Monday, June 28, 2010

Droogs: Assemble the Durango

TEAM FISH is now up to three riders. My brother Pat is in, saying he is going to ride the 70 mile loop. Pat was part of the original Team Fish and has ridden this every year with me. The fact that he is doing the evnt after the recent birth of his twins has me even more stoked than normal. I think we should put them in baskets on the front of our bikes, but somehow I don't see his wife, being the more sensible type, allowing it. Still, though....

Additionally, my buddy Kurt, is in for his third consecutive year. Readers of this blog and followers of the event might recall The Epic Strudel War, between Kurt and I. This year I plan on laying off the strudel...starting tomorrow.

If you want to join us, you can CLICK HERE: we'd love to have you.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Training Ride

What is it like on a Fish training ride? If you're a rider, I suspect a lot of this is going to sound familiar, in one way, shape or form. If you're not a rider, perhaps this will give you a little insight. Or, at least a frame of reference. Or leave you scratching your head.

Mile 0
I rode out of the driveway and did the loop up to the top of my neighborhood. About 300 yards into the ride, I saw a wasp flying across my path. Wasps and other stinging insects are not typically a concern unless they get stuck in your helmet or behind your glasses. This little guy was zipping along at seat level so I didn't give him a second thought. Until he hit my leg and stung me. HOLY CARP! It hurt so bad I had to pull over and see what had happened. There was a single red spot, and a quickly expanding series of red tendrils, like one of those World War II movies where they show Germany taking over Europe and Hitler's armies are shown in rapidly moving red arrows. Except it was on my leg. I thought some water might cool it down and I looked down and realized I had forgotten my water bottles. This is enough of a problem on a regular day, but it was 95 degrees out, not to mention I had just been dive-bombed by a Stuka-wasp. I turned around to get my water bottles, determined to continue forward. I went home, grabbed my water bottles and left the house for the second time. I still had not reached my first mile.

Mile 3
I have a couple of early-season marks of fitness that enable me to benchmark where I am. Most of them are related to hills, inasmuch as I can see that I am in decent shape if I can reach the top of this hill or that hill without being totally gassed. This circuit has one particular hill early in, and I climbed to the top with relative ease, a good sign for me. The only real difficulty I encountered was the throbbing in my right leg, the wasp-sting now resembling a map of Greenland, or the aforementioned WWII map, Hitler using his Stuka-wasp and now having conquered the entire region.

Mile 8
There is something about riding past a manufacturing plant for making dog food. If you're a pet owner, you know the smell when you first open the bag of food and it kind of jumps up into your face. Yeah. It's a lot like that. Only bigger, and therefor worse.

Mile 11
There is usually a point where the ride goes from uncomfortable to comfortable. Your legs get under you, your body adjusts to the position you're in, and you just start spinning. For me, this happens around mile 10, most often. I'm not sure why it is, but it's been this way for as long as I have been riding distances. This ride was no exception.

Mile 20
One of my favorite parts of riding is going past the Yellow Breeches, a world-famous limestone trout-fishing stream. It's lined by trees that overhang the stream, and also line the road that runs next to the stream. The road itself always has the feel of fresh pavement, clean and smooth, and it's a place where people often sprint on the club rides to showcase their mojo ("I'm Thor Hushovd!" "I'm Mark Cavendish!") and blow a little of the carbon out. Similarly, I used it for a place to raise my body's lactic acid threshold, a measure of how well the muscles move the acid out and away from your muscles. It's this acid that, when it builds up, produces the burn that athletes feel at high levels of exertion. By the end of this stretch, my legs are burning. I settle into a nice recovery spin.

Mile 26

I pulled into the local Sheetz, a convenience store that's good for a bottle of Gatorade and to fill up the water bottles with ice. I usually go to the little shop in Boiling Springs, but once Summer hits, they seem to run out of ice at the soda machine. The temperature was now in the high-90s, so I didn't want to chance missing out on the ice. At the Sheetz, the woman asked me absentmindedly, "How are you?" then realized I was a spandex clad, sweat-soaked, disheveled mess. She literally looked me up with a mix of confusion and horror as I replied, "I've never had a bad day in my life." The ice was a God-send and it cooled me off just in time.

Somewhere between Mile 26 and Mile 54
The truth of the matter is, a good deal of time spent in the saddle is pretty mindless stuff, relatively speaking. So what does one do with all of that time? Some of it is spent watching the road (don't hit that pothole) or the wildlife (hope that squirrel stays over there) or the wildlife on the road (wonder what happened to that Opossum?). I also tend to spend quite a bit of time thinking about people, particularly those in need of prayer. I thought a lot of time thinking about Collin and his family. I thought a lot about Mrs. Fish and the Li'l Fish, who were down visiting my mother-in-law who is in declining health. I also spent time wondering what my friend Bill is up to in Iowa, about cancer, about my fight, and about Team Fish, which is now TWO MEMBERS STRONG! I think a lot about the things for which I am thankful, especially my health and my family.

Mile 54
I cramped. Or, more specifically, my quad cramped, in the exact spot the wasp-sting occurred. I'm not sure the two were connected, and I suspect it was more a function of the heat and humidity. I was halfway up the final hill on the way home and my leg cramped so badly I had to pull over (before I fell over) and stretch it out. I got off my bike and tried to stretch my leg straight, but couldn't, then tried to bend it and couldn't. I laid down on someone's lawn and chugged the last of the Gatorade, hoping the electrolytes and potassium would be enough to stop the cramps. Minutes passed and the cramp subsided. Eventually I was able to stand. "Well, there's only one way home," I thought and hopped back on and pedalled up the remainder of the hill and the rest of the way home.

