Monday, December 5, 2011

Putting Another Stamp on the Man Card

Sunday was a very exciting day indeed. Why? I got to drive a truck! Ok, so I also bought a washing machine and I guess that is pretty great but I have a penis and therefore must focus on what really matters to the men among my readership.

Whenever I come into possession of large objects that need to be transported to my sprawling estate, I run into a small problem. I drive a Toyota Corolla. This is not the most useful vehicle when attempting to move furniture, appliances or life-sized porcelain giraffes. It also has the unfortunate effect of making me look like a high school kid. My youthful good looks certainly help with that image but it is not one I particularly enjoy. If only I looked like Ryan Gosling. He’s so dreamy. Or at least that is what I have been told. By women. Lots of them. And they were all naked.

Sunday afternoon began with a quick trip to the northeast corner of the city to pick up a vehicle that changed my life for exactly two hours and forty seven minutes. In order to move my new washing machine I tricked a friend into letting me borrow his Toyota Tacoma. I told him I was using it to pick up the pony I bought him for Christmas. I can’t believe he fell for that. I don’t celebrate Christmas. Anyway, with the truck in my possession, The Little Italian at my side and the GPS leading the way I rolled out in style. Almost immediately I noticed a change in myself as I drove. I was suddenly just a little bit taller. The hair on my body became fuller and richer than before. I’m pretty sure I even started growing a mustache. And then, let’s just say my fabulous man bits became exceedingly impressive. Apparently they became magnetic as well. Women were throwing themselves at me so hard that their heads were denting the side of the truck. I’m sure they were fine though. Not that I was about to stop and check. Aggressive women scare me so I just left them heaped up along the side of the road.

They make a cute couple if you're into that sort of thing. I wonder what the kids would look like.

Upon arriving at our destination TLI and I promptly embarrassed the person who sold us the washing machine by declining his assistance and loading it into the back of the truck on our own. He seemed impressed by the ease with which we did this but just for good measure we did a few hand stand push-ups in his driveway and then my beloved threw his car into a lake. My memory of this event may be a bit foggy but I am pretty sure that is EXACTLY what happened.

Getting our magnificent new laundry cleaning contraption into our home was a snap. Up the stairs, through the door and into the hallway we went. No hood required. This is where the only real problem of the day arose. Once the machine was in place I went into a state of shock. The large white cube made my hall closet look painfully domestic. Where there was once enough space for a track bike there was now only the infernal machine. I breathed rapidly into a paper bag but it did nothing to ease my panic. Sniffing glue didn’t do much either. I thought my head might explode but then a beautiful solution hit me right in the face. Rude but effective. The Little Italian went outside and I went to work. All it took was a few well-placed bike stickers to bring my heart rate back into normal territory. And when my wife came back inside? As far as you know, she was pleased as punch.

It may not be particularly aerodynamic but the stickers definitely make it look fast.

I scoured the pages of the UCI rulebook and found nothing banning a 7 Cycle 2 Speed. I'm sure that will change. You know how they like to reject new technology.

So that is where my day began the inevitable slide toward a stiff nightcap. I jumped into the Tacoma one last time to bring it back to its rightful owner. As a matter of course, I made a quick stop at a gas station to fill up the tank. Have I mentioned lately just how much I love my Corolla? I have never seen a gas pump run for so long. At one point I actually knelt down to look under the truck because I was fairly certain gas was draining right out the bottom. My dreams of owning a truck may have been shattered by an expensive trip to the pump but at least I can still grow a totally sweet mustache.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bring Your Hoff to Work Day

Every once in a while I wonder if I I’m married to a crazy person and then something happens to confirm that I most certainly am. I was looking through some pictures on the laptop the other day and stumbled across a few photos of The Little Italian sharing time with another man. Most husbands would find this scenario to be quite upsetting but upon close inspection of the photos I knew I had nothing to worry about. I did not find a scandalous pictorial filled with images unsuitable for work as many readers might have expected. Instead I found that The Little Italian had kidnapped my two dimensional German friend and taken him to work for the day.

For the past year or so my wife has been working for Crossfit Eternal. One would expect that because of my deep appreciation for Crossfit that I might have joined her there on multiple occasions to share in a workout or simply kibitz with friends. That is what most people would think. Yeah, but no. My fierce loyalty to my own gym, and a desperate lack of free time have led me to neglect this important marital bonding opportunity. Apparently The Little Italian thought that if I wasn’t going to join her there she would take The Hoff instead. This was either a ploy to make me jealous or maybe just a desperate cry for help. You decide.

After a day at the box this is what she left me…

Apparently they attempted some combination of overhead squats and box jumps. Box jumps prove to be very difficult for The Hoff. He is mounted on a stick after all. You try jumping on one rigid, wooden leg and see what happens. As for the squats? Forget it. Splinters. That’s all I can say. Horrible, horrible splinters.

From box jumps and squats the intrepid couple moved over to the pull up bar. I don’t know what you see when you look at this picture but all I see is The Hoff. Do you see something else in this picture? I think that makes you a racist.

Although I’m sure the pull up bar was fun, the rope climb is where my two-dimensional friend really stood out. His power to weight ratio is quite impressive. He easily won the rope climb race pictured above. The Hoff has skills.

What was the best part of the day? Well, The Hoff loves ladies. Here we see him casually observing two lovely young women as they enjoy a good stretch. I’m sure it was only a matter of time before he managed to charm the two gym-goers. Poor girls. They didn’t stand a chance. How could any woman resist a man with a perm like that. Hot with a capital O.

Inspired by this employer based Hofftastic adventure I have decided to bring him to my office next week. Every good BD guy needs a wingman. This is going to be sweet….

