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Sunday, May 3, 2015

"Honey, I'm going skating..."

Dear Readers,

Friday afternoon, I uttered these words,"Honey, I'm going skating.." words I haven't spoken in well over twenty years, as I headed off to the smaller of Newark's two skate parks...

Let me rewind a bit.

A week earlier in a fit of frustration and rage, and pretty much ready to sell all my bikes, I ordered a new skateboard. I applied the logic that I didn't need to pedal, just roll and pump, so it shouldn't aggravate my knee. In shopping I was excited to find there was a market for larger old school shaped board.. I found one from Black Label Skateboards that had exactly what I was looking for...
BL Lucero skateboard.. OJ wheels, Indy trucks... 

Somewhere after ordering the board, I decided that this was a bad idea, and frankly could only make my current knee situation worse. I checked in at AHTMB, and saw that ole Stevil at pretty much destroyed himself skating. I had made up my mind that no way was I going to skate. It was a bad purchase and I'd get Fort James to help me Ebay it as soon as it came in.

But then it arrived, and it took all of 2 seconds for me to speak these words, "honey, I'm going skating!"

As we parked at the small skate park along the Newark Bike Path, Diane, who came along, "in case things go horribly wrong" looked at me stone cold serious and said" it's my birthday we aren't spending this evening in the emergency room. Have fun, don't get hurt!"

When I got to the park there were 2 dudes on bikes, and another dude skating. I walked up and said, hey guys can I work in?" The guys were all very cool. "Sure thing." the skater said. I cautioned them, "I haven't ridden a skateboard in 20 years, this could go really badly." They all laughed. I rolled down the bank, and carved around the park. I went to the quarter pipe and pumped for the top. I did a kick turn and cruised across the park and  back up the bank with a huge smile on my face. I was SCARED TO DEATH, but euphoric at the same time. I couldn't believe how fast concrete was, how smooth the park was- how FUN it was. I was totally stoked. One of the BMX dudes looked at me and said," for twenty years man, that looked pretty good!" And then I just worked in with them.

It took me 5 more passes before I could finally get my rear truck to hit the coping and grind. It may have been the world's smallest grind, but I heard it and felt it in an oddly familiar way. As I rolled across the flat of the park  I could feel the smile explode across my face. I was grinning like a Cheshire Cat.
the smile after the first grind.  should have had a helmet on-
 this was not the most thought out plan...
Diane snapped some pictures and laughed at me. What's up with those crazy arms failing? Admittedly, there were a few times that I was kind out of control. 20 years ago, I prided myself on being smooth, today I prided myself in not having to be taken out on a back board!

After hitting a few more grinds, I jogged up the quarter and set up to drop in. "Easy there cowbody!" Monkey said to me. "you're going good, let's not push our luck too much!" I agreed. I left the park that night exhausted, sweaty and totally stoked. I can't really do any tricks, I can't push (similar to the pedal motion for goofy-footed me)  but I can carve. That is amazing.

The next two mornings I was up early and headed down to the larger park in Newark (Barksdale). Funny thing at 7am I had the park to myself both days. Diane jokingly called it the coffee grind.
Love it.
most aero dynamic helmet at the park.  Sachs hat too. 
Coffee Grind! Get it!
I would just take long runs carving around the park. 10 minutes at shot. Grind on a the two quarter pipes, get speed on the bumps... It was fantastic. I was terrified. I was stoked, and even now as I type this exhausted from skating, I am smiling ear to ear. I am also already scheming about skating sometime next week.
Diane took a spin around the park this morning herself! 
I am hopeful that my knee continues to improve and I dream about riding my bike and climbing and racing and all the adventures I love having on my bike - but you know I had a ton of fun skating this weekend. And so long as I can't ride you know where you can find me: at the coffee grind!

thanks for reading.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Set Back

Dear Readers,

I've had a bit of a set back in my recovery. To some extent both physical and mental. I've taken myself off the bike again, although I'm not 100% sure that's right...

let me explain...

Cycling and Racing have always been interlocked for me. As I have documented on the Cuter than James Franco Blog, my first mountain-bike ride was a race. I had struggled early on in this injury with decoupling racing and riding. I had gotten pretty comfortable with the idea that I wouldn't be racing this year. Frankly, I feel like I was able to work through that pretty well.

Physically, I had been improving. Following 6 weeks off the bike, I started with 3 weeks of very easy riding, graduating to 3 weeks of endurance paced riding.

