Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Riding in the Great White North

I'm up at my parent's, just outside Vancouver for Christmas and New Years. The way that the holidays lined up this year it seemed like stupidity to not take advantage. By taking only 6 days off work, I could get 16 away from the office, so I'm up here for what is probably my longest visit since moving down south.

A part of the decision to head up here for two weeks, was an agreement with myself that I'd bring my bike up here with me and continue to pound out the miles. At first I was thinking that maybe I'd just buy a bike up here, one that could remain up here for whenever I visit. By the time I looked into what it would cost to get a bike that was anywhere descent put together I realized that I'd be better off to just bring my bike up here with me. Wells, one of the guys in my club suggested that I check out Allegiant Air because they charge very little to ship over sized items. $50 each way! Can't beat that when most airlines are charging $30 just for a normal suitcase. Especially when Allegiant only charges around $100 return for airfare direct from San Diego to Bellingham, WA. Closer to my parents than Vancouver at a fraction of the cost of United, Air Canada or US Airways.

I was also lucky that a few guys on my team were willing to lend me their travel cases, so the transport side of things has worked out really well. I borrowed a Serfas case, threw my bike and my clothing inside and it got here in perfect condition.

The final piece of the setup was a few items from Mission's own Wenting's Cycle. I want to give a big thanks to Bruce Wenting who gave me a discount on a set of rollers, bottles, and a pump. He also passed along some good ideas for routes in and around good old Mission. The first bike that I ever bought with my own money, I bought from Bruce about 20 years ago. It's great to see that his shop is still going strong.

So, on to the riding right? I flew up on Sunday night, so I got my Sunday ride done in San Diego. Monday is my usual day off. So, Tuesday was my first chance to venture out into the cold. Fortunately for me, I only had 30 minutes of tempo riding to get done, so I kept it in the garage and rode the rollers. The garage isn't heated, so it was something like 5C when I started. Luckily it's a single car garage, so my body heat and breathing got it warmed up pretty quick.

Today's ride was a bit of a different story. I had a couple hours of endurance riding to get in. It was 1C (that's 34 degree Fahrenheit for those scoring in the world's last bastion of non-metric measurement) when I got started. Supposedly it cracked 2C by the time I got home. The first hour and fifteen minutes were spent riding into the wind, so things were damned cold. For folks like me who are spoiled by San Diego's near permanent 70F coastal temperatures, that's pretty tough to handle, especially when you're passing frozen puddles and ponds as you ride. I did manage to get the full two hours in though.

It won't be until Christmas Day that I get back out into the outdoors again. Hopefully it will have warmed up to at least 5C by then!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Three Hours on the Rollers

It's been a rainy past few days down here in San Diego. So much so that I was left with a simple choice on Saturday, ride in the wet stuff or ride the rollers. I had three hours of endurance riding to get done, which I hate doing on the rollers. Yes I love the rollers, but no I don't like riding a bike in one place for 3 hours at a time.

I do have to say that if you don't have a set of rollers, you really have no idea what you're missing. Rollers make a trainer look like a child's toy. They improve your balance, they make your legs work together, they get your pedaling more round, they require you to stay mentally engaged while training, they improve your leg speed without doing anything out of the ordinary, etc. All things that a trainer most definitely can't do.

As much as I didn't enjoy three hours on the rollers, I definitely noticed a difference on my two hour ride today. In the end it'll turn out to be time well spent.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Boss Bib Shorts

A month or so ago I broke down and bought a new pair of bib shorts. It's that dreaded time of year where you find yourself trying to stretch what's left of last year's club clothing through to the next year's first delivery in January. Over the past couple months I've had to retire a couple pairs of shorts and was really starting to run on threads.

Rather than proving my insanity and spending $400 on a pair of Assos bib shorts, I figured I'd give my fellow Canadian Louis Garneau a shot. I've never had a pair of Garneau shorts, but I figured it was worth a shot. I bought a pair of Carbon T-Ion Bibs, and I have to say these are probably the best shorts I've ever owned. The power band leg gripper is particularly nice. $200 bucks or so when you include tax and shipment. Can't beat that.

Fun factoid - Louis Garneau is one of the only people on earth to have put his arm around the Queen

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

"Winter"

"Winter" has officially arrived in San Diego. Monday night we got 3 inches of rain and some marginally strong winds. Enough to nearly blow San Diego right off the map!? Power was out, lights at major intersections were down and chaos ensued.

