Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Devil's in the Details (along with the OCD types)

I just spent an evening with the fine folks from the St Louis Triathlon Club. An hour-long talk about transitions (i.e. how to change gear from swim-to-bike and bike-to-run). Serious triathletes are serious indeed. How about these tips:

Rest your helmet upside-down on the bike so when you arrive after the swim, you don't have to turn it over to don it.

Lock your bike shoes into your bike, using a rubberband to hold the pedal in place, so that you can mount the bike and slip into the shoes on the fly.

Many people tape energy gels to the frame of the bike; some unwrap energy bars and squish them around the frame, because they are gooey enough to stick.

Buy special shoelaces (called speed-laces) that obviate the need to tie your running shoes.

And the list goes on..... wow.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Raccoon Reckoning

Many of the readers of CaptainComicCanuck have been asking for an update on the dastardly raccoon situation.

There's still one, maybe two, in the deck above me (aka l'Hotel de Le Raton Laveur). The apartment complex has left some traps but the raccoons chuckle heartily as they scurry by. Strangely, I saw one whilst driving to the YMCA this morning at 6 am -- it was huffling down the street looking for a sewer opening. Either that or it was trying to burn off some extra calories from the Dumpster Buffet.

I even thought that the buggers learned to play guitar, as I could clearly hear one the other night. Thankfully, it is my new neighbour below me, whose stock instantly went up when I learned he was a fretter.

ps. The French call the raccoon "le raton laveur" / "the washing rat".

Blog Guideline #18

Use phrases such as "the readers of [blogname]" to give the illusion that there is a strong following for your blog. Manufacture interest by stating that they have been asking about various tangents.

Blog Guideline #17

Be brief.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Fossil Fools

From the "it could be worse" department: reports from PEI have gasoline at $1.14 (Can) per litre. That's $3.75 (Am) per gallon. Yikes. Prices in St Louis are $2.78 (Am) per gallon or $0.84 (Can) a litre.

It is well-known that a crisis can spur the economy (sadly, off-shore wars being a primary example). I don't understand why the Canadian and American governments don't "manufacture" a crisis -- e.g. mandate (or provide strong incentives) that all new commercial trucks/buses have to be 80 MPG by 2009. If we can win WW 2, surely we put a dent in this? Esp. if a side-effect is more jobs for all the displaced steelworkers that were courted by Bush and Kerry in 2004. Perhaps I'm too idealistic. After all, I am considering this as the next ride.

Another thought: why not a Hybrid Hummer? Not one that improves from 10 MPG to 15 MPG but a really enviro-green one that gets 45 MPG (and admittedly is very slow). It seems to me that Hummer's are all about size, not power. Does anyone go faster than 20 MPH in those things? They are glorified boulevard cruisers!

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Proving Grounds

After hobbling around (with Philipides' ghost laughing heartily) for a few days, I was finally able to try out my new bike at Creve Coeur Lake. CC Lake is a nice park area with a 5+ mile loop around an expansive lake. With temps in the 80s F recently, there are plenty of roller-bladers, bikers, and walkers out there.

Because I can bike there in 5 minutes, it became my own "proving grounds" last autumn, though the only thing I really proved was that a hybrid/mountain bike isn't very fast.

The new bike is fast. For the first time in a hundred years, there were times when I had that nervous feeling that harkened back to when one is just learning to ride. Getting on those "aerobars" is interesting, let me tell you (the steering is ultra-touchy) -- not to mention being clipped into the pedals. One really does "wear" road bikes.

Thankfully no falls or bruises... Jim G had a wipeout on his first ride last year, so that's one moral victory to start the season.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Two worlds unite

Last night, the St Louis Blues retired #2 for Al McInnis, the venerable defenseman and future Hall-of-Famer.

I wasn't there, but the local news recapped the highlights:

  • During the warmup, all of the Blues players wore #2.

  • A blue #2 was painted behind both nets, and was prominent on the boards.

  • A video tribute had accolades from Wayne Gretzky, Steve Yzerman, and other greats.

  • Every important St Louis Blue in history was in attendance, including Brett Hull and old-timers like Bernie Federko.

