Friday, January 29, 2010

Nice buns

I don't often compare myself to a thoracic surgeon who reads David Sedaris and has sex with underwear models, but that's what I'm doing today.

I, too, have a job where a bad day is disastrous and hobbies where a bad day is still pretty good.

I tell funny stories for a living, and I race triathlons and bake artisanal bread for fun. True, nobody ever died from joke failure (not literally, anyway). Then again, you don't hear a lot of stories about a levain batard smacking anyone around with his own golf club. (No handy allegory involving racing and Sedaris, but I needed him to make the numbers add up.)

Yesterday I tried combining my two hobbies. One came out perfectly and the other didn't, meaning both came out perfectly. I love bread and racing math.

Forgive me if I've mentioned this already (no … just deal with it if I repeat myself, because that's kind of what I do); I'm fortunate enough to be swimming under the guidance of Iian Mull, who went to the Atlanta Olympics with Team USA among other staggering palmares, and the very best of coaches according to his father, Rich Mull, who until Iian was the very best coach I'd ever worked with.

So for yesterday Iian scheduled our class's first 500-yard time trial. Hey! Perfect! I have a score to settle with the 500, and I know I've mentioned that before. I want to close it out in 7:30. That's still a tall order for me, so I figured I could use a little help. Maybe I could goose my odds by racing head-to-head with my friend Brian, who is of similar ability and trains in a different section of Iian's class. I formed a plan:

Brian likes my bread. So I threw down the gauntlet. If Brian would shift his Wednesday time trial to race it against me on Thursday, I'd have a loaf of bread waiting. He beat me, he'd get the bread. I beat him, Iian would get the bread.

Brian couldn't make the shift to Thursday. But it got even better. Jessie got wind of it and volunteered to pace me. I met Jessie during my class with Rich. In addition to being instantly likeable and ridiculously fast and graceful in the water (she's a former collegiate swimmer), she's also very generous with her time and talent. She offered to come and pace me.

The only downside - that Iian no longer had a prayer of a chance at the bread now - was easily rectified by making more bread.

Jessie did her part perfectly, but I touched the wall in 7:48, still equal to my best but a long 18 seconds short of what I wanted. Failure? Hardly. I learned a lot about exactly where things fall apart for me (a little too fast in the first 100 followed by a little too slow in the second 100, which is the crucial interval that sets the pattern for the remaining 300). I learned that the difference between my flip-turns and Jessie's flip turns can amount to as much as a body length or two, which can quickly add up in terms of distance or oxygen consumption from sprinting to catch up. A "failed" time trial that yields this kind of education can only be deemed a success, like a loaf that collapses in the oven into something that looks like a horse turd but still tastes like sourdough rosemary-olive oil bread.

Which is exactly how Jessie's and Iian's bread tasted - but didn't look. That one, that time, I nailed it.

Now it's back to more training and more baking. Because neither the 7:48 nor those two loaves of rosemary-olive oil are going to last long.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Seeing double

So, barely two weeks after my column on how my 2010 season was still wide open, things have gelled. And by gelled, I mean gelled like the sports drink you forgot about in the bottom of the bottle you forgot about in your gear bag. By which I mean not bad, but interestingly.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have not just a season but a theme. Over years of being the Frazz creator and the VeloNews Cartoonist and the Inside Triathlon and Triathlete columnist and now Trizophrenia author and blogger, I've made some awesome friends who happen to direct equally awesome events, and evidently bamboozled them into believing I'm interesting enough to invite to their races. I'll list the events, and you can try and find the pattern:

April 10-11: Swim F.A.S.T. Escape Your Limitations, San Francisco. Saturday, swim Alcatraz to San Francisco; Sunday, swim across the Golden Gate.

July 9-11: Musselman, Geneva, NY. Saturday, Mini-Mussel sprint triathlon; Sunday, Musselman half-iron. (And most likely the Micro-Mussel on Friday, but that screws up the pattern.)

