"I'm not afraid anymore." This actually has nothing to do with racing. The title of this post is a quote taken from Kevin in Home Alone when he gets over his fear of the two bad guys trying to rob his house while he is alone for Christmas. This is also the exact same thing I have thought this year in regards to the vicious Redwing Blackbirds that are in prime "kill" season.
Sometime in late May Redwing Blackbirds begin to infiltrate rural Scott County by laying nests in tall grass of the ditches along all my bike routes. I have narrowed down the week when these birds must lay eggs because it was exactly 2 weeks ago when the blackbirds began to become very territorial. While out on my lunch time run at the junior high I hadn't even gotten off school grounds when the blackbirds began puffing up their tails and letting out their war cries at me. The birds were pretty non-aggressive until last week when they started actually making the dive bomb attempts at my head. These birds used to scare the crap out of me. In the summer of 2009 I was hit on my bike 9 times by these birds. A local doctor, Dave Juehring was actually hit by one and it caused a bad accident that has kept him from riding his bike outdoors ever since. In 2009 I actually stopped riding outdoors for some time because I was so afraid of these birds hitting me while riding. 2013 is different. I am not longer afraid of these birds. I hate them with a passion but I don't fear them. These birds sit high in trees or on telephone lines and wait for riders to pass. Then they give chase from behind high overhead before dive bombing with one thing in mind...kill! Last week when one charged at me while running I stopped and grabbed a handful of rocks and began yelling back at the bird. It quickly took shelter high in a tree where I proceeded to pelt rocks at it. I won the battle as the bird flew away in fear. +1 for the good guys! Last Monday I was riding and one attacked me and hit me in the helmet. It didn't even phase me. I've learned these birds are weak and harmless. They are actually quite stupid. They always hit me in the head while biking which is protected with my helmet. I was hit again yesterday early in my ride in nearly the same spot...for all I know it was the same bird that hit me last week. Once again I was hit in the back of the helmet and barely noticed. Both hits this year have come unannounced. In year's past the birds would follow behind me before dive bombing and letting out a terrible screech before colliding into my helmet. I've thought about attaching little razor blades to the back of my helmet and tempting them by riding really slowly through the battle grounds. One thing that won't happen is that I skip an outdoor ride for fear of these birds. I've learned a few things about these bird attacks which you can take as advice.
1. The birds always hit the back of the helmet. I've been hit over 15 times and every one has been the back of the helmet
2. The birds have never attacked me when riding with other riders. I think they are intimidated by groups even if the group is only 2.
3. The birds are at their worst from the first of June through about the 3rd week of June. The babies must be hatching and they are so protective I have seen them attack hawks 20x their size...not to mention human beings
4. Speed matters...when riding through the war zones if you are riding less than 20 mph you are dead. If you ride 20-25 mph you have a chance...25+ and they won't attack. If you want to lesson your chances of getting hit ride fast.
5. The birds are weak. Monday I noticed the birds don't handle wind well. They could hardly move forward when trying to chase me into a 20 mph wind.
Feel free to share your Redwing Blackbird attack stories or advice in the comments this week.
If you are traveling out in rural Scott County beware of the birds but don't fear them. They think they own the territory but show them who's boss.
My highlight of week 16 was getting out for a 107 mile ride on Sunday with Cassidy Moulton. The winds were strong but we rode almost entirely into the wind the first half of the ride and then had it at our backs the 2nd half which made for a great ride. I stopped in DeWitt for a slice of breakfast pizza and later in Eldridge for a slice of regular pizza, a coke and the key...Peanut Butter M&M's. By the time we got back down to McCausland headed for home I was at about 90 miles in and feeling like a million bucks. I decided to push the hilly 7.3 mile stretch from McCausland to Argo Corners really hard and I averaged 26.8 mph...keep in mind I had a 20 mph wind helping push me and it was great. At mile 101 I tried to max my power on a steep hill and I hit 953 watts which was a number I couldn't hit fresh last year when I had lost a lot of bike power trying to get too lean. This year I'm much stronger. This weekend I'm attempting to race my first double ever. I'm going to race a sprint distance event on Saturday and come back Sunday for an Olympic Distance race. I'm excited about the challenge and the opportunity to raise some funds for iHope. Big thanks last week to Ed Allen out of Chicago and Adam Less from Davenport for iHope contributions. If you would like to help contribute to the iHope Foundation that provides low-income students with great character and work traits with iPads click here. We began the foundation mid-March and were thrilled to give these life-changing gifts to two students in the first year. We'd like to be able to do many more in the years to come. Thanks for reading. Check back next Monday for reports on both races to see how I held up. DREAM BIG!!