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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Wednesday is half priced nacho night...

Dear Readers,

Wednesday is half priced nacho night.

Nachos have been half priced  on Wednesday nights at Deer Park Tavern in Newark, as long as I can remember. It has certainly been a thing longer than the 24+ years than Monk and I have been together. Half Priced Nacho Night is one of our traditions. Oh, when we started going it was as part of a larger group of friends- usually after a ride. Over the years we've met friends and been happy to introduce them to half priced nachos. When Diane was out of work, it was a $5 meal that we could afford, enjoy and share. We look forward to it... We don't go every week, but often enough.
Photo via food spotting
This last week, we made the call over coffee as we got ready for work. It was a plan we were excited about. We were, dare I say,  stoked for half priced nacho night. Throughout the day, we sent each other emails: "Do you know what day it is?" " what's on Wednesday and awesome?"  That's right, half priced nacho night! We laughed about it...

So Wednesday night, our young server came to our table and she explained the menu. She reviewed the specials and said, "tonight is half priced nacho night." I smiled at Diane and said, "did you hear that honey, it's half priced nacho night. What a surprise!  That sounds very good, I think we are in!"

the young server looked at me like I was stranger than I actually am.

I explained, "we've been emailing each other all day about half priced nachos, it's been a tradition for us for at least 20 years or so."

The server looked totally disgusted.
Photo via my I Phone

It was a little awkward.

I asked her, "is it that strange that we would swap emails all day and get excited about nachos?" "Is there something about the nacho quality we should know about?"

the server smiled and said, "of course not, the nachos are great, but I can't believe you guys were emailing each other. Why wouldn't you just text? I mean, isn't texting better?

Everyone Laughed...

she continued, "so I'm guessing you're in for nachos any drinks?"

more smiles...

by the way, the nachos were great Wednesday night.

thanks for reading.


Monday, April 20, 2015

5 things I learned about riding after not being able to ride a bike for 6 weeks

Dear Readers,

So I'm slowly working back on the bike. I love to train, but I have found this spring that I love to ride my bike even more. That might sound counter intuitive, but in recent years, I may have lost sight of that a bit. My knee, and my fitness are slowly but steadily progressing. I've got a ways to go, but I'm enjoying the ride. Here are a few a things I have learned coming back to the bike in the past few weeks.

5. My butt can't handle the truth.
I love my specialized saddles. After six weeks, I jumped on the bike and the saddle violated me. I had a entire new respect for the term "ass hatchet".  A few weeks later it's starting to get a but, I mean a  bit better...  Got to get my tail end used to that again...

4. Pro move is to ride when it's nice.
It's hard to be sitting on the couch doing nothing, when your friends are all riding. After one of my best Januarys ever, I admit I was totally freakin' out watching my weight go up and my fitness evaporate. My friend Kris pointed out- "February and most of March sucked for riding this year, no one really wanted to be training then- the pro move was to be hurt and then start riding and getting stronger as the weather breaks." I gotta say, as usual Auer is right about this one.

Photo By Benny da Jewlar

3. Lemonade Rides are awesome.
Never take a good ride for granted. Even a bad ride is better than no ride. The first week I was back I could only ride 20 minutes, and slowly worked up to an hour over a few weeks. That first 20 minutes was terrifying and wonderful. The feeling of riding, and moving and... Well you know, you probably wouldn't be reading this "Cuter than James Franco Blog" if you didn't have a sense of or know how wonderful riding bikes is... My buddy Karl, who I didn't get to ride with nearly enough in the past few years has called these rides Lemonade rides. Karl has looked after me a number of times while I was trying for another mile stone ride. This after Shane tried to mail me a lemon in the mail, but it was returned to sender by USPS!  Some of the rides I've done this spring  may not have been the rides I envisioned in January, but they maybe have been sweeter than I had expected. 

Thanks to Buddy, Alan, Blake , Kita and Benny who came out to ride with me last weekend. 
Kita opening up a can of whoop ass on me again!

2. Ride what makes you happy.
You know, gears are faster than single speeds. Suspension forks are faster than rigid forks. There's probably a good argument these days that full suspension is faster than hard-tail. But you know what, I'm not racing this year. I have always loved the feeling of a rigid forks. I appreciate the precision of them, how light they make the bike, and how well they fly out of corners. With no plans race this year, I have set my bike up how I like to ride it best, and that has made all the difference.

