a few years ago i  used to wake up  very early in the morning and ride my mountain unicycle on the trail before work.  i would leave my house in the dark and get to the trail head just before the break of light.  i loved doing this trail, i had been doing this for years, and i slowly but surely i was able to master each section.

as far as safety is concerned, unicycling is actually a little safer than mountain biking.  i know most people are probably thinking that i am out of my mind for saying that, but i truly think so.  i have been riding a unicycle for so many years, i don’t even think about falling.  not that i don’t fall, it’s just that i fall so often it’s not a big deal anymore.  i fall hundreds of times, but i rarely get injured.  i always use body armor for my shins and knees and a helmet for my head.  the difficult part for me is strength and power.  it takes a lot of strength to climb hills and a lot of power to get over obstacles like rocks and logs.  falling is more like a controlled dismount.

so i guess my sense of reality is a bit twisted. when people see me riding on the trail, i always get comments like, “you’re crazy”, “you’ve got a lot of guts”, or “oh my god, be careful”.  when i hear these comments i always wonder why they think it’s dangerous. i don’t think it’s dangerous, i do think it is extremely difficult…. and yeah, i think i am “crazy” for attempting something many people can not even do on mountain bikes.  i think i have “guts” for not giving up, even though every muscle in my body is trembling, my heart rate is well over 180, and i’m sweating so profusely, it looks like i just had water poured over my head.  i don’t think of myself as a dare devil.  i don’t think i am in the same thrill seeker category as base jumpers, fmx, and other adrenalin junkies.  i think i am somewhere around the same category as a rock climber….don’t ask me why, i just think we have a lot in common for some reason.

so one morning before work,  as i sat in my car at the trail head waiting for more daylight…. i began to think.  recently i had read in the news paper that there were mountain lions killing people in california (more specifically mountain bikers).  there had also been mountain lions spotted colorado at the time, but none at this particular trail.  i worried about this for a moment but figured that my odds were pretty low.  i decided to go right then, because i wanted to get to work as a decent hour.  so i took off, and as i entered the trail i passed a sign that i had passed hundreds of times in the past, but this time it kind of stuck in my head.

“beware of mountain lions”

for the next couple of miles that was all i thought about.  as i passed bushes and rocks the thoughts of a mountain lion stalking me began to take over.  the fact that i was breathing extra hard and looked rather vulnerable to a mountain lion, made me even more worried.  what if i did get attacked and even killed that morning? the head lines would probably read:

“Unicyclist Killed by Mountain Lion”

in my imagination i could see mr. public in his robe and coffee reading the paper with his family around the breakfast table.  he shakes his head and says, “shouldn’t have been unicycling”

maybe mr. public was right; i shouldn’t have been unicycling… but most likely, i shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

right before i got ready to ride back to my car, i passed through the company’s kitchen and rifled through the refrigerator.  nothing but some old salad dressing, peanut butter, jelly and some soy milk.  none of it was particularly appealing to me.  i was hungry.  all i had today was a clif bar and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  i thought it was going to be good enough, but as 5:30 rolled around i was famished.

nothing i could do now but go home.   i got my gear together and left out into the cold dark abyss.   as left the dark and empty industrial neighborhood i saw something that i would never really notice on a normal night.   it was the big golden arches.

then it entered my mind…. mc donald’s french fries and a coke.  it was just the first thing that i though of as i passed by.  mmm,  seems kind of like it would hit the spot right about now.   at the time it was just an idea, so i rode on.

as the miles passed the cold started to penetrate my clothing.  the thoughts of warm salty french fries started to infiltrated my short term memory. some how every though i had involved french fries.  i though about getting home and having dinner, with french fries.  i though about my lunch and wondered why i didn’t have french fries.  i thought about how happy i would have been if someone bought me french fries for christmas.  i was obsessed.  i couldn’t get those warm salty golden fries out of my mind for anything.

if anything i was so distracted by the thoughts of fries, i didn’t really think about the cold anymore, or the clicking sound my bike was making, the same sound that drove me crazy all morning.  although my mind was distracted, i couldn’t help but notice that the trail was getting tougher and tougher as i got closer to my car.  with each corner i turned i look ahead and thought to my self, “oh fuck, i don’t remember this hill”, or “is this snow getting deeper or what?”.

i eventually made it to my car.   i eventually made it to the near by mc donald’s.  with my bike on top i narrowly made it under the height limit of the drive through.  i don’t know what the hold up was but, man it was taking a long time.  i could smell the food while waiting in line. when my turn came, i ordered a large fries, and a large coke… no ice of course.  waiting waiting.  the guy in front of me had issues with his order…. waiting waiting.  finally i drive up to the window, get my bag and my drink and drive off.  i reached into the bag and grabbed a few, they were nice and warm, almost hot, like they had just come out of the fryer.  i could feel the grains of salt against my finger tips as they went into my mouth.  they were everything i expected and more.  a quick sip of my coke and back to the fries.  i devoured these things in record time.  i don’t think i even made to to the freeway before they were gone.

