A Good Ride Partner (Leader)

18 Aug

It’s been way too long since I’ve written an entry here. Readers will forgive me as I’ve transitioned from bike racer to enthusiast with coaching and counseling credentials. Life has a way of carrying us along its river in no particular fashion. Sometimes the waters are muddied, sometimes the current is swift, rumbling and tumbling us over boulders and fallen trees, jerking us from one peculiar station to the next along life’s intended path. Through it all, the bulk of this audience maintains the best of intentions to ride their bikes as much as possible and as fast as their time commitments will allow. Some seasons, that means riding at the front of the fast group and jamming up hills or attacking the cross winds just because we can. Other seasons, that means digging deep into Paul Sherwen’s ‘suitcase of courage’ just to maintain contact with the peloton.

My journey has taken me from the former to the latter where I now dig into my suitcase of, ‘do I really want this or do I want that cold beer after the ride?’ I’ve been humbled by the commitment and tenacity among many of you who battle constant deadlines, family commitments, volunteer commitments, networking socials, shuttling children to and from this practice or that event, and all other manner of responsibility that cuts into the simple pleasure of riding one’s bike. For to feel the wind in our hair or over our bald pates as the case may be, is to be free of all life’s worries and contemplate nothing more than the warm sun, the heavy and sometimes ragged breath of our cycling brethren, or merely to take in the heavenly scent of lilac or pink rose bushes as we cruise aimlessly for the sheer relief it affords us.

Many of us show up to group rides with personal agendas and most often, those personal agendas are tolerated and accepted among all who attend. However, as we age, our bodies become less forgiving and our minds less tolerant. No one wants to suffer the slings and arrows of carbon splinters spewn by overlapping wheels or the ravages of Father Time’s graying and slowing advances. Instead, we crave more connection, more meaning, and less competition. ‘Tis true, one of the foremost creeds of Team Treachery & Deceit is to do whatever it takes to beat your buddy, but this creed is spoken not only with reverence, but also with tongue firmly planted in cheek. We seek to leave no one behind, be they Peter Sagan or Pee Wee Herrman. (This would be a great place to insert Anthony Barr in his white platform shoes, riding his bicycle, in your mind’s eye).

Over the years it has been a blend of science and art to mesh the individual agendas with the group goal of leaving no one behind. Sometimes vastly differing fitness levels can make this as challenging as Captain Ahab’s quest. (No, they do not call me Ishmael). Thanks to such a cooperative audience, we’ve managed to form a group of like minded, supportive and embracing cyclists. As such, I wanted to elaborate on an email from last March.

Seems the weather remains bitter into April during these days of global warming. On this particularly cold and blustery Sunday I found myself in the company of Jim Stevens. Jim is a PhD research scientist with Lilly, applying a very analytical and detailed approach to his career such that his success is unparalleled. Through the years, Jim has applied the same analytical and detailed approach to his cycling. And it should be noted, Jim comes from quite an athletic background, having swam collegiately, no small task.

Jim and I had met at Fishback to ride over to the SRE Sunday afternoon ride. The SRE group typically ride back over toward Fishback for some hill sprints, but on this day, the group decided to ride north and then come back south. Jim and I had both ridden a hard ride the previous day, so neither of us were keen to ride the extra miles and THEN ride back to Fishback. As we headed north into a cross wind and the pace steadily increased I felt the burn in my own legs begin to intensify and I noticed Jim begin to fall a little further and then still further back in the pack. After crossing SR 32, I mentioned to Jim that after the previous day’s riding, it might be wise to cut this ride short and head on back to Fishback. Jim readily agreed.

Our ride back to Fishback was cold, windy, and damned unpleasant except for the fact that we had each other’s company. Spring hadn’t sprung yet, leaving us with gray clouds and gray, barren landscapes. You might imagine one of those dreary paintings of an unpainted, wooden barn sagging in the wind with snow on the ground and thin, leafless trees affording no break from said howling wind.

We discussed many topics from training to economy to physics to retirement and even favorite beers (the pace quickened here). Our conversation made the miles more palatable and soon enough, we found our way back to our respective destinations. Later in the day I received an email of thanks from Jim. The Subject Line read, ‘A Good Ride Partner.’ Jim did not have to send that email, but I think it speaks to not only his, but to our entire community’s appreciation for one another. Jim praised my strength as a rider that day as I did much of the towing (and I was happy to do so), but he also thanked me for being the good ride partner, admitting that it would have been a tough ride home without the conversation and company.

My days of being one of the strongest are dwindling and I hope that someday one of you will be the good ride partner, shepherding me back to the salvation of a warm bowl of chili and a cold brew. More importantly however, as the winds of change usher in new leaders, I hope that they will remember to maintain an awareness for all riders, keeping in mind that the small gestures of encouragement or a hand on the hip go a long way in getting riders through the rough patches; be mindful that some folks, particularly the women, have the fitness to keep up but often lack the confidence. Encourage and guide them to the front when necessary and within a ride or two, they often are mid to front of the pack. A ride leader is not just the strongest rider; he or she is also strong enough of mind to know he or she does not have to prove one’s self every single ride. He or she can take a back seat and encourage the development of others for the good of the group. In this way, everyone still gets the workout they were looking for and everyone enjoys that spot of beer just around the next bend of Life’s, sometimes rocky and sometimes calm, river ride.