Aug. 14-15: Luray Triathlon, Luray, Va. International/Olympic-distance triathlon Saturday, sprint triathlon Sunday.

Sept. 18-19: Savageman, Deep Creek Lake, Md. International/Olympic distance triathlon Saturday, half-iron Sunday.

Actually, there are several common threads. One, of course, is awesomeness. Another is beautiful, challenging venues. But I believe we're going to have to dub my 2010 season The Year of the Double. (And I'm going to throw the June 7 Hawk Island Triathlon here in Lansing, Mich., onto that list, too. Because I can, because I should, and because I'll be racing and helping promote it, which sure feels like doubling up.)

Damn, life is good. And that's worth repeating.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Kpn it smpl

They say brevity is the soul of wit, but it's not that simple.

Though that was a pretty good joke in 13 words, and today's Frazz tried to pull it off in essentially one letter.

Mostly, though, contradiction is the root of humor. That's really why that first line is funny, and it's why it's so funny watching me employ the butterfly in pursuit of forward motion, which plays out neither simply nor briefly.

But I still like simplicity, though you wouldn't know it by the length of most of my posts or the amount of text in my allegedly visual comic strip. Or, of course, the footnote count in my book Trizophrenia. One of my favorite philosophies is Occam's Razor: "Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate," or "Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily," or "Keep It Simple, Stupid."

There's no denying William of Occam had a point, and there's equally little denying that people didn't get it, else we wouldn't now have two spellings of his name to choose from (the other being Ockham). For the record, I choose the first because it has only one superfluous consonant instead of two.

I got to thinking of all this after getting my mail over the weekend and seeing that the Postal Service had lost my winter issue of Triathlon Life magazine and tried to make things right. They may have no idea how successful they were. The magazine arrived in one of those cellophane-front envelopes the Postal Service uses to deliver your mail after they've mangled it, complete with a pre-printed apology. Let me say here that Triathlon Life, the magazine sent as a membership benefit to athletes with a USA Triathlon license, has become very good and very much thicker in recent years, a true contender in the field of Magazines You Spend Too Much Time Reading When You Should Be Training. But this envelope felt as light as the Triathlon Life of years back. Had their success been short-lived?

No. The outermost sheet had come unstapled from the magazine itself, and that's what was in the USPS "My Bad" envelope: exactly four pages comprising an advertisement for a helmet I already own; two for races I'm too late to enter anyway; and the front cover, complete with teasers to some of the stories I would not be spending my training time reading. One of those stories was "Spice Up Your Off-Season Training." Another was "Fight the Indoor Training Blues." I laughed. And then I set it down and went outside for a run.

That's the kind of simplicity I like.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Flying pylons

I'm sure I wasn't supposed to react to the news this way, but I did the way I did. I heard General Motors was auctioning off a super-duper limited-edition exclusive-as-a-Kona-slot Corvette Z06 this weekend, and that the proceeds will go to the relief effort in Haiti. And my reaction was:

Hey! I drove one of those!

I did. Not the one-of-a-kind, last-off-the-line one they're selling, but whatever Z06 it was provided by Spring Mountain Motorsports in Pahrump, Nev., when I raced in the 2006 Nevada Passage. The Nevada Passage was a kind of adventure-race, reality-TV, tourism-commercial hybrid that had ten 2-person coed teams competing in six short, intense (pronounced "not ridiculously hard to film") events in as many rural Nevada cities. The northern cities were absolutely beautiful, a far cry from the correct but grossly incomplete Vegas image too many people associate with the state. Pahrump, it happens, was not one of those gorgeous cities. Pahrump the town didn't do it for me. But the race track was incredible.

