Monday, June 27, 2016

The Tragedy of Threes...In The Form Of A Bicycle.

I had such high hopes today!   I had the entire day to myself and wanted to fix a pesky problem that I had been putting off all weekend:  Fixing my rear bike tire.

A little history.    Over the last three weeks.... I have had "problems."   First:  I thought my bike rim was bent...turns out I broke the Axle.   One sloppy, dirty, greasy afternoon later.   I fixed it! Yeah!  ( Axle grease is a PAIN to get off of your hands..and it clings to everything.)

However!   I installed it wrong.   Hey!  Live and learn from our mistakes...right?   I failed to tighten it sufficiently so the bike was riding on the locking nut, NOT the actual axle....   So...the axle bends ( but does not break at least!)    Time for another order to Amazon.

THIS TIME...I install it properly.  Yeah!    And then....

I break a spoke.  A common wear and tear issue that I have fixed countless times.   And...unlike the axle,  it is not even "life threatening".   I'll fix it on Monday...when I have plenty of free time and will be looking for things to do.  Add in that Cheryl also purchased a group of 20 spokes while ordering my axle.   I'm all set. What could possibly go wrong?

HOWEVER!   All of the spokes are too short.  That is right,  I carefully measured the spokes and actually told her to order a size that  was slightly smaller. (because my other spokes were too long.   Long Spokes tend to pop tires when you adjust them if they do not have at least a little bit of play.)  It's an oversight on my part, because I would simply not know until I had to replace an actual spoke....  Like now.

Luckily, I had an old spoke that I cut down to size.   It fixed the issue and works great.   Problem solved!   Let's go down to the gas station and pump this bad boy up.  It's a lovely morning so I walk there.(because Cheryl has the Subie at work today)   Puff it up and we are ready to ride!

I hook up the tire to the bike, only to see that there is still an unusual wobble in the rotation.   Turns out,  a small section of the inner tube is trapped between the rim and the outer tire.   An "easy" fix.  Let's do it now.   Pop!   Fzzzzzzztttttt!   And...end scene.

So I popped the inner Tube.   With no means of patching it,   I'm at an impasse and done for the day.  Instead for fixing the bike...I have  ( once again)  made it unusable.  I can only solve-so-many problems-only-to-cause-new-problems-to-emerge so many times before I throw in the towel.

There is a small silver lining in that I was able to ( hopefully) fix Cheryl's sewing machine.  Or at least tune it up a bit.   I will require her to take a look at it before claiming victory just yet.
It's a good thing to,  because I was about to write an entirely different Blog post about  Life being a harsh Mistress that we forced to marry and endure her whims against our will.
 Luckily I have backed off from that post and decided to write this one.   Besides,  I forgot most of my barbed poetic muses that I pieced together as I walked my bike back from Casey's in the hot Iowa Sun.

Hope everyone is having a better day than me.   Or at least better than I had going on this morning.   Things always look better AFTER something disastrous happens.  ( Or usually...maybe.   We shall see)

A minor note:   I'm probably missing the big picture here in that Life is trying to show me I need to either....Buy Stronger Bike Parts....OR   Go on a Diet!   Because it seems the rear bike tire is the one with all of the problems...and all of my weight on it.   Do they even make bikes for "husky" guys?   that are not ...wagons. Perhaps I need to investigate that instead of wondering why the problems keep persisting.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Custom Race Shoes and TheTotally Awesome Dogbane Beetle

So,  After a is strongly urged to take a few days off from running to allow yourself to recover.   Preferably,  take any entire WEEK of doing NOTHING!   Then again,  what do the "experts" know?    And how does Cheryl respond?

"FOOLS!"   As she runs her way around Wellman every morning this week.  On the hard rocky farm roads in the humid heat.  "They are all MORONS!"

Ok,  she never really said that.   But it was implied.... I just know it.  So keeping with her idea of super human achievement...and reckless pursuit of perfection,   we ran  14.5 miles today along the Keota trail.

And that was when the fun began....

Cheryl's big toe has been bothering her for a while since the Marathon.   Around mile 10, the pressure from her shoe was pressing down on her toenail,  causing a rather annoying pain.   Time for some emergency field shoe surgery!

