Thoughts and Adventures From Greenlite Heavy Industries

Friday, July 30, 2010

A Glacial Pace

My good friend Bianca is looking to climb Mt. Rainier next summer so we took a nice hike up to Glacier Basin to get a look at the Emmons Glacier route. Glacier Basin is an easy six mile round trip hike up a newly revamped trail; it’s an ideal family hike with a spectacular view at the turnaround.

Despite a bit of whining the kids did great, I mean they wouldn’t be kids if they didn’t whine a little – it does seem to be their job after all. Whenever I take Sam and Sophia for an outdoor adventure I bring along an enormous bag of candy and let them eat all they want. I figure they are burning the calories and I want them to associate the outdoors with fun and enjoyment. Hiking, biking, and paddling are hard work and the ability to enjoy one’s self while sweating is a learned trait – a trait some people never learn.

Bianca and I had a long conversation regarding the safety of her proposed endeavor. Assessing risk is not one of my strong suits as I fear fairly innocuous things while I seem to be comfortable with some seriously dangerous situations. I think this stems from a comfort with heights. Alpine rock climbing is scary and no doubt I have ample fear, but I don’t have that guy tingling paralyzing fear. My fear is more rational: you fall you die so don’t fall. On the other hand I can swim three miles in a pool but put me in a lake and the adrenaline starts pumping.

Anyway, I didn’t try to convince Bianca that climbing Mt. Rainier is safe; it isn’t, and it shouldn’t be. On the other hand, if I wanted safety I’d rather be on the Emmons Glacier than on I-90 atop my motorcycle. So it’s all relative. Bianca is adventurous and gutsy, so it didn’t take much convincing, but as we were nearing the trailhead I noticed a pair of television cameras set up on large tripods.

A short inquiry revealed that there had been a fatality on the mountain and the reporters were there to interview the two surviving members of the team (a third had already been evacuated). That didn’t do much to improve Bianca’s confidence. A deceased climber, a motorcycle on its side, a cyclist lying beside the road, these all shake me up a little bit. There but for the grace of God go I. They aren’t an excuse to stay at home, but they are a reminder to live every day to its fullest.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Chew on This

Good cycling food is hard to come by. I’ve tried just about everything from nearly every energy bar/gel on offer to salted potatoes and landjager. Gels aren’t for me; when I’m running a marathon they are really the only antidote to bonking, but when it comes to cycling I’ll take a pass. Energy bars work okay, but they get tiring. Potatoes are good for seventy eighty mile plus rides, but I don’t seem to get out of them on the shorter excursions. A few weeks ago I discovered these bars from Trader Joes:.

They are tasty and pack a whopping 290 calories. Lately they have become the food of choice in my jersey pocket. They are also good recovery food.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Dog's Life

There’s blood on my bike gloves, I’ll tell you how it got there but first allow me a short rant.

Me I consider life a precious gift – a gift that gift comes with responsibility. I used to adhere to the Hippocratic thinking of do no harm, in other words, so long as you don’t do any damage you've lived an adequate life, but that lame attitude is changing. Now I’m going with more a tribal way of thinking –small bands of hunter gatherers can’t tolerate dead wood: either you contribute or you hit the road. Unfortunately our modern society not only allows deadwood it actually coddles hordes of worthless deadbeats. All too often it seems I run into absolutely worthless motherfuckers. All human life is precious, nice words but they hold no water; some people just ain’t worth the air they breathe.

So back to the story. We were riding down to the Black Diamond Bakery when I noticed beautiful blue-eyed husky crouching in the ditch, his front paws covered in blood. Kris, Joe and I wheeled around and while I went to check on the dog, Kris spoke to some guy who had pulled up in pickup and Joe knocked on the door of a trashy house across the road. The pickup pulled away – thanks for the help dickhead – and Kris said that the driver had come to investigate a gunshot and a woman’s scream. Joe said that the fat ass redneck who answered the door at the shack said something to the affect of “rules are rules he deserves what he gets,” and slammed the door.