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I Have a Tiny Caveman in My Pants

That right there is a working title I should have spent a little more time on. Perhaps it will aid in drawing a new and exciting demographic to my little corner of the interweb. Grab a blanket and get cozy new friends. Just don’t sit on my side of the couch.

While stumbling through my 34th summer on this planet I came to the conclusion that something was missing from my life. This realization came in the form of an often repeated argument with The Little Italian. We have long enjoyed a sort of Mexican stand-off in our home directly related to the somewhat bizarre cycling tradition of male leg shaving. I don’t suppose it is truly fitting to identify this particular stand-off as Mexican seeing that she is Italian and I am a mish mash of pasty, light skinned people from the continent but for lack of better terminology that is where I have landed. You see, dear readers, I have shaved my legs on many occasions in the past. Most of the time, the removal of my leg hair was timed specifically for a race that I deemed to be important. Most of the time. But every time without fail I have been met with the same threat from my beloved. I have been warned time and time again that I can shave my legs as often as I want but as soon as I do The Little Italian will stop shaving hers. I’m sure you can guess which one of us has the will power to stay strong in this scenario. I’m weak, oh so very weak.

After years of allowing this fight to rage on we finally hit a wall. There would be no more threats, no more playful yet sometimes bitter back and forth. The time had come to find a permanent solution once and for all. I of course suggested that because I am the man of the house whatever I say goes. Did I get hit for that one? Yup. Did it hurt? Yup. Was there bruising? Of course not. The Little Italian was kind enough to drop a bar of soap into a tube sock and hit me with that. The bruising was minimal. The damage to my pride was not.

So how did I finally end this dispute? I got a tattoo!! She has told me many times that shaving my legs made me look like a girl but a tattoo could reverse the effect. Victory!

The location for my tattoo was never an area for much debate. I’m a cyclist. I wanted a tattoo on my leg and my calf seemed like the best place based on my analysis of a pain to visibility ratio. What to get was the challenging part. Many cyclists have images of various bike parts inked into their skin so that was automatically out. I thought something cool like a cowboy riding a dragon through a ring of fire might be sweet but that idea was quickly shot down as well. I also toyed with the idea of getting a tattoo of my calf on my calf only making in twice as large. There were some artistic issues there so I settled on my little lifestyle mascot, Grok. For those unfamiliar with Grok you should go buy Mark Sisson's book. The fast and dirty overview is that modern man is a damn mess and we could learn a great deal from our primal ancestors. This is a concept that I have internalized over the past couple years and it seemed only fitting to make it a permanent part of me. Behold my greatly improved right leg:

I have discovered one small problem with my new two dimensional friend. He has a rather kinetic quality about him and tends to only look cool when I am doing something active. When I am running or riding my bike or wrestling a rhinoceros he looks awesome. While darning my socks, painting a fence or feeding the squirrels? Not so much. I guess this means I have to do really awesome things all the time now. Who’s ready for some base jumping? You go first.

I can't possibly talk about my tattoo in this space without taking a moment to thank Dennis at Carolina Ink. This may come as a surprise to you but I am a bit of a nerd. I actually spent several hours researching the history of tattoos and looking up data on their prevalence in modern society. Did you know that one third of Americans under the age of forty have tattoos? It's true. Armed with my data I walked in to meet Dennis and discovered right away that he is much cooler than I am. He quickly dispelled any concerns I had about the process of having him repeatedly jam a needle into my leg and assured me that he wouldn't knock me out and draw a purple unicorn on my back while I was asleep. I appreciated that. The little details are important. I would love to tell you about the emotional transfer of getting my first tattoo but I was so tired the night that I got it that I nearly fell asleep on the table. All I know is that after an hour of listening to an annoying buzzing sound my leg was vastly improved. Groggy as I may have been I still had the energy to speak at length with the man responsible for my inky adventure. I stated over and over with great certainty that I would only get one tattoo. Dennis laughed and said I'd be back. He's right....

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Interbike Exploration and Jubilation

Ahhh Interbike. The annual celebration of all things bicycle held in the city that stands as a monument to American excess; Las Vegas. It is a rather interesting pairing and with this being my first trip to the expo I wanted to experience both sides. Now that I have checked this adventure off my list I can say it was a fantastic experience but not necessarily one that I need to repeat on an annual basis. My story shall begin with the expo itself.

I have wanted to attend Interbike since the first day I laid eyes on a two wheeled human powered vehicle. After many long years of anticipation I can confidently say the event did not disappoint. It began on Wednesday morning and despite a long day and late night on Tuesday I was still up at the crack of dawn bouncing around like a kid on christmas morning. My traveling companions were super excited to wake up to the sound of me bouncing up and down on my cot at 7am. If only they knew what was about to happen them. Never bring a hyperactive bike nerd to Vegas. It only increases their already excessive energy levels.

So what did I see? Well, if you own a computer and have any idea how to use it for the power of good you have already seen everything at the expo on Bikerumor and a thousand other interweb sites. I'll do my best to tell my version of the story with a somewhat controlled photo dump. Spoiler alert, there is a urine joke in your near future.

This is where it all began. I was so excited to pick up my badge that I couldn't hold the camera steady. Either that or my camera sucks. You decide. Of course, if you choose the latter option and would like to buy me a new camera I'm certainly not above accepting gifts. In case you are wondering, I prefer Canon.

It is hard to put into words just how large this trade show is. It's apparently even more difficult to put into a picture.

First stop, Moots! The most beautiful bike at the show was their 29er. This is not simply my opinion. According to a statistic that I made up for this post, 118% of Interbike attendees agree that Moots created sex on wheels with this one. I didn't take this blurry photo so I defer back to the earlier comment about you buying me a camera. If all of my readers chip in just $100 each I'll have $200 to put toward this purchase. Thanks for doubling my readership, mom.

