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Monday, March 31, 2014

If a Tree Falls in the Woods...

I remember my cycling friends telling me for years that I needed to start riding with them.  That I could still run, but riding would be a great way to cross train.  Occasionally, this advise was coming from someone in a sling or nursing scabs.  These injuries a result of a fall while riding.  Even the most skilled riders would tell me that it is not a matter of if you are going to take a spill, but when.

No Thank You!

Unfortunately, when I finally surrendered to this triathlon thing, the bike was unavoidable.  Worse yet, it would be the mode engaged in the longest in any event distance.

I was humbled by the bike quickly.  My deficiencies in certain muscle groups became quite clear.  So I started to work at it a bit.  Still not fanatical, but like I found with swimming it was quite peaceful to be out there just riding.  I soon realized that I had to get the proper gear.  Specifically, I needed to switch to clip-in pedals/shoes which I feared greatly.  I had visions of total panic on my part and being attached to a bike that was headed over a cliff.

My fears were partially realized on Saturday.  Yes, I had my first of likely many tumbles on my bike.

This one, fortunately, I escaped without much damage.  It did, however, come with a fairly high level of embarrassment and shame.

Here’s the scene:

I was approaching a stop light on a 4 lane road.  I slowed to a crawl and moved from curb side to the center lane so that cars desiring to go right may do so.  One hopes to slowly roll until the light changes and then resume riding.  In this case, the light was clearly not going to change in time so as I moved in behind the car stopped in front of me I unclipped my right foot from the pedal.

Remember, I’m still pretty new at this cycling thing, but I’ve done this enough to be able to just unclip one foot (right) and use it to stand on the ground while my other foot remains clipped in the pedal.  Staying clipped in with one foot allows for a solid pedal stroke on the restart which is critical when trying to move through an intersection with cars approaching.

For some reason, maybe I was making eye contact with drives on either side of me, I started to lean left as if to put my left foot to the ground rather than my right.  Obviously, having the right foot unclipped ready to land on the ground only works if you lean the bike to the right.  Once the bike was going left, there was no saving it.


As if in slow motion, I started going down.  Panic.  No time to free my left foot.  No time, even in slow motion, to do anything at all.  I’m not sure if I even attempted to put my hand down to brace the fall.  All I know is I’m laying there on my side at a stop light straddling a bike.  I have a couple of photos…one just before I went over followed by the one snapped from my rear facing helmet cam while feverishly attempting to get back on the bike. (Sadly, these do not capture the event adequately).

Like any red blooded American man, I got up and acted like the whole thing was planned.  I realized that I’d better get my butt back on the bike and moving because the light had just changed.  There I was pressing forward slowly trying get clipped in while the passing cars kindly rolled down their windows asking if I was ok.  I assumed each of them I was find, smiled and again acted like I had just successfully executed some trick one might see in the X-Games.

As I moved along, I laughed at just how humiliating it was.  How stupid that was.  Wait.  Was I injured?  I didn’t think so, but was unsure if the adrenaline was masking something.  I was sure that pretty soon I’d start to realize what part of my body had absorbed the most impact.  Beyond embarrassed, I was cursing myself because I had just gotten over a sore right shoulder that I banged up (doing something stupid) while skiing a month earlier.  It had kept me out of the pool and now I was certain my left shoulder would certainly be no better.

Fortunately, no signs of real injury appeared.  My left hip/buttocks is pretty sore, but mostly from the 20 mile ride.  I’d have to say the only injury came to my ego.

I can really only say how blessed I am that my first accident came while not in motion.  I won’t likely be so lucky next time.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Highlight Reel

There seems to be a trend with the younger crowd these days.  They act like they always need something to do.  Something planned.  Something worth posting on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.  

A guy I work with is always asking what I have planned for the weekend.  When I tell him “the usual”, meaning a few workouts, cook some, time with family and church, he always seems so incredibly unimpressed.  When I dutifully return the volley with a similar question, he rattles off a slew of activities he has planned.  Dinner with so and so, playing golf with this group, heading over to Dallas for such and such…and on it goes.

Returning to the office on Monday, he will inevitably ask about my weekend.  “Nothing, just the normal stuff really.”  He in turn will go through the highlights of his activities; not to demonstrate how much more exciting his life is than mine, but because that appears to be how he measures his own life.  Ranking days or weekends by the amount of stuff worth (in his mind anyway) talking about.

Have you been watching a basketball or football game and immediately after a big play, the players turn and watch themselves in the replay on the stadium video board?  We have become trained to live for the highlights.  To seek awesome moments because without them life is apparently meaningless.

