Monday, February 28, 2011

The Coffee Shop: God's Gift To Cyclists

Of course there will be some important things missing from a small island in the middle of a big ocean.  A top-notch European bakery/coffee shop (and sadly McDonald's and Burger King) is not one of them.  Every cyclist on this rock rejoices!

The shop sits in Antigua, a small "town" conveniently located in the middle of the island and on almost every bike route, and doesn't look like much from the outside, basically a terra cotta storefront with a plate-glass window displaying a fake multi-tiered wedding cake covered in dust, but inside, gastronomic paradise:

Spanish "ho-hos" bottom left

French-ish stuff

Almond shortbread dead center


And every cyclist on this rock stops by:

"One of everything please"

A coffee soothes the wind-burned soul
As long as they keep producing these baked goods and pulling these espressos, they can neglect their store front as much as they want.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The English...I mean Germans...Are Coming...The Germans Are Coming

Many times throughout my days and weeks surrounded by Germans, I am struck by differences in language and word usage, pronunciation, and idioms.  In fact, we coaches have many discussions about such things as we learn from each other and try to have multi-national conversations on a large variety of topics.

Last week I had such a conversation that nearly made me fall off my bike laughing.  It was a heated debate over the noises animals make in English versus German.  Did you know that German roosters say "kee-kee-ree-kee"?  I vehemently argued that they probably say "cockle-doodle-do," just like American roosters do.  But no, apparently German roosters sound like high-pitched parakeets.

Don't even get me started on frogs.

A few other examples:

Americans yell "car!" when a car is passing a group of cyclists during a ride.  Germans say "auto!"

Germans "stand" on their bike.  Americans "get" on or "ride" their bike.

Germans "make the gym."  Americans "go to the gym" or more generically "workout."

If a German gets sun-burned his friends ask him "why did you not use protection?"  And immediately, every single time, my mind jumps to reproductive contraception.  My A is health class was well-deserved, apparently.

Americans in a peloton of bikes make use of each other's "draft."  Germans sit in each other's "wind shadow."

If one side of the body is more flexible than the other, a German calls it the "chocolate side."  Do Americans even have a term for that?  At first I thought "muffin top," but I don't think so.

Americans call it a "tri [as in try] suit."  Germans call is a "tri [as in tree] suit [as sweet or suite]."

The same difference exists for the American "wetsuit."  Germans say "wetsuit [as in sweet or suite]."  Or they simply call it a "neo [as in neoprene]" and my skin kind of crawls, although I have no idea why.

American carry "cellphones."  Some Germans and almost all Spaniards carry "handis [like "boy is he handy to have around"]."

And many times, we simply guess at respective translations.  If we are talking about exercises to do in the gym and a German searches for the proper word and says in German - and frustration -  "hantel," I guess "handle," and they nod, all is understood.

Everything except "nose rope."  I will let you guess what those are.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Essen Haus

Food seems to be a big and growing theme of this blog - because what else keeps a body going hour after hour? - so Playitas' buffets deserve some attention.  The resort serves only two meals a day, breakfast and dinner, because most guests are training through the day and with long rides would completely miss any lunch that was offered.  Instead, people take fruit or bread or hard-boiled eggs to tide them over.

Most of the pictures I have are from breakfast, when the dining room isn't as crowded.  People spread out their eating times based on their alarm, morning training, and preferences.

Dinner is a different story entirely.  Imagine 2-3 national triathlon teams - Swedish, Norway, and I think some of Denmark - and 2 national swim teams - England and Norway - plus 4-5 separate triathlon camps, not to mention all of the guests making a sports holiday on their own, descending on a buffet simultaneously between 7 and 8 pm.  Basically you want to imagine a swarm of locusts.  Tall, tan, blond, blue-eyed locusts with rippling muscles and very tight sports-leisure clothing.  The food doesn't stay in one place long enough to capture it with normal photography. 