Stops 2-5. Yes, I went to the Moots booth on five separate occasions. Not sequentially of course as that would have bordered on creepy. But seriously, just look at that thing. Tasty times two.

No trip to Interbike would be complete without stopping by the Specialized booth. They had one of Jaroslav Kulhavy's bikes on hand. I may have touched it. There were unconfirmed reports of weeping. I don't know anything about that.

Tell me you wouldn't lick that bike if you had the chance.

So now is the point where this post could easily fall into a lengthy series of photos of various 29" wheeled bikes followed by my comments about how amazing they all are. I'll spare you that pain and go straight to my celebrity siting list. It is as follows: Chris Horner, Dave Zabriske, Levi Leipheimer, Ryder Hesjedahl, James Macilvain(yes he counts and no I don't care if you have no idea who he is), Chris, Sugai, Elvis and Ned Overend. Yes this is my second Ned sighting. No, I did not talk to him. I didn't talk to him last time and that approach has worked out pretty well so far. Do you have any idea what could happen? If I were to speak to him he might actually respond at which point I would pee all over the rug. Nobody wants that. Especially the clean up crew in Vegas. Look at how they respond such things....

That may be taking caution to an unnecessarily high level.

What else did I see? Every damn thing, that's what. And I went back to the Moots booth again. Over the course of two and half days I went to every booth at the show. Some were better than others of course and I was mocked relentlessly for touching every single tire but hey, I likes me some tires. There were more components, accessories, clothes and trinkets than I could ever cover here. So instead I present you with a picture of this guy:

I have no idea who this guy is. Apparently he was trying to sell some sort of ab machine that is so intense you have to wear sunglasses while you use it. It seemed like a great concept to me. Except for the ab machine part.

I also saw this thing:
For that very special person who loves the Stairmaster but wants to take in some scenery while they work on their fitness goals. Best to wear a helmet to protect you from the embarrassment of being excessively Caucasian.

The trip did include a short burst of exercise that I was very excited about. As if I wasn't already excited about everything else. Lemond Fitness had a stationary trainer set up with a power meter so Interbike attendees could compete against each other in a battle royale of watts supremacy. I didn't win. I know your shocked. However, I got to watch Dan, traveling companion number one, put up a number that held 3rd place until the end of the show. Notoriety and a free t-shirt for him. Free socks for me. Sweet.

I'm confident a gold embossed certificate of achievement will be arriving at the shop any day now.

Yes I rocked my sweet new socks with my sandals. No, people did not point and laugh.

Me, I put up 1146. Not too shabby for a little dude with chicken legs. Even less shabby when you consider that my score was 37 watts higher than a gentleman I shall only refer to as traveling companion number two. That is really not the most flattering name for him but he is currently in a safe house as a part of the 37 watts less than Dave protection program. The secrecy of this program is of the utmost importance and shall not be violated under any circumstances.

So that is the expo half of my Interbike story. What is the other half? Well, that would be the drunker side of Vegas. Oh the stories I will tell you through stilted prose and blurry photos. Don't forget, your individual contribution to my new camera fund will only decrease if you bring additional readers to my blog. Put on your reader recruiting hat and get to work. I like Canon.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Prelude to Interbike

Dear readers it has been far too long since I last stood upon my soapbox to cast forth my deranged musings. Because I have neglected you so I am reaching out today with a very special gift. A gift so phenomenal that it will leave you with soiled undergaments and an overhelming sense of joy. Allow me to take a moment to lay the foundation....

This past week I found myself checking an item off my bucket list by attending the Interbike Expo in Las Vegas. Yes, that Las Vegas. I have been told that only old people are allowed to have a bucket list but that is total bollocks. I've got a lot of stuff to do and if putting that stuff in a bucket of some sort increases the likelihood of it getting done then so be it. I also don't feel a need to confine my desires to a bucket. The earth is full of so many incredible things that I have not yet seen that I may require a far larger receptacle. Why would I limit myself to a bucket when I could use something cool like a red wagon with tall wooden sides. Not only would that increase my carrying capacity but it also greatly improves the aesthetic value of my list transportation device.

I anticipate the phrase “wagon list” will be all the rage in 2012

Where was I? Oh yes, your very special gift. My trip to Interbike began with a visit to Douglas Airport where I boarded US Airways flight 383. Upon taking our seats my two travelling companions and I found ourselves with some time to kill. Of course, we did take a few minutes to review the safety manual and familiarize ourselves with the emergency procedures associated with our particular aircraft. We weren't in an exit row but I felt it was important for us to prepare ourselves in the event that the exit row passengers and everyone in the 15 rows separating us from the exit rows were unfit to assist in an emergency. You can never be too careful. Once this important step was out of the way I proceeded to open a copy of In Style Magazine that had been left behind by a kind hearted traveller clearly devoted to the happiness of others. As I flipped through the pages my fellow Interbike attendees and I marveled at the latest fashion trends and took detailed notes so that we could improve our personal wardrobes. Then something truly amazing happened. I turned the page to find the single greatest advertisement that I have ever laid my eyes upon. Ladies and gentlemen I give you......The Most Incredibly Lifelike Baby Monkey Ever!

I want you to take a moment to read this ad in its entirety. Really drink it in. This is no ordinary doll folks. This is a silicone based artificial orangutan that is the size of an actual baby. It warms my heart to know that the world will no longer have to settle for undersized imitation infant monkeys. Take note that this is the first baby monkey in the company's world famous So Truly Real line. Have you not heard of this world famous collection? I'm shocked. Have you been living under a rock with another rock on top of it? Where have you been??!! Just look at it. Soft pliable silicone skin. Wispy, hand rooted hair. Gentle eyes. And that little pink, so precious.