Maybe I’m alone on this, but life just doesn’t work that way.  Life is not a highlight reel.  To stick with the sports theme, there are about 9 hits on average in a major league baseball game.  Nine!  Three hours or more and that is all you get.  Worse yet, the majority of those are singles.  What a snooze fest!  Right?

No, not at all.  Not to me anyway.  Why?

Because there are so many little things that are happening or not happening yet might happen the entire game.  Things that you’ll never see on Sports Center, but make the game what it is to so many people.  It applies to the other sports and certainly to life.  I don’t think we were created to only appreciate the monumental moments in our lives.

Yes, life is boring if you only measure it by home runs and touchdowns.  Yes, another trip to the grocery store or long commute to work is fairly dull.  That’s the point.  Find a way to focus on life in-between the fantastic.  That is where we spend the majority of our time anyway.  Great things are happening in tiny increments in every day of every life.  Learn to love the small things.  Just think how BIG the big things will be if you are already completely satisfied with the ordinary.

That’s it.  Slow down and look around.  Enjoy the moment and then do it all over again and again.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

2014 Fort Worth Cowtown Half Marathon Race Report

Sunday, February 23, 2014 - Fort Worth, Texas

I have started and stopped this review a half dozen times in the past week.  There really is very little to touch on that I have not already covered in previous Cowtown Race Reports.  Actually, I’ve come to realize that most race reports are rather boring.  It is unfair of me to say that.  Ok, my race reports are boring.  Maybe I’ll just hit the highlights (it will still be way too long).

This is an awesome race.  It had a few flaws this year, but overall it was another great experience.  I ran my first ever road race at this event over 20 years ago.  While there have been some not so good years, I think they have an excellent formula at the moment.

Each time they moved the race (From the Stockyards to Downtown to the current local Will Rogers/Stock Show area) I thought it was a bad idea.  Well, I was wrong.  The race is so big now that they need this larger area to pull it off.

The Expo was top notch.  Packet pick-up was slick and there were many vendors.

Race morning for me was routine.  Warmer than I would have liked at 56°F and high humidity, but with the wild winter we’ve had (starting with the cancellation of the Dallas Marathon) I will not complain.  While I do not wish to dwell on it, traffic getting to the venue was downright terrible this year.  This has not always been the case so I am hoping it was due to construction in the area or a one-time issue.  All races should take a few lessons from Texas Motor Speedway.  Admit traffic will be heavy and provide maps showing multiple routes to the venue (including multiple parking options).  Runner’s need not be so quick to criticize though.  If the race has 10,000 participants and 90% of those are trying to arrive 20 minutes before the gun, there is going to be a problem.

I was in Corral 2 out of 8 or so.  I’m not fast, but it shows you that the growth of the sport is in the back of the pack.  I think it is great regardless of their speed.  The corral police were not real aggressive, but fortunately only a handful of people were trying to cheat the system.

The race started on time and their release of each corral allowed things to flow very well.  It was clear after only a few miles that any attempt to surpass my PR from last year’s race would be futile.  Even at a slower pace, I was sweating way too much.  It was going to be critical to get enough fluids.

Aid Stations.  Like any large race, the first several stations were chaotic.  Beyond that they still had issues at several stations.  No reason to dog Cowtown on this issue since they got so much right.

While I’m on the subject, I think there are two things the sport needs to adopt to make aid
stations more efficient.  First, standardize what comes first.  Water or Sports Drink?  They are often randomly different.  Knowing whether you needed to hit the early tables or the late tables would clean up the congestion a bit.  Second, have one dude (preferably with a load voice) telling people there is more at the next 15 tables.  People should know this by now, but the log jam at the first table is always the same.

Crowd support is greatest in the Stockyards, Downtown and near the Finish, but there are no real lonely patches in this event.  The course is diverse and I believe one of the hardest in north Texas.  The hill into Downtown is downright nasty, but a signature of the event.  Only races held during warmer months on hilly terrain can match it.  Yet, I run my best races at Cowtown.  I’ve always been a good hill runner, but the course seems to be perfect for my abilities.

I had hoped to hammer it after recovering from the entry into Downtown, but I was still only able to hit 8:40’s per mile rather than low 8’s last year.  I ended up just riding along in reasonable comfort.  Once I caught the 2 Hour pacer with over 2 miles to go, I was certain I had another sub-2 in the bag.  Official finish time was 1:58:35.  Not bad on the eve of my 46th birthday.

Post race was great.  Very nice looking (and unique) medal.  Another t-shirt and lots of food & drink.

Again, this race is well run and a good value.  If you run it next year, I’ll see you there.

        Run in Peace, Rest in Grace