Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Farewell to a Friend, and I Wear Women's Shoes

It was a sad day last week.  I had to say goodbye to a training partner and a good friend of mine.  That's right.  My swim shorts finally bit the dust.  So sad.

Everything was going fine until one day last week when, after a long swim, I noticed that the stitching was starting to separate on one of the seams.

Well, that doesn't look too bad.
I took a closer look, and didn't like what I found...
Uh oh...
If you can do THIS, then it's time for a new pair of shorts.

You may remember my Speedo Endurance shorts from my first product review way back last June.  Chlorine has a way of eating shorts, especially the stretchy kind that lap swimmers use.  I was lucky to eek 2-3 months of use out of a pair of shorts before they became dangerously see-through.  The Endurance line is a blessing.  For just a few dollars more, they lasted well over a year.  What's even cooler is that the fabric never failed, it was the stitching that finally gave out.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.

So, the old shorts had a good life, but their time is done.  I ran out the next day and picked up a fresh pair.  This pair is cut a little differently.  There's no seam going up the back, and they leave a little less to the imagination.  If you want to know how much less, then you'll have to meet me for a swim workout some time.

On a somewhat related note, the day after I picked up my new swim trunks, my shower sandals crapped out too.  Ugh.  I'm not too particular about my sandals. I'm happy just as long as they keep my feet off the shower tile.  So, I ran by the nearest target and snagged the cheapest sandals I could find.  Shoot.  How could I possibly screw this up?

Sandals.  Easy.  No problems.  Right?
Then, I took a closer look...
Oh, you have got to be kidding me.
Yep. My new sandals were made for a woman.  So, in addition to my silky smooth legs, I am now sporting some ultra-fem-y footwear.  Basically, I'm all woman below the thighs. 


Monday, March 28, 2011

The Captain's 8 Rules of the Road

The snow is almost gone.  It's staying light later into the evening.  Folks in the cycling and tri communities are anxious to unplug from their trainers and hit the roads for some meaningful rides.  But, even in bicycle-friendly community like the Twin Cities, there are still plenty of opportunities for conflict. 

Cyclists and motorists often find themselves at odds.  Motorists think that cyclists are invading their turf.  Meanwhile, cyclists want to exercise their right to use the roads, but are wary because they aren't wrapped in two tons of steel to protect them in a crash.   There are jerks on both sides.  I'd pay real money to go for a long ride without someone yelling out their car window at me.  At the same time, I can't tell you how many times I've seen cyclists behaving like arrogant wieners.

So, with that in mind, here is a quick list of rules that I think responsible cyclists should follow:

1.  Remember Who You Ride For
Whether or not your realize it, when you ride, you are representing more than just yourself.  Sure, if you ride with a group or wear a team jersey, you've got them to worry about.  I don't want someone to catch me acting like an butt-munch when I'm wearing my kit from the Twin Cities Spoke.  But beyond that, you represent everyone else out there who throws on spandex and hops into the saddle.  Many drivers cringe every time they see a cyclist on the road dressed like Lance.  They see us as a menace.  The best thing we can do is represent ourselves well.  Bottom Line: If you're going to ride, don't be a douche about it.

2.  Don't Turn Off Your Brain
I know that it can be difficult to stay focused at all times, but having a lapse in concentration is one of the easiest ways to end up kissing pavement.  My biggest struggles are during long rides out in the country and during group rides.  During the long rides, I just get into a zone, where all I'm concentrating on is keeping my legs pumping (and maybe whatever song is playing on the IPod in my head).  During group rides, it's a little different.  It's really easy to just 'go with the flow' and hope the rider ahead of you has things under control.  Of course, if they don't you'll be eating their back wheel in no time.  This is also a good way to accidentally drop the slower members of the group.  I can't tell you how many times I've been on a club ride where we hit a stop light and have a conversation like this:
Person A: "Hey, where's the new guy"
Person B: "I don't know.  The last I saw, he was hanging on my wheel"
Person A: "But you were supposed to ride at the back of the pack to keep everyone together."
Person B: "D'oh"

3.  Know Your Route
This is a critical one for me.  Please - know where you plan to go before you hit the road.  I don't just mean knowing which streets to turn on.  Make yourself familiar with what you may encounter.  How busy is the traffic?  How wide are the shoulders?  Will you be riding during rush hour?  Is there some place to fill up your water bottle (or empty my bladder) or grab a bite to eat?  Which way is the wind blowing, and how will that impact whether I ride clockwise or counter-clockwise loops?