My only real disappointment with this product offering is that it will only be available for a limited time. You should be grateful that I came to you so quickly. As the ad states, high demand is expected. And how could it not be? At the bargain price of $139.99 plus $15.99 shipping and handling I can't see any reason to pass this up. I am left with only one question. Does someone who has $155 to spend on a small rubber orangutan really need to pay over time in five easy installments? My thought is that if you are in a financial position that requires you to make payments on a product like this it might be a sign that a baby monkey collection should not be high on your list of priorities. Of course, if you fail to make the payments I am quite confident that a suitable payment restructuring plan can be identified to suit your needs. This is America after all.

Stay tuned for an in-depth report of my assault on Interbike. The expo had no idea what hit it. In the meantime, I present for your viewing pleasure a video of a baby monkey riding a pig. Sing it with me. Sing it loud.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Running is Stupid

So as you may recall, three weeks ago I started running. I am not a runner. I refer to myself as someone who CAN run. There is a big difference. Runners are deranged individuals who, for reasons I will never understand, actually seem to enjoy the physical pounding that a lengthy run provides. I am not one of those people. I am simply a little dude with the physiological capacity to repeatedly put one foot in front of the other at a tempo that provides substantial forward movement.

After the kick off party to celebrate the Run for Your Life Trail Club I decided it might not be a bad idea to invest in some running shoes. I participated in the group's initial 5k while sporting a pair of Converse One Stars. Are they awesome? Of course they are, that is why I own two pairs. Are they ideal for trail running? Look at the picture below and you tell me.

Perhaps not ideal footwear for kicking along a few miles of single track

It became abundantly clear to me that something needed to be done if I was going to continue with this crazy idea of running in the woods. More importantly, something was going to have to be purchased. Any normal person would reach out to other local runners and ask their opinions on the most appropriate shoes. Said person might also read a magazine or two containing useful information on running gear. Perhaps this fictitious person might even look to the wide world of the interwebs for reviews and buying tips. How long have you been reading my blog? Did you really think I would do any of that? Hell no! I don't need the advice of experts. I have my very own brilliant ideas about running shoes that don't need to be backed up by anything other than my own sense of what is right and what is horribly, horribly wrong. So I bought these......

The word you're looking for is "Magnificent". Go ahead and say it out loud.

What you are looking at folks is the Nike Zoom Waffle XC VIII or NZWXC for short. If you try to say that five times fast it sounds like you're sneezing. But anyway, I think that racing flats with removable spikes were a very sensible choice. I wanted to go the minimalist route and these shoes certainly fit the bill. They are crazy light and have no cushioning on the bottom. The upper material is primarily mesh which allows great breathability and excellent water drainage should I ever attempt to run on water and fail. The drop from the heel to the forefoot is too small to measure which makes forefoot running the necessity it should already be. The fact that I was able to get them in a muted color that does not attract any attention really sealed the deal.

My fancy new shoes and I have been fumbling our way through this whole running thing. The first run after the kick off party was by far the most amusing because I fully demonstrated just how little I know about this sport. Since I am not a runner I decided to start out at the back of the pack. Yup, that lasted all of about five minutes. The only thing worse than running is running slowly. I quickly worked my way up to the front group and that seemed to work out just fine. With four of us together we maintained a quick enough pace to keep me from getting bored. What I noticed right away is that I was the only one of our group not talking. Everyone else seemed chatty while I was gasping for air. I should have dropped back but instead I pushed on. As the pace picked up even more our group of four became a group of three. Why I was still in this group is a mystery. And then it happened. With about four hundred meters to go the leader took off like a shot. My response? Yeah, I went after him. I matched his pace kick for kick until the end of the trail. It was shortly after that when I was fairly certain I was having a heart attack. I may be too young to die but I am willing to push myself pretty damn hard to test that theory.

The following week we did it all over again. My second run was far better than the first because I had learned a thing or two. I started with the front group and stayed there the whole time. Sadly, there was still one lesson I had not learned. When the leader went off the front I was once again in hot pursuit. This time the leader was a different person who was not quite as fast as the person I had chased the week before. Being familiar with the trail I thought it might fun to break away myself and see just how fast I could go. I ran the last four hundred or so by myself at a pace that was most unpleasant.

Today's run was altogether different. There was no grand sprint at the end. The pace overall was just slow enough that I felt I could have gone faster. We wrapped up our six mile loop in a reasonable time but I was left wanting. This is when the worst of my decisions are made. That time when I have done enough for one day but feel just a little bit less than satisfied. As most of the people from our group loaded into their cars I was approached with a proposition. A gentleman I shall only refer to as "The Real Paul" asked me if I would like to go out for another loop. There are two problems here. The Real Paul is ten years my junior. The Real Paul is actually a runner. He has multiple marathons to his name and wears appropriate footwear. Add all this to the fact that I have never before run more than six miles and the answer seems clear. I should have bid him farewell and dashed off in the general direction of the nearest pile of bacon. Again, have you been paying attention? Do you really know me at all? Our second loop was run at the same pace as our first. We traded the lead from time to time and never missed a step. As we neared the end of the trail I happened to mention that this was the first time I had run such a distance. My fleet footed companion was so surprised by this that he nearly fell down. He offered me some advice about easing into mileage but I wasn't really paying attention so I don't recall exactly what was said. I am sure he meant to say that we should do a half marathon next weekend.