Would it not be awesome if everyone had a set of tools that they could whip out whenever they need to cut the toe box out of their constricting shoe?
Having none of these essentials,   she was forced to use my tiny Swiss Army Knife to cut out a hole in the top of the fore-foot.  (Called the "toe-box" by people in the know...)  She said that lots of trail runners do it,  so it seemed like no big deal to cut a  hole in a perfectly good pair of $100.00 running shoes.   Whatever works, right?
Cheryl's New Custom Shoes!

It did temporarily fix the problem, and we were able to finish the remaining 3 miles without too much pain and suffering.  However,  now she is concerned that she may not be able to run tomorrow...AND has to buy another pair of shoes.

One of Nature's Gems!
But hey!   It was not all bad.    Before we left the trail, I discovered the most awesome beetle I have yet to see in Iowa.   Behold!   The Dogbane Leaf Beetle!

Big colors in a small package!
Try to capture all of the possible colors 
Now I love all God's creatures,  great or small.  But insects have a special place in my heart.   This guy is not as creepy awesome as the Mole Cricket....Nor as strangely awesome as the Preying Mantis.
Instead,  it is awesome be-dazzlingly colorful!  The little guy escaped before I could show Cheryl,  but I noted that he was not as clumsy as the Japanese beetle....( a local pest....pretty much everywhere)  Instead he was a fast moving guy...on par with a ladybird beetle.   But mostly his color changed as you moved around him.   The iridescence along his back wing-covers changed from red to copper to blue.   Many of these Google pictures do not capture it.   But to put things in perspective...see him side by side with a Japanese beetle.   Compare the colors and the legs.   Japanese beetles are Scarabs.   Although there are a lot of subfamilies of beetles.  I'm pretty sure ( taxonomy was very complicated!)  the Dogbane Beetle is not in that family.   (or branched off of it.
Japanese Beetle.   NOT the Dogbane!
Dogbane Beetle
  Things to note:   antenna on Japanese beetle vs Dogbane.   Also the legs and feet.  It is a minor detail, because they are both  roughly the same size ( about 1 cm long.) and can look the same color from a certain angle. Also,  the Dogbane runs and flies similar to a ladybird beetle.  The Japanese Beetle "runs" like a turtle tipped over onto its shell!
 I could  try to find the "blue " version, but they seriously look like totally different beetles altogether.  Better to stick to the similar colors for comparison.   The one that grabbed my attention looked brilliantly RED in the sunlight.    This one is the closest I can find online that is similar.
Kind of Red like this!

So,   impress your friends with your new found knowledge of trivial things. The Dogbane Beetle....and how they are NOT "just like" Japanese Beetle.
Yes,  same beetle....different angle of lighting.

And just for fun...lets show off the blue version....   Remember these are all the SAME beetle....only different angles of lighting.   Isn't Nature Awesome!   Enjoy!

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Franklin Ground Squirrel. A Rare Find.

 We are home today...well I am anyway.   Cheryl ran two miles this morning.  ( marathon damage after all!)  and is currently at work.   I'm being a bum, nursing a sunburn, and making sure the cat gets as much "kitten time" as required to earn his forgiveness for abandonment.
 So...with my new found time...I could try to put the new axial on my bike...but that sounds like a lot of work...possibly in the dangerous outside...where the sun looms in a constant state of ambush...

Better to fix the minor spelling and grammatical errors in yesterday's post AND show off the cute pictures of the Franklin Ground Squirrel!

I guess he was a rare spectacle in Duluth.   They are sorta, kinda "common" by the welcome center where we stopped, but they are not found anywhere else.    We both noticed that it was an odd little creature that did not fit inside our typical "rodent" library.   Luckily,  he was pretty friendly, and allowed us to get close enough to capture some clear photos.

We also took several pictures of the city before we departed.  The new camera was awesome here since I could zoom in on the foggy city from the overlook without paying 50 cents to use one of those touristy binocular stands.  Call me cheap if you must....but we paid way more for the camera.   I'm glad it is earning back it's price tag.

Other than that.   I plan on saving the earth from Alien invasion for the remainder of the day.   Earth can never remain safe for long...and I have been obviously sidetracked this weekend.
 My pixillated men rely on me to send them into battle and  not get them blown up.   It's a huge responsibility....and I  usually don't take responsibility seriously.

Enjoy the "informative video" about the squirrel.   So next time you can  impress your friends when you go out west and see one of these guys.   You'll be the only know who notices it is NOT a prairie dog.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Grandma's Marathon; A Comedy... About Bloody feet, Sweltering Heat, Sunburned Face(s) And Loads of Fun!