Mile 57
Cool shower and a big bowl of pasta. Life is sweet. Life is good.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day

At 43 (when did THAT happen), I realize I look at my time with my father as more of a series of snapshots than a continuum. Maybe it's part of the natural acceleration of time, Einstein's relativity at work. I remember fishing with my Dad, going to the local lake to cast for pike and bass, but ending up with sunfish, then trying to convince myself they tasted good. They don't, but my father never discouraged me. On this, I wish he had.

I remember when my brother and I were about eight, in a time when kids owned the streets and could actually be outside without checking in every 30 minutes. There was a group of teenage bullies who took my brother and me by surprise while we were riding and grabbed our bikes, then threw them into a stream. They laughed and chased us away. We walked home and told my dad, because if Dad couldn't fix it, the world was broken for sure. He piled us into the family car and we drove over to where the bullies were still sitting. I never saw my father move as fast as when he set upon those kids, nor have I seen that kind of fury. He picked the two of them up and literally threw them into the stream to retrieve the bikes, then made them apologize to my brother and me. We never saw them again.

I remember playing soccer and running track in high school, and though my father worked a lot in those days, there were times when he would just show up, often at away meets. I was an average soccer player at best, but I was something of a standout in track. One day my father showed up for a match against Palmyra, and I had the best run of my life, anchoring the 4x400 and catching a guy who had about an 80 yard head start. I was so proud my father saw that, and though he probably doesn't remember, the fact that he was there is what keeps it with me today.

One day, he took my brother and I to work (this was before the whole Take Your Kids to Work day) I was about 13. He was building the Fort Dix high-tech military simulation center, a place where soldiers could learn the finer points of using the Army's latest weapons in a simulated environment. Think: video game where you actually get to sit in an M-1 Abrams and laser site an enemy tank. One of the simulators was an M-16 firing range, and my dad asked my brother and I if we wanted to shoot it. We're young teens and your asking if we want to shoot an!!! He instructed us to keep both our eyes open, showed how to hold the weapon, how to squeeeeze the trigger. My brother was pretty good, then I got on it and hit the target at the farthest range, popping the target with multiple body shots. I was feeling really proud of myself when Dad said it was time to go. My brother and I asked him to ry before we left but he declined. Still, we begged him and whined and he relented and said he would. My brother and I chose the farthest target for him, naturally. I never thought of my dad as athletic or powerful, but he picked up the M-16 with a natural fluidity, shouldered the weapon with the grace of a big cat and squeezed the entire clip, one shot at a time, into the inner circle of the head at the farthest range. Then he placed the weapon at rest and said, "Okay, who wants some ice cream?" The whole affair took less than 4 seconds but I think it took my brother and I another 4 days to pick our jaws up, to reconcile ourselves to the fact that our father, a normally gentle man (bullies notwithstanding) had the capability to be a stone-cold killer.

When Mrs. Fish and I got engaged, my father went out and bought a tennis bracelet to present to her at our engagement dinner. It was one of the most thoughtful things I have ever seen a man do, and for his kindness I am eternally grateful. Being in my family is certainly not easy, but my dad made the effort that eased that transition for Mrs. Fish to become part of the family.

There are a million things my father taught me, showing me how to drive, change a flat tire and change the oil (there was no Jiffy Lube back then); how to bait a hook, catch a fish and gut it; how to season (less is more with good beef) and grill a proper burger; how to mow a lawn and how to maintain the mower; how to shine my shoes...and why it matters (the first thing a woman notices are your shoes); the importance of being on time; how to fix a bike and lube a chain; how to be a Boy Scout and make a Pinewood Derby winner (I still have the trophy, Dad); how to paint a room; and a thousand other things, besides. But most importantly, Dad taught me the importance of being a father myself, to not take it lightly, and also, frankly, to really enjoy being a Dad. Thanks, Dad...for everything.

Monday, June 07, 2010

The Shop...

I have a local bike shop (LBS in cycling parlance). My LBS is World Cup Ski and Cycle. When I went to buy my first bike, they were the ones who sized me up to make sure the bike fit properly. For those of you who ride, you know how important fit is. For those of you who don't, a good fit is like that baseball glove you owned when you were a kid and used every day to play catch with your buddies. And a bad fit? A bad fit is kind of like this...

So anyway, one of the cool things is that I have been dealing with the same guys (Lee and Dave own the joint). When my first bike got run over in a hit and run, they were the ones who empathized with me, recommending voodoo hexes on the jerk that sent me to the hospital. Then they sold me the Cannondale that is my current steed, which has been a great, great ride.

And, when I walk in, they treat me properly. Better than properly, actually. Last week, I had an unexpected rattle in my bottom bracket, which is where the pedals connect through the frame of the bike. It's a place where rattles should not be. Ever. It's a place that, when there is a rattle, bad things can be happening. So I took the Cannondale over thinking it was going to be bad. Very bad. Like, possibly expensive bad. Which would not sit well with Mrs. Fish, either.

"Where are you going?"
"Over to the bike shop."
Why don't you take Li'l Fish with you?"
This is code for "Why don't you take my spy with you."
I always take her anyway, because Li'l Fish likes Buck, the shop dog.

So anyway, I walk in and Lee is there. He says hello and asks what's going on. I explain about "Unexpected Clunk". He gets his tech guy and they take my bike in. Right away. Five minutes later they wheel it back out, and test ride it. Clunk free. He charges me $5.00 and off I go. That's why I do business with World Cup. Just a bunch of decent guys doing good work. If you're lucky, you have a bike shop like this near you.