It's now getting down to the low 50s in the mornings and that can only mean one thing; it's time for the claw gloves to come out of the closet and hit the roads once again. If you don't own a pair of these babies, you have no idea what you're missing. I have a nice set of Pearl Izumi full fingered gloves for colder mornings, but when the temperature heads towards freezing there's only one glove for the job (and no I don't have only two fingers on each hand):


Stay warm my friends!

Monday, December 7, 2009

World Bicyle Relief - Great Cause

The Jan-Feb 2010 issue of Road Magazine has a really great write-up on the World Bicycle Relief project (thanks again to my sister who provided me with my Road subscription as a Christmas present last year). Neil Shirley, a San Diego resident who rides for the Kelly Benefit Strategies Pro Team, wrote the article based upon his personal experience of visiting Zambia and being involved in the work of the charity.

What I really like about charities like World Bicycle Relief is that they provide people with a hand-up, enabling those who want to improve their lives with a means to do it. They've designed a $134 rugged bike that they can either give away, or in many cases sell through some creative financing, to folks who in turn can use the bike to grow their local economy. For example, now a farmer can transport more goods faster to market, thus increasing his productivity and cash flow. Kids can afford the time to ride to school, rather than having to stop going because the time required to walk 10 miles each way eats into time they need to work to support their family.

Unfortunately I can't seem to find a link to the Road Magazine content, but you can find more info on World Bicycle Relief here:

Velonews.com
Kelly Benefits Zambia Experience
World Bicycle Relief

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Momentum is Building

I'm up to two weeks of solid riding. It doesn't sound like much, but it's actually been a big turn around from where things were. Especially when you consider that it's winter and all the week-day riding is happening in the mornings before work. I'm outta my 12am-ish bedtime habit and getting to bed at 9 or 10 and I'm getting up around 6am and hitting the streets.

I got in a nice three hour ride up the coast today. The weather was absolutely beautiful. Today was the sort of day that you don't want to miss if you're a photographer. Lots of dark clouds in a bright sky, plenty of wind to blow away any haze, and an abundance of colour.

I also happened to run into Joel Price along the way, which was nice. I haven't seen him in 6 months or so. He's looking plenty fit. This is the year that he needs to finally come out and race. If you run into him on the roads, make sure you bug him about it.

Next week will be the final big week of my first base phase. My fitness is really coming around. I'm easily keeping it aerobic up Torrey Pines, which is a pretty good measuring stick for me. I'm starting to feel a bit worn down, but nothing too serious, I just need to manage things closely and hold on for the ensuing recovery week.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Bringing Order to Chaos

One of the projects I assigned myself for the long weekend was to build a bike rack for my various bikes and wheels. I have 3 bikes and they've been camping in and around my apartment for a long while now. The Transition has been hanging off the kitchen bar, the Colnago has been living in the hall next to the bathroom, and the Specialized E5 has been lounging around in the dining/living room area.

I made a trip down to Home Depot yesterday afternoon and picked up a couple pieces of 6 foot redwood 2x4, some lag bolts, and a variety of hooks. After a few hours spent on cutting, staining, and assembly; I give you my new 5 bike, at least 3 wheel bike rack:



Thursday, November 26, 2009

American Thanksgiving - What I Notice

What I realize on days like today is that there aren't nearly enough days like this any more. Days where it is socially accepted, if not expected that you will not open your business. Days when people are supposed to take it easy. It's kinda sad when you realize that it's a special occasion when the world slows down, as opposed to the the opposite way around.

I went out for a 90 minute spin today. Along the way I saw very few cars on the road. I may have even seen more bikes than cars on the Coast Highway. Living in a fairly urban area, the silence is very noticeable and very relaxing.

Bottom line is that there's no changing the world, it's going to go as fast as people want to make it go. What's unfortunate is that there aren't more days like today on the American calendar.

Lots of Stuff Going on Lately

I haven't been adding to the blog lately, but there's been a lot going on.

My dad came down for a visit on Nov. 11, staying through the 24th. We spent the first few days out sailing with his friend Fred Huffman. Fred has a Contessa 35 that he keeps in Marina Del Rey. We went out to Catalina Island and back, staying in Avalon the first night, Two Harbors the second night and then sailing back to the marina. We had good wind the first day and lots of great wind the last day, so we got some good sailing in. We also had a chance to see most of the island, doing some hiking and exploring.

Dad then stayed at my place for the remainder of his visit. We spent a day out sailing on Mission Bay, visited the Birch Aquarium, and the Zoo.