The first week of endurance riding was joyous. I rode middle run for the first time marshaling and sweeping the Enoch Lee Run. I did an amazing group ride on the canal roads and lums. I racked up 6 hours that week. My best since January. Best of all- the knee felt great, I was losing a little more weight. I felt great. I was stoked, and hope was bountiful.

The second week of endurance riding, things went to shit. I did a ride that was my hardest climbing wise since January, but not crazy, and I rode at a reasonable pace. I kept myself in check. Before the ride my knee was a little achy, the night after the ride it had gone to shit. Bad feedback as my doctor called it-  I did too much. Maybe the barometric pressure set off my knee. Maybe I did too many steps. Fuck, I have no idea.  I hate trying to figure out what caused it to go to shit. So I took a couple days off. The knee was sore the entire time, and tried to ride again on Friday. Again, I could do the ride, no pain- but it wasn't right... It was still weird.. not normal... Same kinda of not normal all weekend, so I didn't ride. I did wallow in my own mire a bit. And after not drinking for a couple of months, I may have done a cannonball back into that pool. Not my best look.

So I pulled the plug again. Mentally, I still have hope, but I find myself in a bit of a quandry... I can ride but should I ride?  I don't really want to play a game of see how close to the line I can go with our causing negative feedback and a setback. I am gambling on just staying off and letting everything heal before I start again. I want to ride, I miss it, It's part of who I am, but I hoping I'm better off just staying off the bike all together and resting. I keep repeating my new mantra: RICE Rest, ICE, Compression and Elevation.  I want to walk around without a weird feeling knee. I want to be able to ride a bike and ride a bike, not soft pedal everything...

I recognize I haven't been the most pleasant guy to be around, because if nothing else, I'm not sure what the next steps are... I'm a pretty easy guy, I'm hard wired for goals. I like to think I'm pretty Gritty, and look for the long haul. It doesn't seem like I have a clear recovery path here. That's very frustrating. The million dollar ride has been my anchoring goal all spring- and frankly I think that's out now. I don't want to play lets push the line. I'm just staying of the bike for a bit. I'll admit that has me struggling a bit...

Look, I have an amazing wife, who has been a saint lately. great family and great friends. Perhaps at this time I am meant to be 180lb dude, who used to ride bikes. Who knows. I have been getting some of the honey dew list tackled.  I have a training seminar I've been looking forward to, it's half priced nacho night, and I have fully operational garage doors. So, I've got that going for me.

Strange days indeed...

And so, that's my world right now...

thanks for reading.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Wednesday is half priced nacho night...

Dear Readers,

Wednesday is half priced nacho night.

Nachos have been half priced  on Wednesday nights at Deer Park Tavern in Newark, as long as I can remember. It has certainly been a thing longer than the 24+ years than Monk and I have been together. Half Priced Nacho Night is one of our traditions. Oh, when we started going it was as part of a larger group of friends- usually after a ride. Over the years we've met friends and been happy to introduce them to half priced nachos. When Diane was out of work, it was a $5 meal that we could afford, enjoy and share. We look forward to it... We don't go every week, but often enough.
Photo via food spotting
This last week, we made the call over coffee as we got ready for work. It was a plan we were excited about. We were, dare I say,  stoked for half priced nacho night. Throughout the day, we sent each other emails: "Do you know what day it is?" " what's on Wednesday and awesome?"  That's right, half priced nacho night! We laughed about it...

So Wednesday night, our young server came to our table and she explained the menu. She reviewed the specials and said, "tonight is half priced nacho night." I smiled at Diane and said, "did you hear that honey, it's half priced nacho night. What a surprise!  That sounds very good, I think we are in!"

the young server looked at me like I was stranger than I actually am.

I explained, "we've been emailing each other all day about half priced nachos, it's been a tradition for us for at least 20 years or so."

The server looked totally disgusted.
Photo via my I Phone

It was a little awkward.

I asked her, "is it that strange that we would swap emails all day and get excited about nachos?" "Is there something about the nacho quality we should know about?"

the server smiled and said, "of course not, the nachos are great, but I can't believe you guys were emailing each other. Why wouldn't you just text? I mean, isn't texting better?

Everyone Laughed...

she continued, "so I'm guessing you're in for nachos any drinks?"

more smiles...

by the way, the nachos were great Wednesday night.

thanks for reading.


Monday, April 20, 2015

5 things I learned about riding after not being able to ride a bike for 6 weeks

Dear Readers,

So I'm slowly working back on the bike. I love to train, but I have found this spring that I love to ride my bike even more. That might sound counter intuitive, but in recent years, I may have lost sight of that a bit. My knee, and my fitness are slowly but steadily progressing. I've got a ways to go, but I'm enjoying the ride. Here are a few a things I have learned coming back to the bike in the past few weeks.

