Friday, May 28, 2010

Back to School, Resigning at "The Job"

 Yes, it's official.  At 10am this morning, while sipping a hot cup of coffee I tendered my official two-week job resignation notice while pondering over the minutia I may or may have not anticipated, and a rather long checklist of to-dos.

In seventeen days time I will be a pupil of microbiology, anatomy and physiology, global microbials and a plethora of other scientific musings in the hopes of satisfying prerequisites towards an accelerated nursing program.  Since I have an official military obligation (another school entirely) to satisfy January thru May of 2011, time is short and the sequence of courses must be absolutely harmonious to gain acceptance in Fall of next year to the accelerated program.

Am I nervous?  Hell yes, but with anticipation and promise of a career path that I can commit myself to fully, that melds with my values and future goals/personal potential.

Eventually, my Bachelors of Arts will be accompanied by a Bachelors of Science.  Until then, tons of prereq's, an 18 week military obligation and then the program proper.  I'm excited!  It appears that not all things become jaded with age...:)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

No Batteries Required - rhetorical thoughts on the insistent use of technology (with sport)

It appears that the majority of my friends engaged in a variety of sport - myself included - tend to gravitate towards gauging progress and process with an insistent use of technology, be it the latest GPS device or data-mining gizmo.  It makes logical sense to have a common language - data - with which we can measure our personal performance and communicate that with each other as well.  Unfortunately, when this is the only approach, it falls short of embracing the sport at its core and limits our own experience(s).

My question, then, is how much technology is truly necessary, and to what end?  Further, how often should we unplug and get back to the raw pleasure of "sport for sport's sake"?

For me, life is about balance - in all things.  To each one's own, but something that always brings a smile to my face is a cyclist zipping around on a classy cromoly steel bike frame, weight and gadgets be damned!  A purist that simply engages the sport at its fundamental level, where pleasure and pain come together and at the end of the ride s/he knows their success not because the numbers say so, but because they went out "just for a little ride" that just may possibly evolve into the best ride of their life.

Truly, it is romantic in the classical sense, as well it should be.  If  I go out to do 'x' number of sets at average 'y' ... well ... 'r'(omance) just doesn't fit into that equation.  We have all explored a new trail, a new path, a new course and remember the excitement and anticipation that comes from not knowing what is around the next turn or the view at the top of the hill or mountain.

I have an off-road duathlon this Saturday (run - mountain bike - run)  and I'm making it a point to not charge the 405 and leave it at the house, and my bike stem's computer mount will be empty and I no lesser for it.

I look forward knowing that the only true measure of my success will be the amount of pleasure derived from spending time with friends and fellow athletes and the euphoric release of endorphins amongst a cacophony of dirt, sweat and sunshine.  (Oh, and they having timing chips so I can satisfy my curiosity... later :)

Just so we're crystal, I reserve all judgment because believe me, data has its place in my life without equivocation.  It's just knowing when to use it, and arguably equally important to our personal growth, when not to.

Until next time.  Happy trails.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Study Break and Epic Picture

There won't be anything of particular import to this post, I just needed a small study break from statistical analysis.

That being said, I leave you with this incredibly awesome picture I stumbled upon while looking-up some fossil records.  Freaking.  Awesome.  On so many levels.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Back to School... nearly! Also, 2011 At-A-Glance

Yes folks, it's true: I'm headed back to school for my second bachelors degree, this time in Nursing.  I'm stoked for several reasons, but when it's all said and done in about 2 years I'll have my BA in English and BS in Nursing hanging side-by-side, a testimony to my mantra that "Life is about Balance."

Additionally, this week marks the midterm week for Psych and Statistics, hitting the half-way point of my 8 week semester "warm-up" for going back to school full-time this early June (hopefully... if the classes aren't full come registration time).  Trying to wade through the ridiculous pre-reqs (miss those, don't you?) just to get to the good (nursing) stuff is a pain in my ass, but it must be done.  Taking some of these courses makes about as much sense as that hilarious website where people write and speak funny.

So, it looks like April 26th will be d-day for registration, thus deciding whether or not I'm walking away (running away) from my full time job as web person for my company's oh-so-blah corporate headquarters.  In this economy, that takes guts... or a suspension of one's senses... or both, perhaps?  Nah, just a plan - an investment in a brighter future.  Let's do it!

Here is how 2011 is shaping-up: Training, Playing and Studies

Friday, March 5, 2010

Running with Music: The Have's, the Have-Not's

Apparently I've been missing out on the whole "running with music" scene during my thirty year stint on our lovely planet.  ALAS!  No more!, for I have purchased a wonderful treat known as the iPod Nano.  This little guy is incredible!  What sold me on it was the radio, I'll be honest, because I don't have the best-organized music collection.  I still need to step into the digital age with importing my cd's to .mp3s.

