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Monday, October 24, 2016

Why So Fancy?

It can be fun to find unusual things at Home Depot.  Just last week (early October) they were setting up their Christmas Decorations.  I should have taken a picture, but I think I did the same thing last year and do not suppose anyone would find this odd.  Plus, I don’t want to be seen taking random pictures in retail stores.  That’s creepy.

Even without a photo, I must have done something wrong because I kept getting strange looks.  I worried my pants might be unzipped or I was wearing a funny hat.  Every so often employee would come up to me and in a slow deliberate tone ask me if I needed help.  A little bit like I was a lost 8 year old.

What gives people?

After my weird shopping experience (light bulbs) I headed over to Luna Grill for lunch.  I love that place.

After I ordered, the cashier looked me in the eye and said “Why so fancy?”

Um, what was she referring to?  I froze then looked to the ground self-consciously and noticed I was wearing a tie.  You know, the ones from old-time movies.  Back when people knew what a suit and tie were.  Back when white collar meant, dress shirt, which meant, suit, which mean necktie.

I looked back up and told her that I worked for a living unlike the rest of the bums in the place.  Ok, no I didn’t.  Instead, I mumbled about meeting with clients and wanting to make sure they knew they were important.  So I dressed up.  She, in turn, gave me a blank stare and handed me my change (yes, I still pay in cash because I am a geezer).

A strange bit of paranoia seeped across me.  It seemed as though everyone in the restaurant was looking at me with bewilderment and anger.  Dead blank facial expressions that seem to say…Who is this strange man?  What country is he from?  What is that red stripped fabric noose doing around his neck?

Call me old fashioned, but I still enjoy putting on a suit and tie.  I’m a rare beast however.  Even the bankers and politicians in town have lost the tie during the summer months.  What is this world coming to?  

Not ten years ago I could go into a store and be mistaken for the general manager.  Now I’m mistaken for a wacko.  Ok, I might just be nuts, but it has zero to do with wearing a tie.  Crazy people have NEVER worn ties.

So, what will you find unusual at Home Depot in early October?  Me.  Wearing a tie and hearing over the loud speaker, “Step right up, folks, step right up.  Come see the man who has mysteriously traveled through time.  You won’t believe your eyes!”


Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Going Home

When friends are going through a difficult time, we hurt.  One of my old buddies sent me the following text message a few weeks back.

“Please say a prayer for my Mum - sad to report that she has terminal cancer and only has 3-6 months!! I’m going home to spend quality time with her and to say goodbye.”

Going home.  Somehow the words bring to mind joyful holidays from the past.  Long overdue gatherings with family.  Or returning home after a semester away at school.  I can’t think of a time when the words carried such a complex range of emotions.  My immediate reaction was deep sadness.  When trying to put myself in his shoes, it was just unbearable.  How exactly does one go about saying goodbye when you know this goodbye is, well, the last one?

I found it hard imagine the thoughts going through my friend's mind on the long overseas flight as he rehearsed their meeting.  What should I say?  I need to be strong.  How much is she suffering?  How can I best be there for her?

Yet, when you get past the initial emotions things begin to look a bit different.  There will still be great joy in the simple reunion of mother and son.  The circumstances are downright awful, but the plan to “spend quality time with her” will be filled with sweet moments of tenderness and probably a decent bit of laughter.  If nothing else it will be filled with unrivaled love.

Reports from the trip to see Mum were upbeat.  He is “so glad” he went.  

Their time together made the goodbye for the last time come too soon.  Isn’t it always too soon?  When we part ways with family and friends, we assume a next time.  When someone dies suddenly we think about the last time and how we didn’t know it would be the last time.  And if we did, what might we have done or said?

By knowing this would be it, they got to say the things they might normally have assumed could be said later.  No doubt my friend gave the comforting message of eternal life through Jesus.  We can be confident of  salvation, but that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier.  A lady from church who recently passed told her family that she was not afraid to die, but she just love them too much to let go.  I found that to be profound.

