 2 sets of barriers. Fast, fun, challenging.
Live music-if you bring it
Camp fire-s’mores, hot apple cider, hot chocolate.
Awesome spectator location where you can view 90% of the course, by the fire.
Second race will require lights-maybe even the first. (Additional sets of lights, may be available on a first come first shine basis)
Toying with the thought of a kid’s race if there is any interest
You do not have to race to come out and enjoy the scene
Highly encouraged to get there early enough to pre ride the course before the race
Must sign a hold harmless waiver, plus a temporary last will and testament.
I KNEW WHAT I WAS GETTING INTO AND ACCEPT FULL RESPONSIBILITY For:
• Racing Double Cross
• Watching Double Cross
• Double Cross Kids
• Driving to and from the events
• Eating hot s’mores, apple cider, hot chocolate, choking on tortilla chips, ect
• Sitting by a camp fire
• Stray gunfire, explosives and or direct or indirect meteor strikes
• Anything else not specifically mentioned, but might occur during any of the events on this date, or the preceding 62 months, or at anytime from this point forward till the end of time/second coming.
I realize that bike riding is inherently dangerous. Racing bikes even more so. Racing cyclocross bikes raises that threat to a higher level. Racing cyclocross bikes at night is even more phenomenally hazardous. Racing cyclocross bikes, at night on a course designed by Mike is frankly dodgy at best and potentially life threatening at worst. I get all that, yet still chose to take part in the Double Cross Event. I hold Mike Maher, Dave Zielinski, their heirs, family, friends, pets, chickens, Walker Way Estates, Fast Like Pancakes Race Promotions, and anyone else associated with, even knows about this race, or anyone just passing thru COMPLETELY HARMLESS. I know this is antithetical to our society, but I personally take 100% accountability and responsibility for any and all actions and the potential results for any fortunes and or misfortunes that may befall me as a result of direct or indirect participation in any of the festivities associated with said events.
Temporary Last Will and Testament
In the event that I should die or be rendered partially or totally unable to ride my bike as result of anything that occurs today, I accept full responsibility for the incident and herby bequeath my bike and any and all cycling related equipment to Mike. If the stuff doesn’t fit, doesn’t work, smells bad, or is crap, Mike has the right to donate said ill fitting, broken, smelly crap to his favorite charity or use it as fuel to keep the fire going.
Friday, July 23, 2010
As I pulled into the race venue I stepped our of my wife’s car just in time to hear an announcement over the loudspeaker. “Attention racers! Wetsuits will NOT be allowed in today’s swim leg.” WHAT? I’m a terrible swimmer and the wetsuit provides me extra flotation and some stream lining to greatly enhance my abilities. Being on the scrawny side, I have a tendency to sink, not float if I’m not moving in the water. The wetsuit kind of provides me a mental life preserver, cause you can’t sink while wearing one. I never swam a ½ mile in open water without one. Oh and I’m afraid of water. Needless to say my nerves were jumping out of my skin.
The race starts with the blast of the gun. I’m in and swimming across West Branch Reservoir with a hundred or so of my fellow racers. Much to my surprise, the swim went well. I never felt like I was going to die (like usual) and actually maintained a respectable pace. I came out of the water and ran the ¼ mile to the transition area, imagining how I was going to reel in all those bastards that swim well once I got them into my preferred element…dirt, rocks and woods. I’m pumped and ready to get cracking.
I tear into the transition, find my spot, throw on my helmet and riding glasses and reach for my shoes. Then it hits me. I’ve got the wrong DAMN shoes. In the rush to pack the day before, I packed my road shoes, not my mountain bike shoes. If you are reading this and don’t know, bike racing shoes have a special cleat that actually hooks into the peddle to allow you to both pull up on the pedals as well as push down and also keep your foot planted firmly on the peddle so it can’t slip off. Typically the cleats and pedals for road and mountain bikes are not compatible. This is the case with my setup. My race is over. I start to think how to find the race director to tell him I’m done and not in the bottom of the lake. I’m in a daze wondering around the transition kicked myself for bringing the wrong shoes. And it hits me. My shoes are in my truck. I run my bike to the edge of the transition hop the fence and run a couple hundred yards towards my truck. CRAP! I don’t have my truck with extra gear; I have my wife’s car. No extra bike gear, but some nice sweaters if I should catch a chill. Unbelievably, in my oxygen-depleted state of panic, I forgot what vehicle I was driving. Race over.
