Sunday, November 25, 2012

I May Never Learn

As the most loyal among you surely remember, I took up trail running about a year and half ago.  About a year and a quarter ago I gave up my new hobby.  Not a great deal of time passed there did it?  Well, after a couple stress fractures in my feet and multiple bike rides missed I decided it would be far better for me to simply walk everywhere.  Running seemed to be far better left to other people so I threw my shoes in the closet and fully intended to leave them there forever.  Oh 2011, how far away you now seem.

It's funny how time can blur the memory of painful experiences.  This summer it was suggested to me by the Little Italian that I should participate in a running seminar.  Awesome!  I love running!  I signed up and got ready for what I was sure would be a completely new and unique experience.

The running clinic actually did serve a useful purpose.  Specifically, a video during the seminar proved to be very informative.  Each participant ran past a video camera so we could have our stride analyzed by the coach who was there to guide us down the path toward better running.  I cringed when I saw that I ran like a gazelle that had been shot in the leg.  And the head.  I had some natural speed but how I ever got it out of my bounding, reach for the sky and come crashing back to earth gait is beyond me.  That was three months ago.  Since then I have have doing running drills and trying to work out the kinks in my form.  With four days off over Thanksgiving weekend it seemed like a good time to test my new found stride and my speedy new shoes out on the trail.

Black Friday sent many people to local shopping malls to fight with rabid consumers over deeply discounted home entertainment systems and other such "necessities".  I decided to forgo the melee and join a group of runners out at the USNWC.  This is where my weekend took a most interesting turn.  The leader of our group bounded off into the woods like a deer at a pace that seemed unsustainable.  This would have been a good time for me to get to know the other runners who showed up but instead I chased after him for four miles until my lungs jumped into my throat.  Much to my surprise, I managed to keep up with him kick for kick albeit with a much more labored effort.  When he announced that he was done for the day I was a bit disappointed but joined the other members for a slightly slower stroll along the rest of the trail system.  This is when I learned that I am able to crash without my bike.  As I descended a hill at a less than controlled pace I tripped over a stump hidden under the leaves and sent myself to the ground with an impressive thud.  Trail 1 - Dave 0.  Moments later I fell again and learned that I should probably look at the trail every once in a while.  The run as a whole was quite enjoyable and I managed to get eight miles in before calling it a day and propping my feat up next to the rapids.

The bit of trail rash on my knee and ankle looked much worse in the parking lot.  It clearly healed up a bit on the twenty minute drive home.

The USNWC is my version of Disneyland.  Braving the rapids is a far better proposition than having Mickey put his arm around me for a picture.  I don't know who they put in those costumes but they get just a bit too touchy-feely if you ask me.

Sunday morning I rose before dawn to slam a big breakfast and head to Crowder's Mountain State Park.  An 8am start ensured that we would roll out in the cold.

In case you are having trouble reading the temperature gauge let me clarify that it says 26.  26!!  I am way to poorly insulated for that temperature.  Do I look like an eskimo to you?  If I do you may want to  look up the word eskimo on Wikipedia because you are clearly confused.

From the very beginning I found myself at the front of the group.  Not because I am fast but simply because I have no ability to pace myself.  I see the trail, get excited and just go.  At the first turn around point that would have yielded a six mile run, I kept going.  I saw a big hill up ahead and thought it might be a good idea to run up it.  In case you are wondering, it was a bad idea.  At the top I waited for those who had not turned back at the first way point.  We decided to turn back at the next road crossing to give ourselves a nine mile total.  That would have been nice.  Real nice.  Especially considering that before this weekend I had not run more than a mile in the last year and a half.  At the road crossing I downed a Hammer Gel and prepared for the return trip the ranger station.  But no, someone had to talk me in to running all the way to the pinnacle.  I had no choice.  He forced my hand.  He said "do you want to run all the way to the pinnacle?"  What was I supposed to do?  Say no?  Apparently you didn't read between the lines in his question.  He was clearly calling me a coward.  

On to the pinnacle we went.  From the road crossing to the top it is mostly uphill.  The last push to the top is too steep to run and ends in a short rock scramble.  The group was down to three at this point so we paused at the top for a moment to look back upon the hills we had already run once and would need to run again to get back to the car.  It amazed me how far we had come.  Looking back at the hills two thoughts came to mind.  The first was that I was proud of having covered so much distance on only my second trail run since 2011.  The second........Shit, I have to run all the way back there!

The run back to the car was fast and fun.  We picked up the pace as we felt the end coming closer.  My legs felt like concrete but I pushed on ever faster to see just what I could do over the succession of small hills.  When we reconvened at the park entrance we had covered 11.6 miles.  I'm pretty sure that is the greatest distance anyone has ever run.  Don't look it up, just assume I set some sort of record.  