Costco ain't got nutin' on this bowl of Nutella

The cultural differences in food preferences are most apparent at breakfast.  Europeans eat a lot of savory foods at breakfast, along with the traditional sweeter stuff Americans eat.  Some of the options Americans would recognize: muesli (oats and cereals, some soaked overnight in yogurt to make a soft oatmeal-like food, often with chopped up nuts and fruit, and others un-soaked to put fresh yogurt or milk on) and pastries.


Oats and cereals

Toppings - nuts and fried fruits - for your muesli

The other breakfast options Americans would generally recognize as lunch food: hearty breads, meats, cheeses, tomatoes, beans.






Fresh fruit features at each meal:



There is coffee, but unfortunately, it is not the delicious coffee we hear about being served in quaint European cafes by buxom ladies and strapping men.  It's instant and from a machine and worst of all, I suspect COMPLETELY LACKING IN CAFFEINE:

False advertising

So Starbucks Via.  One has to do what one has to do.  Which includes "borrowing" a beer stein from the bar to use as an acceptable sized coffee mug.  Meet my coffee-stein:

American coffee-stein on the left; European coffee-thimble on the right

The dinner buffet is equally as diverse -  a la carte salad bar, prepared salads, pastas, rices, fish station, land animal station, potatoes, ice cream, dessert, lots of sauces that I'm not too keen to try - and educational when it comes to culture.  The staff puts out something and I think "wow, no one is going near that" and suddenly it is absolutely swarmed, with European adults lining up like kids at Disney Land.  I've seen 20 people stand in line for a fresh batch of brussel sprouts or tuna-wrapped in creamed spinach-wrapped in pastry (which was actually pretty decent, I must admit). 

And I will leave you with the dessert table...which you can approach cautiously and with a small plate only if you have ridden more than 100 km on the day.

WARNING: Illegally delicious chocolate mousse far left

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tweedledum and Tweedledee

Today's bike route took us to one of the highest points on the island and certainly the most historic.


Betancuria

The plaque at the feet of these guys - whom I call Tweedledum and Tweedledee - tells the typical tale of European colonization: ancient Canarians were doing quite well for themselves, with multiple islands, bustling villages, chieftains, and relative peace, when the Spanish arrived.  The Spanish said we don't recognize your government, your religion, and for that matter, you.  The Spanish installed their own overseers and made everyone Catholic (because that always solves everything...).

And what did Fuerteventura get out of the deal?  Lots of pasty white Europeans riding bikes all over it.

Or worse, the systematic assault of historic statuary markers: a busload of Italians arrived while we were enjoying the view and every woman took a picture with a hand on either Tweedledum's or Tweedledee's crotch.  It was a shockingly R-rated historical education experience.

Here is how I chose to greet them:

YES!  We made it to the top!

As you can see above, I was riding with a bunch of giants today, both statue and living, so the guys decided I was obliged to take a picture with my baby-sized bike...which will NOT be the new name for my tri bike.


And then a little late afternoon soak to put a quite fine cap on the day:


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Band of Brothers (and Sister)

I feel I should introduce my fellow coaches.  They deserve the recognition, plus it will help with names when I start telling the crazy stories that will inevitability arise once we are sufficiently sleep-deprived, over-trained, and slap-happy.

Me...isn't my tan coming along nicely?

Uwe...a monster on the bike and run, holds the IMBrazil AG record

The Infamous Olaf...power biker and runner; multiple IM winner

Karsten...former professional soccer player who loves the ladies and the peace fingers

Alex the swim coach spreading the fast swimming word

Andreas...drinking his favorite food, which powers some massively strong biking efforts

Jorg...bike mechanic extraordinaire who is also a super athlete

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Wastin' Away Again In Margaritaville

If only all three hour bricks with a long run ended this way:




 The only thing that can make this better is a sweating can of Coke and a bag of dark chocolate peanut M&Ms.