after finishing my brief indulgence i felt completely satisfied.  almost felt like having a cigarette….if you know what i mean.

i got out of my car almost ready to run, but i had to stop at the trunk to get out my water holder.   i put it on, and it felt like i had gained some weight since my last run.  i sucked it in, fastened it up and off i went.  started out with a slow nonchalant walk toward the start of the trail… transitioned to a light march…. and finally a slow jog as i entered the trail.  it had been a couple of days since i last ran, and i’m not sure if i had shut down properly the last time i ran, because my legs, arms, and back were all a little stiff.

within minutes, the trail became very muddy, forcing my mind to stop thinking about the creaky, stiff, awkward limbs, and to start focusing on just keeping up-right.   one of the things they never teach you in running school is how to run up hill in the mud.  you can’t run it like a normal up hill.  the tendency, at least for me, is to over compensate for the hill by leaning forward and kind of tiptoeing up the hill. the way to do it at least the best way for me is to run as perpendicular as possible to the  hill, and to land as flat footed as you can.  this way you apply more surface area to the ground.  my mud hill technique may seem weird but these slopes are well over 15% grade, and anything else will surely have you slipping face first into the mud.

the first little hill happened very quickly and my body was not warmed up prior to it, but afterward it quickly started to heat up.  the next couple of kilometers or so were semi-flat with enough rolling hills along the way to keep me “honest”.  before long, i was completely loose and i could feel my pace subtly inching up as i sloshed through the mud.

after about 5 kilometers of mud, snow and rocks, i actually thought of shortening my run.  i don’t know why.  i think i was just getting a little tired of maneuvering through the terrain.  i was also starting to worry about my muddy foot prints and their long term effect on the trail.  i kept going because i didn’t have another plan and i always hesitate when it comes to shortening my runs.  after a couple more kilos my mind started to think less about the snow, less about the rocks…and more about my breathing, and my posture.  i was now running, at a more aggressive pace and the terrain seemed much less intimidating.  without even thinking i stepped over and around rocks and ice as if i already knew where they were.  i was much smoother and more fluent than earlier and all i could think about was running further and faster.

before i knew it, i was 10 kilometers into the run, which should have been the turn around point.  i didn’t feel like turning back already.  my goal was 20k and i could have easily done it, but i had done the same thing last week.   i was feeling much better than last week at this point.  so after some careful endorphin induced thought, i decided to take the long way back.  this would add about 10 more kilometers to the run.  my “plan” was to head out to the other trail head which was next to the highway.  if i was hurting by the time i got there, i would hitch a ride back to my car.  i had never hitched a ride before but it seemed like something i could do.

now that i was committed to my new journey, my mind slipped out of focus a bit.  i started to worry if i made a mistake by making my run 30 kilometers.  i was also worried about how i was going to ask for a ride.  my mind raced around these thoughts for a few more kilometers, until i hit the point of no return.  the point at which it would be longer to turn back.  at this point all the noises were silenced and i could hear my self breathing once again.  and out of no where like a magical spell, i could feel the endorphins kicking in.  my goal was clear, i was committed, and feeling perfect.  nothing was nagging at me, nothing was distracting me, all i could feel was everything working properly. rare!

i still had one more big hill to climb, before things would flatten out and i could get a feel for my pace and effort.  i felt fast… not real fast, i’ve been faster, but for where i am in life, this was pretty fast.  i did a pace check with my gps several times and found that i was about 7:45/mile pace after 20 kilometers of trail running.   at that point i was at the second trail head, and there was no one around to ask for a ride.  it didn’t matter, i had decided many kilometers ago that i would get back to my car under my own power no matter what.  it’s funny, but this run was not a big deal, no one was watching me, no one even knew i was out running, i could have bagged the whole thing and got a ride to my car.  however, when i lock on to something, i lock on.  it would have been pretty hard for someone to keep me from finishing this run.

i got out to the highway and i was still feeling pretty good.  as each kilometer clicked off, i could feel myself not feeling as good.  i was still going at a pretty good pace, but now i was struggling a bit just to keep form.  all i could think about was my form.  i tried to keep my back straight, and keep my arms moving.  that’s all i need to focus on when  times start getting rough.  each stride now seemed a little more difficult than the previous…and each breath seemed to have a little less oxygen.

i was running next to traffic and i could feel them approaching and i could feel the gust of wind as they passed.  each time i looked over at them i could see the passenger looking back at me.  kind of weird for my current state, so i decided to not look at anyone anymore. staring into the vanishing point of the road was a little disheartening, except for the fact that now it seemed far, and my original estimate of distance was probably correct.

