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Monday, January 31, 2011

Fatty Time vs. Ned Overend Time

It's Fatty Time!
From kayaking in Key Largo, hiking in Breckenridge, riding a Volcano in Maui, no matter what endeavor you choose or wherever it is, undoubtedly you’ll been exposed to Fatty Time.  Chances are you’ll kick its ass.  That was the case for us while on vacation in Key Largo last week.  (Now you know why the blog’s been dormant for a week.)

As an endurance athlete, we’re all used to doing outdoor activities for hours and hours.  Consequently we look for similar activities while on vacation.  If you can’t do three hours on a road bike at home, you look to do three hours on a beach cruiser, three hours in a kayak, three hours hiking on the trail.  The problem is that the quoted times for vacation activities aren’t given in fit-person time, it’s Fatty Time. 

All Hail King Ned
There’s been only one time where I was actually quoted a time for an outdoor activity where I couldn’t even come close to touching it.  That was in Albuquerque, on Sandia Peak.  Apparently way way way back in the day when I had a Proflex with purple anodized parts, they held a hill climb on Sandia Peak and pro mountain bike guru Ned Overend won (on what now would be a sad excuse for a Specialized bike.)  Our trip was back in the early 90’s.  We went to visit a friend who worked for Intel in Albuquerque.  I’m not sure if the signs are still posted, but as we climbed the trail to the summit, along the way we were reminded of how much we sucked.  The signs read, “Ned’s Time 35 minutes.”  Foolishly I looked at my computer.  It read 55 minutes.  On and on, Ned's gap grew to nearly an hour at the top.  Even when I was in my late 20’s, Ned was killing me.  He still can.

Conversely to Ned’s Time, I was quoted Fatty Time in Key Largo last week.  We rented sea kayaks at John Pennekamp Coral Reef Park.  The guide at the kayak rental place quoted us 1 ½ to 2 hours to complete a trail carved out through the mangrove swamp along the ocean.  For four cabin fever plagued Cincinnatians, we couldn’t sign the waiver fast enough for a two hour outdoor adventure under sunny skies in 75 degree weather.  We set off zigging and zagging our way up and down three channels, snapping photos and playing bumper boats.  We sprinted for buoys.  We had a blast and covered every inch of trail and probably a few places we weren’t supposed to paddle through.  We docked the boats.  Less than an hour had passed.

Dammit.  We were quoted Fatty Time.

Haleakala Downhill Dorks
Ya see, Fatty Time is a time quoted for an outdoor activities based on how fast the average tourist can complete the activity.  It takes 2 hours for the average tourist to kayak the mangroves in Key Largo.  HawaiiActivities.com quotes 5-6 hours to complete an 18 mile downhill bike ride from the top of Haleakala to the sea.  Most of the people who read this blog can ride a slight grade uphill for 18 miles in under an hour.  I haven’t kayaked for 2 years.  I get sea sick in open water.  I am the tourist kayak king of Key Largo. 

When booking activities on vacation always keep Fatty Time and the following in mind.  The average tourist takes the car from the hotel room to the front desk to get fresh towels.  The average tourist has barely enough endurance to walk the aisles at a grocery store.  The average tourist doesn’t bring their own bike helmets and running shoes on vacation.  The average tourist can’t swim the length of the hotel pool.  The next time you rent a bike, hike a trail or kayak, remember to ask, “…now is that Ned's Time or Fatty Time.”  

Friday, January 21, 2011

Spin Class Heroes

Before spin classes, cycling was a beautiful sport.  Even the most football hardened couch potato takes  pause at the sight of a multi-colored peloton passing through the field of sunflowers in a Graham Watson photo.  Personally, I love the middle of bike races, the boring part.  I hold my breath watching the flow of riders funneling through a corner.  I marvel at the grace of a perfectly executed crosswind echelon.  Watching people in spin class is akin to watching a Key West sidewalk contortionist.  Look away!  But, you can't.  

I've seen people do jumping jacks in Cincinnati's Eden Park.  There's no better way to look like a gold-chain-loving red velour-jumpsuit-wearing doofus than to do jumping jacks in public.  As they say on the SNL skit, “Oooh Weee!  What Up Wit Dat?”  Even though you may not have a penchant for white high-top Adidas and perms, some people who wear chamois and have SPD compatible shoes are putting spinning at risk of a border war with real cycling.  A line must be drawn.  


