cycling


4
Oct 21

Ironman Indiana

This weekend we were in beautiful, bucolic Selma, Indiana, a rural community just outside exotic Muncie, which is in Indiana. And so it was that they named the event Ironman Indiana. It’s a bit of a one-off from the Ironman company. A lot of races were shut down last year. A lot of events didn’t get the chance to make money; a lot of outstanding athletes didn’t get to do their thing. So, this year, they decided “Let’s run a half Ironman and a full Ironman on the same day in the middle of a pandemic!”

We drove up Friday evening, because The Yankee was in this race. She did her packet pickup in Muncie, indoors but there was no one around. We went to the hotel(s) — and more on that in a moment. Saturday morning she got up very early and started the race.

Here she is after the 2.4 mile swim, and the conclusion of her 112 mile bike ride. Still a great big smile …

This is just outside the transition area, so she’s slowed down enough to allow us a glimpse as she’s preparing for the run.

Again, a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile run, and then you wrap up a light day’s work with a 26.2 mile run, which she’s starting here.

At some point on the run it becomes a mental thing as much as a physical thing. You’ve been out there for hours. You’ve surpassed your longest workouts. It can be tedious or boring or painful or entertaining. And as this course was a series of out-and-backs, you only saw your personal cheering sections a few times. But at least the weather was nice and mild today, and downright cool after the last of the rain had passed through. Really, it was a bit of everything, and so much of this particular course is in such a delightfully rural area that the only people you would see for long stretches of time are other athletes and the occasional aid station. You spend a lot of time in your head. A lot of time.

And yet, having done half the run, 13.1 miles down and 13.1 to go, she’s still got that big smile.

Later in the evening, having slashed through the water and ground on the pedals and pounded the pavement, the finish line.

This is her third Ironman. First there was Ironman Louisville in 2017. Then there was the North American Championship in Texas in 2019. And now, Ironman Indiana.

She finished, got her medal, took the publicity photos, grabbed a roast beef sandwich and sat on a bench to collect herself with her coach and his wife. And then we carried all of the tools of the Ironman trade to the car. Then she shivered as we drove back to the hotel.

We had two hotels this weekend. The first place had to put some rooms out of order, which we’re guessing, means they overbooked. But they were nice enough to reserve us a room in a much less nice hotel across town.

The sign out front inspires a lot of confidence.

But! We got a room with a king size bed, better than we were expecting in the first hotel. This place was undergoing renovations, however, and smelled funny. It probably always smells funny.

It was a smell that was even weirder through your mask.

So we settled in there Friday. On Saturday, the desk manager says to me “Checkout is at 11.

“No sir, it is not. The other hotel booked us for two nights.”

He had our little note from the other hotel right there on the desk. He was waiting on me.

It says here one night.

“Yes it does,” I said. “And the attendant there assured me this was a typo on a form letter and that our visit with you was for two nights.”

OK, let me call them.

“Yes, please do call them. Call Chris, the manager. Call Chris at home.

He calls, asks for Chris. Chris isn’t there, because it is Saturday on one of the busiest weekends in their town. Why would the manager of a teaching hotel be on hand?

He asks for whoever was close by. He gets put on hold.

Then the desk manager gentleman turns to me and nicely says “I know this isn’t your fault.

I said, “And I know this isn’t your fault. I also know I have two nights with you.”

At which point he hangs up and says “They were taking too long. I’m going to make them pay for it anyway.

Which is where I say, “And when I come back tonight, my stuff is still going to be in the room, and not on the curb, and this key is going to still work, right?”

Which is a question I asked him two different ways, just to be sure we had an understanding. And we did.

You put that out of your head for the day, but after the triathlon it’s a half-hour ride back to the hotel and you’re wondering the whole way: Is our stuff still going to be in the room? Is this key still going to work? It’ll be a whole new shift of people working in the hotel this time of night. What if Robert didn’t pass along this information, and we’re tired and hungry and cold and it’s late and we’re also sweaty? No one wants a scene in their smelly, renovating hotel, in front of people putting “cigerettes” out in the flower pots.

But the key worked, our things were still in the room. The three-time Ironman had a nice soothing shower and a snack and I said, “Since we’re safely in the room I can tell you this story now … ” which she laughed at until she fell asleep.

And on Sunday, we left exotic Muncie, got a quick breakfast and drove back to Bloomington. Sunday was a low key day spent resting and cleaning. Today was a Monday; tomorrow will be a full Tuesday.


27
Sep 21

Getting outside for the textures of the evening

Happy Monday. Beautiful fall weather all day, or so I heard. I spent it ‘neath the fluorescent lights.