History of St. Patrick’s Day

17 Mar

A Leprechaun’s Tale

            After enough green beer, anyone can see a leprechaun. The smoke-filled bar was packed with celebrants holding mugs of green beer and wearing shirts or jerseys emblazoned with the logos of their favorite teams. Blue and white clad Colts fans, black and gold waving Boiler Backers, and red and white Hoosier Die-Hards reveled elbow to elbow, yet most, I’m sure, hadn’t a clue what the fuss was really about. All that mattered was that green beer was on tap and the man decked out from head to toe in ND regalia was buying the rounds. Somewhere between the first round and the one I lost count on, I felt a light tap on my right shoulder.

            Glancing over my shoulder, I did not see anyone who appeared to want my attention so I turned mine back to my beer when I heard a sarcastic voice grunt, “Some way to celebrate a Saint, eh?” Turning my head to the right again, I was just about to peer over my shoulder when I caught a glimpse of green movement near my mug. Focusing on the movement through somewhat foggy, bloodshot eyes, I saw before me a leprechaun. Clad in the customary green top hat, white shirt, green vest and jacket, green knickers and white, knee-highs with black boots, the little figure motioned for me to move closer to my mug. With my eyeball nearly pressed to the mug, which must have looked like a giant insect eye from the other side of the bar, I’m sure the bartender began practicing his “no more Pal,” speech. Strangely, as this thought passed through my few remaining sober brain cells, I remained eye to eye with a redheaded and red-bearded leprechaun. Perhaps only one brain cell remained sober. One was enough however, to snap me back from the mug and catch a few amused smiles glancing my way. “Coffee?” bellowed the barkeep.

            Shaking my head no, I heard that little voice again, like something from oompa loompa land or Oz, “Never mind them. It’s not the beer. I’m here, you see me, so let’s get down to business,” the green figure demanded.

            “What business?” I heard myself asking, horrified when I realized I was talking in the direction of my mug, all the while becoming conscious of a growing crowd of listeners. What business have I with a green figment of my inebriated imagination, I wondered?

            Much to my chagrin, the green urchin secured my attention, as well as that of a growing party of sports-loving aficionados. “What is it saying?” came a query from a young blond female ND fan. “Shhhhhhhhhhh,” hushed the boiler backer. The tiny green figment perched itself on top of my mug and proceeded with his sermon.

            “None of you appear to understand the significance of St. Patrick’s Day so I’ve come here this eve to set the record straight. Someone give me a swig and I’ll elaborate,” commanded the leprechaun. I had to admit I knew nothing of the holiday other than that it seems the most honest holiday in that everyone looks forward to it as an excuse to drink beer. Christmas, Easter, Yom Kippur, all these holidays solemnly remind us of our divine origins.

            A thimble-sized mug slid down the bar and after a tiny sip and a clear of his throat, the leprechaun began. “Bon on March 17, around 385 AD, St. Patrick grew up in Britain. When he was 16 he was captured by pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland. After nearly six years he escaped to France where he began his studies for the Priesthood.”

            A cheese head sporting a Packer sweatshirt interjected, “Legend has it that St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland. Is that true?”

            “On the contrary,” replied the leprechaun with rolling eyes, adding, “that was actually Barry White who charmed the snakes out o’ Ireland. O’ course he wasn’t Barry White incarnate as he is today, reincarnation and all, ya know? But that was his soul with the big bass voice just like it was depicted on the St. Patrick’s Day special episode of The Simpsons.” Laughter filtered through the crowd.

            “So when did St. Patrick return to Ireland?” asked a lady boiler.

            “In 432 AD Patrick returned to Ireland as a Missionary. He brought Latin Literature and the Roman alphabet, and converted the Irish folks to Christianity. ‘Course this put a damper on us leprechauns because the Irish stopped believin’ in us, but we found ways to occupy their imaginations,” said the leprechaun.

            A new member of the growing crowd, a tall gentleman elegantly dressed in black, queried, “According to legend, inside a small cave on the Isle of Lough Dreg, Patrick instructed local artisans to paint scenes of torment that depicted images of purgatory. Can you confirm this?”

            “Tis true, tis true, Laddy. And I have to say, it looks as though you’ve spent too much time in that cave yourself – get out and get some sun on that pasty white skin of yours.”

            Returning his attention to the ever-expanding crowd, the leprechaun continued, “The frightening images were drawn on the cave to remind those who entered to atone for their sins so they would not end up in purgatory.”

            Crowd enthusiasm mounted and someone blurted out, “How did the shamrock become part of St. Patrick’s Day?”

            The leprechaun responded, “People of the Catholic faith wear green and shamrocks on St. Patrick’s Day because Patrick used the green leaves on the shamrock to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity to the Irish.” Grinning ear to ear, the green urchin winked at me and then raised a question of his own, “What’s in your head lad?”

            My last sober brain cell had long since become intoxicated with green beer, the green imaginary figment of my imagination, and the green eyes of the blond ND gal that kept batting at me. Since thinking was no longer possible, I found myself speaking before thinking, or rather, blurting out, “How the hell did you get here? Where did you live? How long have you lived? And why show up in a sports bar of all places?”