No longer can I hold it in.  Like the classic jams I hear in spin class, I'm calling you out...Spin Class Heroes:


MC Hammer
It makes me want to say, “Pssst.  She’s talking to you.”  Without pointing fingers, between describing the next interval and advising us to grab a drink, the spin instructor kindly said, “If you’re bobbing up and down on the saddle, you need to put on more resistance.”  Now I’m no medical expert, but seriously, dropping that kind of hinder hammer has to be one easy way to turn your junk into junk.  I used to wonder why spin bikes were made out of square steel bars.  Not anymore.  I understand the thick saddles too.  They’re not for your comfort; it’s to cushion the poor bike from getting a Kardashian sized butt whoopin'.  Please Hammer.  Don’t hurt ‘em.


Ray Charles
Maybe this is what happens when MC Hammer finally settles down, the pent up energy has to get out.  Like some sort of seismic reaction, she rocks back and forth as if spinning to a sped up version of “Hit The Road Jack.”  Please!  No more, no more, no more, no more.  

The Dazz Band
Let it whip girl!  You got the sassy sweaty band and you're gonna rock that pony tail!  Her head flicks around, half Night at the Roxbury, half night at a Five Finger Death Punch concert.  Left, right!  Up, down!  With precisely timed jumps and corresponding neck twitches it can spin concentric circles that'd make Indiana Jones wish he could whip like that.  

Devo
Are we not men?  No, you're a guy who tucks his shirt in his bike shorts.  You may look and feel like your young, but your outfit is screaming grandpa to all the lovely ladies in the spin room.  Let go of the past, let go off the office, let go of 1982...for goodness sake let go of your shirt.  Here's two reason's to not tuck in your shirt: it hides your gut and keeps you from double offending as a Naked Cowboy.

The Fiddler
The Devil went down to Georgia, but she got side tracked adjusting the straps on the toe clips every 2 minutes.  Then she went to fill up her water bottle, right after she stopped to adjust her pony tail band.  Right when you think she's going to settle in for the next 3 minute interval, with remarkable dexterity, because she doesn't want to have to re-do her toe straps for the fifth time, she reaches down for her phone on top of her backpack and twiddles a text.  Nothing can hold her concentration.  She's not even in spin class.  Her Facebook status already reads, "1 hour spin done, off to Nordstrom!



The Cowboy
The Cowboy spent all his money on the gym membership, Sidi spinning shoes and the Beemer in the parking lot.  Unfortunately, there wasn't a penny left over to complete the high roller image with a new pair of shorts.  Also unfortunately for you, he took the spin bike in front of you offering an hour long unobstructed view of one of nature's magic wonders, the grand canyon clouded in a thin layer of thread bare spandex.  It may play on the streets on NYC, but I'm not throwing any tips at his feet.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

It’s Better Than Retiring In Tropical Paradise

Adams Landing Fire Station
The morning radio show is taking calls about your favorite childhood meals.  “513-749-2320,” the DJ says.  Scrambled eggs with ketchup, nope, pot roast with potatoes, nah.  As I try to remember a meal that wouldn’t be boring or embarrassing to call-in and share with the Tri-state, I chuckle.  I’m on my way to work and just passed the old firehouse.  It reminds me of one of the conversations on this weekend’s group ride. 

There were seven of us on the ride Saturday, a big guy with an eastern European accent who could climb remarkably well, a financial advisor on a aged single speed, the retired dude with the older jersey, the quirky flamboyant-ish guy from South America, the I’m learning that he’s really rich and retired-young guy and me, the guy who makes commercials at a local radio station originally from Wisconsin guy.  Maybe it was just six.  No, it was seven.  The skinny guy on the Ti bike with carbon wheels, like me, is a quieter personality.  We, along with the harder to understand at 21mph eastern European and South American guys, resolve ourselves to listening to the radio chatter of the three main personalities.  


P&G Headquarters Downtown Cincinnati
Conversations on group rides seem to spark from the group of people that have ridden together the longest.  In this case: the old dude, the rich dude and the financial advisor.  I’m pretty sure all but the oldest of us are transplants; drawn to Cincinnati by some connection to the large employers like Proctor and Gamble or Kroger Foods.  We all live near downtown.  However, these three have lived in Cincinnati and have been riding together the longest.  At one point we ride by a beautifully restored historic looking triangle-corner building with a for sale or lease sign in front of it.  The same one I just passed on my way to work.