Hunger Flat, or The Kelzie Taxi

As the leader of a middle paced group, last year I noticed a phenomenon: the middle of the second day of each week is when the day-in-day-out grind of training, sun, and wind, plus the extra fun in the sun (and bar) that some campers search out, finally wears away the adrenaline, energy, and "newness" and exposes the truth athlete beneath.  At this point, nearly each week, I am called upon to provide what I call The Kelzie Taxi, essentially pulling someone home who is out of their depths, most often calorically.

A real (short) conversation I had last year with a guy 28 km in and 20km from home:

Me: "Have you eaten anything?"

Him: "No."

Me:  "Do you have anything to eat?"

Him: "Yes."

Me: "EAT IT! NOW!"

The deeper causes, psychologically and physically, are not hard to grasp, and the reason I am the one providing the taxi is explained by German culture.  But the truth is 50kms here on Fuerte is not a lark, and the 80km we did today - in 35 km/h winds - is a serious expenditure of energy, as well as mental focus when you have a death grip on the bars and every passing car is a chance to visit the ditch.

We have all needed a similar taxi at some point; there is little shame in it.  There is shame, however, in needing it again or often.  I have yet to have to provide it twice to the same person again. 

Mario hitching a ride with the taxi

The real measure of the toll paid for today's 80kms: myself and another coach were the only two people who showed up for the afternoon run.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Hello From The Future

Come on in.  The future is fine.  Although, just so you know, you should skip the eggs at breakfast; way too salty.

The first day of camp is done and dusted, and we are on to the second.  Here are some photos of the future, just in case you are not so sure of coming with:

In case you forget who's boss

The swimming hole

promenade from the hotel to the pool/sports area

spin classes on the promenade


looking from the hotel across the pool/sports area to the apartments


The road home - you climb out to start each ride and descend back to finish each ride, with plenty of hills in between
[NOTE: Fuerteventura is 6 hours ahead of the East coast, at least right now because of daylight savings time.]

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Maiden Voyage

The bike, SRM, and I survived our maiden voyage, which was parts of several different routes we take the campers on starting on Sunday.  Several others coaches and I used the blissful peace before campers arrive and the official camp schedule begins to have a ride where everyone can hold a steady pace and no one is bonking or dehydrated - the pitfalls of having campers fresh off a winter of no - or trainer-only - training.

A few photos of the action - or perhaps more aptly, rel-action.

We are here to train...and some of us are German (hence the recovery beer)

The bike gazing longingly at North America...sorry bike, we gave that up for lent

Half way done....

but half way to go....Jorg says TAXI!!!!

Friday, February 18, 2011

41 Days And 40 Nights

For Lent I'm giving up the United States.

For where?  For a place that even I, someone that has been to a lot of places other people have to look up on a map, had to look up on a map.

Specifically: Playitas Resort, Las Playitas, Fuerteventura, The Canary Islands, Spain.

Las Playitas The Town is in the farthest valley; Las Playitas The Resort is in the closest valley, with the grass

Directions: Leave Florida heading East, aiming for the border between Morocco and Western Sahara, pass South of Bermuda, and stop about 150 miles before you hit Africa.

This is pretty much the same path the wind takes to Fuerteventura before it scours everything off of the island's surface. Other islands in the Canaries have lush natural resources and parks, but Fuerte is a place you can train all day and only finally find shade when you collapse in your room.  The islands boasts many goat - or "cabrito" - farms, enough such that the island's official symbol is:


Fuerte is also famous for tomatoes, which taste great, but don't cast enough of a shadow for my tastes.  Other than that, much of the island looks like the moon:


Partly because of their moon-ness, Fuerte and its neighbor Lanzarote, which hosts one of the hardest IM races on the circuit, have become a southern European/northern African destination for triathlon and training.  The roads are smooth and empty, the wind is strong, and the weather is ideal - and consistent to a fault.  Sunny, cloudless blue skies, and 80 degrees does actually get old....I swear.