Fall has a weird transcendent quality to it. I should get out there and enjoy this. Because winter is coming and you know what that’s like. But I have things I need to do inside. So I’ll get to it tomorrow. Yeah, tomorrow! Good idea! Tomorrow! It’ll be beautiful out there, then, too. But it’s never long enough.

Because winter is always looming just out there, somewhere. Waiting to arrive, unwelcome, a few days too early and determined to leave much too late.

The signals aren’t much help, either. There’s a saying about corn, knee high by July. But there’s not a saying that says “How in the world did that happen? It’s just the first of September?”

And sure, it signals fall, but that just foreshadows winter. It’s impossible to shake.

Anyway, saw that corn field on my Saturday bike ride, near the end, after I’d given up. At least my shadow had a good ride.

And he should! He never does any of the work on the bike. He just lets me pull him along, shadowy wheelsucker that he is.

When I got in for the evening I took a walk in the woods. Something about having to spell the word fluorescent seemed to require it. Let’s take a look at a bit of nature.

This is just down stream from where I found that leaf.

And if you were standing roughly there and wisely looked in all directions, you would eventually find yourself looking up. And you would be justly rewarded.

But when you turned back around and saw the light cast by the sun skating away, you’d get another beautiful glimpse that made wading through the underbrush worthwhile.

I am not a botanist, which is a statement that should be plain and obvious every time I put a picture of a plant here. And because of this, each time I see this plant, I want to say it is something else. This week we’re calling it milkweed.

Look at the bark on this tree. How beautiful is this?

Same tree, just below eye level.

And just below that, and slightly around to the side, there’s this sign of a limb removal.

It’s pretty low on the tree, and that looks as if it was a big branch. Maybe kids climbed on it. Maybe it just got in the way.

And since it’s a beautiful autumn Monday, it is time to check in with the kitties.

Phoebe is happy with the changing weather. She’s lately getting more snuggly and it has not escaped her attention that blanket season is upon us once more.

She likes blanket season.

Poseidon is a cat for all seasons. I believe he was upstairs soaking up some window sunshine before I interrupted him here.

He would like you to know you interrupted him. And he wants to know why. It’s a fair question.


10
Sep 21

Ding! You are now free to enjoy the weekend

The old Southwest Airlines slogan was in my head when I woke up this morning. The alarm on my phone went off, some pleasantly disarming 1940s radio jingle I clipped many years ago, and for some reason my brain said “Ding! You’re now free to move about the country.” I don’t know why it was there. No travel planned. Though the idea of going somewhere is appealing. No air travel on the radar for a good long while. But ding!

It was the place on words that always worked well in that slogan. Sure, you have the pilot’s announcement bell, so Pavlovian. But that concept “You are now free to move about the country.”

Of course it wasn’t free. But you were free, conceptually speaking. Though the whole thing violated some law of thermodynamics, I’m sure, because on Southwest, at least, you were flying dirt cheap. When that slogan was in use I could go from Birmingham to Louisville, to see my folks, for $29. I was there in an hour. It would have cost me more in gas for the car and the drive would take much more time, even after you figured in the airport waits. If I stayed longer than a weekend the parking deck cost more than the flight.

“You are now free to move about the country.”

But that wasn’t the real case. Not really. We know this to be true because Southwest did not go broke their first year in business.

None of this explains why the old saying was in my head this morning, except that random thoughts such as these are the truest freedom we enjoy. And there never seems to be enough free floating thoughts around. We should daydream more. Or, in my guess, I guess, hit the snooze button more frequently.

I pedaled my bike to work this morning. The Yankee has my car because she had a weirder schedule for the day and needed to make a trip to Indy and my commute is only 4.5 miles, or so, one way. So it seemed obvious that I would glide through two neighborhoods and over the creek trail and through a few more neighborhoods and onto campus. I wore my too-heavy backpack, and tried to keep the heart rate down, thinking a nice and leisurely ride would be pleasant, and wouldn’t work up much of a sweat.

On the way, along the creek trail, I met some new neighbors.

I had a meeting this morning, which was happily on Zoom. I say happily because, while the assembled group is charming enough, I’m just not keen on the idea of being in a room with 50-some other people when it can be so easily avoided.

And this afternoon I had a meeting with two students from Black Voices about studios and how they could use them this semester. That was after another small meeting about studios and what is going to be used, and how, this semester. It all has a certain flow to it, if you’re surrounded by the concepts, but perhaps arcane, otherwise. Suffice it to say, Media School students have a lot of studios and a lot of options and at least two more are due to come online in the next few days and weeks.