4.  File a Flight Plan
This is especially important if you'll be riding alone.  Make sure you let someone know where you'll be riding and about what time you'll be back.  It's the courteous thing to do to keep your spouse or significant other from worrying to death.  Plus, if you have a flat out of cell phone range, you can hope that they'll drive your route and pick up your sad, stranded butt.
If you're riding in a group, make sure that everyone either knows the route or is hooked up with someone who does - before the ride starts.  That way, if the plans need to change half-way through the ride, everyone will still be able to get home.

5.  Obey The Local Traffic Laws
As a cyclist, you have as much of a right to use the roads as any motorist.  However, if you are going to use their roads, you must follow the same laws that they do.  What does this mean?  Well, for one, if you see a stop sign, then stop.  Yeah, it may break up your rhythm.  Just look at is as an opportunity to practice your track-stand and your explosiveness off of the start line.  Around here, cops are ticketing more and more cyclists for moving violations. I'm not exactly pooping cash, so a $100 ticket for whipping through a stop sign in Wayzata would pretty much ruin my week.

6.  Be Predictable
Hold your line.  Don't make any sudden swerves or turns.  If a driver sees you going straight, they're going to expect you to continue along the same path. The same thing goes when riding in a group.  Peeling out unexpectedly may be a good way to get a jump on your opponents during a road race, but it's also a good way to startle a hapless newbie who just wants to build confidence riding in a peleton.

7.  Use Hand Signals
Get used to signaling every turn.  Left = Left arm straight out.  Right = Left arm up at 90-degree angle.  Stop = Left arm hanging down with palm facing back.  If you're in a group ride, practice signaling for obstacles like potholes, railroad tracks, sand and broken glass.  Learn them.  Know them.  Love them.  Use them.  Oh, and if you start to consider using the most popular "hand signal", reconsider rule #1.

8.  Spread Good Will
The best way to share the road is to play nice with those with whom you are sharing.  If a driver makes an effort to be nice, then make eye contact, smile, and give them a little wave.  You'll feel good.  They'll feel good, and you can sleep better at night knowing that there's one less driver on the road that wants to run you over.

Well, there you have it.  It's not too tough.  Most of it boils down to treating others the way you'd like to be treated. 

I know I haven't posted much recently.  I've been mourning the loss of a training partner of mine (don't worry, it's not as serious as it sounds).  But, I'll be back tomorrow with a little memorial, and a bit about what I'm doing to move forward.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The First Bike Ride of the Year

I like to go around lakes.  Maybe its because they provide a natural loop and make it easy to plan a route.  Maybe its because they don't let me wuss out part way through a workout.  Once I'm half way around one, its not like I can take a shortcut home.  Maybe it's just because they're nice to look at.  So, I suppose I'm fortunate to live in Minnesota where you can't help but trip over one whenever you leave your front step. 

On Wednesday, I did a nice long run around Medicine Lake.  So, naturally, when I did my first outdoor ride of the year, I headed towards Lake Minnetonka.  This was just going to be enough of a ride to knock the rust off my legs and enjoy the day. 

Lake Minnetonka is popular for local cyclists.  The roads are in good shape, the shoulders are wide and drivers are fairly tolerant of cyclists sharing their asphalt.  Plus, there's no shortage of little towns where you can stretch your legs and grab a bite to eat.  I stopped in Wayzata for a couple of minutes and snagged a photo of this adventurous fellow out kite-skiing.  He was waaaaay out there, but he was hauling tail. 
Then, immediately after I snapped a photo of my kite-skiing friend, a freight train came by and blocked my view of the lake.  So, I grabbed a shot of Rusty by a melting snow bank instead.