The rich guy says he’d like to live there.  It’s prime real estate.  He explains his reasoning: a great view of the Ohio River valley from the upper floors, across from the park with all the summer festivals and literally 100 yards to downtown proper.  The old guy unwittingly uncorks that he remembers when it used to be an actual working firehouse.  “That was back when the horses pulled the water wagon,” financial guys stabs at old guy.  “Or was it the bucket brigade,” rich guy fires back. 

La Paz Bolivia
This is precisely why I like to ride with these guys.  There’s arrows flying from all directions and nothing is sacred, fond memories and grey hairs included.  You’d think by spending three hours talking with a financial advisor, a rich guy, a retired guy and a guy from South America we could easily fabricate a plan for all of us, Eastern European guy included, to retire early on a beach in Bolivia.  But, richer or poorer, no matter which corner of the world we call home, we’re guys riding bikes.  We don’t talk substance.  We learned long ago that belly laughs at another’s expense on a January afternoon are warmer than any tropical paradise.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Endurance Training for a Flexible Spending Account

I’m completely prepared to give an elephant a bath.  Thanks to cycling, I found that I have mustered the strength and flexibility necessary to tackle just about any mundane task imaginable like washing an elephant or wrestling receipts for the “wonderful” employee benefit of being able to pay for Tylenol with pre-tax dollars from my Flexible Spending Account.  The concept even gives me a headache and coincidently another receipt to file for next year. 

It’s not spinning on the trainer under the buzz of florescent lights in the garage that gives me the real headache in winter.  It’s the once a year chores.  Especially being a more creative personality, anything to do with math or planning might as well be gearing up for a 6 Hour marathon mountain bike race or using a mop as a Q-tip on an elephant ear.  Below is my Honey Do list from last week.  If it weren’t for cycling, I would never have crossed #3 off my list.

Honey Do:
1) Fix the shelf in the closet
2) Consolidate old employer 401(k) plans into one account
3) Submit receipts for the Flexible Spending Account

For me, "submit receipts for the FSA" might as well be wash the elephant.  While it appears soap and water simple, I know that first I’ll need to go to the hardware store and buy a hose, a 10 foot extended spray nozzle, 3 gallons of soap, a mop, an assortment of brushes and a colossal bag of peanuts.  That’s way before I forgot that I’ll need a step ladder, a garbage can for a bucket and a set of waders. 

And while this appears to have nothing to do with cycling, submitting an FSA claim takes every bit of concentration and minute of endurance built of from years of riding bicycles to get through it.  Here’s what “Submit receipts for the FSA” really means:

1) Go through a pile of receipts.  They’re in the file cabinet.  Well, there are some in the basket on the counter.  Oh yeah, there’s one in my car.  Don’t forget about the one in the armoire.

2) Make more coffee.  Turn off the crappy Sunday Morning TV and put on some music.

3) Spread everything out on the dining room table.  See if the items on the receipt meet the requirements of the FSA account.  Go to the pantry and get out the magnifying glass to read the microscopic font on the receipt.  Remember that the FSA company revised the rules and now prescription medications require the name of the drug be written on the receipt.   Drive to the pharmacy and kindly ask them to re-print the receipt with the drug name.  Stop to fill up for gas because you filled the prescription at the pharmacy nearest the doctor’s office which is on the complete opposite side of town.

4) Make lunch at dining room table.  Spill mustard on 3 receipts.

5) After dabbing receipts with paper towel, translate each acceptable item from each receipt to a line on the form.  You did print out the form from your employer’s website didn’t you?  “The laptops in the office honey!”  You do remember the user name and password for the website that you visit once a year?  You do know the answers to the security questions in case you can’t remember your password?  You still have the email account that you used to originally set up the account?  Plug in the computer because batteries are running low.  Dig user name and password out of benefits folder in file cabinet.

6) Turn on the dining room table light.  Translate each acceptable item from each receipt to a line on the form. 

7) Photocopy everything while watching the nightly news.

8) Go to the store to buy more ink cartridges for the office printer.

9) Copy the last page and sign the form.

10) Put it in an envelope and mail it.  Dammit!  Go to the post office for envelopes and stamps over lunch at work on Monday.

Suddenly a century, a stage race or the Mohican MTB 100 doesn’t seem so hard.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Where's My Yoga-Butt Ass Slap?

Naively, I immediately ranked my achievement in yoga class right up there with winning a bike race.  I wanted immediate recognition.  I felt somewhere between like I did earning a silver medal in the state championships and being king of the mountain on a group ride.  I looked for a high five, a golf clap.  In a class of 25 people, it was as if it was invisible.  Last night, I performed an unassisted full-on redwood-solid 20-30 second headstand in yoga practice.  I posted my slight frustration on Facebook, asking for a Gong of recognition, and a friend sent this video. 





