Friday, May 30, 2008
I am blissing out.
I am in Austin, Texas--the Boulder of the Lone Star State--ostensibly on "firm" business and fulfilling my continuing education requirement as a board certified law dweeb. But the highlight of my days here is immersing myself in the active, multisport weirdness. I'm groovin' to the vibe dude.
Yesterday was an early morning run with Carrie from Tri to be Funny and her running posse. Then, in the evening, I bicycle commuted to an indoor cycling class at T3, Carrie's triathlon training group. It was over an hour of high cadence trainer work in a warehouse with only a big ass fan to cool us.
Good times, baby.
Then it was dinner outdoors at a hip, local restaurant with Carrie and the Hubster.
How much would you pay? But don't answer yet, because this morning, we had the ultimate Austin, multisport morning. We donned our wet suits and swam open water at 65 degree Barton Springs, followed by breakfast, again outdoors, at Austin Java.
And the ultimate, while at Barton Springs, I swam with professional triathlete, Andrea Fisher, a/k/a "Fish."
We both entered the water and stroked powerfully in the pre dawn light. The cool, crisp water flowed over our taut muscles. Our hearts and bodies warmed to the task of being fully alive, together, here in the water. Lungs filled with air as we rotated rhythmically toward the sky--breathing in, breathing out, in . . . out. . . . in . . . out . . . faster and more powerfully, until we reached the end of the springs where she looked meaningfully to me, and we glanced at Desiree Ficker on the deck. I thought for a moment her eyes glistened with a tear.
OK, so that last bit is kind of an exaggeration . . . . in the sense that it is completely false. We actually just saw Fish starting her workout as we were finishing ours. That said, if I have an impossibly unattainable imaginary life about Fish and Des, I have a potentially attainable imaginary life about coming to this community. I am aching to live in a place where it is "normal" to see training groups going hard every morning, where I can walk to Whole Foods, bike to work, run around Town Lake, and swim in 65 degree open water every morning of the week. This instead of a place where I have to drive to Kroger, commute 30 miles before dawn in a car to work in order not to die on my bicycle, run through liquid smog-filled air, and drive 45 minutes to swim in open water the temperature of human piss.
Not that I'm bitter or cranky.
***Latest Editorial Edition***
Just came back from lunch and getting my bike tweaked at Jack and Adams Bicycles. The valet at the hotel, while helping me get my bike out of the trunk, actually recognized it as a tri bike, and engaged in knowledgable small talk about the merits and drawbacks of carbon fiber as a material for building bicycle frames.
What a town.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
You people who live in places with mild seasons, clean air, and bike lanes where you don't have to die? I. Hate. Everyone.
Yesterday, driving in from the park after my bike ride, I was less than three miles from the central business district, but the buildings were even more obscured than in this picture. That's just wrong. And it inspired this rant about other things that are wrong and should not be tolerated under any circumstances. Add you own in the comments.
- Any music mix in the men's locker room that includes Whitney Houston and Josh Groban. Look, it doesn't have to be death metal 24/7 , but come on. Whitney? That's just wrong.
- Seen at the Woodlands Athletic Center Pool last weekend: man in his 50s, bald on top with hair around the edges of his head cropped to less than 1/4 inch--but with a thick sweater of long hair all over the rest of his body. That's just wrong.
- Real men should not fuss about the hair on their head. That's why it was so fundamentally wrong for John Edwards to spend $400 on a haircut. In my opinion (given the amount of hair I don't have) blow dryers in a men's locker room are out of place. But, blow drying the hair on one's body?!!! Blow drying back hair and nether hair???!!!! That's.Just.WRONG.
- Hey, guys--you guys at the neighborhood pool with the 30+ BMI--those tribal tattoos and barbed wire around what used to be a bicep when you were in college? Not a good look for you any more. Either mix in some salads or invest in laser tattoo removal. Otherwise? It's just wrong.
- Hey, gals--you gals at the neighborhood pool with the 30+ BMI--that belly button ring that looked so sexy when you were in college? Not.So.Much. Rings in rolls are not sexy. They're just wrong.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Jane is a remarkable story of personal change--going from sedentary to MS150 to half-iron triathlon in one year, and doggedly training through difficult times for an Ironman this year.
Give her your love, and hey, let's be careful out there.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
So, to keep you updated on the ongoing saga of Officer McBreakfast Taco who tried to intimidate me off the roads on my training route, I received a response to my letter to his boss the constable. Chief Deputy Constable David Wood wrote me and said:
Dear Mr. [Real Lawyer Name]:
This department received you certified letter, dated May 7, 2008 on May 8, 2008.
