Friday, August 2, 2013

The Nature of Things

Sometimes people ask me why I ride, or why I run or hike. The short answer is I am not sure. Something inside me wants me to be moving outside. I get antsy if I go for more than several days without some sort of physical activity outside of the usual work stuff.

The long answer is... I like being outside. A while ago I told my sons that I think I am part druid. I need to be around trees. But it's not just trees. I think I am a reincarnate of a nomadic tribesman. Being indoors is all well and good and I don't argue with the virtues of a roof over the head or electricity for my coffee maker. Just like being outdoors.
Heading up the hill near Clarion, PA
Yesterday when I was riding the mountain bike trails at Royalview mountain bike trails (Strongsville, OH) there's a section that goes through a grove of pine trees. I love going through that bit. The smell is almost like perfume to me. (Don't say I'm a weirdo now, you knew that much long ago). I can tell when lilacs and honeysuckle are in bloom as well.

Not to mention temperature differences. When I was riding the Decker Creek Trail out of Morgantown, WV it was a pretty warm day. However, a good section of that trail is under a tree canopy, making it an easy 6-10 degrees F cooler. Not to mention there's a section about half mile or so that is even cooler. It is situated just right in this valley for the winds to blow through. Not strong but certainly much cooler. You notice it on the bike but walking I think you'd move too slow to really notice the drop and rise. In a car it wouldn't be noticed at all.

Very close to the road, but you'd never see it unless you followed a tiny little dirt path off of the road.

Animals are more easily spotted as well. Sometimes that's good. Other times you have a dog chase you which is not always bad as most times the dogs are like me. They just want to play. But once in a while it gets dicey. Mean dogs will come after you and I don't need a dog trying to take off the very leg I need to get  home. Most of the time small rodents don't bother but sometimes they feel the need to run out if front of you. Sometimes disconcerting. A squirrel through the front wheel will bring everyone to a screeching halt. I do that enough on my own.
Being on a bike I get to see things you wouldn't normally see from a car or would just be a blip. It's like exploring.
While it looks like mud, it's deposits/buildup from iron in the water. Found along the Greater Allegheny Passage.

But aside from the physical world riding my bike, or sometimes running, is my meditation. Zen time. A good friend of mine says he likes to sometimes just ride until his head is empty. I feel the same way. It's a good way to clear the mind. I'm not trying to convert you... well OK, perhaps I am.

Yes, after a long or difficult ride I am tired and sometimes sore. But my mental well being is usually much better. Even if I've gotten caught in the rain or one of those silly races I do where it's very cold and very muddy. And while if you tally up how much I've spent on bikes, parts, tires, etc. it's not cheap, it still seems to be cheap therapy to me.

Thanks for reading. On with the show.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A lot to be thankful for

I know, it's not Thanksgiving and I'm talking about being thankful. The world is all topsy-turvey, eh? Well my world always feels that way. I just try not to get too dizzy and fall down. Still, it happens upon occasion.

Obviously I am thankful for those men and women who have served this country in the military, regardless of the branch. Don't think I need to rehash that much. As a one-time firefighter/EMT I also have a great appreciation for the folks who ride the trucks and work their butts off to try to save people's lives.

But on a bit more personal level, there's others. Like the people that I've met through cycling. As always there's a few whom I wouldn't need to spend too much time with but the vast majority are some great folks. And with the work/life schedule that's keeping me busy I don't get to go ride with them or even just go hang out as often as I'd like to. Some are super-competitive. Some are the complete opposite. They'd just be fine lazily pedaling down the bike path or through the neighborhood. Some folks I just see when I stop in to the bike shop and we just shoot the breeze. All are great people and I always wish I could spend a bit more time with them.

I've always told people that growing up with my family was sort of boring. I know, it sounds almost derogatory to say that. But to me, it is something to be very thankful for. Not for any lack of challenges or such. But the drama was kept to a minimum compared to many other families. Through some recent events it is good to see that we can still work together pretty well.

Of course there are our three sons. I was about to type "boys" but I don't think I can say that any longer. One is about to finish his MOS school for the Army. The other is working diligently also and is much taller than I am. They are indeed good men. I think we've been very fortunate to be able to spend the time we can with them.