The hardest part for me is being reminded that I one day will be doing the same.  Saying goodbye for a final time or failing to say something I thought I had plenty of time to say.  So today I pray for the opportunity and courage to say the things I would feel compelled to say at a last time moment.  That I would be bold and let my family and friends know how much I love them.  Because it might just be me getting the call heavenward and I want them to know before I have to let go.


Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Upgrade

Telling you that I had not been looking at new (and used) bikes for a year or more is flat out untrue.  From the moment I discovered that I enjoyed cycling, I was looking for another bike.  Heck, maybe even before I bought my first bike I wanted a cool bike.  You know, one of those sexy triathlon bikes you see them riding at Kona.  Those are way cool.

A triathlon bike might sound to an outsider like what I needed anyway.  I do triathlon.  I should ride a triathlon bike.  Not true and not what I bought.  Please remember that I am only a short course triathlete at the moment.  Sprint races with bike rides of 12-15 miles do not justify a special bike.  Even Olympic distances with twice as many cycling miles renders a tri-bike as overkill.  Do you see them at these races?  Plenty of them.  But unless the course has a lot of long straight sections, it just doesn’t make much difference.

This is why I bought another road bike.  Until I graduate to Olympic distances with an eye on 70.3, I’m sticking with a road bike and keeping the dollars in my pocket.  Not to worry.  Just as I found a way to justify the new road bike, I will find a way to justify a second bike and it will be a triathlon bike.

After doing some research, I decided on a budget and a list of “must have” features.  If I could not find a bike that met the criteria, I would not buy a bike.  At one point I identified another Fuji, the Gran Fondo, that was a fit.  That was soon replaced with a Ridley Fenix that I loved.  It even had Di2 shifters (think digital) which was another notch up the ladder than I had dreamed.  Riddled with uncertainty, I decided to give it a few days to be completely confident in the purchase.  Those days cost me the bike.  I guess there was just one of this model left in the United States and now someone else owns it.

This disappointment led to more than a month of disinterest.  I didn’t want to settle for just any bike.
With the newfound justification conveyed in the previous post, I went shopping again.  I took a broader approach and found that well-known US manufacturer TREK made a bike that on paper sounded exactly like what I needed.  The TREK Domane was in the endurance category.  Like my Fuji, this simply means you don’t lean so far forward in an aggressive position.  It increases air resistance, but is easier on the lower back.  The Domane also has several unique design features that reduce impact and body vibration on rough roads.  Couple that design with a carbon fiber frame and you’ve got one of the least bone jarring rides around.

Bone jarring it turns out seems to be my biggest energy zap.  After the Tour de Italia 50-mile ride I was sore all over for days.  I’m sorry, but there is no chance I’d be able to log 65 miles in a 70.3 race with enough left in the tank to run a half marathon.  I needed a bike to minimized the impact rough roads seems to have on this 48 year old body.

Fortunately, my LBS (local bike shop) had several Domanes with different features.  The Domane 4.5 was in the lower-middle to middle price point and as my wife likes to say “it was on sale.”

So I purchased the TREK Domane 4.5 Disc.  It did not have the digital shifters I dreamed of, but did have disc brakes.  Newer technology on the breaking side of things and some say the wave of the future.  The jury is deliberation on that bold claim.  The bike’s components are several steps up in quality.  Everything from seat to wheels is better quality that on my Fuji.  And lighter.  The key features that made the switch worthwhile are:

Carbon Fiber vs. Aluminum Frame
Shimano Ultegra vs. Shimano 105 Shifters

The shifters just make this bike feel top end.  The 105’s were fine, but the precision and ease of these new ones is amazing.  Heck, the whole bike just feels and sounds solid.  Like an extension of my body.

Will this bike make me faster?  Not noticeably so after the first 150 miles, but a two hour effort last Saturday was very enjoyable.  That’s what I’m after anyway.  Something I enjoy riding and calls my name when the skies are clear.

So, I write these boring posts about my bikes because it somehow helps me justify what I’m doing.  It’s my money, I can do what I want…as long as my wife approves.

Ride in Peace, Rest in Grace


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Goodbye Sweetheart

After three educational years, my first ever road bike and I said our goodbyes over the weekend.  I introduced Fuji to everyone in September of 2013 after plunging head first into the sport of triathlon.    At the end of that month I did my first race.  It still surprises me that I stuck with it after many false commitments.