Thank you for reporting the incident that occurred on FM-149, April 19, 2008. Our department will investigate this matter and take whatever action we think necessary.
Should we be of any assistance to you int he future please do not hesitate to call (281-356-3883).
Thanks again for calling this issue to our attention.
Very truly yours,
Chief Deputy David Wood
* * * * *
If the letter is sincere, then great. They're investigating and they will act. However, knowing the manner in which Texas law enforcement prioritizes the rights of cyclists (i.e., it doesn't) I am not taking for granted that a proper investigation will be completed or proper changes will be made to departmental policies.
So, I wrote another letter, to stay at the very top of their to do list and to keep my agenda driving the train:
Chief Deputy David Wood
Office of Montgomery County Constable, Pct. 5
31350 Friendship Drive
Magnolia, TX 77355
Re: Deputy Constable Harassing Cyclists, April 19, 2008 on FM-149
Chief Deputy Wood:
I trust, for example, that the deputy in question has already been identified by this point. As such, I would expect (as I referenced in my first letter) to be informed of the deputy’s identity as soon as it is known. If it is not yet known, please inform me what if anything has been done to determine it and what information I could provide to assist that inquiry.
Please respond at the earliest opportunity with this information. If there is an investigator that I should contact directly, please include that in your response.
As you referenced in your letter, the Constable’s office may well “take whatever action [it] think[s] necessary” as a result of the investigation, but I alone will determine whether the investigation and its outcome are adequate. I will likewise take the appropriate actions if they are not.
Very truly yours,
[Real Lawyer Name]
cc: David Hill
Montgomery County Constable, Pct. 5
31350 Friendship Drive
Magnolia, TX 77355
We'll see what happens. I'm not going away, and I'm obviously not going to stop riding.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Well, if she's waiting for an engraved invitation, she can consider this . . . er,. . . that.
An Athena mojito imbiber,
Eats chocolate of darkest Godiva--
She used to have game,
but now she's quite tame.
(This poet won't likely survive her.)
And another Utahian, . . . er, . . .Utanian . . . Utatian . . . ?? is also master of all things snarky, yet has not given us her entry.
Well, here's all I've got to say about that:
There once was an athlete from Utah
Who typically pee’d with her suit on
But try as she might
She can’t pee the bike
With spandex, she can’t get her groove on.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Keep your poetry submissions coming in the comments. Submissions have been slowing down, so don't forget to post your entries in the haiku, American homage, or open/free verse categories. And post your entries up on your blogs. They've been really, really good.
But now, the moment you've all been waiting for. It's time for the final category: the Limerick.
According to Wikipedia (so it must be true), A limerick has five lines, with three metrical feet in the first, second, and fifth lines and two metrical feet in the third and fourth lines. A variety of types of metrical foot can be used, but the most typical are the amphibrach (a stressed syllable between two unstressed syllables) and the anapaest (two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable). The rhyme scheme is usually AABBA.
If that made no sense (Bigun), then perhaps this gets it:
- The limerick packs laughs anatomical
- In space that is quite economical,
- But the good ones I've seen
- So seldom are clean,
- And the clean ones so seldom are comical.
in swim, bike or run I do tuck it;
but, after awhile
it still gathers in piles
A finally, I just say . . .
well, you know the rest.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
It just occurs to me, as I finish up the longest week of training for my second Ironman, how much I owe these two, exceptional women. They were a major part of my choice to start the Ironman journey. I followed their training and went to Wisconsin in 2006 to volunteer and spectate at their first attempts. I experienced their triumph and their heartbreak second hand. The next day, I signed up, and one year later, I was an Ironman. Because of that choice, I am not now the same person.
Thanks Tracy and Sara.
And now a poem, somewhat about the choices they motivated in me, and the conversation that goes on in my head when I see or hear people who won't own their lives.
What about this place you are in?
Don't like it? Doesn't it suit you?
Then why did you choose to be here, and why do you stay?
20, 30, 40 or more years ago, we were essentially the same:
Six to ten pounds, 20 some odd inches, helpless, needy, hungering, and thirsting.
I had some advantages, you had others, and yet here we are.
We're different, you say.
I could never do that, you say.
You don't have time.
You're too busy.
You're too tired.
Your knees hurt.
Your back, your hips, your fill-in-the-blank
Your job, your kids, your spouse, your house . . .
