We Need A Different Sports Narrative

Saturday I rode from Portland to the Pacific Ocean with a friend who is a strong cyclist. The ride was a fund raiser for the American Lung Association. There were three or four different places to start along the route depending upon how many miles you wanted to ride.

Nearly all of the 3,000 other participants were recreational riders of all sizes and shapes. Some were on hybrids and mountain bikes meaning they were sitting up which made the headwinds worse. Some sported handlebar bags containing snacks, radios, tools, and the kitchen sink which made the hills worse. Lots wore backpacks which I didn’t quite understand since there were sporadic aid stations with food and water. Maybe they were stuffed with extra clothes.

The five hours and 39 minutes it took us to finish gave me lots of time to observe the other riders and reflect on their participation. Some had pictures of friends or family who were either fighting or had succumbed to lung cancer. Some were overweight. Some were on fund-raising teams and had matching jerseys or backpacks. Some sported colorful knee-high stockings.

From an athletic standpoint, they were unremarkable, but from a human one, I’m guessing many were impressive. As we powered past, I thought to myself they had double our perseverance because they were going to be spinning slowly into the onshore wind all day long. And I wondered about their stories. What motivated them to undertake such a challenging task? And what had they overcome in their lives? Or what were they overcoming?

As sports fans we fixate too narrowly on who wins and too little on the competitors’ or participants’ stories. Consequently, the Sport Story tends to be about winning at all costs. We long for stories of beauty and strength of spirit, of those who give a total effort for selfless reasons.

Postscript.

Weekend Reading Recommendations

Missouri Man Continues Goal to Finish 5K Run Each Month in 2015.

First pitch-ers are skewing older.

• Seymour Hersh’s, The Killing of Osama bin Laden. 10,000 words.

Seymour Hersh on his critics. Lots of f-bombs.

Why You Should Really Start Doing More Things Alone.

The best bike pump in todo el mundo.

Stream of Semi-consciousness

• Skin cancer surgery last week. Fun stuff. It had been 2.5 years so I was overdo. The surgeon said I can’t swim for three weeks. I’ll give the scars two. I need a new doc, one who cares about my swim fitness.

• Olympia’s Spring Break meaning the running posse and wife have scattered to Oregon, California, and Mexico. Leaving the Labradude and me.

• Hope he likes the Masters.

• Why is the NBA obsessing about this year’s Most Valuable Player when basketball is a team sport?

• Today’s 38 mile solo training ride, 5 on, 5 off, Boston Harbor, Fishtrap, Lilly, Farmers Market, Cap Lake. 18.2mph w/ 1,400′ of el. I need more miles and more el.

• Why couldn’t baseball wait until the day after Easter to start the season?

• Why did Stacy Lewis hit such a poor chip on the 75th hole of the [Corporate Name Deleted] Major Championship? The world’s #2 player HAS to get that up and down 95% of the time.

• Take my daughter to work day. That’s the only way she can get a lift to the airport for her return flight to her college. Look for her in the PLU library. A young TSwift.

• I’m looking forward to listening to the NCAA championship game in the car to and from the airport. The more experienced Badgers wlll cut down the nets.

• Special Easter Dinner for the college sophomore, mac-n-cheese with ham in it. Peas on the side.

• To bad she won’t be on campus next Monday to heckle me when I give a lecture to students who’ve been admitted titled, “The High School to College Transition”.

• Is it hypocritical of me to a give a lecture when I don’t like lectures? The answer to that is probably. Depends how much time I use to lecture and how much for questions.

• Still missing moms.

Eschew the South

According to conservative pundits, liberals like President Obama and myself don’t really like the United States. “Love it or leave it!” they ignorantly insist. They want everyone to believe they’re the true Americans because they mindlessly subscribe to American Exceptionalism. Nevermind that our independence resulted from intense dissent born of the freedom of speech the Constitution enshrines.

One of the things I like most about the U.S. is distinct regional differences compliments of its great expanse.