1. Riding with my wife is the best. (DUH!)
Perhaps you have noticed an uptick in the number of Monkey and Fatmarc pictures on my second favorite social media platform- Instagram. Diane is my absolute favorite person to ride bikes with.  A lot of times it's just us goofing around on fire-roads, talking about the world and taking it in. A couple of weeks ago we were racing each other around Lums pond, chopping each other in corners and dicing it up. It was awesome. Between Diane and my injuries these opportunities aren't always as frequent as we'd like, so I'm gonna grab them when I can. .Not being able to ride with Diane was a bummer, and frankly has made being able to ride with her, that much more special. I am a lucky man.

thanks for reading.


Monday, April 13, 2015

Tough Weekend

Dear Readers,

tough weekend...

here's some pictures that made us smile:


Joe making this look really good at Baker's...

Craig, Beth, Megan and Johnny at someplace called the sugar shack. I WANNA GO! 

thanks for reading


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Two Bike Rides

Dear Readers,

Eight weeks ago, when I was advised to take 4-6 weeks off the bike, I for various reason decided to stop drinking beer at the same time. If  was gonna be miserable not riding, I might as well be really miserable and not enjoy beer too.  To be honest, I really haven't missed it. (the beer, I hate not riding)

Thankfully, twelve days ago, I was able to start riding very easily and very slowly. I can't push, I can't go fast, and I'll admit I'm scared and oddly conscious of my knee the entire time I'm riding. But it is glorious. Mentally, I've turned a corner even if I'm wicked slow right now. I can't train yet, but riding is a big step for me. Riding a bike is amazing. In someways this experience has been entirely frustrating and awful, in someways it has reminded me how awesome just riding a bike is. I mean more frustrating than not, but what the fuck, life gives you lemons, you gotta look on the bright side of death . Am I right? Riding is awesome.

Last Friday, Good Friday was my first single track ride since January. My buddy Karl kept me honest as we weaved our way around the loop at Lums Pond. It was the first time I've ridden for an hour since my injury AND IT WAS JOYOUS.  But I will say this, as Karl and I finished up, it was the first time in eight weeks that I craved a cold beer. Some where in my mind mountain biking and beer are connected.  Gotta wonder what the psychology is behind that...

Saturday afternoon, I was still stoked from my Friday ride. Monk and I met Buddy for a quick fire road ride from Newark to the ticking tomb. It was a windy, but a good ride. Buddy and Diane looked after me, as I was fighting in the wind a bit more than I wanted.

Diane was on her cross bike, as her mountain-bike is currently out of commission.  As we got to one of the more techy sections, Diane went to the front as we came up on a runner.

The runner saw Diane on a cross bike and exclaimed, "She's killing it on a cross bike! YEAH!" Buoyed by the cheers, Diane, who really hasn't spent much time on her cross bike for two years, settled in and cruised through the section. In doing so, she put me into the hurt locker. She looked back and sat up making sure that she didn't drop me.  We made the turnaround, and embraced  the tail wind which I was cursing a few minutes earlier when it was a headwind. Monkey, Buddy and I worked our way back to town. Not dicey, not froggy, not fast, but moving at a fun pace. It was awesome...

Sadly, our ride was cut a bit short as we came upon a downed branch with lots of limbs. Buddy, Diane and I were riding three a breast. Buddy and I quickly moved to the edges. Diane decided to hop the gnarly branch, but forgot to actually get her rear wheel in the air. From my vantage point to the left of her it was less of a bunny hop and more of a steam roller.  The branch exploded and launched into her back wheel which for lack of better terms blew up.  Seven spokes destroyed, 3 more bent...

"I tried to hop it!" she exclaimed as Buddy and I laughed...

"Looked more like a snow plow..." Buddy said.

"Do you think I can twist a few spokes and ride it in?" Diane asked laughing..

"Sure, a 12 spoke wheel will work fine!" I encouraged.

we all laughed. Buddy and I set out to get the car and pick up Monk, while she worked on her shouldering technique.

Riding bikes is awesome.

thanks for reading..


Thursday, March 26, 2015

leadership lesson you won't find in a text book

Dear Readers,

Near 20 years ago I got my first promotion to a  management position. I was the youngest supervisor on the floor of the bank credit card center. I had a lot of energy, and while I had not managed people before, I had been a coach and somewhat of a natural motivator. Initially,  I had 20 employees reporting to me and after a short period my call center team quickly rose through the ranks in pretty much every statistic that was measured.