            Working the crowd like a carnival barker, the Lilliputian jumped down from my mug, began pacing back and forth across the bar and addressing his crowd. “Around 1900 or so I moved to South Bend.” A cheer from the ND clan nearly knocked the leprechaun off the bar. None the less he continued, “I took up residence on the campus of Notre Dame. You know that “win one for the gipper” speech Knute Rockne gave? Well, I wrote that. Ya see, I came to ol’ Knute in a dream and gave ‘im the words to inspire his young troops to upset the might cadets of Army.”

            “How long were you at Notre Dame?” came a shout from the middle of the crowd. “I left the golden dome in the late 1950s. I decided to move to Boston. They had the Celtics with the shamrocks and all, ya know. So, I kinda made things happen to help those loyal, leprechaun-believin’ people win a bunch o’ championships. Coulda just as easily been Wilt who won so many titles, but we leprechauns bein’ wee folks, like to slay the Goliaths, so to speak.”

            A man in a Lakers jacket asked, “What happened in the 70s when the Celtics only won two championships?”

            “Well, I moved back to ND. Of course ‘twas I who put the lid on UCLA’s basket in the final four minutes when the Irish ended the Bruins’ 88-game winning streak. O’ course I made sure the Irish beat ‘Bama in the Sugar Bowl to win another National Title. And when the Irish football team came out in green jerseys to whip USC; that was me who whispered in Coach Parsegian’s ear to break out the green,” said the leprechaun.

            A gray haired man in a light blue jacket called out, “Where were you in 1981 when Al McGuire screamed ‘Mass is over, mass is over’ after Danny Ainge of BYU drove the length of the court and finger-rolled a shot over Orlando Woolridge to knock the Irish out of the NCAA tourney?”

            Head bowed, the leprechaun softly admitted, “Twas a hard blow for the Catholics, losing to the Mormons like that, but I was back in BeanTown by then. The men in green needed a little magic o’ their own.”

            A woman in a Celtics jacket screamed, “We didn’t need you. We had Larry Bird!”

            A crafty smile creased the little man’s face as he replied, “Now how do ya s’ppose Larry Bird stole that pass from Isaiah Thomas at the end of game 5 in 1987?”

            By this point the crowd had thinned yet one question remained. With a scholarship offer in hand, Ron Hunter approached the leprechaun and asked, “Is it true that every leprechaun hides a treasure of gold at the end of a rainbow?”

            Brushing the scholarship offer aside, the leprechaun chuckled and said, “Coach Hunter, why don’t ya be askin’ the Fightin’ Irish, or perhaps Red Aurbech. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some green beer to attend.

Winter Motivation

18 Feb

Winter’s wrath has been particularly cruel this season, what with snow every week and frigid temperatures more akin to the Arctic. In fact, Indiana recently set the new all time record for most snowfall in a winter, eclipsing the old mark from the 1977-78 winter; the year of the Blizzard of ’78. Perhaps my stubborn ways were formed that winter. I’d just begun a morning paper route the very week of the blizzard. No papers were delivered to the carriers, much less to residents, the morning after the heavy snow. Nonetheless, my family’s phone was ringing off the hook by 6:30 a.m. with customers wanting to know when their paper might arrive. Fast forward back to the present; and we still have a few weeks to go with this winter. Ugh. Perhaps my stubborn ways were formed back then in 1978. Despite this winter weather I have not cancelled one training class.

Nonetheless, folks have found it difficult to attend regular training classes. In fact, due to the unruly winter, some folks have let their fitness slip. Low motivation due to lack of sunlight and no outdoor riding time can play havoc on a mind numbed by nothing but trainer miles. With no end in sight it’s time to bring on some external motivation. Meet Moise Brutus.

On October 11, 2010 Moise was a young man without a care. His life was an open highway full of possibility as he cruised down the road on his motorcycle. But then tragedy struck when he was hit by a motorist. The accident resulted in the loss of both legs and one arm. After multiple surgeries Moise went through an extremely difficult time period in which he was over medicated and became clinically depressed. Yet Moise dug deep, finding that fighting spirit within that has allowed him to overcome his adverse conditions.

As part of his physical therapy program aimed at teaching him to walk again, Moise was placed on a stationary bicycle. Realizing he could turn the pedals with little inhibition, Moise began a quick turn around and decided to buy a used bicycle. Thinking this was a three or four-wheel bicycle, his parents encouraged the purchase. When only two wheels showed up there was some consternation in the Brutus family. Moise asked his parents to chill and give him a chance to find his own independence. To their credit, they did just that.

Competitive by nature, it wasn’t long before Moise began envisioning a racing bicycle. After obtaining a racing bike, Moise began training at the Miami Velodrome and eventually made his way onto the road. It has been a trying road, one made difficult by the extra cost for special clip ins for his prosthetic legs; the need for assistance to mount his bike; and the sometimes difficult task of finding enough money to buy much needed equipment. Yet Moise has diligently persisted in chasing his dream of becoming a paralympic bicycle racer.