Maybe its coming from a background of competitive sports that I kind of expected something to happen when I did a yoga headstand on my own for the first time, but nothing.  No chimes.  No cheers.  I wanted to run around the room for high-fives and chest bumps.  Out of the 25 women in the class, not one snapped a photo with her phone to commemorate the occasion with a post to my Facebook wall.  I couldn’t believe it.  Where was the love?  It was like spiking a football in the end zone of an empty coliseum or Tour De France winner Alberto Contador shooting off his finger pistols at the end of an abandoned dead end street in France.  I didn’t expect a Tibetan monk to drape a silk shawl over my shoulders and ring a gong (see video), but this brother craved at least a slap on the yoga ass. 


Now, I get it.  I bow my head.  I take in a full deep breath and let all the air out.  I have the prize right here at hearts center.  Namaste.

I expect some rolled their eyes right there on the word Namaste.  People like to poo-poo yoga as weirdo hippie crap.  What’s with heart’s center, all the words ending in “asana,” the chants of “OM,” the weird loud breathing, hugs of gratitude and a thankful Namaste at the end of practice?  It’s cool to think that.  I did.  Now, I realize, they’re all pieces of the practice, the stones that built my headstand.  It took me seven months to put the pieces together.  Even still, I probably don’t even fully get it.

As a core building exercise for cycling, I’ve been doing yoga for months, seven to be exact.  I remember my first time, too shy to let the “Om” escape my lips.  Like coming up a wheel short of a town line victory, along the way there were sensations of strength and points of poise.  I remember when my heels first touched earth on a completely flat-footed downward dog.  I wobbled, teetered and gritted my teeth.  I scorned the flexibility of the ballerinas in class.  I concentrated on my breath, only to catch myself red-faced and holding it. 

Eventually, my chants of “Om” became louder and more confident.  I tried the harder options.  Accidently, I once kicked the instructor in the head while she spotted my headstand.  Later I learned she had asked the front desk at Revolution Fitness for a bag of ice.  I was embarrassed.  The next time I tried it, I fell, but smoothly.  I tucked and rolled, like an expert building demolition.  I downloaded the “Yoga To The People” podcast from I-Tunes and practiced at home, when I couldn’t make the class at the gym.  Seven months later, I did a headstand.  Gong!

I’m excited.  Maybe I’ll learn in another epiphany later that, since yoga is a personal practice, there’s really no reason to shout it from the top of the mountain.  A true Yogi wouldn’t brag about it.  I’m not bragging.  (maybe a little) I’m just really happy.  Along with my smile and a nod of gratitude, I write.  Like getting my heels down on a downward dog and doing a wobble free shoulder stand, last night’s headstand is just another step on an infinite staircase that only today I realized I have been climbing.  Now I understand yoga is a practice, something you’ll get better at, but never be judged at.  That’s pretty cool.  There are no golden yoga trophies and sadly no yoga ass slaps.  I started doing Yoga in July.  I started practicing today. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Camel Toe Mitts, Dino Paws...My 1995 Robster Craws

They’ve been called Camel Toe Mitts, Dinosaur Paws, and, (using my Scooby Doo pronunciation) Robster Craws.  They’re nearly the size of a small housecat, 3 times the size of the gloves you wear in summer and, I-tunes be damned, crafted when the grunge of Pearl Jam and Nirvana first hit the radio.  They’re my circa mid 1990’s Performance brand Purple anodized parts-matching Lobster Claw cycling mittens.  They’re way more fly than a G-6.


Gloves? I Say, "Hand Blanket!"
For booger freezing cold weather riding, there is no better glove.  These are the best winter mitts EVER!  Don’t even try to compare.  I’ve ridden through Ohio & Wisconsin winters in these with wind chills that’d make your teeff loosen and fall out.  Pearl Izumi and Endura may be more fashionable, but ten bucks says Lady Gaga is wearing these purple wonders in her next video.  There's probably a fetish website dedicated to the love of Performance Lobster Claws.  (If not, I'm starting one.)  There is no better winter cycling mitt, and never will be, unless neon anodized colors and helmet covers come back in vogue.  Sadly, Performance doesn’t even make ‘em like this anymore.  Like dinosaurs, a dying breed nearing extinction. 

They’re fatter than Wendy William’s twin sisters, and therefore lack a bit in dexterity.  However, if you install an Idiot Strap to your jacket, you can pull them off mid-ride and easily reach bare handed into your jersey pocket.  You hand will smoke with steam when your bare hand hits the cold air.