I was young. I had fun. I made jokes and I think I inspired my team. My team, and the bulk of the call center was young, so having a common nomenclature was big advantage for me. While many of the other supervisors used carrot and the stick tactics, I treated everyone as an individual and challenged them to be their best.

I was young and a new supervisor. My desk, and my team's work area were strategically placed near the manager and vice president's office. While no one ever told me, I kinda suspected that I was there so they could keep an eye on me. That was cool with me.

One Monday morning, one of the reps that reported to me, came into the office super excited. Her name was Rita. Rita came straight over to my desk beaming.

"how was your weekend?" I asked her.

Rita replied, "it was amazing, I had such a great time. I got my first tattoo, I LOVE IT!"

"Congratulations! " I replied to her.

Before I knew what happened Rita followed up asking, "would you like to see it?"

With out thinking I answered, " Sure I would love to see it!"

Rita standing between me and the Vice President's office, turned around bent over and pulled down her skirt. Rita revealed her new tribal tattoo on the very low back. The tattoo was well done, but she also showed just a bit more of Rita than I wanted to or expected to see. I felt my face turning red with embarrassment I realized how badly I had blown this exchange.

I looked up and saw the Vice Present looking out the office at me, and Rita essentially mooning me on the floor. His eyes as big as saucers.

Rita turned back around still really excited and asked, "what do you think?"

Still somewhat shocked, embarrassed and frankly not sure what to say, "ah, it looks great! congrats"

I pretty much figured that I was about to be fired. I sat at my desk and just sweated it out.

Two hours later I got a call from the Vice President. "Marc, can you come down to my office?"

I walked down to his office and walked in. I was pretty damn sure I was about to have my last day.

"I understand that one of your employees wanted to share her new tattoo with you?" he asked.

"yes, sir" I responded. I looked down at the floor and braced myself for what was about to happen next.

"Son, in the future if someone asks you if you want to see their new tattoo, you respond by asking,"where did you get it ?"  He said to me.

"Do I make myself clear? " he asked firmly.

"yes sir, I absolutely." I said looking up, and for the first time thinking I wouldn't need to apply for unemployment.

"get back out of the floor with your team..." the vice president said.

"yes, sir!" I said and I scampered out of his office...

thanks for reading.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I rode my bike today...

Dear Readers,

I rode my bike today. First time in over 6 weeks. I have been resting and stretching. I've felt steady improvement in my knee. Friends and professionals assure me to be  patient and time will heal this. Following those recommendations, today was my first ride.

In my mind for weeks, I imagined the first ride would be amazing, that somehow like Forrest Gump when I started to go the braces would come off and everything would click into place. It would be like some awesome training montage from the movies and I'd be propelled back to my former self.

But reality and my own life experience teaches me that the Russians aren't really cheering for Rocky, and no matter what pill Morpheus offers you there is nothing easy. The ride today was horrible. I spent entire 24 minutes terrified. I was scared my knee would be tight, that I'd feel something. That there'd be  some pain. I was hyper-sensitive. While I'm pretty sure there were no issues, I might have imagined a few... This was not the triumphant return I had imagined.

The ride itself wasn't much to speak of- 4.3 miles of bike path in 24 minutes. My bike, which six wheels ago felt like it fit like a glove, felt awkward under me. The seat height, which has been the same since I got the bike 2 years ago, felt a hair high... And I, I was scared to do anything, to change anything for fear of setting off my knee... I wanted joy today, instead I was just scared.

it will come. it will come...

I've got three more weeks of bike path. That I can handle. The fear, the fear may cause me to come undone like weezer's sweater...

thanks for reading


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Pes Anserine Tendinitis

Dear Readers.

After an amazing cross season, but one where ultimately I felt like my fitness level was below where I wanted it, I set out to make the 2015-2016 cross season my best. Armed with a new power tap, and lots of motivation I set out to have my best December and January on the bike ever...

The winter was tough with ice and rain, and like most riders I supplemented my outdoor riding time with time on the rollers. The challenge I found was to get the power numbers indoors that I was achieving outdoors. I was feeling good on the bike, maintaining race weight through the winter, and watching my power numbers improve each week.
I like when I can have full block on the strava. never expected that I'd 
accomplish this with empty blocks! 