I was honored to meet and begin coaching Moise in November of 2013. To Moise, every day is a privilege; an opportunity to test not only one’s body, but also one’s mind against the various challenges we face each day. When it could be easy to give up, Moise chooses to pursue his dream. And along the way, he finds time to share his story of courage and determination with others including special needs children.

Aside from cycling, Moise speaks and guest lectures to audiences ranging from the Aventura Chamber of Commerce, Unversity of Miami, and The Foundation For Government and Accountability ECT. Moise delivers a passionate message that no matter how adverse your situation may be, there is nothing your mind and will power cannot overcome. Moise also attends college and will enroll at Florida A&M in 2014 to pursue an education in Healthcare Administration/Public Health.

Unfortunately, Moise recently suffered another setback as he was the victim of a hit and run accident, rendering his highly specialized racing bicycle useless. Moise did suffer a mild concussion and road rash, but otherwise remains intact. Driven by his paralympic dream and his desire to inspire others, Moise continues diligent core training until such time he can purchase another bike. Thanks to the folks at The Center for Government Accountability, a rally for Moise has been organized with the hopes of raising enough money to help Moise buy that new bike. More information on the rally can be found at the following link, and please consider making a donation to help Moise get back on two wheels.


In reflecting on Moise’s determination, Winter’s wrath seems much less insurmountable. Next time you consider skipping that trainer workout, contemplate all that Moise goes through every time he prepares to ride his bike.

Winds of Change

24 Jan

With racing completed, indoor training and a new team took up my focus. Through the summer I hosted Monday Night recovery rides featuring cup cakes and/or beers. Although I’d like to think the emphasis on community was the draw, I suspect the sugary sweets and libations had more to do with the success, drawing several new riders to the BIT Community. Thanks to the Monday rides, registrations for the fall and winter jumped by 33%, so I knew I’d have to teach more than I had the previous year. And really, the teaching is why I do this. No matter what you teach, guide, counsel or otherwise lead, it is always a two way street. I embrace new folks because I believe every person who crosses one’s path has something they, too, can teach you. I appreciate the things new folks share with me.

Monday Night Crew

Monday Night Crew

More important than my own gratification however, was the new energy brought to the group by several new members. Stand-bys Dr. Wilkes, Dr. Stevens, Dan Cole and Preston Conrad provided a stable environment and fertile grounds for regular trash talking such that new members were comfortable within the first class. It was a pleasure re-acquainting with Matt Jourdan and getting to know the new folks to this year’s program: Derek Mantyla, Mark Willingham, Richard Breedon, Christy Van Vleet, Elaine Reed, Andy Ording, Blake Fahl, Roger Burrus, Roland Heining, Steve Helms, Brandon Thompson, and Dave Margerum.
From this group Christy Van Vleet emerged as the most improved rider during the fall session. Congrats to Christy and to all the riders in the fall session, as every rider improved their power output from the first time trial in week 1 to the final time trial in week 7 by an average of 8.5%. We look for even more improvement through the 8-week winter training session.

Largest classes ever

Largest classes ever

On the racing side, I was invited to join a new team for 2014. The long-standing MOB Squad folded after 2013 because Team Director, Mario Comacho, no longer had the time to run the club. Being a Fishers, IN based squad and closely aligned with The Heroes Foundation, MOB riders transferred to The Heroes team. Motion Cycling and Fitness has sponsored The Heroes for many years and served MOB riders for several seasons as well. Last year Motion began a U23 Elite development team with much success.
Out of the Mob/Heroes merger and under the Motion Elite umbrella, an elite Masters team was formed. Headlining the new team is Court Maple. Court’s pedigree is known far and wide but a brief recap is in order: After graduating college Court spent a summer racing in Belgium, garnering enough success to receive invitations to join professional development teams. But Court was eager to get on with his life and career, so he came home and chose to focus on family and a career. A successful husband, father, businessman and racer for 20 years now, Court had a super season in 2013, winning several races including Ft. Wayne, Indy Crit. and the Mass. Ave. Criterium. It will be an honor racing with Court.
Other new teammates include the newly-turned-masters-aged Chris Richter, owner of Motion Cycling and Fitness; Don Birch, the long time director of The Heroes team, and Harry Clark, winner of over 100 races in his stellar career. Complimenting the group are Bloomington riders Karim Abdelkader, winner of ABR Masters 40+ National Championship Criterium in 2013, Tom Cox and Hans Ibold. Rounding out the squad will be Vic Emond, Ryan Tragesser, Alan Standley, Scott Perry, Michael Langon and Randy Coddington. Old guys (50+) Jim Creamer, Rob Norwalk, Damian Maggos and myself will use our canes and walkers to tame the geriatric crowd. We look good on paper however, lycra may be another matter. Here’s to a successful and fun 2014.

From Jaws to Moby Dick

23 Jan
This can happen when you don't heed the signs

This can happen when you don’t heed the signs

They call me Ishmael. Well, not really, but months have passed since this shark-obsessed racer last facetiously discoursed on ocean monsters and other such metaphor. As 2013 came and went, winds of change swirled, ushering out cherished comforts, replacing them with new keep sakes, temporary adornments, and new grounding for the coming season.