If you haven't been down to the San Diego Zoo lately, there's lots of new stuff going on down there. The Asian Elephants have moved downtown from the Wild Animal Park. The Zoo converted the area that the Girafes were in, into a giant home for the Elephants. There are also two Rhinos down there now, living in what seems like a lot larger area.

On the cycling front, I'm getting back into the groove of a regular training schedule. Things seem to be going fairly well. I definitely find that I do a much better job of getting out on my bike when I have a set schedule that I need to conform to. I'm also getting to bed earlier, which makes it a lot easier to get up early and hit the roads.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Back to Back Solid Weekends

I had another solid weekend with the cycling. 3.5 hours of good endurance riding on Saturday and another 2.5 or so yesterday.

Sunday was also my first long ride on the Colnago. I have to say that I'm really loving this bike. You can really feel the difference that a well designed frame geometry makes. The suppleness of good old steel as it rolls over the bumps is very nice. I'm also getting a lot out of the extra effort I have to make up the hills as I slog my way in the 42/23.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Colnago Arabesque

Here are some pictures of the new Colnago.

I took it out for my first ride yesterday afternoon. A few thoughts:

1. It corners like it's on rails. Definitely a whole lot better than my aluminum Specialized E5.
2. As you'd expect from a steel bike, it's a very smooth ride.
3. This bike gives me a whole new appreciation for the guys who raced on these sorts of drive trains. With only 12 gears and when you take the cross chaining scenarios into account, effectively 8 gears; plus the fact that it's got a 53/41 chain ring on the front, hills are a really big deal. I've always thought of it as sacrilege when people get their 126mm rear spacing stretched out to 130mm so that they can put a modern drive train on a classic like this one. Now I have a much better appreciation for why they do it.
4. I've never spent a lot of time on a bike with down tube shifters. Running these things isn't so simple. A lot of times when you shift the rear you find yourself also needing to trim the front. For someone who is so used to the ergonomics of having your shifting right at your fingertips at all times, the down tube shifters are a significant amount of extra effort.
5. When you take the shortage of gears and extra time required to shift into account, you quickly realize that it is often easier or necessary to make due with the gear you're already in, rather than going through the pain of shifting. i.e. you have to get used to spinning at very different rpm.

Matt Marshall Made me Cry

I'm not sure why he likes to do it, maybe he can't help himself, but Matt Marshall layed the boots to me today.

We rode from his place in San Marcos up to the Storm the Beach cyclocross race in Camp Pendleton (north of Oceanside); watched a couple of my SDBC team-mates race; rode up to San Clemente for lunch; rode back to the race to watch the start of the pro race; then headed back to Matt's place. We left at 9am, put in 75+ miles of riding, and got back around 5pm; a full day's work.

For the most part I felt pretty good, especially for a guy who has rarely ridden his bike over the past 4 or 5 months. Where it kinda fell apart for me was on the ride back from the race. We left the race at about 3:30 and didn't realize that we couldn't get back onto the base after 3pm. So, we had the privelege of riding 8 or 9 miles on the side of the I5 to get back to Oceanside. We rode pretty hard along the I5, at least hard for me. By the time we got off the I5 I was starting to really run low on steam. The ride from the Coast Hwy back up to San Marcos was a pretty tough affair for me. Matt was nice enough to take it easy on me as we headed up the hills on our way back to base.

This was a great day; a chance to spend some time with Matt, perfect weather, 75+ miles of riding, and my first chance to watch cyclocross live.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Whole New World

I've been busily working away at the new Colnago Arabesque. In owning this bike for less than a week, it has taken me to places around San Diego County that I never new existed and I really regret I didn't know about sooner. I'll get into some of this new world later on in this post.

I had the guys at Nytro assemble it for me and picked it up Friday. When I dropped it off at Nytro on Wednesday I had my first chance to get all the packing material off of it and take a good look. Over all, I wasn't too impressed with the state of the bike. The guy who listed it on eBay described it as having "a couple scratches on the left of the seat tube". I'm not too sure what sort of drugs he's on, but there aren't any big scratches on the left of the seat tube. There are various dings all over the bike and a few well pitted areas of chrome (or at least were). I wasn't expecting the bike to be perfect. More so, I never wanted to buy a mint condition bike. My fear all along has been that if I buy a mint 80s bike, I'll never ride it because I'd be too afraid of doing damage to it. My hope however was that the bike would be closer to mint than it was when it came out of the box.

The good news is that there are no dents anywhere on the bike. It also has all the original parts and they're in amazingly good condition. When you look at the cogs of the freewheel they don't show any wear whatsoever. The bike is definitely a head turner. Everyone who sees it wants to take a closer look and talk about it.

