Monday, July 25, 2011

A Kipling For Cadel

Dedicated to Cadel Evans, the Aussie who conquered the roads of France.
Good on ya mate!

A Song of French Roads

"The National Roads of France are numbered
throughout, and carry their numbers upon each
kilometre stone. By following these indications,
comprehensible even to strangers, the tourist
can see at a glance if he is on the correct road.
For example, Route Nationale No. 20 conducts
from Paris to the Spanish frontier at Bourg-
Madame, in the Eastern Pyrenees; and No. 10
to the same frontier at Hendaye, on the Bay of
Biscay: "-GUIDE BOOK.

Now praise the Gods of Time and Chance
That bring a heart's desire,
And lay the joyous roads of France
Once more beneath the tyre-
So numbered by Napoleon,
The veriest ass can spy
How Twenty takes to Bourg-Madame
And Ten is for Hendaye.

Sixteen hath fed our fighting-line
From Dunkirk to Peronne,
And Thirty-nine and Twenty-nine
Can show where it has gone,
Which slant through Arras and Bapaume,
And join outside Cambrai,
While Twenty takes to Bourg-Madame,
And Ten is for Hendaye!

The crops and houses spring once more
Where Thirty-seven ran,
And even ghostly Forty-four
Is all restored to man.
Oh, swift as shell-hole poppies pass
The blurring years go by,
And Twenty takes to Bourg-Madame,
And Ten is for Hendaye!

And you desire that sheeted snow
Where chill Mont Louis stands?
And we the rounder gales that blow
Full-lunged across the Landes-
So you will use the Orleans Gate,
While we slip through Versailles;
Since Twenty takes to Bourg-Madame,
And Ten is for Hendaye.

Sou'-West by South-and South by West-
On every vine appear
Those four first cautious leaves that test
The temper of the year;
The dust is white at Angouleme,
The sun is warm at Blaye;
And Twenty takes to Bourg-Madame,
And Ten is for Hendaye.

Broad and unbridled, mile on mile,
The highway drops her line
Past Langon down that grey-walled aisle
Of resin-scented pine;
And ninety to the lawless hour
The kilometres fly-
What was your pace to Bourg-Madame?
We sauntered to Hendaye.

Now Fontarabia marks our goal,
And Bidassoa shows,
At issue with each whispering shoal
In violet, pearl and rose,
Ere crimson over ocean's edge
The sunset banners die . . .
Yes-Twenty takes to Bourg-Madame,
But Ten is for Hendaye!

Oh, praise the Gods of Time and Chance
That ease the long control
And bring the glorious soul of France
Once more to cheer our soul
With beauty, change and valiancy
Of sun and soil and sky,
Where Twenty takes to Bourg-Madame,
And Ten is for Hendaye!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Drugs And Bicycles

I'm a cyclist. I love my bicycle. As I've aged and the injuries from repetitive lifting have gotten easier to suffer and harder to heal my bicycle has become my number one source of exercise.

I found out a few years ago that I also like to watch competitive riding, including the Tour de France. The problem is that professional bike riders are synonymous with performance enhancing drugs. The drug of choice is EPO but Blood Doping and stimulants are and have been used extensively. Many pro riders have been caught but the doping was so widespread and endemic that the entire sport was in real danger of dying. And good riddance it would have been. Riders have been banned and teams have dissolved, doctors have been stripped of professional credentials, some have done time for smuggling. It even seems pretty clear now that Lance Armstrong was doping and that is a real kick in the nuts to fans like myself.

Lu and I started watching the Tour in 2001. We watched as Armstrong won and continued to win. 7 Tours in all. It was always apparent who the strong men were and there were damn few of them. Compared to those few the rest of the peleton looked pretty average. In succeeding years the script was the same. Two, or at the most three, riders were light years ahead of the rest (think men against boys) until one would kick in the next gear and simply blow the competition away. The winner most always seemed to win fairly easily (for certain values of easy).

Of course we now know that their competitive edge came from a syringe and a transfusion bottle rather than being honestly won. I got disinterested fairly quickly. The various anti doping agencies, both in Europe and here in America, were pretty ineffectual but then the systematic doping with doctors and experts involved made any detection chancy at best. There is now a new system in place called Blood Profile or Biological Profile. It's based not on a failed drug test or a criminal investigation but rather on telltale changes in the blood that signal the use of performance enhancers. There is no way to be certain but anecdotaly it seems to be working.

