Archive for August, 2010

Au Revoir Professeur Fignon

Posted: August 31, 2010 in Bike Stories

Today is a very sad day for cycling as Laurent Fignon lost his long battle with cancer.

He was known as the Professor, due to both his spectacles and his bookish demeanor.  Laurent was a tough tough guy.  At the same time, he really enjoyed the finer things in life and had his own sense of style and grace that is uncommon in superstar athletes around the world.

I followed his travels and tribulations closely in the early 80’s whilst he was winning his two Tour de France Titles.  Perhaps the demon of losing to LeMond in 1989 by a mere 8 seconds has died with him.

In the 80’s I was a serious, yet mediocre, bike racer.  However, I did have the style part down and Fignon showed us how.  I had to have the Cinelli 1R Stem, and Campione del Mondo bars and yellow cable housing just like his.  I even had these very Mavic wheels.

Actually, I still have all of this stuff and I always will, because I am still trying to be like Laurent Fignon.  Today, the world is missing a graceful, talented, hard-working, fine example of a human.

Au Revoir Professor.

Life is like a bicycle, to keep your balance you must keep moving – Albert Einstein

Motivation to act and keep the arms and legs moving comes from a wide variety of sources.  I am truly blessed with great friends who constantly challenge me with their heroic, yet somehow, ordinary efforts.

My very good friend Wes Sisk just rocked the Louisville Ironman.  He had already completed a 140.6 race, but had to tackle an M dot.  Wes and I  have been discussing my next Ironman adventure.  Rather, Wes is nudging me toward commitment.

To achieve great things, like a Ironman, you need balance – the balance that comes when you are moving forward.

I am moving slowly forward, barely fast enough to maintain my balance, but am picking up speed.  Another Ironman is likely in my future, but when I do it again I want to have my work, personal and training life in balance.

I want to be like Wes.  I want to be heroically ordinary.

48 Hours In Paris – Part II

Posted: August 29, 2010 in Bike Stories

First, Please Read 48 Hours In Paris – Part I

After we checked in to the hotel, I had forgotten that we took off for Sacré-Coeur and did a loop through Monmartre and wound up at a bar next to the Moulin Rouge to watch the final time trial in St Ettiene.  Lance sealed yellow and all that was left was the parade into Paris and the seriously fast loops on the cobbles.

Everyone knew that 2005 would be Lance’s last tour.  (ok, we were proven wrong this year)  The buzz was tremendous.  We all got up extra early to get a great spot along the fence on the Champs Elysées.

Seriously, we were there at 9 am grabbing our spot and the race did not come through until around 4 pm.  It was spitting rain on and off all day, but the temperature was a very nice 65 degrees or so.  Between peeks at the jumbotron and my rudimentary French, we were able to keep track of the race.

Mike was very determined to buy a Tour jersey from one of the official vendors.  I agreed to save our spot, along with a couple from work who joined us. Angela and David went with him for moral support.

Mike stood in line for about an hour only to realize that he hadn’t set up his new credit card and it would not work.  He decides to go back to the hotel safe and retrieve another card, then the same crew goes back to stand in the hour line again.

In total, I was at the fence for about 4 hours, while this exercise took place, holding our spot.  Several times I had to shew off squatters with nasty stares and/or poor French.  An older French man came up and offered me 40 Euros to allow his son in front of me.  I shook my head and gave an emphatic, “no.”  I was holding the spot so that all of my buddies could watch Lance’s last race.  He and his son fell in behind me.

With about an hour until the race entered the city, a shorter woman, about 5 people deep in the milieu, asked to get in front of me so that she could see.  Again, remembering my three friends, I said no.

By this time the anticipation was tremendous. The entire city was vibrating.  The announcer was speaking so fast now, I could no longer understand what he was saying and I couldn’t see the jumbotron for the crowd.  I rang my teenage son in North Carolina to ask him what was happening.