So how did I spend the rest of my day?  Recovering.  I have found that there are two very specific things that need to be done to help sore legs regain their snap.  The first is an ice bath and the second is a cold sushi compress.  By placing copious amounts of sushi directly into your stomach its magical healing powers can travel straight to your legs.  Ask any doctor and they will tell you this is true.  Wait, about that whole doctor thing......maybe you should just take my word for it.

Those pasty things in the middle of the picture are my legs.  The little white bits are ice cubes.  And yes, I was nude when I captured this image.  Ladies, you're welcome. 
Oh how I do so love the magical healing power of sushi.  I love sushi and Instragram.  
Just those two things.  

So why am I running again?  Thank you for asking.  I always appreciate questions from the audience.  As you may recall, there wasn't a whole lot of race news around here in 2012.  I only entered a handful of mountain bike events this year and have decided not to enter any 2013 unless someone makes a very convincing argument.  A very strong case would have to be made.  Something along the lines of "Hey Dave, do you want to go to a bike race.  I'm driving." In the meantime, I have decided to take on a few competitive running events.  My first will be held in six days.  I have signed up for a seven kilometer trail race at a park near my sprawling urban estate.  Being an American, I'm not really sure what a kilometer is.  I heard from a reliable source that kilometers are like miles, only shorter.  My plan is to simply run until somebody tells me to stop.  And for you, my faithful public I promise post-race analysis and pictures of me in tiny running shorts.  You're welcome once again.

The Words That Can't Be Spoken

Sorry folks but that title is only funny to six people and if you aren't laughing right now then I fear you didn't make the list.  Believe me when I tell you that you don't want to know.  You are better off not knowing.  But damn was it funny.

And that is how most road trip stories go.  Inside jokes for those who were there that may never be understood by anyone else.  That is how it has always been and that is how it should be.  In the case of my recent trip to Tsali, I wouldn't have it any other way.  But you are here and you deserve to be entertained so take a little trip with me down blurry memory lane.....

A band of seven left Casa de Stumpy bright and early on Saturday morning just two weeks ago.  With three cars loaded with bikes and gear we were set for the long drive toward the mountains.  I would like  to believe that I drive an awesome car.  It is a Corolla 'S' after all.  The 'S' stands for awesome if you assume the fourth letter in every word bears the greatest importance.  Either way my little silver rocket ship led the charge West.

Shocks?  Yeah, my car used to have those.

Four hours in any vehicle will leave most mortals a bit weary and perhaps a little brain dead as well. Before hitting the trail it was determined that we would need a few provisions to get us through the day. A quick stop to a local convenience store seemed to do the trick.

 Apparently, this is the perfect energy drink for the outdoor enthusiast.  Conveniently decorated in winter camouflage in case we decide to hide the bottle somewhere 800 miles north of our destination.  

I don't have anything to say about that.  Just kidding.  This product, found in finer bathroom vending machines, is the perfect compliment to everyone's favorite outdoor energy drink.  Somewhere in South Carolina someone is reading this and taking notes.  That makes me sad.

So what happened when we hit the trails?  Awesome single track for miles, that's what happened.  You didn't come here to read about that did you?  You did.  Oh.  Well, fine.  Let me tell you that Tsali is one of the fastest, flowy-est, up, down and around-est trails I have ever ridden.  I don't really care that my second grade english teacher would be really pissed at me right now.  No one said anything about my blog being part of my permanent record.  Besides, I already graduated so it's too late now.  I've got the diploma to prove it.  Somewhere.  It's probably next to my AC/DC tapes.  Hmmmm, I might be screwed.

Tangent?  Nope, totally focused.

After a few miles of soaring along lake-side trails on a perfect autumn day we had all worked up a mighty hunger.  Thankfully we rented a cabin with a grill so we had the perfect setting for a meat filled evening feast.  Of course, a quick trip into town was required for the acquisition of more provisions.

 Despite the fact that I had turned my hat to "race" position, I made very little progress.  

After a long day in the saddle (bike, not penny pony) we all needed a little high quality hydration.  Any beer that can be purchased in half gallon quantities is good by me.

What a feast we had.  Our band of riders ate steaks and sweet potatoes until we nearly burst.  Reliving our afternoon ride with beers and tales of single track joy would have made for a fine evening on its own.  But, a little extra help was brought along in the form of chocolate cake.  Cake eaten with reckless abandon.  I know what you're thinking.  The last time I ate cake, horrible things happened.  But you see, I did not partake on this occasion.  Consider that painful lesson learned.  Fortunately, one kind soul among our crew made Dave-friendly chocolate brownies.  What do you get when you take wheat and dairy out of a brownie recipe?  More chocolate without the gluten hangover or the dairy, well.... you know.

Long into the evening we drank and laughed and at one point even took turns wearing a coon skin cap.  There are unconfirmed reports of....well, let's leave that to the walls and the wind.  There are also numerous incriminating photos of the events that unfolded that night but those will remain in my private collection until the day I need them most.  I'm not ashamed to say that when I run for president I'll be using those photos to secure at least a handful of votes. I'm not exactly sure how the electoral college works but I'm fairly certain that six votes will nearly guarantee me North Carolina.