Just a brief note that after running so long without music, it's great to run with it.  I still prefer running in solitude on the trails, however.  I do not foresee there ever being a replacement nature's soundtrack.

Oh, and as a cyclist at heart I would never do a road ride with music... unless somehow external speakers were involved.  PSA: Situational awareness, safety first.

And did you know that phones now come with cameras?!  What wizardry will be next?!

Monday, February 22, 2010

We won the Gnarliest Photo Contest!

We won the Gnarliest Photo Contest over at Steve's blog!  Yes, you read that correctly: WE.  I did the hurting and you did the voting and together "we" came out with the big win.  Thank you for your votes!  With 40.1% (204) of the total (509) votes, it was a landslide victory.

Some of you were around to help me through my epic guardrail crash of '05, for which I'm grateful beyond words.  Talk about depressing... as for the rest of you, I'm grateful for you taking time out of your busy lives to cast your ballot!

AND, as a man of my word, let me know when you're in the area for that run or bike ride and I'll loan you the Sugoi Zap Vest for the outing.  (It's bright enough to be seen from space so it should do the job.)  Thanks to Sugoi and Road ID for sponsoring the contest!!

The votes

 The winnings

Public Service Announcement: (I'd be remiss if I failed to take advantage of this soap box.)  Accidents and injuries can account for major set-backs, or worse.  While some accidents and/or injuries are not preventable, staying VISIBLE on the roads/trails will decrease your chance of injury due to another person's negligence.  Unless you're in a controlled photo shoot environment, on a closed course, or a paid actor, you don't look awesome decked-out in all black (okay, maybe you do... but not smart) on a road bike. 

While neon and day-glow colors survived through the 80's - and how! - even if you think it's stylishly hideous, it's better to be "safely hideous" versus stylishly hit-by-a-car.  (Just look at that Sugoi Zap Vest!  Epic.  How can you miss it?)  And DO carry your medical information AND emergency contact info on you when you're out and about; you never know when you're going to need it (like the Road ID bracelet that I came very close to purchasing near Christmas).  Bottom-line is "Safety First" so you can keep going out there and having fun.

Thanks again!  You rock!!

Monday, February 15, 2010

VOTE for me over at the Gnarliest Injuries Photo Contest!! (Please! :)

My online pal and triathlete Steve is holding a contest on his page for the Gnarliest Sports Injuries and I submitted my "I-beam Punctures Thigh" entries from my epic 2005 crash in the North Georgia Mountains.

Here's the deal: if you can stand the sight of injuries and some carnage, go to his blog HERE for the Gnarliest Injuries Photo Contest and please vote for the three most heinous wrecks for male and female (mine is titled I-beam Severs Quad... so it'd be great if you would actually vote for mine among the top 3...)  Top prize takes home nearly $375-400 in cycling/running gear, all oriented towards safety, visibility, identification.  So help keep me safe!

As some of you know I'm heading back to school for trauma nursing in the near future, so this is not only thematically-appropriate but will help in the penny-pinching.

I know I don't ask for anything, but do appreciate the little things so if you have the time, that would be great.  Thanks in advance, and feel free to kick this over to your coworkers/colleagues so they can vote for me too!  The more the merrier :)  [Just be sure and warn them that the theme is that of sports trauma so they don't read this while eating cheerios or something along those lines.]

If I win, we'll go for a run to celebrate.  I'll even let you wear my jacket.  What's not to love?

Thanks for exercising your right to vote.. on President's Day nonetheless!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Jeff vs. the Guardrail, or, the Epic Bike Crash of 2005 (Warning: Gnarly Photos)

Due to some of my friends never having seen the details of the epic 2005 bike crash, and thanks to an online photo contest over at Steve's blog, I've decided to paint a more in-depth picture here of the day I was a passenger in the Life Flight chopper.  Without further ado, I give you Jeff vs. the Guardrail.

September 10th, 2005 was a Saturday morning like any other.  I had woken up well before the sun, brewed a cup of joe and donned my cycling clothes before loading up the road bike to meet the guys at our local shop for a cool ride through the North Georgia Mountains.  Triple Gap is a beautiful ride, taking you out of the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and into the mountains proper, over three gaps and across a valley or two, culminating in an exhilarating descent.  While riding this route, you'll pass an Indian princess' grave, rock climbers on sixty foot cliffs, picturesque landscapes and the only building that the Appalachian Trail actually goes through on top of Blood Mountain.

