Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sugar Bottom Scramble 2010

OK, so again I entered the fray and tried my second mountain bike race of the year. My first attempt at mountain bike racing did not go very well at all as I wrote about in this post :

Normally I run, I am not much of a mountain biker although I do enjoy it, I was pretty apprehensive about this race but having said I would do it by God I was going to do it. The Sugar Bottom Scramble was billed as the Iowa State Mountain Bike Championships and the race was held 23 miles south of where I currently live so it was definitely convenient. The course would be run on the mountain bike trails in the Sugar Bottom recreation area around the Coralville Reservoir.

Things didn't start out the best as I was on call at the ambulance service the night prior to the race and as luck would have it we got a couple calls that were spaced out so I really didn't get much rest. I also could not find my bike tools, extra tube or chain lube in my newly cleaned garage. I did try to hydrate though and I definitely succeeded as I had to use the porto potty several times before the race started. Myself and Jessie arrived about 0900 for the 1000 start of the Cat 3(beginner) category. We had to walk about 400 meters to the sign in point where I filled out the necessary waivers, then Jessie stayed there while I went back to the car to get my bike and equipment. The first thing I noticed about this race as compared to the time trials earlier in the year was everyone didn't look like Lance Armstrong. There actually looked like there was a few guys I could beat and everyone was not wearing spandex. The atmosphere was much friendlier and less cliquish.

At 1000 we all lined up on the gravel round headed east for the mass start, there was 27 of us Cat 3 riders as well as 3 Collegiate Division guys that had decided to race with us. I stayed to the back of the pack not really knowing what to expect with the mass start. After a few words of  encouragement the race organizer blew a whistle and I hit the start button on my GPS and away I went. I was at the back of the pack as we pedaled down the road and up a steep hill, as we climbed the hill the first rider fell out as he was having chain issues. I passed him and took a right into the woods. 

The first thing I noticed was that the trails were not as difficult as the ones at Decorah as well as being dry. Decorah had been brutal as well as muddy. The course went generally downhill for the first two miles and I was keeping one of the collegiate riders in my field of vision as I shifted gears into the second chain ring and concentrated on keeping my pedals spinning over the roots and around the turns. Somewhere in the first two miles the rider with the chain problem passed me on a turn and I was dead last. No problem I thought I just need to finish. The chain guy had issues two more times and we passed each other twice in the next two miles until he must have resolved the problem and he pulled away and I never saw him for the rest of the race.

Approximately mile 4 I passed the collegiate rider who had been slowing down since we entered the uphill section, at mile 4.6 I passed two more riders on a hairpin turn, they were stopped and looked like they had some medical issues. I resolved to keep a steady pace. 5 miles into the race we popped back out onto the gravel road this time heading west, I knew that we were about half way but I also knew the most technical part of the course was to come. My legs were starting to fell the burn from all the climbing in the first 5 miles.  As we entered the woods again we paralleled the lake for about .5 miles and the cool breeze and the boats on the water made me glad I had entered this race. As we crossed the road again I saw a long uphill section of single track and slipped down into the easiest gears.

I was alone, I could see no one ahead nor hear anyone behind. I kept pedaling telling myself no matter how slow I went I needed to keep pedaling and not to coast. We were hitting intermediate and expert level trails at this point and there were several places were I had to push the bike uphill when I lost momentum on an obstacle. We crossed and recrossed a little creek on wooden plank bridges that were usually followed by steep rocky uphill climbs. It was at mile 6.8 as I was going down hill on a particular steep and rooted section of the course that I got too far over my handle bars and went ass over teakettle. Bike going one way and me the other. Unlike Decorah this was my only crash and I recovered quickly jumping back on the bike and heading down the trail. I heard voices ahead and saw an incredibly steep hill with people standing at the top. From pre race recon I knew this must be the double black diamond "Cyclocross Hill." Discretion being the better part of valor at this point, I just hopped off my bike and ran and pushed my bike up the hill. I waved to the spectators as I  hammered it ( for me anyway) towards the finish line, which I knew was less than a mile ahead. I rode passed the finish line as Jessie clapped for me. This race was much better than my previous experience. For one thing I didn't finish dead last and I actually enjoyed myself. I will definitely be doing this race again next year.

Monday, August 23, 2010

What a Great Day

Today was great day, for a 12 hour period I was back in the fold. I was once again an Action Guy if only for a day. My employer asked me a few months ago if I would be interested in becoming certified as an Oleoresin Capsicum Aerosol Projector Instructor, or as they say on COPS good old pepper spray. Never being in the habit of turning down free training I agreed. So as luck would have it at O'dark thirty this morning I was headed north to the land of Cheeseheads. Arriving in plenty of time at the Dane County (WI) Law Enforcement training center I took a short nap in the parking lot waiting for the rest of the class to arrive.About 0745 I walked into the class room and immediately I felt comfortable and self conscious at the same time. I was happy because I hadn't seen that many weapons, black shirts and velcro since I left Special Forces, these were my people, however I was a little uneasy because I had no law enforcement background and the majority of these guys were SWAT team members from various agencies. I did what I always do in a situation like this, I took a seat in the back and shut my mouth.