They had us racing the Corvettes around a 1-mile course on a giant, open expanse of asphalt, with orange traffic cones designating a turn about every 50 or 100 yards, max. There were no 100-mph straightaways. There didn't need to be. As the fighter pilots say, speed is sex but acceleration is orgasm. These 'Vettes could soil your Jockeys without ever leaving first gear. Team Journalist (we were teamed up according to occupation; Team Journalist, Team Firefighter, Team Cop, Team Accountant; it was like the Village People with firmer abs) never stood a chance, with the xy journalist working from his house with no commute and the xx journalist living in Manhattan and not having driven in five years. But we were already out of it anyway, and this event explained why clearer than ever.

Time is money, and so, it turns out, is the use of a new Corvette Z06. So each person got to drive exactly twice, for about 45 seconds. Once for practice and once for real. Best time won, but seconds were added for touching cones. Both of my opportunities -- call me Mr. Flat Learning Curve -- I turned in modest but respectable times, it seemed to me, without touching a single cone. Call me Mr. Accurate Flat Learning Curve, at least. But the winners, who, it should be said, had shown a pattern as such long before arriving in Reno, simply got into the Corvette and said, "Not my car," and floored it. Pylons scattered like surprised starlings, and by the time the cones were replaced and the math was done, there weren't nearly enough flying-cone demerits to offset the extra speed. And I think they had more fun.

I took note. We had one more event to go, a jet-ski race outside a town even more depressing than Pahrump. I vowed to race as recklessly on somebody else's jet ski as I should have in somebody else's Corvette. And I did.

And I still stunk up the race. But I smiled a little more.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

putting the (dumb-as)S in Saligia

I've never quite understood the Seven Deadly Sins. But, as with most things I don't understand, I'm fascinated by them.

For instance, I was surprised to discover that Sloth wasn't even on the original list as such. It was Despair, or even, depending on the interpretation, Sadness -- essentially, the more you read into it, clinical depression. Somebody got smart after a while and decided it was more than a little cruel to condemn someone's medical condition as an A-ticket to the Abyss, or at the very least that adding guilt to sadness rarely accomplished anything but more sadness. So they shifted the sin to one of the more problematic symptoms, and one that's hardly restricted to the depressed. (Note: Dante himself envisioned a cure for melancholy or clinical depression or whatever in Purgatorio: Running continuously at top speed, a version of which works pretty good for me. Whatever that's worth. Bugs the shit out of my wife when I recommend it for others, though. No word on how Mrs. Dante felt.)

Indeed, while there's much to be said for Laziness (frankly, all of the Deadly Sins have their merits if used right), laziness gets my vote for the awfullest of them all. But the Sin Wranglers put it last, at least according to SALIGIA. SALIGIA is a mnemonic acronym, a, uh, lazy man's way to keep track of the naughties. Take the first letter of each sin, in Latin of course, put them together and you've got SALIGIA. Easy! But Sloth, or Acetia, shows up last on the list even though they could have swapped it with the other A and at least put it second. (The other A being Avaricia, or greed, which does, I have to admit, make a pretty good case for itself.)

The first sin on the list is Superbia, which is not (yet) a sedan from Hyundai, but Pride. This I don't get. Sure, Pride has its ugly side, but living a life in which you can hold your head more or less high sounds like a motivation more virtuous than deadly. Do not more of the world's ills come from incompetence (the #1 outcome of sloth) than malice (borne often enough of pride)? A great man once said exactly that. Of course, that great man was Napoleon, who did as much as anybody to muck it up for Pride, so maybe we need to let that go.

Besides, I'm quite capable of mucking up Pride all by myself. In Monday's edition, I was proud enough to scan my plaque from the Snowflake 10K to show the world. My water-soluble and melting plaque, if you'll recall. And so yesterday, as I was furiously trying to scan and send a week's worth of Frazz to the syndicate in time to make it to swim practice, I got smited. The plaque wasn't done melting by a long shot, and all my scans were emblazoned with a sketchy, backward "AWARD WINNER" smack in the middle, surrounded by reversed snowflake shrapnel.

Such is the Gods' wrath. That's Ira, by the way. Second-to-last, just ahead of Acedia. I'm just sayin.'