The next morning we rose to frost on the ground and legs ready for more pedaling.  A quick departure from the cabin after a hearty breakfast put us in position for a second great day in the saddle.  Tsali is a magical place because it gives you the mountain experience without the death march climbs so often found in western NC.  I will leave you now with one scenic photo that will remain without any humorous caption.  A simple picture of me staring out across the water and the hills.  I will return to those hills again accompanied by an endlessly amusing cast of characters each time.  New stories will be told with jokes meant only for those who were there because that is what these trips are all about.  That special bond that can only be developed through shared time on the road.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

An Autumnal Poem

Twas the morning before Tsali and in front of the apartment
gathered numerous bikes of a varied assortment.

Shifty bits, squishy bits and different wheel sizes
prepared for a weekend full of surprises.

Off to the mountains on this crisp autumn morn
four hours on the road to talk about porn.

Three cars in a caravan headed due west
to the part of the state that I do so love best

So many hours and so many miles
but somehow never a shortage of smiles.

For this is how weekend adventures get started
with jokes about dorm rooms and the young broken hearted.

At the trailhead we gladly stretched our stiff legs
and leapt to the dirt for which Stumpy begs.

A ribbon of singletrack next to the lake
just hard enough to make our legs ache.

I hit the first climb with six friends in tow
to ride here and there and then to and fro.

With the wind in our hair and the sun overhead
we forgot about the city from which we had fled.

The peace of the mountains brought calm to the masses
but our firm cycling saddles did give us sore asses.

So back to the cabin and a grill filled with steak
and several gallons of beer for goodness sake.

No trip to the mountains would be complete
without just one joke about what we eat.

There were no crisp veggies for us to partake
but there was more than enough dark and rich chocolate cake.

As the hours grew long and the bottles grew lighter
we lost our ambition to pull an all nighter.

With footy pajamas and soft coon skin caps
we all settled in for long evening naps.

The dawn would bring bacon, fried potatoes and eggs
and hopefully for each of us a fresh pair of legs.

Yes we had a second trail system to ride
as joy is a condition this dude will abide.

But as with all trips this one too would end
so I'll leave you with one final thought my dear friend.

If you're going to cheat on your diet with decadence
make sure not to leave any photographic evidence.

The same person who vowed to be the official trip photog
might be the same one with a humorous blog.

This is certainly neither the time nor the place
to keep an unnamed coach from saving face.

No this is a prelude to a fine post to come
but if you get all the jokes you've already won.

You see those who will enjoy this poem most
were there in the mountains with a most lovely host.

A little Italian with a big happy dream
of a fine autumn weekend with her favorite home team.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

My CrossFit Journey

I was recently asked to tell my story in print for a local CrossFit affiliate.  As the story appears to have been well received I am reprinting here.  Enjoy.

As 2009 came to a close I was sick.  Again.  And it seemed to be an all too regular occurrence.  At the time I had an outside sales job where I spent most of my time on the road and ate most of my meals in restaurants.  I was swimming several days each week before going to the office but "fit" is definitely not a word I would use to describe myself at that time.  Worst of all, I was slowing down.  I spend as much of my free time as possible riding my bicycle but it seemed that as 2009 drew to a close I was doing so at a slower rate than ever before.  As I rounded the corner into 2010 I knew something had to change.  It was about that time that my wife installed a pull up bar in our house and challenged me to duel.  I lost.  I was so weak that I could barely get my chin over the bar once, let alone multiple times.  I had seen enough. 

In February of 2010 I decided to make three major lifestyle changes all at the same time.  I don't do anything half way.  I changed jobs, diet and exercise routine all a once.  The job change was motivated by the diet change.  I needed to get out of restaurants and put myself into a situation where I had more control over the  preparation of my food.  I gave up my sales job and put myself into a position that allowed me to  prepare all of my meals at home.  I went from eating 8 meals per week in restaurants to 0 just like that.  I instantly started to feel better.  A simple description of my current diet will better help you to understand why I felt so much better.  I eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit a little starch and no sugar (is there sugar in syrup? Crap).  If this dietary prescription sounds vaguely familiar to you, it should.  No more processed foods, no dairy, no junk food.  I made the decision to buckle down and eat only what I should.  And what do I drink?  Water.  I avoid all soda, energy drinks and any other sugary liquid pretending to be a satisfying beverage.  I do still enjoy coffee in small amounts but I drink it black.  People teased me a bit saying that I was skinny and didn't need to eat healthy.  I always found this to be  strange as the people who said this were almost always overweight and quite often were slurping down a diet coke.  I also started to eat more.  Not all in one sitting of course.  I now eat five times each day.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner still hold their same level of importance but have slimmed down a bit in terms of their size.  I added a snack in between breakfast and lunch and another between lunch and dinner and found that my mood and my appetite stayed level all day.  When dinner arrives I skip dessert.  Why?  Perhaps more importantly, how?  This is all much easier than you might expect.  When you start eating the right foods in the right amounts you feel so good all the time that you don't want to break that cycle.  Funny how that works.  But diet alone didn't cure me.  I mentioned that my fitness regimen changed as well.