As viewed from the upper atmosphere, I live in the very uppermost left hand corner of the country. And sadly, moms lives in the very bottommost right hand corner. I’m writing this at 36,000′, halfway home on my most recent cross-country voyage. I’ve made this trans-continental trip probably 30+ times since my parents’ long ago move to the Peninsula (known to some as Florida). As a result, I’m declaring myself a Southeastern U.S. expert. Meaning I’m qualified to make extreme generalizations about it even if Southerners take offense.

For example, the conventional wisdom that Southerners are more hospitable is something they like to tell themselves probably to feel better about how inhospitable life can be “down South”. Take the Southerner in the Enterprise car rental office today on Kennedy Boulevard right next to the University of Tampa. “You KNOW you guys need some fuckin’ better help in here don’t you?!”

That warm Southern hospitality is also extended whenever you dare cross a busy street. As I stood at intersection after intersection this past week, speeding drivers shot me angry looks, upset that eventually I’d step foot onto their road. Sunday afternoon, at one intersection, loose wires peered out of the street light so there was no way to trigger the cross walk. After five minutes I moved to the middle of the block to eliminate turning cars from the total amount of sheet metal I had to dodge. Then I did my Usain Bolt impersonation, and now, the humble blog readers rejoice that I (barely) lived to write another day.

Have you heard the joke about the Southeastern city planner? That’s the joke. An oxymoron if there ever was one. Most egregious, there are more Cuba-loving liberal Democrats in Florida than there are bike lane miles. My advice, if you sometimes enjoy walking outdoors or riding a bike, eschew the South. In fact, I hereby announce an Eschew the South movement until pedestrians and cyclists are acknowledged to be fully human. Bumper stickers and t-shirts are now available.

Then there’s the stuff I can’t pin on Neolithic Age city planning–hellish heat and humidity. One of the best things about the upper lefthand corner is our built in air conditioning. Our politics are liberal, but our temps wonderfully moderate. Even on the rare warm summer day, temps plummet at dusk. We also get to run and cycle up and down hilly, even mountainous trails and roads.

I’m going to skip the planned paragraph about the preponderance of fatty and fried Southern food at the risk of being mistaken for a self-absorbed foodie.

This began innocently enough as an appreciation of regional differences, but somehow morphed into an unprovoked regional rant. Fair enough if Southerners hold it against the PNW.

Long story short, I could easily live without the SE, but not Mother Dear. So the diagonal pilgrimages will continue despite their deleterious effect on my life expectancy.

Lola the Doodle Has More Twitter Followers Than Me

Granted, she’s much more of a looker, but I have a better sense of humor, and I link to more interesting content. For the love of all things internet, she hasn’t even tweeted since late August. If you have a mean streak and want to extend Lola’s lead over me, you can follow her here.

As if that wasn’t enough humble pie for the week, on Friday I was sitting in a Portland, Oregon Honda dealership when a cute as a button 2 year old with light red hair smiled at me from afar and then marched right up to me as if I was a 6’2″ magnet. She stuck her hand out, I stuck mine out, and we shook. Unnecessarily embarrassed, her mom ran up behind her. “She sure is friendly,” I said, to which she replied, “Oh yes!” And then to her Button, “He looks a lot like grandpa doesn’t he?!” Shee-it.

I was 30 when Alibaba was born and she’s 22, so yes technically, I could easily be a grandpa, but I don’t need total strangers reminding me of that. If you listen carefully you can hear my sissy in Florida saying, “Deal with it.” I’ll try.

The blog is getting old too. . . it turns eight in January. By then there will have been 90k page views, which sounds like a lot, but really isn’t. That’s a decent day for some of the bloggers I regularly read. It truly is the “humble blog”. One result of it’s longevity is I have to think longer and harder about whether I’m repeating myself because nothing says “grandpa” like mindlessly repeating yourself.

Another result of having written 887 posts, is it’s harder to come up with original ideas. Take today for example. God said he’d understand if I ditched church to ride my bicycle on what’s likely one of the last beautiful days of 2014. It was good to see teammates I haven’t been able to ride with for awhile now that I’m a working stiff.