focusing was getting easier and more difficult at the same time.  easier since i had more things to focus on, and more difficult because now the distractions were coming from inside me.  more little aches and pains from my knees, and ankles… and now my stomach was hurting a little.

i was now completely out of water, but the end was near, and i wasn’t worried.  i could see my turn-off from the distance.  still full of little aches and pains, but trying to keep my form.  as i was running up to the parking lot i passed a person walking the other direction.  i smiled quite greatly and said hello.  i was very happy to be almost done. …and then done.

i walked around the parking lot a few times, before opening my car.  i stretched for about 10 minutes, and i could feel the stiffness that was causing me discomfort for the last 7 kilometers.  my head was light and airy, not completely grounded yet.  i think it was later that night when i finally came “down”.

i didn’t plan on having an epic day.   this turned out to be my longest run in almost 15 years…. and my funnest run in i don’t know how long.

it’s all about listening to my body.  i’ll hold it back when it tells me to, but more importantly, i’ll let it go when it wants to go.

every year when i take down our artificial christmas tree from the attic, i always remember that very first year in colorado.  that first year when i thought it would be cool to have a real tree.  we had real trees before, but we usually bought them from the temporary tree lots in town.  the trees were usually cut down long before christmas and rested on the pavement against a chain link fence with scribbled price tag tied to its tip.  i really disliked that ritual because it somehow seemed very commercial and less romantic. i naively thought that it would some how be more real christmas-like to have one that we cut down ourselves.

i talked the wife into my utopian vision of a perfect christmas, and before long we had researched and found a place that was a little over an hour away.  at the time we only had two kids, an 18 month old and a 4 and a half year old, so we dressed them warmly and packed them into my 1983 toyota tecel.  the weather was kind of rainy, but as we got closer to the place it quickly turned to light snow.  i remember thinking how perfect the conditions were for tree hunting.  we stopped at the check in station and pre-paid for our tree and borrowed a saw, since i didn’t have my own.

the area was a little disappointing, because for most of the year it was used for harvesting lumber.  we could see lots of clear cut patches as we drove up the winding gravel road.  we pulled over in one of the bigger pullouts on the side of the road and everyone got out of the car.  we were all pretty excited, or maybe it was just me.  after all… i had a saw in my hand and it was snowing and we were going to find the perfect tree.  we had the 18 month old in the backpack which my wife carried; we were going to switch off, but somehow i never took a turn… i guess because i was carrying the saw.

i was running around with the five year old jumping over logs and bush whacking our way to trees that seem ideal from a distance.  this went on for a while but soon my wife got tired and the excitement slowly wore away.  we were all pretty cold and went back to the car, disappointed and freezing, trying to figure out our next move.  as we sat there in the car warming our hands with the little heater vents, we saw one of the workers doing something near by.  at this point i was thinking refund.  how can i get my money back, there are no suitable trees here.  i went over to talk to the guy and told him that we couldn’t find anything.  without thinking he said to go up the road about another mile and there were a bunch of trees there.

i went back in the car and relayed the information to my wife.  we drove up to the spot he was talking about, and i started to get out of the car.  i decided that the wife and kids should stay in the car where it was warm;  i would scout around and call them for approval if i found anything good.  up here the snow on the ground was much thicker.  i had a much more difficult time moving about.  after too long i had found what seemed to be the perfect tree.  i walked around it several times making sure it was without defects.
after almost 2 hours of looking around and hiking up and down steep hills in very cold and now windy conditions, this tree was looking really good.  i ran back to the car full of jubilant excitement and told the family that i found the perfect tree.  my wife looked somewhat disbelieving because i had said this a couple times earlier.  this time i grabbed the 18 month old and my wife and the 5 yo followed behind cautiously.

i crossed the road and stood just at the edge on the snow covered shoulder.  i looked back for my lagging family and yelled out “this way!”  i stepped through the snow and started heading into the woods where my perfect tree was waiting for us.  after about three steps into the snow i realized that it was not a shoulder, but in fact a ditch that lined this road.  a very deep ditch. as i took that one endless step into the ditch i realized i was going to fall.  i had my 18 month old in one arm and would have crush him… if my reflexes didn’t take over.  as i sank down into the ditch my arms went up. and as my arms went up my child was ejected out of my arms and flew some five feet away into a pillow of soft snow.  at least i think it was soft.  no matter he cried like crazy.  my wife who was cautiously standing back the whole time could not restrain herself from laughing after seeing that the baby was ok.  it must have looked crazy funny from where she was.

