Changing Lanes

 

It’s nearly a week now since I penned a somewhat, semi-formal letter to multiple local municipal mayors as well as a representative for the local/regional streets and roads maintenance program. I’ll attach. It was, what I thought to be, a rather simple request to an annoying if not outright dangerous problem. Heavily traveled local roads result in an unbelievable amount of trash deposited in the shoulder areas; or in many cases the designated bicycle lanes.

Given the emphasis the state, and particularly my county, Broward, put on outdoors recreation, including cycling, I am disappointed, yet not shocked, to not receive a single reply to my request. In fact, I’ve not even received an acknowledgment. Disappointing. At any rate, here’s the plea:

——— Original Message ———

Subject: Broward Bike Lanes
From: dwells@animalstrax.com
Date: 4/15/17 1:11 pm
To: dmckay@southwestranches.org, dwells@animalstrax.com, wmessam@miramarfl.gov, elaroche@miramarfl.gov, judy_paul@davie-fl.gov, Mayor_Ross@CooperCityFL.org, jlevy@hollywoodfl.org, fortis@ppines.com, tamarajames@daniabeachfl.gov, bsharief@broward.org, Barbara.Kelleher@dot.myflorida.com, dstermer@westonfl.org

April 15, 2017
The Honorable Mayors of
(Several South Broward Communities)
The Honorable Mayor of
Broward County  and
The PIO of FDOT District 4
Dear Mayors and Ms. Kelleher;
One of the things I was looking forward to upon my recent move to South Florida was the ability to bicycle the many miles of smooth roads, bike lanes and even paved trails.  As a middle-age male I was excited about the opportunity to continue focusing on my health year-round in my soon-to-be new state. After several months what I’ve found has been a decidedly mixed bag of enjoyment, sheer terror, exasperation and unexpected expense.
Multiple State of Florida websites, as well as local/regional bicycle advocacy sites, tout the benefits of cycling in Florida; and in some cases specifically South Florida. In fact, Governor Scott is given credit for proclaiming March as Bike Month in Florida.  http://www.broward.org/Parks/ThingsToDo/Documents/Florida%20Bicycle%20Month-%20Governor%20Rick%20Scott.pdf . Of note, several of the sites discuss the importance of bike safety both from the perspective of cyclists as well as motorists as follows: http://www.alerttodayflorida.com  Given the many avenues of publicly available State and Local support for cycling I’ve been frustrated with the on-the-ground reality of cycling in South Florida. Uninformed, careless and simply rude drivers have led to multiple rounds of terror but that’s an entirely different branch of discussion. For now I want to focus solely on the source of my frustration: trash.
That’s right, trash. It seems something of an accomplishment to cover a couple city blocks worth of bike lanes without finding an assortment of hazards lurking, waiting for the opportunity to strike and pop yet another tube and in some cases even tear through tires. Every couple of miles the lane-devils up their game and throw branches, car parts, big chunks of sod and the occasional piece of furniture at us. In the seven states in which I’ve lived I’ve never seen roadways littered with so many obstacles for cyclists. I’ve had more tubes pop in the months I’ve lived in South Florida than in all my previous 5-6 years of riding combined.
Initially I attempted to navigate the wonderful horse trails but quickly gave up.  Beautiful parks and crazy big homes were a draw to cover every block of the asphalt multi-use trails. Those clear positives melted away as I learned almost no sections are wide enough for an emergency vehicle (standard width per a state with world class trails per state codes: http://www.iowadot.gov/iowabikes/trails/chpt04-3.html). As such they’re not wide enough for two skinny-tire bikes so they’re of no value for a social ride with my spouse let alone a small group of my newly found cycling buddies for a workout.  In addition, after riding most of the trails I determined I could never again ride them with a standard skinny tire bicycle. The heaving cracks, holes and sometimes tree-sized roots were jarring for me and unhealthy for the bike. The trails will remain a tremendous resource for running my dog and the times I want to drag out a fatter-tire bike but they’re clearly not of the rails-to-trails standards needed for road bikes. Which brings me back to the roadway bike lanes……..
I said the sheer-terror part of my bike-lane emotions would be reserved for another space and it will. Mostly.  Since the (awesome) horse trails are not an option we turn to the wonderful miles of bike lanes here in Broward to chase our dreams of dropping that final three pounds and establishing social connections that we hope will lead to long-term friendships. Except when the trash in the lanes is so obnoxious (see above) we’re forced out into the auto traffic lanes full of vehicles that seem oblivious to any sense of speed limits. While off road/trail riders may grin at the sight of a six foot branch, porch door, car tire or office chair in their path, we skinny tire riders have little choice but to swerve and take our chances with traffic. My guess is few members of the road maintenance teams, politicians or other proponents of the benefits of road cycling in South Florida actually ride a bike either on the trails or the bike-lane equipped roadways. If they did my comments would be obsolete. Where I grew up it was common to say the local Council members were always the first to have their roads cleared of snow after every snowfall; regardless of conditions or cost; they had clean streets in their immediate neighborhoods.
My ask is how to go about filling a form or making a request to the appropriate resources who have the ability to clear out our bike lanes in Broward. My newfound cycling pals have stated they have contacted multiple agencies over time—-towns and County—clearly to no avail. I’m happy to comply with whatever medium is necessary to make the requests. Even if it means separate requests for each jurisdiction. Thank you for your time and understanding and perhaps someday we’ll see you out in the lanes!
Respectfully,
Don
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
 I attempted to be somewhat casual yet explanatory. Direct yet not offensive. Concise yet complete. Clearly I missed on several fronts. I plan to give it three-four more days before chasing down some sort of followup, whatever that might be. I just want to ride my bike safely.
AniMal

