Monthly Archives: March 2014

Ride ’em Cowboy

When we moved to the USA, we decided to see some typical American sports and so far we have been to baseball and ice hockey matches, and seen plenty of American Football on the TV.  One sport that did not cross our minds,  however, was Professional Bull Riding.

I caught some of this sport on TV a couple of weeks back and I was totally enthralled.  I could not tear my eyes away from the TV.  So when I found out that the PBR cowboys were coming to a town near us, I knew we had to go and see them in the flesh.  Well, they did not disappoint.

What I really like about PBR is the simplicity of the rules.  Bulls are quite feisty creatures, shall we say, so the single aim of the game is to stay on the back of the bull for eight seconds.  At this point, if the rider hasn’t already been thrown off and trampled underfoot, he will jump off and get out of the way as quickly as possible.  He then gets a score.  They all seemed to be scored around 85 or 86; I assume this is out of 100, and I really have no idea exactly what they were being scored on, in fact it’s probably just as confusing as the Olympic figure skating scoring system and I really don’t want to get into trying to decipher that again.  (Although I have just checked online and discovered that apparently two judges score the rider and two judges score the bull!)  Anyway, we were watching one of the very lowly first rounds of the annual championships, were they were deciding which riders would qualify to compete later on, but once you get to the finals there is big money at stake.  I saw one competition where the rider would win $1,000,000 for staying on his bull (sadly, he didn’t manage it).  Unlike some other American sports, the “world championships” in PBR do actually include competitors from countries other than the US, primarily Brazil, Canada, Mexico and Australia.

Most riders only seemed to stay on for about 2 or 3 seconds and then we had the fun of watching several men trying to coax the bull back into its pen without getting themselves flattened.  Amazingly, only one rider got injured when his bull stamped on his chest, apparently only giving him minor injuries (!!) but nothing out of the ordinary, so we were led to believe.

In between the bull rides, we were treated to The Entertainer, who was surely an inspiration for Brokeback Mountain, knows how to handle a lasso and can twerk as well as Miley Cyrus.  Presumably there are not many other jobs that call for all of those skills so he has certainly found his calling.

Aside from staying on the back of the bull, the only other rule we were told about was that if a cowboy gets thrown over the railings then the crowd gets to keep him.  Sadly we didn’t get to test out this rule.  Maybe next time …. ?

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8k? Done!

So the day finally arrived!  The weather has been very up and down of late, with three major snowstorms hitting nearby in the last couple of months and we have had several weeks where the temperature has gone from 20c to -2c within 24 hours.  However, St Patrick definitely pulled it out of the bag and gave us a lovely warm, dry and sunny day for our 8K race.  (This is all the more awesome because it has been freezing cold and raining again for the two days since the race….)

The race started at 7.45am which meant dragging ourselves out of bed and getting dressed in our shorts in the dark, however we were rewarded by the chance to see the sunrise at the oceanfront which, although a little cloudy, still looked pretty spectacular and set the tone for the rest of the morning.

When I originally signed up for this race, I was required to submit a predicted finish time, which I put at around 58 minutes, in the hope that I could realistically finish it in under an hour.  We ended up changing this predicted time to 50 minutes, which I thought was a little optimistic, having only bettered this time once or twice and completely wearing myself out in the process, but decided to go with it and see what I could do.  Being at the oceanfront, the course was completely flat and quite roomy, despite the thousands of participants, as we were running along a four-lane width of road for most of it, so there was no problem in overtaking slower participants.  I had been a little concerned as I’d had some knee pain during my final week and I had run a practice 5k that had totally worn me out, so I was just hoping to finish the race in a not-too-embarrassing time and in one piece.  Amazingly, my knee pain disappeared for the race (it has since come back!) and my usual hip problem (which manifests itself around the 5k mark) didn’t materialise at all.  Furthermore, I usually run out of breath within a couple of km and have to resort to hand signals only as it is really a choice between speaking or breathing from that point onwards.  On race day, however, I could talk fairly easily for the majority of the race, despite assurances that we were running at our usual (breathless for me) pace.  I sprinted the last hundred metres or so and was totally worn out at the finish though.  However, it was worth it!  The official timing was 48 minutes and 29 seconds, which is equal to my personal best, and my results were:

2197 out of 8310 finishers

146 out of 783 in my age group

917 out of 5157 womenImage

I have to say that I was probably spurred on by the promise of free beer, food and music at the finish line.  That is the first time in my life I have ever done stretches and a cool down while holding a pint of beer!  Next goal is the 10k in October….

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The Doors – St Patrick’s Day

Well the neighbours have not let me down so far.  I have no idea why Americans go so over the top for St Patrick’s Day. This year a number of TV sitcoms even seem to be doing Irish-themed specials.  I think it’s the day that they celebrate most fervently of all, if they can take a break from proudly declaring how their great-great-great-great-great-great-step-grandfather-in-law’s windowcleaner’s cat was one sixteenth Irish.  I feel quite bad when I point out that it’s not celebrated anywhere near so much in Ireland itself.  Anyway, this is the neighbour’s fantastic front door:


More leprechaun-based shenanigans to follow shortly….

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