Worth every penny


Bikes against garage
That bright-yellow behemoth in the front of this photo is sort of a summer project of mine.


I found it last fall at a house down the street, sitting forelornly at the end of a driveway with a hand-scrawled "free" sign hanging from the top tube. I gave it a thorough, cautious, up-close look and, since I'm an idiot who has no idea what he's looking for/at, it looked salvageable to me.


It's a Browning. As in the firearms manufacturer. I didn't even know they'd ever made bikes. (Though I don't know why I'm surprised, since my mother-in-law gave me a Browning barbecue tong set not so long ago.) But, evidently, for a few years in the '70s, they dabbled.


I did a whole lot of scrubbing and a fair bit of lubing. I had Eric run some new cables and a couple of other things. I went and found the crazy-old tire/tube sizes and threw on some new grip tape. That's about the extent of the repairs I did before flippantly determining this thing (I haven't yet settled on a nickname for it. Given the shotgun angle to it, I'm leaning toward Ol' Betsy.) "road worthy."


Corinne and I went out for a ride. Aside from the fact that, no matter what gear I put it in, it's going to find its way back to its "favorite", it went pretty well. So a few days later, we tried it again. Nothing ambitious, just a 9-mile loop.


Action photo
Beautiful night. Glorious, relaxing ride (as illustrated by the rolling, action photo above). Until…


Flat tire Crap. Flat tire. And, of course, if you were to geometrically bisect our 9-mile loop, that tire blew at the exact mid-way point. So Corinne took off to finish the ride and come back with the truck to pick me up. Here she is taking her phone and stuffing it into her sports bra. (That jersey's hot, and I don't care that it doesn't have pockets.) Lucky phone.


Phone in bra Away she went. And there I was. Hoofin' it.


500 miles
Oh well. It was a perfect evening and I got to take a nice, peaceful walk (until Corinne caught back up to me). Can't complain about that! Yep, that bike's worth every penny I paid for it.


Pushing by hand




“Nenikékamen”


And with that single utterance to the people of Athens, "We have won," Pheidippides collapsed and died from exhaustion.


Or so the story goes.


Ol' Pheidippides and I; we're kindred spirits now. Sure, he ran his from the plains of Marathon to the city of Athens after fighting all day in full armor while I ran mine through the streets of Fargo (and Moorhead, don't forget Moorhead) after sleeping in the back of my truck. But basically it's pretty much the same deal. And it's kind of a big deal.


I'm a "marathon runner" now. I love that I can say that. And I love that I'll always be able to say that, even if I never choose to do this again.


Race results
Brace yourself, this is going to be another long one. I'll try and break it down with some subheads so you can just pick what (if anything) interests you!


Lodging


Races like these are trouble. But without logistical support, they'd be even more trouble. And no one is more supportive than Corinne. She's awesome.


There were 23,000 people signed up to run in Fargo this weekend (bunch of different races) and it seemed like every one of them except me remembered to book a hotel room. Fortunately my wife was able to find a space at what was either a former KOA or a former beet farm (or both).  Crappy road


So Friday night I wedged my Expedition between a rusty fire ring and an anemic maple sapling and we were home for the night. 


Truck camping


Training


My training was, again, less than it should have been. (I've got to stop doing that.) I did the Earth Day Half Marathon last month. I did a 10-mile run a couple weeks ago and an 8-miler the week after that. This past Monday I ran to work, so there's 9. Beyond that, I woke up and did 10k a couple of mornings here and there. Last year at Earth Day I ran the 20-miler. That's the longest I'd ever run. So once I reached that point in the race I knew I'd be in uncharted territory. And I was.


Nutrition


On Friday night, after we got into town and picked up my packet, we figured we'd better get something to eat. We stopped at an unassuming little sports bar called Labby's. If you're ever in Fargo I suggest you do your best to avoid it. Since it took approximately an hour to get my cowboy burger, I was logistically forced to have a second beer.


In the morning I was better. I had a banana and a Clif bar to go along with my can of Diet Coke.


Running


I've heard it said that a marathon is really two races. There's a 20 mile race…and then there's that last 6.2. Believe that. It's absolutely true.


The race had pace runners (which is a totally fantastic concept). I found the 4-hour goal time guy (that's 9:10 minute miles, in case you're wondering) and just hung with him.