Over the Labor Day weekend Ishmael ventured to St. Louis for the long-running Gateway Cup, a series of Criterium races in the Arched City. Racers from all over the country attend, giving the event a National-Type feel and competitiveness. By that point in the season I had won several races so confidence was abundant. Yet there had been a change in my racing.

The first half of the season came and went as a joy. Wins came to me in unexpected ways. I enjoyed the process, allowing each race to unfold, playing my cards just right a handful of times. But after win #5, the charm of Ishmael became Ahab’s ambition. I began racing more aggressively, taking turns just a little tighter, moving in places I did not normally squeeze into. An edginess crept into my racing that had not formerly been present.

This is the Darwinian beauty of our sport. Winners need that edge, for it is often quoted that you must risk losing in order to win. I mostly agree with that sentiment. Many, many racers, perhaps more sane than I, are happy to sit in the big bunches and remain out of harms’ way, hoping for a top 10 finish. Yet those who consistently win take the chances by attacking off the front, regrouping, and attacking again. They often are also the most aggressive in corners, fighting for position near the front, and definitely when it comes to fighting for position near the end of the race.

The guys who have been winning for years make this look easy. They slip through cracks and crevices in the peloton that only they can maneuver and they hold position like a bull fighter toying with his prey. Meanwhile, plow horses like me struggle to hold position, expend more energy than necessary to get back into position, and more closely resemble a bulldozer grading some soon-to-be-developed residential tract.

As expected, racing in St. Louis was ultra aggressive and several crashes occurred throughout the weekend. Half bull fighter and half bulldozer, I took some chances on my first day that I knew I shouldn’t have. For my Sunday race I vowed to remain in my comfort zone. But as Dr. Wilkes likes to say, ‘there was blood in the water.’

I was involved in crash with two laps to go in the Sunday race. Having been near the front when I was taken down, I took the brunt of several riders behind me who barreled into the carnage that was me on the road. Curled into the fetal position, I took several front wheels into my back which caused some rib issue and somehow I had a tire run over my right index finger such that it became dislocated. But wait, there’s more….. And my frame was cracked. Dammit.

Signs; if you don’t heed the signs life will not be so subtle in getting your attention. I often remind my friends and clients that life is always giving us signs. Relative to cycling, if you get ready to ride only to discover a flat or some other mechanical, that is life saying it’s better to take a rest day. Skip the group ride and take care of other matters; home repair, spouse appreciation; child’s practice, or much needed recovery. The signs were there for me leading up to my trip and even on race day as I discovered a flat rear tire when I arrived to the race venue. No problem; I swapped the wheel and warm up began. I paid heavily for not heeding the signs; both physically and financially (new frame).

In reflecting on the damage I realized I had ignored my own teachings and shared these thoughts with my friends. Wise counsel from Larry Stevens and David Wilkes advised me to skip the remaining races I had targeted for the season and for once, I listened to my wise friends. Thank you, guys.

Although racing had ended, Autumn heralded new beginnings, including a new team for 2014, more on which in a follow up entry to this one.

Hot Tub Time Machine and Other Sub-B Movies

25 Aug
Time Travel

Time Travel

Although time travel has yet to be proven, we know it exits via the seminal flick, Hot Tub Time Travel, which features John Cusak and friends settling in for a relaxing soak, only to be transported back to 1986. My own recent soak did not take me back quite so far, landing me instead in 1998. Recent success is reminiscent of 1998. I had suffered severe allergy symptons that spring, culiminating in an almost rideless June. Struggles to regain form in July nearly saw me quit cycling, but then in August the pollen count dropped, along with several pounds, and I began my rebound. I finished 8th in an all categories combined Crane Naval Station70 mile RR, traveled to Michigan where I placed 3rd in a Masters RR on a hard man course, and then landed in a 6-man break at Ft. Harrison that lapped the field on a 2.5 mile loop. Being the designated lead out man, I led my mates to 1st and 3rd on that day. Then finally, my day came on Labor Day in Lexington where I initiated the 4 man break that lapped the field and I won the sprint to cap a fine end of season. While Hot Tub Time Machine ranks as one of the worst movies of all time, more recent REALLY bad movies can be viewed on ScyFy channel, the home to Sharknado. We’ve already covered my morbid obsession with sharks, but my viewing of the ScyFy channel hasn’t been limited to sharks this summer. The channel tends to show movies such as Crocosaurus, Sharkasaurus, Megashark, Piranahaconda, and other such nonsense on Saturday afernoons.Megashark rips off original Batman

Megashark rips off original Batman

batman-sharkAs you can see in the photo to the upper left, Megashark threatens a helicopter rescue squad. But gee, haven’t we seen this somewhere before? In Jaws 2, or maybe it was 3, the shark consumes a helicopter, pilot and all, before turning its attention back to idiots willing to sail the monster infested waters. Oh, but wait, there is more… See the photo to the left. In the Original Batman Movie released in 1966, The Caped Crusader and Robin fend off a shark; from a helicopter, no less. Dangling from the rope ladder, Batman finds himself leg deep in a great white when he radios up to Robin to bring down the Bat Anti-Shark Repellent spray. (maybe this is the origin of my morbid obsession with sharks?)