The people that put them together — I know them, but I’m not one of them — do terrific work to set it all up, sometimes building them out of the very air. And the students use them well. By the end of this semester you could be working in a studio with five cameras, two different rooms with four cameras each, or another brand new space that’ll have two or three cameras and a motion-capture studio with unlimited potential. Oh, and up the hill, in our other building, a giant studio, about three times larger. We have two distinctly different kind of showpiece studios. That’s how spoiled we are. Students will use them all, and use them well, and we show them off to prospective students and donors and it will continue to grow and grow into we know not what.

Two years ago the two studios being built today weren’t even ideas.

Anyway, another show from the Wednesday night sports productions. They were talking college football.

That’s a straight up murder’s row of young sports media talent, by the way. As overrun as we are with studios, we have even more incredibly gifted students.

At the end of the day, the end of the shortened week, I pedaled my bike home. It was mild this morning, but much warmer this evening. So I’d brought along a pair of shorts and a t-shirt and spent much of my downtime trying to imagine a route that was all downhill.

There is no route that is all downhill.

So I went the normal way, which has three short hills and some easy rollers. I also had my heavy backpack, and it all felt like I haven’t ridden in years. In reality: three weeks, tomorrow. As I struggled up the longest, easiest hill I wondered how I would fare on tomorrow’s ride, which will not feature an extra 20-some pounds of luggage. It was most dispiriting.

(Edit: It also turned out to be a false reading. My Saturday afternoon bike ride was short, punchy and fun. Even in the headwind, my legs were much better. Blaming the too-heavy backpack is clearly the right choice.)

As ever, I need to find more time to ride. And more time to do all of the other things I enjoy.

There never seems enough of the free stuff, does there?


5
Aug 21

Faster than Olympians

I’d like to tell you about a great adventure on the day, but the truth of it is that there was the office, and then there was enjoying the evening in the backyard, and then enjoying the Olympics into the night.

Two weeks of Olympics following three weeks of Tour de France, mean a lot of televised sports. And the Vuelta a España starts next week. And then you’re into football season. Honestly, being in a safety-first, approach to going to as few places as possible has done wonders for my sports viewing this year.

I’m getting bored with it.

I did update my 404 page today. I noticed, to my great chagrin, that there was a broken link in my missing page. That’s mortifying. Better that I found it myself, rather than someone pointing it out. The error had been there for an embarrassingly long time. I can only assume that means that people don’t run across the 404 page that often.

But isn’t that exciting? I tested links! I moved tables! I saved and refreshed and changed some language!

That is a full on Thursday!

I wanted to share this amazing track event we discovered this evening. It is, in fact, from a few nights ago. Perhaps we missed it, or maybe NBC, burdened by time zone problems covering the Olympics half a world away, couldn’t figure out where to show what’s being called “the greatest race ever” many hours later. I wanted to share it, but NBC has limited where their programming can be shared, and where their pre-rolls can run. It’s a business model, I guess.

Here’s a video you can see on my humble little site. I did the math, we’re going faster than the world record hurdlers. We had better gearing, and fewer hurdles.

It was to be a 90-minute ride. Before we’d gotten through the second neighborhood on the route The Yankee had a problem with her aerobars. She got that resolved, and it allowed her to go faster. So, before we’d gotten through the third neighborhood on the route she dropped me.

Just as I caught back up to her, some 15 miles later, we called it just a bit early, right about the time I shot that video. Sometimes, catching back on feels like the greatest race ever.


28
Jul 21

I told you there were a lot of Olympics around here

Ten years ago I said silly things like, “It isn’t a good ride until you get pelted by insects.”

Today — as I’m trying to wipe one bug away from my eye and get hit on the other cheek by another hard-shelled critter — I say “That was inconsiderate.” And then the last cicadas in town come in for a low-altitude harassment pass …

These days I also say “Twenty-six is a little hard, can we hold it at 23 or 24 miles an hour?”

We were watching the tape-delayed Olympics last night, watching the gymnastics, knowing she was out, knowing something. And in the middle of Simone Biles’ vault The Yankee, herself a Division 1 gymnast, a high school All-American, tensed up during that vault. (My wife’s gymnastics career was ended suddenly by injury, one she still deals with decades later.) She spent the next several minutes talking about what an amazing save that was, and then several more moments about what terrible things could have happened in Tokyo.

And so this little thread cinches it. Gymnasts know what they saw. They alone know what the rest of us missed. That’s good enough for me.

And, also, this:

A watershed moment occurred in these Olympic Games. The rest is just noise.