Our ride was typical, nothing fancy.  The roads were still slightly wet from the preceding days' hard rains but the air clear, smelling like evergreens and rife with Rhododendron and a bright blue morning sky.  After the final climb, we crested at Woody Gap and began the decent towards R-Ranch, like we had done dozens of times before.  A turn or two, and then right ahead the sharp left turn that required a tight lean and good line.  That's when it all went wrong.

I dropped my outer leg, shifted my weight off the saddle and looked at the same line I had so many times before and just as I got into the curve my rear wheel unexpectedly let loose, lost its traction and began its slide outward.  I heard the gravel before I ever saw it.  At this point we were doing a good clip as the long, winding descent often sees speeds in excess of 50+ mph (not that you'd catch me trying to break that again).  So my rear tire slid outward..and slid.. and slid some more.  When finally it did catch and grip the asphalt my angle was so incredibly wrong and my speed such that I avoided the high-side fall but found myself staring face-to-face with the guardrail, and the valley beyond that.

You know when you've crossed the point of no return, when there simply are no options left, no time, no space and just far too much speed.  You are well beyond the envelope, and there's no going back.  I could only get out an "Oh, shit!" and then I met the guardrail at 30+ mph nearly dead-on.  The force of the collision was such that my cleats popped clean out of the my Speedplay pedals, and either my arms or my torso broke my handlebars as I was airborne.  Briefly airborne.  The edges of an i-beam - the pieces of metal that are driven into the ground, and that the guardrail is then mounted to, are fairly sharp at first glance, however they are extremely sharp at 30+ mph.  "Luckily" I didn't sail off the mountain but my right quad was punctured by the i-beam, and in it went, severing the top bundle of my quadricep and nearly nicking the femoral artery - it missed by mere millimeters and I was truly blessed that day.  As the corner was well inside my leg, it acted as a pivot point and I did an arc from the air, around, and face first in the ground on the other side of the rail.  I was no longer attached to the guardrail, thankfully.

(Sharp corners.. evil.)

There are a lot of thoughts that went through my mind, laying there on my back in the grass (which later turned out to be poison ivy - talk about adding insult to injury).  I recall staring up at the beautiful sky and watching my vascular pal "Doc" do his best to put pressure on the femoral and tell me how he isn't letting go because it's so damn close and he isn't sure if I nicked it or not.  (Thanks, John, for swapping-out with Doc after making the call!)  But I don't want to wax poetic, I just got injured doing one of the many things I loved and that was OK.

My mind switched into a mental checklist of sorts and I started talking to the guys: "In case I loose consciousness, my keys, wallet and phone are in my shorts in Mark's car.  Call my folks and give them a head's up when you find out where they're going to take me.  As matter of fact, do NOT let the locals work on me with their sporks, those damn primates - I want to go closer to the city.  Where's my water bottle?  I'm thirsty."  I knew enough that it was at least a visit to the ER and immediately thereafter OR, if not straight to the OR.  The ambulance arrived about 20 minutes after the phone call was made - thankfully we were on the southern side of the ridge else there would have been no signal - and I was strapped to a backboard and moved to the ambulance, and that was pretty much it until the helicopter landed.

Let me say a few words about Flight Nurses, which I will one day become: they are the special forces of the trauma nursing world, in my opinion.  They know their shit, and they don't waste time.  Will they dig in your leg to pull out debris before administering anesthetics?  Yup.  And did I curse him up one side and down the other when he was doing it?  Yup.  But I apologized and said it wasn't for him, it was for the sticks and leaves he was pulling out, the torn muscle he pushed aside and field washed so he could call ahead to the trauma center.  He just laughed and patted my shoulder saying "I've heard much worse, most people do just that."  The ride down in the chopper the pain killers kicked in and when the lady asked if I needed anything, I just requested an ice cold Guinness - which turned into a discussion with the crew over favorite beers and culminated in an open-ended offer for drinks after I got back on my feet, seeing as how I was "Patient of the Month" - what a great group of folks.

Twenty-five minutes after lift-off I was in the hospital getting prepped for OR.  It was efficient and as the really nice anesthesiologist was putting me under, I - well, the drugs, really - told her "you're pretty..." and she laughed, and I was out like a light.  Then I woke up.  And I was mad because I thought I hadn't been worked on yet, but I was actually in recovery.

Long story short, I had a very frustrating two months of healing and recovery, hobbling around and getting down about my limitations but at the same time thankful that it's a recoverable injury and could have been much, much worse.  I came back to ride my longest ride ever, the Burnt Mountain Century Challenge, the first ride back.  My muscles had atrophied a little, but I learned that the mind is a very, very powerful thing.  Not as powerful as my friends and family, though.  Thanks to them and a dedicated physical therapist, I was back in the saddle in short order.