In any event, I hopped back on the road and continued around the eastern half of the lake.  It was a nice day and there were several other cyclists out there enjoying the warm weather.  Hey, for us in Minnesota, 50 degrees IS warm weather.

After rounding the lake, I continued east towards town and then back up north to get home.  Sure, it wasn't a 6-hour ride - I'll have plenty of chances for those in a month or two - but it was great to feel the wind and see something other than the inside of my own house. 

When I got home, my bike was filthy from all of the sand and crud still out on the roads, but I didn't care.  It was totally worth it.
Eew.  Gross.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fresh air is good for you? Really? Yes. Really.

Spring is on its way.  Is it here in full swing?  Well, no, not yet.  Morning's are chilly, there's snow in the yard and foolhardy ice fishermen are still wandering out onto the lakes.  However, this last week, it felt like we've finally turned the corner.  Daylight savings is now in our favor.  For the most part, running paths are clear and the puddles left from melting snow no longer drown running shoes.  Plus - and this is my favorite part - I no longer need to bundle up before running.  On Wednesday I wore shorts. Yes, shorts.
I was so excited for doing a long outdoor run that I re-worked my training plan to do it a day early.  The thermometer read 53 degrees when I left the house, so it was a perfect day for shorts and a long-sleeved top.  I headed out on one of my favorite routes around Medicine Lake.  There's a good variety of terrain ranging from local streets, to paved bike paths, dirt paths and even two boardwalks.  There are a couple nice long hills.  One is along the west side of the lake and the other is on the north end as you climb out of French Regional Park.

The first long run of the year.
My training planned called for a nice easy run.  My high school cross-country coach called these "LSD Runs" for Long Slow Distance.  The idea is to build your endurance base with the added benefit of burning a heckuva lot of fat.  Last year, I would have kept a close eye on my heart rate and then backed off if it got much over 160 beats per minute.  This year, I'll still look at my heart rate at the end of the workout, but during the run I'm going more by feel.  On a scale from 1 to 10 where 1=slow walking and 10=running like a bat out of hell, I was aiming for about a 6.  

Again, the weather was right in my wheelhouse: warm enough to not freeze my nubbies and cool enough to keep from sweating like a pig.  I beat feet down towards the lake.  There was snow on either side of the path, but no ankle-twisting ice to worry about.  After my legs warmed up, I stopped on the first boardwalk for a little light stretching.  Then, I headed along the west end of the lake, the second half of which is essentially a 2-mile long uphill.  Yes, there was a little plodding involved, but I tried to stay light on my feet. 

When I turned to head east, I noticed the temperature drop quite a bit.  The wind was blowing from the south - over what is essentially a 3 mile long ice cube.  It wasn't terrible, but I was thankful to climb out of the park and away from the lake again.  As I finished out the last couple of miles I did a little math in my head and figured I could wrap up this long run with an average mile split of under 9:00. 

Now, my last 10-mile run was at the Monster Dash last fall, and I finished that with splits of 8:56.  Well, would you believe that I polished off that 10.4 mile 'easy' training run in under 1:33 which gave me splits of 8:56?  Well, it's nice to know that all those hours on the dread-mill this past winter were good for something.  I'll take it. 

Thursday called for a short run and a quick bike.  My legs were still barking at me after the long run the day before, so when I hit the road again, I took it REALLY easy.  My legs warmed up after a few miles, but I'm a little worried about my abs.  My lower abs were still plenty sore - right along the left side of my belt-line and getting dangerously close to my special places. There wasn't any pain during the 60-minute spin session, just while running.  Strange.  I'll have to keep an eye on it and see the doc if it doesn't go away by next week.  I don't want it to be some kind of weird hernia or something.