Monday, January 18, 2010

Odd behavior in traffic

Today's Frazz will probably prompt a few cameo questions, so here we go: Jenn Steinhilber is a good friend who may or may not be much of a tailgater. I honestly don't know. But I do know she commutes to Detroit on a stretch of road where, in my experience, pretty much everybody else tailgates, so she got the nod. I don't think she's won the Nobel Prize, either, although she may someday. It's getting hard to tell. Frazz's shirt says "Mr. B's" on it. That's probably a convergence of circumstances. Sure, Jenn lives not far from a restaurant with that name. I also own a cat named Mr. B, and there's good odds that he was finding a way to involve himself with the process at the time.

Actually, Mr. B (the cat) is short for Baryames, named after a chain of formal-wear shops here in Lansing. He's a formerly stray black-and-white tuxedo who was supposed to be a rental.

Back to the tailgating theme, at Saturday's Snowflake 10K, I followed other runners to a 43:31, good for a 7:01-per-mile pace that I'm sure fit into one of the ranges suggested by my training program. At any rate, it was good for 3rd in my age group and 14th overall; a nice, if vague and apparently water-soluble, plaque; a very fun morning; and I think the first time I've placed that high in a running-only race unless you count last October when my dog dragged me to a 3rd in the Michigan State University Canine Cruise 5K. Bravo to the Riverbend Striders for a well-run and fun race.

I took the advice John posted in Friday's comments, to "chuck the technology and just run like hell". I like advice that essentially endorses what I do anyway, which in this case is to train with the wires and run from the gut. But I still wear the wires during the race so I can analyze everything to death afterward. Saturday's results tell me my speed was consistent enough from mile to mile, and the fact that I probably don't belong out there racing remained consistent from race to race:

This gets technical and nerdy, but there's this thing called a lactate threshold, and it has nothing to do with one's tolerance for mothers breast-feeding in public. It is, essentially, your body's engine's red line, the point of rapidly and painfully diminishing returns. You can have it tested in a lab, or you can test it in more informal ways like going flat-out for 20 minutes and seeing what your average heart rate was. Last time I took the lab test, my lactate threshold came in at 154. Last time I did the 20-minute test, it was more like 165. Saturday I averaged 167 for twice that; my final 20 minutes of the race had my heart going at 172. That all looks like progress, but what it really means is I'm working awfully hard to go some very average 7-minute miles.

I don't know if that means I'm overachieving or underachieving or if even at that pace I'm running way beyond my birthright and need to grow myself a Steve Prefontaine mustache (it's a bit late for the Steve Prefontaine haircut). Probably what it means is that when John tells me to chuck the electronics and just run, he's got a better point than I want to admit.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sub-forty. No. Yellow. Aaaaaaauugh!

Racing season 2010 begins tomorrow with the Snowflake 10K in Flushing, MI. I'm really not sure what to expect, and my training program can't seem to make up its mind any better.

Part of that may be because the training plan has figured out I'm nuts. The program is one I downloaded from the British Web site of Runner's World. It's designed to sync up with the Global Positioning System/heart rate monitor that I religiously employ to boss me around in the simple, low-tech, freeing activity of running to help me run half as fast as Paavo Nurmi did in the 1920s, flying by the seat of his enormous bloomers. You plug in a date and goal pace for your marathon, and it gives you a plan you can then download into your Garmin. I want to post a Boston Marathon-qualifying time at the Martian Marathon in April. That's 3:30, already a wee ambitious for a guy whose best marathon on a very short resume is a 3:43, so of course I entered a slightly faster goal time yet for insurance's sake (at the slightest hint of an injury, I'm backing off). (Der.) Why should my plan take me seriously?

So here I am finishing out Week Four, and it's time for a 10K test. The Riverbend Striders were very cooperative, scheduling their race to fit my needs. So I'll run 6.2 miles. Got it. How fast? Pfft. Like I said, my program can't make up its mind.