As I prepared for the Terre Haute Criterium I knew I’d have to deal with Jim (The Shark) Creamer. Having reviewed all available shark defenses; super high voltage power line, high pressure gas tank to be blown up in shark’s mouth, or bat anti-shark repellent, I knew I’d have to go further back in time to 1966 in order to obtain the safest, most effective anti-shark defense.

Back here in the present the Terre Haute Crit. took place on a 1/2 mile circular course that featured a sharp incline out of turn 1 that led up to turn 2 where we fed into a stiff headwind all the way to turn 3, a very sharp, downhill, off camber corner that took some getting used to. Out of turn 3 it was about 300-350 meters downhill to the finish line, but on a road surface that rivals the pave of Paris Roubaix in roughness. After two warm up laps my teeth rattled around in my head like Sonny Liston’s after the Cassius Clay phantom punch sent the former champ reeling.

The Masters 40+ was a small field, to be expected at this time of year. After two laps, myself, John Schmitz and The Shark had dropped the others in the race. We rode civil, taking turns with 1-lap pulls, each rotating through with little impetus from the others.

Up the hill

Up the hill

Always thinking and strategizing, I constantly tested my two companions by pushing just a little harder up the hill and by pushing the pace from turn two into the wind to turn 3. I took turn 3 hard during my rotations on the front to guage how well John and The Shark stayed on my wheel through the turn. I noticed that both of the other two slowed the pace in the headwind section and I also noticed that Jim backed off slightly through turn 3, but I could still see his shadow as I peered under my arm, while when John followed me through the turn, he drifted far enough back to be out of sight when I peered for him. So the race boiled down to a race for turn 3 on the final lap. Whoever got there first would win the race. I made it my main objective to get to turn 3 of the final lap first. On said final lap, Schmitz hit the hill hard, gapping the shark just a bit. But the pace slowed over the top and Schmitz did not put up a fight when I went for the lead. I increased my speed into the wind hoping to fend off the shark attack as we approached turn 3. JFeeling very seal like, just to be safe, I pulled my can of Bat Anti-Shark Repellent spray and gave just a mist behind me right before we took the turn. It must have worked. I got through the turn, dropped down into my 12 and gave it everything I had for the line.



The Shark closed hard, pulling within half a bike as we crossed the line, but I held on for the win this time. Schmitz mishandled the turn such that he thought he was going to end up in the Wabash River, but after avoiding a possible time travel experience himself, he gave a burst that caught up to Jim and I as we crossed the line. I had registered for the 1,2,3 race but as I warmed up for the race my bike was making a gawd-awful clattering sound. I stopped to inspect the bike and found that my cassette had come loose due to the jarring road surface on the finish straight. As luck would have it, the neutral support crew from Jay’s Cycles of Terre Haute had packed up and left just 10 minutes before. I often remind you guys that when you get ready to ride and discover you have a flat or some other mechanical issue, it is usually a sign from life that you aren’t meant to do that ride. Having learned my lessons the hard way, I acquiesced to the sign and scrateched from the 1,2,3 race, and headed straight for the bike shop to tighten the cassette, before heading home.  I’m always pleased and proud when I hear success stories from those of you I coach. Yesterday’s CIBA ride was quite a scorcher, as described by many of you. Local pro, Jake, set the pace from mile one and never let up. 65 miles later, or in some cases 73 miles later, tired legs square-peddaled back to the start location. In between however, is where the successes occurred. Dr. Wilkes had planned to stop at the 25-mile SAG for bottle refills and several others agreed to do the same. However, the SAG appeared at mile 20. Dr. Wilkes pulled over and no one else did. David had no time to react, instead, quickly ramping up to speed and chasing back to the Jake-led peloton. Reaching a max speed of 34 mph, the doctor did catch back on, much to the amazement of his friends, Dr. Stevens and others. Wilkes admits he’d not have been able to make such a move in years past and gave credit to the training plan I’ve had him on this season. Great job Dr. Wilkes. Likewise, David Kaplan found himself 50 or 100 meters behind the very select Jake-led lead group at mile 60 or so. Kaplan had to dig deep from a large group to make the bridge back into contact with the leaders. Josh Ginsburg joined Kaplan on the dig and both made it back up to the group. Nice work, fellas. Community L’Espirit de CorpsOur Monday night ride continues to grow, with nearly 25 people last Monday night. This is an all-comers ride. No one gets dropped. The speed is 16-17 mph, the perfect anti-dote to a hard weekend of riding. Most folks enjoy a beer after the ride. I hope to see more of you on this ride in the coming weeks. A few groups have merged to form a Sunday morning ride from Smoky Row Elementary on Sunday mornings. We had 45 or 50 people riding socially with no crazy hammering today. Harry and Bri head up the ride, along with Frank and Mark Ohlman. It’s a pleasant way to spend a Sunday morning; low stress, among friends, and burning calories. We typically cover 45 or 50 miles. Those in attendance today included Eva, Andrea, Brian Murphy, Dr. Wilkes, Frank Oboh, David Kaplan, Brandon Thompson, Jim Creamer and many others. Additional miles can be added by riding over from Fishback. Look for this to continue until the weater turns for the worse. Racing continues next week in St. Louis: (oh no), the home of Big Shark Bicycles  😉

Can't Make This Stuff Up

Can’t Make This Stuff Up

Winning Weather, Winning Performances

18 Aug

The Midwest Spring dumped unending showers of rain on us, along with cooler than normal temperatures that threatened to undermine the fitness we all worked so hard to attain during the winter months. Yet as spring finally acquiesced to summer we were blessed with near perfect competition conditions every weekend. This weekend may have been the pick of the summer with cool morning temps hovering near 60 degrees, clear blue skies and just enough wind to simulate those infamous Indiana Mountains.