This years Tour is like no other I have watched. Everyone seems to be on an even level. The current leader, a man who should have had absolutely zero chance of winning, is a Frenchman named Thomas Voeckler. He's a good rider but not in the same league as those past, enhanced, winners. Yet this year he leads by almost two minutes after stage 16 of 21. The big names are down, some way down, in the standings. My pick, Cadel Evans, is an Aussie who I am confidant has been racing clean for years. He's in second and, if reports are to be believed, in "incredible"physical  shape. That means his performance edge is coming from his body and training and not from a moral shortcut. The rest of the peloton, the mass of riders who  make up the body of the race, are taking turns racing heads up against the big names and are more than holding their own. The racing is close, intense and sometimes violent. There's been more crashes, and more injuries, than I can ever remember seeing. Such conditions are indicative of racers who are evenly matched and trying for every advantage on the road that they can get. Heck a sprinter, Thor Hushovd from Norway, has won two mountain stages. A feat previously unheard of. Jonathon Vaughters put together the Garmin-Cervelo team, derived from the old Slipstream-Chipotle team, expressly to show that clean riding was not only possible but clean riders could win at the very highest levels of the sport. In a case of great minds think alike, Vaughters agrees with my assessment.

We're seeing riders and teams choosing not to dope. It may be because of the fear of getting caught (along with the literal millions of dollars at stake). It may be an attempt to emulate Vaughters. It may be because the participants realize just how close they came to losing their sport. Or it may be that the riders are finally just plain wising up.

Whatever the case I'm watching this years race with renewed enthusiasm and excitement. I want an unexpected winner. I want those domestiques, the nameless faceless drones shepherding the name riders, to win and place high. I want to be amazed by the sheer guts and determination of a Frenchman riding for glory and honor, hanging on to the yellow jersey with his teeth and his nails and his courage. I want people to know my sport is clean and to be awed by the things these men can do from the saddle of a bicycle.

I have admitted many times that I am a man of deep emotions. A man who can be easily moved by demonstrations of human exceptionalism. I make no apologies. Anyone who cannot be moved by courage and effort and overcoming long odds is missing out on a wonderful experience.

Finally, I can watch and cheer and be completely and wonderfully ignorant of the final outcome. And that is a very good thing for those of us who love bicycle racing and the men and women who abuse their bodies in search of fleeting and elusive glory.

Viva le Tour!


Thursday, July 14, 2011


Can someone please explain to me why Poker is on ESPN? I know it's Entertainment and SPorts Network but the emphasis has always been on the SPort with the Entertainment relegated to Cheerleader competitions and hot dog eating contests. They don't even have pro wrestling on for crying out loud.

Poker? Really? With play by play and in depth color commentary?

"Greasy Pete really took a big hit on that hand Cool Hand Jesus."

"That's right Mortimer. He really should have folded that hand when the flop turned up Duece, Seven and the Death Card."

Apparently I'm watching waaaay too much TV.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Canine Prosthetics

I've been spending a lot of time getting ready for the new puppy, some of which has been internet searches. I ran across this during my surfing.

How can something be so sad and yet so uplifting at the same time? Dogs and the people who love them. It's a beautiful thing. Spirit, it can't be measured but you know it when you see it. You can read the whole story about Naki'o and his owner, Christie Tomlinson here.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I'm headed out to California on Thursday to pick up the new boy. I'm staying with Car Guy and his lovely bride Thursday night. I'll pick him up at the breeder on Friday morning and immediately return to Utah. I hate to do the hit and run with Car Guy but I have things that must be done both Wednesday and Saturday so my window is small.

I've been getting ready for his arrival. Re-reading some old favorites

And especially this one. No finer work exists regarding the raising and training of a good lab.

This is my literally dog eared copy. Proof that Trooper loved it as much as I did. I think the new boy will be as interested as he was.

The DO and the grandkids bought him his first collar. I found some puppy sized bumpers I just couldn't resist. Hey, gotta start 'em early.

The toy box is full with any accoutrement a retriever could ever want. More toys equals fewer chewing incidents. At least that's the theory.

The house is ready. His crate is beside my bed and waiting for it's occupant. The back yard is newly fenced. The lake has been scouted and the best spots picked out. We've been talking to Chrisi about her new little brother. She talks a good game but I don't think she really understands. Come Friday night it'll all become clear to her. She loves friendly dogs, especially little ones. She's missed Trooper badly so I think the new boy will be a welcome addition into her life.

I'm nervous. Perhaps anxious is a better word. On the day I pick him up Trooper will have been gone exactly 11 months so it's been a while. It's important that I do this right and I haven't had a puppy in almost 16 years. I'm hoping it's like falling off a bike because we all know how well I do that.

I'm as ready as I can be and really looking forward to meeting my new friend. It's going to be a wonderful ride and I plan on sharing it with you. Pictures as soon as I get a chance, probably Saturday night.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Garage Build Pt. 2

After finishing the basic structure it was time for the exterior walls. They went up fairly easily. This is where prior preparation is critical. The sides (and roof) attach with metal screws through pre-drilled holes. If the slab isn't perfectly flat and even the holes won't match which is fixed by a lot more work accompanied by fits of bad language.

Here's the South side done.

