Friday, June 27, 2014

Friday at 3AM extra. Inspiration.

I've decided it would not be right to take credit for my last post (below) without acknowledging my inspiration for that post:


It's almost TdF time, which means if you're not thinking about CX season you should be. Here's a few pointers to help you get ready even though you may have some road or mountain bike races left.
Get off road - Grab your CX bike and hit the singletrack one day a week. This will help hone your handling skills and get your body ready for the jarring bumps of skinny tires and no suspension off-road.
Get to the core - Core strength is often the difference between finishing strong or fading to the back of the pack. No better time to start strengthening your core than now.
Get on the gas - If you're already racing road or mountain you're probably doing a couple hard workouts a week already. If you're not, time to get out and do a fast group ride, intervals or even a criterium or mountain bike race.
Get out the notebook - Make a list of the races you want to do and your equipment needs for the season and start checking off the list. Cross races can be won in the details, don't leave it until the last minute.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Hop on the G.R.O.N.K.-A-Vator

By Mark Savery.  But not that Mark Savery.  A completely different one.

Hello there.  If you're like me (don't worry.  you're not), you are busy trying to figure out what to do with yourself until September.  Since God is cruel, every year we have to suffer through 3 completely worthless seasons waiting for the only one that matters.  Of course I'm talking about Cross season.

But don't just sit there on your duff waiting for cross season.  It's high time to take your training for the "off" season to the next level.  That's why I developed G.R.O.N.K.  a complete world class training program to ensure that the next time you drink a beer while you're racing, you are in tip top form.

Summarizing my patented FB status, the G.R.O.N.K. system has EVERYTHING you need to become almost as good as me this fall.

G. - Turn on the Gas.
R. - Road?  Get Off it.
O. - Off.  I said off the road, bitch.
N. - Watch "The Notebook"
K. - Core is the Key

In just a minute,  I'm going to explain exactly what the 5 (4 actually, well 3 and a movie) steps are and how they will bring you to max cross fitness.  But first I have another question for you.  Do you hate when the Tour De France is on because it means you only have about 9 weeks of training left before the start of off-season racing?  Well not this year!  This July, while hundreds of gallons of synthetic blood is making its way up the Alps and Pyrenees, You'll be G.R.O.N.K-ing*!

If you're ready, let's start.

G. Turn on the Gas.  I can't overstate this.  By turn on the gas, I don't mean literally.  I mean go for some hard rides and stuff.  The beauty of my program is in its flexibility.  To turn on the gas, you can go for a group ride, do a crit or even a mtn bike race.  I don't really care.

R. (and O.)  Off season Cross racing involves a combination of riding on the pavement, through the grass and even running like an idiot carrying your stupid bike.  Damn.  Running.  I should have made 'Running' the 'R' one.  That makes a lot more sense than repeating the "Off road" thing.  Oh well - anyway - when you ride off road, you will gain the valuable experience of a bumpy ride, if you know what I mean, ladies.  Wink wink.

N. We will come back to 'N'

K.  Core is key.  Actually this one doesn't matter at all.  But you don't sell books telling people to go around "Gron-ing"

Ok, back to 'N' - watch 'The Notebook'.  I love this movie.  Cry my eyes out every Saturday Night.  I have  a big box of rainbow themed tissues right next to the davenport for just this movie.  But how does that relate to Cross Racing?  The harder you sob, the more you'll develop the core muscles.  The constant abdominal spasms of emotion you suffer will be well worth it when you toe it this September.  Plus - Ryan Gosling?  More like Ryan Rawrr!

So that's really all there is to it.  Follow these few simple tips and I'll see you after the Vuelta!  Well, until the starting gun goes off, that is.  Then you'll see me for a while ...

* is not to be confused with the failed internet fad known as 'Gronking'.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

You really should read the link first. I promise. Especially if your name is Travis or Tyler. Or Todd, I guess.

Good thing a picture's worth 1000 words, cause I ain't writing shit tonight.

Somewhere around September 20, 2013, I posted a Friday Extra.  Please go back and read it.  Because this post is about the same person.  Doing the same thing.  But this time, it's personal.

Ok so in case you don't go back and read it, I'm going to rewrite the parts from the last one that are similar enough to this one to let you know that we are all just reading a script.  By the way, this story happened Monday 6-16-2014.  So yes.  Same circumstances, different day.

I got into work at around 7 o'clock Monday because I was itching to find the reason that a certain piece of code was seg-faulting.  At around 7:30, I'm close.  I am zeroing in on the exact scenario that causes the service to eat shit.