Six miles? Feeling really good and almost exactly on pace. The halfway point? Still feeling pretty good, all things considered. After that came the 14-, 15- and 16-mile marks. Joints starting to get a little worn down – primarily my hips. By the time I hit 17 miles, I was beginning to realize that I wasn't going to make it the whole way with my pace runner. But realizing that and giving in to it are two different things. So I hung on gamely. He'd start getting some separation from me…and I'd reel him back in.


We went on that way until the 20-mile mark. After that, as the yards between us started to grow, I knew there was no comeback left in me. At that point it became a game of goal revision.


My 4-hour goal was bounding up the street, out of my reach. I needed to come up with a new goal quickly because, if I didn't, my brain was going to start playing with the idea that maybe "finishing a marathon" is a noble goal.


The problem with that is that "finishing a marathon" was never in doubt. I was absolutely going to cross that finish line. No question. So, out on that course, that meant that accepting "finishing a marathon" as my goal was the same as "giving up." I had tried my damndest for my 4-hour goal – and, for 20 miles, I'd been right there. But that wasn't going to happen. So what was going to happen?


I started with "RUN an entire marathon."


That sounded good, but I knew that still left me with a lot of wiggle room. So I eventually modified it to, "run the whole thing, and finish without getting caught by the 4:15 group."


That worked. I did it. I know it wasn't pretty. I could tell by some of the poignantly sympathetic looks I started getting from spectators along those last couple of miles. A few hundred yards from the finish, they had a camera that played video on a big screen alongside the road and also on the jumbo screen inside the Fargodome (so spectators could watch and prepare for when their special someones were about to come in) and I saw myself onscreen there. So I know it was ugly at the end.


But I did it.


Injuries


I was pretty worried about chafing. For that reason, I diligently lubed up my crotch and my nipples. Mission accomplished there. No problem. I forgot, however, to lube up my armpits. I'd never really had any problem with armpit chafing. That was a mistake. I'm pretty raw.


Other than that, not too much to report. Most of my toes are a little blistered, but nothing painful or traumatic. My right pinky toe is fairly bruised up, but no biggie. My wrist was a little bloody from my watch rubbing on it. Whatever.


Afterwards


I've never felt closer to passing out after a race than I did in Fargo. It didn't help that the finishing chute went on forever and then, when you did get out of the chute, you had to fight your way through the crowd and up two flights of stairs to get out of the building. So Corinne took me by the hand and guided me as I wobbled along the trek toward a door and a soft patch of grass right outside that door. I collapsed in a heap there and waited while Corinne ran to get the truck and pick me up so we could leave. I didn't even wait around to get my official time. Marathon finish


It didn't seem to matter at the time. I'd done what I came to do. I had the shirt. I had the medal… And I had my wife to do the driving on the way home. I was a happy, tired guy.




Driven… To the brink of insanity


IMG_0032


Last week at church they showed a video clip of the guy from whom I ripped off the title of my blog. His name's Mark Gungor. And his premise is basically that men's and women's brains are just constructed differently.


Funny and accurate. We're constructed differently. It's not good or bad. It just is.


Don't believe it? Try planning a bike ride.


 


MEN


Eric: We should do that Tuesday Night Time Trial next week.


Me: Next Tuesday I'm supposed to go out to dinner with Erin. But the chances are really good that she's going to blow me off. If she does, let's do it!


Eric: When do they start? 5:30 or 6?


Me: 5:30.


Eric: Okay.


Me: Cool.


 


WOMEN


Me: Corinne and Paulette were going to go for a ride tonight, but Corinne wasn't feeling well, so they bagged it.


Eric: Yeah, I heard about that. I made the mistake of asking Gina if she was going along.


Me: What happened?


Eric: She said, "I wasn't invited." She's a little bit hurt.


Me: Corinne was just the opposite. She kept asking me, "Why is Paulette asking ME to go for a ride?"


Eric: What did you tell her?


Me: I said, "For starters, there's the distinct possibility that she enjoys your company, since you two are FRIENDS. But, beyond that, didn't you just tell me two days ago about the conversation you and Paulette had about how great it would be if there was a women's group ride that just went out to ride at a nice, slow, casual pace?"


Eric: Oh, THAT's why they didn't invite Gina.


