Monday, October 25, 2010

I am an HBP (and proud of it)

Hi, let me do a quick (re)introduction. My name is JD. I'm closer to 50 than I'd like to be; and getting closer... I have a wonderful wife of 22 years, 3 children, and a granddaughter. I work as a Project Manager at a large corporation. I have a great church that I enjoy going to, and I am the coordinator there for short term mission trips we do to Mexico and Haiti. Oh, and I like to ride my bike; which makes me an HBP (Horrible Bike Person). Luckily, I feel like I'm in pretty good company. Let me tell you about a few other HBP's that I know (names changed to protect the innocent).

Janice is a married mom with three young children; two boys and a little girl she adopted because she felt like she could make a difference for at least that one child. She does all the normal, wonderful stuff moms do like taking care of her family and spending fun time with her friends. She also spends a fair amount of her time volunteering in various capacities. Janice likes to ride her bike as part of her overall effort to get back into a healthier lifestyle after years of devoting much of her time and energy into raising her children.

Kristen is a very nice lady who's gone through some real tough times. She lost her husband to cancer a number of years ago, and then had a tough battle with cancer herself. She spends a lot of her time helping others; volunteering as board member for the local running and tri clubs, and organizing a 5K run each year with all proceeds going to benefit victims of Parkinson's Disease. Her focus on health and wellness led her to the world of triathlon, so Kristen spends a lot of time out on the roads riding her bike.

Dave is a married father with three young boys. He's a great family man, devoted to his wife and kids. He works hard at his job, and volunteers at his church helping with the toddlers. He also spends a lot of his free time fixing up bikes that he gives to underprivileged kids. Dave is an avid bicyclist who enjoys getting outside in the fresh air and maintaining his health so he has more energy to chase around those boys : )

Susan is another person trying to get back to a healthy lifestyle. She recently completed one of the Livestrong Challenge rides to raise support for cancer victims, on behalf of her roommate who has been fighting a battle with lymphoma. This ride was a significant challenge for Susan, and she spent a lot of her evenings and weekends riding her bike in order to prepare for it. She's really enjoyed the bike rides, and will continue getting out there staying fit and raising awareness for Livestrong.

Yes, all these people and so many more that I am aware of are Horrible Bike People. I'm not sure I understand why that label should apply, but it is pretty clear that it does. You can tell by the way drivers on the road honk, yell, flip us off, throw things, swerve into the shoulder of the road to brush by close to us, etc. It seems like at least once a week I'm reading about a member of the biking community that ends up killed or seriously injured in some type of run-in with a vehicle. Saddest of all is that there are inevitably comments made by people along the lines of "they got what they deserved." Really?!? The death penalty for riding a bike? This is supposedly because bikers cause massive interference with traffic. I just don't believe that's accurate or true in most cases. The vast majority of bike riders, like myself and the folks mentioned above, make a tremendous effort to keep out of the way of traffic (we're very well aware that WE LOSE in any type of mishap with a vehicle). Whenever possible we ride on less-traveled roads, especially ones with large shoulders... We make sure to stay to the right of the roadway or shoulder... etc. Sure, there are exceptions to the rule that ride stupidly and/or recklessly - But the same can be said for the car, truck, and motorcycle drivers, right? As a matter of fact, here's a challenge for you:

Think back over your last week or so of driving. How many times has a car or other vehicle created traffic problems for you by driving too slow in the left lane, or cutting out in front of you, or slowing down in the traffic lane instead of using the turn lane, or something similar/worse? I bet it's more than a few! Now, how many times in the last week have you had traffic issues of any kind that involved a bicyclist? Hmmmm... probably not too many. So why the hatred? Perhaps because we just seem out of place, that's the most frequent comment after all - "Get off the road!". Really? Where do we go? And read this paragraph again and think about it... are we *really* causing you a problem? Or are you just frustrated and angry, and we are convenient and easy targets?

HBP's... I can't let you off the hook completely. All too often I've seen you riding two or three wide and ignoring the cars backed up behind you, running thru traffic signals like they don't apply, making poor choices on where/when to ride (like a curvy road with no shoulder during heavy traffic times)... That type of riding is not only dangerous, but it adds to the aggravation of the drivers in their vehicles, which just reinforces their anti-cyclist sentiment. Let's make sure we are doing our part to share the road.

Back to the vehicle drivers, though - next time try to think about who it might be riding that bicycle down the road. It is convenient to think of them as all yahoo freaks out there messing with your roads; but the reality is that they are mothers, brothers, grandpas and grandmas, children, friends, neighbors... just normal people who enjoy riding their bikes as a way to keep healthy and enjoy some time outdoors. Maybe it's one of your neighbors, maybe somebody that goes to your church, your kids' teacher, a friend of the family... Or maybe it is a true HBP doing ignorant things, but that still doesn't mean they deserve serious injury or death. And make no mistake, some of these aggressive actions by drivers result in just that... and somehow I doubt that there are many of you who truly want to maim or kill an innocent person (if you are such a person, I'm pretty sure you would have quit reading by now; and would already be grumbling to anyone near you about Horrible Bike People and how you're gonna take one out if they get in your way).