At 0800 our instructor started talking,he was from Georgia and a former Chief of Police and SWAT team leader of 20+ years. His southern accent and good old boy attitude took me back to almost every class I ever took at the Infantry Center. For the next 5 hours he regaled us with the nomenclature, effects, deployment options, and tactical employment of Pepper Spray. Right after lunch we took a written test and once the formalities were out of the way we went to the range to spray and be sprayed. I felt the old familiar nervous energy mount as we practiced. Spraying inert OC Spray we moved laterally and subdued imaginary attackers. Soon enough playtime was over and it was time for the final exercise. The final evolution would involve getting a one second spray of live Pepper Spray to the eyes immediately followed by a "fight through drill." The drill was designed to give the student confidence they could handle being sprayed and still accomplish their mission as well giving them credibility when they discussed the effects. This was similar to what I did as a high altitude parachutist each time we re-qualled in the hyperbaric chamber.

So it was my turn, the instructor told me to close my eyes and hold my breathe, he then gave me a good shot of spray in the eyes. The next command was "blink" to make sure it got in the old eyeballs. I then ran about 30 feet to the first station where I delivered 5 right elbow strikes and 5 left to the pad being held by a fellow student. It was burning a little but no big deal, it was between the first and second stations where the spray kicked in. It started burning so bad I lost my breathe and stumbled slightly, I could feel some trickle into the corner of my mouth and my mustache was on fire. I got to the next pad and delivered a set of 10 knee strikes 5 on each side, at this point my adrenaline had kicked in and between the intense burning and my concentration I had developed tunnel vision on the task at hand. I grabbed the training baton for the next station and sprinted over to the pad delivering 5 forward and 5 backhand strikes. Last but not least I was handed a training pistol and approached my last classmate in the toe/heel fashion of walking I had learned in countless shoot house hours. I was yelling at him to get down as my weapon was trained on him. He was instructed not to comply until I identified the number of fingers he was holding over his head. "Get down, Get down, Three fingers, Get your hands behind your back!!!!!" I simulated handcuffing him and went into the officer distress position as we had been briefed.

At that point the instructor instructed the the safety officer to lead me to the decontamination station, this process required a lot of water and baby shampoo. Flush,Flush,Flush the eyes with water and soap. Blot with a paper towel, rinse and repeat. At this point I was losing my adrenaline rush and almost felt nauseous. Eventually though the pain was manageable and we went inside for a critique, 2 hours after being sprayed I was allowed to drive the 3 hours back home. As I type this 6 hours later my  hand that was grasping the weapons and my cheeks are still burning. But what a great day.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Kraut Route 5K and other nonsense

So last weekend was a very busy one although unintended, I had scheduled myself to be on duty at the Lisbon Mt Vernon Ambulance Service on Saturday morning and too late I realized it was the same day as the St. Jude's Sweet Corn 5K which I run every year, not wanting to leave the service hanging without coverage I registered instead for the Lisbon Sauerkraut days 5K which I had never run before. My intention was to run about 10 miles before the race and use the race as part of my training for my upcoming marathon. This was not to be as a all hell broke loose at work Friday night and I ended up getting somewhere between 1 and 3 hours of sleep and not all at once.

Since no plan survives first contact I adapted and decided just to run the 5K. This 5K was a small local race in a small community. There were 200 registered runners and it had none of the fanfare of some of the other races I have participated in. As usual I started off at the back of the pack and worked my way through the crowd. My intention was to just jog and that is what I did for most of the first part. The course started out flat but then after about a mile we encountered some rather large hills. The last hill to the turn around was pretty steep and probably about 3/4 to one mile long. It was while I was motoring steadily up this hill that I saw a guy I knew coming downhill after turning around. Lets just say he and I do not see eye to eye.

Me being me it then became my Ranger mission to run this guy down and beat him in the race. Don't worry that we are both over 40 and our fastest days are well behind us, rivalry and male ego do not have a age limit. So I picked it up making the turnaround and lengthening my stride as I went downhill. I could see him in the distance cresting the next hill and as I hit the bottom of that hill I tried to keep my pace the same. I steadily gained ground on him until I was close enough to see hear his labored breathing (between my own breathes). On the next uphill he slowed and I did not and I went running past him not even looking to give him the satisfaction of eye contact. He ate my dust, my mission then became to put as much distance between myself and him as possible. I kept up the pace feeling pretty good about myself until up ahead who should I see but the same 8 or 9 year old kid that just beat me at the 5K I ran on July 4th. I decided to run him down as well and get the old double play. So I picked it up again and caught up to him, as I was pulling even he slowed to a walk.