The dog had a collar but no tags. This was a valuable dog, it was a healthy pure breed, it wasn’t some stray. Now I’ll confess I don’t like dogs. Well I shouldn’t say that, it’s not that I don’t like dogs it’s more like I’m indifferent about dogs, but there I was trying to comfort a dying animal while Kris and Joe went out trying to find the owner. Cars simply drove by. I guess the drivers had run out of smokes and were hustling down to the 76 station to pick up a six dollar pack of Marlboros. Finally a lady pulled up in a big Dodge pickup pulling a horse trailer. She thought she knew the owner, and so made a difficult U-turn and headed back down the little side road. Across the road the rednecks were crawling out of their holes, stumbling around the brown yard scratching their asses.

The dog seemed uncomfortable and I helped him to roll over to his other side. I noticed a small hole just behind his front leg, out flowed a steady stream of blood. Could this be a bullet wound? Finally the lady with the horse trailer came back; as it turns out she didn’t know the owner. Thank goodness she agreed to take the dog to the vet, so I picked up the dog, wrapped him in a blanket and put him in the truck. That dog really shook me up, he was a good boy and to see him suffer cut deeply.

As I got back on my bike I noticed a trail of blood across the road. The red trail went directly from the redneck’s driveway to ditch where we found the dog.
We continued down to the bakery where Kris reported the incident to a couple of Sheriff Deputies. They feigned interest and took down a little info, but I noticed that they didn’t take her name. Let’s hope that I’m wrong but I felt like those two guys were more interested in their doughnuts than that dog's life. Kris called the vet and found out that the owner had showed, but was unable to get any info on the status of the dog, so I guess that’s the end of the story.

Even now I can’t explain why I care. There just seems something inherently evil in shooting a dog. As I rode past that Hoosier shack on the return home I spat on the pavement.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Imelda Lite

Three days ago I went out and bought a pair of Saucony ProGrid Kinvara running shoes. My search for the perfect running shoe has been a long and expensive road. I’ve come to the conclusion that the high heel “support” shoe is one of the most successful con jobs ever foisted on a population. Serious runners and even podiatrists are convinced that two hundred thousand years of evolution have resulted in a poorly designed foot and thank goodness technology is here to solve the problem. Humans have been running injury free for two hundred millennia. We’ve been plagued with running injuries in the three and a half decades since Nike released the first high heeled “jogging” shoe; it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out the math.

For twenty five years I ran on either the cheapest or the most colorful Nike I could find at the local mall store. Five stress fractures in three years made me rethink my lackadaisical attitude toward footwear. Looking at my pile of barely used shoes I wonder if perhaps I went a bit overboard.

A year ago I picked up a pair of Brooks T5 racers and fell in love. My training partners labeled my newfound practice of training for an Ironman in racing flats crazy. The T5 were great but like most minimalist shoes they had a short life span. I replaced the T5’s with Scott T2’s which use a more subtle version of the rocker sole we see all too often on those goofy “roll along” shoes. The Scotts were good, but when I ran the Onionman in June I dusted off the Brooks.

Running in the Scotts I ended up with another stress fracture, in all fairness I don’t think the crack was due to the shoes but now that I’m back to running I went out looking for something new. The Kinvara appear to be just what I’m looking for – an ultra lightweight minimalist training shoe. I’ve only worn the shoes on two short runs but so far so good.

I’m not a barefoot runner, but I can see the logic – if it works for you heck yeah do it. I think a minimalist running shoe is the idea middle ground between those obnoxious cinder block-like “stability” shoes and naked feet. Right now I’m dreaming of competing in the Portland Marathon, we’ll see how it goes as I gently return to running.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Viva Le Tour

I’ve always been at a loss as to why people are interested in watching professional baseball, football, basketball and golf. First of all it’s boring as hell. Secondly money has absolutely ruined the major American sports. Baseball is a child’s game; getting paid one hundred million dollars to play it is obscene. Some would argue that players are just getting what the market will bear, here in Seattle that’s a croc as we tore down one unpaid for stadium to build two so that our football and baseball teams wouldn’t make good on their threats to leave town. When the basketball team played the same gambit we told them not to let the door hit them in the butt. I don’t even care if the team is in the black, and doesn’t have to go to the taxpayers for a handout – just because you can pay a one hundred million dollar salary doesn’t mean that you should pay a one hundred million dollar salary. Any child knows that.