I dig riding in cool spring and fall weather. This ride was shaping up to be damn near idyllic until someone flatted. That always prompts the question, “Should we wait?” It’s a sliding scale, mid-day in the summer probably not, early evening in the fall/winter, yes. Someone said, “Jeff said not to wait.” At the time, I was second wheel. I told the guy in front of me, “Let’s go then.” At a stop sign, three miles later, the Doctor said, “Gordon said to wait, and to pass it up.” To which I said, “A little late wouldn’t you say.” So Gordon was HOT when our routes crossed an hour later.

Then I got a little ornery on a climb and four or five of us gapped another four or five. One of those riders pulled up a few miles later at an intersection and bitched about being dropped. Which caused BDub to snap. “You fuckin’ little sissy girl! No one waited for me for three months last spring when I was riding myself back into shape!”

As the ride spiraled downward I started blogging in my head. Thought one. . . group riding has it’s advantages and disadvantages, but I already wrote about the pros and cons of group living here. Thought two. . . cooperation and fitness should trump athletic competition, but I wrote about that here and here and here. Repetition rears it’s ugly head. Good thing even the most loyal readers (Hey Mother Dear!) can’t remember more than a fraction of the 887 posts.

This corner of the blogosphere has plateaued. Year seven is almost a wrap. Maybe a sabbatical is in order.

Apple Watch and iPhones: iNitial Reaction

The Apple Watch. My favorite Apple watcher, John Gruber, said this Benjamin Clymer review of the Apple watch is the best one yet. If Gruber says it, it’s true.

Henry Blodget is smart, that’s why his ignorant comments that the Apple Watch is completely irrelevant shocked me. He’s forgotten history, in particular how unenthused nearly everyone was when the iPhone and iPad were first released.

Having said that, I will not be keeping my word because I will not be buying it this go round. I’ll wait a few iterations. I bought a new watch a year ago. My Garmin Forerunner 10 is one of my favorite possessions. It’s a brilliant watch because it only has the most essential functions I need. Meaning it’s simple to use. And it’s waterproof. And, unless I’m using the GPS feature a lot, the charge lasts several days.

The Apple watch isn’t waterproof. Deal breaker. I do not want to take my watch off every time I hit the pool or bathtub. And allegedly, you have to charge it overnight meaning I wouldn’t be able to use it to wake up. My one-third the cost Forerunner 10 has the perfect alarm—not too grating, but loud enough to always do the trick. No doubt Garmin knows what Blodget seemingly doesn’t, the Watch will get much better pretty quickly and prove brutallly tough competition. I may end up being their last customer. Maybe I should buy an extra “10” or two in case they die a sudden death.

Also, most of the Watch apps will require iPhone tethering. Really, I have to carry a new larger iPhone in order to see fitness data on my Watch? A two-part problem. 1) Getting a comfortable enough, water/sweat proof carrying case so that the phone “disappears” while running. Cyclists will most likely use a case and then just toss it in their back-middle jersey pocket. 2) The additional weight. When you pretend you’re an elite athlete, every gram or ounce counts. :)

I had a great run this morning. It was 52 degrees out and it was pitch black when I left, and 10k later, I was bathed in beautiful morning light. I took three things—shoes, socks, shorts.

The only reason to buy the first Watch is to subject acquaintances, friends, and family to status envy. That is always sufficient motivation for lots of people.

The phones. All previous sales records will be shattered. Sleepless nights for Samsung. Their worst fears are being realized as evidenced by this. I’m holding my AAPL shares and should probably use my Watch savings to buy three and a half more.

I THINK I want one. The pretend elite cyclist in me is thinking 4.7″, but the aging reader is thinking 5.5″. Maybe I’ll take a year to decide.

That collective sigh was my friends who have grown weary of my annoying quirk.

Ride Around Mount Rainier 2014

Start time, 5:45a, finish time 2:30p. 8:45 gross ride time, 8:01 net. 146.4 miles. 18.2 mph average. Max speed, 40.5. Elevation estimate (non barometric altimeter), 8,222. Calories, 8,337.