So here I am clicking away at my keyboard with my left leg elevated. The prospect of walking down the hall to the bedroom seems just a bit too daunting right now. I have spent the better part of my afternoon limping around my apartment at a snail's pace and often crawling on my hands and knees to avoid putting any pressure on my feet. There is a lesson to be learned here boys and girls. Don't run. Just don't do it. I'm giving up running for good. At least until next Sunday morning anyway. That is when I will join the trail club once again for a brisk jaunt through the woods. And if all goes well I'll find myself with the lead group kicking above my weight and loving every minute of it. Please don't tell my bike.

Now those are some happy feet.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

1000 Words for Dammit

Look up the word Dammit in your thesaurus and you will come up empty. No results. No words that can be substituted to express the same sentiment. I find this incredibly disheartening because my vocabulary leaves me short on ways to express my feelings regarding this past Sunday's race at the USNWC. Well, they say a picture is worth a thousand words so here is an image that I feel best expresses my overall mood as I recovered from a day that I don't wish to relive any time soon.

Coach Hoff says hang your legs to drain out all the sadness

Perhaps I should jump back a few hours to explain how I ended up spending Sunday evening with my legs in the air while an 80s era TV star offered words of encouragement. This Sunday was the Catawba Riverfront Classic race at the US National White Water Center. I could not have been more excited about this event. It provided the first opportunity in months to race on a course that I am actually familiar with. Forget familiar, I know this course like the back of my hand. My left hand. Or is it my right? I forget but anyway, moving right along. The course was in great shape and I was running a big happy gear so I was certain that my name would be high on the results list at the end. Nope. No such luck. Why? Not because I am slow but because I am very stupid. I made two mistakes leading into this race. The first was a definite lack of proper hydration throughout the week. The second was staying up until midnight doing housework and then getting up at 6am to prep my gear. Oops.

The first lap of the race started out just fine. I was tired and my legs felt a little funny but I wasn't too worried. It always takes me a long time to warm up so I figured I would get faster as the miles ticked off. About three miles into the race I settled in with two other guys and maintained a fast yet comfortable pace. I was third in line and the two gentlemen ahead of me kept looking back nervously every time the sound of my DT Swiss hub filled their ears. Loud hubs make me happy. The three of us were flying and I was having a great time. My legs weren't coming around the way I expected but I wasn't particularly worried. Then we hit Goat Hill. Goat Hill is neat. Straight up. Straight down. Thank you for playing, have a nice day. This is where I assumed I would overtake my riding partners but instead they dropped me like a stone and I never saw them again. Panic time. As I rode through the start/finish area to begin my second lap I was desperately trying to lift my pace and reconnect with the two men with whom I had shared the first lap. Then it happened, the first of many cramps. Halfway through the second lap both of my legs stiffened up. I soft pedaled for a bit and then my right leg cramped to the point where I had to get off my bike. The muscle above my knee was protruding above the rest and my foot was pointing away from my bike. It's hard to clip in when your foot is perpendicular to your pedal. For the next six miles my leg and I were embroiled in a futile argument. I said pedal and it said no. My race was over. I crossed the finish line knowing full well that I could have done much better but it is what it is. I was shocked when I checked the results and saw that I was not DFL. I'm quite comfortable assuming that the two people I did beat were not small children or quadriplegics.

After the race I grabbed a quick shower and headed over to the Rivers Edge Restaurant for a big fat juicy recovery burger. All the top guys eat hamburgers as recovery food. Don't believe me? Look it up. While enjoying a Coke and a sit in a comfortable chair overlooking the big drop at the end of the white water run I was reminded of the fact that my day was not over. I received a phone call from an old friend reminding me that I had committed to joining him at a trail running party hosted by Run For Your Life. This is the point when you might ask yourself if I was really stupid enough to go running after barely finishing my bike race. The answer is yes. Stop judging me.

By 2pm the temperature had risen to a not so cool and cozy 95 degrees. I was still very dehydrated but my legs were moving so I was fairly certain that a light trail run might just be a good idea. With several runners of all skill levels in attendance I was certain to connect with someone who could pace me through the woods at a reasonable speed. And then it happened. Three runners took to the singletrack in front of everyone else and I ran after them. We quickly put a sizable gap between ourselves and the rest of the group. As we ran we discussed our running histories and the mileage we each log on a weekly basis. I quickly discovered that all three of the men I was running with put in more than 20 miles per week. When I told them I only run when being chaste they seemed very confused. Some small spelling errors are not so small I guess. Either way it quickly became apparent that I was the only non-runner in this group and I was about to have my legs handed to me. All was going well until the final incline that would lead us to the end of our off-road 5k. The pace of the leaders quickened as they ascended the hill and as I kicked after them my legs finally gave out. With only a few feet to go I was spent and had to walk to the finish. It was then that I realized just how far ahead of everyone else we were. Dripping with sweat and gasping for air I waited for the man who invited me to this event. When he crossed the line and headed for the shade of the tent my first instinct was to punch him right in the nose. Instead I thanked him and made arrangements to do it all over again very soon. Dammit again.

So now you know why I spent my Sunday evening with my legs in the air. Three days later they are finally starting to feel better. Lots of stretching and lots of time on the big black foam roller have not made for the most exciting week. But good things are coming dear readers. There is a 24 hour mountain bike relay race in my very near future. Oh the stories I'll have for you after that. You'll be back. You always come back.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Fine Day for Battle

For those of you keeping track at home, this past Sunday was the Stump Jump race in Spartanburg SC. Traveling to South Carolina always makes me feel good. It's like visiting the home of a friend who is a professional failure and being reminded of just how awesome your life really is. Sorry SC, did that one sting a little bit? I would be worried about offending you if I thought you could read.

I rose on Sunday to beautiful weather and the promise of superb racing conditions. As I spend most of my waking hours lusting over the delicious curves of my big wheeled single speed I felt compelled to shoot a few photos before I left the house. The sunrise provided interesting light that made for a beautiful collection of images. The finest of them is below.