after some confusion i finally found my tree again.  i showed her the tree and like any good used car salesman, i had her loving the tree as well.  i picked a good place to start sawing and began.  the saw blade kept getting bound up and i had to have my wife push one direction as i cut away.  the tree finally fell and it was so heavy that it broke a few of its branches on the way down.  i guess these “real” trees are a little heavier than the “parking lot” trees.  i drug this thing back to my little car and proceeded to put it on top.  i stood back and looked at my setup, and it kind of looked like a tree with a car underneath it. you know, like the tree had fallen and crushed my car.  i’m sure it was just an optical illusion.  i tied it up and drove off.

as i was driving back, and the family was asleep. i started to do a little math. i could see about 4 feet of tree sticking out the back of my car. i could see the tip of the tree passing the nose of my car.  this tree was over 20 feet tall!  we have vaulted ceilings in our house but i doubt they are 20 feet tall.

it did not fit in our house. not even close.  i had to cut almost 4 feet off the bottom, and it was still just barely fit.  this thing was almost six feet in diameter, the base of the tree was about 8 inches thick and the bottom row of branches spread almost 6 feet in diameter.  i had to build a custom tree stand for this monster, and we had to buy extra decorations since we had never had anything this huge before.  this tree was full of bark and it had pretty good sized pine cones all over it, and it dripped tree sap the entire time it stayed in our living room.  on christmas day our presents were covered in sticky gooey tree sap.

i don’t remember anything that anyone got that year.  i hardly remember christmas day for that matter.  but some how, the year we had the giant tree, was the most memorable christmas ever.

note: this was not taken from national lampoon’s christmas vacation…admittedly it is very similar, but it is my own story.

recently we’ve been having some pretty cold weather in colorado.  it’s not even winter yet!  as some of you probably already know, and perhaps some people are just now finding out….i ride in very cold weather.   perhaps i shouldn’t, since i already have some permanent skin wounds from a couple years ago. most people that know me in real life, think i’m crazy for riding in below freezing temperatures.  i don’t mind, i kind of like the label “crazy”, better than “cold weather bike rider” or “gutter bunny.”  the reason i do it, is not for the label that goes along with such a feat, i do it because i don’t like being afraid of things, especially weather.  i guess it would be a different story if i didn’t want to do it in the first place.

yesterday i packed all my stuff and drove down to my park-n-ride spot.  even the car drive was cold.  i think the outside temperature was 4F or -16C, but my car heater takes a long time to warm up, so i wasn’t feeling any heat.  i brought plenty of clothes, but most of them were laying on the passenger’s seat next to me.  i parked the car, and gradually put on each layer of clothing as i prepared to go outside. it’s always interesting getting those final layers of clothing on when it’s cold.

i packed my iphone in my jersey pocket making sure the chord wasn’t tangled with zippers or what not.  ran the ear buds up and put them in my ears.  i didn’t turn them on yet, but just having them in my ears started taking the edge off the ambient traffic noise.  i put the balaclava over my head and more noises disappeared.  i began to feel more and more detached from the things around me.  finally the helmet went on and the straps tightened …and for that moment i was totally, but acutely introverted.  i guess you can compare the isolation feeling you get when you submerge yourself in a swimming pool.  i felt like an astronaut at that point.  i couldn’t feel very much through all my layers, thick socks, ski gloves, blocked hearing. i could see perfectly however, with my ski goggles.  as i got on the bike and started moving, i could feel little cold breezes that had found their way through the seams of my clothing.  it felt a little uncomfortable, but i let it go.

as i rode through the snow covered bike path i was the only one.  it felt so smooth and quiet riding along the path with some psychedelic music from the warhols playing through my earbuds.  since it was the bike path i had no cars to worry about, and since it was so cold i had no other bikes to worry about.  my studded tires were gripping the icy patches pretty well, and for the moment, the path was very straight.  the cool breezes were now starting to feel pretty good on my slightly overheated body.   in between songs i could hear myself breathing…and on occasion i could even hear myself talking.  i still felt pretty isolated from my surroundings.  which was kind of weird, because cycling usually brings me closer to the environment around me.  not sure if i enjoy it as much this way, but very interesting none the less.

the only thing that really bothered me were my toes.  i could feel them getting colder and colder with each turn of the pedals.  every now and then i would have to pedal standing up just to try and bring some much needed blood back down to my toes.  this seemed to do the job for now, but i was still less than half of the way to my destination.

as i got further along, i started to feel really good. i was overheating a bit and i hadden’t been drinking any water because my water bottle was frozen solid.  i was sweating like crazy, i could feel my balaclava drenched, and pieces of my face were now feeling really cold.  i started to worry about getting frost bite and damaging more of my already damaged skin.  still, i pressed on since i only had about 4 more miles to go.