Turkey Trifecta 2016

(copied)
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Schweizer, Mike <MSchweizer

This was in the Columbia Tribune this morning… appropriate for the SCRC Turkey Trifecta… Going to get her a SCRC Shirt for the next roadrace!!!

From: Elsbernd, Ryan [mailto:
Sent: Tuesday, November 22, 2016 9:29 AM
To:
Subject: Gravy Training: SCRC Turkey Trifecta 2016 – Day Two

Day Two will go on as planned, rain or shine. If you need some motivation, think of that third ladle of gravy over mashed potatoes and the strength and power it’ll give so you too can finish strong like NCAA XC Champion Karissa Schweizer.

Depart at 11:30 for Park Loop. Be careful crossing Fleur. Don’t just blindly follow like a turkey with its head cut off.

Important: everyone who finishes the entire Trifecta really is awarded an authentic, beautifully handcrafted and individually signed Certificate Suitable for FramingTM. So after tomorrow, if you’ve earned an authentic, beautifully handcrafted and individually signed Certificate Suitable for FramingTM, please respond to this email. One person from your group is welcome to email multiple finishers. Just be sure to include each finisher’s email address please.

Gobble Gobble,
~Ryan

Ric Flair

_____________________________________________

…so you can enjoy that guilt-free second and third helping Thanksgiving Day®

Monday, November 21st: Loop of Coin (7.1 miles) – depart at 11:40.
Tuesday, November 22nd: Park Loop (8 miles) – depart at 11:30.
Wednesday, November 23rd: Loop de Loop (10 miles) – depart at 11:30.

All official departures will take place from the northwest corner of 9th & High. Note the departure times as they differ each day due to the length of the course.

Things to keep in mind:
· Safety first…and second…and third. The Trifecta is run on open roads. Please use common sense and courtesy when dealing with traffic. And watch for deer.
· These are intended to be social runs. Everyone is expected to attempt to stay together.* And everyone is welcome to run.
· Each participant who completes all three routes of the Turkey Trifecta will be awarded an authentic, beautifully handcrafted and individually signed Certificate Suitable for FramingTM.
· Again this year! Anyone who completes the entire Trifecta within one 24 hour period will be awarded, in addition to an authentic, beautifully handcrafted and individually signed Certificate Suitable for FramingTM, a frozen Swanson turkey TV dinner.

If you’re not in Des Moines next week, satellite Turkey Trifectas are available in West Des Moines, St. Louis, South Florida, Lee’s Summit, Denver, Stockholm and Hong Kong. Contact your local SCRC rep for more details.