Just as the race was entering the city, Mike, Dave and Angela returned and joined me along the fence.  They weren’t there 2 minutes, when the older French man asked Mike if his son could stand in front of him and Mike said, “sure.”  I was there for hours holding these spots so that Mike could get his jersey and he gave up the prime spot in 2 minutes.  I couldn’t believe it, especially as I had to watch the race peering partially from behind a tree.

This was temporarily forgotten as the rush of the race whirled up and down the Avenue.  Michael Rasmussen was wearing the polka dot jersey as best climber and started the day with a gilet (vest) with his race numbers on it.  He stuffed this in his jersey pocket and it happened to fall out at about 55 mph right in front of me.  The cars swirled it so very close, I could almost, but not quite, reach it on the street.  A gendarme noticed the interest in the gilet, picked it up and handed it to a smiling French woman.  Yeah, she was hot, I had no chance.

The pace of the finish is difficult to describe. These guys raced around Paris for three weeks and can still do this.  Wow.  The race announcer was at mach 5 as they crossed the finish line.  I couldn’t tell who the heck won and, again, had to call home for the scoop.  It turns out that Vinokourov took out the win and pipped Levi Leipheimer for 5th by a second.  Levi was pissed during the parade lap.

This incredible experienced was capped by seeing Lance and team wave to the crowd as they took their parade lap.

But, seriously, he gave up the very spot I was saving for hours to the same dad and kid that I had previously turned down.  I may never get over this.  It’s the Tour Baby.

On July 23, 2005 my good friends Mike Cybrynski, Dave Ferriera, my S.O. Angela, and I took off from Amsterdam on the E19 toward Paris to watch the final stage of the Tour de France.  I had actually done this drive several times, but Dave insisted on google maps and sitting shotgun as the navigator, while I drove.

We were whizzing by Ghent Belgium when we saw a sign advertising the 162nd annual Gentse-feesten. Of course we had to go.   Ghent has the largest open air plaza in Europe and incredible history.  We saw three country and western bands performing on three different stages.  Yeah, this brought us a bit of cognitive dissonance.  This festival is seriously good fun and worth attending if you ever have the chance.  There are several funny stories from Ghent, which I will write about in future.

By the time we entered the Paris city limits, my navigator(s) were beginning to irritate me.  We all booked a small hotel off of the Champs Elysées called the Hotel Bassano and Google maps told us to turn west onto Charles de Gaulle Avenue instead of East toward the Arc de Triomphe as I knew to be the proper route.  Outvoted 3 to 1, we turned the wrong way and had to spend 20 minutes fussing about the Arche de la Défense before getting back on track. I grabbed the directions, wadded them up and threw them on the floor and drove straight to the hotel.

Upon arriving at the hotel, I parked out front and the concierge came out to greet us.  As my buddies were retrieving their luggage, the concierge greeted me with a hearty, “Mr. Spain, it is so good to see you again!”  The look on my buddies faces was priceless.

They checked in ahead of me and were asked to give up their passports, which is customary in Europe.  With Dave and Mike still there, I pulled out my passport to hand over and the clerk said, “oh no Mr. Spain, we do not need yours.”  Again, priceless looks from the guys.

We’ll pick up this story again tomorrow with funny stories at the actual race….Look for 48 Hours In Paris Part II.

Peace, Love and Happiness!

Still thinking about my personal mission….  Nothing comes closer to describing what this means to me than this photo.  I wish to you, me and the world that we all have “peace, love and happiness.”

Our young people behave as if they are incredibly entitled.  Honestly, I can barely have a conversation with most people who are 18-25.  Many behave as if they are incredibly entitled to everything they want.

However, I will argue that everyone – old, fast, slow, young, brave or frail – is entitled to peace, love and happiness.

I wish for you, and me, and even the spoiled and entitled youth, that we all experience peace, love and happiness.

You are entitled to this.

Each year I go through a sort of formal process of evaluating my personal mission, vision, strategy and plan.  The idea is to make sure I understand the big picture of what I want and how I line up my goals and execute against that vision.