Well I have to eat my words a little bit as I’m totally hooked on the Tour de France. Amazing athletes, stunning scenery, and drama so compelling that if you made it up folks would say “aw that would never happen.” The winner of the Tour de France takes home four hundred thousand Euros, the winning team splits fifty thousand. Hell LeBron James wouldn’t blow his nose for fifty thousand Euros. Winners of intermittent sprints win four hundred Euros, that’s like six hundred dollars; those guys are out there busting their butts for six large. I bet A Rod has neck ties that cost more than that.

Cycling is a sport of passion, it sure as hell ain’t no path to fame and fortune, and maybe that’s what makes it so intriguing. Those guys aren’t out there for a paycheck, even superstars like Lance Armstrong don’t have a helicopter at the finish line waiting to take them to a five start hotel. They bed down at a local mom and pop just like the rest of the racers; some of them probably even share a bathroom.
The race this year has been complete with heroes and villains, old warriors and new blood. In the Contador versus Schleck battle I’m all for Schleck. I don’t know why I don’t like Alberto Contador, I just don’t. Conversely I don’t know why I like Andy Schleck, but I do. Heck how can you dislike a guy who says “my stomach is full of anger.” I mean maybe only someone like Hemmingway could come up with that stuff. As far as Lance goes you gotta give the guy credit, he went out there even when the odds were against him and held his own. The man is a warrior, and I respect him for giving the stiff middle finger to the naysayers. He walks away with his head held high that’s for sure.

It’s still a mystery to me why someone would watch a guy chase around a little ball, but my addiction to the Tour is helping me to begin to understand.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Keeping Vashon Wierd

While ten thousand of our fellow cyclists rode nuts to butts to Portland my trusty companion Joe and I caught the Fauntlery Ferry over to Vashon Island for a peaceful hilly ride over practically deserted roads.

We arrived for the 6:55 ferry at 6:56 and would have made it had we not got behind some highly confused Audi driver. With 40 minutes till the next boat we cranked up the hill and enjoyed pastries and coffee at the Original Bakery. Not a very original name, but they know how to bake.

We caught the 7:35 ferry for a cold crossing; I was feeling a bit underdressed for the occasion:

We planned a 52 mile circumnavigation of Vashon and Maury Islands. The cheat sheet downloaded from the Seattle Bicycling Club filled a page of copier paper, and more than once I wished I had one of those map holders that fit between the handlebars. The Vashon/Maury Island tour is a scenic, hilly ride over fairly descent roads. We saw little traffic and those few cars that did pass us gave plenty of space. The cheat sheet directed us down a dead end road and despite the warning sign we rode it to the end hoping to find some kind of cut through. Unfortunately we had to turn around and went free form for half a dozen miles.

Vashon is my kind of place, a lot of cool unique people who aren't afraid to let their freak flags fly.

We arrived back at the city center to find our way back to the ferry dock blocked by the Strawberry Days parade. Joe and I accidently joined in on the parade and marched along with the Vashon Eucele band. Once we were in the parade there was no escape and being someone who likes to blend into the crowd I was a bit freaked out. I walked my bike while Joe rode his Cervello proud as punch right down the middle of the parade route.

I really enjoy not being on any training plan. Joe and I simply rode along laughing and enjoying one another's company. We stopped when we saw a good photo op and rode at a comfortable conversational pace. Good scenery, good pastries, good friends, good conversation, that's what it's all about.

