Monday night we took Milo to the Emergency vet. He hadn’t eaten in 5 days, his belly was filled with fluid, he was lethargic, his breathing was becoming labored, he would barely walk… he could barely even stand. We had made an appointment to see the Cardiologist for today (Wednesday), but we weren’t sure he’d make it.
Criteriums hold a special place in the hearts of the American bike racing community. A type of bike race characterized by participants doing laps on a closed course usually less than a mile in length, crits, as they’re typically called, are extremely popular in the US. They were originally created in Europe as a sort of “parade” for spectators to see big name racers, but they’ve quickly become one of the go-to styles of racing for amateur bike racers the world over. While crits are run pretty much anywhere people race bikes, it seems their level of popularity, and the level of intensity, is on another level here. My guess is it boils down to two main factors: the way our cities are laid out, and the high level of spectator friendliness.
With our wide roads, (relatively) smooth pavement, and a tendency to use interconnecting blocks, American streets are perfect for short, looping race courses. Organizers rope off some roads, pay the fees, sign the forms, bring on some sponsors and they have themselves a race. Obviously it’s more complex than that, but it’s significantly easier than trying to shut down stretches of road… something the locals typically don’t like. Ironman can throw tons of money at cities so they close their roads, and can even leave roads open in a pinch since riders are supposed to keep right and ride basically single file. Plus, course considerations aren’t as big a deal, no problems with a sharp U-turn or a road shoulder-width path through a turn. In contrast, road race organizers typically have a tiny budget, the racers often like to make use of the entire road, and the flow of the course is something that has to be considered. It’s an expensive logistical nightmare, unless you’re hosting a major race like the Tour of California.
Like NASCAR and other speedway type races, crits are extremely spectator friendly when compared to their road racing brethren. At, say, the Tour de France, if you wish to spectate you find a spot on the route that looks cool, you trek out there and hang out for a few hours, the racers go by, you scream and cheer, then you go home. It can be thrilling to see them whizz by, but you end up “watching” most of the race on TV or through the race radio. In contrast, crits lap the course over a dozen times, so spectators see the racers multiple times during the race. Some courses are even setup in a way so spectators can see the action all over the course! They also make use of primes, or awards for racers who “win” various laps, which helps keep the intensity of the races high and gives the spectators a chance to see multiple sprints for the line. We watched a race the other day that had 12 primes yet was only about 20 or so laps long.
Crits aren’t at all unique to America, we sure didn’t think them up, but we’ve certainly embraced them to the fullest. So the question for me was simple, was I ready to embrace them, and could I even hang with the frenetic pace and extreme intensity they’re known for? The answer to both questions is: Yes!
Last year I took on my first ever Olympic distance triathlon—1500 meters in the water, 40K on the bike, and then 10K on my feet—all up in beautiful Bass Lake, CA, on the doorstep of the great Yosemite. It was a pretty awesome experience… except for the whole injured ankle/walking the run thing… that sucked. Aside from the run, though, it was a fun, challenging course at an awesome locale, with awesome people. When the race rolled around this year, my participation was a no-brainer. I thoroughly enjoyed the bike course, and I was hell bent on actually running the run, so of course I signed up. Once again, the Bass Lake Classic did not disappoint.
Our bodies are pretty amazing. The way seemingly random neural connections form behaviors and memories, how our eyes sense and process electromagnetic radiation, how our immune system identifies and attacks intruders… it really is astounding how we function. It’s also kinda crazy how we temperature regulate. Our bodies like a very specific temperature range, around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit give or take a degree if taken orally, and work constantly to keep things in that range. There are the obvious things—when we get hot we sweat, when we get cold we shiver—but then there are the not so obvious, like how our bodies reduce or increase blood flow to certain areas to help radiate heat, or keep important areas warm. It’s all for good reason too, when our body temperatures begin to get out of the comfort range, things start going downhill fast, and can even be fatal. It goes without saying that it’s pretty important to be mindful of exposing ourselves to extreme temperatures.