i finally got to work drenched in sweat, freezing, and late for a meeting.  i quickly got into the shower and as i removed my shoes, and sock, i could feel the toes starting to burn.  quickly i reached down and squeezed the toes as hard as i could hoping to stop the blood from gushing through… or keep it from doing whatever it was that was causing so much pain.   i am no stranger to this feeling,  i’ve had times when i had to scream in public before just because he pain was so bad.  there was no screaming today, i think the squeezing did the trick.  the shower was much shorter than i wanted, because i was pressured by the fact that i was already late for my meeting.

i was starving most of the day.  riding in the cold causes my metabolism to switch into extra high gear, and there is no hope.  i tried to snack as much as i could and had in a big lunch.  by the time the quitting-hour was bestowed upon me, i was finally content .

the hardest part of any day that i ride to work, is the riding back part.  on cold snowy days the ride home is especially tough.  most of my clothes are still a little damp….including the gloves.  nothing worse than heading out into the cold with wet clothes.  fortunately the clothes that were closest to my body were the driest.

the ride back to my car was similar to the ride in, with the exception of light.  it was completely dark, and all i had was my little led head light to guide me.  talk about total sensory deprivation.  i couldn’t feel the weather, i couldn’t hear anything but my music, and now, i couldn’t even see very much.  kind of a helen keller ride… all i could do is feel the inertia and gravity pulling me along.  my memory tried to fill in the dark parts from my partial vision.

i didn’t plan on it, but it was very much an adrenalin rush. .. for 17.4 miles or 28km i rode through a barely lit, partially plowed, snow covered bike path.  not a person around, next to the river that runs through an ugly industrial part of denver.  there were occasions when i would hit an icy patch on a turn and the bike would slightly drift for a few cm, causing my heart to spike.  i never fell, never really came close, but the thought of falling really kept me gripped the entire time.

so that’s kind of what it’s like for me to ride in the bitter cold.  i have many days ahead to perfect my gear and every year it’s the same.  some days i feel it, and some days i don’t want anything to do with cold weather.

the nose is quite a wonderful thing… i just started using mine about 3 years ago. after reading a book by john douillard “body, mind and sport.”  before then i used to breathe only through my mouth.  i used to think that that was the only way i could breathe.  i have a nasal septum deviation, a slight over bite and some pretty big incisors.   i had seen people breathing through their nose but usually not in a workout scenario.

john talks about how the nose is the primary breathing apparatus for humans.  among other things the nose filters and warms the air before it enters the lungs.  the mouth on the other hand is for emergencies, air goes directly to the lungs shunting all other mechanisms the body has for preparing air.

you never see a deer or rabbit running with its mouth open, panting uncontrollably catching bugs in his mouth… or having a difficult time saying good morning to other deer do you? of course not!  that’s because most of nature’s animals breathe through their nose.

by the time this sank in, i was determined to figure out how to nose breathe while i run.   it took me quite a few miles but i finally got pretty good at it.  in the beginning i used to have to carry a tissue with me, to keep the nasal passages open…and i became an expert at the farmer’s blow.

i now love nose breathing while i run and when i cycle.  not only do i feel more refreshed, enlightened, and some what more accomplished (it is difficult after all).

i also use nose breathing when i am recovering from an injury.  not only do i feel like more oxygen is flowing through my body making my muscles heal faster…that’s debatable.  another reason is that keeps my mind off the injury.  it really takes a lot of concentration for me to breathe and run. so i have little or no brain power to focus on anything else.  also because it’s so difficult i can only run at a slower more governed pace ( i can’t just run as fast as i want).  i always have to run a bit slower and steadier, which keeps me from blowing something out.

today at lunch i decided to nb for my little 3mile run.  i started out at what seemed like a snail’s pace…and slowly picked it up till i found my breathing  limit.  i figured that i started out at about a 9 or 10 minute pace and worked my way down to about an 8:30 pace.  that’s not too bad considering i was  just out for a jog. also, this was just an estimate, i really didn’t know for sure how fast i was running. until…

i turned my gps on and checked my pace.  holy shit! i was running at a 7:20 pace!  i didn’t feel that fast.  i was still having a little trouble keeping up with the nose breathing but i was able to handle it.  as i was running down the path someone yelled at me, “hey, don’t forget to breathe!”

i did forget…. in fact that’s all i could think about.  when i got back to work i was so full of endorphins i didn’t feel like sitting at my computer.   and after such focused breathing for so long, it transcended the work out to the remainder of the day.  since the run, i have only breathed through my mouth while talking….and “they” tell me, i don’t talk much :)

so if you don’t breath through your nose while running or cycling try it!  you’ll be impressed with yourself.

let me know how it goes.