While I descend with exaggerated caution today, I prefer climbing over descents.  I still ride in in the mountains and wink at the same guardrail each time I pass it.  More often than not, it has a few additional dings from motorcycles and speedy cars, sadly.  On my last ride, the word Suzuki was clearly imprinted on it.  Safety first, guys.  Even if you're doing the right thing, it's the little details - like gravel washed out in a turn - that can get you.  And for heaven's sake don't take unnecessary risks.

As promised, now for the gnarly photos!  I put them at the end so they wouldn't be in your face - in case you're squeamish :)

Isn't this just lovely?  You can see where the i-beam went into my right thigh.

11 inches and 22 staples... did you know Egyptians used carpenter ants (their heads) for surgical staples?  My surgeon told me that, pretty neat.

This was a first... road rash... on my friggin palm.  Not cool.  Wear gloves.  Always.

Leaving hospital next day, post-op and high on life!  (Okay, high on meds.)  Great friends and nurses.  Thx guys!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

High Marks! Bike Porn and Customer Service

If you're not familiar with the company FSA, or, Full Speed Ahead, allow me to give them a few well-earned marks in the customer service department.  (Disclaimer: Even though I'm currently in the industry, I am not sponsored by nor do I work for FSA in any fashion, aside from ride their high-quality products, of course.)

First, allow me to paint a picture of the ride proper, as it were.  My trustworthy road steed is a an aging Litespeed Atlas and she's been with me through some rough times, hanging tough throughout my early "learning" cycling days and carrying me into my latter ones.  Suffice to say she's been a reliable gal in my life which is what every good man needs, of course.  Moving on...

After getting used to riding the big ring (read: able to keep up with the other kids) I swapped the Campy Centaur double and bottom bracket out for a compact FSA carbon SLK with a MegaExo bottom bracket (it just sounds sexy, doesn't it?!)  Since I bought the bike back in undergrad, and since my campus was in the Appalachians, I became a strong climber pretty quickly.

Cutting to the chase... Fast-forward several thousand miles and seven plus years and the bearings have finally given in to the forces of physics - they've run their course and have taken an extended retirement.  I noticed a 'dead spot' in my pedal stroke on a group ride with the lady after hours in ATL, and upon further research (removing chain and attempting to free-spin the cranks), the dead spot was clearly visible by means of a sluggish rotation in a good third of the arc.

So I called a distributor, and inquired about purchasing the self-extracting cap to get the cranks off as standard tools can't hack it - one caveat: you need the proprietary bolt or cap, which I think the newer cranks come with.  Unfortunately the (unnamed dealer) was out-of-stock and suggested I contact FSA.  I did, and boy was I happy I dealt directly with them.

Expecting the parts to be so far out of warranty, I was hopeful to simply locate the cap.  What happened next blew me away ~ the friendly customer service rep thanked me for being a loyal FSA rider and sent via priority mail their "massage kit" classified under warranty, which will enable me to rebuild the entire BB!  That, ladies in gentlemen, is customer service.  I award thee a gold star, FSA!  There are good people in this world.

(Bike porn, left to right: self extracting cap/bolt, bearing covers for bottom bracket, blue o-ring for spindle, cartridge bearings and 641 loctite)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Updates on "Recent" Events

Howdy!  I'm not one for New Year's resolutions (and it's a bit late at this juncture if I were, right?) but I've resolved to maintain a more active presence on the blog, since we all tend to scatter as time goes by.  That being said...

Just a few comments to bring the previous posts up-to-date:

- Tartan Trot 5k/10k, Saturday.  It was difficult to get my arse out of bed at 5.40am to run in some pretty sad weather, but of course that just makes it all the more memorable and it was a blast.  The temperature hovered between 32 and 33 degrees with a steady drizzle, light rain, but it was a good kick-off to a fairly busy weekend.

- The Atlanta Half Marathon back in November was great!  I PR'd... largely due to the fact it was my first half, but I'll take what I can get.  I would not recommend deciding that you're going to run a half for the first time at the last minute, and then having your longest run at 8 miles with an attitude of "eh, what's another five?"  My calves were screaming around mile 10.5-11, but quieted after a brief stretch and some electrolytes.  I did have quite a few negative splits, which is nice.

- This coming weekend (February 5th-7th) is the Super Bowl, yes, but I will most likely be down at Fort Stewart returning at a time TBD Sunday.  (For those of you who don't know, my part-time "one weekend per month" job is with the Georgia National Guard as a field artillery officer.)  Hopefully I'll be back to the city in time to take part in Frayed Laces' Birthday Tri which sounds like a ridiculous amount of fun - head over to her site to read up on those details.

Stay tuned...

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