Please share this email with others who might be interested. Hope to see you there,
~Ryan

*the exception to this rule is Wednesday when, optionally, you may attempt to demonstrate your running superiority

**** This message was sent securely via TLS encryption. ****
—–Message Disclaimer—–

Political Fray

I’ve felt compelled to vent and rant about the current National (and sometimes local) political cycle and simply have been too lazy to follow through. As is the case with almost all the topics of late. The too lazy to follow through thing. I’ll take about anything to give a jumpstart to kicking my laziness to the curb.

Current national Republican Party leadership has hinted, indicated and flat out stated, ‘……it should be the will of the people who the next U.S. Supreme Court Justice will be……..’ therefore no hearings or votes will be taken as is specifically stated in the U.S. Constitution. Nearly unanimous support across the Republican leadership as well as general support amongst rank and file. The will of the people. That’s a quote.

Yet during the same news cycle these same Republican leaders refute, rebuke, denounce and degrade Presidential candidate Donald Trump. Even as clearly it’s the will of the people (to date) that he lead the party. Defy the U.S. Constitution and defer to ‘the will of the people’ out of one side of the mouth at the beginning of the news cycle and before the end of the news cycle denounce the will of the people in the selection of the (probable) Republican Presidential Nominee. Which is it? We the people get to have a will or we don’t? Sure wish they’d make up their minds so I know when my will matters. Washington elite–neh Washington ‘cartel’ (nod to Senator Cruz). I’m right their with ‘the people’ and think I may have found my candidate.

 

AniMal

 

Training: Week 1

I took one of those pledges toward the end of the first week of the year. You know, lose so many pounds, do so many sit-ups, say so many nice things, etc…. Mine happened to be run so many miles for the year. I’ve never done that before. In my nearly twenty years of miles on the bike and the feet I enter each year with a general idea of events I’d like to complete; rarely taking the initiative to sign up more than four-five months in advance. However, given my significant goal for the year being on record since June of 2015 I recognize I need motivation and carrots and cajoling.

A couple of former A-List runners started a program a couple years ago to get folks committed to moving more. They had them set a pretty audacious goal—walk/jog/run 2015 miles in 2015. That breaks down to more than 5.5 miles per day. Every day (on  average). That’s really a lot of moving in context to a recent study I heard that said roughly only five percent of people proactively, on their own exercise on a seriously regular basis. Run The Year 2016. Price was right leaving the only barrier to entry as the actual thing the coaches want you to do: run 2016 miles by the end of the year. No small feat. 168 miles per month, nearly 39 miles per week and over 5.5 miles per day. My response after joining: promptly take two days off running.

With nearly continual pain, in various degrees, to both knees I’d hit a point it was time again to see the Doc.  After a visit and an affirmation that I’m still structurally sound he pulled out the needle (actually one of his assistants did) and injected me with another round of relief. Yay Rx! Yay me! But down for a couple days to let the knee settle in with its newly injected invader. Defender of the truth, masking of the evil.  A somewhat eventful first full week of training to begin the year.

 

The One Percent

Sitting nearly smack in the middle of the court and only ten rows up my eyes should have been glued to the players on the court warming up before what would be a blowout of a game. Yet I found my eyes darting back and forth between the court, the two perfectly lighted student sections and the crowd still pouring into their 15 inches of bleacher we’d all call home for the next three hours. I counted: one…..two, three…….four…..four……five, six……..seven…..eight…..nine. Perhaps a couple others—the students rarely sat, or stood, still for more than a couple of seconds at a time. I remember, and miss, those days. Looking back to the court: one…..two, three…..four, I think. Now back to the non-student sections of the crowd.  Similar.

In my own naive, uninformed way I felt a rush of familiarity with the recent protests, movements or actions (you pick’em) taking place on several college campus’ across the country. Within an entire student section in a sold-out game I counted perhaps ten non-white students.  Spanning the 16,000+ Allen Field House capacity crowd were maybe a couple dozen non-white fans, staff, volunteers. On the court perhaps 75% of the home-team players were black.

During one of the breaks the announcer touted the limited chance to purchase a team autographed ball. Tickets, not to mention parking, that run well into the three digits. The < 2% of student population, but >75% player population, capitalized on to help fund the program. From that view it’d appear equitable—fair even. 75% to help fund the other 25%. Yet that’s not exactly how it works.