TV yeah-buts by the score.
My world spins just as quickly and just as slowly.
My time is no larger.
I have busy-ness and business.
Gravity threatens to hold me abed
My knees, my back, my hips, my blank-to-be-filled
My job, my kid, my spouse, my house . . .
But choices there are. Scores of them.
These choices. They don't make themselves.
No one made them for you.
That soda did not jump in your shopping cart.
It's right down the aisle from the sparkling water.
That shortness of breath on the stairs was not forced upon you.
You were a child. You ran and sang once.
You can sing again and run again, with your eyes turned to the sky, arms open wide.
It's your move.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
OK, you can still enter your haiku in the first category of poetry contest, but I thought I'd throw out the second one--an homage to any great American poet (e.g., Dickinson, Poe, Frost, Sandburg, Whitman). The best entry in this category may well win the grand prize, because it's darn hard to take a familiar poet and mimic their style. But here's my example (with apologies to Robert Frost)
Stopping by Water on a Sunny Morning
Whose pond this is, I think I know.
His condo's in the city, though;
He will not see me stopping here
Perhaps to skinny dip---but no.
My little bike must think it queer
To stop without a break point near
Between the car and quick stop store
The hottest morning of the year.
She gives her racing wheels a shake
To ask if there's some mistake.
The only other sound's the lap
Of easy wind on tiny lake.
The water's lovely, cool and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Here is how it works. There will be massively worthless greyhound schwag for the best triathlon/home town related poem in each of five categories: haiku, limerick, sonnet, homage to Emily Dickinson or Robert Frost, and free verse. Each category will start with an example by me, and you can enter your own verse in the comments. (Also, if you put it out there on your own blog and link back to here, we might generate some momentum and get some really entertaining entries). I'll leave the contest open long enough to get a number of entrants in each category.
OK, today is haiku. And to give you the idea that we're not talking about earth shattering depth, here is my entrant, a haiku, which came to me this morning, entitled:
Thursday, May 08, 2008
**Parental Advisory** If your kids watch this they'll hear the same language they in all likelihood hear at school.
So, David Hill, the elected constable in precinct five, will receive today a registered letter on my law firm stationary. The letter states:
I am a cyclist who trains in Montgomery and Grimes Counties nearly every weekend. I am writing to you because, on April 19, 2008, at about 10:00 in the morning, I was harassed and assaulted by one of your deputies. His conduct was completely out of line, and I will describe it now.
I was approximately 4 miles west of Montgomery on FM149 (in Precinct 1), heading east and riding legally in all respects. A pickup truck passed me very close and honked, as many motorists do when they are trying to harass cyclists. This motorist, however, was one of your deputy constables in a reddish maroon pickup with gold lettering on the back.
Startled, I shouted as I usually do when a motorist puts me at risk. Your officer then slammed on his brakes and intentionally cut me off with his vehicle, swerving across my path and the minimal shoulder, forcing me to brake sharply. The officer later accused me of riding half way to the center of the road, but this is a complete falsehood generated in an attempt to justify his conduct. My bicycle was positioned between the right tire mark of any passing cars and the white stripe at the side of the road. The shoulder at that point is not suitable for riding. More to the point, his conduct is unjustifiable even if I had been riding on the centerline of the road.
At this point he would neither move his vehicle nor exit his cab, but contented himself with shouting unintelligibly at me from inside the vehicle. I could neither hear what he said nor proceed down the road, so I approached the cab. When I arrived he proceeded to yell at me to the effect that I was not permitted on the road and was required to ride to the right of the white line at all times.
I calmed myself down, assured the officer that I was not trying to pick a fight with him, but that he was just dead wrong. Bicycles are vehicles, and they are permitted to use the farm to market roads. I was riding properly and as far to the right as was reasonably safe to do so. I told him that if he believed I was wrong, he should just proceed to give me a ticket rather than argue and we would allow the court to decide.
He apparently did not have the courage of his convictions or simply wanted to bully me further rather than do his job. He would not give me a ticket, preferring instead to keep shouting at me to stay off the road or I would be ticketed. I responded that I was allowed to be on the road, that I would continue riding as I had been, and if he believed I was wrong, he should simply ticket me and get on with it. He eventually just drove off.
It is completely intolerable if cyclists cannot rely upon the protection of law enforcement. For that reason, I am not willing to consider this as just another example of an ignorant motorist from whom we should not expect much better. We can expect better, indeed much better, from people sworn to uphold the law and protect the citizenry.