Sunflares for the good people

I was quite fortunate this week to have a travel companion in the form of the Little Italian. Due to an unexpected day off she was able to accompany me on my journey toward what would ultimately be a less than stellar race. For me anyway. You see, when you ride a singlespeed you are are faced with making a gear selection that you will be stuck with whether you like it or not. For the past year I have been running a 32x20 almost exclusively. Nevermind the fact that over the course of the past year I have gone from 128 pounds to 143 pounds while trimming some body fat along the way. Any intelligent human would surmise that this weight gain had come in the form of muscle. I, on the other hand, simply assumed that my brain was getting heavier. Not that I didn't consider running a different gear, mind you. There was actually much debate over my selection as I deferred to the sage-like advice of my favorite German. I ultimately chose to run the 20. Now I know I am certainly strong enough to push the bigger gear and will be certain to have it mounted before I head down to Columbia in two weeks. If only I had listened to The Hoff.

The Hoff told me to sack up and run my 18 tooth King cog instead of the 20 tooth monstrosity to the left. I told him to put on a shirt and keep his opinions to himself.

So what happened at the race? Flat happened. Not a flat tire. Flat ground. Lots and lots of what I like to call "not hills". When we lined up at the start I thought I might be in trouble but it didn't really sink in until everyone disappeared ahead of me while I was spinning my legs like an egg beater hooked up to a 14 year old speed addict overdosing on 5 Hour Energy.

Somewhere far far ahead of me...........

The course at Croft Park was certainly the easiest I have raced since the end of the short track series. It was actually a nice change of pace after the pounding I took on the rocky course at San Lee. The singletrack flowed beautifully and I had a great ride overall. Had I simply been out for a social ride it would have been a great day. Sadly, this was no social ride. This was war! Shaved legged, spandex clad war.

I told the gentleman behind me that I would give him a puppy if he let me win. Apparently he's not much of an animal lover.

Where did I end up? Let's just say if you flipped the results sheet upside down I would be the big winner. But a road trip is a road trip no matter how the race results shake out and the maximum amount of fun must always be had. To that end the Little Italian and I decided to take a side trip on the way home. Upon seeing a sign for the Cowpens National Battlefield Memorial we could not resist. In our minds we were headed to the site of an epic battle between two rival bands of futuristic laser cannon wielding Herefords. That would have been sweet but it was not to be. South Carolina disappointed once again. I really need to lower my expectations of that state.

The Cowpens National Battlefield is actually the site of a famous revolutionary war battle where some dirty looking people shot a bunch well dressed people in silly hats. The video at the visitors center was a little unclear but if I understood it correctly, we won. At least I hope so because I hate referring to french fries as chips. Either way we had a lovely afternoon. We returned to Charlotte with slightly deeper tans, slightly broader smiles and a heightened desire to roll into battle again. I leave you today with a photo taken during a dramatic reenactment of that fateful day in the mid 1800s when a quiet pasture in Cowpens SC became a battlefield.

Here we see the Little Italian surrendering to a British soldier who overwhelmed her with his superior track cycling skills.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Extremely Excited Extremities

The second installment of the Southern Classic MTB Race Series was far better for me than the first. As you may recall I ended last week with a bloody hand, two blown out legs and a partridge in a pear tree. How that bird got there I have no idea but now that he has set up camp I can't convince him to leave.

I credit most of my happiness in this week's race to my recent acquisition of a new pair of pedals. For longer than I can remember I have struggled with the comfort of my right foot. I replaced my beloved yet far from perfect Time ATAC pedals with a set of Crank Brothers Egg Beater 2 pedals last fall. I was motivated by their weight alone. Lighter than XTR at 1/4 the price was a hard deal to pass up. Unfortunately, I have never really enjoyed riding them and they have driven my right foot crazy. After some cleat engagement issues at the Danville VA race I decided it was time to revisit an old friend. This time I went way back. The Time pedals never made my right foot all that happy so I bought some shiny silver Shimano M540s. Behold them in all their glory!

I know you're excited but just think about baseball and you'll be fine.

I did not have time to ride after mounting them to my bike on Saturday so I made sure to get to Winston-Salem early enough to pre-ride the course on Sunday morning. Both of my feet were so happy that I almost forgot I was pedaling. I have exactly zero alignment issues with the right pedal and the cleat engagement is far more positive than on the egg beaters. Color me happy.

Now I know you all come here for mildly comical race analysis and to look at pictures of me in spandex shorts but I have run into a bit of a problem. The Little Italian ordinarily serves as my private photographer throughout the race season. This year however she has decided to pursue gainful employment. It's weird, I know. She explained it away by saying something about paying for rent and food. I don't remember exactly what was said because I was listening to the sound of my awesome new pedals. Anyway, now that she has made some significant additions to her work schedule she will not be able to attend my races. This leaves me with a visual documentation issue. As photos will now be in short supply I will have to create the breathtaking images you have grown accustomed to by applying pencil to paper.

Sunday's race was held at Hobby Park. The start of our two lap race led the group along an airstrip for radio controlled airplanes, around a slight bend and then straight up a paved hill. The flat leading into the hill had all the singlespeeders spinning like crazy. The cadence dropped a bit as we hit the tarmac wall. As you will see in the picture below, some riders struggled with the pitch of the hill. Those of us on 29" wheels sped up the hill with ease as one would expect.

The angle of the hill may have been exaggerated for dramatic effect.