By the way, this is not my code.  I've written plenty of code that crashes, but nothing this horrible.  The good thing is that code this bad is easy to improve.  The bad thing is, when you find and fix a bug, you often cause all of the crap after it that was hacked together to make the past mistakes run "properly" take a huge dump.

What happened here is "moron who shall not be named" who is also thankfully no longer with the company, was using a bunch of "C" functions to manipulate "C++" stl stuff.  Not necessarily wrong, but stupid and asking for trouble.

Just as I was homing (honing?) in on the suspect code, a voice jabs its way through my concentration.

I'm madly moving my mouse around, punching out commands and shifting my eyes from one to the other monitor as I see the culprit.  Then Don says, "This kid I know, he rides bikes."

I don't know what it was.  Maybe it was the subject.  Maybe I was curious where this was going since it was not about pirates or donuts.

I was still thinking I could maybe crack the case before Don and I had our little chat, but I knew it was foolishness.  I was actually in a good mood because I knew that I was going to find that stupid bug in a few minutes even if I was interrupted by the always pleasant and conversational Don.

"Yeah,"  Don continued as I shifted my gaze to him.  I was not expecting anything interesting, but he said, "I guess he did a mountain bike race on Saturday or something."

That's interesting.

"Yeah, he must have crashed because he posted a bunch of photos of his back being all scratched up.  His name's Loewens.  Tyler Loewens."

"Travis," I said.  "Tyler was at BRAN".

"He rode a cross bike and ended up 3rd in the race in his class,"  I continued.

"So you know him?"


"Anyway," Don continued, "It's funny because Tyler used to be kind of heavy.  He likes his beer.  But since he's taken up cycling he's lost a bunch of weight."

"Travis,"  I corrected.

"Ok see you later, Steve," Don said.

Then Don walked away to burn some popcorn.*

*If you ever see me post a status update on FB about burnt popcorn in the office, it's probably Don who did it.  Don says he doesn't burn popcorn, but I think he eats popcorn every day, so I'm blaming him.  He usually burns it when I'm just about to solve some programming puzzle.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Collective Soul

Long before I realized that Pearl Jam was the greatest band that has ever been or ever will be, I thought Collective Soul was pretty good.  I certainly liked them a lot more than I liked Pearl Jam back then.

I didn't see Pearl Jam at the Ranch Bowl.  I saw Collective Soul.  It was outside in the volleyball area.  It was roughly 100 degrees out.  My buddy Kevin and I slowly worked our way right up to the front of the stage.  We were drenched with the sweat of the crowd. The show was lots and lots of fun.  The Lead singer guy was continuously dowsing us with ice cold water to keep everything cool.

We cheered and rocked and had a really great time in the frenetic crush of the crowd.

Then a few years later, I saw them again.  It was the first (and only) time I bought tickets for a show to see the opener.  Collective Soul was opening for Creed.  I didn't hate Creed yet, but I didn't care if I saw them or not.  I went with my wife and her sisters.  I was all excited about Collective Soul.  I was telling the girls how at the Ranch Bowl, they opened with my favorite song "Where the River Flows"  which is such a fine rocking good song, it just makes me smile all serene and shit.

Well guess what?  They opened with that same song at the Civic.

After they were done with their set, we all agreed that that was one hell of a great performance.  The lead singer guy is a master at throwing the microphone stand around.  He spins it way high in the air or knocks it over and somehow catches it and brings it back.  All while rocking out quite pleasantly.

Then Creed came out and everyone felt the need to take a shower or confess or something. Anything to get the Creed out. On the way home from that concert we all agreed it would have been perfect if we'd left when Collective Soul was finished.  That was when I started hating Creed.

So Saturday, we went to the Stir Concert Cove to see Creed.  Just kidding.  We went to see Collective Soul.  The Lead Guitar guy looked like he probably wasn't the original since I don't remember any toddlers playing lead guitar at the Ranch bowl.  But the singer, other guitar guy and bass player were probably the originals.

The Gin Blossoms opened for Collective soul.  Even though they're not the guys who sang the "Friends" theme song, I thought they were because every one of their songs sounds like the "Friends" theme song.  In fact, I was hearing songs I recognized, saying, "Now this is definitely the Friends theme song, right?  No?  Hmm."
"Singin, I'll be there for you ..."
Kind of makes me feel foolish that I started that chant,  "FRIENDS THEME SONG!"

Anyway - after that finally ended, Collective soul came out and I didn't even dare to hope that they'd open with "Where the River Flows"

But would you believe it?  No, me neither.  They played something else that rocked pretty hard.  Just not "Where the river flows" hard.