Playitas is a resort built for sport.  50m outdoor pool.  Fitness classes.  Spin classes.  Full gym.  Tennis.  Golf.  Specialized road bike rental [the resort is the winter training grounds of Team Saxo Bank-Sun Gard, a professional cycling team].  Full-day day care.  Etc etc etc....  Oh and twice-daily, all-you-can-eat buffet meals.  

Why I am going to Fuerte stems from cultural differences.  Americans take winter holidays to beaches, cruises, any place warm, usually with some sort of food theme.  Germans take winter holidays late enough to be early season training camps.  Germans bring their bikes and running shoes, flog themselves silly and fry themselves red on the first day, reload for the next day with non-alcoholic beer ("liquid bread"), and love every second of it.  Even a few quite, ahem, mature women on touring bikes can be seen roaming the roads of Fuerte.  It is just what they do given a choice.  Germans choose Fuerte because it is as far south as they can go in the world without changing their money.

And since The Whip Cracker is German and in the business of sport, he has camps for these holiday-taking age-group triathletes.  I trade my time, coaching, and geographical guidance for the opportunity to train and sweat in warmth and dryness in the middle of Northern Hemisphere winter.

#nobrainer

A rebirth is actually a good way to describe what happens after six weeks of training in Fuerte.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

R.I.P. The Stallion

I need to start by explaining that at the beginning of this season, for monetary reasons, I had to decide between getting a new bike or getting a powermeter.  Such are the decisions of a neo-pro, decisions that impact a year of training and racing, the goal of which is to get results that make it possible to get both a new bike and a powermeter in the same year.

Ultimately I decided on the powermeter and last week that whole process ended.

This week I have a new bike.

There is really no way but straight forward to explain how all of this came to happen - and I don't want to do it any other way because I loved The Stallion and a lot of HUGE thank yous are owed.

On Saturday, I went to Conte's Bethesda have my SRM installed and The Stallion tuned up before leaving DC.  Several hours later it had become gut-wrenchingly obvious that my Orbea Ordu frame was on the verge of becoming a paperweight, through absolutely no fault of the shop or mechanics installing the SRM or doing the tuning.  In fact, these guys receive my first THANK YOU because they knew when to stop.  As simple as that sounds, in the art of bicycle maintenance it is sometimes not, and instead of pulling something that screamed "pull me," they didn't and preserved my ability to have options to solve the problem.

Ah, yes, the problem...The miracles of modern bike design and manufacturing have irrevocably changed and challenged bike maintenance because for aerodynamic purposes, intrinsic parts of the system - cables and housing - that were once on the outside of the bike can now be on the inside.  But having these parts inside requires a permanent guide to make sure they get where they need to go - and when the guide and the parts won't come apart to put the new parts in, pulling that thing that screams "pull me" seems tempting.  Really tempting.  But if you pull, the guide is torn out and those parts will never again get where they need to go and the frame becomes a beautiful piece of expensive, hand-made carbon art.

An additional layer of the problem is that it occurs entirely internal to a closed system - a frustrating black box problem of the first order, the answer to which plays out on your credit card statement. 

So I returned to the shop - Tri Bonzai - where I had originally purchased The Stallion, with a tentative identification of the problem and a wing and a prayer.  Because the situation stood like this: I had a jacked up bike and in five days, I was leaving town permanently and the country for six weeks for the expressed purpose of riding that bike.  I needed help, warranty coverage, and in one simple potential scenario, a brand new frame that I purchased on the spot.  Tri Bonzai remains an Orbea dealer, which is key because I ride a relatively rare frame and I ride it in probably the rarest (and definitely the smallest) size, and has the connections to scour the country for a rare Orbea frame and have it show up less than 24 hours later.

But first, the mechanics at Bonzai needed to confirm for themselves that stuck parts were actually stuck so the ballet played out again as it has at Conte's: two grown men, with lots of lube and de-greaser and pliers, tried to pull one piece of plastic out of another piece of plastic, both of which are delicately inside high-modulus carbon and one of which MUST remain inside of and attached to that carbon.  When that failed, the real miracles started.