Friday was a rest day.  That night it was just me, The Wife, some Chinese food and the NCAA basketball tournament.  Awesome.

Today was my first outdoor bike ride of the year.  It's past my bedtime though, so I'll tell you about that tomorrow.


Monday, March 7, 2011

My Body Hates Me, and....an Explanation

I've really been looking forward to this week.  I'm scheduled to start my 20-week plan today.  Unfortunately, my body had other plans and decided to smack me around with a postnasal drip for the last couple of days.  Sure, it wasn't as bad as a full-on flu bug, but it jacked up my sleep schedule and and just made me feel plain old gross for the weekend.  So, instead of hitting the ground running  with a swim and a run today, I stayed home and caught up on reruns of The Simpsons.

Is it frustrating?  Yeah, I suppose so.  But, at this point I'd rather delay the training by a day or two than go half-assedly into workouts and end up hating myself with more than 95% of my training left to go.  So, what's the plan for the next few days?  Well, I'll stay out of the pool for the next couple of days.  The chlorine has a tendency to give me runny noses, and I'd rather not 'poke the bear in the zoo' when it comes to adding more gunk to my head.  Tomorrow will be a nice, easy spin to get my legs and lungs stretched out.  Then, on Wednesday, I'll ease into running again. 

It's not the way I was hoping to start things out, but it's a long season.  I'll have plenty of time to get some mega-miles in between now and my 'A' race in July (let alone by October for the Twin Cities Marathon).

On a more serious note, I want to clarify something about yesterday's post.  Namely, items #34 and #35.  Go ahead, take a quick look.  I'll wait.

Okay, you're back?  Good.  What I want to clarify is the difference between God (or in my case, Jesus) and religion.  God is great, perfect and gave us the Bible to teach us how to go about our business.  He blessed me with the ability to swim, bike and run (and blog), and to get into all kinds of crazy adventures from Iowa to Istanbul.  He also gave us Jesus, who, among other things, taught two basic rules: 1-Love God, 2-Love Others.  I can get on board with that.

Religion, on the other hand, isn't perfect.  It was created by people.  Since people are inherently flawed, so is religion.  Does that mean that I think churches are bad?  Heck no.  They do a lot of good.  They bring people together and give us a sense of community.  Many also help to feed and clothe the poor.  I just question when people start to put their faith in their church, or their religion, rather than in God, where it belongs.  Oh, and what I REALLY have a problem with, is when people use religion to do and say things that have nothing to do with loving God or loving others.  Then, they're just being jerk-faces.

Thanks for letting me clarify.  My Mom (Classic Mom) reads this blog, and I wouldn't want her to think that she raised a blasphemer.  I won't get preachy very often.  After all, this is supposed to be a place to talk about training, racing, eating, and wearing multi-colored banana-hammocks in public.

Hi Mom!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

100 Things

This post is a bit of a milestone for me.  Believe it or not, this will be my 100th entry.  Yeah, I know.  You'd think that by now I would have run out of things to talk about.  Guess again.  To celebrate my 100th post, here are 100 things about me that you may already know (but probably don't).

1.  Boxers.
2.  I met my wife on the dance floor of  The Wild Onion after one too many Mike's Hard Lemonades.
3.  I tell my grandmother that I met my wife at 'an eating establishment'.
4.  My first ever training run was for Nordic Skiing practice in the 8th grade.
5.  I did my first ever training run in a cotton t-shirt, basketball shoes and jeans.
6.  I ran cross country for 4 years and was a middle-of-the-pack-er.
7.  My best 5K time in high school was 19:30.
8.  I'd pay real money to run that 'slow' again.
9.  I was an above average Nordic Skier (skate skiing) and even scored an All Conference nod one year.
10.  My coldest skiing practice ever was -24 degrees BEFORE windchill.
11.  Frostbite on your junk is no joke.
12.  Seriously.
13.  I cry every time I watch The Iron Giant, The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Toy Story 2 and Snoopy Come Home.
14.  I also tear up to U2's 'Beautiful Day', Kenny Rogers' 'Coward of the County' and Widor's 'Toccata'.
15.  I love my Rusty Steed - my bike.  It's a Trek 1500 Franken-bike that's been tortured and twisted to get me into something that resembles a proper aero position.

