Monday, March 25, 2013

Travel Sightings


I fly a lot. That is not meant to sound like bragging at all. It’s cool for a little bit and then it becomes routine and sometimes a bit of chore. It is something that gets easier with practice. When preparing for a trip (read: around midnight the night before a red eye flight the next morning) I get my kit ready and think about what to wear. I pack as little as possible to try to utilize only carry-on luggage. (When traveling with a bike, I’m likely to check a bag as I’ll be waiting at the carousel for a bike anyway.) Getting through security quickly is key and indicative of the level and type of traveler a person is. There is also an airport etiquette that should be observed. It makes your life easier and is courteous for everyone else that has to travel with you.

These are some of the ridiculous things I’ve seen while flying or in airports.

The screaming baby: This is not a ridiculous thing but is a prerequisite for any flight longer than two hours. There is always a kid with a boogered up face that screams the whole time. No amount of shushing, treats, or toys will satiate this scream machine. Somehow, despite its compact size, it has the lung capacity of free diver and a siren’s howl. Expect not to sleep or accomplish any work without noise cancelling headphones.

The clown bag at security: This is another less ridiculous thing and an unfortunate semi-common occurrence. People bring a lot of sh*t with them when the travel- not stuff, sh*t- and it all comes out at security. The idea of being a minimalist escapes owners of a clown bag. Somehow they’ve managed to cram a gallon of shampoo into their bag along with a DVD player, PS3, and tool kit and forget to take any of it out before they’re at the scanner. These items are then removed painstakingly slowly while they argue about the size of their pump bottle of body wash. Rules often should not apply to owners of a clown bag, or so they think.  

A man drinking M&Ms: This specimen on a human was spotted in the wild of the Denver International Airport. With a generally disheveled, stressed and dejected air about him, this man was walking through the terminal while drinking peanut M&Ms from a 2lb. bag. If you’re familiar with the character Kevin from The Office, you can picture this better. I wanted to shout Pull yourself together, man! because that’s no way to live or to travel. Don’t let the travel man get you down. Keep your head up and out of a family sized bag of candy.

Public toenail clipping: This is downright dirty. Everyone has to clip their nails but the gate at the airport is not the place or time to do such a thing. And, AND, it is not appropriate to leave the nail clippings on the floor. This violates all rules of airport etiquette and courtesy.

A guy walking through the airport barefoot: This is also dirty although not as much as leaving toenail clippings at the gate. You’re required to remove your shoes at the security check but it’s understood that you’ll retrieve them once passing through the scanner. Maybe he forgot? Apparently the airport doesn’t require shoes for service…

These are just a few things that I’ve seen that are humorous. There are certainly more to come from future travels.

What are some of your crazy or noteworthy travel sightings? 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Perpetuating a Cliché


Job hunting- or is it pronounced yob? It may be a soft J. Anyway- job-hunting sucks. Let’s be real. Lots of people probably know exactly what I mean. Unfortunately being a pro cyclist doesn’t come with a multi-million dollar contract like a basketball player and many of us need to work work as well. Dozens and dozens of filled out applications brought nothing more than two and a half months of daily rejection. What started out as somewhat fun and mysterious- who is going to hire a pro cyclist?!- became a desperate and depressing activity. So much so that this cyclist nearly became a traveling knife salesman… more on this later.

Say it’s aristocratic but electricity and running water are both at the top of my want list- so needy, blah, blah, blah. Rent and bills need to be paid and only added to the feeling of desperation. Finally, luck fell in my favor with a job. As of last Monday, I’m perpetuating a cliché. I became a cyclist that works in a bike shop. It’s a good fit, really, what with knowing a few things about bikes, interacting with people, being organized and social media.

This came at a perfect time, just 12 hours after being hired to be a traveling knife salesman. Yes, you read that correctly. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and they were the only ones interested in hiring at the time. Fortunately the bike shop interview panned out and I won’t have to study up on Billy Mays videos. While it surely would’ve provided humorous and terrifying content for future blogs or a book, it would’ve been an awful job for me. A one-armed knife salesman could either make a killing or, honestly, be killed hawking knives to strangers. I digress. 