Last but certainly not least is my lovely bride. Dealing with me provides many challenging days for her. Hard to imagine, I know, but I'm not the easiest person to live with. Still she has somehow managed to work with my many issues and not flee the country. She also comes out to the bike races when it's cold, raining, freezing and other miserable weather when most folks would have said "I'm going in the warm, dry house. I'll see  you when you get back. Take your muddy clothes off before you go trotting through." I do appreciate her very much.

Looking forward to spending time with you, on or off the bike. Over a coffee or sharing a beer. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Cold Shower Challenge completed! The results are...

After the 30 day Cold Shower Challenge it looks like we've been successful. The plan was to raise money for Ghost Rider Foundation and I want to thank all of you that made contributions. Certainly it is my hope that you remember the great work done at the Ghost Rider Foundation and make donations again in the future but first and foremost I certainly want to thank all of those to contributed for your generosity in helping Veterans with PTSD.

The big question is; now that I'm done with my obligation for the cold showers will I continue to keep taking them? In short, not if I can help it. Now I know that I can do it if need be and it's not so bad, really. But man made hot water heaters for a reason.

Time for more sleep before tomorrow's long day full of adventure Thanks for reading.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Frequently asked questions about the Cold Shower Challenge

Ever since I started this madness (otherwise known as the Cold Shower Challenge) I've been getting bombarded with questions. Well maybe not bombarded. More like a hefty pile of questions. Oh alright, more like a slow trickle... as most people just figure my brain has vacated the premises and don't need to ask any questions. But for those folks who have indeed asked questions, here's the down low (sweet-n-low?) 

Q: Are you nuts?
A: This has been established long ago. Next question.

Q: Why?
A: Why what? 

Q: Why take a cold shower?
A: As I've mention before, the Cold Shower Challenge was brought to my attention by Joel Runyon in his post about 30 Day Cold Shower Therapy. At first I thought it was nuts, too. Actually I still do. But the heart of the matter is that A) You can withstand much more that you think you can, and B) When you need to make a change in your life (start losing weight, quit a crappy job and risk unemployment so that you can pursue something meaningful, et al) sometimes what you need to do to start this change is going to suck. But you need to put up with the discomfort in order to make any real progress. 

Q: So why are you doing it?
A: Because Joel Runyon went on a tear where he was challenging everyone to take up the Cold Shower Therapy. I decided I would take up that challenge IF I could switch it up a bit and use it as a means to raise awareness and money for the Ghost Rider Foundation. The Ghost Rider Foundation is run by some folks who work ceaselessly to help Veterans with PTSD. So I would be the guinea pig if enough people coughed up some dough for the Ghost Rider Foundation.

Q: Did it work? Did people contribute?
A: I'm taking the f-f-f-freezing cold showers, aren't I?

Q: Seriously, are you mad?
A: Did you sleep through the first question?

Q: Do you feel better? 
A: Yes. The minute I get out.

Q: Are you going to talk me into taking cold showers?
A: No. I'm going to talk you into walking your little fingers over to and making a contribution to a damn worthy cause. Look, our Veterans decided to willingly put themselves in harm's way to defend this country. We should be there to help them out when they return.

Q: Are you going to keep taking cold showers when the 30 days are up?
A: If enough folks contribute more money to the Ghost Rider Foundation you guys can watch monkey boy turn blue for another 30 days. But I'm not affiliated with those folks officially so you have to let me know when you've made the commitment. 

Otherwise, it's like this: Man invented hot water heaters for a reason.

Q: Seriously, you have no idea how much people give? People could be giving $5 and you're freezing your butt off all month for $5? 
A: That's $5 more than was in the pot before. Enough people kick in $5 and it starts to add up. 

Feel free to ask any other questions, I'll be over here bundled up with two pair of socks and mittens on... indoors.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

We interrupt your irregularly programmed schedule

Last week there was no posting from me because we went down to Fort Jackson, South Carolina to see our middle son Jovid graduate from Army boot camp. It was indeed a proud moment for us, and a journey that does include some trepidation for my wife and I.
Family Day - Jovid with proud Mom
Those of you who were with us from the beginning of this blog/journey probably understand why we are a bit nervous as well as proud of our son. For those who haven't, you can read about it *here*.

Nonetheless on Tuesday evening we piled in the car along with our youngest son and our boy's good friend. We got to our destination hotel about 5 in the morning. Just enough time for us to get a few hours sleep and meet Jovid on base for Family Day on Wednesday. While he wasn't allowed off base we did get to spend all day with him.