I’m not read in enough to know many details of the plights and pleas of the (largely minority) student groups around the country apparently attempting to make gains. Perhaps they are justified, perhaps not. What I now have, that I didn’t truly understand before, is a first-hand view of how campus life appears to many minorities. Cool heads, thoughtful discourse and the art of utilizing whatever power the groups might have will pay off in the longer run. Oh, and Go Jayhawks!

AniMal

Countdown

Fewer than nine months away I’m scheduled to run my first 100. I’ll say it first here—I’m less than optimistic. After a Fall filled with races from 5k > 50k I should be more optimistic. Perhaps a couple of the races provided the first clues. Sluggish, slow even. After a bit of time off it’s been a grind regaining any sort of rhythm, cadence, pace, what-have-you.

A bit of weight gain I have been unable to shake combined with fairly consistent searing pain in one knee have messed with my psyche. A fruitless (to date) search for some type of coaching guidance has me concerned I’ll need to be my own. A coach I am not.

IMG_0604Going for me? I’ve convinced myself I can train for this thing in six months giving me January to slowly (and slowly) build up miles to see how things shake out. I’m not a fan of putting goals, progress and plans to print—generally leads to my feeling I’m setting myself up for a fail. In this case I think I’ll need to. Put them to print, not fail, that is.

I stayed up too late last night. I ate too much. I drank too much. I got up too early today. I ate and drank (water) too little (so far) today. It starts tomorrow.

 

Grinding Gobblers

Pre-Pre Race

It once was routine to make the time for a somewhat detailed summary of any running (and sometimes cycling) event longer than about twenty miles. Likely because, for me anyway, events were completed as part of a group; often one that traveled together for the weekend. Moving away from the corporate environment meant losing the cohesion, and traveling, component of my group. As a result events have felt more isolated. Intuitively it seems I’d ramp up self-reporting if nothing else than to keep a record given the lack of others to help keep the memories.

Shortly after moving to the D.C. area in 2013 I signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon. As it took place only eight months after a knee scope and seven months after moving to the area I set no goals. In fact my theme throughout the run was to stop and take a photo of every mile marker–which I believe I did. I also stopped around mile 21 to chat with Amy and Samantha and grabbed a beer around mile 22. What a great event–top 3-4 of all I’ve completed. In 2014 I signed up for the Kansas City Marathon; again shortly after moving to town. I was miserable most of the run. It took place less than a month after a grinding 50 mile trail run and right after moving out of our apartment into our house. Marathoning was so far down my list of priorities I had fewer than five or six enjoyable miles all morning.

It’s been so long since I’ve turned a BQ–probably closing in on five years now. In that time I’ve had the two knee operations, moved three times, lost four dogs and turned toward trail races. Foot speed has drifted about as far down the list as it can. I’d like to think I can do it one more time. After the 2015 version of the Gobbler Grind I’m not so sure. I set all sorts of goals when I  signed up a few months ago. A, B, B.1, B.2, C, C.1, and on. I hit only one. First time for that.

Pre-Race

We had company for the weekend—a 1/2 participant and he was all in. Fully costumed in his finest Thanksgiving outfit—-preparing it took all the edge off any night-before-jitters. That and a couple drinks.

Pre-Race Costume Prep
Pre-Race Costume Prep

Early weekend mornings are the only time I ever enjoy driving into the heart of Overland Park. I’ve become spoiled with our good roads and minimal traffic in our neighborhoods. We pulled into the lot a full 50 minutes before the start—packet pickup took all of ten of those minutes. Back in the warm car to change and sit. And sit. With fifteen minutes to start I thought it best to take a swing by the kybos and get to the start. After ten I realized I wasn’t going to make the start so I spied a tree-line which served the need; arriving at the start with just under two minutes to spare.

1000+ of us–combined 1/2 and full–lined up to begin an endless maze. Scroll down a few clicks to fully appreciate the curviness of the course. Smartly the first couple clicks were around the Corporate Woods office park. Even that small bit involved several tight corners and sweeping turns. Nothing, however, compared to what we’d face the final 23.5 miles.

Coming off four races—-three trail, one road–ranging from 5k to 50k–in the prior seven weeks I knew my legs would be somewhat fatigued. I wasn’t sure how much—this marked the first time I’d ever attempted a road marathon immediately following trail races. This also marked my second road marathon without completing speed-work or event specific long runs.