 While riding more than 3,000 miles in her saddle I learned about cycling.  More knowledge came while doing routine maintenance and changing flat tires.  The metric system no longer intimidates me like a grade schooler.  Fuji made cycling fun.  More fun than I ever expected.

Like many relationships, we parted ways after I moved my attention to another.  It wasn’t an easy decision, but bike envy was winning out.  Fuji’s aluminum frame and entry level features no longer sufficed.  As my races get longer a faster and more advanced bike is appropriate if one can afford it.  The time to get serious about a new ride.

So that she could get out in the open now and again after I acquired a new bike I planned on selling Fuji cheap.  She deserves a home.  It turns out that the secondary market for a three year old starter bike is almost non-existent.  Rather than donate her, I settled on keeping her around to cobble parts off of from time to time.  The saddle is comfortable, tires are new, and the wheels are nice to have as a back-up.

And then...

Over the summer, my son took her out on a few rides.  While on our fishing trip he suggested I get the new bike so he could take Fuji back to school.  It did not take long for that suggestion to take flight.  I’d been shopping on and off for more than a year.  I knew how much more bike I wanted to justify making a change.  Not ten steps up from Fuji, but two or three would provide noticeable improvement.  It was only going to happen if the price point was just right.  Fall months are when dealers start discounting to clear space for new inventory.  So, I suppose you can say the price was just right or I convinced myself it was with this newfound motivation.

So, Fuji and I spent one final ride together before I gave her a thorough cleaning and tune-up.  I walked my son through a brief tour of what was what while showing him how to operate the new bike bump and other gizmos I purchased to make the bike uniquely his.  Once he loaded her in the back of his truck, that chapter ended.

What has happened to Fuji is wonderful.  She went to stay with family and is destined to return to home base once more.  We went through a lot together and being able to gaze at her down the road will bring fond memories.  Heck, I might just take her on a spin if she’ll let me.


Rest in Peace, Run in Grace

Friday, April 29, 2016

According to WebMD

What does one do when you have a tender spot above your left ear for a week that won’t go away?

Much like a bruise, it is only noticeable when touched.  I’ve been racking my brain for causes, but I do not recall bumping my noggin’ and there does not appear to be any redness or swelling.  Maybe an ingrown hair?  Yes, that must be it.  I got a haircut about two weeks ago and maybe something occurred then.

I’ve just ignored it like a regular dude.  Unfortunately, the mystery remains.  I thought about making a doctors appointment, but what the heck are they going to say.  With no other symptoms my guess is they would tell me to take some Advil and monitor it for a few more days.  The moment I left they’d put a big “HYPOCHONDRIAC ”note in my file.  I refuse to be THAT guy.

Yesterday I woke up with a stiff neck and pretty mean headache.  I thought…Hmmmm.  This, whatever it is, must be progressing.  How about calling the doctor now?  Well, maybe, but why don’t you do a Google search first to see what comes up.


Well, according to WebMD it is highly probable that I’m dying.  Possible causes include tumors in my skull or nerve damage caused by an unidentified disease.  Just under those were migraines, infections, and cancer.  And under those were…ingrown follicle and head trauma (bump to the noggin’).

I had a good friend who had a tumor that was only discovered after losing hearing in one ear.  (No worries, he had it removed and is fine).  Symptoms of this type of tumor may include ringing of the ears, loss of balance, and blurred vision.  Well, I’ve had ringing in my ears for as long as I can remember.  Too many rock concerts in the 80’s will do that to ya.  Loss of balance?  Yeah, now that you mention it I am a little more unstable that I use to be.  Blurred vision?  Yeah, not normally, but the friggin’ headache is making everything seem hazy.

So, it is clear, I have something serious.

Should I update my will?  Wonder how much time I have left.  I’d hate to ruin the kids graduations with a silly funeral for their dad.  Man, the office is going to be in quite a pickle when I go.  Wow, I always thought I had more time.

