Stories

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Your Blog Won’t Make A Year

Get excited! Powerogre.com is now a year old, a year wiser, and statistically past the blog failure zone (most blogs die after 6 months, I have no source, go Google it). There have been some ups and some downs (literally, powerogre.com was 404 over a week in September 2010). Through it all, the article’s kept coming and so did the readers (all 15 of you).

It’s really not easy to blog consistently. To write even a short article usually takes an hour, and a longer article takes…longer. Writing is important to me however, if it weren’t, I wouldn’t spend my precious time doing it. The best way for me to understand/comprehend something is to write it in my own words. This is not to say that when I write about something here on Powerogre.com, I don’t understand it until I write it (If this were the case, it would be a particularly embarrassing revelation considering some of the stuff I have written about in the past), rather I mean that writing is a way for me to organize my thoughts, to see things in a different light, to express what is difficult to express except through written words.

So what does the future of Powerogre.com hold? It will make me rich beyond my wildest dreams (or poorer), it will solve the global climate change conundrum (or contribute to it), it might make you smarter (but certainly not stupider), and it will entertain you at the most opportune moments (or at least provide you with toilet paper if you are so inclined to print it out for bathroom reading material).

Thanks for reading,

Josh

It Was A Monster Scam

It was just another day on my European vacation and we were in Nice, France. By this time, I had adjusted a little to the fact that I was in a foreign land where I did not understand the language or the culture. Even with this handicap, my wife and I had managed pretty well for ourselves. Most people spoke enough English that we could make things work. It was mid morning and I was craving some caffeine. I knew of a little grocery in the winding narrow streets of old town Nice which sold Monster energy drinks; I had purchased one there the day before from the Greek man who owned the store.  I walked into the store and grabbed the ice cold can of Lo-Carb Monster Energy from the fridge. I walked towards the counter and was approached by an older overweight French woman with few teeth. She was holding some bottles of water, and when I approached she held them up and as far as I could tell, asked me if I worked there. I realized that the guy who owned the store was not inside; in fact I didn’t see him anywhere. When the lady realized I didn’t speak French she walked away still holding the water. Then she turned around and started pointing at my drink and motioning like she wanted to see it. I showed her what it was, and she then went over to the fridge I had just opened, and looked inside at the price. She walked towards me and said in very hard to understand English “3 euros, 3 euros”. I was a little hesitant, “Where is the guy who works here?” I asked, motioning to the counter and the cash register. She walked towards the counter and again asked for 3 euros with out-stretched hands and a mouth full of twisted, broken, and missing teeth. That was all I needed, in disgust I tossed the drink back in the fridge and breezed out of the store. About 30 minutes later, I returned to the very store, and purchased the very same Monster from the very same Greek man. The toothless woman was nowhere to be seen. I learned a valuable lesson that day, and was somewhat proud of myself for not getting swindled.

Feeling The Burn

It was a typical day in a typical year, and I was out mountain biking with my friends Moe and Jatt. It had been a good day; we got a lot of riding done in a short amount of time. It was Sunday evening so we couldn’t ride for more than a few hours seeing as we all had work the next day. During a breather about half way through the ride we started talking about bikes, and I began to brag about the handcrafted wheels I had purchased for my mine several years earlier. I specifically remember talking about how sturdy and problem free they had been all this time. You will see why this was ironic in a moment.

After chatting about bike stuff for a few more minutes, we hit the trails again, speeding up, down, and through the thick undergrowth of a typical Pacific Northwest forest. I was leading the charge and not really thinking about much except the trail ahead when I began to notice that my bike was acting funny, it seemed to be moving around on the trail, weaving like a drunk man. I stupidly concluded it was due to the steep angle of the trail and the loose dirt upon which I was riding. I remember starting to swoop down a short incline and then suddenly becoming airborne. For anyone who has crashed on a bike at high speed, you know the feeling of being set free from the saddle and sailing over the handle bars, awaiting the inevitable crash into pain. Lucky for me, the area I landed on was a steep incline. This eased my fall, and my momentum was transferred into an uncontrolled downhill tumble. Unlucky for me, the hillside was overgrown with a northwest favorite, Urtica Dioica, or Stinging Nettle to the normal people, and I rolled through the thickest section of it. After coming to a stop, I slowly sat up, checking to make sure I was ok, and as yet unaware of the fate that awaited me. My friends pulled up and asked if I was dead, it was then I realized that indeed I was not ok. Every section of my skin suddenly felt like it was on fire, from my face to my arms to my legs, and pretty much everywhere else. I was wearing shorts and short sleeves which had provided literally zero protection from the Nettle. I was in agony. I managed to extract myself from the nettle pit and claw my way to my bike, only barely noticing that the wheel I had bragged about only minutes earlier was totally shredded, spokes broken everywhere. My friends guided me back to the car which was only a short ways away, and home we went.

I do not like remembering that evening because it was one of the worst of my life. I tried every method of calming the nettle burn I could think of (and find on the internet). Nothing worked. On and on the burning went. I could not sit, or stand, or lie down, or do anything. It was horrible. Finally around 3 or 4 in the morning the burning faded enough for me to fitfully fall asleep. I awoke in the morning only long enough to call in sick to work, and then slept for several more hours. Mercifully once I woke up, the burning was pretty much gone. For the next several days I was constantly scratching the sections which had been covered with the most Nettles.

In the years that have passed, I have fearfully avoided Nettle at every turn. The few times I have been stung, the reaction seems to have been much worse than before my full body Nettle immersion. Apparently I have developed a sensitivity. Oh, I also bought new wheels for my bike, and when I am speeding down a hill, or around a corner, the thought will often cross my mind “I wonder when these wheels are going to give out?” Hopefully it won’t be near Nettles.