The calendar part of the plan suggests I aim for a sub-40 finish (6:26 per mile); this is not going to happen. The pace chart on the same Web page suggests a 6:51 pace (for a 42:33 finish, which is about what the McMillan Running chart, from a whole 'nother training program {which I'm not linking you to because it comes up playing music that busts you for reading blogs at work}, says I should be capable of if I want to keep deluding myself about qualifying for Boston); this is slightly more reasonable, or would be if it weren't January. And then it loaded the race into my Garmin with a goal pace between 6:51 and 7:11 (bringing me home at anywhere from 42:33 to 44:38).

I'm glad I didn't pay to get the souvenier shirt in this race, because I have a feeling I'd show up and they'd offer me a short-sleeved blue one; or a long-sleeved yellow one; or a white tech one; or a gray hoodie; or ...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Upside down

Combine two of my favorite things -- the singer/songwriter Jack Johnson and the book series Curious George -- and you get, well, you get a movie that a lot of critics saw and went, "eh," and that I never saw at all.

Combine another two of my favorite things -- talking about triathlons and drawing a comic strip for bright, observant readers -- and sometimes that doesn't work out, either.

"Upside Down," Jack sings in the first song on the soundtrack CD, "I want to turn the whole thing upside down; I'll find the things they say just can't be found ..." and it all comes together if I force it to vigorously enough here. In this past Sunday's Frazz, I led off with a panel where Frazz is using one of those extension things to install a light bulb in a ceiling socket that's located more or less right in the reader's face.

A number of those readers have gotten back to me pointing out something upside down that could be found: Frazz has the bulb facing the wrong way. Good heavens! What kind of janitor is Frazz, anyway? Well ... Frazz is a cartoon janitor, of course, so the next question is What kind of cartoonist is Jef? In this case, Jef is a cartoonist who stuck that bulb in there upside down on purpose. See, in that same panel, Caulfield is asking, "A little distracted, Frazz?" Because Caulfield noticed the same thing my alert readers did. And then we segued into talking about racing, an arena in which it's even easier to catch me legitimately screwing up.

Readers, being human, will defend their position. And I will let them win, because I dislike explaining myself (wait a minute; I'm a writer. I dislike explaining myself on anything but my own terms). But since I have one more article of evidence at my disposal, I'll exhibit that here, too. Sunday comics are typically drawn with a layout that allows newspapers to reshape it to fit a certain space on their page. There are a number of formats, and the one I use involves a title panel that can be used or thrown away, at the editor's whim, without affecting the story line. Most cartoonists use the same title panel over and over. I do not; I see it as a chance to give the readers one more laugh and to give myself a chance to stretch a little bit -- if the gag falls flat, there's a whole 'nother Frazz coming right up. This is a less than wholly successful endeavor; as far as I'm aware, only the Los Angeles Times runs my extra gag. But it comes in handy here, because it shows Frazz and I clearly do know which way the bulb goes in the tool:

Not that I need to win the argument, and it's certainly not as if I want to shut my readers down. As Jack Johnson sings, all in that same song, "There's no stopping curiosity." And "Things aren't always what they seem." And "Please don't go away." There's more Frazzes coming. With more curiosities.

(Note: Dig the way the famously green Jack Johnson figures into a conversation about a compact fluorescent bulb! I just noticed that myself. No stopping curiosity, indeed.)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Reach. Grasp. Fart around.

FrazzPlanning ahead simplifies your life, America has a physical-fitness crisis, and at the moment I’m not sure I’m buying either theory. Because it’s January, and I’m a little stressed out trying to plan which triathlons I’m going to register to race in half a year from now, before they fill up with all of these supposedly sedentary Americans.

Even the stuff I’ve already planned seems to be in flux. I’m signed up to race the Martian Marathon in Dearborn, Mich., April 10. I’ve actually had that one on the books since I registered in 2008 to race it in ’09 and then bailed to tour military hospitals with seven other cartoonists and the USO the same week. I rolled my entry to this year, and now could bail yet again if a whole different once-in-a-lifetime opportunity comes through. (Think sharks, man-eating sea lions and Frank Morris, since that’s what most people think of. If and once it pans out, I'll update you all with something that's actually accurate.)

