Tuesday, October 28, 2008

We have a volleyball player........and a penguin

Katie made the AAU volleyball team. She tried out against some pretty tough competition and we're really proud of her for overcoming her nerves and going for it.

Eye of the tiger

She let success go to her head a little. I think karma decided she needed to be cooled off and turned her into a penguin.

Trying to go back to her habitat.

I foresee road trips to many vball tournaments in our future....and maybe the need to install an iceberg in the backyard.

Friday, October 24, 2008

More from Manawa

As promised, Tom sent me a bunch of cool pics from our trip to Manawa. I'll just add a couple here.

Me cresting the camelback. Corey eating my dust (for once).

Corey in mid teeter.

...not to be outdone.

Defying gravity

Corey, getting his totter on.

Thanks for the pics Tom, hopefully we'll see you again out in the wild.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Biking > Working

Mountain biking is always better than working and Monday was Corey's birthday, so this was all the excuse we needed to head out on a mini bike trip.

Corey is a crusty old 40.

Man, I glad I'm nowhere near that old.

Luckily, I won't be turning 39 until January. Our adventures took us to Lake Manawa, which is right along the Missouri River, just south of Council Bluffs.

We had a little trouble finding the trailhead because, for some reason, I thought the trail circled the lake, but it doesn't. From the THOR website I knew you needed to park at the Missouri River boat ramp, so before long we got er figgered out.

We met a couple of very nice fellow bikers in the parking lot, including Tom who gave us a lot of information and some nice company at various points along the way, which was good because neither Corey or I had been to Manawa before. Squirrel's scouting report said to expect it to be a lot like Denmans at the Center. He was right.

Manawa was really hit hard by floods and then straight line winds this year. Many big old trees met their end due to this caustic combination. The THOR gang has put a TON of volunteer hours into rehabilitating these trails and it is much appreciated.

There's normally 7 miles of interconnecting loops but one of the "black" loops was closed, shortening the total distance to 6 miles. The path is made up of several open areas of singletrack with a wide corridor which would make great passing lanes for an XC race.

There's also several sections of very tight and twisty trail that snakes through all manner of trees and brush. Its pretty fun, especially at speed. There was, of course, a lot of leaf cover on the trail so concentrating on the correct path to properly zoosh around led to some significant eye strain after many miles.

There are a couple of black loops open. They are not super technical but there are some features that can trip you up if you're not careful. The most notable is this section that starts with a tallish logover...

...followed by the rocky climb...

...then you descend a rocky staircase of sorts which leads into a gully crossing and up to the "camelback" which is a hill with camel humps at the top and a surprising little rocky descent down the other side.

This section was my favorite at Manawa. It would be cool if they would cut in some trail that would loop you right back to the start of the techy stuff so you could ride it multiple times in a circuit. They do this, quite successfully, with a rocky section at Ignwanis.

There's an area known as Tony's Playground that is replete with two teeter totters. Here's Corey taking the plunge off the big one. Tom has promised to email some swell action photos of Corey and yours truly on the totters. I'll post them up when I git 'em. I did both of 'em after some significant debate on the first bigun. I never been good on stunts and after taking a beat down at Boone I was a little gun (or totter) shy, but I overcame my babyness and rode 'em. They're really not hard, its all mental (which is usually my problem - what-with all the thinkun and stuff)

Tom railing a turn. He's fast for 61 years young.

Corey grabbing some air off a little rise.

We did four 6 mile loops plus a couple more of a warm up loop that is almost 2 miles. All in all about 28 miles. We kept a fast pace through almost all of it, only stopping briefly to rest. By the end we were pretty spent...and happy.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Rollercoaster Redux and Motivational Speaking

On Saturday I spent the better part of the day - and a whole buncha money - watching something not quite resembling Cyclone football. I don't know what it was; for it defies explanation. Its confounding, as if its supposed to be football. It even looks like football at times and then-its-gone (poof). The players have uniforms, helmets, pads and other cool stuff like that, but something is missing. Its not like I haven't seen this before......I should be an expert in almostfootball watching, but this is supposed to be different. It is vexing.


I needed to blow Saturday's cobwebs off so I headed off to the Center Sunday morning to inspect the newly minted Rollercoaster trail version (what?) 8.2. When I got downtown I saw the streets were closed and remembered it was the day of the Des Moines Marathon. My first thought was, "Man, I'm glad I'm not them."

Since the marathon went through Greenwood Park I had to park a few blocks away and ride a little through the course to get to the trail . I felt kinda bad rolling by on wheels when I knew some some these people were probably really feelin' it. The entry to Greenwood Park was the 17 mile mark of the course.

Rollercoaster starts off the little parking lot by the pond. After a couple of fun little dips and bridges, including the first 'coaster hill, and you're at the creek crossing and the accompanying switchbacks. This area is always changing, the switchbacks are always a little tricky and I always like it. I think this is the best version we've had in awhile.