So the front of the stage was kind of crowded, but nothing like the press from before or the time I got to the front at the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Now that was a crush of people.

Here it was all please and thank you.  There was lots of elbow room, but most people understood that you were not to squeeze in front of someone.  It was seen as bad Council Bluffs manners or something.

In any event, I patiently wormed my way up to about the 6th row where I was content.  My friends had made it with me for the most part and we were having a good time.

After Dark, there was a little pushing and shoving going on as the songs got more energetic.  There was the slightest of pressure from all sides, but way less than I was used to.  I had my forearm in front of me because I didn't want to press my chest up against the guy in front of me.

I took this to decide if I should get a different camera before Pearl Jam.  Yeah, I should.  Anyway, all the originals that remain are in this photo.

Then the best song (Where the River Flows) started.  I was pushed from behind in the excitement, causing me to push on the back of the guy in front of me.  He turned and said "Don't push on my back!"

I said, "Yeah I know! This song is fucking awesome!"

He said, "NO!  DON'T PUSH ON MY BACK!"

Oh.  Sorry.  I had forgotten my council bluffs GA Pit manners.  I was ashamed.  From then on, I tried to not make physical contact with this guy in front of me who wants to be in the crowd, but hates being touched (or so I thought).

Here's where I started to realize that the people who go to concerts at Stir Cove need to chill the fuck out and just have a good time.  I mean, let's just enjoy the music and stuff.

After that song, a few people in front of us bailed and we got to about the 4th row.  Then something very weird happened.

There was a guy there with his woman.  They were mid 40s and she was having way more fun rocking out to the smooth beat than any of us.  She was smiling and singing all the words to all the songs.  A true fan.

The guy was about 6'2".  Three young, shortish girls kind of weaseled their way in front of this guy.  I thought, so what?  They're shorter than him and he didn't get pushed back or anything.

Then the weird thing happened.  This jerk tapped one of the girls on the shoulder.  She was surprised.  He bent down and was obviously scolding her for cutting or something.  Stupid.  Anyway, he yelled at them until they left.

I was thinking, geez, that would not be a very fun way to enjoy music.  In fact, it would suck.

So the next thing I did was concentrate on enjoying myself.  I started letting shorter people in front of me, etc.

Then my buddy "Don't touch my back" guy made a fatal error.  He cut in front of that "No cuttsies" douche.

What do you think the guy did?  These weren't little girls.  This was a man.  A decent sized man with a strong back and nice muscular shoulders.  Ahem.

Well "No cuttsies" actually took his hand and grabbed Mike's (that was the don't touch my back, cutter's name) ball cap from of his head and threw it to the ground.

This act caused sort of a confrontation.  They looked at each other for a while.  I was immensely entertained.  It seemed so just.  The two guys who have no clue about crowd dynamics are facing off.  Brilliant.  I felt like Willy Wonka after Charlie pressed that one button on the Wonkavator.  I had no idea where this was going, but I was thrilled with whatever outcome.  I had a great vantage point to this impending nightmare.

But as is usually the case, big guys who pick on little girls will back down in the face of, well a face.

Mike did the "I got my eye on you" thing where you point your index and middle finger at your eyes and then at the eyes of your opponent.  Then Mike, bless his heart refused Douchebag's exhortation that he should go back.  Mike kept dancing.  Powerless, Douchebag and his girlfriend left the crowd in disgrace.

Afterwards, I said to Mike (carefully and without touching him at all) "What a dick that guy was."

"Yeah that hat was more than just a hat to me.  I'm Mike.  I'm from Minneapolis."

Then we all rocked out for a while.  At a lull, I looked down to about where I figured Mike's hat would be.  Miraculously, it was unstomped.

I grabbed it and offered it to Mike.  Then he insisted that I not only touch his back, but give him a big old hug because I had just retrieved the only thing he had left in this world to remember his brother or something. I don't remember what it was exactly but it was pretty damn important.  Also - then why the hell wasn't he looking for it?  Anyway, I'm pretty sure it all ended with a big manly hug.  Or did it ...

My hat came with my USGA membership, so it's pretty important too.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

A Helpful Guide

Do you know Mark Crown?  I do.  Great guy.  He's been commuting every day via the Keystone for at least as long as I can remember.  Before Jack (Age 11) was born, even.  I've had many conversations with him about nothing in particular.  Just a nice guy to chat with as you ride on down the trail.  Also, he laughs a little like Jon Randell.  R.I.P.  Sniff.

