Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day everyone! Not only is Independence Day an awesome movie--one of Will Smith's greatest in my opinion--but its the Day that the Continental Congress signed the Declaration of

Independence (a little history factoid: the Declaration of Independence was actually proposed to the Congress on the 1st of July but in true congressional fashion it sat around for three days while the representatives procrastinated and debated. Some things never change). Even though America might be the land of the free, I think a lot of people in America and around the world for that matter are still living under the despotic rule of a pretty horrendous King. No, I am NOT talking about Barack Obama--I leave politics out of my blog as much as possible--I am referring to the mental despot that is dictating our lives.

For me, this was King ED. To put it bluntly, Ed was and still is an asshole. He was overpowering, self centered, and obnoxious. He dictated everything that I did from what I ate, how much I exercised, whom I hung out with, even what thoughts I "should" and "should not" have. Like other dictators too, he filled me with lies about grandeur and how great his leadership was. In true dictator fashion, he was obsessed with numbers. If the numbers were good, then he wanted more. If they were bad, then lord help those in his wrath. Whenever I questioned him, he would tell me that I was better off under his rule than the alternative and much better than where I was before his "leadership."

I lived under King Ed's fascist regime for about 8 years until like the Founding Fathers decided that I had out grown him. I had enough of his lies and manipulations, so I revolted and submitted this Declaration of Independence to him.
Dear King Ed,
You are a jerk. I have had enough of your lies, mental taxation without representation, and rule. You have done nothing for my well being. In fact, I think you have brought down my well being since taking control. You say that I am better off with you than without, but I disagree. You have brought me nothing but misery, limiting my ability to grow, explore, and overall be happy. Consequently, from this point on, I am declaring myself free from your tyrannical rule.
It is far from the artful prose of Thomas Jefferson, but it got the point across. We have been at war ever since. He has a few mental sympathizers still lurking in the deep crevices of my mind, who occasionally try to wrestle power away from me and my new government. Thanks to my "minute men" I have been able to fight them off for the most part.

If you haven't  guess I am of course talking about eating disorders, but mental tyranny exists everywhere. Regardless of whether it has a become a disorder or not, we all struggle with some form of captivity be it a substance, habit, social pressure, or fear. Today, I encourage you to write your own declaration of independence, overthrow that tyrant, and set up your own free mental society. This is America, damn it, and we, as cognoscente humans, have the freedom to do it but thats just my two watts.

A footnote about the Fourth of July to those not in the know:
America did not become "A-MEHR-ica" till recently. In fact, the more patriotic you are the less syllables America has. Usually, in true American fashion, we mark today with parades, cookouts, and fireworks. After all there is nothing more American than long lines of expensive cars (an American invention) with beautiful people riding in them, grilled processed meat from industrialized food plants (another American invention) washed down with Budweiser, the "king" (another tyrant if you ask me) of American beers, and blowing shit up in the sky (we did not invent fireworks. Those were (and are) still made in China, like 90% of American goods including those American flags and t-shirts you see everywhere). Anyway, have a great fourth of July.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Retail Confidential: A Diary of a Shop Rat

Sunday marked my last day of work at the triathlon store that I have called my office for the past year. To be honest, I am going to miss it a bit. My everyday work life resembled a mix of "$h!T triathletes say"

(and yes, I kid you not, almost every line in that video was said at least once over the past year),  and "Office Space" with me playing the Michael Bolton character. This clip accurately displays my commute fairly well:

The job had lots of perks that you cannot get in any other profession. While I may not have gotten health care, I got great bike care. I could get items at cost instead of the over inflated sticker price found at most stores and online dealers. If I wanted to race a sold out event that the shop was sponsoring, the entry bib was there waiting for me. The fully paid trip to Vegas for InnerBike was also a blast.

Got questions? Just ask the 8 ball

Pre race bike tune ups aside, I think I am going to miss working with the customers the most. I met a wide range of athletes from beginners, to seasoned back of the packers (and proud of it, these were my favorite customers because they were in the sport for pure enjoyment without any care for external gratification), to true weekend warriors, to elite age groupers, to pros. While it's not curing cancer or feeding the homeless, through bike fits, pre-race pep talks, and training advice, I'd like to think that I helped athletes enjoy the sport more. Chances are, no, but one can hope I made some impact. While many consider the retail world as not a "respectable" profession, and look down upon it, seeing it as a dead-end job without growth, I would say I have grown considerably over the past year.

Primarily, the retail world has taught me quite a bit about the triathlon industry and also reinforced concepts that I already knew. Primarily, no money in the world can buy you significant speed; only training can do that. Don't misread me here. I am not saying that the P5, Speed Concept, or even the DA are not fast bikes because they are. When put into a wind tunnel, they have some of the best aerodynamics in the bike world, but all those test (or at least the ones you usually see floating around the internet) come with a catch: they were performed WITHOUT the rider. Once you throw an untrained, slightly, overweight middle aged second year triathlete onto the gel pad covered saddle, the benefits between the bikes begin to average out.

Good equipment helps for sure especially if having nice stuff gets you motivated to train more. Good equipment will also shave off precious minutes from your time. However, at the end of the day, you can give the slowest person in the world a P5 and he will still be the slowest person in the world without training.

Moreover, when it comes to the really nice equipment, a large part of that price tage comes from the name on the side. Yes, Zipp wheels and Cervelo bike are really nice, and I would buy them if I could. However, there are other bikes that can go just as fast if not faster for half the price tag. You also do not need Zipps wheels for your commuter bike (we had a customer who did ask).

Moving to the other side of the counter is going to be an odd transition, but at least now, I can now fully respect the strains, and work that the person checking me out goes through on a daily basis and thus hopefully be a better customer myself. Instead of an "A+ type" personality, I should tone it down to a C or C-; these people are trying their best to not only serve me but everyone else too. They are not trying to consciously sabotage your race.

Although customers may not have learned a lot from the advice and tips that I gave them, I definitely learned a lot from them. I now know to make sure to always wear my most recent race finisher t-shirt when shopping. I may have to keep a few in the car just in case I need to pop into the store for an inner tube. If I was not wearing at least one piece of triathlon apparel or compression clothing, employees and more importantly other customers would not be able to recognize me as a triathlete. If I completely forget one day, I can only hope that they notice my m dot or your 13.1 bumper sticker on the back of your car. If all else fails, my license plate vanity tag of "IronXY" "2xIrnmn" or "3lete" should convey the message.

Working at the shop has also taught me valuable life skills, like changing an inner tube in record time, singing "My life will go on" in Mongolian (our Mongolian mechanic is a fan as well), how to sanitize, clean, and deodorize a wetsuit that has been in the Hudson river, the best homeopathic cures for saddle sores, and the list goes on.

If anything, I now know the importance of brick and mortar stores. While, eBay, and the like have some killer deals, they cannot provide the service, support and atmosphere that a store can.
I hope I am leaving this brick and mortar in better shape then when I found it but that is just my two watts.