The headache stuck around all night.  Advil was having no effect.  I said my prayers and went to bed.

When I woke up I did a sort of self-check to assess my state of being.  Well, that headache while not gone is much milder.  Stiff neck?  Not so much.

Well, what do you know.  I just might live after all.  Once again, WebMD sends someone off the rails.

[One Week Later - an update for my Mom]

If I focus really hard and press firmly, I can find the pain again.  Of course, if I press that hard on most parts of my body a pain appears.  Yes, I’m just fine.  Still not sure what might have caused it.  I know one thing, I’m not going online to try and figure it out.


Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

2016 Cowtown Half Marathon

Fort Worth, Texas - February 28, 2016

I have no idea why I’m writing yet another race recap from Cowtown.  Let’s see.  Well organized, great course, and good crowd support.  To be honest, I think most of the established races have nailed it.  I run Dallas and Cowtown year after year because they bookend my race season and I can count on a great experience.  And much like Nascar’s season starting at Daytona (the best race of the year), I start my season with Cowtown.

The only wildcard from year to year is the weather.  Generally good for both events with the exception of wintery weather at Cowtown (2015) and Dallas (2013).  This year the weather was not much of a factor.  Even though the temperature rose from mid-40’s to over 60 degrees, the humidity was mild.  If I had to gripe about something, it would be the strong winds throughout the morning.  This made pushing the pace for the miles along Main Street more draining

No need to give a blow by blow recap of my race.  My 23rd half marathon went about as well as planned.  That is, if I had a plan.  I find that these races have become so routine that I do little in advance planning for race strategy.  Strategy for me has evolved into a simple mantra.  Start slow and less slow.  Given that most courses measure longer than 13.1, I know I need to average about 9:00 minutes per mile to break the 2 hour barrier.  So, I try to keep the first half above 9:00 and the second half below.  I continue to run negative splits race after race, but the delta is shrinking.  I fear it won’t be long before age catches up with me and the anticipated second half effort is no longer within my reach.

The other thing I continue to notice is the increased number of the slower runners.  I’ll put my stats below, but being in the top third of participants has nothing to do with me getting faster.  The pool is growing and most are getting behind me.  I’ve written this before, but I point this out to simply say that running is for anyone.  The athletic and non-athlete alike.  All are welcome.  I’m not sure when we’ll reach the tipping point of too many races or too expensive entry fees, but it is nice to see so many out training on a day to day basis.  Keep it up!

Now, it is my time to ramp up the swimming and cycling.  Triathlon season in ON!

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

By the numbers:

1:57:33 overall time (8:58 pace)
1,283/6,326 against the field
896/2732 against Men

118/386 in the 45-49 Age Group

Monday, March 21, 2016

Worried for Nothing

The possibility has always been there.  Inevitability is more accurate.

I went out on a 20 mile ride Saturday and after seeing a bike tube on the side of the road I was reflecting on the fact that I had never had a tire go flat.  In shock at my stupidity I scolded myself for the thought and moved on to other topics.  Yes, I have conversations going on in my head all the time.  No, not the kind anyone needs to worry about…or I don’t think so anyway.

With five miles to go, I heard an unfamiliar sound.  It was a short pop followed by a constant hisssssss.  While the sound may have been new to me, there was no doubt what happened.  My rear tire was going down!

After coming to a quick halt, I unclipped the pedals and turned to feel the wheel as if it might not be flat.  Why I bothered to do this is anyone’s guess.  There was zero doubt what had happened.  I’ve always wondered if I would know when a tire went flat.  The curiosity may seem silly, but I have only had slow leaks in the past. The ones in which you get finished with the ride and notice the tire is low on pressure.  Mystery solved.  Yes, I would know.

The good news is that I carry a spare tube and the necessary tools to change a flat.  This includes the tube, tire levers, and a CO2 cartridge with adapter to inflate the tire.  The bad news is that I have never actually used a CO2 cartridge and only changed a few tubes in the comfort of my garage.  Even though I carried the gear, I was certain that I would fuss with it for 30 minutes and accidentally discharge the cartridge before attaching it to the tube.  It happens.  I saw Chrissie Wellington do just that on the TV coverage of an Ironman.