Me: Right. So Corinne says, "So is Paulette saying I'm slow?" I said, "No, she's saying perhaps you might like to go for a no-pressure, slow ride." And she says, "That means she thinks I'm slow." I said, "But you DO want to go for a nice, no-pressure, slow ride." She says, "I know that. But she didn't have to call me slow. I think she just called me fat, too. And why didn't she invite Gina or Rebecca?" And here's where I made my big mistake.


Eric: Uh oh.


Me: I said, "Because they ride faster. There's nothing good or bad about it – they just do it more often." And she says, "You just called me slow and fat, too."


Eric: Careful.


Me: And I said, "No I didn't. Look, you like to go out and just pedal around casually. Rebecca is more driven to ride races."


Eric: You dumb shit.


Me: So she says, "What? I'm not driven? I do X, Y and Z at work…" And I tried to correct myself…


Eric: But it was too late.


Me: I said, "Of course you're driven at work. You're amazing. You're a rock star. But I'm talking about riding bikes here," And she says, "No we're not, we're talking about whether or not I'm driven." And I tried to point out that you can't be driven in all possible directions simultaneously. There's no such thing as universal drive.


Eric: How'd that go?


Me: We ended up discussing the definition for the word "driven" and I admitted that I was completely and profoundly wrong and had chosen the absolute wrong word.


Eric: Nice try. So are they going to go for a ride or what?


Me: I think so. Someday. They haven't set a date yet.




I’m not buying it yet


Twins beer
 
Okay bandwagon jumpers, I'm not buying it yet. Liriano's no-hitter could be the spark that ignites this team. And then they follow it up with another win this afternoon? Still, I'm not buying it yet.


In fact, I'm going to have a beer tonight. (No special occasion. I just happen to like beer.) But I won't be drinking it out of a Twins pint glass.


That's right. I'm announcing right here – for all the interweb to see – that I am hereby taking my Twins pint glasses out of the freezer and putting them up on the highest shelf. I'm removing them from the starting rotation.


They shall not touch another hoppy drop until the Twins go on a winning streak. I'm not asking for much here. I'm realistic about this team's short-term prospects even if I can't get excited about two games. (Two games does NOT count as a "win streak".) Just give me a three-game win streak. One little win on Thursday at Fenway and I'll fill you back full of foamy happiness, Twins glasses.


See what kind of influence you have with the boys. Rally cap and I are about shot.




Shhh. Listen. You can actually hear me getting fatter.


Photo


I haven't gotten in a legitimate workout in over two weeks.


I can literally feel the bacon and ice cream knitting themselves into some sort of gelatinous, chemical/biological equivalent of a packing pillow. (On the plus side, my internal organs should be safe from any blunt-force trauma.)


With each passing day my muscles continue to atrophy like a snowbank in the springtime.


I can hear the gods of triathlon laughing – mocking me. I can taste the sand that they continue to kick in my face.


It's disgusting. No more.


This two-week lingering cold? I'm done with it. I've decided it's all in my head now. I'm going to start powering through it.


This monstrous two-week (and counting) freelance editing project? The hammer will fall. I'm pushing hard, pushing through and finishing this thing so I can get back to regular life (and so I can get paid in time for our spring break trip to Phoenix!).


This two-week (and a whole lot more counting…) new-dog experience? Um… That one's going to be a bit more problematic. This dog needs exercise. Lots of exercise. So I've been taking her on two walks a day – during my two most likely workout times each day – just to keep her from going crazy and becoming destructive. In a few months I can just turn those walks into runs. (I know she can hang.) But I'm not into icy runs. I've done too much slipping and sliding over the years. Sick of it. I don't do it anymore.


So maybe it's going to take some super-extra-early mornings in order to get Bijou (and Shouko!) some exercise and then get myself on the bike or over to the pool.


One way or another, something's gotta change. Race season is coming and I've got some goals for this year. (At this point, one of them is just fitting into my gear.)




Don’t shoot – I’m not THAT horny


 


Snowbike
"Greg, why did you jump off the roof with an umbrella?"


"Um…I wanted to see what it'd be like."


"Dude, you put a pound of hamburger in with a full box of mac & cheese and then ate the whole thing? Why?"


"Um…I wanted to see what it'd be like."


It snowed this weekend. But mountain biking over lunch still sounded like a good idea.


And it was…for the most part.


The trail was wet and muddy, but clear of snow. In fact, that part was really fun because roots and logs were still frozen and really slick. It made for some nice little east/west detours along my north/south adventure.