I had fun and rode well and think I’m continuing to improve as a cyclist even at my advanced age. I credit that to a deeper and deeper base and a continually improving feel for pacing and nutrition. The vast majority of RAMRODers ride way too hard in the a.m. and pay for it dearly in the p.m. I routinely let guys go in the morning who I pass mid-day.

I only had one “friend” win the lottery like me, but being a University of Washington Husky, he tucked his tail between his legs and bailed on me when he learned the route had to be altered due to road construction in the park. So this was my first time riding solo.

I met Dave from Maryland about one mile in and he was velcroed to my back wheel all morning on the way to Packwood. We sat in the back of “Cycle Tuesdays” a 15+ sized group from Seattle. They set a perfect, slightly downhill, first hour or two pace of 20-22mph. I probably drafted for 60 of the 78 miles on the way to Packwood. At that point I launched on my solo ascent of Cayuse, not stopping until the Crystal Mountain deli stop.

During that stretch, miles 78-105ish, I passed lots and lots of people, most of whom stopped at one or two food/water stops. Also, even though I was only going 7-8 mph up Cayuse, I leaped frogged people the whole way.

We enjoyed nearly perfect conditions. I was wishing I had worn gloves in the first hour when it was in the mid 50’s, but when the climbing began in earnest, around 10:30a, it was around 70. The only time I was hot all day was while standing in the sun at the Crystal deli stop. And surprisingly, the wind was a non-factor over the last 40 miles.

I bailed on the suggested out-and back for additional mileage and elevation. I figured riding all the way from Packwood to the finish solo was sufficient. Also, I didn’t have any homies to question my manhood. With just a little peer pressure I probably would’ve turned right off of Hwy 410 at the 123 mile mark.

Because I went “short”, I was one of the first few people to finish. After showering, downing a Diet Coke, and eating an ice cream bar, I felt considerably better than I did post Grand Canyon hike, post Bachelor/Lake Paulina ride, post Sunriver-Bend trail run. I was the first car out of the parking lot and on the road at 3p.

Pre-ride, Lally gave me specific instructions to stick it to any Team Fishcer Plumbing guys after their Central Oregon antics of non-stop surging and erratically going off the front. On the way to Ashford, about five FPs passed me, too strongly for me to hook on. Different guys, but I knew Lally would say they were guilty by association. So sorry Mark for not doing shit for payback.

In related news, a guy passed me at mile 131-132. Cervelo, aero bars, probably one of those narcissistic triathletes. Quickly, he just flat out disappeared up the road. That helping of humble pie was well-timed.

Other observations from the day.

• No CAMROD sighting. Disconcerting.

• Some people, who aren’t too concerned with weight or aerodynamics, are riding with their Garmins AND gigantic smart phones attached to their headsets and bars. Then again, I’ve never known the joy of streaming Netflix while climbing Cayuse. One rider was in line for the prestigious Dennis Peck Tech Geek award (a TomTom nav device). He was wearing Peck’s Google jersey with his TABLET attached to his headset.

• Despite the recent lotteries being plagued with glitches, the Redmond Cycling Club does an amazing job putting on this event. Tons of exceedingly friendly and helpful volunteers at the start/finish and all over the course. The course was marked extremely well (there’s some serious pot holes on the Skate Creek descent and the bottom of Mud Mountain Dam Rd). Police escorts through the four or five primary intersections. Very easy to read course arrows at every turn. Every other event similar to this, take note, state of the art.

• I overheard the race photog say to a volunteer, “These are people who spend $5k on their bikes, they can afford to pay $12 for a picture.” Can’t speak for any of the other riders, but Rider #327 carefully shopped his steed—heavily discounted frame from the U.K. and components from Australia. Consider this Mr. Photog, the only way most people can drop 5 large on a bike is by being value shoppers! Digital images are ubiquitous these days (Maryland Dave has one of me on his iPhone). Your pictures are overpriced. Thank you, but I will pass.