Stay safe,

PS: If you are an HBP, or know someone that is; please come clean and add a comment below to describe yourself and why you ride.

Update/Edit July 2011: The lady who submitted the text for the second comment was recently hit by a car that "did not see her". Luckily she came through with no major injuries; but she did have a painful recovery with injuries to her wrist and ankles/feet; as well as a large amount of road rash and bruising.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Toyota US Open Triathlon recap

He's baa-aaack... : )  That Haiti trip took more out of my time and energy than I expected, so it's been quite a while since I've had any updates. I'll post a recap of the Haiti trip soon, but for now just a quick post about my last race of the year - the Toyota US Open Triathlon in Rockwall, TX (near Dallas). I participated in the Olympic/International distance race; and there was also a Sprint race.

This was the final event in the Lifetime Fitness Series, so it attracted a number of professionals (Hunter Kemper, Matt Reed, Greg and Laura Bennett...); as well as elite AG qualifiers from the previous events. Nice venue for the race, and for the most part it was well run and organized. There were a couple of problems with traffic control (riders/runners being forced to stop), so hopefully they'll work that out for next year's race and beyond.

For myself, I ended up with a fairly good swim and bike, and a good run; finishing 10th in my AG (out of 57) with a time of 2:26:48. I think I may have held back a little more than necessary on the bike in order to focus on a good run; but such is the nature of triathlon. Finding that perfect balance between the bike and the run is somewhat of the holy grail of the sport. Push the bike too hard, and the minutes you gain are lost (plus some) on the run. Hold back too much, and the time gap to the people in the front is too large to make up on the run. Part of the mental aspect of triathlon that makes it fun! : )

Here's a recap of the race with a few pics and finishing video:

The bike racks were numbered, so no need to get there too early... I arrived around 6 and had plenty of time to get things ready, check out the transition area, etc. At 7:15 I made my way down to the dock area and started getting warmed up and ready to start the race. My wave was the next to last Olympic wave; so I got a chance to watch the leading pro men and women swim and exit the water to T1. Most of them were out of the water in under 20 minutes! After that, I headed over and got in line with my fellow age-groupers.

The swim was a time-trial start. We were all lined up single file by age-group and number; and they would send us in one after another about 2 seconds apart. I actually like and prefer that type of start, as it allows everyone plenty of room to swim right off the bat. Others seem to love the chaos and pummeling of the mass start, but this suited me just fine. It was also a wetsuit legal swim, so that helps me as well.

The swim felt good, and I tried to concentrate on body position and a good long pull. Nothing too eventful during the swim, although I am glad that I have learned to breathe bi-laterally. When we turned at the first buoy, the sun was directly in our eyes if we breathed to the left. If anyone only knew how to breathe to that side, it made for a tough swim. It did seem like it was taking me a long time, but when I exited the water I was under 29 minutes - which for me is a very good swim (I figured the swim was also a little bit short, which was later confirmed by my Garmin).

I got my wetsuit off without much of a problem (no wetsuit peelers for this event). Quickly changed into my bike gear and headed out of transition. One thing different for me was that I put my bike shoes on, instead of having them clipped to the bike. The bike mount line was at the bottom of a hill heading out of the parking lot, so I figured it would be a bad idea to try to be clipping in while going uphill. Short run to the bike mount line, though, so that worked out well.

The bike course was a little hilly (lots of little ones, nothing major); and had a lot of turning involved; as well as a few spots where the road was not in great shape. None of that was terrible, it just added up to a difficult bike course for me (I like flat, smooth, and long roads to use cadence and hold onto my speed). I had driven the bike course the day before, so I knew what to expect, and tried to be careful not to burn myself out on the bike. In retrospect, I might have held back just a tad too much; as I think I could have gone slightly faster and still had a very good run. Ended up with 21.1 mph avg, though; which was around the 15th fastest bike split out of the 57 in my age group.

T2 went quick, other than one of my shoes coming off the bike, but that only cost a few seconds. Slipped on my run shoes and grabbed hat and race belt, and took off on the run.

Right off the bat was that hill out of the parking lot; then another good-sized hill on the first road. Tough start to the run. Once I got past that part, things leveled out and I was able to pick up the pace. I had one friend there that I wanted to see if I could catch, but at the turnaround I saw that the gap was a little too much for that to happen. I still used that as motivation to run hard and close as much of the gap as I could, though : )  The run finished going down those hills that I started with, which is hard on the quads! I just let myself fall through it, and made good time on that last mile. I ended up with a 6:57 pace for the 10K, and was really happy with that. It ended up being the 2nd fastest run in my age group.

After cooling down and grabbing something to drink and eat, I met my wife Susie over at the Clif Bar booth where my friend Chris was working. We talked for a few minutes, and then Susie and I headed to our hotel to clean up and check out. Then we went back to the race venue to get my bike and gear out of transition, and headed back home. One more race in the books, and the end of a fun racing season!

Now I'll take a short break, and then it's time to ramp things up and start getting ready for the Boston Marathon and Ironman Texas next year!!!


Help the kids!
Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation: to find a cure for childhood cancer for kids like Ishani ... Please help them by donating HERE

Hope For Kidz: program to help educate children in Haiti