The Unsinkable brian cork™

Brian Patrick Cork is living the Authentic Life

mount rainier won't rate "hors categorie", it may be a Kobayashi Maru, certainly a Raison d'etre


I begin training, and this very week, for our planned, certainly hoped for, summit of Mount Rainier in June.

As consistent readers of this Blog are fully aware, I like to use three distinct phrases to describe dramatic events in my life…

And, they include:

Hors Catégorie

Hors Catégorie is a French term used in cycle races (most notably, the Tour de France) to designate a climb that is “beyond categorization”, an incredibly tough climb. Most climbs in cycling are designated from Category 1 (hardest) to Category 4 (easiest), based on both steepness and length. A climb that is harder than Category 1 is designated as hors catégorie. The term was originally used for those mountain roads where cars were not expected to be able to pass.

As an extreme athlete, I specialize in attacking (running and riding) these types of grades.

Mount Rainier does not rate Hors Catégorie. But, we know this is going to be tough. And, an enormous milestone in our lives. I’ll admit apprehension. I don’t know if it might be fear. With transparency I submit this is a dimension of the effort that is new to me and warrants exploration. Could that be the truest test through this adventure?

Is this why Kobayashi Maru keeps creeping into my thoughts?

Kobayashi Maru

The Kobayashi Maru is a test in the fictional Star Trek universe. It is a Starfleet training exercise designed to test the character of cadets in the command track at Starfleet Academy. The Kobayashi Maru test was first depicted in the opening scene of the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and also appears in the 2009 film Star Trek. Depictions of the Kobayashi Maru test are a fairly popular subject in Star Trek literature. Non-canonical examples of Kobayashi Maru tests have been described in many Star Trek novels. The test’s name is occasionally used among Star Trek fans or those familiar with the series to describe a no-win scenario. As a cadet, Kirk beat the test by, essentially, cheating (he reprogrammed the game to fear him). However, he was awarded a citation for “original thinking”. Much like how Kirk cheated to win, characters are frequently depicted as coming up with very innovative or surprising ways of handling the situation.

Although I don’t consider myself a cheater. And, certainly the men around me must agree. I strive daily to be innovative, a thought leader, and tend to come up with solutions for problems that consistently stump others. I’ll attribute this to my career-path as an entrepreneur in naught but the truest sense.

Is my mind reeling with these thoughts because my subconscious is preparing me, some how, and in doing so, forcing my body to training limits I’ve not recently attempted? I know that I must be ready. There is danger, certainly. Yes, I must be prepared for many eventualities, including, as my family attorney advises me – demise.

This must needs lead me, and you’re coming with me, to…

Raison d’etre

Raison d’être is a phrase borrowed from French where it means “reason for being”; in English use, it also comes to suggest a degree of rationalization, as “The claimed reason for the existence of something or someone”.

The French concept is more elaborate than a simple statement. Once the reason an object exists is defined, criteria to measure the object’s degree of success can be enumerated. For example, a phone has the purpose of enabling communication between two people. Some phones meet that goal better than others. When measurable criteria are known, gaps can be identified that show where the particular object fails to meet the prototypical object’s reason for being. When gaps have been fully identified, strategies can be implemented to close the gaps and bring the object closer to the true fulfillment of its raison d’être.

In the truest sense of raison d’être, French philosophers lay an elaborate road map of descriptive text that contrasts the current status of an implementation of a prototypical object with the purist view of perfection that the object should achieve without the hindrance of imperfections. The philosophical road map brings to a crescendo the imperative urgency that motivates participants to immediately take the steps necessary to achieve all the intended qualities that an object was designed to exemplify.

There is no point to this post. It’s just me telling you like it is.

…well… That is unless you’re interested in knowing more about me. And, now you just might.

Perhaps this is another opportunity to kill the bear.

My Grandad said many things. All of them were terrific. One of them was: “Face your fears, lad, and do it anyway”.

Is fear, and the attempt to defeat it, representative of Hors Catégori?

Is simply facing it that Kobayashi Maru?

Is ever seeking ways to remember the face of my father that Raison d’etre, for me (we dare not blow it).

Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.

Brian Patrick Cork

my lance armstrong perspective: character and integrity are the same but different depending on strategy if not American ingenuity


Many of you will likely find this post as intersting or exciting as my recent, and rediculously self-indulgent, thoughts around the Blackberry, other handsets, and people that use them. But, I am passionate about cycling, and, of course, most extreme sports. And, I know you will stick with me.

As I write this post Lance Armstrong had dropped to fourth place in the Tour de France.

As dire as that may read, it’s really not that big a deal. There are dramatic mountain stages ahead, as well as time trials, and the potential, at any moment, for tour standings to suddenly change with falls, and the potential for scandal to rear it’s nefarious head.

Armstrong is currently eight seconds behind Rinaldo Nocentini of Italy who has managed to hold onto the coveted yellow jersey for eight consecutive stages – but, is not expected to end up winning the overall race.

In a post from last week, lance is a Yellow basterd, I predicted that Armstrong would end up working tactically with Astana teammate Alberto Contador going into the final stages of the race, and and then slug it out one-on-one with the 2007 tour winner, probably in the second to last stage.

I believe this remains the ultimate plan. However, the strategy is likely changing daily.

Early in the tour, team Astana demonstrated both power and unity as they blew away everyone else in a team time trial. The result was three Astana team members positioned to attack for the lead. Contador was second overall six seconds behind, Armstrong was third at eight seconds, and Levi Leipheimer was fourth, and fifty eight seconds off the leader.