First,  Let me say Emergency rooms are no fun!   Especially when you have a face that is as red as a tomato!   At first I thought it was the sun...but the doctors said it was a chronic genetic disease handed down from my ancestors....I wonder which side?   Oh wait... This is supposed to be about the marathon.   I should probably start at the beginning and save the good stuff about me for later.

After another sleepless night,  Cheryl rolled me out of bed earlier that I thought socially acceptable.  We showered, shaved, and suited up...  Ready for action!
Cheryl waves from the window
 Cheryl's plan was to arrive earlier than last year so she could safely pee in the woods to avoid the long lines  in front of the Pot-A-Johns.   I walked her to the bus; shook her hand; and pushed her up the steps.   Having her fully trapped on the vehicle,  I was now free to go back to the car and sleep the remaining 2 hours before the race officially started.

Beware of Rollers!
cool Bike, man!
I set up at the same places as before:  Knife river at the five mile mark.  I waited forever taking random shots of the Rollers...and then the Elites as they cruised by.   I waited for Cheryl only to fail to capture her in a decent picture when she finally arrived.   Just like last year.    

Elites....So fast they'e already past me!
Prefontaine Brothers
I should point out the three Prefontaine brothers.    Local Celebrity impersonators who Cheryl ran with for a considerable distance.  In fact,  I think she was behind them mere moments after this shot was taken!   (Yeah Camera!)

I blame the new camera and it's inability to take snap shots the same way the old one did. It was too bad because I had a really great opportunity this year.   She found me and  was clearly visible as we exchanged passing glances, before disappearing into the distance....

Mergansers!   Female and Male!
Awesome Flight Photo.
But before I waste too much time lamenting on the shots I missed.   I should focus on the ones I captured...

Like these mated pair of Mergansers!   Check out how the males head is that awesome metallic green/blue.

Canada's INVADING?   Fetch me my Hoofa!
Female runners are sexy!
Back to the race!   I should point out that the starting temp for this race was 68 degrees and continued to rise until the end.  That being said,  I was impressed when Cheryl skipped along at mile 13 at the projected time.... on schedule.  I was also shocked that she took a sip of the diet coke that I offered her.

Especially This one!
There she goes!
Granted,  the heat melted the ice by the time she arrived and the entire beverage had warmed to a nicely tepid temperature..... Great for Coffee or tea...bad for Diet Coke!  However,   She was impressed with the thought and gesture...  and noted that we may have to work out a better strategy for the next marathon.   She waved goodbye after spitting out the sample and throwing the beverage back at me.   Bye Cheryl!   See you at the bridge!
Me...On the bridge....baking.

Cheryl arrives into View!
I raced ahead of her and camped out on the highway overpass.   I waited...and waited....and waited...

Hmm.   The sun was getting hotter and I could hear this "fried egg sizzle" on my head...  I put my hand and felt around on my bald spot several times, but found that there was nothing there.   Perhaps it was someone else behind me.
There was this moment when I thought that the sun might actually get to me instead of Cheryl.   I noticed several of the of the Marathoners having bright red "tans" on their exposed flesh, but thought nothing of my hat-less, lotion-less body.  I was Certain Cheryl would arrive well before the sun would damage any part of me.

The heat makes things...Hot.
As the 3:45 pacer crawled by,  I noticed that several dozen people were walking the last mile in.  Hmm....Maybe the heat was getting to people.  Fearing I may miss her before the final turn towards the finish,  I ran down the hill to last years spot.
And...kinda slow. 
It was a good thing too...because she was rounding the bend the moment I looked up!   I was expecting her to be totally spent and exhausted....down-trodden and depressed that she had not bettered her previous time.   And she was most of those things....

Off to the finish!
Except the depressed part.   She was actually in an almost giddy mood.   At first I thought the sun had fried both of our brains,  but alas... she had what psychologist call a "break through!"

Was the shoe always this color?
She discovered that a marathon....even in blazing sun and hot humid temperatures, can still be "fun" if you walk a bit and enjoy the free fruit, lawn sprinklers, and music that the race has to offer.   Sure, you may lose 8.24 minutes off of your previous record....but you finish the race with high hopes and spirits!  Imagine that!

