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Friday, May 29, 2009

The "Memorial Day" Mules Pt 1

Last Sunday me and my fellow "Mules" decided to push our riding endurance to a new level in our attempt to ready our selves for the "Hotter than Hell 100" later in the year.
Our route took us from a suburban neighborhood on the outskirts of Houston to the rural town of Bellville in Austin County and back, a total distance of 108 Miles. It was a perfect start as we left Houston at 06:30 under clear skies with a slight head wind that steadily increased during the course of the morning. By the 30 Mile marker we were were averaging 20mph but that soon changed as our scheduled water stop at a familiar "Taco Shack" was closed and we had to endure the last 23 miles into Bellville in a highly dehydrated state, knocking our average down to 19mph. (we did not make the same mistake on the home leg)

Left to Right:
Kenny "5 Hour Energy" Rhame
Andy Brickell
Myself - Holding the commemorative Poppy
Sean Lloyd
David "Waffles" Hill
Apart from the incentive of one of the "Hills" famous hamburgers I asked my fellow riders "The Mules" to consider the ride a Memorial one, and to carry pictures or mementos of people they wanted to remember or honour in our cycling effort.
Mine was an easy one as I carefully wrapped up:

  • The last picture taken of my father and me just before he died of cancer a couple of years ago. (L-R Paddy,Dad, Andy, Phil)
  • A WW1 "Great War" Medal of my Great Grandfather

  • Poppy Commemorative Cross from Westminster Abbey
My Father was a my real hero in life, but it really did not become that evident until after he passed and I really started to miss him.

He served his country well as a Squadron Leader in the Royal Air Force, and made a real commitment to follow his dreams and goals and live life to the fullest.
He bravely completed two transatlantic crossings with his wife Sue in a small 36' yacht, competed in the World Masters Laser competitions all around the world, and loved to spend as much time on a bike as possible.
Spending time around bikes became a great retirement challenge for him and he always encouraged us to take up the sport.
It certainly rubbed off on all of us!
Both Phil and I are avid cyclists and our younger brother Andy owns a bike store "Cycleheaven" in York where he actively campaigns and promotes safe cycling.
Our step sister Sare keeps us in check with her own fantastic cycling endeavours in South Africa and in so many ways cycling has brought us all together. We miss you Dad!!!

Its my goal to complete 100 miles every Memorial day to keep our loved ones Memories alive and to remember those who have sacrificed theirs.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Survivor - Junk in Cycle Lanes

Last week my twin brother wrote a great blog entitled Snakes and Ladders. The theme of the blog was based on the ups and downs of training and the frustration it can sometimes bring. The irony of Snakes & Ladders was not lost on me or probably any cyclist who adorns the roads of Texas.

Just today I saw a Texas Copperhead which decided to venture out onto the asphalt just as I was taking a drink. If that wasn't enough I can't recall a day that I don't see a ladder or two neatly brushed aside of the road into......YES!!! you've got it the cycle lane.
I used to ride with one spare tire but now I am practically a Michellin Tires shareholder. Its absolutely amazing what you see in the road when your cycling...... apart from the "Snakes and Ladders".

When I was a sixteen and living in Singapore my brother Phil and I went on a Jungle survival course with the ANZUK Forces. It was an amazing experience for a teenager and very similar to what we have been subjected to on TV for the last 6 years on American TV
  • "Survivor 6!"

  • "Survivor Strikes Again"

  • "Return of the Survivor"
You get the idea!!!

Unlike the Survivor series we were left to fend for ourselves without the smiley faced "Jeff Probst" coming out of the bushes and telling us we had to have a tribal council.
The thought occurred to me today in my solitary semi-delusional heat impacted state as I reached my 40 mile marker.
What if I were stuck on a desert Island? ...or in some desolate jungle?
Could I possibly survive with just the junk I pass on my rides?