It should be noted that Leipheimer and Armstrong are great friends, comrades, and countrymen. I am convinced Armstrong was counting on Leipheimer to pull him (and Contador, if it made sense) through some break away stages for the yellow jersey. This adds the element of potential for an unprecedented one-two American rider finish in the Tour de France – something that many pundits, French journalists, and team Astana itself, has down-played. And, let’s not forget American George Hincapie as he finds himself in second place overall after todays stage. So, an American sweep? Armstrong, Leipheimer and Hincapie were all Discovery team members during the majority of Armstrong’s seven tour victories.


In any event, there is tension amongst the Astana riders polarized by loyalties to Armstrong and Contador.

Contador, a Spaniard, probably has a chip on his shoulder because it can be argued the only reason he won the 2007 Tour de France is because Armstrong wasn’t there. Like many Mediterreanean men, Contador comes across with a sense of entitlement, and often acts like this is his time, while Armstrong has had his day. However, Armstrong is chomping at the bit to prove his seven prior tour victories should not be tainted by any suggestion of drug use. The French media is relentless in their spite and greatly evident domination Armstrong has over their tour and, of course, numerous French riders that often languish in Armstrong’s shadow.

So, both Armstrong and Contador are contending with unstated asterisks by their mighty accomplishments – and, are faced with a dramatic need, one for the other, in this current tour.

The dynamic changed, however, when Leipheimer fell off of his bike and broke his wrist. He withdrew from the tour Friday. This leaves many questions about both the Astana team victory and the special interests of both Armstrong and Contador. And, as I alluded to above, there was also a question in my mind wether Armstrong and Leipheimer might try for a break on their own (this will be discussed and evaluated in an entirely different post after I speak with Levi).

In theory, it’s generally a teams best interest to support the eventual winner of the Tour de France. The yellow jersy brings glory to the entire team. It might be surprising for readers to learn that, in many respects, cycling is oft considered a team sport. Teams are built around one star supported by climbers and break away-capable speedsters recruited to get them though specific stages of major races. Leipheimer, for example, was recruited for his “chemistry” and prior experience with Armstrong. Along the way these specialists can earn distinctions and individual honors that include “King of the Hills” (polka dot jersey) and top Sprinter (green jersey) – all by accumulated points and stage wins.

Certainly, there are other riders that can win the tour. But, I feel Astana is loaded and capable of managing their own destiny both this year, and likely the 2010 event as well (when Armstrong buys out the current sponsors and replaces them with companies from the United States – I hope to be part of that).

So… Armstrong or Contador?

Leipheimer was the “wild card”. And, another individual time trial in the next few days after several grueling stages in the Alps will be more than telling. My thinking has been that Armstrong and Contador (and Leigheimer) – all of team Astana, for that matter, have only been biding their collective time monitoring the strengths of individual riders and their own collaborative efforts with lesser teams. I expected the Astana riders to make a break in the Alps, working together in a team time trial fashion to put minutes between Armstrong, Contador and the peloton – where Nocentini wold be helpless to keep up with the Astana attack. Obviously the peloton would recognize the tactic and give immediate chase. But, team Astana proved they can drop everyone in that earlier team time trial. So, I really think losing Leipheimer at this point is crucial. He was a utility rider with great time trial speed and and pull-through strength. It’s surprising what a difference only one man can make in a five to seven man break away. And, the team’s polarized loyalties could prove definitive in the final two thousand meters in the mad dash to the finish line.

I can see Armstrong and Contador baring down wheel-on-wheel with Armstrong swerving to the side in the final meters, and with a grand flourish, giving the tour to Contador. This would make Armstrong an even greater legend – espcially amongst the purists of the sport where valor and good sportsmanship might be valued above everything else. But, it would also humiliate Contador, and tarnish his victory. The asterisk would remain, but forever benefitting Armstrong as he tests his character vs. integrity. And, ever the canny  businessman, willing to brandish American bravado with Texas swagger, the book deals and speaking opportunities generated by such an, ironically, selfless act, would be wildly lucrative.

Then he turns around and wins the 2010 tour in fine form – pushing any asterisk up the French media’s collective butt.

So… It’s going to happen in the Alps or a long flat course. The Astana riders will break and pull Armstrong and Contador through a sustained effort to distance themselves from all other riders in contention for the yellow jersey. Armstrong and Contador are, without question, legendary climbers and can break the will of everyone else in the Alps. But, with a team of determined speedsters around them it probably makes sense to watch for this development in one of the three stages leading up to the final time trial where the standing will likely find themselves carved in proverbial stone, with only a freak accident having the potential to change the outcome of the final approach to the Arc de Triumph come September 27th.

Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.

Brian Patrick Cork

What’s All This About?

"What am I looking at?", you might wonder.

Lots of stuff.

Meanwhile, here, I discuss events, people and things in our world - and, my (hardly simplistic, albeit inarticulate) views around them.

You'll also learn things about, well, things, like people you need to know about, and information about companies you can't find anywhere else.

So, while I harangue the public in my not so gentle way, you will discover that I am fascinated by all things arcane, curious about those whom appear religious, love music, dabble in politics, loathe the media, value education, still think I am an athlete, and might offer a recipe.

All the while, striving mightily, and daily, to remain a prudent and optimistic gentleman - and, authentic.

brian cork by John Campbell

photos by John Campbell


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