Right then and there my thinking changed, I went from super-competitive Former Action Guy to a guy who admires effort and heart. I looked that young man in the eye and said " You beat me on the 4th, are you going to let an old fat guy beat you today?" He looked at me and without so much as a word he took off on a dead sprint as only the young can do. I tried to keep up with him but the hills had taken the kick right out of me and he ended up beating me by 20 seconds or so. After the race he disappeared and I didn't get a chance to tell him he had run a good race. I beat my last 5k race time by almost a minute and beat Mr. Attitude by over two minutes,put that in your pipe and smoke it.
When I got back to the ambulance garage I ended up driving the ambulance in the festival parade and throwing out candy, later that day as I was finally trying to take a nap we got a page for medical assistance at a fire which ended up involving 6 fire departments and our ambulance service. We were on scene about 5 hours. Needless to say when I got home I went to bed early that evening

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Former Action Guy Top Ten Greatest Sports Moments

Like most people I am not a professional athlete, nor have I ever been one. I am not even an amateur athlete as I don't consider that my primary occupation. I do however consider myself an athlete as I define it. I define an athlete as someone that is athletic, that plays sports or participates in them. Level of skill or competition not withstanding. That being said I was thinking the other day on a run how I am always trying to compete and what some of my greatest sports accomplishments might have been. Below is my personal ten greatest sports moments, you will never see these on ESPN. They are also ranked not as much by accomplishment but how much they meant to me. Enjoy

10. Most Improved Wrestler Kennedy High School 1981- At the time I didn't realize the impact of this accomplishment, in fact I was pissed and angry I didn't get a Varsity letter and instead received a JV letter ( which I burned in retaliation). However what my adolescent brain should have realized is that all my hard work, weight lifting sessions, early morning runs etc.. had indeed been noticed. I also credit this hard work in the wrestling room with forming the character and never quit attitude I would rely on heavily in my military career.

09. NAUI Scuba Certification 1984- On a deployment to the Sinai Peninsula Egypt, I managed to get certified as a NAUI Scuba diver. I was always a strong swimmer but to overcome the fear of being deep underwater for long periods required some getting used to. It was something I only did for a few years but I enjoyed every dive and now when I see someone diving I can say.. Hey I did that!!

08. Madison (Mad City) ,WI Marathon 2005- I have run hundreds of races, 5 km,10km, 10 milers, 20 Km, you name it. Running has been a hobby of mine over the last 20 years even though my speedster days are long gone. I have run 4 Marathons (26.2 miles) and plan on doing another in October. On this one day in May 2005 everything came together, I had trained through a long cold winter for this spring marathon. My goal was to break a personal best under 4 hours. I started off strong and held my pace steady the entire way, I never hit the wall the entire race like I had and would in past and future marathons. I finished in 3 hrs 59 minutes making a personal record I have not equaled since. This race also finished up at the World's Greatest Bratwurst Festival which was an awesome post race event.

07. Des Moines, IA Marathon 2007- This is not my best marathon or my worst as far as finish time, but it was the absolute hardest to finish. I never have had much luck in Des Moines, my first experience there resulted in my all time slowest marathon time. This one wasn't any more pleasant. I had been training for an ultra-marathon (longer than 26.2 miles) earlier that previous winter and noticed that my left knee was starting to ache horribly and swell after running. Being a Former Action Guy I pretty much ignored the pain but decided maybe I should just run a regular marathon instead. I also cut down on my training miles prior to the race topping out at about 18 miles as my longest training run. I was icing my knee and eating handfuls of Motrin in the weeks leading to the marathon but was still not going for any medical advice. Self medicating is what Former Action Guy's do. The day of the marathon I felt pretty good and actually the first 15 miles went along as planned. I was even on pace to have a decent time. Then things went bad, my knee started to ache so bad I had to start walking, first every mile or so and then eventually I was walking more than running. The last 2 miles I was in excruciating pain and was literally holding back tears as I crossed the finish line. The next day I went to the doctor and discovered I had torn my meniscus and would require surgery. Although I was a dumb ass for ignoring the pain, I was still proud that I didn't quit.