The North side

And the Back

Here are the trusses, gables and roof I-beams installed and ready for a roof. Have I mentioned how hot it's been cause it was a mite warmish. I figure I sweated approximately 5 Gatorades per hour. That's real construction speak right there.

The roof corners go up first. See that ladder I'm on, the 6 footer with the inviting step at the very top? Yeah, I fell off causing much bruising and more colorful metaphors. Don't be alarmed, I'm a professional where it comes to falling off ladders. I mean, I've fallen off ladders put up and held by professional Firefighters. Seriously, I've fallen off a lot of ladders. Explains many things. I ended up hanging from one of the roof I-beams by my right armpit. You may not know this but your armpit wasn't designed for holding up your body weight. Just a tip. It was spectacular enough that Lu even noticed. Usually when I hurt myself doesn't even look anymore, she just asks if we need to visit the ER. No? Then get back to work you lazy bastard.

The ladder incident (or rather the latest ladder incident) led to an epiphany. I have a large truck. It has this really nice and strong camper shell. The garage is open at the moment and, you know, it's right there, so...
Presto! Instant scaffolding. That's Sphincter Boy standing up there in case you can't see him.

Here is our now much smarter hero, installing the roof panels the safe way. See, I actually can learn from my mistakes. Provided they're painful enough.

We finished the day with the roof about halfway done.

The next day we got up and finished it off. Hey, there's a building there!

A couple of pictures from inside. It was at least 20 degrees cooler in there making my motivation to go back out in the sun pretty much nonexistent. See the man? See the huge sweat stain? Don't get too near the man.

After finishing the roof it was time to anchor the building. We did the final squaring and got ready to install the anchors. Uh. We might have a problem here. Take a look at the 2 anchors at the bottom of the picture. The one on the right is what was supplied in the anchor kit I bought, paying perfectly good money for it. It's 1/4 inch and was woefully inadequate. To fix it I went to the hardware store (Oh Joy!) and bought fifty 1/2 inch by 3 inch anchors. You can see the difference here. You do not anchor a 14x31x10 foot building with tinker toys.

This change in the plan required the purchase of a new tool. Oh yeah, I love tools especially new ones. Lu wasn't even mad. That bad boy is a Dewalt hammer drill and it's fabulous in the extreme. It drilled 1/2 inch holes 3 inches deep in my 6 bag concrete like, well, something sharp going through something soft. Hey, I'm tired and my brain don't work too well at the moment.

The day wouldn't be complete without thanking the support staff. Good ol' Chrisi. Where would we have been without her? Pay no attention to the fat man on the floor. Cheap labor.

Tomorrow I'll post the final build. We have to finish the trim, put on doors and build some shelving. Plus there's all my crap to lug and store in there. Come back, it'll be epic. I swear. There will probably be more pain and maybe even some bleeding.

Hey, I aim to please.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Building A Garage

The delivery guy dropped off a package on Tuesday afternoon. It was 9 large boxes and 1 small one on a triple long pallet.

Here's the boxes, unloaded and partially opened. That's a lotta parts!

First step is to do some assembly, lay down the foundation and put up the corners, main pillars and support beams. It's important brace the walls as at this point it can be blown down by a strong wind.

Slot A goes into Tab B and then attach the doohickey with alternating thingies. Got it. Wait...what?? I'm a guy. I hate instructions.

The 2 main trusses. They had to be assembled piece by piece by piece. There were a lot of parts.

This is where we left off yesterday. Most of the main supports are in and the trusses and roof beams are assembled and ready to install. That's what we'll be working on today along with putting on the exterior sides. We're still several days away from a completed garage.

More tomorrow.


Saturday, June 4, 2011

NowhereMan Triathlon

I signed up to do Fatty's 100 Miles Of Nowhere. It's 100 miles on rollers or a short course and is a fundraiser in the fight against cancer. I have a special reason for participation this year. My Mother is in the end stages of terminal lung cancer. This is the one and only time she'll be able to see me complete this event. In that light I decided the day deserved the best effort I could give. If 100 miles on rollers is good maybe something more would be better. I settled on a triathlon. But how? I can't swim and even if I could doing laps in the tub seemed kinda boring. But I can lift and have this humble but really cool, mostly equipped gym right at my house. Presto, the NowhereMan Triathlon was born (With all due credit and respect to Fatty for the name. Please don't kill me).

It's a triathlon with a twist; 100,000 pounds lifted, 10K run and 100 miles on a bicycle, all without leaving the comfort of my home gym. I planned on doing it on Saturday but wandered around the house all day Friday, thinking about it and playing it out in my mind. Shortly after 2:00 PM I decided heck with this. I gathered up Lu and headed out to the gym to get things rolling.

Ma. This is for you.