Rollercoaster had a ton of volunteer hours and materials poured into it just last week, and it really shows.

Another 'coaster hill. I've never had a problem with it, but you really don't want to hit that rock in the middle when approaching that bridge; you really don't.

Here's some of the controversial reroute. In my book, its pretty cool when you've ridden this trail hundreds of times and you still can't tell where the reroute begins without studying it closely.

I like the ridgeline bit. It certainly adds an element since you can carry some good speed up to it.

In my humble opinion this bit, right after the ridgeline, could use some more bench cut. The off camber makes you scrub a lot of speed, which is a bummer on Rollercoaster.

I like the turn around the tree to the bridge. A burm on the uphill side to help whoosh you around the corner would be sweet.

From here there's a short bit of new trail and then it is the same old Rollercoaster - super fast, super fun.

'Coaster ends on the paved trail that runs through Greenwood and goes into Waterworks, which was part of the marathon course. I did 4 'coaster laps, plus some on Hillside, so each time back to the paved trail I got to encounter more runners. I tried to offer encouragment each time by, yelling things like, "I bet that headwind is killin' ya!"
and "All uphill from here, for the next 5 miles".

Occasionally, I'd see someone who was really struggling and give them a special boost, "You know, if you would lengthen your stride it would really help! Go on try it......C'MON MAN!, get it together!....Aw, forget it!". Sometimes tough love is just what a tired recreational runner needs.

This guy was on point with roadside entertainment. I encouraged him too, "More strumming, less picking!" and "C'mon man, play some Skynard - FREEBIRD!"

Really, the Sunset Cowboy was dern good.

Of course I'm kidding about the heckling, in truth I was very careful to keep out of people's way and dished out a few "good job" and "keep it up" comments. One lady marathoner said, "I thought I saw a deer in there", pointing into the woods where I emerged. "No, that was me." I said. She laughed. I hope that helped for a few yards.

Tony Robbins got nuthin' on me. I'm gonna write a book.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I've been silent on this topic for quite awhile. I know you must all be wondering where I stand....so I am going to address this issue now, once-and-for-all, on the record:

I don't like songs that spell things.

You know who you are: G-L-O-R-I-A and G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S.

Sorry, that means you too B-I-N-G-O.

Don't worry, YMCA, you don't count. There is a special clause for acronyms but, I haveta tell you, the oiled up Indian doesn't help matters. You are officially on notice.

I especially don't like it when an artist spells out his or her name and puts a "to the" in between the letters. I don't get it, what's the point? I should try it when putting my name in at a restaurant. "Uhm....B to the R to the IAN, your table is ready".

Aretha Franklin's R-E-S-P-E-C-T gets a pass, because of my R-E-S-P-E-C-T for soul music.

The only other notable exception? S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Night. Oh yeah, Bay City Rollers circa 1976.

One of my first LP's (that's vinyl for all you younguns) was their Greatest Hits album.

Clearly, I R-O-C-K-E-D H-A-R-D back then and I still do T-O-D-A-Y.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Good stuff

The weekend began in style with me picking up this full suspension frame I bought from Squirrel to build up a rippin' bike for Katie. If I'm not careful she could end up being more rad than huckin' kitty.

Shhhh. She doesn't know I have it yet. I'm going to surprise her at a time and place of my choosing, and then make her stare at a unbuilt frame for awhile (like maybe all winter). I figure this might teach her a little something about patience and working toward a goal....and I get to torment her too, which isn't all bad.

After sharing a few Ocotberfests with Squirrel, and his lovely family, I headed home and went to bed early because I was getting up early for a huge trailwork day at the Center. There were mucho volunteers showing up later in the afternoon for an all out assault on the trail we call Rollercoaster (ride it once and you'll know where it gets its name). Several faithful showed up early to wrangle bridges and get started on other projects.

This might be the coolest thing I've ever seen. I've gotta figure out an excuse for why I would need one at home.

Me discussing one arm riding technique with Squirrel.

Several of 'Coaster's bridges were about to give up the ghost. These are much better.

We wouldn't want anything bad to happen...I don't think we have to worry about resonance vibration in a torsional mode, but ya never know.

After putting in some sweat equity Corey and I snuck off for a little ride. I felt bad riding while people were still working, but I knew this would be my only chance to turn the peddles this weekend. I was jazzed because I had just taken the Trek in for some wrenching.

Terry, at Rassmuessen's, is not a bike mechanic. He has ascended to the level of bike wizard.

YOU SHALL NOT PASS!....Actually, Terry, if its all the same to you, I will go ahead and pass because I can shift now.