This process usually takes about two months and I don’t usually start until October, but this is a special year and I wanted to get a head start.  I think that talking about this out loud (via Todd’s blog) will help me this year.  Perhaps it will help you as well.

For the past ten years, my personal mission has been simply:

“To be in a position to pursue what I choose to do”

This does not imply that I have wanted to do anything and everything that I wanted to do, but rather that I can be in a financial, personal, physical position which enables  what I choose to do.

This year I am thinking about a adjusting my mission:

“To understand and pursue my life, in all facets, consistent with my personal values”

I am going to kick this around for a week or two and make sure that this is the right mission for me.  It seems sort of revolutionary in my personal growth.

These are the elements:

  • Mission: The long-term picture of who I want to be and/or become
  • Vision: The three-to-five year end-state goals.
  • Strategy:  The four to seven key actions I need to take to achieve the Vision.
  • Execution: Establishing the key short-terms goals, metrics and values I will need.

The concept about my blog is to find creative ways to translate life to triathlon and vice versa.  Some of the articles are conceptual and subtle and others are very direct.  I will readily admit that today is a bit of a stretch, so bear with me.

I just cleared my second full body scan of the week in Kansas City International Airport.  Thankfully it did not take long, but airport security process has really become humiliating.  Shoes and belts are removed.  Any item of any personal value or comfort has been left at home, stashed or checked.  Then we approach the “millimeter scanner”, hoist our arms in the air and give the ultimate submission.  A complete stranger interprets our religion and we proceed to dress for a cacophony of strangers.

At what point have the terrorists already won?  I would argue that we are close.

However, while staring at the planes as I wait to board, I realize that in exchange for this brief humiliation, stress, effort and intense planning, we gain the freedom to hurl our bodies across the globe at 600+ m.p.h.  You can’t drive to Cancun after all.  This is the only practical way to go any distance reasonably far from home.

In case you missed it.  The simile here is that we really do submit ourselves to triathlon and relinquish some control all in exchange for the ultimate control – ourselves.

In the spring of 1980, a bunch of my buddies were making plans to do a bicycle tour from my home town of Manhattan, Kansas to Bay Lake Minnesota.  The whole exercise of planning and preparation was quite intriguing.  Not a cyclist, and only 19, I was feeling left out.

That summer I started making some real cash and invested in a Raleigh Super Grand Prix, with panniers, fenders and such.  Owning the cool stuff was way more fun than trying to get in shape.  However, over a few months I was beginning to venture a little further from home and the rides got longer.

These same buddies returned from their adventure in very good shape (I actually joined them for a couple of weeks at my friend’s family lake house).  But, I was still working up to 35 mile rides.

One of the local cycling clubs organized an October cycling event called “Octoginta”.   This included a swap meet and dinner and culminated in an 80 mile ride through the Flint Hills of Kansas.  Again, bowing to peer pressure, I was compelled to sign up.

By this time, I had already upgraded my Raleigh with Campagnolo Nuovo Record derailleurs, shifters and brakes.  Not enjoying my new Concor saddle, I took it to the swap meet to trade and quickly found a guy wanting one of the worst saddles in history and traded me for his Campagnolo Record 32 hole HIgh Flange Hubs.  What a steal I made.  I still have all of these parts 30 years later.

We camped in tents the night before the big ride. (something I have not done and will not do again)  If you are unfamiliar with Kansas weather it really consists of two seasons, summer and winter.  Well, winter had already arrived.  It was cold overnight in the tent – something like 35 degrees and the wind was howling at 30 mph or so.  A local veteran actually started the ride in a down parka.

So here is this young rookie, foolishly agreeing to do this ride, freezing overnight in a tent, without the proper clothes to keep warm and with a long ride of maybe 40 miles under his belt.  But, we took off.

I truly had no idea what to expect, having no concept of hydration or nutrition planning.  Along the route they had water stops and granola bars.  Octoginta always provides a great soup lunch at the halfway point.  I managed to make it there in fairly good shape.