Once past the paved climb we dipped into some delicious singletrack. The course flowed nicely and felt like it was built for racing. It was relatively easy to hold speed through the entire course. It was slightly more technical than last week's trail but that was a welcome change. All through the first lap my big wheels and I rolled smoothly and I managed to avoid slamming my hand into any trees. At one point I even passed someone in my own class. That is a rare treat that should always be savored. As I finished the first lap and once again scaled the paved climb I was feeling great. As always, I felt stronger going into the second lap and started to pick up speed. Having become familiar with the course I was more comfortable letting loose and pushing the limits of my bike handling. Everything was going so smoothly that when I felt something hit my leg and then bounce off my bike's frame I didn't give it a second thought. It was only after the race that I discovered I had lost my spare tube, co2 cartridge and tire lever. I had strapped it in a most awesome way underneath my saddle but something went wrong as depicted in the image below.

He did not come in peace

I ended the race 11th out of 15 but the way I see it, I would rather finish as a palindrome than the prime number that would have placed me mid-pack. I was quite pleased to roll back to my car with hands, legs and feet all feeling strong. Next week I'm headed to San Lee park for a little rock filled fun. As I'll have no camera and certainly don't need to be drawing any more pictures I will paint beautiful images with song. Given that I can't carry a tune you won't want to miss it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

All I Need Now is a White Ford Bronco

What day is it? Race day!

This weekend marked the beginning of the Southern Classic MTB race series. I was there in person. I was there in spirit. My legs however were somewhere far away. If you happen to see them, please pick them up and drop them off at my apartment. I'll need them at some point in the near future.

The first lap of the Assault on Anglers Ridge was bound to be quite interesting as it was the first time I had seen the course. I arrived in plenty of time for an exploratory lap before my race but opted instead to stand around the parking lot talking to my spandex clad brethren. I was lonely. They were friendly. It worked.

For most of the first lap I maintained a comfortable mid-pack position. The course itself was fast and flowy with just three punchy climbs. It was on one of these climbs that I made my first mistake. I saw many riders walking next to their bikes with defeated looks on their faces. Most of them were on geared bikes so I naturally assumed they were simply inferior climbers. I decided to jump out of the saddle and grind up the hill as fast as possible. I made it. People cheered. I should have known that was a bad sign. As I forged on through the other two hills I started to get into a good rhythm and build up some speed. Mistake number two came when I slammed my right hand into a tree. This is becoming a habit and my right pinky finger is suffering as a result. At the time it seemed quite insignificant as it didn't really hurt. It was only later when I realized my glove was wet that I knew I had done a little damage. I was fairly certain my hand should not be leaking any sort of fluid so I took a moment to investigate.

I'm prepared to try this glove on in a court of law to show that it is not mine.

One bloody glove is never all that bad. I pressed on and continued to build up speed as I completed my first lap and moved through the start/finish area. I was really starting to feel quite good on the second lap and thought I may even be able to catch the rider ahead of me. When I returned to the steep ascent I attacked on the first lap I once again attempted to ride it while others walked and looked on in amazement. Ever see Return to Snowy River? That's right ladies and gentlemen who secretly enjoy girly movies, you know what I'm talking about. It did not go so well on my second attempt. With only a few feet to go my legs gave out and I completed the walk of shame to the top. I was still feeling confident in my ability to move up to fourth place but that feeling didn't last long.

With about six miles left in the race both of my legs cramped at the same time. That was unpleasant. I fell down. Riders passed me. Children gasped and ran into the arms of their parents. The elderly wept. For nearly four minutes I sat on the side of the trail watching one rider after another fly past while I attempted to move my legs. When I finally got back on my bike I had lost my position and had very little hope of regaining it. I slowly started picking my way through the riders ahead of me but it took another three miles for me to fully get my kick back. I let it all hang out for the last section of the course but never regained my position. If only the race had been ten hours longer. That would have been so much better.

When I returned to my car I snapped a quick picture of my least favorite finger. I've decided that it is meant to be purple and swollen at all times. It makes me look tough. Like a guy who got in a bar fight but doesn't know how to make a proper fist. Yeah, that kind of tough.

mmm, juicy

Next week I head to Winston-Salem for round two. At this point I have a well formulated plan for redemption that I am certainly not going to follow. I would much rather wing it and blame any shortcomings on the current economic climate. If all goes well I'll finish somewhere in the middle of the pack with a smile on my face and some more blood on my glove. My theory is simple. If I don't run into any trees then I am just not riding hard enough. In my defense, the tree had it coming.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Five Weeks of Haiku

For the past five weeks I have been fully engrossed with Charlotte Mountain Bike Winter Short Track Series. After a long break from the blog it seemed that a fairly brief but not too technical summary of these events was in order. Performing an interpretive dance was the best way I could think of to do that. Sadly, that idea was far better in my head than it was in my living room. Perhaps there was a bit too much pelvic gyration but after watching the video with a critic's eye it became clear that it was not fit for public consumption. At least not here. I'm giving some consideration to making it available on dvd for $19.99 but I'm concerned who my audience may be. Very concerned.

In a moment of desperation I made the difficult decision to scrap my original plan and fall back on the ancient asian art form of Haiku. 17 total syllables to describe each race was a serious challenge for a long winded chap like me. But I did it. I didn't do it well, mind you. But I did do it. Turn the lights down low, put on your favorite pajamas and peruse the following poorly composed poems. For those of you reading this early in the morning I have only one small favor to ask. Please don't go to work in your PJs. Your boss just won't understand.

Mud from head to toe
Racers sliding to and fro
Sloppy like the joe

Short track number two
I've got a sweet fake tatoo
Five percent faster!