last week i finished up my volunteer work for the denver rescue mission.  i didn’t have any obligation to work there except for the one i imposed upon myself.  you see normally i would have been satisfied to put in my one day, call it an experience and be done with it.  however, in this case there are are several reason why i wanted to make this a regular event.  the first reason is that i really want to help the homeless. the first day i was more of a liability to them. i didn’t know what to do, how to do it, where things go, or when things happen.  i had to ask every little thing.  kind of annoying for the people that manage us, but they are used to it i guess. …judging by the way they so gracefully micromanage us volunteers.

after observing round after round of noobs each time i volunteered, i don’t think it was just me that needed minute by minute guidance.  back when i did my first day, i naively assumed that the volunteers participated in an egalitarian society, everyone had more or less the same job, no favorites no rankings.  after my second visit i quickly learned that filling water cups was for the ‘green”.  most first timers have to fill these water cups and place them on a cart, so they can hand them out when the lines starts.  funny thing about these cups, they are corporate coffee mugs, left over from the dot com bust.  lots of unknown company logos adorn the  sides of these ceramic artifacts from a different culture (a culture that i am way too familiar with).  one thing that can be said about all the volunteers, is that they seem genuinely happy (unlike the corporate world).  it must be because they feel like they are doing something worth while and making a difference.

so as a five time veteran of  volunteering i pretty much know what is going on at this place.  i know more or less, what needs to be done, and how to do it.  i’ve fill the water cups, filled the trays, handed out the trays, cleared the tables, wiped the tables, and helped in the kitchen.  there are not many jobs that i am unfamiliar with these days.  we had a full staff of volunteers this time, and mike started giving out the assignments.  as the new people were given their jobs, i started to wonder if there would be enough jobs to go around.  he already handed out all the jobs that i was familiar with, so when it was my turn, i was pretty excited to think that i was going to get something new.  he turned and pointed to me and said, i need you to do something for me.  he then walked over to me and explained what my new job was going to be.

it turns out that the mission is having a little problem with the homeless leaving at different times.  ideally if everyone would eat at the same time they could leave at the same time.  however due to the buffet style lines, some people would start eating much earlier than the guys at the end of the line. this would cause some guys to get bore and ask for seconds, or just take off.  in order to correct this, the denver rescue mission was trying a “dining room” style eating.  everyone would sit down and get served at more or less the same time.  this way they could eat and finish at the same time.

the end of dinner was 7:30 and everyone was required to stay seated until that time.  so my job, was to be the house security or “bouncer” if you will.  i would stand at the door looking tough and keep people from exiting before 7:30.  i’ve been to way too many concerts and events where the power hungry ill equipped security guards detour the crowds with terse arrogant  directions…”don’t stand there”, “stay behind the line”, “this exit is closed”…etc.  today was my turn and i was naively excited to get this job.

the minute all the food was handed out i marched over to “my” assigned door.  i was instructed to try and talk people into staying  and to not use force no matter what.  i was also instructed to not try too hard to keep people in, it might make them angry.  so there i stood with an eager look on my face, quite unfitting for the task at hand.  with little or no attention payed to me, the first homeless guy walked past my guard.  at that moment i realized that i was going to have to look a little tougher.

i looked around and studied some of the other guys doing the same job.  these other guys were quite a bit harder than me.  they were former addicts and were actually going through the rehabilitation program at the mission.  they somehow got off the streets and came into the shelter to get help.  most of them were quite tough looking,  as they stood there, mad dogging every homeless person thinking about heading their way.  hmm…i could do that.  i straightened up my apron, rolled up my sleeve so my tattoo would show (note: my tattoo is of a bicycle), and stared off into the distance like i was looking out the bottom of my nose.  since i was the only one guarding a door that led to the outside,  most of the homeless headed my direction.

i would start out with a cool, “how’s it going man?”

i would follow that with a “so you’re not going to stay till the end?”

…then they would counter my questions, by just walking out. buy the end of the evening i had turned back three guys, and let two go, and only one got out of hand.  he was trying to get out by saying he had permission. other bouncers came over to help out, and just made the guy really mad.  he started yelling at them…and finally we just let him go.  apparently the other homeless guy don’t like this guy either.  he is annoying to them as well.  we all laughed about it afterward.  no matter what the group, there is always at least one ass hole.  it’s ok, though it brought me a little closer, to the people i was trying to help.

at the end of the evening i went to the back room to get my stuff so i could go.  there were two female volunteers there getting ready to leave as well.  i didn’t get a chance to meet them earlier so i introduced myself.  after our short intros, they said, “you looked pretty intimidating out there”

i said “oh heh…thanks”.  i think it was a complement, at least i took it as one, because i was really trying to look intimidating.

it was a great night anyway. i would have rather handed out the food, but i’m glad i didn’t.  most people can not say they were a “bouncer” at the homeless shelter.