16.  Going fast on a crappy bike is cool.
17.  I'm saving up for a new steed - a proper triathlon bike.  So far, it's a choice between these three:

18.  Musically speaking, I was born in the wrong decade.  Everyone knows that rock peaked in 1974.
19.  I've been a fan of Simon and Garfunkel (but mostly Simon) since high school
20.  I'll take Captain Picard over Captain Kirk any day of the week.
21.  I attended college at the University of Wisconsin in Green Bay.
22.  I started college with a major in Photography just as everyone was switching from film to digital.  Ugh.
23.  I graduated with a Major in Communications, and minors in Political Science and Information Science.
24.  You aren't going to get rich quick with a Communications Major and minors in Poli-Sci and Information Science.
25.  I kinda wish I had earned a degree in a more marketable skill. 
26.  I believe in 'Working to Live' rather than in 'Living to Work'.
27.  My first organized race was a 1/2 mile 'kids run' when I was in 2nd grade.
28.  They misspelled my name in the 'kids run' results sheet as 'Eric Bugstrom'.  Jerks.
29.  I got my 'bark-n-sniffer' Bailey from the Humane Society back in 2001.  She's the shizzle.

30.  As I write this, she's curled up in a ball on the sofa chasing bunnies in her sleep.  It's adorable.
31.  I once saw her catch a real-life baby bunny and eat it whole.  It was disturbing.
32.  I've been slowly losing my hair since my early 20s.
33.  I'll never wear a comb-over, or a toupee or get hair plugs.  If bald is good enough for my Grandpa, then it's good enough for me.
34.  I'm a Christian - which is why you won't find a lot of naughty language in my blog.
35.  I figure religion is kinda like genitals (just go with me on this one).  I like mine.  I'm proud of mine.  I'll be happy to talk about mine.  But, I'm not going to whip it out in public and wave it around just to taunt you, and I certainly won't try to shove it down your throat.
36.  I sometimes need to think a little longer before I say something inappropriate when I'm 'just trying to be funny'.
37.  I'm not a morning person.  Over 90% of my workouts last year started after 12pm.
38.  I once spent a J-term in college traveling through Greece and Turkey; two absolutely beautiful countries.
39.  I should have thought twice before eating Turkish meatballs from a street vendor.
40.  Having food poisoning in Istanbul is no fun.
41.  It is entirely possible to poop and barf at the same time.
42.  I kinda wish I hadn't told you that last one.
43.  I dig me some beer.  It's the most delicious social lubricant known to man.
44.  I'll take ales over lagers though, thankyouverymuch.
45.  I stay away from hard liquor.  Nothing good can come from me with a shot glass.
46.  When I was born, all of my grandparents and great-grandparents were still living.
47.  I have memories of all but 1 of them. 
48.  Both my parents and my wife's parents are divorced, and our dads remarried.  Yes.  I have 4 moms.
49.  I've nick-named them 'New Mom', 'Florida Mom', 'Fun Mom', and of course 'Classic Mom'.
50.  Moms love me. 
51.  I've read every major work by Stephen King.
52.  My dad can kick my butt at Call of Duty.
53.  I can destroy my dad at Guitar Hero.
54.  Karate for defense only.
55.  First learn item #54.
56.  Society would be in better shape if we all listened harder to Mr. Miyagi.
57.  One of my favorite places in the world is my family's cabin 'Up North'.
58.  My profile picture (where I'm wearing the black swim cap with goggles on my forehead) was taken on the floating raft at the cabin.
59.  'Up North' doesn't seem nearly as far away as it used to.
60.  I've had either a beard or goatee since the fall of 2002.
61.  I once shaved my face bare.  It upset The Wife so badly, she almost cried.
62.  The first time I shaved my head, I didn't tell The Wife until after the deed was done.  Her first words: 'Don't expect me to ever have sex with you again.'
63. She got over it.
64.  I know the difference between there, their and they're.  I also know the difference between your and you're, between affect and effect, and do my best to keep from ending my sentences with prepositions.  Three cheers for public education!
65.  I'd love to eventually qualify for Kona, but realize that my best chance at qualification will be to outlive my competition and race into my 70s and 80s.
66.  When triathlon has finally left me beaten and broken, I'll be cool with not running, and even not cycling, but I'll continue to swim until they have to haul my lifeless body out of the pool.
67.  I figure I'll eventually be that quasi-creepy old dude at the gym who still tries to squeeze his wrinkled bod into a Speedo.
68.  Screw Superman, Batman and Spidey.  If I could be any superhero, I'd be The Flash.