I personally have experienced what I believe to be hyperthermia once before, during a training ride around the Great Western Loop on a particularly hot day. I was climbing the first hill and was directly exposed to the sun, so it was not only crazy hot—104 degrees—but there was no wind to help keep me cool, and the radiant heat from the sun was just cooking my skin. To make matters worse, the heat had turned the electrolyte mix in my water bottles into something that resembled hot tea, so I had nothing to help cool me down. Not only was I feeling hotter than the fires of Hades, I was starting to feel sick to my stomach, and a headache was quickly making its presence known, both signs of impending heat related doom. Luckily, mercifully, we were supported, so about halfway up the hill a support vehicle was stopped where I was able to take a break, cool down, and refill my water bottles with cold water. It was a scary situation, but I’m happy to say I was able to finish the ride in some extremely brutal conditions.
While I’ve overheated, I had never experienced hypothermia… well, until Saturday, April 2nd, 2016.
I usually don’t post anything political, but the below kinda sorta is, so feel free to skip it if the political opinions of some dude on the internet aren’t of interest to you.
Tam showed me the quote from this story a little bit ago, and I thought it was cute. Children frequently give us a fresh, innocent, view of the world, something many of us have long lost the ability to do. Often they give us a whimsical observation (I saw someone mention their daughter proudly exclaiming that she “farted in [her] butt”), but there are times where the youth and innocence of the observer belie the wisdom and depth of their comment. I thought the quote was cute, at the time I didn’t realize how poignant it would turn out to be.
When I was in school, I used to have a tendency to tilt the stories I would write for creative writing projects a bit toward the scary side. I remember one story I wrote when I was in 6th grade… I told it in the first person, and it was about a soldier who… well… maybe I should just revise and rewrite it instead. It’s been a long time, but I remember the basic plot. Now, anyone who knows me knows I’m not a very dark and brooding person, but this story certainly was quite dark, and my teacher loved it. She actually hung onto it to share not only with her other classes, but with teachers and people she knew. In the 8th grade, I put an “Unsolved Mysteries” spin on an assignment where the first few paragraphs were already written… teacher got a kick out of that one. Anyway, I haven’t really tapped into that side of my writing in a looong time, but I recently came across a little writing contest: share a “scary” workout story. I thought about sharing my Silverman Race Report, since that was a pretty horrific situation for me, but then I remembered a training run I did a few months back. That story fit the bill perfectly and it even allowed me to revisit my scary story writing youth. 🙂
So… what follows is a story about a run.
I was messing around with VeloViewer, which can generate these cool 3D course elevation profiles, and thought it’d be interesting to see how the Bass Lake and Silverman bike courses stacked up against the Great Western Loop out here in San Diego. I was particularly curious about how the grades and stuff worked out, so I generated some fancy graphics and did a quick comparison of the three. The one major take away is this: I cannot wait to do all three of these again… [Keep Reading…]
I’ll never forget it… I was sleeping soundly one night, oblivious to the world around me, dreaming about whatever I was dreaming of that night, when suddenly I was snapped back into consciousness. It was an odd feeling, it wasn’t like I was jolted awake, where you jump up in your bed, or your eyes snap open to see what’s going on. One second I was deep asleep, my subconscious filling my head with various images and sounds as my brain processed the day, and then suddenly I was pulled into reality, but not in the typical panic-y way that happens when you’re rudely awakened.
It wasn’t a sound or motion which woke me, those usually prompt an “OMGWHATISTHAT” type of waking up. It was a smell. A really foul smell to be precise. I immediately knew where it came from, considering the source had been peeling paint for almost his entire life, so I laid with my eyes closed waiting for the smell to dissipate. What felt like minutes passed, but the smell hadn’t faded. My thoughts shifted from waiting for a smell to pass, to worrying about having to clean up a mess, so I slowly opened my eyes. I first noticed a strange black shape in front of my face, but it was hard to make out precisely what it was. I squinted, waiting for my eyes to clarify the world around me… and when they eventually did, the horrifying truth became evident.
An inch or so in front of me was a stubby black tail. So my initial hunch was correct, what I was smelling was a fart. What I didn’t expect was the fact the fart’s source was about 3 inches from my nose.
Milo, my lovable little jerk of a Boston Terrier, had literally farted in my face.