as a parent i’ve seen my kids get hurt and injured right in front of my eyes. when it happens it’s one of the most horrible feelings in the world.  i spend so much energy into keeping them safe, and when they are not safe, i feel kind of like i let my guard down.  sometimes their injury is pretty bad, and sometimes it isn’t bad at all.   from the outside it always looks so painful…but to the child the pain is usually something less than it looks.

in the early years it almost seems like the child had no idea what just happened or how he was supposed to react. the child usually learns right away how much pain he is in by looking at the parent’s expression. we see this all the time; child falls or gets whacked in the head, stands there motionless, looks around, finds an adult with his his jaw on the ground and his eyes popped out from terror…then the drama begins.  to make the situation even more overwhelming the adult/parent will run over and asks in a sympathetic voice, “aw… are you alright sweetheart?”.  at this point the situation has become defcon 1, it’s all over, prepare yourself for long term, loud ear piercing terrifying heart breaking, ambulance calling crowd gathering screams. i’m not trying to say that the pain is not real, but the reaction to it may be a little projected.

i am greatly aware of this phenomenon, and to outsiders i may seem a little flippant when it comes to my child’s injuries. i usually keep a calm facial expression, or mask it with a triumphal surprise. i’ll walk over if i can, and say something like, “whoa that looked harsh, you gonna live dude?” i try to stay cool on the outside, but on the inside i am, “oh no! oh no! oh no! this is bad, this is really really bad!” when someone witnesses my laisser faire parenting, i am perceived as a cold heartless, loathesome, vile, distasteful neanderthal of a human.  this may be true.   i am not trying to make my kids ignore the pain, i just don’t want them to feed the pain.

currently i have an injury that was not caused by trauma. it was not caused by a fall, a blow, a gunshot, or anything external.  i have achilles tendinitis which was caused by good old fashioned “over use”.  it happened on the very last day of my 837Km (520mile) bicycle tour that i did back in mid september. i had some knee issues, and butt issues, but there were no issues from my achilles during that whole week. it seemingly came out of no where. i was devastated when it happened, because i am no stranger to achilles problems.  i had achilles tendinitis long ago when i was on the x-country team in college.  i lost my two remaining seasons of competition because of it.  and now, i am deathly afraid of this injury and the down time it wreaks.  from the moment it happened i tried to nurture its cries. i knew that the mild pain was only a prelude to what was coming next.  i iced it, rested it, massaged it, and stretched. without failure the great pain arrived.  i’ll run or ride my bike a little to test its presence, and each time i do, it reminds me of its great existence.

so i’ve been injury free for about 14 years now. i’ve had some minor issues, like broken toes, stress fracture in the arm, acute knee injuries, but nothing to keep me away from cycling or running for too long. before this period, i would have long term injury after long term injury. even after the injuries were gone, i could still feel them. they never seem to go away.

i attribute my change, to a book i read a long time ago by dr. john sarno, “healing back pain: the mind-body connection”.  back then i didn’t have back pain, and i still don’t, but this guy had a very interesting theory regarding pain and the human body.  as i read his book i began to see parallels to to my own life of chronic running injuries.   i started practicing some of his simple theories and noticed that i could over come little pings and pokes from my legs just by just acknowledging them, treating them and moving on.  yes it does sound pretty simple, but the key for me was to not “feed” the pain.

the human body is incredibly resilient.  the body can mend broken bones in a matter of weeks,  it can heal from disastrous road rash,   it can beat cancer, and so much more.  so why is it that something as small as a sore achilles can linger around for months?  it doesn’t make sense to me given how quickly my body heals from external damage.  to be honest, i think my achilles healed about three weeks ago, but the pain i feel is just from me feeding the pain.  it was really injured at one point and i treated it, now it’s time to move on.

i may sound weird and unorthodox, but i have to learn to treat my injured body parts like i treat my injured kid’s.  so to my poor little achilles who works so hard to get me through life….”you’ll be alright, dude!…now harden the fuck up!”



i was riding my bike around downtown denver today looking for a place
to pick up some quick eats. it’s pretty fun riding a bike through the
metropolis in the middle of the day.  i passed a couple of eating
places along the way, but none of them really caught my heart.  as i
ventured out further into the city, i saw a sign for a neraby chinese
restaurant that was voted “best in lodo” [lodo is lower downtown].
that sounded kind of what i was looking for so i rode by really
slowly. then as i pulled into the little courtyard of this chinese
restaurant, i saw this japanese restaurant called yoko’s. i wasn’t
really thinking about japanese food prior to this, but now that i saw
this place, i was thinking nothing but japanese food.  i walked into
the place and was quickly ignored.  there were a few older japanese
women working there and the main one was busy taking care of another
customer who was ready to pay.  she was about 60-70 years old and had
the voice of someone who had smoked for most of those years.  but
through the gravel her voice was distinctively japanese.  i stood
there and waited…. and waited.  finally someone from the kitchen
popped her head out and said please have a seat. i picked one
seat..but didn’t like it so i got up and found a better one, one where
i could see my bike.

the place was indistinctly japanese.  with the exception of the ladies
who worked there… there was nothing japanese about this place. no
buda, no bamboo, no tatami mats, no pictures of mt fuji, just laminate
tables,  vinyl cushioned chairs, and a small painting of a
soaring eagle. this place was really like a diner.  you order your
food from the waitress, someone brings it out to you, then you pay at
the counter.