I know I'll be racing and helping direct (in opposite order, so don't go looking for any victory poses) my hometown Hawk Island Triathlon June 6. That's set in stone. (In fact, sign up yourself -- quickly, since it will fill up -- and enjoy your exclusive Frazz- or Trizophrenia-themed swim cap. Kiefer and I team up to provide the official headgear.)

Also firm is the glorious Musselman in upstate New York July 10-11. The only question is whether I'll be racing the half-ironman on Sunday or doing the double, which adds the sprint on Saturday. Assuming I race the full-ironman-distance Rev3 in Cedar Point (the September race in the comic strip above; Ironman Wisconsin filled up in only a few minutes, simplifying that, at least), the double is perfect. But there's an outside chance of a different, also awesome, full-ironman opportunity, the Vineman, only a few weeks later that would open the door to do the insanely tough Maryland half-iron that I also gush about up top. Or the Big Shoulders open-water swim in Chicago, in case I have less time but a still-hefty taste for humiliation.

Firming up like Jell-O in the deep freeze is the gorgeous and highly desirable Luray Triathlon in mid-August in Virginia; and on the wish list for various reasons are races in Indiana, Boulder and even a bunch in (duh) Michigan.

And finally, firmest of all, a commitment to man the front half of the tandem and make sure Patty gets all the opportunity she needs for her own commitment to more riding this year, including a real live vacation with no numbers written on her husband and no finish line and a minimum of neurotic behavior.

It's a world of opportunity. More to the point, it's clear the world has plenty of opportunity to wag its collective finger at me any time I whine about not being able to keep up with myself. Cue Robert Browning: reach is supposed to exceed grasp. If that doesn't work, cue Vonnegut: "We are here on Earth to fart around."

Friday, January 8, 2010


The dog needs a reason to go out. That's not a metaphor. I do, in fact, mean our dog. The morning routine started out routinely enough. I get up; the dog eventually gets up, generally when she hears me fiddling with the front door to go out and pick up the newspaper. She meets me at the other door, the magic door, the sliding door that goes to the fenced-in back yard, ready to perform her morning ablutions and search for adventure. I slide it open.

And that's where it veers from the script. It's cold out. There's half a foot of new snow. Zoey looks up at me as if to ask what the hell I've done with her yard, and turns her tail to the door to go wait a while for some kind of stronger motivation.

If you ask me, a bladder containing a night's production of piss is motivation enough, but Zoey's got one that goes up to her ears, apparently, with the p.s.i. tolerance of a scuba tank. Motivation does come eventually. Later in the day, when it's light and the squirrels come out, she can't go through that door soon enough. Or often enough.

I can relate. My bladder's not much to brag about, not that I'd want that to be my top résumé item anyway now that I'm not applying for a lot of long-range fighter-interceptor-pilot jobs, and I'm content to live and let live where wildlife is concerned. But yesterday, at the beginning of the big snowstorm and the last few minutes of daylight, I couldn't bring myself to run outdoors. That wasn't a motivation issue. That was a smarts issue. The motivation issue was about the treadmill. A 7-mile run outdoors isn't much at this point in my life, at least not at the 8:15 per mile my plan called for. Seven miles on a treadmill is interminable at any pace.

And this is why I race. Say all you want about all men being created equal, but some people's genetics are better than others', and a lot of athletes' genetics are better than mine. If I'm in line for any athletic success at all, it's going to have to be because of hard training and taste for misery. And a desire not to get beat to the line by someone who just may have gotten there on sloth and talent.

So I guess that line about the dog being motivated by squirrels was a metaphor after all. Hope it holds, because later today I've got to run 5 at tempo, and the roads won't be clear or safe any too soon.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Fungible binge bait

Here's proof, for those inclined to certain suspicions about my character, that while I certainly indulge in product placement in Frazz, it's not with any kind of ulterior motive (i.e., proof that I am a lousy businessman). I'm just continuing to draw the world more or less as it resembles mine.