Lets see now:

Ladder - For collecting coconuts, collecting palm fonds, bridging rivers
Mattresses - Certainly an upgrade to sleeping on Palm Fonds
Plywood - To build my palatial abode (Of course we all know there are nails on the road)
Lawn Furniture - To set up a bridge table to play cards with the monkeys
Sod - To landscape around my Palatial abode
Lawn Tools - Weapons of mass destruction (If you knew my gardening skills you would know)
Potted Plants - Something to talk to

Tell me what interesting items you've come across to add to my "Survivor Island?

Many moons ago while sailing around the Caribbean I had a favorite place to hang out which very much resembled the type of Palatial Palace that can be made of junk called "Bomba's Shack" Bomba essential built his establishment on any scraps of driftwood or junk that washed up in Cane Garden Bay.
Unfortunately there aren't too many Bomba's in the world to pick up after us! so lets keep it clean out there.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Cheetah is fast But !!!!

A couple of months ago I was suffering from insomnia and found myself watching a documentary in the early hours of the morning revealing the fastest animals on the planet. The results were fascinating, especially number 10 which is now firmly etched in my brain.

1. Cheetah (Speed in mph :70 )
2. Pronghorn Antelope (Speed in mph :61 )
3. Wildebeest (Speed in mph :50 )
4. Lion (Speed in mph :50 )
5. Thomson's Gazelle (Speed in mph :50 )
6. Quarterhorse (Speed in mph :47.5 )
7. Elk (Speed in mph :45 )
8. Cape Hunting Dog (Speed in mph :45 )
9. Coyote (Speed in mph :43 )

10. Bad Tempered Spandex Muncher on Olde Washington Road
(Speed in excess of 33 mph )

All I can say in National Geographic's defence is that perhaps the dog that chased me today was probably not from this Planet, but sent down to create a colony of dogs whose sole aim in life is to torment:
  • Cyclists
  • Mailmen
  • Pizza Delivery
  • Newspaper Delivery
  • Cats
  • Cars
Don't get me wrong, I am a huge dog lover and one that has nursed his fair share of dogs in his time.You think they would know? Perhaps I can get a "Florence Nightingale for Dogs" sticker to put on my bike. A kind of "get out of jail free" card for cyclists, where the pursuing dog will notice the membership and revert to the next rider in line.
When the "Beast of Burden" started to make chase I thought about Mark Cavendish or Chris Hoy and that even if I could manage 2/3rds of their sprinting skills I may have a chance. The faster I went the more the beast drooled looking at my latex clad backside as his own personnel Sunday Lunch.
This beast didn't care about the veggies or gravy all he wanted was Rare Rump!!!
After I finally evaded the dog I looked back fearing that Andy & Sean (My cycling buddies) would be a mess of gnarled bodies lying by the roadside I was surprised to see the dog was not even interested in them.
When I got home later and plugged in my Garmin I was not surprised at all that my heart rate had topped 190 bpm and my speed had passed the 30 mph. This got my thinking how fast could one actually go on a bike.
In track sprint racing riders are timed over the final 200 metres and top riders will regularly clock under 11 seconds which is close to 40 mph. I know from experience that a road with a gradual downgrade and a following wind are optimum for higher speeds.
Add in a "Beast" for good measure and who knows?? (More on the subject)
For those of you who have there own neighborhood harbinger of terror here are a few good links:

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

"But Why? Some say the Moon?

In the transformational style of JFK we were asked the simple question of where our motivation lies..... He goes on to say "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organise and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win".
Training, and in particular cycling holds the same challenges as long as we except the basic tenets:

  • Challenge is one that we are willing to accept

  • Challenge is one that we are NOT willing to postpone
I could very easily get up when I wake up (Now there's a Novel idea) have a hearty breakfast at Denny's or some hash browns at Mc Donald's.
I would then head out for a leisurely 10 mile ride at a brisk pace while trying to convince myself that I am exceeding the 30 min per day of exercise the Surgeon General has recommended for my basic well being.
After all that would be quite civilised. I could even meet some like minded people on the road and discuss "Leno" or other shows that you have to stay up late to see. (Bedtime is now 7 pm)

Its difficult to acknowledge, especially as you start getting into the age stratosphere of 40+ that training has elevated itself from a routine exercise to a major challenge. Those motivational juices that were once easy to cunjure become more and more difficult to stir up.
Fortunately, for me I have my own specialized custom made cattle prod in the way of my twin brother , who is also vying for the same goals.