Thursday was Graduation day. A very proud moment for us as well as the family & friends of 1,217 other young men & women who are now members of the U.S. Army. After the ceremony Jovid was allowed off base until 4:30 AM the following (Friday) morning. So what did we do? Whatever he wanted, which was not much really. He just wanted to go to the hotel pool with his brother and friend, play video games and catch up on sleep. While it wasn't anything terribly exciting it was good to see and hear the boys having a good time.

I was surprised to find out how many new recruits go through Ft. Jackson. Some times they will graduate classes of this size every week. That's a lot of people deciding to make a big step with their lives. I wish them all a safe return to civilian life, whenever that may be.

Now I'm back to my so-called civilian life and am still continuing on with the Cold Shower Challenge. Which also means I am still going to badger, coerce and insist that you make a contribution to the Ghost Rider Foundation. I've gotten enough pledges to keep me going through the initial 30 days but I'm still looking to see how many people will step up and contribute to see me do an additional 30 days of freezing cold, no-hot-water allowed showers. (As to "Why this stupid cold shower idea?", please see: Or better yet, just make a contribution because these Veterans with PTSD really NEED some help. 

Now, on with our show! Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Cold Shower Challenge progress report

Day 1: WHAT THE F WAS I THINKING?!?!?  OH HELP ME OPRAH WINFREY!!! But I made it through 5+ minutes.
Day 2: This is stupid! This is Stupid! Joel Runyon is stupid, why did I ever listen to him? Oh yeah…  And yes, body parts will indeed get numb when subjected to very cold water for extended periods of time. Shrinkage, talk about shrinkage!
Day 3: These are the fastest showers I’ve ever taken. In fact, I often have to stand in the water for over a minute just to complete the full 5 minutes.
Day 4: Yes, the cold water does indeed take your breath away. But hold still, relax into it and all is good. However, as soon as you move the process starts all over. Loose your breath, hold still, breathe, move.
Day 5: If I stand for more than 20 seconds with the water hitting my chest, arms or legs I slowly adjust to the water. If I stand for more then 20 seconds with the water hitting my back, it starts to sting almost as much as when I got my tattoo. I don’t know why. Hit the stopwatch function instead of the timer and spend over 7 minutes freezing.
Day 6: Now *THAT’S* a party! Yeah! Again, I missed the timer function and instead hit stopwatch function and spent 8+ minutes in frigid waters.
Not that I’m starting to enjoy these. Frigid cold water is still frigid cold water and man built fire for a reason. But it’s starting to change the mindset about it. Instead of dreading the experience I now know that I will get through it just fine. Like any other change in life.
While changing my mindset has made taking the cold showers a bit easier, the raising money for Ghost Rider Foundation hasn’t. Please, these folks are working extremely hard to get some of this country’s Veterans back on their feet. Let’s give a few bucks to allow them to continue this mission. Please go to and make a contribution.
As always, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The freezing cold shower challenge

After a hard bike ride or first thing in the morning I, like about 98% of the people, like to take a hot shower. Or bath. Something that gets me clean. Jumping into a cold shower doesn't seem like fun but I'm prepared to do that all month - for a full 30 days.

Why? Why in the hell would I willingly subject myself to that?

Here's why: Joel Runyon kept bugging people to take the 30 day cold shower therapy. Read's Joel's post about it but the summary is that you CAN do it. And once you realize you can do it repeatedly you'll realize you have the fortitude for other big changes in your life.

Good idea. But Joel, as of late, has been relentless. He continues to challenge anyone and everyone to take cold showers for 30 days. Not luke-warm showers. Not sorta-kinda-cold showers. No. All out, no hot water allowed cold showers of at least 5 minutes for 30 days.

So I decided to take his challenge and make it into another challenge. I'll do it. 30 days of freezing my various sundried body parts off. BUT here's the challenge. I want you to contribute to the GhostRider Foundation. Please, please please read more about it here. The long and short of the GhostRider foundation is they help returning Vets with PTSD. Just make a donation regardless of the amount. Tell your friends and neighbors. Enough people contribute, no matter what the amount, and I'm set to freeze. Hell, enough people contribute and I'll keep it up for 60 days. Just leave a reply here or shoot me an email or tweet (@grog_jd) when you make your contribution  because I am not affiliated with the GRF and I don't see when the contributions are made.