Thanks to Terry I can shift AND brake, which are features you like to have in a bike. On my own I also removed the torture implements - disguised as peddles - that have been plaguing me and the Trek for awhile now. Rick, I don't know what I did to inspire you to give me such evil little foottrappers, but I'M SORRY Okay? Geez. Those little demons have been exorcised, hopefully never to return.

When I got home from working and riding I was pretty gassed and just looking forward to watching some college football, but plans changed when I found a big bike box inside my front door. Allen's bike, the one we snagged on ebay to replace his mysteriously disappearing ghost bike, had arrived. So, I set to unpacking a reassembling ye old gurl.

This is called closure.

Sunday I was on deck to help out with the Miracle League. It was a fantastic experience. All the people responsible for bringing this program to our city should be tremendously proud, it improves our community more than anything I could possibly imagine. I don't have any pictures because I was too busy - setting up batting tees and shuttling balls, bats and players around - to snap photos. By the end of the game my face was sore from smiling and my hands were red from clapping and dishing out high fives.

One batter declared, "This one is heading for the outfield!" He was right, it was. Another savvy player impressed me with his ability to slide into base by skidding his wheelchair sideways. There's really too many little stories to relate and I couldn't do the description justice anyway. These ballplayers weren't constrained by their disabilities or peer pressure or even baselines. They were playing simply for the love of the game. I can't add anything to make that more interesting or better in any way, so I'll just end by saying -

It was perfect.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Perspective Revisited

Sure, I scraped up my elbows last week but I wasn't so unfortunate that I had a stick wedge itself in my front wheel, slamming me to the pavement - like my buddy Squirrel had happen to him yesterday. Heal up soon, Brother.

Sure, I sold my road bike on ebay only to have the buyer complain about this and that and put a hold on the payment through Paypal. Frustrating, but I'm not this guy who bought a "winning" lottery ticket 7 seconds late.

So, I'm counting my blessings.

Taco ride was urban and small, only 4 guys. We rode out to Cumming Tap via roads and the Great Midwestern trail.

Don't let the posh exterior fool you, its really not that swanky.

I kid. Its actually a cool little bar. I believe the owner is a cyclist so its allgood.

On the way back we stopped and ate tasty vittles at Bambino's in Orilla. We had some people in Bambino's say "Are you guys STILL out on the bike trail? Its getting dark. Wow, that's so cool."

Thanks, we know.

It was a different kinda Taco ride, but still good. Gotta remember my light next time, its getting dark early now - sigh.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Art of War - Brian Style

Dear Rut -

This is war.


Brian (and Charlie)

My main man, Sun Tzu says, "Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster."

Luckily, I can know both my enemy and myself at the same time, because he is me.....or I am him......uhm, we are one in the same.......I'm the enemy. To defeat me I have devised a three tiered plan. I will never see me coming. Clearly, I don't stand a chance against myself.

Sun Tzu: "Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win."

One: I haven't been eating well or exercising much as of late. I'm pretty active, at least I always seem to find the time to crash my bike or have some other debacle, but I'm not getting in the fat burning cardio and weightlifting I need to shrink my Mii down to size. Starting today that's changing. Back to getting up in the morning to run the tubby dog and taking a few lunch hours down at the fitness center. I'm just better all around when I'm doing this stuff.

Two: Work is stressful; it has been for a long time. There are things that need to be done to fix it, but for various reasons I haven't done them. Now, I am going to fix it. How's that for specific? Sun Tzu: "Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent's fate." Oooooo scary.

I also need to be better about enjoying the victories. Recently I had a big one. A major research grant I worked on over two years has been awarded to a multi-agency collaboration I was instrumental in developing. The National Children's Study will be the largest longitudinal study ever undertaken. It will follow over 100,000 children from birth through 21 years of age, looking at biological and environmental determinants of health. Researchers postulate the data from this study will be able to answer important questions about diseases such as asthma, diabetes, autism and others. Polk County will contribute around 1,000 kids to the project over the next 5 years. I'm proud to say I was a big part of bringing this project to Polk County. See, I can do more than just fall off bikes.

Three: Speaking of falling off bikes....it hurts. It hurts when they blow off your bike rack too, but no one was seriously injured and bikes can be replaced. So, tier three is all about perspective.

Sun Tzu: "The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy's not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable."

I need to do a better job of recognizing what is and is not important. My friend Joe is helping me do just that by arranging for me to volunteer as an "official" for Miracle League games. This is a great program for physically and mentally disabled kids to play ball on a realistic baseball field, with real announcers, bleachers, infield, the whole enchelada. Joe's non-profit organization, the Sports Official Youth Alliance ,is providing the "refs". Its tee-ball rules, everyone hits, everyone scores. I will just be there to assist at the plate, provide encouragement and whatever else is needed. I'm pretty excited. I have a feeling helping out some very deserving kids is gonna provide an exceptional dose of perspective.

P.S. - Rut, your days are numbered.