It all started when I met a large man named Andy.  At 50 years old he looked like he could rip the head off a bear and then make the bear apologize for the mess.  I was accustomed  to seeing 50 year old office rats wearing "executive cut" shirts so seeing a man at this age more fit than most 20 year olds was startling.  He took one look at me and knew he had a challenge in front of him.  He asked me about my history with weight lifting and seemed confused when I told him I hadn't done any.  Not recently, not in college, not in high school, never.  He laughed when I pointed out that his dog was bigger than me.  And thus began my journey with CrossFit.  

It was hard.  Damn hard. And I hated it.  I couldn't seem to do even the most basic elements of any workout.  I did pull-ups with rubber bands.  I lifted an empty bar.  And kettle bells?  Don't get me started on kettle bells.  I hated those things.  I could get them off the ground but I couldn't stop them.  I nearly threw myself right out the door when I tried to swing them and often wished that I had.  One month in I was sore every day.  I would limp into my office and had trouble lifting my arms far enough to reach my keyboard.  My hands hurt from the bar.  My butt hurt from the squats.  The only thing that didn't hurt were my ears but I was pretty sure we could find a way to change that.  Only a few weeks in I was ready to give up.  But then something strange started to happen.  The once empty bar was adorned with bumper plates yet seemed lighter than when it was empty.  The pull-up bar that once seemed so far away was like a new toy that I couldn't let go even though the rubber bands were no longer holding me there.  The kettle bells stopped controlling me and I started controlling them.  And even though I was still smaller than the dog I had managed to put on ten pounds of muscle.  That was two and half years ago.  Two and half long years of getting up early to go to the box.  Two and half years of trying to explain my eating habits to my coworkers.  Two and half years of getting better.  

I'm not sick any more.  If I do get sick, it lasts only a moment.  I'm not weak any more either.  I'm happy to challenge my wife to a pull up contest on any given day and I am not ashamed to gloat when I win.  And the bike?  I'm faster than I have ever been.  Faster than I was at 22 and certainly faster than I was before I walked into Andy's gym so long ago.  And the story will continue.  I'm at a new box now working out with a new group of coaches and friends.  From the fittest of the dragon slayers to the most terrified of new athletes we support each other until the last person yells "time".  It's the community that makes it all worth while.  Yes I feel great.  Yes I am more fit than most people my age.  But I'm not there for that any more.  I've put myself on a path toward better health and make sure that every terrified new athlete who is afraid of the bands, bars and yes, the kettle bells knows full well that is all worth it.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Promises Kept

I recently made a promise to a dear friend and if nothing else, I am a man of my word. The promise went a little something like this: "I, Dave, do solemnly swear to mock you without mercy for passing on a trip to the mountains"

Would some context help here? Perhaps. Allow me to lay the foundation.

Not long ago, TK came to me with a proposal. He said, "I'm going to the mountains to camp, ride bikes and drink beer. It would be grand if you were to join me." After enthusiastically accepting this proposal I made one of my own to The Friendly Greek. "Greetings large and hairy one, TK and and I are going to the mountains to camp, ride bikes and drink beer. It would be grand if you were to join us." The Friendly Greek was quick to accept. I then reached out to The Space Cowboy. "TSC, I'm going to the mountains to camp, ride bikes and drink beer with TK and The Friendly Greek. It would be grand if you were to join us." As you can imagine, I was expecting a response in the affirmative. But, it was not to be. I was thrown for a loop when TSC responded, "As much as I would love to go to the mountains to camp, ride bikes and drink beer, I fear I must decline for I have plans to attend a baby shower." Naturally, I assumed he was kidding.

I am from Michigan. We Michiganians are a proud people. Where I come from, men do not go to baby showers. Men wear blue jeans and well-weathered boots. Men swear, spit and tell dirty jokes. Men drive pick-up trucks(or Toyota Carollas based on their exceptional fuel economy and surprisingly large trunk space). Men do not go to baby showers. That is the realm of women. For one very brief shining moment I did see a silver lining in the murky rejection of my offer to spend a weekend in the mountains. Perhaps the gentleman in question had become a woman. If that were the case......SWEET!! We'll go on television and get one million dollars and use that money to buy expensive bicycles and ride those bikes in the mountains while camping and drinking beer.  Certain that such a dream world does not exist I blocked out the painful image of a man at a baby shower and headed toward the mountains where I was certain I would find Patrick waiting there to surprise us.  "Just kidding", he would say.  "I'm here to ride with you after all!"