The mechanic at Nytro had a couple pieces of advice for me that have since expanded into interesting experiences for me as a San Diego County cyclist. The first piece of advice was that if I ever wanted to restore the bike to brand new condition, that there is a place in Vista, CyclArt, that does top class restorations of bikes. The second piece of advice was that the freewheel on the Colnago might need to be replaced. Being that bike shops aren't putting a lot of 6-speed freewheels on bikes any more, Nytro didn't have one. They suggested that Pacific Coast Cycles might.

So, Thursday afternoon I checked out the CyclArt website and ended up giving them a call to get a better idea of what they were all about and maybe get some advice for how they would see things going with the Colnago. Jim answered the phone (I later found out that he is the owner). I was really amazed at just how much time Jim was willing to spend on the phone with me talking about the bike, sharing his experiences of what he's seen need work on 80s Colnagos, what to look out for, what to do from a maintenance perspective, etc. In the end, it all boiled down to:

1. Try to clean up the chrome with some chrome polish. Whatever corrosion doesn't come out is only going to expand in the chrome, so try to get as much pitting out as possible. Areas that do have some chrome corrosion (the only place with rust on the bike) are rusting from the outside, so there's not too much to be concerned about long term.
2. Put a good coat of wax on the paint.
3. Maybe bring the bike by, take a tour of the facility (which I'm definitely going to do) and we'll take a closer look and see what might be appropriate.

By the time I picked up the bike on Friday I still had it in my mind that I might just pack it back up again, return it to the guy I bought it from, and get my money back. On the way home I picked up some chrome polish and figured I'd at least give it a go and see where I could get things. I ended up spending about 3 hours Friday night, slowly working my way around the fork, head lugs, chain and seat stays. In the end I'd say that I got about 90% of the pitting out of the fork and head lugs. There's probably only one more session required on these guys. The chain stays are pretty much perfect. The one area that is still going to need a few sessions is the right seat stay. Bottom line here is that I'm really optimistic that the chrome is going to come out looking really good, maybe even to the point that if I do get 'er restored one day, the chrome won't need to be re-done, just the paint. The bike is definitely not going back to the seller.

On the freewheel front, I called up to Pacific Coast Cycles on Friday afternoon and ended up speaking to a guy named Chuck. Chuck definitely seemed to know his stuff and said he had some 6 speed freewheels if I did indeed need one. I said I'd come by on Saturday with the bike and we could take a look at whether or not it needed a freewheel and go from there. Before he hung up he asked me my name and said he was looking forward to meeting me.

So, today after my morning ride, I threw the Colnago onto the roof of the car and headed up to Oceanside to see Chuck's shop. All I can say is that this is easily the coolest bike shop I've ever been in. It's a tiny little shop on the corner of the 101 and Vista Way in Oceanside. If you're used to riding up the 101, it's a block north of the Angelo's Burgers that is just north of the lagoon between Carlsbad and Oceanside. What makes this place so cool is that when you go inside you don't see a wall of the newest carbon WhateverBrands. What you see is a wall of classic Masi's, many of which have been restored to beautiful condition. Chuck also has some classic Colnago's and the like floating around the shop. I arrived with two basic needs, a new seat binding bolt and freewheel for the Colnago. As soon as Chuck saw the Colnago heading his way he greeted me by name, came over and took a look and went about helping me with my "issues". After a quick ride around the block he was of the opinion that the freewheel was in perfect condition, suggesting that Regina freewheels just aren't that smooth. Chuck also did some quick modifications to my seat binding bolt. So, with my problems fixed in five minutes or so, I had plenty of time to talk to Chuck about his Masi collection.

Masi is a brand that I've heard a lot of conflicting stories about. Obviously it's much sought after brand of Italian bikes. What I'd read once was was that the guy behind Masi (Faliero Masi) had left Italy and settled in Carlsbad, continuing to make Masi's here in California. The notion being that at one point, folks were still making Masi's in Italy while they were also being made in California, and that if you wanted a "real" Masi from this time period, you really wanted the CA version, rather than the Italian one. It turns out that Chuck actually worked in the Carlsbad Masi manufacturing facility himself. The real deal here is that Masi sold the rights to sell Masi's in North America to some guys who wanted to build a plant in Carlsbad. So he came to Carlsbad to set up the plant, then returned back to Italy and merrily went about continuing to make bikes back in Italy.

The bottom line here is that Chuck's Masi collection is amazing. If you're a fan of classic bikes and you live in Southern California, you really owe it to yourself to stop by his shop and check things out. Chuck is even selling some of his Masi's at some really great prices.