The loop back was a very different story.  All of my buddies had long-since left me.  I was on the death march home.  Most of the return route was into a block head wind.  It may be hard to believe, but Eastern Kansas is very hilly.  The course is much like the Blue Ridge Parkway from an undulation perspective.  The last big hill before the finish is actually a ski slope (operating occasionally).  And, we rode straight up and over the top of this baby.  Oh my goodness, this hurt.  I was very deep, cold, exhausted and barely able to keep the pedals turning.

With about 10 miles to go back to Lawrence, and the finish, I truly began to lose my senses.  This is the first and only time that I have hallucinated while riding.  I distinctly remember seeing a brick wall from the side of the road extending into and across the road in front of me and I had to stop to avoid running into it.  Soon after, I saw cows standing in the road right in front of me.

By this time I had run into an even younger buddy, Kenny, who was also in trouble.  We hobbled the last few miles into town and managed to miss a turn and get lost, winding up about 4 miles from the proper finish and our rides back to Manhattan.

Stopping at a 7-Eleven, I saw a local with a pick up truck and said, “we have just ridden 80 miles and i will give you $5 to give us a ride over to the park.”  To which he replied, “well, if you have just ridden that far, I suspect you would be willing to pay more like $20.”  I agreed and he threw our stuff, and us, in the back.  Guilt must have prevailed, because he smiled and wouldn’t take any money when he dropped us off.

A much older and wiser member of my cycling club, Richard, finished the ride long before me.  He was a writer for the Manhattan Mercury and eagerly recorded my story for the Sunday paper next day.  We had several pictures of us during and after the ride, along with Richard’s take on the events of the day.

This day was absolutely one of the most important of my life.  I had completed what was a huge feat for me at the time, had it documented in the local paper, and lived to tell about it.  I made amazing progress as a human on that day.  Perhaps I became an athlete that day.

Enjoy your progress!

Travel is not conducive to training.  I am not great at figuring out ways to fit it in.  For some bizarre reason I feel guilty about not working every single minute.  No, it’s not rational.

Seriously though, the worst part is the consumption of mass quantities of food and alcohol.

I am damn determined to get back on the wagon by finishing out this trip with a few days of running and perhaps a swim.  More importantly, I am going to stop stuffing my face, eat properly and try, ever so desperately, to not drink from 4 pm until 1 am each night.

Seriously, what are your tricks to Staying Upright While Traveling?

I am writing this from a cramped American Airlines seat on my way to Dallas.  This flight is scheduled for just under 3 hours.  Ergo, allowing for some time to people watch and reflect.  My favorite hobby.  (See About Todd)

My bag was checked in about 50 minutes before flight.  The new millimeter wavelength body scanner should be fine enough to detect all of my weapons.  I so would not want that job.

The check in, security and Starbucks lines were all short.  So, after a brief wait at the gate I bounce on the plane and into 18F with my backpack and USA Today.  A l l  s m o o t h .

The last four people onto the plane are two retired couples.  These guys catch my attention because of the amazing amount of stuff they toted on and the ensuing commotion they cause.  Couple #1 are apparently the keepers of couple #2 who are a bit older (probably 75ish).  These old guys each have roller suitcases and backpacks, pillows, three newspapers, two books, blackberries, coffee, and bagels in a bag for this three hour flight.  As the last ones on, of course, there is no overhead bin space.  The attendants brief answer, suggesting that they check or store under the seat receives a “thanks for the help” retort.   Then the old dude drops his backpack on his partners foot. Nice move.  I thought she was going to punch him.

Summing up, these guys are late, have way to much shit, have a terribly distorted expectation and are passing all of their growing stress and issues to others.  While, the rest of us showed up early enough to take care of our business, drink our coffee, check our bag ($25 is worth the minimized stress), calmly get to our seat, huck our bag in the bin and text our buddies while the youngsters behind me meet and lay out their entire futures.

It occurs to me that how we manage our expectations, time and stuff greatly influences our stress and enjoyment.  I am glad that I recently thought about Consistency VS Flexibility.