I told you the trunk was surprisingly spacious. Enough room for camping gear, The Hoff and one very large Greek.

I don't see Patrick's car anywhere.  Maybe he's already there.

The first day of our excursion was spent in Dupont State Forest attempting an IMBA EPIC ride. When this was first proposed to me I assumed that EPIC, much like IMBA, was a friendly acronym. It's not. It's actually a very challenging ride with leg busting climbs and ripping fast downhills. We spent nearly six hours on the route and still fell short of completing it. Of course, that might have something to do with my camera coming out of my camelback far too often. I do that for you. I do it out of love. I'm a giver.

I can't seem to find Patrick anywhere on this map. Are you sure this is the updated version?

Here we see TK straining to see if Patrick is on the other side of the camera.

Maybe Patrick is on the other side of this river.

DRAGO!!!! I mean.....PATRICK!!!

I could bore your pants off with the multitude of pictures I took of cascading water falls, mountain panoramas and vibrantly colored autumn leaves. But I won't. Why? Because some of you are reading this at work.  Keep those pants on folks and remember, HR is always watching.

After refueling our bodies with an embarrassingly large dinner at El Chapala, we strolled on over to Bi-Lo to pick up some camping essentials. Eggs, firewood, bacon, more bacon, hash browns and of course, beer. It was during this stop that we made a most amazing discovery. Wheely Basket!! Ok, so I should probably point out that we were were really tired at this point and the rolling basket with an extended handle was probably not nearly as amazing as we thought it was. You decide...

I've looked down every isle but I just can't seem to find Patrick. At least I have Wheely Basket to make me feel whole.

Camping itself is always a good time. A roaring fire. The sound of the leaves rustling overhead. The chill of the mountain air. Beer.  And of course, a restful night in a mummy bag supported by a sleeping pad.  Wait, let's do some math just for fun.  TK plus me plus The Friendly Greek.  That equals three.  I went to a MAC school folks, I can do this all day.  Now let's count the sleeping pads.  One, two............
Oh, poor Greek.  If only he had made a packing list he too could have had a good night's sleep.  Well, at least he got to wake to aroma of fresh coffee and eggs frying in bacon grease.  That can lift anyone's spirits.  Even good 'ol Tent Pad as he shall henceforth be known.

Is TK sad or just really focused? He's probably contemplating how nice it would have been to serve breakfast to the Space Cowboy rather than The Hoff. The Hoff is such a picky eater.

After a hearty breakfast we rolled over to Bent Creek for a quick ride before returning to the city. One hour up, twenty minutes down. The repeated scene throughout the weekend was Stumpy and I jumping ahead on all of the climbs as I crushed myself with the single chainring and cog that define my two-wheeled existence. What I possess in uphill prowess I typically lack when the trail points the other way. This was proven once again as I attempted to follow TK's wheel on the long descent back to the car. On multiple occasions I launched my bike into the air with no forethought as to where I might land. I was pleased to make it back to the trailhead with only one flat tire and no crashes to report. Bent Creek has two great features, a nice steady climb and close proximity to Asheville. Where there is beer. Our weekend ended with one last stop to enjoy a final libation before returning to the real world.

I drank this beer in honor of Patrick. Like pouring one out for your dead homey but in a much more scrawny white dude sort of way. I would have given this beer to The Hoff but he gets all soggy and takes a long time to dry out.

As it turns out, The Space Cowboy is simply a far better husband than I am. Where I readily abandon my wife at the drop of a hat to spend time in the mountains, TSC takes a different approach to marital bliss. One that involves compromise and showing an interest in his spouse.  Perhaps I could learn a valuable lesson from him.  Just maybe, I could become a better, more caring husband.  Sod it, I bought stock in FTD. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Riding, Writhing and Writing in Low Lighting

With rhymes like that I clearly missed my calling as a rapper. I could have been huge. Like M&M only taller, weirder looking and a lot less talented. Wait, would that make me Vanilla Ice? I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

The entire world recently celebrated the 35th anniversary of my arrival on this planet. Of course, this momentous occasion got slightly less fanfare than it should have in some countries but I've simply had to learn to live with my lack of global appeal. If only I had learned to speak Spanish. Damn you Rosetta Stone!! This might be a good time to point out that I did not actually use their product. Oh, I would have, but after a lengthy conversation with one of their sales reps and some nearly fatal sticker shock I had to resort to learning a second language by going to Taco Bell. I definitely picked up a few new words from the friendly folks way back in the kitchen but according to the urban dictionary they were not actually Spanish. Curses! Foiled Again.