Id-ee-ott Strap: (noun) A buckled or sewn strap, commonly found in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan and North Dakota that mommy uses to physically tie your mittens to your jacket, so you don’t loose your gloves in the freezing cold like a 3 year old idiot.

Expedition Quality
They’re as thick as boxing glove; the top surface is a pillow of warm filler impenetrable to any wind.  Pull ‘em on and you immediately feel like the heavyweight champion of the world.  There’s not just a terry cloth snot wiper on the thumb, there’s an entire beach towel which makes up 2/3 of the top surface area.  Not only can you wipe snot, in case of a wreck you could clot a gaping wound with the left hand mitt and use the right in case you need to take care of “business” at the same time.

15 years and Still Steaming Hot
I should’ve got out the tape measure, but I’m certain you can see from the photos that they practically go up to your elbows.  So, I exaggerate.  There’s enough room inside to stick both hands in one, or easily pull them over the lower arms of your thickest winter jacket.  You could probably wear them as slippers or an insert for your Crocs. 

Dinosaur Track or Mitten Print?
Most people call them Lobster Claws, but a Lobster claw this big would fetch a world-record market price at the best steakhouse.  I prefer Dinosaur Paws, because that’s what the tracks look like when you fan out the 3-fingers and make tracks at the MTB trail head to freak out other Wisconsin trail users.  “Hey dere honey, we bedder not hike here.  Looks like dere’s a ferocious dinosaur at this trail.”

Monday, January 3, 2011

Bikedoku: A New Winter Sport

She text messaged me from the saddle and told me she completed a Sudoku puzzle while riding her bike on the trainer.  Seriously.  What's next?  Sudoku on the toilet?  My wife said it made her dizzy.  To avoid the spins while spinning and solving the puzzle, she had to put the book down, think about a solution to a square, then pick the book back up and fill in her answer.  For the record, in case my wife is the million dollar inventor of a new sport, Bikedoku was invented in my garage on Sunday, January 2nd, 2011.  I've already applied for a patent for a carbon fiber seat tube bottle cage pencil holder.  If she ever decides to get rollers, I'm taking out a life insurance policy.  

Either my garage must be incredibly boring to a woman, or the stimulus our bodies receive while riding an actual bike actually outside is unbelievably incredible.  It can't be my garage, no woman can resist my man-cave.  Along with a bible sized Sudoku puzzle book, she had the TV tuned to Universal Sports coverage of World Cup downhill skiing, her Blackberry and an I-pod at the ready…all this for an hour on the trainer.  Is riding a bike outside with a group like solving a puzzle with music blaring, while checking Facebook updates as skiers swoosh down the Alps at 60mph in front of our eyes?

Apparently so. 

3rd Wheel: Calculating How To Win Sprint Points
No wonder we crave it.  Cycling is a sensory smorgasbord.  Wind bites your face.  From behind, someone shouts car back.  Woosh!  Pee Ewww.  It’s a garbage truck.  The spray of a puddle splash paints your shins.  You glance down at your heart rate, still 80%.  Oh how cute.  Look, it’s an Alpaca farm.  Better slow for the covered bridge ahead.  Your fingers grab the cold brake levers.  You reach back and pull a strawberry-banana Gu from your jersey pocket.  A dog defends his territory running along the roadside fence. 

That stuff happens on every single ride.  Hundreds of sights, sounds, smells, flavors, and textures envelope your route. 

Getting My Fix For The Rumble of Gravel
When I think about it, I wonder if we choose rides based on their sensory attributes.  Your tired legs might crave an easy bike path ride, but I think your mind might be asking for something flat feeling, the tunnel-like feel of the tree canopy, the sound of the river on your right.  You say you’d rather ride in Northern Kentucky than Ohio today.  Maybe your body is craving the butterflies in the stomach feel of roller coaster hills, the sound of a horse whinny, and a ridgeline view.

It’s been a long time since her last race or big group ride.  Maybe doing Sudoku on the trainer while texting and watching World Cup Skiing isn’t any crazier than calculating the time gap to your teammate in the breakaway and the number of miles to the finish line while you’re in the peloton inches from a wheel in front of you, with your heart rate at 85%, rolling at 24mph, as somebody shouts “left side” as you struggle to grab the wheel of a rival team member zipping up the left trying to make the bridge.  

In case you miss racing...here's a taste of Bikedoku.