Friday, June 17, 2011

The Curse

As a Chicago Cubs fan, I am no stranger to the curse. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, allow me to enlighten you...

In 1945, the Cubbies were actually a good team. In that year, they made it to the playoffs and World Series despite the ravages of WWII. Their opponents were the Detroit Tigers and the series was looking good. Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs, was very friendly to the locals, some of which brought their pets to the stadium. Well, this dude named Billy brought his goat to the game. (Don't laugh too hard, this is true). I don't know how much you know about goats, but they are not the most pleasant smelling animals. Other people in the stadium noticed this as well. It didn't matter that the goat had attended more games than most of the spectators at the game, the fans were not happy with the odor. They complained and the goat got kicked out. Billy was outraged and handed down a most foul curse inciting that the Cubs would never win another World Series. The Tigers won that year. So far, Billy has been right and we Cubs fans are sitting on 103 years of World Series drought.

Is the curse real? I have no idea. The last time the Cubbies won a series was in 1908 but the curse wasn't implemented until 37 years later. This would be construed as evidence against a specific curse. But, its been more than 50 years since the goat incident and still no wins. We Cubs fans are every resilient and optimistic. This kind of matches my Ironman racing. I've been no where near the ultimate goal of qualifying for Kona. It's not looking good this year either. In true Cubbie fashion, "Maybe next year." Plus, if I do really crappy this year, I'll get a better draft pick for the 2012 season. I've got that going for me.

My Curse
I am currently a city dweller. Living in town has its advantages. Everything is close by: groceries, fuel, bike shops, entertainment, etc. You name it, we've got it in less than 20 minutes away. Like everything else, there are positives and negatives. The laws of supply and demand state that the reason everything is close by is that there are many people willing to stop in.

The population reveals a trickle-down effect. Cities beget people. People need a means to get from point A to B (we are a lazy bunch and hate walking). That means the government builds roads. But, since there are many people trying to get to different places, sometimes those roads cross each other. This creates other problems, such as road rage. The solution? Traffic control devices. If it is a small, not so busy area, stop signs litter the corners. If there is a larger route with more wheels, a stop light will glisten the intersection with its pretty, bright colors of red, yellow, and green.

I'm pretty sure that the stoplights have a fully functioning mind with the ability to sense their environment. Yes, I know about the underground sensors that monitor traffic flow, but I'm talking about something deeper. I think that the traffic light gods emparted these devices with an evil, vengeful soul. And, they all hate ME.

Why they hate me I do not know. It is quite obvious, based on their behavior, that I have angered one or more of their kind. Either that, or someone in my family abused a light many a year ago and I have inherited their problem. Traffic lights have made it apparent that they want me to stop. Often. I would say that I bat roughly .900 when it comes to hitting a red light. Only roughly 10% of the time will I be blessed by a green or yellow.

I admit that maybe the lights just like me. It's indeed possible that the reason a signal will turn red at my approach, without any cross traffic or other discernible reason, is that they prefer my company at all hours of the day. This doesn't make much sense to me. I'm not so good looking. I'm kind of boring. I'm a bit weird. Maybe the lights have some sort of Banter fetish. Something about me works on the Wife, so why is it so hard to accept that the lights might actually like me too? Because the Wife does nice things for me. The lights... not so much. They will stop me at the worst times, like when I'm late for work or rushing to the hospital with a metal spike hanging out of a limb (ok, this has not actually happened yet but I fear the worse).

Once in a while, I will commute separate from the Wife. We work at the same place but will oft have differing schedules. We'll leave at the same time. I'm ever the gentleman and allow the lady to go first. She drives and I follow, albeit not too closely. I like to give women their space, even while driving. More times than not, she will hit a green and I will get stopped. I have the curse. She is curse free.

Other Consequences of the Curse
Since I live in an urban environment, training while cursed sucks. I estimate that I must bike about 7 miles in any direction to find a 1-mile stretch of road that is stoplight free. That 7 miles of stop-and-go training is infuriating. It's hard to get into a nice groove if you have to unclip every tenth of a mile. It drives my Garmin batty, making it record average speeds that are insultingly slow compared to my perceived ability. I estimate that each stop reduces my average speed by 0.1 mph. This doesn't seem like much until you accumulate 15 stop lights on the way out and 15 on the way back. That's a 3.0 mph change in velocity. Sometimes, focusing on the numbers is depressing.

It's not all negative. When you get angry and frustrated, your body's autonomic nervous  system activates the sympathetic pathways. This is commonly referred to as the 'fight or flight' nervous response. As part of this response, your breathing deepens bringing in more oxygen. Your metabolism speeds thus burning fat more readily. Your glands release hormones, such as adrenaline, that increase power output. I call this the 'chemically enhanced warm-up'. Warming up appropriately aids in muscle readiness for when the real work kicks in.

On the way back, the stop lights keep me from grinding at high heart rates. Now that the workout is done, I'm in need of some lower intensity work. It's hard to be intense when you are staring down the multi-colored triclops with its red eye illuminated. My body's response mimics that of an ideal, low impact cool down.

When I'm racing, the streets are generally guarded by uniformed officers. The official USAT rules require that we obey all traffic laws. Traffic laws require that we stop at all lights, which are inevitably red upon my approach. By placing a cop at the intersection, the law states that the officer's instructions trump that of the stop light. This is sort of a curse work around. I giggle at the light. Sometimes, I can envision stopping just to fuel the adrenaline-induced rage. It's like free steroids that USAT cannot ban.

The Curse works in mysterious ways. If you should happen to commute with me (or behind me), be prepared to stop. If we are working out together, be prepared to stop. There is no expectation of a green light to be had. The average person spends roughly 6 months waiting at red lights during the course of a lifetime. I'm raising the mean and I don't like it. If anyone knows of a good witch doctor that specializes in eradication of curses, please let me know. I need a break from the red.

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