I certainly didn't get cold. I had on two layers top and bottom and I was wearing the hat I still haven't returned to Eric. Plenty warm. So everything was great. I was alone with my thoughts. And they went a l'il sumthin' like dis:


Ha! No other tire tracks on the trail today. Nobody else is hardcore enough to be out here on the trail in the middle of November. They're all hunkered down inside, where it's warm.


They'll probably call me crazy when they see me, but secretly they'll be hating themselves for the weak, cowardly lowerdowns that they are. I really shouldn't feel so superior. I should just carry about my business in quiet humility. I think my superiority will just be self evident.


Nope. No tracks on the trail at all today.


Except those deer tracks.


Deer tracks.


Deer tracks? Something about that should be registering in my brain.


Where did Corinne and Josh go yesterday?…


Photo Photo[1]




 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


Hey, it's deer hunting season!


Hmm… That's potentially troublesome.


But I'm in town. This is in city limits, isn't it? Can't discharge (tee hee) a firearm within city limits, right? Or is this in city limits? Actually I don't think it is.


Damn. But I'm right next to the city compost site. There's a whole bunch of city workers right over there…in flourescent yellow reflective vests.


Damn. But nobody would really be hunting in here. There are no deer out here.


Deer 1a


Damn. Damn. Damn! Okay. Time to get out of here. Gotta look as undeerlike as possible…


Damn you, God! Why did you bless me with such preternatural style and grace?!


Damn you, Italy! I'm wearing my House of Pizza jersey. Why are the colors of your flag green, white and red instead of green, white and blaze orange?!


Damn you, Brandon Testa! Why the hell do you own a (truly fantastic) pizza restaurant instead of an Irish pub? Those Irishmen have the green, white and blaze orange thing going just fine! Or, better yet, why don't you own some kind of Dutch restaurant? (Oh man, I love me some Dutch food.)


You know, every hunting season you hear about SO MANY idiotic accidental shootings. If you're shooting at something that turns out not to be a deer, you obviously don't have that great a sight line and hitting it must take a really great shot. So why is it that all utter morons are excellent marksmen?


Don't shoot, morons! No rack on this guy.


[Worth noting: At no point in this ride did the idea of cutting out, getting off the trail and leaving without finishing the whole loop ever even register in my mind.]


 




Thank God for better offers


On the evening of Friday, June 16, 1994, my friend Scott Hyland stopped by the house. I don't remember if it was an unannounced drop in or just a quickly planned visit. I just remember it turned into a fantastic evening filled with good conversation, laughter, music and a couple of beers. And at the end of the evening, I was very glad he'd come.


The next day I was even more glad.


Because, for those of you who don't remember, June 16, 1994, was the evening when Al Cowlings drove his friend Orenthal James Simpson very slowly around the greater Los Angeles area for about two hours, followed by about 20 police cars and the eyeballs of every sad loser in the world who didn't have anything better to do on a Friday night than watch "breaking news" on TV.


If Scott hadn't come by, I'm pretty sure I would have been one of those losers. So thank you, God, for presenting better offers.


Last night was a similar deal. Some friends had a get together. Corinne (my completely insane wife…but that's a different story) and I attended and enjoyed a wonderful evening of talking, laughing, eating, drinking and enjoying weather that can't accurately be described as fall.


And one of the key advantages of this particular gathering on this particular evening was that it included no baseball fans. So it saved me the weeping anguish (or, even worse, resigned apathy) of watching this.


(sigh)


I just need to let go. I need to revise my expectations and clarify what baseball should mean to me. I should define the value that I find in baseball and eliminate the excesses that can evidently only lead to heartache.


Moving forward, baseball to me will be:



  • An optimistic and eagerly anticipated sign that; when spring training starts, spring is on its way.

  • An enjoyable radio soundtrack to a summer Friday evening barbecue or a Sunday afternoon garage project.

  • A beautiful way to blow a bunch of money at least once a year on tickets, parking and overpriced concessions.

  • Something to fill the sports scene until the NFL season has a chance to get into full swing.


I won't have any October expectations from Minnesota baseball in the future. I won't. I can't.


So thank you, Gina and Eric, for offering me a distraction last night. And thank you, Twins, for helping to make my summer great…but my fall miserable. (Don't you know that last part is supposed to be the Vikings' job?)