The question now is how bad do you want me to freeze? How long? Better yet, how interested are you in helping our Veterans out?

Starts.... NOW!

Monday, April 1, 2013

How I can tell if you're a friend or not when you come to our house

The one thing that seemed to stick in my mind lately is how our neighbors and I live in  this town. It's a bit different. Not like it's invaded by zombies or anything like that. Not like nobody talks to their neighbors. Far from it. It just seems like most people around here don't really use the front door.

I guess it's because every one's driveway goes to the alley in back and people normally park towards the back of their house. Or maybe because this little town we live in now has alleys and all the places I lived before didn't. It's not something I can really put my finger on. And it's not everybody.

When some good friends (Joel, Richie and James) came over last week for our inaugural Beer Run Ride (23 or so miles, stop at the awesome Rockmill Brewery, then go ride our bikes some more) everyone naturally parked in the back of our drive just past the back door. We unloaded, chatted a bit and then took off. When we got back, the guys had to leave but it just seemed to generate the thought in my head. Our friends all come to the back door at our house and a lot of our neighbors are the same.

With some of the houses, coming to the front door seems formal. That's for delivery drivers and door-to-door stuff. If you come over and head to the back yard then you must be a friend. It means you know us. You know the dogs (and aren't scared of them). You're ready to find me in the bike shed or sit by the fire (if you come over in the evening) and have a drink of your preference. It's the same around the town. Our friend across the alley would sit out in the back yard as soon as the weather is warm enough and when we'd get home on a Friday he'd encourage us over and always have a drink to put in our hand. If we head north down the alley there's the guys out behind the auto repair shop who, after hours, are out shooting the breeze and they're always open and gregarious. During the Old Timer's Festival we go and watch the old time baseball game from the garage on the alley of other friends.

Not all the houses are setup for this sort of interaction but it just seemed to highlight to me how we live and setup our living spaces. So when you come to our house I'll know how to treat you depending on what door I hear you knock at.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

You're in the Army now!

Yes, long lay off since my last post. Think of it as a sabbatical. That sounds much more professional than "I was too busy doing other crap". But it all means about the same. So, without further ado, here's today's post:

Since last time I posted I raced at Smith Farms. It wasn't the best race of my life as the week prior to the race I got hit with the flu pretty darn good. Wiped out. I started making improvements on Friday and Saturday but I wasn't in top shape come race day. So it goes. However it did afford me to take second overall in the Masters division of Cap City Cross for the 2012 race season, so HELL YEAH for me. Congrats to Larry Pesyna for winning the series outright and to Jon Clouse who is a heck of a bike rider.

Next was the King's International Cyclocross race at Kingswood in Cincinnati, Ohio. That was fun to do as it was the week before the World Championship races in Louisville, KY. It was a fun course to race. I was surprised that there seemed to be a low racer turnout for this day, but an exceptionally high spectator turn out. Race went well, a few good battles as the race went on and a solid top 10 placing for me. Maybe could have been one place higher but I made a poor choice of gloves at the start of the race and my fingers where getting frostbit pretty bad and I had to stop in the pits for a glove swap. Yeah, I know - who ever heard of that? Well, another lesson learned.

Off to a good start in the Cap City kit (far right)
We hung around and watched all the racing. In Men's Elite race Neils Albert came to the states with his 5 mechanics or whatever and pretty much rode away from the field from the start but not everyone was showing all their cards. This was pretty much a warm up for the World Championships so no need to go all out. On the Women's Elite side Katarina Nash pretty much did the same thing, riding away from her Luna Pro team mate Georgie Gould, who rode away from the rest of the field herself. Some commanding performances and good racing.

The run up at Heckle Hill. Did not take the tequila shot hand up.
So racing is done, finished, kaput for the season. But that just means we'll give it a whack in a road race or two and probably some mountain bike races this spring and summer, all in the name of getting tuned up for the 2013 cyclocross season. Good news is that we've brought two more sponsors on board as well as continuing our relationship with existing sponsors. Crank Brothers and SockGuy will be aiding our efforts and I'll be doing the best to represent these fine folks well.

And now to the big news. Jovid, our middle son that started out racing with me three years ago is now at Army boot camp. My lovely bride and I meet this newest bit with trepidation certainly, as well as pride. We know he will do well and are looking forward to the man that will emerge.

As always, thanks for reading.