In hindsight, with half my volume on the rollers for weeks, I should have known that it was really not sustainable mentally or physically.

I'm writing this not to elicit sympathy, but for a few reasons. One to serve as a reminder to myself that achieving balance is important. Secondly, to document for myself the process of injuring myself, and the path to recovery. Also, as I benefited from reading other athlete's experiences, perhaps someone can learn from my mistakes. (don't go swimming). Writing this is also part of how I process this stuff and for whatever reason it helps me to share... so here's the time line... I also know this in hindsight that while symptoms didn't start to show until January 19th, I was doing damage up to that point. None of my positions changed on my bike, the volume of hours was not higher than normal. The variable is the volume of rollers, and efforts on the rollers and not just using them for recovery or endurance riding. I believe that the torque on my knee to generate equal watts on the rollers that I was producing outdoors was a factor in my injury. Additionally, I often would force myself to stand on the rollers, (for variety and to keep my junk from falling asleep) but I really wasn't that good at it (standing on rollers). I believe this motion was also not the same as when standing and pedaling outside. I believe that all of this contributed to my overuse injury.

here's the timeline that I have kept:

Monday, January 19:
experienced a little odd pain in my right knee walking up and down stairs. I write it off to getting old. I do my recovery ride on the rollers with no issues.

Tuesday January 20:
walking around I feel tenderness on the inside of my knee. Stairs have a little pain... Diane and I try to ride trails but it's a shit show. I end up doing an urban ride. Put up some good times on some of my favorite winter training hills- I'm pretty happy with the ride.

Wednesday, January 21:
Rollers. I'm doing 2x20 and frankly looking for a new best 20 minute power effort. I fall just short of my best effort- achieved outdoors... At the end of the ride for the first time on the bike, I feel an odd twinge of pain on the inside of my knee. I am concerned.

Thursday, January 22:
no pain walking today. I ride fire roads with Sharon and Brian. It was fun. I rode my single speed fire road bike which I love, but also causes me to grind a bit more, and stand and climb most climbs. I rode this bike a lot this winter, it's really fun but I recognize grinding climbs out chasing Sharon and Brian, both riding really strongly,  didn't help my situation. No issues on the ride, mentally I begin to question if riding indoors was the issue.. In hindsight, mashing out tempo on fire roads on  a single speed couldn't have helped. (note, I didn't say gravel grinding)

Friday, January 23:
Rode before work. 30 minutes recovery on the rollers. No issues.

knowing bad weather is coming, I head out and do a quick loop at lunch outdoors. I pick up a few 2015 KOMS/PRs. I'm pretty happy. Feel fine on the bike... heck I'm kinda stoked...

Saturday, January 24:
Total shit show outside. I ride 2 hours on the rollers. I do intervals and try to keep my power levels similar to what I would do outside. No pain on the ride, but I feel something subtle climbing stairs the rest of the day.

Sunday, January 25:
My last training ride. The Mr. Belvedere Hates You loop. The groups was stacked, and frankly the guys I want to ride with, who I want to be my peers, but frankly have historically been stronger than me. It was a great ride, and I'm really happy with how I rode. I'm not sharp, but I'm riding strong. I think I made Matt Doyle curse at me once. I have no knee pain. I feel fine on stairs.  In hindsight, this may end up being the peak of riding season for 2015.

check out the ride here.

Monday, January 26:
I have pain up and down stairs. I figure whatever is going on it is a product of riding indoors, and I'm not going to that this week. I'm off the bike this day.

Tuesday, January 27:
I rode by myself very mellow at Middlerun. I wear a knee brace. It keeps my knee warm and it responds well to this. But it's tender the entire ride.

Thursday, January 28: 
I ride with Sharon, Brian and Thayer on snowy trains at Fairhill. No knee brace this time. Knee is tender from the time we leave the parking lot. Ride is fun, so I stick it out, but I feel it the entire time. I comment to Brian as we are leaving the park for the night, that I'm gonna be off the bike for a while.

Saturday, February 7:
I've been off the bike for 10 days. I'm feeling better, but still feel something on the stairs. We do an easy bike path ride, followed by a fun loop at Lums Pond. Diane tells me that I did too much first time out. I scoff at her...