Past this point, I think only huge gratitude is needed, to:
  • Josh of Orbea USA, who took a Saturday afternoon call that he probably wishes he hadn't
  • Jason of Orbea USA, who executed a lifetime warranty replacement on a frame in something like 1/30th of the normal turn-around
and most of all
  • Darrin, Glen, Adam, and Mark of Tri Bonzai, who not only orchestrated and coordinated the vast majority of three crazy days, but who also gently but expeditiously took a loved mainstay in my life:
The Stallion

and replaced it with this:

New Shiny Bike

 I ride an Orbea bike because I chose to; Orbea does not sponsor me.  To them, I am any other customer - and the service, support, and bike splits I have had since choosing the Ordu sure help convince me that remaining their customer in the future is a good thing.

But first things first: the business of choosing a new bike name.  I would hold a contest or something, but I feel these are personal decisions, a lightening strike of sorts.  I'll let you know when the baptism occurs.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

My Pumpkin Awaits


Now I'm down, effectively, to a suitcase, The Stallion (and box), and an air mattress.  Except that after things went better than expected packing the pumpkin, things went karmically downhill - like down Mt Everest, downhill - with The Stallion.  It's still a little too fresh - and unresolved - to blog about.  Maybe after I've had my two drinks for the year.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

[I wrote several posts to keep your hunger for Kelzie-flavored wit, sarcasm, and social commentary satiated during this time of me tearing up my apartment.]

It will probably not surprise anyone to know that I have a bike shop (The Bike Rack), running store (Pacers), and even a gym (Gold's Gym Van Ness) where I spend so much time or transact so much business that all the employees know me or have become good friends.  I think we all have places like this, central to whatever profession or hobby or schedule we keep.

What I never expected - and few would guess - is that I have a dive bar where the same employee/patron relationship holds.  Especially considering I consume alcohol about twice a year on average.  But this recognition and the pleasure I get from it is one of the quirkiest and most meaningful memories I will take with me from DC.

Meet the Tune Inn:

Don't blink or you'll miss it...it's about 20 feet wide

Not an inch of wall space is spared...

and neither are the lives of animals to be hung on the wall

A good number of years ago - not anywhere near as long as the group has existed, but long enough that the number shocked me when I took the time to figure it out - I started attending a Wisconsinite and Wisconsin-connected lunch group at the Tune.  The founding member lived across the street when he graduated from college, and he and his friends still eat here weekly, if not daily, at least 30 years later.   

The pictures may not get this across, but the Tune is logical for a group of this make-up.  Despite three generations of family ownership in the same DC location and holding the oldest continuous liquor license in the city, the Tune feels like it was air-dropped in from northern Wisconsin.

They offer Keno for goodness sakes.

Dead animals hang on the walls by the tens, if not the hundreds.

The stools all have official occupants, including one woman who brings her own Sugar Free Red Bull to kick off her weekend at noon on Friday, and these occupants work off their bar tab by pulling beers and serving food.

There is a contractor who uses the front patio as his administrative office.

The beer is warm; the food is greasy, cheap and not very good; and all of the waiters and waitresses call me by Tune Inn name: "hon" or "honey."  [They do know my actual name, but rarely use it.  They still call the founding member by his college moniker...]

We order and they ask if I want the usual.

But the kicker - and the gold standard of "where everybody knows your name" - is that my drink is at my seat before I even sit down.  Water, no ice.  Not frilly or complicated, but they remembered it for years.

The Tune puts on no airs and I like that about the place.  Lisa, Bonnie, Susan, and Curly...you have helped me feel a little bit at home in the big bad city.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Kicking This Popsicle Stand

I've lived in DC for 6-and-a-half years.  Which is 6 years longer than I thought I would live in DC.

I've done politics, I've done the anti-thesis of politics.  I've been a Hill Rat and a Gym Rat, a night owl and an early bird.  I've done DC.