What kind of cookie does Mrs. Olsen binge on? Not something homemade. That wouldn't be very Mrs. Olsen, and homemade cookies don't have the same kind of binge-bait cachet anyway (note: that last claim is proven false around Chez Mallett every time Patty bakes chocolate-chip cookies). Not Chips Ahoys or their Keebler counterparts, tasty as those are. Not even Oreos, which are wonderfully tasty AND a much smaller word to fit into the dialogue balloon. Nope. Mrs. Olsen binges on Nutter Butters, because, according to my biased analysis, they are simply the best.

Meaning if I put them into the strip trolling for any kind of free sample from whoever makes Nutter Butters, I am a complete idiot if I want to keep my weight and triglycerides down.

Not that I'm not an idiot. Idiocy, it turns out, is fungible. Is what? Is fungible. Differing commodities that can be traded equally are called fungibles. I'll trade you a ton of potash for a ton of lime; certain types of dirt are fungible. Trade you my sandwich for your cheese stick; kids' lunch items are supremely fungible. Reed and Renee are worth their weight in gold; turns out my editors are fungible.

So when I convince myself that Kellogg's Cracklin' Oat Bran's oats are better for my blood than its copious amounts of brown sugar and palm oil are bad for it, I have to admit that my stupidity is equally applicable to a prematurely empty cereal box as it is to an empty cookie container.

And no big word from the back of an economics book is going to make me look any smarter.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Inspiration, anti-inspiration

So John posts on Facebook that he read my column in the December issue of Triathlete titled "Unflattering Mom Genes," the one where I own up to my very bad visit to the doctor, the one she looked at my blood lipids, sat me down and threatened to put me on cholesterol medications. I'd link to it, but it only appears in the print edition (way to hitch your wagon to the horse of the future, there, Jef). To make a short column shorter, I go on to cite Jim Fixx and J.I. Rodale, two paragons of fitness who died of heart failure and became causes célèbre for the crowd looking for an excuse not to exercise, as my sources of anti-inspiration and vow to change my ways. I close with the phrase:

"I know I will die. I know I could die young. I expect to die pissed. But I refuse to die embarrassed." And now John has made my day by adopting that as his motto for the season.

The story, as long-time followers of my nonsense already know, is that I changed my diet, dropped my cholesterol into a safe range, lost some weight, run a little faster, feel a lot better, and have to look elsewhere for my rage and embarrassment.

John's post is cool enough by itself, but his timing is better than any comedian's I know. For one, it somehow seems right after a hard week when my cat who lived perpetually pissed died remarkably peacefully of heart failure. No idea what Fiona's cholesterol numbers were, but I do know how much I appreciated, and will forever appreciate, the kind words and reassurances and occasional tasteful joke from so many friends. Thank you, more than I can say. (We now return you to a more direct and logical connection to John's post about my cholesterol.)

While John was mentioning my column, Dane was tipping me off to a photo of a restaurant in Toronto called "Dangerous Dan's Diner." This was too cool. My first book - before Frazz, before the VeloNews cartoons, before the Inside Triathlon and Triathlete gigs, before Trizophrenia - was a children's picture book called "Dangerous Dan." You can see in the photo that the old-school diner has a new-school Web address posted, which I followed to find their signature burger. Let's just say I can enjoy their name, but I will never be allowed to eat their food. I still half wonder if my bad blood test this summer was still due in part to the Solly's Butter Burger I had in Milwaukee a year and a half before that. And let's just say that, next to a Dangerous Dan Burger, a Solly's Butter Burger looks like a fish-oil pill on a bun.

And here I am in Michigan, halfway between Solly's and Dangerous Dan's. Either way the wind blows, I'm dead the day they determine there's such thing as second-hand cholesterol.