Many members of the B.I.T. community took advantage of Mother Nature’s blessing by participating in a number of events held over the weekend. In addition to the Speedway Grand Prix on Friday night, other athletes competed in the Eagle Creek Duathlon or the Gran Fondo over on the northeast side of Indy.

The Speedway Grand Prix served as a kick off to the Moto GP weekend and coincided with the Ducati gathering on Main Street, just south of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The town has made big strides in cleaning up former brownfields properties,redeveloping the once stagnant economic area. Personally, it was nice for me to see the renovations because I assessed much of the property prior to redevelopment. Local businesses remained opened and several local employees came out to watch and question us racers about our sport. Most onlookers seemed pleased for the influx of people into their little neck of the world.

Keeping the crowd entertained and informed was the inimitable Bill Stone. Bill’s wit and insight sometimes flew over the heads of those in the audience, but those with keen ears caught the back stories of racers nicknames; like John “Suitcase” Schmitz who earned his monikor via the huge saddle bag he used to carry under his saddle. The bag would sway back and forth whenever he got out of the saddle to chase a break away. Eventually, folks began shouting, ‘Go get ’em, Suitcase.’

Stone also complimented the pro,1,2 racers for their dietary discipline, explaining to the audience that these guys are super fast and super skinny. They eat meals consisting of bird seed and yogurt, washed down with a few drops of water and perhaps an Italian coffee.

The course was a four corner, wide open loop that rarely required any braking. Only approaching turn 4 did you ever need to feather your brakes. Otherwise, racers could hit the gas at any point on the course. Us old guys began the evening of racing with a combined 40+/50+ field of 28 riders. We raced for 5 money spots, but were scored seperately according to age group.

Ben Weaver opend the attacking on lap 1, followed by Chris Kroll, Don Birch and then Damian Magoos. Matthew Grate took a dig, and then Weaver’s teammate, Craig Eigenbrod flew off the front for a lap or 2. The wind, however, created quite an obstacle for a loan rider and Eigenbrod was reeled in. Another of Weaver’s teammates took a solo flyer, once again stringing out the field into a single file, on the rivet chase. Upon capture, Weaver launched again and this one was for real.

Kroll and Birch latched onto the train while I was initially stuck in traffic. Grate was in front of me through turn 1 and into the headwind, but he could not quite get onto the back wheel of Birch. As we moved into the wind, the leaders began growing their gap. I let grate pull until he noticeably weakend and then I launched, bridging to the break. No one came with me and once I made the juncture, away we went.

The Break

The Break

The four of us worked smoothly with each taking his share of the pulls. After the race, Weaver even said, ‘we raced friendly.’ And that would make sense at this late point of the season. The four of us have known each other for years, having raced against one another numerous times through the seasons. Kroll, Birch and I each knew Weaver was the man to beat, yet we all each had our own ambitions as well, and this often plays into the hands of the strongest rider.

Weaver has won 10 or more races this season in all manner of situations; long small break aways, large field sprints, in cross wind conditions and even in the rain. Ben has simply had an amazing season, due in part to his incredible jump. Weaver rarely loses a sprint. Stone on the microphone even commented that these other guys might start attacking to try and wear out the sprinter in the group.

As it was, the attacks were few and brief. We did manage to position Weaver on the front as we began the final lap and forced him to lead into the wind to turn 2. But as we approached the turn, Ben astutely kept going straight, right into the road barricade and the dead end. Kroll was on Weaver’s wheel and left with the choice of following Weaver into the barricade or turning through the turn and being placed on the front.

To give an example how much thinking goes on in split second decisions during our races, i was thinking if Kroll follows him right here, I am jumping and hoping to break clear of these guys. Kroll however, did take the turn and lead us through turn 2 and through turn 3. Then it got testy.

Weaver attacked from behind, we all jumped out of our saddles and then Weaver quickly sat back down before being forced onto the front. Kroll was slow to sit back down, a bit frustrated at the faux attack by Weaver. Again, it was split second thinking that caught the Badger off guard. I noted Kroll’s slow reaction and waited for him to finally sit back down into his saddle. As he did so, I rose out of mine and attacked.



By this point we were were halfway to turn 4 and it became a race to get to that turn first. Whoever got it first was likely to take the win. Weaver was lightning quick, pulling even to me in the blink of an eye and pinning me to the outside as a match spinter on the velodrome would do. I had no choice but to give Ben the lane and the lead into turn 4. At this point we all had our pedal to the floor and there was no beating Weaver; he took the win easily. I held 2nd and was awarded First Place in the 50+ Category. Kroll and Birch took 3rd and 4th.