69.  If I ever get a disc wheel, I'm putting The Flash's logo on it.
70.  I close and lock the door every time I go to the bathroom, even when I'm home alone.
71.  I try to take control of the kitchen whenever I visit a friend's or relative's home.  They think I'm being nice by helping out, but really I'm just a control freak when it comes to food.
72.  I have never changed a diaper (on myself or anyone else).
73.  I've had asthma since I was young. 
74.  I'm extremely allergic to cats.
75.  Even if I wasn't allergic to cats, I still wouldn't trust them.  If God had made them any bigger, I'm pretty sure cats would eat their owners while they slept.
76.  I absolutely LOVE ice cream.  We had to stop buying ice cream by the gallon, because for me, 1 gallon = 3 servings.
77.  My ancestors came from a few different countries, but I identify myself most with my Swedish heritage.
78.  I visited Scandinavia for 3 weeks back in high school.  While I didn't get the chance to see the Norwegian fjords, I did see the Swedish Volvos.
79.  I understand that most of you probably didn't get that joke the first time your read it.  That's okay.  You're still cool.
80.  I'd move to Sweden in a heart beat, you know, if my wife, family, friends and job weren't all still here in the U.S.
81.  I read Moby Dick just to check it off my bucket list.
82.  It actually turned out to be a pretty good read.
83.  During the beginning of every one of my workouts, there's a moment when I question my sanity and consider going straight to my recliner to watch TV.
84.  My first real job was working as a janitor/maintenance guy at a funeral home.  I was there for 2 summers in high school and 1 in college.
85.  I don't like black licorice.  It shouldn't even be considered candy.  I can't stand when I think I'm about to eat a grape flavored jelly bean and it just turns out to be black licorice.  Blech!
86.  The Wife is much more into ball sports (baseball, football and basketball) than I am.  I pretend to like watching hours of basketball when I'd really rather be watching cartoons. 
87.  We both have a team in the same fantasy football league.
88.  Most of my friends agree that when your wife plays fantasy football it doubles her 'hot factor'. 
89.  I have a bet with one of our bridesmaids that The Wife and I wouldn't be parents until we had been married for 5 years.  The wager: 1 keg of beer.
90.  I've only got 7 months until I get my keg.
91.  I wouldn't be completely disappointed if I ended up losing the bet.
92.  My family has been pretty good about not pressuring The Wife and I to have kids - probably because I threatened to move to Sweden if they did.
93.  I hosted a radio show on my college radio station, WFPR, showcasing tunes from the '60s, '70s and '80s.  The name of the show?  'Music that doesn't suck'. 
94.  After training and racing for 2 years, I now have to wear my wedding ring on my index finger.
95.  I could wipe the floor with you in a game of Trivial Pursuit, and not in a nice way.  I go for the jugular.
96.  I just don't understand the appeal of vampires in popular culture.
97.  I'd much rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.
98.  I put this list together over the course of 3 days.
99.  It was a lot harder than I was expecting to come up with 100 interesting things to say about myself.  Sigh.
100.  Last, but not least, I have no problem rocking the European Man Thong (but not in this country).
Mexico - 2010