My birthday fell on a Wednesday this year which is just a bit more lame than Thursday but nearly as lame as Tuesday. Let's not even talk about Sunday and Monday birthdays here. It's just too painful. Anyway, my birthday observed fell to the following Saturday. The day began with a nice 45 mile bike ride that began before the sun came up. It is so hot in the Queen City right now that I fear I may melt if I don't start my rides in the dark. The ride itself was fun yet uneventful. Chats were had. Hills were climbed. Sport Beans were consumed in mass quantities. My legs were springy, my lungs were open and all was right with the world. Do you sense the pending doom? I do.

After my delightful morning spin I threw the Little Italian into the Dave-mobile and headed for Lexington. My parents recently moved to the great state of North Carolina and chose this as their home base. My role in the relocation process is to get them southernified as quickly as possible. That is actually a word by they way. It's a great word and I'm going to use it against you in Scrabble. I'll get tons of points and make you wish you had never learned to spell. You'll hate the letter people for the rest of your life and you'll cry every time you eat alphabet soup.

We spent the afternoon discussing the finer points of Southern life and the basics of every day survival here. It is fairly simple. Don't go outside during July and August and no matter what some people may tell you, never eat East Carolina style barbecue. That watery crap is deadly poison. Don't ask me to explain why, its science. And math.

Saturday evening was spent enjoying a crab leg dinner in my honor. There are few things more enjoyable than eating my weight in crab legs and I take advantage of special occasions to partake in a good bit of gluttony. Upon return to my parent's house my mother had a little surprise waiting for me. On the counter in an unassuming little silver pan was a birthday cake. Now, I know what you are all thinking. He didn't. Oh, I did. I have not eaten wheat in three years and rarely eat sugar but the pull of this cake was more than I could handle. Light, fluffy yellow and chocolate marble. Creamy chocolate fudge icing. As Kool-Aid man says, Oh Yeah!

What does IBS stand for? I checked Google and found the following results:
•International Business Systems
•Institute of Behavioral Science
•Ion Beam Sputtering (a personal favorite)
•Integrated Broadcast Services
•Inflatable Boat, Small
•Il Bilancio Sociale
I don't see anything in there about cake, do you? Nope, not one little thing. So I dove in and I dove deep. It started out innocently enough. I had one small piece of cake with my family and it was just as amazing as I had expected. It melted in my mouth and with each bite it curled everything from my tongue to my toes. When the cake was gone I licked the last few bits of icing from my plate with no regard to proper table manners. And I liked it! At that moment my brain started working again. Gluten, sugar, small traces of dairy. Yeah, I knew I was going to pay for that. As goodbyes were said and plans were made for our next visit, two pieces of cellophane wrapped cake were placed in my hands. I bet you're thinking this is where my more intelligent side kicked in to overdrive. I'd even go so far as to assume you think I threw that cake away to prevent any more unpleasantness than absolutely necessary. That is so cute. No, you see, I already knew I was in for a rough night of tossing and turning until the cake eventually worked its way out of my system. And I figured, if I'm going to get sick, I should get really sick! So yeah, I ate the left over cake with a tall glass of coconut milk while The Little Italian sat in the other room completely unaware. As we strolled off to bed I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. In a gastrointestinal sense of course.

6am Sunday morning came more quickly than I may have liked. With a sour stomach and a nasty cake hangover I jumped on my bike and rolled out the door into the pre-dawn light. My legs felt like wood but that is fairly standard at the beginning of every ride. I thought I would just need a little time to get warmed up. Yeah, about that. Each time we came to a hill my riding partners disappeared ahead of me. The harder I tried to chase them the more I could feel the chocolate fudge iced, yellow marble boat anchor behind me. I am not accustomed to getting dropped on hills and found the experience to be most displeasing. It got so bad that at one point my favorite Michiganian rode up beside me and pushed me up a hill. Mark that date on your calendar folks because you won't see that very often.

So here I sit a full week later feeling fully recovered. The snap has returned to my legs and my stomach and I are friends again. I'm happily typing away as the sun falls behind the trees signaling the end of yet another weekend of riding. I think a valuable lesson has been learned here folks. I can't possibly imagine what that lesson may have been but maybe we can discuss it over a nice thick slice of cake.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

I AM (mini)SPARTAN!!

Well folks, it has been quite a while. I’m certain that you have suffered in my absence but I assure you that my time away from the blog-o-net was well spent. I cleaned my apartment. I got a haircut. I even went so far as to organize my collection of bike movies. They are now arranged autobiographically of course. And the pants I’m wearing right now….yeah…they’re new. Bam! How’s that for excitement? Can you contain yourself? I can. Mostly because of the pants.

My mountain bike race schedule for this year has taken a slightly less than busy turn. With just four races marked on my calendar I had a little room for extraneous competitive outdoor activity. This new found flexibility and lack of direction has left me with far too much freedom and far too little self-control. I like racing. Let’s be really honest here, I just like competing. I’ll compete at anything; cycling, gum chewing, board games, traffic, drinking(except milk) or anything else with measurable comparisons to the performance of other people. The event and the outcome are inconsequential. I just want to go head to head with other people at something. Anything. And this is why I entered the Spartan Race. Those unfamiliar with this event can roll on over to It’s ok to be frightened by what you see there. You should be.