5. My butt can't handle the truth.
I love my specialized saddles. After six weeks, I jumped on the bike and the saddle violated me. I had a entire new respect for the term "ass hatchet".  A few weeks later it's starting to get a but, I mean a  bit better...  Got to get my tail end used to that again...

4. Pro move is to ride when it's nice.
It's hard to be sitting on the couch doing nothing, when your friends are all riding. After one of my best Januarys ever, I admit I was totally freakin' out watching my weight go up and my fitness evaporate. My friend Kris pointed out- "February and most of March sucked for riding this year, no one really wanted to be training then- the pro move was to be hurt and then start riding and getting stronger as the weather breaks." I gotta say, as usual Auer is right about this one.

Photo By Benny da Jewlar

3. Lemonade Rides are awesome.
Never take a good ride for granted. Even a bad ride is better than no ride. The first week I was back I could only ride 20 minutes, and slowly worked up to an hour over a few weeks. That first 20 minutes was terrifying and wonderful. The feeling of riding, and moving and... Well you know, you probably wouldn't be reading this "Cuter than James Franco Blog" if you didn't have a sense of or know how wonderful riding bikes is... My buddy Karl, who I didn't get to ride with nearly enough in the past few years has called these rides Lemonade rides. Karl has looked after me a number of times while I was trying for another mile stone ride. This after Shane tried to mail me a lemon in the mail, but it was returned to sender by USPS!  Some of the rides I've done this spring  may not have been the rides I envisioned in January, but they maybe have been sweeter than I had expected. 

Thanks to Buddy, Alan, Blake , Kita and Benny who came out to ride with me last weekend. 
Kita opening up a can of whoop ass on me again!

2. Ride what makes you happy.
You know, gears are faster than single speeds. Suspension forks are faster than rigid forks. There's probably a good argument these days that full suspension is faster than hard-tail. But you know what, I'm not racing this year. I have always loved the feeling of a rigid forks. I appreciate the precision of them, how light they make the bike, and how well they fly out of corners. With no plans race this year, I have set my bike up how I like to ride it best, and that has made all the difference.

1. Riding with my wife is the best. (DUH!)
Perhaps you have noticed an uptick in the number of Monkey and Fatmarc pictures on my second favorite social media platform- Instagram. Diane is my absolute favorite person to ride bikes with.  A lot of times it's just us goofing around on fire-roads, talking about the world and taking it in. A couple of weeks ago we were racing each other around Lums pond, chopping each other in corners and dicing it up. It was awesome. Between Diane and my injuries these opportunities aren't always as frequent as we'd like, so I'm gonna grab them when I can. .Not being able to ride with Diane was a bummer, and frankly has made being able to ride with her, that much more special. I am a lucky man.

thanks for reading.


Monday, April 13, 2015

Tough Weekend

Dear Readers,

tough weekend...

here's some pictures that made us smile:


Joe making this look really good at Baker's...

Craig, Beth, Megan and Johnny at someplace called the sugar shack. I WANNA GO! 

thanks for reading


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Two Bike Rides

Dear Readers,

Eight weeks ago, when I was advised to take 4-6 weeks off the bike, I for various reason decided to stop drinking beer at the same time. If  was gonna be miserable not riding, I might as well be really miserable and not enjoy beer too.  To be honest, I really haven't missed it. (the beer, I hate not riding)

Thankfully, twelve days ago, I was able to start riding very easily and very slowly. I can't push, I can't go fast, and I'll admit I'm scared and oddly conscious of my knee the entire time I'm riding. But it is glorious. Mentally, I've turned a corner even if I'm wicked slow right now. I can't train yet, but riding is a big step for me. Riding a bike is amazing. In someways this experience has been entirely frustrating and awful, in someways it has reminded me how awesome just riding a bike is. I mean more frustrating than not, but what the fuck, life gives you lemons, you gotta look on the bright side of death . Am I right? Riding is awesome.

Last Friday, Good Friday was my first single track ride since January. My buddy Karl kept me honest as we weaved our way around the loop at Lums Pond. It was the first time I've ridden for an hour since my injury AND IT WAS JOYOUS.  But I will say this, as Karl and I finished up, it was the first time in eight weeks that I craved a cold beer. Some where in my mind mountain biking and beer are connected.  Gotta wonder what the psychology is behind that...