At this point let me thank Frank Oboh for coming out to cheer me on. You’ll recall Frank suffered some bad injuries in a crash at the IMS in the June 8 Tour de Cure. Frank is mostly reocvered now, riding and enjoying his bike again and was quite enthused by the spectacle of the racing. It was good to share laughs and cycling with Frank.

I did stick around and race the Pro,1,2,3 event with the bird seed-eating super cyclists. Appropriately enough, Chad Birdman Burdzulauskas won the event. Mark Dewart’s son, Graham took 2nd place. I don’t have a lot of recollection from this one as the average speed was 29 mph. At times, I made efforts to move up into the front 10 and those efforts left me cross eyed for 2 or 3 laps thereafter. Attacks continued throughout the entire hour of racing. Nonetheless, the pack was still all together with 3 laps to go. Having just brought back another group who’d been off the front, the pack settled in to regroup for the final laps and I figured this was my slim chance to slip away from these guys so I gave it a go.

I did open a gap with Mike Lantz and John Puffer joining me. After my pull Lantz came through with Puffer barrelling through about 4 mph faster than Mike and I. Had Puffer joined the right company he may have stolen the race. Unfortunately, I was cooked and waited (at 27 mph) for the pack to consume me, sitting at the back of the bunch over the final 2 laps.

Truesport.com put on a very good event on a safe and fast course that was very spectator friendly. The Speedway Wheelman team provided excellent support for the event. Thanks and kudos to Darren and the Team.

Confidence ;)

Confidence 😉

Deb DuBois competed in the Eagle Creek Duathlon Saturday morning and you can see by the pre-race photo she was feeling her oats. As a spectator sipping my huge volumes of coffee I felt sorry for the triathletes who had to jump into frigid waters as the first portion of their race. Those frigid thoughts were quickly forgotten however, as I ran into friends competing in the triathlon. Doug Trumpey had a super race, finishing in the top 10. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Scott Baumer this year, a Category 2 racer for the Indie Bike Team. Scott was competing in his first ever triathlon Saturday morning.

Deb started strong with a good first run, covering the 2 miles quicker than recent running events. Deb again improved her average speed on the bike, acknowleding the benefit of those Monday night rides, and then she finished with another 5 K run that was strong enough to solidify another first place in age group. Great job, Deb!



Good Form

Good Form

While Deb competed on the west side, several B.I.T. athletes participated in the RollFast Gran Fondo over on the east side. Angelia Kniesely, Matt Edwards, Henry Kim and Phelgar Washington all rode the medium route of 62 miles. Living a short 10 miles from the start/finish, Angelia and Matt rode over to the event. Anthony Barr, David Wilkes, Larry Stevens, Todd Wingett and David Kaplan rode the long route, 103 miles worth. Robin Barr rode the 32 mile route.

Angelia and David Kaplan both reported that the first nine miles were neutralized by a police escort that made things a bit sketchy with all ability levels mixed together. While some riders relaxed at what for them was an easy pace, less experienced riders labored to keep up, sometimes causing near mishaps. Just after the police gave way and the pack unleashed the hounds, there was a crash.

Angelia, Matt and Henry rode together in a larger group that included Phelgar. The four of them turned for the medium route at mile 31 where they began working together such that others riders dropped from their group, leaving the four of them to cover the 2nd half by themselves.

Angelia with Matt to her right and Henry to her left

Angelia with Matt to her right and Henry to her left

They say familiarity breeds confidence and success. Angelia finished the Medium route at the First Female finisher. Matt finished 9th overall and 3rd in his age group while Henry finished 14th overall and 2nd in his age group. Great job to all!

Dr. Wilkes hung with the lead group of 100-milers to the first SAG where he stopped to top off his water bottles while many in the group hammered on. From that point Wilkes enjoyed the ride, taking pulls with those in his group but all the while monitoring his energy expenditure. Relaxed and enjoying his Triton Brewery beer when I called to check on him, the doctor was pleased with the event. Meanwhile, David Kaplan hung with the leaders to the half way point at 52 miles. Kaplan decided to take on fuel and just as he put a clif bar down the hatch, the hammer dropped. Out of position and unable to bridge the gap on the pot-holed, rough roads, David lost contact with the lead group. Thereafter, Kaplan settled in with a group and enjoyed the great weather and scenery the event afforded.

Anthony suffered leg cramps, but did manage to finish the 103 miles in good enough condition to still enjoy his beer. I did not hear from Larry, Todd or Robin about their rides, but I did see Todd along the route. As always, Todd was smooth and strong at about mile 90 as he rode by. Out on an easy training ride with Brian Murphy, I had the pleasure of running into Angelia and Matt on their ride home from the fondo. Brian and I rode backwards on the route and saw the leaders in the final miles. There were pained looks on some of those faces, but all the B.I.T. athletes looked fluid and strong. Great job to all who rode.

With Mother Nature’s blessing, the Monday night rides are gaining popularity and that may have something to do with the post ride beers. Or the cupcakes. We ride every Monday night at 6:30 from Fishback Academy at 86th/Lafayette. Hope to see some of you there. The group is comprised mostly of riders who participate in my winter training program. On that note, I’ve opened registration for this winter’s training. Those interested my contact me for info and/or a flyer at altrdstats51@yahoo.com