During the Week
Do I like getting up at 3:00 am? then eating something that has the texture of cardboard and the taste of grass. As I drive to the Gym...... my X-Menesque vision can see normal people sound a sleep dreaming of waffles and pancakes. I used to promise myself that I would train after work, but as each day ended with a poor fatigued excuse I realized I had to steal some time from the other end of the day.
The morning does works for me quite well, especially as I feel so energised in starting my day but I have to admit on occasions the alarm clock has seen time fly! Only to be picked up and patched up with another layer of duct tape when I get home.

The Weekend Rides
I used to like riding with people who were slower than me. It would be a great opportunity to slow down, rest, catch my breath while convincing myself that I must be good if I am waiting for someone twenty years younger than me to catch up.

It wasn't until I heard that expression "Lipstick on a Pig" that it started to make sense.
Convincing myself that I was an average rider was only a different color of "Lipstick" and the only way I would ever improve was to cycle with riders far better than myself, and go much further than what was comfortable for me.

It sucks trying to keep up with that fast Pace Peloton, and just when you think they are waiting for you at the top of the hill as you are doing the best impression of the "I think I can" steam engine they "charge off" again leaving you with the firm resolution to set your alarm clock ten minutes earlier.

There are no easy fixes! all the lipstick in Macy's is not going to help. If you want to be a stronger rider you have to work harder, not hard.

This time last year I started training hard for a fantastic August event we have in Texas called the "Hotter than Hell" 100 Mile Endurance Ride. I finished the grueling ride in just under 5 hours having an average speed of 20 mph by far my best time in any cycling event to date.

Last year it was my challenge! My moon but this year is different!

I will be accompanied by my twin brother and his friend Simon from England and my regular "young buck" riding buddies Dave,Kenny, Brooke & Scott from Houston.

So the Question is "But Why 20mph....... Some say 22mph? ...That wouldn't be me of course.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Dutch Courage..I am feeling Strong Today!!!

In the seventeenth century, long-standing trade rivalries and naval jealousies between England and the Netherlands erupted into the Anglo-Dutch Wars. The conflicts gave rise to the plethora of derisive "Dutchman" expressions. One of the more poignant of these notably being the term "Dutch Courage".
Dutch Courage can be traced to the practice of certain Dutch Admirals who allowed their men to drink copious amounts of hearty libations before engaging the enemy. The English took the opportunity to spread some idol gossip that their naval adversaries courage was directly proportional to the amount of Bols Gin they consumed.
Perhaps Gauguin himself had two many "Sloe Gins" and some "DC" when he lopped Van Gough's ear off .Heck! Even Herbert Spencer got in on the act by establishing in his work "The Study of Sociology" ..."The fact that a dose of brandy,by stimulating the circulation, produces Dutch courage" as it is called.
Myself and my fellow riders have claimed our own form of "Dutch Courage" in the form of the colourful bottle of "5 hour Energy"

The first time I sipped this elixir of energy I could almost hear the Mad Hatter laughing as he chased Alice around the Tea Table. I was hoping to feel like Popeye after a few cans of Spinach, switching the forearm development into 2 huge piston like calf's ready to take on the steepest hill the road could offer.
It says a great many things on the bottle, but regardless of the chemical and nutritional values of the ingredients it may contain it has become our own "Dutch Courage"......our own significant " I am feeling strong today potion"

The potion that:
  • Keeps the wind at our back
  • Ensures that any speeding motorists spill their coffee in their laps
  • Keeps flat punctures at bay
  • Gives us the courage to explore new routes

but more importantly enables us to have a toast for a good days ride CHEERS!!!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Face Value