This event was the most fun I have ever had in a pair of running shoes. Running is pretty stupid on its own but with the Spartan Race you get to wear costumes. I entered as a three person team alongside the Little Italian and the female half of my favorite Michiganian couple. By entering as part of a three person team I had the distinct advantage of being able to throw mud at other people in the spirit of team building. Had I thrown mud at random competitors rather than my teammates I’m certain those people would have punched me in the face and you know how much I dislike that.

The race began with a light run off the island at USNWC and over to the first obstacle. This involved nothing more than rolling on dry ground under a net and then jumping a four foot wall. Not very Spartan –like in my book. I was a bit disappointed and told the Little Italian that this was going to be too easy. Then we hit the first mud pit. From that point forward my day was much more damp, sticky, fragrant and bad-ass. The mud was thick and deep. No, really deep. I sank up to my chest and proceeded to wade toward the rope climb at the end of the pit. I made it to the rope climb only to find the rope too slippery to ascend. I made it about 3/4 of the way up and promptly slipped off and fell back into the mud. This time deeper. How deep? Deep enough to know that the mud didn't taste very good. My failure to top out on the rope resulted in the forced completion of 30 burpees. I hate burpees.

The next few obstacles included a long slog through the Catawba river followed by a series of increasingly taller of walls to scale. So far so good. After another light run through the woods we hit my favorite part of the course. I spent 100m on my stomach slithering under barbed wire like a marine. A very tiny yet conveniently slippery marine. I found that with a good push I could slide for a significant distance. Never mind the sticks, rocks and other assorted debris in my way. I would have gone through twice if they let me. And if I had been wearing a cup.

So here is where the day becomes a bit of a blur. The walls got bigger and the obstacles more diverse. I used a chain to drag a cement block, crossed a river on a cargo net, ran up a hill with a sand bag on my shoulder, threw a spear at a straw target and even jumped over a fire. I was successful in clearing most of the obstacles but not all. Each time I failed at an obstacle I had to complete another 30 burpees. 120 total for the day. Stupid burpees. The walls were the one challenge I refused to fail on however. As they got taller they became much more difficult. Once we hit the ten foot walls I knew I was in trouble. There were steps to assist the women but we men were left to fling ourselves over without assistance. I made it over every one through a combination of stubbornness and what I suppose could be called ingenuity. Sadly, I cleared the tallest of the walls by using my man bits for leverage. Bad plan. I walked it off but can't say I was too happy about having nearly castrated myself in the name of sport. That one navigational error directly led to an afternoon spent watching Golden Girls reruns in an effort to avoid any inadvertent.........well, you know. If you don't know, I have a book you can borrow. It contains pictures. They are pretty confusing.

The race came to an end with a body cleaning swim followed by crossing the finish line hand in hand with my teammates. T-shirts, medals and free beer all around. Great success! I came out of the event without much in the way of photographs but given the volume of mud that covered my entire body I doubt a camera would have survived. I'll leave you with one shot taken at the finish line that seems to get the point across quite nicely. This is me wearing my finisher’s medal, soaking wet, smiling ear to ear. I'll be back at this event in 2013 and all who attend will fear the mudhawk.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Back Where I Belong

For a VERY brief period I found myself piloting a bicycle other than my greatly adored Stumpjumper. What can I say? I’m weak and have commitment issues. When a shiny new single speed came my way I felt obligated to throw a leg over it. Stumpy got pissed but being an inanimate object was ill equipped to retaliate in any meaningful physical way. Instead, she just stared at me longingly from her hook in the bike closet while I tried to ignore the empty feeling I got while riding a different bike. Fortunately the universe knows what is best for me and conspired to put me back in the saddle of my one true big-wheeled soul mate.

I’m sure Diane Fossey was hiding nearby when I took this picture.

The Winter Short Track series has taken a decidedly pleasant turn following my crash and near leg amputation in the first week. I did skip the second race in the series because it was cold but the past two races have gone fairly well. Yes, skipping a race in a winter series due to low temperatures is pretty lame but in my defense, I have no natural insulation. I am 135 pounds of skin, bone and an internal organ or two. I live in the South for a reason and it sure as hell isn’t the ethnic food. Unless you consider pulled pork and fried chicken ethnic food of course.

So how did I place in the past two races? Just below mid-pack. I’m cool with that. My little bird legs were not built for short efforts. I have actually shown improvement over the course of the series. In the first two races I got lapped twice. That made me sad and caused me to swear repeatedly in a British accent for reasons I still don’t quite understand. Last week I only got lapped once. That made me much less sad. Someday I would like to actually finish one of these things without getting lapped at all but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.