Saturday afternoon, I was still stoked from my Friday ride. Monk and I met Buddy for a quick fire road ride from Newark to the ticking tomb. It was a windy, but a good ride. Buddy and Diane looked after me, as I was fighting in the wind a bit more than I wanted.

Diane was on her cross bike, as her mountain-bike is currently out of commission.  As we got to one of the more techy sections, Diane went to the front as we came up on a runner.

The runner saw Diane on a cross bike and exclaimed, "She's killing it on a cross bike! YEAH!" Buoyed by the cheers, Diane, who really hasn't spent much time on her cross bike for two years, settled in and cruised through the section. In doing so, she put me into the hurt locker. She looked back and sat up making sure that she didn't drop me.  We made the turnaround, and embraced  the tail wind which I was cursing a few minutes earlier when it was a headwind. Monkey, Buddy and I worked our way back to town. Not dicey, not froggy, not fast, but moving at a fun pace. It was awesome...

Sadly, our ride was cut a bit short as we came upon a downed branch with lots of limbs. Buddy, Diane and I were riding three a breast. Buddy and I quickly moved to the edges. Diane decided to hop the gnarly branch, but forgot to actually get her rear wheel in the air. From my vantage point to the left of her it was less of a bunny hop and more of a steam roller.  The branch exploded and launched into her back wheel which for lack of better terms blew up.  Seven spokes destroyed, 3 more bent...

"I tried to hop it!" she exclaimed as Buddy and I laughed...

"Looked more like a snow plow..." Buddy said.

"Do you think I can twist a few spokes and ride it in?" Diane asked laughing..

"Sure, a 12 spoke wheel will work fine!" I encouraged.

we all laughed. Buddy and I set out to get the car and pick up Monk, while she worked on her shouldering technique.

Riding bikes is awesome.

thanks for reading..


Thursday, March 26, 2015

leadership lesson you won't find in a text book

Dear Readers,

Near 20 years ago I got my first promotion to a  management position. I was the youngest supervisor on the floor of the bank credit card center. I had a lot of energy, and while I had not managed people before, I had been a coach and somewhat of a natural motivator. Initially,  I had 20 employees reporting to me and after a short period my call center team quickly rose through the ranks in pretty much every statistic that was measured.

I was young. I had fun. I made jokes and I think I inspired my team. My team, and the bulk of the call center was young, so having a common nomenclature was big advantage for me. While many of the other supervisors used carrot and the stick tactics, I treated everyone as an individual and challenged them to be their best.

I was young and a new supervisor. My desk, and my team's work area were strategically placed near the manager and vice president's office. While no one ever told me, I kinda suspected that I was there so they could keep an eye on me. That was cool with me.

One Monday morning, one of the reps that reported to me, came into the office super excited. Her name was Rita. Rita came straight over to my desk beaming.

"how was your weekend?" I asked her.

Rita replied, "it was amazing, I had such a great time. I got my first tattoo, I LOVE IT!"

"Congratulations! " I replied to her.

Before I knew what happened Rita followed up asking, "would you like to see it?"

With out thinking I answered, " Sure I would love to see it!"

Rita standing between me and the Vice President's office, turned around bent over and pulled down her skirt. Rita revealed her new tribal tattoo on the very low back. The tattoo was well done, but she also showed just a bit more of Rita than I wanted to or expected to see. I felt my face turning red with embarrassment I realized how badly I had blown this exchange.

I looked up and saw the Vice Present looking out the office at me, and Rita essentially mooning me on the floor. His eyes as big as saucers.

Rita turned back around still really excited and asked, "what do you think?"

Still somewhat shocked, embarrassed and frankly not sure what to say, "ah, it looks great! congrats"

I pretty much figured that I was about to be fired. I sat at my desk and just sweated it out.

Two hours later I got a call from the Vice President. "Marc, can you come down to my office?"

I walked down to his office and walked in. I was pretty damn sure I was about to have my last day.

"I understand that one of your employees wanted to share her new tattoo with you?" he asked.

"yes, sir" I responded. I looked down at the floor and braced myself for what was about to happen next.

"Son, in the future if someone asks you if you want to see their new tattoo, you respond by asking,"where did you get it ?"  He said to me.

"Do I make myself clear? " he asked firmly.

"yes sir, I absolutely." I said looking up, and for the first time thinking I wouldn't need to apply for unemployment.

"get back out of the floor with your team..." the vice president said.

"yes, sir!" I said and I scampered out of his office...

thanks for reading.