Not only am I able to pay for water- hooray!- I am more productive. Having nothing to do but ride and all day to do it can be difficult and it gets old. It really does. Now, I get up, do a morning workout, eat lunch, go to work, come home, make a snack if I have an evening workout, do an evening workout or recovery session, make dinner, then catch up on emails, phone calls, and house chores. It’s helped me get back in the habit of managing and budgeting my time and using it more efficiently. As addicting as Pinterest is, it’s hardly a productive use of time. In a bike shop, everyone else who works there loves to ride and understands the requirements of training and racing and are willing to accommodate them. More so than an office or even a traveling knife salesman gig. It seems to be the best of both worlds. To anyone else out there looking for a yob, keep your head up, it’ll pan out soon enough. While it’s cliché, it’s another addition to the ever growing list of things to be thankful for.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Choices


It's Saturday night- a time typically reserved for going out to restaurants, bars, the movies, and generally letting loose- and I am at home watching a Harry Potter movie. For clarification, by “night” it’s more like evening and the movie should be over in time to go to bed before many people leave to go out for the night.  

This may not be the glamorous lifestyle people associate with professional athletes- certainly not the life for a typical 24 year-old- but it’s one that I’ve picked for myself. It’s a choice, not a sacrifice.

An Outside magazine article was written about the nutrition lab at one of the Olympic Training Centers. The article gave insight into the neat analysis they do for each athlete there but also about the personal nutritional choices athletes make on a daily basis. An athlete who was interviewed described her weakness as sweets. She said, “It wasn’t that I didn’t want an Oreo. I just wanted a gold medal more.” Only an athlete can make the choice between needs and wants.

There are days that I don’t want to get on the bike and would rather lay around watching movies or eating some candy. Will that make me faster? No. Your coach or nutritionist can tell you what to do till their voice is hoarse or have the most scientific, state of the art plan to follow but it doesn’t mean you’ll actually do any of it.

In last week’s post about head injuries, I wrote that an athlete is the only one who can ultimately make the call to stop competing when the time comes. That’s a choice, granted, a big one. Nobody is making anyone race a bike or play a game just like nobody is going to make you train or make you eat a salad instead of fettuccine alfredo. It’s your choice and at the end of the day you’re accountable for your actions.

This brings me back to the beginning of this post about being a hermit on a Saturday night. How? It’s a choice. Is staying out late and drinking going to make me faster? Nope. So for the time being I’ll choose to be a hermit.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Head Games


Earlier this week, I watched a documentary about brain injuries in sports called Head Games. If you haven’t seen it, watch it. It’s very interesting and sheds light on a common, although under-researched and recognized, problem in sports- concussions. Mom, if you’re reading this, stop here. As someone with first hand experience with concussions, some of which I remember myself and some that people have relayed, several times, to me, it scared the shit out of me. Please pardon the language. The documentary reports research currently being done at Boston University and is focused on contact sports like football and hockey but concussions can happen to anyone, in any sport. Research indicates that multiple head injuries can lead to dementia and a slew of mental health issues not to mention regular forgetfulness and irritability.

Two years after pile-driving my head into the asphalt there are still lasting effects of the concussion(s) and yet I’m still pedaling. I started a race then woke up lying in the street unsure of what exactly happened. A smashed helmet did its job and saved my life. The biggest concerns at the time were my torn favorite knee warmers, scuffed brand new shoes, torn favorite knee warmers, scuffed brand new shoes, torn favorite knee warmers and finally my scuffed brand new shoes. Both were lamented the entire afternoon after the crash. Later, in the drug store- after leaving the E.R. due to a ridiculously long wait- I professed my undying love of Easter candy, which is obviously the best candy, then shared with the store how I hated that nutritionists said never to eat candy. Seriously. Add in several phone calls and conversations with people at the race that I have no recollection of and it’s not a pretty picture.

Is something like that enough to make an athlete stop? Well, that seems to be the million-dollar question that everyone has a different answer to. I don’t exactly know what mine is or when the time would be right to pull the plug. Most athletes could be certified insane and playing through injuries is routine. A brain injury isn’t a simple rolled ankle or blister on your pitching hand though, it’s a serious, complicated thing. Sure, I should’ve done things differently, and hope the decision-making people would’ve made different decisions in the above example but hindsight is 20/20.

Just this morning there was an article online about some of the most gruesome sports injuries. The list included a football player who exploded a pinky in a collision between players’ helmets, allegedly cut the mangled digit off in the locker room, and kept playing; a hockey player whose jugular was sliced open by a skate, used his goalie glove to stanch the bleeding before skating off the ice himself, then was at practice four days later with 300 stitches in his neck; and a soccer player with a genetic heart condition who had a heart attack, died on the field, was resuscitate by his implanted defibrillator then tried to keep playing. None of these athletes stopped after their injuries and went on to continue successful careers. Insane? Maybe, maybe not. There’s a love of sport that is indescribable. It often transcends logic and reason and drives us to do the things we do whether they’re smart or stupid. It’s a completely different type of head game that we play with ourselves that only we know the rules to, and we have the final vote.