2 (1)

the menu was a little more japanese, it was printed on a light colored
paper with some kind of design on the background, but the choices blew
my mind.  they had more choices than any other place i’ve been to,
outside of japan.  i make this statement despite that fact that they
did not have sushi.  i know it’s kind of weird for a japanese
restaurant to not have sushi, but if you look at the place, it makes
total sense.  it’s run by a few older women, two in the kitchen, one
at the front counter, and one running around doing other stuff.
probably a bunch of women that had cooked every meal for their
families all their lives, and now that the home is empty and there is
no one to cook for they decided to open a restaurant and cook for
their friends and the rest of us.

1 (1)

i ordered a “salmon on rice”, that came with a salad and some miso
soup. and much like the restaurant where it was made, it was
different. there was no flash to it at all.  i know we all go to
japanese restaurants and expect fancy garnishings and elaborate plates
and bowls, but nothing here. just food, like it was being served to
you by your mother. i wish i had taken a picture of it, in it’s
simplistic beauty.  it was so appealing to just look at it.  the women
probably had no idea how much i appreciated it. out of respect for the
meal, i put away my phone, and closed my eyes as i chewed each and
every bite.

a few days ago, i was in a dialog with someone, about something. i don’t remember what it was.  the only thing i remember was that i was in a big hurry and the person i was talking to was not.  i had asked a 98 cent question, and received a $3.78 answer. oh god it was painful to sit there and wait for the answer to come out.  i felt so rude, because i was no longer listening, and just talking internally to myself about what a big waste of time this is.  after i left the conversation…this story popped in my head.

when i was a young kid about middle school age, my family used to build houses.  we built about 5 or 6 houses in the mountain, entirely by our selves, just my dad, my brother, and yours truly.  the first house we built, we had limited skills, and had to hire an occasional person to help teach us how to do some things. like my dads plumber friend who used to smoke pot in the truck as we all drove u to the building site. the drywall guy who was like a robot with a beer, cigarette, and a hammer.  then there was rg the brick mason.  i used to think his name was archie, but one day i saw how it was written, and changed my pronunciation before he noticed. i never used to really call him by his name anyway, because i was always a little afraid of him.

rg was actually a nice guy, but was very coarse. he talked to kids like he talked to adults.  he talked to adults like he was in a small bar in the middle of hell.  he was about 75 years old, big pot belly, and he swore a lot. he referred to everyone as “sarg” [with a j sound].  “how’s it going sarg?”, “hand me that hammer sarg”.  regularly used words like son of a bitch, cock sucker, and mother fucker…etc.   my brother and i used to laugh, because we couldn’t use any swear words, and here this guy was using them all.  every sentence was packed with profanity.

we hired him to do our fire place.  he was kind of old so we did most of the hard work and rg just laid the brick.  my brother mixed the mortar, and i would carry buckets of mortar and bricks up the scaffold and give them to rg.  i really liked doing this, because it was a little bit challenging and dangerous.  when we got near the end we were over 20 feet up.  rg was up at the top cursing and swearing by himself.  i guess me and my brother were a little too quiet for him, and he needed to talk.

the chimney was almost done and i was carrying one of my last loads.  as i dropped off the last pile of mortar, i asked rg if he needed anything else.  rg said, “i need five more bricks sarg!”

i looked at his pile of bricks and could see that he had 2 bricks in his pile, and one in his hand.  it was a long way up the scaffold and i was getting a little bit tired.  i didn’t want to make any mistakes, so i asked him,” do you mean five more bricks including the ones you already have, or five more in addition to the ones you already have?”

rg stopped what he was doing for a second, looked over at me and said, ” i don’t give a fuck how you figure it, just give me five bricks!”

i stood there kind of shocked for a moment, but then realized that i didn’t want to wait for anything else to come out of rg’s mouth.  i bolted down the scaffold so fast it must have looked like i was falling.  when i got down, my brother asked, “how many more bricks does he need?”

i said, ” i’m not sure but i’m bringing up five!”

this story has stuck in my head till this day.  i think of it all the time, and in my head i am frequently saying, “…just give me five bricks!”

the end