It was my intention to write a Blog about finally getting back in the saddle after spending two weeks nursing my badly torn hamstring......... I was going to Blog about how much fun it was to get back on the road with my buddies Sean & Andy and congratulate each other about our average speed and how well we have been progressing.
I had the whole Blog churning in my head as I started my car in Zube Park while chugging down my recovery drink and pulling out the parking lot.
After a mile or so down the freeway I had already thought about some funny one liners for the Blog and those "Longhorn Cows" that were more horn than Cow......
By the time I had pulled onto FM1960 (Farm to Market Roads) my Saturday blog was all but published in my mind......but then I got distracted!! My car needed washing
The Farm to Market Roads of the old Texas South,were interesting roads, roads that Willie Nelson used to sing about, where trucks laden with livestock and families headed into town.
Now the newer versions are littered with Strip malls, Starbucks and Fastfood establishments. One thing that hasn't changed over the years though is the American entrepreneur spirit
I remember many years ago when my father was stationed in Texas with the Royal Air Force, my brother Phillip and I sold lemonade on a street corner to make some extra money.
Today was no different, when the sun is out after a rain drenched week you will see a multitude of organisations offering to wash your car for one cause or other.
On the first of many blocks there were the Jessica Simpson like Cheerleaders, waving there POM POMS!! and luring my car to get a wash while sponsoring their Marching Band. Next it was the Men's Lacrosse Team Fundraiser (However all the team were again dressed like Cheerleaders and doing a number on my cars psych.)
Then I passed the:
  • the basketball car wash
  • the softball car wash
  • the frisbee car wash
  • the soccer car wash
I had just about decided that I was going to get the squigee and sponge out myself on arriving home when I saw a young lady standing on a street corner with a very simple but poignant sign. "Car Wash to raise money for a Kidney Transplant". This was it!!
I turned off at the next street proceeded to get lost and finally found my way back to the designated Car Wash Area.
I must say it was a privilege to be in the company of such magnificent "Texans" This whole family and friends were making every effort they could in raising money for a family members Kidney Transplant. We chatted a while and very soon I started to understand a lesson I learnt a long time ago while helping with United Way Charities in San Francisco.
" We can add monetary value to any charity we wish by a simple click of a mouse, but its the true "Face Value" which really has the most significance. By simply letting people know that you care is a gift in itself and one that requires so little effort. My car looks great!!...and feels fantastic, and I am determined to experience more FACE VALUE to the charities I cycle for. And to my new friends, my heart and prayers are with you.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Competitive Curse

Its been two weeks since I have climbed on my bike and it hasn't been fun. Its not for the want of cycling, or the need to control my ever expanding waistline, but a pesky injury that has the best of me. The "Hamstring" or to get really technical the bicep femoros. During the month of April I have had the pleasure of my twin brother visiting me, and ever since we were able to crawl everything was a competition. There were many:

  • First of all it was "Who could crawl to the piece of chocolate mum dropped on the floor the fastest.
  • Who could scream the loudest
  • Who could wear the most food on their face
  • Who could step on the most bugs
  • Who could eat the most bugs
  • Who could eat the most bugs without getting sick first
  • Who could get detention the most..............and the list goes on!
Then we got older and our priorities changed. The world of Girls and the world of Sports brought on a whole new dimension of competition, especially as we seemed to like the same girls and the same sports and our innocent competition evolved into a dimension of ruthless abandon.
The weekend before Philip left to go back to England we went to our company picnic and participated in a "Softball" match. Before I recall the match review, I do have to point out that after getting hit in the chest by a lovely, spirited, scintillating line drive there is nothing soft about the ball at all. I felt like I had been shot by a cannon. Phil & I were chosen as the two team captains as we were the only ones who had never played the game before. Phil was designated as his teams pitcher while I scurried out to the outfield to presumably be away from as much action as possible. (That to was a mistake)
When it was eventually my turn to bat I had to do the obligatory Babe Ruth "Called Shot"
gesture to my twin who in response threw the ball quite close to my left ear.
Eventually I managed a decent hit and after scampering to second tried my luck at stealing a base. (This was another mistake......and a further confirmation that the expression "Don't try this at home" should be taken seriously) As I slid into third base I felt the sickening sensation of the muscle tearing at the back of my leg and realised as I was called "OUT" that this competition dilemma with my brother had to end.......BUT WE DID WIN!!!!!!