The inevitability of having a flat was only matched by my expectation to be walking home after the pending failure.

I was blessed to flat near a closed road that had plenty of shade.  This allowed me to walk my bike a bit down the road and sit under the shade of a tree.  The change was going to take awhile so I didn’t want to get too exposed to the elements for fear of death by dehydration or sun exposure.  I was also out of plain view of passing traffic.  It would be embarrassing telling people passing “No thanks, I got this.  Just taking a few hours rest and enjoying this beautiful day.  Thank you..really, I’m fine.”  

This is a common bike route and most folks offer to help a stranded cyclist.  One time I offered to help a guy with a flat and his response was pretty much like the one I anticipated giving.  I rode off and thought to myself, Thank God.  What a curse that would have been for the poor guy.  The one dude out riding who does not know how to change a flat is the one he picks to help.  All the other cyclists perceive it is under control so ride on by.  We would have had to call AAA.

If you read the message boards or keep up with various bloggers, they talk about blowing a tire all the time.  When I started riding I assumed it was as common as armpit sweat.  If you’re gonna ride, it is going to happen and happen often.  This built up great fear within me and almost made me rethink this whole triathlon thing.  Fortunately, I went well over two years without it happening to me.  I don’t ride as much as I should, but tide enough that I assumed they made that garbage up to get people like me off the roads.

The positive thing about a fear is that if you don’t let it cripple you there is a chance to beat it.  I must admit that I watched countless YouTube videos on changing tubes.  Even though they made it look easy, I knew I’d have a 50/50 shot at best of doing it.  Nevertheless, I was prepared to face the fear should…sorry, when faced with it.

After a very deliberate and lengthy effort, I was ready to inflate the tire.  I connected the adapter that allows the cartridge to release gas into the tube.  I took my time and was rewarded with a tire ready to go.  It is a good thing the road was closed because I was visibly celebrating.  Even though the thing could still go flat any moment, I had at least gotten air in the tube.  I could blame a second flat on bad luck, but having to call home for a ride and explain that I was an incapable loser would be unbearable.  Expected, but unbearable nonetheless.

I rode the five miles home and confirmed that the tire was still inflated.  Hot Dog!

I was lucky to have my first flat on a short training ride.  Had I been 20 miles from home on a busy street the pressure would have been much greater.  I’d say that flatting in a race would be even worse, but I don’t think I’d bother to change it.  The race would be shot and as long as they had a sag wagon I would just call it a day.  Guess I won’t know until I get there…and Yes, I know, I know, I will get there.


Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sacrifice

Given the Christian tone of my written musings, one might quickly conclude the message of this essay without reading it.  Let me guess.  Yet another written message of praise for our Savior Jesus Christ.  Yes, the ultimate sacrifice to take away the sins of the world.  And well deserved praise it would be.  However, that isn’t the angle I was aiming for when I heard Reverend Paul Rasmussen define sacrifice as:

Surrendering something you love for something you love more.

Sometimes a word or phrase we have known and used all our lives takes on new meaning.  The definition ingrained in us gets reignited with a spark of truth.

This take on the definition caught me off guard because he used the word LOVE.  Twice.  I could find no other definition that so honestly stated what true sacrifice is really all about.  It is at the very core about love.

Most common definitions state that a sacrifice is giving up something you want for the sake of someone or something else.

There is nothing wrong with that interpretation.  It just fails to answer one very simple question.  Why?  Why would we give up something for the sake of someone else?

Love.

It seems that some people sacrifice more instinctively than others.  I'm not sure whether there is more love in them, more awareness of those around them or simply more surrender.  But it is worth asking yourself the question.  Do I love those around me?  Am I demonstrating that love by putting their needs, wants, and desires ahead of my own?

Therein lies the problem.  We love, but we still want what we want.  Selfless sacrifice is something that takes practice.  Let's get started.

As for the Christian message you were expecting, I can only repeat the final phrase of Rev. Rasmussen’s sermon:

Sacrificing something you love for something you love more is the ultimate way to glorify God.


Run in Peace, Rest in Grace