Which is why I'm going to try Austin, Texas, for a while.

The reasons are work-related: 1) better weather, 2) facilities and sport-specific training groups that count among the best in the country, and 3) a small, but well-regarded community of professional triathletes.

When I spent time there in November, Austin simply felt comfortable from the very first day.  The city's community and culture feel very much like home to me so it's no mistake that my next port of call is the "Madison of the South."

These past weeks I have been saying that you only truly know how people feel about you at two points in your life: when you move and when you die.  And well, when you die, you don't find out so much as your family does.  But at this juncture, the outpouring of "please don't leave" and/or "you have meant a lot to me in DC but I hope this Austin boondoggle works out" and/or "you know guns are legal down there, right?" has been truly humbling.  

Some people have known about this change for a while; others are finding out by reading this blog post.  I wish I could say good-bye to each of you personally, over coffee.  But alas, I am soon leavin' on a jet plane.

Please know that without all of you, the number of months I have been here - 77 - would surely have been a lot closer to 6.

Thank you for everything, most of all your friendship.

P.S. There are some non-Texas-based adventures between now and Texas.  Stay tuned!

Monday, February 7, 2011

I! U! Revisited: This Is Indiana

To further illustrate my initial comments about IU basketball and 70-year-old women, I wanted to share with you an example of fan antics that Hoosier fan-anticism motivates.  In fact, I am going to let Brice and Daniel speak for me because This Is Indiana.

The NBA has Lenny Kravitz Indiana has two White guys, rapping, and a violin-playing Asian.

But I shouldn't really talk.  My alma mater has very little athletic pride outside of one weekend a year and ultimately brought the world Facebook.  We knew to stick to our strengths.

Which in Indiana is being fan-antics for basketball and if five National Championship banners is any indication, occasionally being legitimately good at it too.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Cheesehead Nation

We don't exactly broadcast our allegiance, well if you don't count all the green and gold car decorations, clothing, and lawn ornaments...., but you can be sure, Cheesehead Nation is all around you, all the time.  Alive, well, and reproducing, particularly tonight because the Lombardi Trophy is COMING HOME!!!!!!!!

This "indigenous" song is playing on repeat all over "the mitten" tonight, yah you betcha.

"Gosh, I like the Packers.  I'd do anything for the Packers."

Stick around, keep your ears open, and meet Betty Lou, the ultimate nemesis of thirty-points bucks and people from Illinois.  Which I guess means the Chicago Bears too.

Dry-Rotted Rubber Bands

Following the Professional Athlete Code: Triathlon (PACT), the partying/dancing portion of my social life is a mere shadow of what it once was.  While my legs and joints clearly benefit, my high-heel collection cries itself to sleep at night, abandoned for footwear that serves an orthopedic or athletic function of some kind. 

However, once in a while I choose to do something that goes against tenets of the PACT. 

Because my very excellent friend, E.S., needed a pink feather boa..and a proper send-off into wedded bliss

Invariably these adventures' first strike is that they keep me up past *gasp* 9 pm, the triathlete midnight.  Second strike: I wake up with training on my schedule, but my body feels like it already has completed this training.

And when it comes to the posterior half of my lower legs, the feeling is best described how one of my athletes once did: like dry-rotted rubber bands.

You know when you find a stack of something held together by an ancient rubber band, which has lost all elasticity and snaps immediately upon trying to disengage it from the items it encircles.  Like that.  Vivid, huh?

This post isn't meant to provide the silver therapeutic bullet to prevent or reverse this dry-rotting, although if people want me to, just say so in the comments and I will.  Instead, this post simply proves that sometimes my (our) human fallibility and Achilles heels, literally, trump any amount of athletic training or preventive methods I (we) can undertake.

And that includes committing the extreme fashion faux-pas of wearing compression socks, albeit under jeans, and clogs on the dance floor.

[my high-heel collections shakes its collective head in shame and disowns me on the spot]
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