Sunday, February 8:
Peoples ride, super short loop, as Diane and I pull off after Chesapeake City,I'm kinda cracked to be honest. The knee feels okay, but not great. Frankly, I'm tired from yesterday.  Improvement, but not where it should be. Diane pushes the pace a little, I give her grief for it. Flats don't cause as much issue as climbing...

Tuesday, February 10:
Kita and I do a townie ride. I'm chomping at the bit, but knee is bad on the hills. I probably overdue it.I feel tender, weak, but not specific pain up each one. Stairs are killing me. I'm resolved to not ride again until I can walk up down stairs with no issue. This is my last ride of 2015 thus far.

Wednesday, February 25- 
I go to see an orthopedic. I have been swimming 2x a week, got up to half a mile in around 22 minutes. It's not fun, but it's something. Started seeing an awesome massage therapist. Swimming seems to be making my knee feel worse frankly. Where initially I thought the pain was on the lower inside of the knee, I have experience pain pretty much everywhere. I am not an easy man to live with right now. (Sorry Diane). I stopped swimming the previous week and finally the knee pain gets centralized again. Dr. Andrisani diagnoses me with Pes Anserine Tendinitis. He comments if it was bursitis he's give me a shot and that would pretty much clear it up, but I'm not that lucky. Recovery will take time and patience. He gives me some stretches and says no bike for 4-6 weeks, then 3 weeks easy riding, and if no set back, 3 weeks endurance... Touch and go recovery...

Thursday, February 26-
Diane who has had a similar injury complicated by a bad reaction to a cortisone shot (resulting in a hole in her knee) has been very helpful through this process. She's shared what has worked for her, and what hasn't . She has had this diagnosis previously, and helps me through. I comb the internet reading every forum post, ever you tube video... I start stretching 30-40 minutes a day. Icing off and on 3-4x a day. I take a course of prescribed anti-inflamatories. Self Massage has also been helpful. I get something called a rumble roller, which I'm convinced is really a mid evil torture device.

Realizing that I have been substituting drinking beer for my riding, and very frankly drinking my feelings, I stop drinking on February 26. Just one morning too many waking up for work with a hangover. I know my family history, and while I don't believe I have an issue, I'm not tempting fate either...

Saturday, March 14
Making improvements. Continuing my course of stretching, icing, massage and self-massage. Been off of anti-inflammatories for almost a week. Knee is improving, but it's not there yet. If being inactive when the weather was awful was tough, when the weather is getting better it is even tougher.

I've been pretty good about keeping a 2000ish a day diet going. I try to eat smart. That said, I've gained 15 pounds. That's hard for me. I always fight my weight. When I'm riding a bike and burning 7000 calories or so a week, I can better control it. Being inactive- not so much.  Not doing anything has taken it's taken it's toll. That said, for now there's not much I can do. I can walk stairs normally. Pain is centralized and no longer constant- it had gotten there when I was swimming. I had to get to the darkest point to get better I guess... Swimming set me back I am convinced.

I want to take a moment to say that Diane has been a saint through out this. She's been here, and frankly still dealing with the hole in her knee. She's been supportive. I have pouted a lot. I looked forward to the 6 hour of Cranky Monkey and the battle royale shaping up there. I wanted to be in that fight. I have been mopey. I had to stop listening to Morrisey and the Smiths. I have not always had a positive outlook on this process. I get really moody.  I am horrible at sitting still.

I'm tempted by good weather and good progress to jump on the bike. But I also want to put this behind me. So I'm not rushing anything. I'm resolved that I won't be racing mountainbike this year, but I plan on a full cross season. I am going to Nationals in Asheville.  I have some rides I want to do in the late spring  and summer too. I do see progress, and I will continue to be patient.  My mental state is getting better, perhaps a product of progress, maybe daylight savings, maybe acceptance of my injury and timeline. Progress has given me hope.

I also want to say that I do have perspective on this... I'm not sick. No one is dying. I don't use the word blessed often, but I know that I am.  I have a wonderful wife. I have an amazing life. Great friends and family. I really do have a kick ass life. I just can't use my knee right now. If I never rode/raced a bike again- I would be bummed... But I can say, I'd be proud of what I did accomplish while racing, cherish the memories and times I had riding and I'd turn the page. I'd find something else... It's only masters bike racing after all... I hear croquet is the new aging hipster sport anyway... Maybe I'll take up baking.. hmmm...

anyway, thanks for allowing me to get all this out there, for me it really is part of the process for me...

good on ya!

thanks for reading.