As I look ahead to this Sunday and the final race of the series I find myself navigating unfamiliar waters. For the first time in several years I am racing as an independent with no shop affiliation and no responsibilities. The rest of my season is uncertain at this point. The good side of this change is the fact that I am not obligated to do anything other than that which my little heart desires. The bad side is that this could negatively shift the cosmic balance. You wouldn’t put a 9 year old sugar addict into an unattended candy store would you? You would….. Oh, well that makes you either a bad parent or a kidnapper with a sick sense of humor. Either way you have two hours of hyper-active misery followed by vomiting and a severe sugar crash in your near future. Better keep some handy wipes close by. Freak.

So here is the basic plan for the rest of 2012:

05/20 Riverfront Classic
06/23 12 Hour Tree Shaker Challenge
08/25 Rivers Edge Mountain Bike Marathon
10/06 6 Hour Grind on the Greenway

I’m not out to prove I can have all the fun I need with just four carefully selected events. I simply suck at planning. Something tells me the gaps will get filled in with random last minute event entries based entirely on how I happen to feel on any given weekend. Will more mountain bike races be added? Yes sir. A running race or two? You betcha! Road racing perhaps? Hell no, that is a ridiculous question and I’m a little offended that you asked.

So until next time I leave you with a picture of my dear friend Stumpy and I flying neutral colors and doing what we do best………No, I don’t know what we do best either, but at least I look sexy in tights.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Confirming the Existence of Gravity

Happy January 16th everybody!! Just like New Years day only two weeks later and without the hangover. Ok, so the holidays have passed, the world has returned to work and I can now go on living my snarky little anti-consumer existence without having to justify my lack of a shopping list to anyone. My relationship with Christmas has been fading for years but this past holiday really sealed the deal. Was it the mace attack that made my day? Nope. How about a bunch of people fighting over cheap waffle irons at Walmart? No, not that one either. My personal favorite was hearing that all three malls in the Queen City had to be shut down and evacuated because of the fighting that broke out over the new limited edition Air Jordan sneaker. I saw a young lady on the news explaining to a bewildered reporter that while pushing through the crowds to get at this new shoe she actually managed to lose the shoes she was wearing. To wait in line for 12 hours only to return home with a net loss is not so good. Hee Hee.

I love January for just one reason. Ok, make that two. The first of course is having the opportunity to call people up North to ask them about the weather. I like to do this while sitting on my balcony. I like to tell my Northern friends that it almost cool enough out for me to need a sweater. Almost. Something about that conversation always makes me smile. The second reason I love January is that it marks the start of the Winter Short Track Series. Yesterday was the first race of the series and it did not disappoint. The weather was fantastic, the crowd was huge and I was...well, I was there.

First and foremost, I was there on a new bike. I like new bikes. They are the only thing I really spend any money on evidenced by the fact that I am writing this post while wearing a shirt I bought during my sophomore year of college. That was the best $11.99 I have ever spent.

For the foreseeable future I will be riding a Felt 9 Solo. Yes it is a 29er. Yes it is a single speed. Yes it is awesome. As awesome as my Stumpjumper you ask? Well, the jury is still out on that one. I'll need to spend a little more time in the saddle before I'm comfortable enough to commit to that. Either way, it certainly does look good...

New bike day is the best day.

Armed with my shiny new weapon of choice I lined up for my first race of the season yesterday afternoon. Of course, I was in the single speed class. Why do I ride and race a single speed? Because I am very, very stupid. You should all really know that by now. Please try to pay attention.

I was actually pretty optimistic about my chances despite the fact that I have not ridden my bike much in the past three months. I could even go so far as to say I felt strong. The first lap was a mess as always but that had more to do with the fact that I always line up at exactly the wrong spot in the middle of the pack. I did manage to move up four spots by the end of the lap and even fell into pretty nice rhythm. Two or three laps in I was moving well and seemed to be picking up speed. Then it happened....I cramped. First in my left calf and then my right. I have had cramping problems for the past eight months and can say with the utmost confidence that I am not a fan. But, given the short distance of the race, I kept going and just tried to hold my position. When the call rang out that we had one lap to go I took off with everything I had. That is never a good idea. It turns out that just because you can make the bike go really fast it does not necessarily mean you can control it. For those of you out there wondering if the laws of gravity are still in effect you can sleep well tonight knowing you won't be floating away any time soon. I hit the ground hard and just for good measure I slid for a while. That was fun. I lost a few places while dusting myself off and limped through the finish line with a slightly rearranged left leg.

Are you hungry? I’m hungry. We should get salad.

As you can see, my season is off to a bumpy start. There are four more races in the series and if you put them all together into one race it would still be too short for me. But alas, I love racing in any form I can get it. Keep your fingers crossed next Sunday and maybe, just maybe, I’ll keep my bike upright and my legs intact so I can deliver a good and proper mid-pack finish. Momma always told me to aim high……