Dejected and pretty pissed, I shuffle back towards the transition, trying to find a puppy to kick. I step back over the fence and catch my foot on the top and topple to the ground in front of all the friends and fans watching. As I hit the ground, my head snaps from dismay to WTF. Can’t get worse right? I will not be denied. I will finish. I run back and grab my running shoes and slap ‘em on. I sprint back to my bike and hop on. Off I go. By this time, just about the entire field has gotten ahead of me on the bike. Into the woods I go and even in running shoes I’m picking people off quickly. The course has very little elevation change and the single speed was a fine choice. Unfortunately this trail network must get a lot of use and there are lots of very rooted up sections where tree roots are exposed and slippery. Without being clipped in, I can keep my feet on the peddles for a couple roots in a row but a long series inevitably knocks my feet forward and off the peddle forceing the crank arm to wrap around and smack me in the back of the calf. As I work thru the field, I’m feeling pretty good. All the time thinking how fun this would be with the right shoes. As I finish the bike leg, I’m feeling pretty good having made up a lot of time on most of the field. I’m way too far back to have an impact on the race results, but feeling pretty strong.
I’m into the transition for the second and last time. My “strategy pays off” I have the fastest T2 time in the race! Of course not having to change shoes really helps the transition times. The 10 seconds I save here probably won’t make up the 10 minutes lost in my debacle. Onto the run. It’s a nice wooded trail run. Rocky and rooty with lots of short steep ups and downs. I’m catching and passing some runners and feeling pretty good. I’m flowing along pretty well till the tri gods decide that I still need to pay my penance for some unknown sin. I hit I the top of a little crest and accelerate to take advantage of a little gravity. I’m cruising along down hill when WHAM! My toe catches an unseen root and I’m super-manning across the trail. Full on head first slide, just like stealing third base. I hit with enough impact to actually take some skin off of my armpits. Before I can get up I find my self-laughing. Yes actually laughing out loud. Today is not about finishing high, but rather finishing and enjoying the effort. The last couple miles will be the best of the day.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Fawn Grove Roubaix
Road bike race with a couple sections of dirt road thrown in and some minor climbs; sounds like fun. Throw in a couple teammates making the trip East and I was in! With my mountain bike background, I like to think I can handle a road bike in bad conditions as well as most so I figured I might do well with a sketchy section of road or two. So sitting in the parking lot prerace, my confidence level was high. So high in fact that I decided to race my road bike (skinny tires) versus the cyclocross bike (wider higher volume tires) thinking my bike handling skills would be more than enough compensation.
Ever notice how things usually don’t go exactly like you had envisioned? Well that’s about how the FGR shook out for me. The race started in typical fashion except there was not a whole lot of sitting in at the start of the race. EVERYONE wanted to be at the front for the first section of pave (French for shitty road). So if there were wrecks, flats, slow riders you wouldn’t get caught behind. Although this is an excellent strategy, it creates some chaos when the entire field has the same game plan. The pace seemed pretty high right from the gun and I had drifted back to midpack coming into the first 90-degree turn onto the first section of gravel road. I surged up the outside of the pack coming into the turn and picked up some places so I was about 10th onto the gravel.
In my typical meticulous prerace preparation, I had not bothered to preride the course. But I did talk to a couple folks who did. There were stories of heinous climbs and deep gravel, but these are bikers who are only second to fishermen in their propensity to exaggerate. So I kind of took their comments with a rock of salt.
Now anyone who has ever been on a couple group road rides has heard the shrill cry of warning that tears thru the group when there is a tiny patch of gravel in a corner. I mean 5-10 grains of gravel will totally freak out seasoned road veterans with 1000’s of miles under their belts. Frankly coming from mountain biking I always thought it was kind of silly till I went down in an off camber corner while riding one day. So with that in mind I was completely unprepared for what awaited me on the first section of gravel road. I had imagined sections or patches of bad road for a couple hundred yards, with decent lines thru those sections. What we got was 1.5 miles of FRESH gravel in the first section alone. In places it was an inch and half deep and loose. This was a road rider’s worst nightmare…but maybe even better for me.