A partial view of the gym with the bicycle already hooked up to the rollers. That's the official 100 Miles Of Nowhere plate on the bike. The whole thing was done in my humble home gym out behind my house. The gym equipment for lifting, the run on a treadmill and the bike on rollers. Never left the gym except once to use the facilities which were in my own house. How cool is that?

2:30 PM and the official start.

The scoreboard, depressingly free of completed disciplines.

Lifting was up first. As the Big Board shows, I did 7 exercises. The totals went like this:
Bench Press - 100 reps @ 185 pounds = 18,500
Barbell Curl - 100 reps @ 70 pounds = 7,000
Dips - 100 reps @ 245 pounds = 24,500
Rows - 100 reps @ 185 pounds = 18,500
Overhead Extensions - 100 reps @ 100 pounds = 10,000
Shoulder Raises - 100 reps @ 55 pounds - 5,500
Deadlifts - 60 reps @ 200 pounds = 12,000
Squats - 20 reps @ 200 pounds = 4,000
If my math is correct that's 100,000 pounds in 680 repetitions for a 147 pound per lift average. The first time I did 100,000 pounds in training for this it took me 1250 reps. I started to do squats, intending to do 100 reps but at rep number 10 felt a twinge in my right knee. On the second set of 10 it went from a twinge to a full blown owie and squats were out and maybe the entire triathlon. I switched to deadlifts and managed 60 reps before the pain became too great. I added some weight and reps to shoulder raises (I was only planning on doing 60 at 50 pounds) and made up the weight.

Take a look at that face. It was about this time that I recognized there might be a problem and was considering how to continue.

Here's Lu loading plates. She spent the day and night setting up, bringing me food and drinks and just generally coaching and cheer leading. Not to mention the recovery massages. Love that woman.

Here's the what the final board looked like. Not exactly according to the plan but done.

With lifting done it was to event number 2. I was planning on biking at this point but Lu convinced me that my arms were so pumped that supporting myself on the bike might be problematic so the 10K was next.

The problem knee. It kept me from running the pace I wanted but held together long enough to finish. I did no better than a fast walk and a light jog but I finished every step.

6.2 miles aka 10 Kilometers. The time was disappointing but I finished.

The mid point meal complete with a smile and a thumbs up. Mac and Cheese with bacon bits (because everything is better with bacon), whole wheat bread and a glass of milk. I went through about a gallon of water, a half gallon of Gatorade and a tall milk. Yes, that is indeed a drill press behind me. Don't ask.

Ok. On to the bike. My arms were still pumped but I considered this the easiest part of the whole deal. Hey, we're all wrong from time to time. Right?
The obligatory Zero miles shot.

I was going to do the whole ride in my official Team Fatty Jersey but...

Fatty, I love you and Twin Six but by this point my arms were still so pumped the jersey was cutting off circulation to my hands. I went with something a little

Man, this is hard. In addition to a triathlon this was my first Century on the bike. I found myself looking down at the odometer thinking "I must almost be done by now. Come on, let me almost be done by now" only to discover I still had 75 miles to go. Oof. It was grind it out time so I put my head down and put in the miles.

The finale was most satisfying.

And just like that it was done! The clock on the wall said 11:26 PM.

The official time was kept by Lu on her official Ironman Timex

8:55:42. 8 hours, 55 minutes, 42 seconds.

The final Big Board.

I wanted to do this event for a couple of reasons.
First to support Team Fatty and all his good works and do my part in The Fight.
Second to prove to myself that I could do it.
Finally, and most importantly, to let my Mother know how I feel about her. Ma, I love you more than I could possibly say. I did this because you couldn't. It's my small way of honoring you, your life and your fight. Cancer may separate us but you will ever be in my heart. Fight your fight and know I'll be beside you the whole way. And when your fight is done I will take it up as my own. That is my promise to you.

And so it is done. My legs feel like a bag of angry cats. Lu has been taking good care of me with plenty of Tylenol and leg massages. I've spent the day sleeping and eating anything and everything that gets near me. Now, as far as I can tell I'm the first to do this particular brand of triathlon. If so I believe that makes me the world record holder. If not I'm still the record holder in the Male, 51.9 year old (I'll be 52 in a couple of weeks), Clydesdale, Hurricane Utah, Home Gym, Balding division. I declare myself satisfied. And hey, maybe someone else will step up next year and go for my title. Oh, almost forgot one thing. I started the tri at 245 pounds. After it was done I weighed myself again, thinking I'd see how much weight I'd lost. Kinda like the last chance workout on Biggest Loser. I weighed in at 247. I have to be the only guy in America who can do 9 hours of straight exercise and gain 2 pounds. Jillian would be so disappointed.

Thank you to all of you, my friends, for your support and encouragement. A big Thank You goes to Fatty. The fight goes on my friend but as long as people like you exist how can we possibly fail? Thanks for letting me participate and honor my Mother. I owe you.

Eric "Six"