Flying the Beast flag
My teammate keeps chasing me
I wish he'd slow down

Superbowl Sunday
Only monsters raced today
My legs are so sore

My lungs are on fire
Shit, Dicky lapped me again
At least I'm taller

And there you have it folks, five sub-par poems that will amuse only a select few. Perhaps if you get really drunk and read them again you will find them more entertaining. May I suggest a fine whiskey or perhaps a dark locally brewed beer. If you're really in a bind, a little Natty Light washed down with a bottle of cough syrup should do nicely. God speed.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Welcome to Adulthood

One of the aspects of living in the South that I find most amusing is the reaction of the general population to adverse weather conditions. Of course, in the south, adverse weather is defined as anything short of 70 degrees and sunny. Throughout my years here I have marveled at the automotive carnage brought about by rainfall. Drop the temperature to below freezing and it gets really good. Snow is an anomaly here. A mere forecast of potential flurries will wipe out the grocery store shelves and close businesses for miles around. This week began not only with a forecast of frozen precipitation but also with the real deal. At least in Southern terms that is.

On my way to the gym yesterday morning I could not help but grin when I found myself to be one of the only drivers on the road. Granted, we had received over an inch of snow but where I come from we call that a dusting. Not so here in Charlotte. I was driving into the aftermath of what I'm sure will come to be known as the blizzard of 2011. Multiple accidents were reported throughout the city and newscasters urged their followers to avoid any unnecessary travel. As schools and businesses throughout the region announced that they would be closing for the safety of their staff and clientele, I found myself with an unexpected day off.

Given that I technically could perform most of my work duties from home it seemed that I might have a tremendously productive day. A full day with zero distractions and hour upon quiet hour to pound out phone calls and do whatever else it is that I do when I'm not banging my head against my desk. Yes, it could have have been the most productive day of my professional career. But then I remembered that 2011 is The Year of The Man. Would The Man work from home on a day off? Would The Man sacrifice a marvelous snow day only to labor from dawn to dusk? Would The Man place work ahead of pleasure? Hell no. The man would build a fort!

The fort began with a simple rearranging of furniture. The two couches in the living room provided an excellent structural framework upon which to build the ultimate blanket fortress. With The Little Italian at my side as construction superintendent, I could rest assured that the building process would go smoothly.

Project Manager Gus ensured that protocol was closely followed during the construction process.

Two layers of blankets were used to form the roof but something was definitely missing after this portion of the structure was erected. Bringing the pub chairs in from the dining room solved a major design issue and led to the creation of a grand entryway.

The initial framework for the entryway was carefully put in place.

Now that's exactly what I was looking for.

After completing the difficult and often times treacherous outer construction, the interior work was a breeze. The Little Italian and I took a minimalist approach to the interior design, much as we have done throughout our home. One double sleeping bag and a pair of flannel covered pillows were all it took to create an exotic hideaway in our living room. One final detail and the fun could begin. Every good fort needs a sign.

No explanation needed.

Yes indeed, my snow day was a great success. I went to sleep last night knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt that my day was far more awesome than that of the rest of the snow bound residents of Charlotte. I do so enjoy being a mature adult.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Year of the Man

As the calendar arbitrarily rolls from one year to the next there is often much reflection on the past followed by resolutions for the future. Total bollocks. Reflecting is for mirrors and small to mid-sized garden pools. As for resolutions, those are only made by people who show extreme dedication to their diet and exercise program from January 2nd through March 31st and not a day later. Why not January 1st you ask? Hangovers. Plain and simple.

You will find no such drivel here. I have decided to forgo that wasted energy and instead make a bold declaration. I declare that 2011 shall henceforth be known as The Year of The Man.

The Year of The Man. Rolls off the tongue nicely if I do say so myself. And I do. But what does this declaration mean for daily life here on planet earth? It means that I will boldly strut through the coming year in an impressively manly way. There will be 72% more grunting. 100% more scratching. 118% more spitting. And 237% more awesome! This is all very scientific of course. I'd explain the formula I used to come up with these percentages but I fear it involves mathematics at a level far too elevated for most mere mortals to comprehend. I had to bust out my calculator watch so you know it's serious.

I felt that The Year of The Man should begin with the designation of a role model. When I visited my good friend google to search for the ultimate male I stumbled upon some very unsettling results.

I just threw up in my mouth.

That did not go as well as I had hoped. I needed to come up with a shining beacon of manly hope to guide me through the fog of the coming year. A man that kicks ass while kicking some more ass while drinking a whiskey. He should probably spit too.

Whooped 'em again, eh Josey.

Now that there is a man. I studied several hours of cowboy film footage and could find only one difference between myself and Clint Eastwood. If you are thinking that I'm half his size, don't have a poncho, a cowboy hat, pistols or a horse.....well, you're right. But this is my blog so I get to make the rules. I came to realize that the most important thing missing from my repertoire was something that could help me achieve my numbers above in both the "scratching" and the "awesome" categories.

Perhaps a little Just for Men could bring out the best in this somewhat sparse facial foliage.

With my fine looking beard solidly attached to my face my manly voyage had begun. Of course, despite what I might like to believe, I am not actually a cowboy. Yet. Until that perfect day when I bust open the saloon doors and cast a shadowy bow-legged figure across the floor, I will be a cyclist. Always have been. As such, there was something that just had to be done. My cycling heroes carry no guns, wear no ponchos and probably kick no ass. But they do all have one thing in common.

Smooth as silk and 5% faster.

With the first race of the year only 11 days away I'm starting to get that twitchy feeling in my legs again. That could be razor burn but I doubt it. My focus for the next twelve months will be to hurl myself through the woods with a number plate strapped to my iron steed while I chase the proverbial bad guys. As I ride off into the sunset after conquering my foes the townspeople will celebrate and cry out my name. Mothers don't let your sons grow up to be cyclists.