I was now in 8th or 9th wheel sitting in comfortably. We were zipping along at about 23-25 mph on this first section of pave. My teammate, who was actually wise enough to ride the course the day before, was executing his game plan perfectly. He was keeping right at the front, out of all the trouble behind while sitting in 3rd. Not sure why, but a gap opened between 3 and 4. When it became obvious that no one was willing to stray off of the one decent line thru the gravel, where the most cars had compacted the gravel, and the gap began to grow I quickly realized that my opportunity to compete with the leaders was going up the road.
So with a typical complete lack of neither reason nor respect for my own safety, I strayed out into the heaviest gravel in the middle of the road to try and reel in the leaders. Surprisingly I felt good, really good as my bike fish tailed and slid thru the tire deep stones. I was easily accelerating past the string of riders when I caught a glimpse of speedometer. 33 MPH thru the gravel. Damn am I stupid or what? In my race-induced state of bike rationalization, I decided that I was safer without somebody squirrely in front of me, even though I was traveling way faster than the pack. After about a minute’s solid effort I was able to pull back the leaders and latched back on about 200 meters from the return to asphalt…then it happened BOOM! I blew a tire.
I changed the flat and spent the rest of the day riding thru the remnants of broken bikes, tires and bodies. There were 4 other sections of gravel road that we hit on each of 2 laps. Everyone had a handful of bikes and people scattered by the roads side. Some were changing flats. Others fixing bikes while still more nursed cuts and bruises from taking a digger in the gravel.
It was a good day and great fun. Obviously I wish I could have stayed in the fray a little longer, but that’s what next year is for. I will see you again Fawn Grove!
Saturday, April 17, 2010
The deal is you are supposed to work up to any distance over time to condirion the muscles in your feet to working without the artificial support of shoes. You would be amazed by how complex the structure of your feet are. Of course that means there are a lot of muscle, tendons, and ligaments than can become sore, irritated or inflamed if you push this phase.
Anyhow, I had worked up to a couple miles with the VFF and frankly running with conventional running shoes was feeling a little weird. So as my training progressed, it was time to do some speed work. Nothing major just 3) 1/2 mile intervals. So I did them, felt good and went home.
Well,the next morning, while my feet had acclimated, my calves had not. While I slept my calves had conspired to prevent me from leaving the house. The first part of the plan was to make it difficult to stand up after getting to the edge of the bed. After a couple minutes I was almost able to stand upright except ALL my weight HAD to be on my heels. Any weight on my forefoot triggered my calf muscles to fire. It was excrutiating! The next part of the plan was to make it almost impossible to get down the stairs. Do you know how hard it is to go down stairs with all your weight on your heels? Not easy. Go ahead and try it.
After a couple days the pain has lessened. I now know to break up the workouts with regular shoes and VFF. And SLOWLY increase the time with the VFF and ween off the running shoes over time.
Freakin’ Mohican: Recipe For Destruction
Remembrances of The Mohican 100 Mile or Mohican 100 K Endurance Mountain Bike Race.
A rough recipe for this endurance event in Ohio includes:
• 4 parts of water (3.5” in the 24 hours preceding the race after a whole week of rain.)
• 8 parts dirt
• 1 part leaves, stick and pine needles.
• Three parts rocks
• 2 parts roots.
• 2 parts of elevation gain. I know its Ohio, but there is damn near as much elevation gain as in the Wilderness 101. Over 11,000 feet in 100 miles. Who knew?
• 160+ racers
• First checkpoint at mile #27 Or mile 35 for the full half of the field that got lost… (yes me too) Ride bike for a minimum of 3+ hours to reach said checkpoint (top finishers) or over 8 hours for bottom feeders. Me just under 4 hours.
• No signs for 20 miles of twisty intersecting single track before check point # 1 (all stolen the night before?)