More Than I Could Chew

Several weeks ago I wrote a post about racing my mountain bike in the pro division of a local race, the Beezley Burn. Growing up, I heard the phrase “Don’t bite off more than you can chew” countless times. I received a firsthand lesson in this phrase over the past weekend.

The race was actually a two day event, with a short half hour sprint race on Saturday, and a 32 mile epic cross-country race on Sunday. Saturday dawned beautiful, although it was a bit on the windy side. The race was at 5PM so I had all day to think about it. As race time drew near I began to wonder about my decision so many weeks earlier to attempt this double header of races. Although I had ridden the full 32 mile distance on the cross country course a few weeks earlier, I did not have as much time to train as I would have liked, and I had been sick the week prior. I just did not feel my best. Nevertheless, here I was about to attempt what I had set out to do.

The short track race started promptly at 5 o’clock, and right away I was in last place. It felt as though I was peddling through molasses. Half of the course had us riding into a powerful headwind and this did not help. I managed to pass one racer, but after that I was only passed, in fact the winner of the race double-lapped me. The course was about a quarter mile loop, so lapping happened quickly. I finished the race, looked around, and rode home hoping I had not expended too much energy. I ate a large dinner of lasagna, bread, and ice cream, potentially my undoing.

Sunday rolled around and I headed to the starting line with around 12 other guys who were racing the 32 miles. Another group lined up behind us, this group was racing 24 miles and starting 2 minutes after we did. I began to wonder if 24 miles was more my style. Too late, the gun sounded and we were off down a gravel road, dust churning into the air and down my throat as I settled into last place. It was hot, and unlike Saturday there was no wind. The race took place on a sagebrush covered hillside with no hiding from the sun.

As the first lap flew by, I kept up a pretty rapid pace. I was by no means keeping up with the leaders, but I was doing alright. Lap number two started out well and passed pretty much as the first one had, up and down dusty, rocky, and treacherous terrain. I gulped down Gatorade and Clif bars attempting to refuel my rapidly diminishing energy stores. As the beginning of lap three rolled around, I felt the first sensations of cramping. No big deal I thought, I’ve ridden through cramps plenty of times. I kept riding, but slowed my pace to try and keep the cramps at bay. Lap three took forever. I had to stop several times when my legs cramped from top to bottom and made peddling impossible. I began to slowly eat all the food I had with me as slow as I could, but keeping something continuously going down my throat. I peddled into lap 4 in this manner and began the last 8 miles of the race. As I neared the section of the course where the hills began in earnest, I ran out of food and Gatorade. Almost simultaneously I was hit with a double leg cramp that knocked me off my bike. As I tried to regain control, I realized that there was just no way I would be able to make it through the last 8 miles. I did not want to be dragged off the course, and so I made the decision to turn around and get back while I still could. I slowly made my way back to the finish area and submitted my DNF, a humiliating experience, but better than being drug out on a stretcher.

As I think back over this experience, the words “Don’t bite off more than you can chew” kept popping into my head. I truly had done just that. I knew several days before the race that I was not feeling my best. I was tired and worn down, and had just been sick. “No excuses” I told myself, “Go out there and power through it”. I learned that some things just can’t be powered through. I will try again next year, train harder, ride faster, and actually finish.

Ft. Ebey Frustration

Sunday rolled into action which made it time for a mountain bike race on Whidbey Island, an island in Puget Sound in the great state of Washington. Once again the event was part of the Singletrack Cycles West Side Mountain Bike series presented by BUDU racing. The race took place at Ft. Ebey State park. The fort was build to protect against Japanese invasion during World War II, and many of the concrete bunkers and gun emplacements still survive. The Ft./Park also happens to have great mountain biking. To make it to the race on time, I had to get up quite early and take the Washington State Ferry across to the island. The day was grey and brooding with intermittent rain and wind. I really did not feel like racing for some reason, but pushed those doubts to the back of my mind and boarded the ferry. I had planned on grabbing coffee at a coffee shop near the ferry, but did not have time. Due to this, I spent most of the drive to the race trying to find an espresso stand. Finally, only a few miles from the race location I found a coffee shop and fueled up. Starting a race without coffee would have been disastrous.

As the race time drew near, I just didn’t feel 100%. Maybe it was the cold dark morning, maybe it was the fact I was still tired from the last week. I was dragging. As I started to warm up, I realized that my bike was having a gear shifting issue. I attempted to diagnose and fix the problem, but the race was close to starting and I did not want to make things worse by messing around with it. I did a quick adjustment and hoped things would work, at least till I finished. I grouped at the starting area with the other riders and waited.

Go! I burst off the starting line and into the pack as we sprinted down the starting straightaway, around a sharp corner, and then down, down, down, into a ravine. Almost instantly we hit a steep hill, and it was up, up, up, out of the ravine. The entire course would prove to be the same wildly fluctuating up and downs. I attempted to pace myself in the beginning and wait for a chance to make my move. I settled into a rhythm, and passed racer after racer, mashing up the hills, and screaming down the other side. There were some wide open downhill stretches where speed was quick in building. I started to feel pretty good, and increased my speed. Climbing some short hills, I attempted to shift gears to tackle a longer hill looming in the distance. Snap! I looked down at my broken chain. Instantly my heart dropped. Fixing a broken chain on the trail has never been a task I was very good at. I dutifully started working on fixing the problem. As rider after rider rolled past, many of them offered help, or asked if I needed anything. After struggling for several minutes, I dropped the small pin which connects each link in the chain. I realized that by the time I was able to get the issue fixed, I would be lapped and out of contention. I pushed my bike the few miles back to the finish area and swallowed my first DNF. A frustrating day to say the least, but there is always another day, and another race. I will be back.