But the news missed one item: as a fanfare for Al's entrance, a Scotsman, decked out in a kilt and the full regalia, played the bagpipes. A very classy touch, celebrating Al's roots in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Stealing one from Philippides

Our hero fingerpicks a classical guitar in a salon in Paris. With a dramatic flourish, he ends a F# diminished appreggio, flamenco-style, with a resonant E major chord. The salon erupts in applause. Salma Hayek, wearing a fetching silky black dress, comes to the stage. With a delightful Latina accent, she leans in provocatively to our hero and whispers, "You're late".

Zounds! Our hero bolts awake: it's 6:22 am. He was supposed to be up at 5:45 am to head into St Louis city for the St Louis Marathon. With blazing speed, he grabs his clothes and is out the door, hurtling down i-70 in his red roadster.

Though 15 minutes late, and with no time to warm-up (or get nervous), our hero is soon trudging along the streets of St Louis. Using a technique known as the "run/walk", the goal is to improve on the pure-walk LA marathon in March with no injury to the delicate connective tissue of the foot and knee. The idea is to run a bit, walk a bit, repeat.

In stark contrast to LA, there is no fanfare, no companionship, no hotel room, and, well, no training. Some believe it is insane: "you can't just run/walk a marathon without putting in the miles. You have to respect the distance!". Philippides' ghost would not approve. (Philippides being the original runner from Marathon to Athens.)

The plan is to respect the distance, but also to push the boundaries.

And the boundaries were pushed: a finish-time of approximately 6 hours. The battleplan of "run 4 minutes, walk 1 minute" lasted until mile 15. Then it was throttled down to "run 3 minutes, walk 2 minutes". By mile 18, it was "walk and mutter profanity for 5 minutes". Thankfully a boost at mile 20 and another at mile 24. And the sweet, sweet finish line.

Damage assessment is underway... So far so good: I think I stole one and got away with it.

Friday, April 07, 2006

New Wheels

One of the main reasons I lost to Jim G in last autumn's Great Tri Showdown was that he had a new spiffy road bike.

This year I decided to at least match, if not surpass him. After being in Hawaii and reading glossy ads with seductive copy in a tri magazine on the plane, my tri-geek lust was high. Matching was not an option: can you put a price on victory? or utter domination?

Thankfully, I have calmed down and bought this little number. It's a road bike with add-on aerobars (allowing the rider to stretch the arms into that scrunched/aerodynamic riding position); it is not a true tri-bike which has a more aggressive geometry and gear shifters out at the end of the aerobars. If my old bike is a Toyota Corolla, this pony is a Mustang. The Ferrari will have to wait.

It's not easy to buy a bike anymore: they don't come with pedals and one has to buy special shoes. Stock seats are considered virtually disposable. And the bike is really just the foyer into Grand Ballroom of attire and accessories.

I feel more and more like Andy Rooney with each passing day.

Arch Rival #1: the dreaded Jim G

The best motivation for fitness is competition. Thankfully, I work with Jim G, my primary nemesis in St Louis. I am infinitely more fit because of our rivalry. I doubt if I would have run a 10 K, let alone a sprint triathlon, without the spice of competition.

Jim G is a good man and friend. He's honest and is a devoted father/husband. He's about 15 years older than me, but has a military and track background; in his youth, he was probably much more fit than I was in mine. I'd say we are about the same now.

Enough niceties: as running partners, we're The Odd Couple. We don't talk politics, religion, morals, bioethics (!), world affairs, or any of our other interests (he renovates houses; I play piano). He has been mortified at my various hairstyles and absolutely aghast in the summer 2003 when I came to work with my toenails painted (long story -- he still brings it up). I am always surprised at his news sources and role models. I am Owen Wilson to his Tommy Lee Jones.

We do talk about 3 things: swimming, bicycling, and running; and who can do what faster. We are both acutely aware of the other's status (injured, working out, super-fit, etc). And we have had some titanic battles "on the field". When I lose, I heartily congratulate him, but will replay the defeat for days. When I win, it is euphoria.

Our first major match-up of the season will be in June (a sprint tri). I cannot wait... this is The Year.