• Lightning and hail warnings
• 2 parts bonus hike-a-bike not quite as bad as Iron Cross, but not part of the course either
• 1 part hike-a-bike up the face of a damn too steep to push your bike, had to carry (5 miles from the end) 200’+- elevation gain
• Attrition rate must exceed 25%
• Crash bikes in every conceivable manner imaginable.
o Yours truly all during the event:
1. Over the bars: tuck and roll, modified superman, and full bar straddle, heel click to full on sprint down hill to remain upright
2. Biff front wheel left and right repeat numerous times or until you can no longer mount bike
3. Rear wash out left and right repeat numerous times or until you can no longer mount bike
4. Walk bike for miles, up hill, down hill, flat terrain, advanced trails, expert trails and even novice trails…helps mix ingredients
5. And fail to make the short extremely steep climb, put your foot down on a slippery root (down hill side) and tumble over a cliff
6. Fully submersed after slipping off creek side trail and falling into 6’ of water
• Numerous unmarked road turns
• Broken chain
• Mix all dry and liquid ingredients in a big basin. Allow to congeal shortly. Roll rubber tires though quagmire until tires scoop up enough of the mixture that the wheels will no longer turn at all. Stop bike and scrape off enough mud to continue. CURSE! Repeat every 500 yards or until a stream crossing affords the opportunity to dunk the entire bike under water to allow forward locomotion. Repeat for 100 K, 100 miles, 5.5 hours (top 100K) 8.5 hours top 100 Mile or stagger in after 17 hours under you own power (last finisher at 12 PM) Whichever is longer and more painful. Or continue until the will to move forward and finish is overcome by man’s natural affinity toward self-preservation and survival.
• Drink beers, lick wounds, and make plans for the Wilderness 101 in July.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
I'm a little odd. This isn't a newsflash to just about about anyone who's spent any time with me. I'd rather be in the snow than at the beach. I'd rather play a sport than watch one. I like to suffer. Yeah I'm weird. But occasionally there is a justifiable reason for my apparent madness. Today was no exception. I ran a mile this afternoon wearing these. I have been studying...well more experimenting with barefoot running and emulating a barefoot stride when running with shoes. It's been pretty amazing. I've been messing with it for over a year now and I'm continually amazed by the great reduction in discomfort I have while running, the better recovery times and oh...I'm significantly faster. So in an attempt to hone my skills, I regularly run barefoot on the padded track at the local high school. Problem is that even though the track is padded, running any distance wears the skin right off my toes. Nice smooth feet for a bit, but then it starts to hurt some. So in walks these shoes. Walks in. Get it? I think that's funny. Weird right? Anyhow, I've been running a little bit on the treadmill with these Vibram Five Fingers Shoes. Really they are more like gloves than shoes with a thin rubber bottom and no padding. But today was the first time i actually ran outside with them. Surprisingly good results, They felt really smooth, comfortable, and took the abrasiveness out of running on a rough surface while still giving that barefoot feeling. I'll keep playing with them and let you know how it goes.
Now we'll just have to see how bad I hurt tomorrow.
Anyone interested in barefoot running, take a look at www.evolutionrunning.com
Friday, March 12, 2010
Revisiting a race recap from a while back.
WARNING: This article is not intended for minors or for old folks with weak constitutions. Read at your own risk!
Proof of Evolution
I just completed the Wilderness 101 mountain bike race, a 101 mile mountain bike odyssey, and have some very valuable scientific evidence leading me to conclude that Darwin wasn’t a quack. But you must read on to make your own decision.
After the completion of the race, I was forced to gloat on the only small victory I could muster, by looking trough the rosiest glasses I could find. My ass didn’t hurt. Not at all. Not even a little. In comparison, the rest of my biking buddies were in varying degrees of pain ranging from mild discomfort to absolute agony. One gentleman in particular was dealing with an exceptionally horrendous case of chafing. Now I’m not talking a little butt rub, but rather a complete loss of numerous layers of dermis, in rather large areas from both cheeks. Painful for Jason…hilarious to me. Believe me; I reveled in his misery as only a good friend could. If you can think of a butt joke, so did I, and I cast it in Jason’s direction without mercy. All the while laughing at his misfortune. I took enormous pleasure waiting outside, within earshot, for Jason to start his post race shower. The squeal of pain he yelped as the first water hit the raw flesh had me giggling uncontrollably.