Thus, my demands are simple:
2. The officer will have a formal complaint placed in his personnel record.
3. The officer will attend bicycle patrol training for police officers.
4. The officer will be trained in the actual rights of cyclists.
5. You will certify to me what training program has been completed.
6. The officer will issue a written apology addressed to me admitting his error, in return for which I will provide the officer and anyone else concerned with a full release.
I have no interest in either litigation or in recompense, only that law enforcement behave professionally and properly enforce the law. Neither occurred here. I am ready and willing to constructively cooperate in crafting a resolution here. That said, any amount of foot dragging or lack of engagement will not be accepted. If I sense any hesitation to cooperate, I will instantly pursue formal discipline against the officer before the appropriate authorities, and I have not ruled out filing a felony complaint against the officer. It certainly would have been considered a felony had our roles been reversed.
I expect confirmation that you have received this communication at the earliest possible opportunity, and you should feel free to contact me at any time for the purpose of investigating or resolving this incident.
Very truly yours,
[Real Lawyer Name]
Monday, May 05, 2008
Transition, early on race morning
Fifty-eight minutes. That's how much quicker I was this year than I was last year on the Wildflower course. But don't get the wrong idea. I'm still not what one would call "fast." If you start with a truly pathetic race performance as your baseline, it's not all that earth shattering to drop nearly an hour from your time. But still, this was a good weekend, and a good yardstick on the way to Ironman CdA.
Curly Su gets ready to race
Last year, it was the swim that really put me in the hole mentally. Frankly, I panicked. The water temperature surprised me, I felt like I couldn't breathe, and every time I tried to put my face in the water to swim freestyle, I caught a face full of chop and choked and gagged. Over an hour later, I dragged myself from the water, having swum breastroke from kayak to kayak.
This year, a much more successful swim began the day before the race. I got in the water without my wetsuit to get comfortable with the 65 degree water and get used to swimming without the added warmth and buoyancy. The temperature shocked me, I couldn't breathe, and I nevertheless swam to the first turn and made myself figure out how to overcome the issues.
And I did it. By the end of the practice swim, I had acclimated to the temperature and was stroking and breathing well.
On game day, the air temperature when we go to transition was in the 40s. I was NOT looking forward to getting we. In fact I was dreading it. But, I jumped in with wetsuit right before my wave start to warm up, and it was a piece of cake. In comparison to the practice, I was warm, buoyant and confident. In fact, I was so comfortable and ready to go, I totally forgot to start my watch when the horn sounded. That was when the difficulties started---
but my mantra for the day was "positive and efficient." Rather than allow my mind to wallow in difficulty like I did last year, it was all about staying in the moment, remaining positive and finding the efficient way to keep moving forward. In the swim this meant dealing with contact, drafting some, getting around slower swimmers, adjusting my stroke, sighting efficiently, swimming to open water, and remaining patient--swimming one buoy at a time. It was still cold, I still swallowed some water, there was still contact with other swimmers, but 44 minutes later I was done--about 20 minutes faster than last year.
Transition On Race Day
This is where it gets kind of funny. I set up my transition area exactly like I always do, but it did not seem to help.
I was, in fact, cold and shivering and disoriented when I got out of the swim into the massive transition area. It took a lot of effort to get my limbs to obey and get out of the wetsuit. I actually had to sit down, shivering the whole time. Then I took extra time to put on arm warmers. Then I started toward bike out. Then I thought I had forgotten something, which was not actually necessary until the run. But I went back because I was so befuddled. Then, apparently after dinner, a movie, some shopping and a stroll, I decided to get on my bike and ride.
This is how T1 is supposed to go
But 5 miles down the road, I wondered, "why are the toes on my left foot cold?"
It was because I was riding down the road with one sock on and one sock off. I laughed out loud when I discovered it, and at several later points on the ride.
Last year, I tried to overcome a crappy swim by showing that I at least could ride a little. As a result of bad pacing and bad nutrition--i.e., Perpetuem, may it rot in hell--I shattered myself with 10 hilly miles left to transition. Result--a 14 mph average and nothing left to run with.
This year, I was riding with no bike computer, a smile on my face, and only a HR monitor and perceived exertion to go by. The first hour consists mainly of climbing sharply away from the lake and I barely made 15 miles in that hour. But it was "positive and efficient." I monitored heart rate and picked good gears where I could get the cadence nice and high, and the miles started to fly by. Riding Carmen Tequilo's Zipp 404s into the wind was like being on rails. I felt like I was invisible to the air, just tucking in and slipping on through.