Friday, July 16, 2010

There’s An Ironman In My Pocket

As I approach midlife I realize more and more just how short is our time on this planet. Instead of wondering “what if” I’ve kind of just threw my hat in the ring and dealt with fears and second guessing later. I figure if you don’t ask yourself “why the hell am I doing this” at least once it’s really not worth doing. Some things are worth doing again and again, while others are best to have done.

When folks ask me about what I think of doing the Ironman I respond that it’s a good thing to have done. I did the Ironman twice; it’s a great thing to have in my memory bank, to have in my back pocket so to speak. We are what we’ve done and our accomplishments are the only possessions that cannot be taken away.

I have a big problem with the whole idea of being “born again.” If you’re a thief, a deadbeat, a liar you will always be a thief, a deadbeat or a liar. You might be a reformed thief, but you’re still is thief, it’s who you are – we are all an accumulation of what we have done. We are indeed slaves of our pasts, and once you realize this hard fact you’ll be a little more careful about how you plan your future and how you live your present.

Life is short, live it well.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Take One For the Team

As a stay at home dad I often hear other parents commenting that they want their kids to play team sports in order to learn teamwork skills. This is one of those easy to agree with yet hollow maxims. Unless you plan on a career as a galley slave I have to ask how important are teamwork skills. Life, as I’ve experienced it, is nearly one hundred percent taking the initiative and doing it yourself.

Sure it’s important to know how to work with others and to delegate responsibility, but those are social and managerial skills, not team skills. Team building exercises and that Walmart “hi I’m a team member” nonsense all look and smell like con jobs. If Walmart were truly interested in creating a team environment the three Walton kids wouldn’t all be among the ten richest people on the planet.

The real world is a small group of superstars supported by a “team” of worker bees. In this respect professional bicycle racing is a good metaphor for life. Lance Armstrong could never have won seven Tours without the support of an incredibly strong team, but how many people can name even one of those domestiques. Armstrong proved seven times that he was the most talented, strategic and fit rider in the race, but that wouldn’t have even got him to the podium without an elite team.

Personally I see individual team sports such as wrestling, swimming, gymnastics, cross country, and track as more worthwhile life lesson delivery devices. Sure there is a team victory in each of these sports, but that is more of an afterthought; few wrestlers or gymnasts would give up their individual win in exchange for a team victory. The primary goal is to win your event; team victory is icing on the cake.

Life is all about stepping up and doing it yourself, you can’t rely on the team.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Is More Better

Back in the day when I used to work a regular job two workmates and I plotted a winter ascent of Mt. Rainier. A winter climb of Rainier is extremely arduous even under the best of circumstances, and when a third coworker approached me about coming along I was skeptical. The guy had the mountaineering skills and he was definitely fit, but his fitness was a product of the gym and not the trail. At the time I was a svelte endurance athlete and was naturally uncomfortable signing on with a guy who looked like a bodybuilder.

In the end we made it a group of four and set out from the Paradise Lodge early one Saturday morning. My two original teammates and I were snickering behind our hands as the newcomer strapped a pair of Sorel boots onto the outside of his already overloaded pack. We quit laughing right quick as the big guy set the pace, kicked the steps and drug us all the way up to Camp Muir. In the end the weather stopped us at Muir, but I learned that muscle and endurance are not mutually exclusive.
I’ve come to the reluctant conclusion that traditional Ironman training, for me, isn’t healthy. In the world of Ironman conventional wisdom states that more is better: training eighteen hours a week is good, but twenty is better. That’s one way to skin a cat, but I’m starting to think that there is another way.

My coworker on Mt. Rainier wasn’t putting in nearly the amount of endurance training that I was, but he kicked my butt. And this isn’t the only example. During Ironman training I’ve gone out backcountry skiing with buddies and they see me huffing and puffing and ask “hey man I thought you were training for an Ironman.” The reality is that I go skiing on my rest day and thus I show up destroyed from a hard week of training.

I’m starting to think that true fitness and health doesn’t come from continual tear down of one’s body, but instead comes from short bursts of high energy exercises punctuated with adequate rest. I don’t think that you have to do an Ironman every week in order to do an Ironman on race day. More to come on this issue.