Through out the rest of the night, while downing my first beers in months, actually my first 7 beers in months, the butt jokes kept on flowing and I was on a roll. I crawled into my sleeping bag at 10 PM giddy from grog, exhausted from riding and still chuckling at Jason’s plight.
The bike gods did not condone the joy I had found in the misfortune of a fellow rider. Karma was out to get me. At about 2:30 in the morning I began to uncover their revenge. I rolled over from a sound sleep to realize something was amiss in my nether regions. In an alcohol-induced fuzziness, I slid my hands down below to figure out what was happening. WOW! I’ve got three nuts! How cool is that? And I dozed back off to dream of my newfound uniqueness. Somehow in my convoluted dream state, I had managed to rationalize my new third testicle as a great advancement in the evolutionary chain. Opposable thumb…walking erect…three stones. Someday all of this new species will have three. The name of this new super species will be…Homo erectus tritestes. I was further anticipating women with three nipples, but I digress. That was a separate dream and not really part of my thesis.
Unfortunately by 3:30 a blistering pain in the proximity of my new super nut rudely woke me. My claim to fame was nothing more than a gigundus saddle sore. That’s right a cyclist’s cyst. A biker’s boil. A peddler’s pustule. I’m not prone to exaggeration; I’ll not say it was the size of a softball or orange. But it was every bit as large as a golf ball. I’m pretty sure it could have won the county fair, butt believe it or not…no one wanted to see it.
Friday, March 5, 2010
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
I ran to the basement to get a screwdriver and there curled up in the corner lay Old Blue. Kind of half sitting, half leaning in the corner. Sad forlorn eyes gazing up at me. Trying desperately, and successfully, to make me feel guilty for the neglect. I’m sorry Blue, I know I should spend more time with you. You need to get out, run, get some exercise. Hell we need to spend some more time together. It’s good for both of us. I know that. I’ve just got too much else going on. Oh and the weather has been bad. I thought the kids would take you out for a bit. But no, they turned their backs on you too. I know, terrible excuses. All while you are cooped up in the basement. What did you say Blue? Blackie isn’t happy about the “arrangement” nor is Big Red. Come on Blue, you know they are fair weather pals. No. It’s you I worry about. You’re just a pup. Not even a year old. Full of energy. Full of spunk. You need to get out and feel your legs. So sad! I’m sorry Blue. The snow will melt and again we will play in the woods together. Don’t worry Blue, good times are coming again. Don’t worry. I know you are still the best friend a guy can have. I still love you Blue!
Monday, February 22, 2010
Saturday, February 13, 2010
As my ski trip is coming to an end, a brief chance to reflect on the highlights has occurred. By far the best thing to come out of this trip is the rekindling of two very important friendships.
You often here of the unbreakable bonds formed by men in war. How war veterans religiously make reunions to share stories and remember fallen comrades. There is something about extremely stressful situations that acts a catalyst to both create enemies and forge phenomenal friendships. My years kayaking were very similar. Of my best friends, the people I could call in the middle of the night, who would answer my plead for help without asking; most are kayaking buddies. Anyone who has kayaked long enough has had an experience where either you or a paddling mate's life was in eminent danger. What happens next, is what forms the unbreakable bonds to which I allude. The efforts I've seen to rescue a fellow paddle are nothing short of extraordinary . Certainly no less heroic than the Marine who carries a wounded buddy through enemy fire to safety.
I had the great privilege to ski with a couple guys who relied on me to protect their life while boating together and more than once my life was in their hands. Even though I haven't kayaked seriously in over a decade, that kind of bond does not erode with time. I am lucky to have this depth or relationship with these guys and so thankful to spend some quality time with them.
Just know that if my phone rings and you need me, I'm there. No questions asked or explanations needed.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
This "strategy" does not really jive with my normal vacation protocol and definately not a ski trip. Usually the game plan is catch the first chair when the resort opens and then bribe the lift operator with the promise of free beers in the bar for one more ride up after the place closes.
The good news for me is I am trying to take this oppurtunity to learn some patience. It's not really working so well. Even though I've recruited a small handful to stretch the daily ski limits to a more Mike acceptable time frame, it feels like hurding cats.