Another scar for the Marathoner!
And then the FUN began.   First:   Cheryl informed me that she was a little scared to look at her foot.   Hmmm...I wonder what that dark red stain is on the toe area?  Our imaginations ran wild....Severed toes?   Missing nails?   Bloody Stumps!!!!

Na,  Just a couple of blisters.   Hardly a life threatening wound. I thought about photo-shopping a cool frostbitten foot, but could not make the program do what I wanted.     Cheryl plans on showing it off as a new battle scar from her life as a Marathoner!     Some people  wading in the water had fared far worse.  One guy was definitely going to lose a couple of toenails.....Yoeow!   (shudder)

40th anniversary Medal 

40th Anniversary Medal
We both drank semi-cold root beer and ate strawberies.  Cheryl showed off her finishers Metal,

Her finishers Shirt.

Ice water helps numb the pain....
And headed to the beach.    The water was too cold last time, but in the 90 degree sun and heat,   Lake Superior was the perfect form of frigid for one's feet and aching joints.    Many people joined in on the "ice water finisher's wade" to celebrate their victory over the heat.

On the bridge!
With all the energy she had not expended...  Cheryl wanted to cross the bridge and pose with her finishers medal.

With the bridge...
Time to make it more permanent.
We decided to make the 26.2 sticker permanent on Subie this year.   The last one was a magnet and it had been blown off several times before being lost completely at some car wash.   Cheryl decided that 26.2 would now officially be a part of  Subie's identity forever.   And thus....a permanent temporary sticker.

So lets find out just how bad Cheryl really did..shall we?
Try getting THAT off carwash!
Having walked the hills and ate the fresh strawberries,   Cheryl was feeling that a new Marathon PR was out of the question.    I reminded her that many people in front of her were walking and that the heat was effecting everyone universally.   As the official results have now been posted... She discovered that I was, in fact, correct!   ( imagine that!)   And she actually did better under the circumstances, than she had last year.   Let's crunch some numbers!

LAST YEAR                                                                             THIS YEAR
Total Time 3:45:53                                                                    Total Time 3:54:07
Average Pace:  8:38                                                                   Average Pace 8:57
Age Group Place  71 out of  322                                               54 out of 565 ( age 40-44 female)
Overall place ( Male&Female)  1944 out of 6077                    1470 out of 7521
Gender place  531 out of 2640                                                  434 out of 3741 Total Females!

So... despite her competition increasing,  she actually rose in the ranks!       And we discovered a new variable to take into account when trying for a new PR...HEAT!   Last time it was wind;  Before that it was terrain.    So on hilly courses with wind and heat...don't expect to beat your previous record...just expect to do better than everyone else under those conditions.

And now for the best part....ME!   You see...I'm the HERO of this story.   How?  I have been trying to get Cheryl's mind off of her fears of a bad race performance for the entire duration.   I said things like "It may be hot."  and "Try to have fun instead of killing yourself for a new Personal best!"
Sometimes ...we sound coherent.
   Each time,  I was waved away as a mentally challenged relative.   She forgets that occasionally demented Grandparents and idiot husbands actually get the time right with their broken watches.  

Call me "Special Man!" 
  In the end,   I managed to turn Cheryl's race anxiety into excitement for her next marathon!   No small feat!   I would like to point out my superior knowledge of the subject of running, human psyche,  weather, solar flares, goldfish, and all things cats and dogs that gave me the background to solve this tender issue.  So pin a cape on me and call me "Special"!   ( Or is it super?    Either one I guess)      

I look like Barbie? Only with less hair.
AND.... I got a lovely sunburn to show off my dedication for the team. The strap from the camera formed a perfect line next to the collar of my shirt.  Making me look like I have a red mustache on the back of my neck!  Now that is LOVE and dedication!  Oh!  And my head and face look like a beet.   Minus the area of my sunglasses.    Remember Julia Sweeney in Coneheads?   Kind alike that.  I was kidding about the emergency room.   But not about the genetic material that makes me cranky.   Those Germans....
Me after a long day of Hero-ing

With my new Rosy disposition... and color... I will now take the remainder of the day off and try to stay out of the sun for the majority of it.   Cheryl now looks forward to the Red White and Boom race in the twin cities coming up on the 4th of July.   I'll blog more tomorrow about our return trip.  Uneventful...but with cute pictures of the Franklin Ground Squirrel.    For now....Time to smear some goo on my face and hide in the darkness.


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