06. Eagle Airport National Golf Course 2009- I like playing golf, some years I play more than others and in 2009 I played exactly one time. This time happened to a best shot golf tournament I was playing with my Dad and some of my brothers. In my family I am definitely the weak link in golf, I don't practice enough and taught myself how to play which promoted bad habits. My Dad and my brothers can actually be very good when they are on their game. So what usually happens on these tournaments is I hit the ball, they give me crap, and I drive the cart. We rarely use my ball unless everyone has a truly horrible lie. On this particular hole #23(yes this course has 27 holes) I teed off first as usual so I could get out of the way. I hit a good tee shot which is not that unusual because I usually drive ok, it is my short game that sucks. What happened next was the great part. I had out driven everyone and my second shot miracle of miracles landed on the edge of the sloping two tiered green. This was a par 5 and I had about a 30-40 foot putt for eagle sideways and down hill. So when it was my turn to putt I just aimed to get it close. The putt rolled slowly then picked up speed and curled perfectly into the cup. I had just eagled the hole and no one else had even used their ball. My best golfing moment ever and my only eagle.

05. Honor Graduate Special Operations Target Interdiction Course (Sniper School) 1994- I attended sniper school at Fort Devens MA, and we spent hours shooting thousands of rounds out of our M24 rifles. We learned field craft, stalking exercises etc.. Going into the final graded shoot I was tied with another soldier for Honor Graduate, the final stalk and shoot would decide. The night prior to the shoot we parachuted into a drop zone via Black hawk helicopter and made our way over terrain for 10 miles our so to the range we would be doing the shoot.  The range was 1000 meters long and surrounded on three sides by large berms to stop bullets, we would be entering on our stalk from the south and heading towards the berm that terminated the range, on this berm where man sized targets. Also on this berm was an instructor with binoculars and a radio. There where other instructors walking around the range with radios. The way the drill went was each student would begin his stalk using all available cover and concealment and establish a shooting position that we hoped we could shoot from and avoid detection.. We would then fire the first of two blank cartridges. The instructor on the berm would guide one of the other instructors into your position based on the noise or any other signs of movement. If they couldn't find you then you fired your next blank round. Again they would try to pinpoint you. If they were unsuccessful you then fired two live rounds into a designated target, one of these had to be a head shot. This was to determine if you could actually hit anything from your position. I did all this and escaped undetected. Back at the classroom during the critique I discovered I had out shot my rival by a mere 3 inches. I had scored my second shot 3 inches closer to the kill zone then he had, I won Honor Graduate by inches.

04. Military Free Fall Instructor/Accelerated Free Fall Instructor 1995-98- Military Free fall is skydiving and MFF instructors teaches these skills, Accelerated Free fall is the civilian equivalent of an MFF instructor. I added this three year period because I can say during this time when I instructed at the US Army Military Free fall school and also got certified as a civiliann skydiving instructor I was an expert at something. My skills as a skydiver were peaked I merely had to think about what I wanted to do in the air and it would happen, my body was a reactive, proactive and well oiled machine. Over the course of those 3 years I taught hundreds of students how to skydive from the ground up and saved many of them from killing themselves in their first few jumps. My designation as MFFI356 is still one of my proudest moments.

03. Decorah Time Trials 2010- I detailed this suck fest extensively in this post earlier this year

02. Special Forces Selection and Assessment 1990- SFAS is by far the hardest thing I have ever accomplished. It is a grueling test of manhood that one must pass to even get the chance to become a Green Beret. It sucks and the Discovery Channel did a pretty good job documenting the suckiness

01. Grand Slam Noelridge Park 1973- Ok I love baseball, I love watching it, I umpire baseball at the High School level I just love it. Behind wrestling (real wrestling not WWE) it is my second favorite sport. I however was not very good at baseball, I never competed beyond the Little League level growing up. On this one day however I was a star.  I will never forget, it was the bottom of the 5th in a 6 inning game and I was up to bat with two outs and bases loaded. I was not a very confident batter and I had already struck out once. This pitcher was getting tired however and I remember thinking his windup was slow and he looked like a stork. He threw me a ball, then a strike. I spit on my hands tapped the bat on the plate and got ready for his next pitch. It seemed liked he delivered it in slow motion a big lollipop pitch right over the heart of the plate. I swung the bat and it connected, the ball shoot out over the center fielder's head and kept rolling. This park had no fences so it was a race between me and the outfielder on whether myself or the ball would arrive at home first. I ran as fast as my short little legs could carry me around the bases and beat the ball home. I had just hit the only Grand Slam and only home run I would ever hit in my life. After the game I raced my bike to the Tastee Freeze and treated myself to a foot long hot dog and ice cream cone. By the time my parents got home from work, they were tired and just nodded when I excitedly told them all about it. I will never forget my greatest sports moment thought not even almost 40 years later.

Honorable Mention: 5 Pound Bass caught,Rockford 1/2 Marathon, Every call I have ever made as an official