The other good news is that with my new recruits, I am getting a pretty full day. After they wear down and head for the obligatory after ski beverage, I've been able to crank out a couple runs before I find that beer lusting liftie to let me squeeze in one more run. I'm tired, a little sore, and very happy.
Plenty of time to relax when none of my body parts work anymore:)
Monday, February 8, 2010
I’m updating this blog from the Lazy-Boy in my living room with a cup of coffee in hand. Although that doesn’t seem odd, I’m supposed to be eating breakfast in the Lodge at Breckenridge this morning getting ready to hit the slopes. But as anyone within 500 miles of the east coast knows, we’ve been dealing with a little weather incident. So my early morning flight on Saturday has turned into an evening flight on Monday.
I’ve been planning this trip since August. At least that’s when I sent in my first payment. I began getting nervous midweek when the news started talking about a storm. But let’s face it we have all been conditioned by the weatherman who cried wolf too many times now. In an impromptu survey, no one I asked could remember the last time the forecasters underestimated the snowfall totals. They say 6-8 which always means 2-4 inches. Why would this time be any different?
Well it was. To make a long story short, 2’ plus of snow closed the airport and put my ski trip on hold. I was pretty bummed to say the least. Now I realize that is pretty self-absorbed to be whining about delaying a ski vacation and I’m sure there aren’t a lot of violins playing for me. There might be people reading this who are sick, have lost their job, have family issues or worse. Hell there is a lot of pain and sorrow out there.
Although it’s nice to vent, I didn’t write this just to bitch. But rather share a sliver of enlightenment that hit somewhere in the middle of my 6th hour shoveling on Saturday. I had already dug out a big chunk of our driveway before a friend came over and plowed us out. (that was nice) and had headed over to our neighbors next door. Dave had made it about 1/5 of the way down his 300’ driveway before his shovel gave up the ghost. I had brought my spare over and together we did the remainder over the next couple hours.
So my first epiphany came as we finished Dave’s drive. Damn, how long would it have taken Dave if my flight went thru. Glad I was here to help. Then Sunday morning I went skiing at our local hill with a group of good friends and had one of the best days ever skiing in Western PA. Came home to my wife and girls who were very excited that I was home for my birthday. Then off to a friends to watch the super bowl with the family. All in all what had started as a self perceived “disaster” turned out to be an almost perfect 24 hours.
I know its cliché to talk about making lemonade out of lemons, but there is really something to it. Every hardship, setback, struggle changes you somehow. Back when my father was getting older and later diagnosed with cancer, he had moved into our home where we could best care for him. What I didn’t realize at the time was not what we were doing for him but the gift he was giving me and my family. The time spent caring for him was repaid 10 fold by the bond grown between him and my wife and children and cemented with me. The strength of these bonds could never have fully matured, had that course not been forced upon us. Sometimes, in the thick of things, it’s hard to focus on how anything as diabolical as cancer can yield some thing so powerful.
Does a delayed ski trip compare with the loss of a loved one or some personal struggle in your life. NO. But maybe this blog can help. Not by turning lemons into lemonade, but rather by setting up a lemonade stand so I can share a little bit with you.
Friday, February 5, 2010
This is a short story from a couple years back. WARNING: Do not read while eating.
Saturday morning started a little early at about 5:30 AM with a rather immediate need to evacuate my system. OK race day poop, out of the way, that might be a good thing. Always good to know that you’ll be a little lighter for the race;) The Tour De Strongland mountain bike race started at 10AM and being my home course, I wanted to have a good showing. Unfortunately, about ½ way through brushing my teeth that morning an audible rumble starts in my mid section and the urgent need returns quickly enough to force me to the throne, toothbrush still in hand. After three more angry contributions and some Pepto; I’m heading out the door around 9 AM to still attempt the race. I’m feeling slightly better and at least the cramps are gone. I don’t really feel sick or anything so I line up with the rest of the boys to start the race. Apparently there are no other bike races in Western PA today and about every fast rider, both road and mountain have lined up at the start of the expert class race.