Helpful Guide tip #1: Jon Randell is not dead.  He's just resting in peace from cycling.

Anyway, Mark Crown.  A few months back, there was an article in the Omaha World Herald about him.  At that time, I only knew him as "Mark."  One morning, my uncle called me and said to me, "Do you know a guy by the name of Mark Crown?"

"No," I said.

"Well, there's a nice article about how he rides his bicycle (my uncle never calls it a "bike") to work every day of the year.  I figured all you guys know each other."

I thanked him for letting me know about it and started reading the article.  Then I was all, "Oh Mark.  Yeah I know that guy."

"I thought you bicycle riders all knew each other,"  Uncle reiterated.

"I guess you was right,"  I said, in tribute to the way my uncle's best friend (AKA my dad) talks.

Sometimes, the Omaha World Herald wants Mark Crown to blog about his whole "biking year round" and the associated implications.  He's happy to comply.  Turns out, blogging for a newspaper is much different than blogging to try to get your buddies to laugh.  Boobies!

For instance, there's a painful copy editing process that goes on with newspaper blogging.  Also, OWH doesn't want Mark Crown to just blog any old thing whenever the hell he feels like it.  They provide a topic and when they want it.

Personally, I think that's kind of cool.  Also, I think the Omaha World Herald is pretty.

So with all this Mark Crown mania (do you have your T-shirt yet?) around town, everybody wants to join in the act.  Everybody wants to be able to say "Yeah - I know Mark Crown."

Some even dare to dream.  Some are just chomping at the bit for a chance to greet Mark Crown in person.

Helpful guide tip #2: To greet Mark Crown in Person, say "Hi Mark" as your paths cross on the trail.  Congratulations.  You've talked to a celebrity.

"But Cube.  How will I know it's The Mark Crown I'm greeting?" asked the audience.

That's what this guide really is about.  How to tell you are greeting THE Mark Crown and not some fair weather Fred on his way to work at the company.

All bicycle (thanks uncle) riders look pretty much the same.  Except guys on recumbents.  For some reason, guys on recumbents always look like hippy college professors that knew Steve Jobs personally.

I don't know why.  That's just the impression I get when I see that stupid orange flag waving side-to-side.

But every other kind of bike looks essentially the same from a distance.  When someone is approaching me on the trail, I can tell from quite a distance if it is a fit road cyclist or not.  I judge the rider girth and kit and narrow down the possibility of me knowing the person the closer s/he gets.  This is a fun game we all play.  On a recent ride, Barry, Tri-Sam and I saw 3 Greenies (riders in Gin Soaked kits).  One guy and 2 girls.  Barry and I conferred afterward and decided we didn't recognize the guy, but the girls were Kaitlin and Carly (we think).

Now to the Mark Crown identification guide.  If it is really shitty weather out and there is a cyclist, go ahead and say "Hi Mark," as you pass.  It's probably him and if not; who cares?  It's really shitty out.  Why are you talking?

Things to look for to properly identify Mark Crown.

The bike:
 Red Cannondale Cross bike.  This bike is about 1000 years old. It's hard to miss.  Often times these are mistaken for 2002 LeMond Zurich Road bikes that are powder coated a bright yellow, so be careful.  When you see a red cannondale cross bike don't just yell "Hi Mark" until you verify that it is not a yellow LeMond road bike.  I can assure you, this is a common mistake.

The Kit:
Ok, this one is tricky.  Mark Crown always wears a nice Capo Kit.  Sometimes, Fair Weather Fred going to the company also wears a very similar kit.  But usually, he's wearing some mismatched Twin Six crap from about 5 years ago.

The Cargo carrying system:

Mark - Panniers.
Me Fair Weather Fred - Super nice Banjo Bros Backpack.

The Face:
Since the kit is often not much help at all, if you can't tell the difference between red and yellow, you could look at the rider's face.

Mark's face looks like this:

Whereas my Fair Weather Fred's face looks like this:

So that's pretty much it.  Now that this has been blogged you have no excuse.  In fact, after today, I'd advise against going home and bragging to whomever will listen "Guess who I said 'Hi' to today."

Because if it was some droopy looking dude on a yellow bike with no panniers, you said 'Hi' to Fred, not Mark*.  Idiot.

And sceeeeeeeeene!

*Unless it was a guy on a Trek cross bike.  Then it actually was A Mark.  It was not The Mark though.  It was Mark Savery and nobody would believe you if you said you greeted him.  That's a whole different kind of celebrity there.