Gobble-Gobble

Right at the gun I found my goal pacer–3:30; 8:00 minutes per mile.  He was tucked between three 1:45 1/2 pacers. That seemed reasonable to me. I’d soon find out differently. Between miles 1 and 2 I could hear rather loud music behind me. It closed in quickly until it was in front of me—a young gal had a full-on bluetooth speaker facing outward from her running belt. Both she and her tunes were a distraction–she knew as much and wore it well. I must be getting old and am clearly out of the loop. I’d never seen such a thing–it was loud enough to overpower my earbud yet not loud enough to overpower her voice. We’d quickly learn this was Abby from Omaha—she had a goal of running her 32nd marathon by her 32nd birthday–November 15th or 16th. She knew of our pacer and he of her. Their one-upmanship helped pass the time for a mile or so. I was torn between remaining right off their shoulders or drifting back a bit to reengage with my earbud. I did like her music.

Temperatures were perfect at the start and projected to remain that way throughout. All the bodies and sun beginning to peer through the trees onto the office plaza asphalt quickly raised it a few degrees at surface level. Just before the second mile a gal running the 1/2 was struggling with her phone, water bottle and earbuds while attempting to remove her jacket. I slid next to her, first grabbing her phone then her water bottle. We chatted a bit as she continued and jacket tied around her waist I started handing back her gear. She both smiled and articulated her thanks as she turned up another gear; the last I saw of her was her shiny gold skirt bouncing into a quicker crowd.

Just before mile three our mass turned a corner and squeezed onto the Indian Creek trail. Both events onto the trail. We attempted to run 3-4-5 wide; shoulder to shoulder. Quite uncomfortable at minimum. My heart rate spiked—my pace quickened. One of my dozen mistakes on the day. Shortly after the first water station on the trail–between three and four–I tripped up one of a pair of young gals as we all fought for a couple inches of space to weave back from the station, onto the heart of the trail and raise an elbow just enough to take a drink. Shocked she was the only one who went down. Turning both events onto the trail before we spread out a bit more was a recipe for a messy first few miles. I swung back around grabby the gal’s arm springing her to her feet and back with her partner; somehow avoiding mass chaos in the process.

Overly concerned about my time I bumped up the pace until I could again hear Abby’s rear (facing music). By mile 4-5 I began drifting ahead of the 3:30 group; enough to lose Abby’s music and begin dropping under 8:00/min pace. We were down to 2-3-4 wide on the trail and the curves somehow continued;  wasting energy.  Shortly after mile six we began a four mile stretch on the road; at least half of which saw my heart rate maximum for the day. During this time I engaged both the 3:30 and 3:28 pacers; again a first. I engaged so much I tipped my hat to a couple of my goals for the day–yet again firsts. We split from the 1/2 group during this stretch and jumped back on Indian Creek trail at the 10 mile mark.

By this time I was beginning to feel this would not be my day. While I’d managed to scramble and get slightly under 8:00/min pace it was not painless. Eleven miles in and the 3:30 group started pulling a few seconds ahead. Twelve miles in and it was several seconds. A little before the half we hit another trail ramp and road crossing and it took effort. Somewhere between 13 and 14 I intentionally dropped the pace to get my HR back down (it dropped 12 BPM) and it felt good.  Too good.

Guest - Post 1/2 Treat
Guest – Post 1/2 Treat

I spent the next 4-5 miles with an average HR about 12 BPM lower than the first 13 miles and it continued to feel right. Unfortunately that resulted in a loss of about three minutes and I had no gas to reel it back in. By mile 14 I found myself running solo which continued to the end. Passing a couple and getting passed by several my pace climbed even as elevation dropped–albeit only a few feet per mile save mile 20 which rose 90 feet. At 20 I just wanted it to be over. My mind drifting, sweat ceased and my earbud had been silent for miles. Just let it be over. I spent the remaining 10k calculating other race times, long-run needs, upcoming possible events and whether or not the other three in my group would really still be waiting for me at the finish.

Post 

To say I won’t do it again is false; I will. To say I’ll make the time to complete road-marathon specific training again is likely also false. I’ve learned to enjoy trail running too much to give it up for the time it’d take. Sub 4:00 with no event specific training—-I’ll simply need to reluctantly accept it.

AniMal