I’m lined up near the front knowing that a bad lead out to the single track destroys any chance of a decent finish. I feel a little grumble. Ah, just race day nerves, it’ll be OK. The gun goes off and away we go. I’m sitting about 5th wheel on the express train to the single track. We are cruising along fast enough that no one can come around the outside to pass. Perfect. A little surge occurs and I hop out of the saddle to respond. That’s when I make my new friend. Sparky the prairie dog has made an appearance. I sit back down, clench up and Sparky hides away…for a little while. The entire first lap becomes a new game that really doesn’t involve cycling much. Sparky wants to come out and play, I try to contain him. Great fun!
Apparently when prairie dogs are kept inside they get bored. So to pass the time I guess they do what comes natural. BREED! It now appears that Sparky and his family are a rather prolific cross of Irish Catholic and Mormons. No birth control in that group. By about half way thru the second and mercifully the final lap, Sparky, his wife, his 12 kids, aunts, uncles, a couple cousins and some adopted refugee prairie dogs from China all want to come out a play REAL BAD! I’m now putting twice the effort into my sphincters than I am my leg muscles. Luckily I ride a perfectly clean lap (both literal and figurative) for the fear that a crash would undoubtedly release the entire clan. With about a mile to go I am fantasizing about the port-a-potty at the finish. I’ve got my gloves off, by camel back unclipped, and my helmet off as I cross the finish line and am now putting out the hardest effort of the day to outsprint the 70 year old women ambling towards the john. I power slide across her path to block her progress andbeat her sorry ass to the prize. Just enough time to return the Sparky and his kin to the wild….Shew! Close one!
PS: Although I had a rewarding finish in the mountain bike race on Saturday (I didn’t soil myself) my placing was abysmal. The good news is that I conserved enough energy to win teh Tour De Strongland Road race on Sunday.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
I control the weather! That’s right you heard me I hold the power to determine if it rains. If it snows. If the sun shines. If it’s cold, hot, dry, damp whatever…it is all determined by me! Climate change, my arse…it’s me.
Let me explain. A steel bar is attracted to the magnet. A rock falls to earth. Water repels oil. The magnet does not necessarily want the steel rod. Nor does the earth desire the rock. The water does not dislike the oil. Like these forces, I control the weather. Unfortunately it is not subject to my will.
I’m leaving for a ski vacation on Saturday. That is if it doesn’t snow too much for the plane to take off. How ridiculous is that? I am praying for it to NOT snow. I LOVE snow, yet it may disrupt my ski trip to Colorado where they haven’t had a sizable snowfall in quite a while. So the man who loves snow, is trying to leave for a ski trip, in a potential blizzard, to go someplace where it hasn’t snowed. I control the snow.
Mike you say, this is a silly isolated incident. I wish this were so.
• 2005-ski trip to Banff/Lake Louise Ski area in Canada. Lowest snow total in 60 years.
• Crested Butte 2003-ski trip. Bare spots in February, unheard of.
• Glacier National Park 2006-Dryest summer and consequently almost the entire park on fire.
I can go on with floods during bike races, typhoons during triathlons, hail storms on motorcycles, hottest summer on record in Death Valley. By now I hope you realize that it’s true…I do control the weather. Just most of the time it’s the opposite of what I would wish for.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
As a kid I remember my dad taking me on a fishing trip, on a charter boat in NJ, for sea trout. It was a good day. We caught 5 or 6 each and as a little kid I was on top of the world. As we were cleaning the fish, my dad started running thru a little mental game with me, as he was prone to do. We added up all the costs of the little trip and divided it by the approximate weight of the cleaned fish. I don’t remember the exact figures, but it was high, $40 some bucks per pound.
Why the hell am I rambling on about the price of game? Well there is a reason. For some silly reason I decided that I wanted to brew my own beer. Did you know that I could buy a really tasty pale ale right up the street from me? As a matter of fact, there are a phenomenal number of really good beers out on the market now. Beers that even actually taste like something. So why would I bother to make my own beer. Well I wish I had an impressive answer. I’d love to write about this deep passion I have for exotic hops. Or a burning desire to study fermentation rates. Maybe even a dream to tweak a favorite recipe to bring about a nutty hoppiness or some bullshit like that. But really I just wanted to give it a try. Oh and the 54 bottles waiting to be drunk…$3.54 each!