And I also took time to enjoy the day. The scenery was just AWESOME. Unlike last year, the wildflowers were a riot of color. And then there were the other racers. See, when you're one of the last male race waves to go off, you spend a good portion of the bike getting passed by very fit women. Some guys have a problem getting chicked like that. Me? I'm just disappointed that I can't keep up once passed and motivated to train harder.
Then there was Nasty Grade and the climb to the top of the course. If you doubt whether it was nasty, just look at the course profile done by D.C. Rainmaker. Check out the wall you have to climb within the first mile or so, and then Nasty Grade at mile 40.
Nevertheless, I arrived with legs to spare and did not burn all my matches getting to the top. My new 12/27 cassette spun me to the top with a steady rhythm and I screamed down the other side---only pausing a couple of times to wonder whether I had tightened down all the parts properly when I put Carmen together.
Anyhow, the result of all this was a quicker time, better climbing and much more fun. I felt like I had something left for the run notwithstanding the ridiculously hilly bike course. About 30 minutes faster than last year.
So, I managed to get both my socks on in T2, but did not run well coming in off the bike. Something about the climbing had taken a toll on my lower back muscles and glutes on the right side. But I limped onto the run course.
The Run--a/k/a "A Walk In The Woods"
Last year, Iron Jenny opined that Wildflower was harder than an Ironman. I did not believe her. Having done an Ironman now, I think I concur. The Ironman run courses do not tend to be hilly. Wildflower, on the other hand, does not tend to be flat. Imagine an Xterra half-marathon on mountain trails, perahps with live ammunition and a side of water boarding and you've pretty much got the proper image of Wildflower. The first two miles of the run, I tried to battle through the cramping burning glutes, but every time the road tipped up, I pretty much had to walk. Even then, I was walking in zone 3.
Then, between miles 4 and 5 you basically have to climb a wall on a dirt trail. Check it out, again from D.C. Rainmaker:
I was walking and going just about as fast as people trying to run the stupid incline. Then the course comes out into the full sun, and I began a multi-hour splitting headache and cotton mouth. Suffice it to say that what began as a survival shuffle slowed even more than that.
I think I kind wussed out and maybe could have run faster. It kind of frustrates me that I did not do so, because unlike some people, I love running. That's where this all started--just running a 13.1 mile road race with my little brother. But, at the end of the day, this is a warmup/race simulation for the big dance in June. So, realizing that they give the same t-shirt and medal to me and to the 5:30 finishers, I let the engine cool and coasted it on in. Sill, about 10 minutes faster than last year.
So what accounts for the fifty-eight minutes that I took out of last year's time? Sure, I am probably fitter this year. I am objectively faster, but not by that much. It is more a mater of how I am racing and who I am racing. Last year, I was racing against what I thought of other peoples' expectations of me, and I could not measure up to the fictional expectations. This year, I was only racing myself and racing the course, staying in the moment and focusing only on how to efficiently move forward through whatever obstacle the race course or conditions puts out there.
Anyway, not my best writing, but I wanted to get this out there. I'll post some more pictures from the weekend later in the week.
Sunday, May 04, 2008
More to come.
Friday, May 02, 2008
We made it from LA to Lake San Antonio today, went for a swim, checked in, rode up a hill, and drove "Nasty Grade." We'll eat dinner soon, then get the gear squared away for a good day tomorrow.
Any day you can swim in a beautiful lake, ride in scenery so beautiful it looks fake, and run trails through the woods, is a good day.
"The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it."
Henry David Thoreau
Thursday, May 01, 2008
I'm almost ready to leave for the airport to travel back to Wildflower. Before I did, I downloaded this movie to my Ipod.
Bruce Brown made this movie in the late 1960s, about the same time I was born. He and his friends picked up their surf boards and followed summer around the globe. Somehow, it seemed perfect for a triathlon trip.
Don't we all fantasize about escaping the corporate vibe and grind of our middle-aged (or even mid 20s) day to day? As a 40 year old, don't I fantasize about recapturing the summer of my life, living it better, and trying to stay there forever? All this exercise and weight loss and vanity--aren't those part of the vain effort somehow?
And don't I want to go back to 2007, on a day in early May where this course made me feel older and feebler and more cautious than I should have? Don't I want to attack the course again like a surf kid at play--in search of the perfect wave?
You bet I do. The real summer has almost arrived. Here's to the quest for an endless summer.