Anyways, it's bed time for me. I hope to have some pictures of the Colnago up tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Nice Trip Back Home

I spent the past 4 days back home in the Vancouver area visiting with family. Definitely a nice trip and time well spent.

I got to spend a couple days fishing with my dad. This time of year the salmon are returning home to spawn, so there is plenty of fishing in local streams. We spent an afternoon fishing on the Stave River, below the Hayward Dam. I had one good salmon, but it ended up getting away as I was landing it. Other than that, not too much to report on the first day.

The second day was a little more eventful as we first spent an hour or so trying to figure out where Inch Creek was, then after trekking through the forest, over fences, across the railroad tracks, etc. we finally found what we were looking for. We caught a couple fish on the day, so things ended up quite well.

I also got to spend some time with my sister and her family, visiting with my 16 month old nephew, Morgan. I've seen him a few times previously, but not since he's been up and walking/running. He's definitely growing up fast and it's not hard to understand why. For a guy who probably only weighs 1/4 of what I do, he eats pretty much as much food as I do. If my mom sends me any pictures I'll add them to this post.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mail Order Bride


For a long while I've been looking to buy a mid to late 80s steel lugged road bike. Preferably a Colnago Master, Colnago Arabesque, Colnago Spiral Conic, De Rosa, Cinelli, or maybe Merckx.

I really blew it something like 6 months ago when a guy put a mint 80s Colnago Master on eBay with a buy it now of $1850 (the same price he paid for it 20 years ago!). I should have just bought it the moment I saw it. When I look back, one of the things that held me back was that the bike was so beautiful and perfect that I would have felt bad riding it. Every time I had it on the road I would have been thinking that it should be in a glass display case in my living room. I say this with the knowledge that I'm usually good for at least one good crash per year (knock on wood I haven't hit the ground since I nearly exploded myself at San Marcos a couple years ago). Instead I pulled my normal procrastination routine and by the time I was ready to act, it was gone. Some guy got what is probably worth at least $3,500 or $4,000 for half price.

This past week some really nice 55/56cm Colnago Arabesques made their way onto eBay. I'm not too sure why it works like it works, but for some reason when it rains it seems to pour on eBay. You'll see no instances of a given bike for months, then all of a sudden there are 3 or 4 listed all at the same time. Anyways, I ended up winning an auction for one of the Arabesques. Original paint, only a few minor scratches, beautiful arabesque lugs, looks to have pretty minimal use, looks to be original Campagnolo Record parts, etc. In the words of the seller (this after he'd taken the bike down to his local bike shop to be packed up for shipping); "Funny story at the bikeshop, they didn't want to give the bike back?! Instead they were offereing me more money for it but I refused!"

So my mail order bride (she'll be my 3rd wife) is on the way to San Diego. Once she's out of the box and assembled I'll post some pics. Definitely looking forward to the first ride.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Jim Lahey Explains It Like It Is

Whenever you're looking for a laugh you can always count on Jim Lahey to help things all make sense. Classic lines like "You know what a shit rope is Julian? It's a rope covered in shit":

Friday, October 9, 2009

Apparently I am an "Elitist"

This evening while I was having a drink or three at my favorite bar near work it was explained to me by someone I don't know that I'm an elitist. The context here is that we got started on a conversation related to the bartender, call him Brian. Brian was talking about what the situation is like when a recruited "shopper" comes into the restaurant and sits at the bar and evaluates how he does his job. If he does it well, he gets a $100 bonus. If he doesn't do it well, he doesn't get a bonus and may get heat from his boss. My point on this was that if I were Brian and some secret agent were evaluating me in my job and then turned around and started to rag on me, I'd tell my employer where they could stick it and find a job somewhere else.

My point to the guy sitting beside me was that Brian is a great bartender. If he doesn't get respect from where he's working now, so what; he can get a job at the bar down the street, all his customers will figure it out and go buy liquor from him down there and he'll make just as much money as he does here. What's $100 to a great bartender? A great bartender probably earns 3x that in tips each night. The guy sitting beside me's point was that, in this economy there won't be a job for Brian down the road, because they won't be looking for a bartender.

So here's where I become an "elitist". My whole thinking on this subject is that if you're good at what you do, you're passionate about it, and you have a drive to succeed you'll find a place for yourself. For example, sure the bar down the street might not be looking for a new bartender; however, once they gave Brian a chance they'd quickly discover that the guy paid for himself because he's so good at his job. Brian's talent and aptitude for his job would mean that people would buy more liquor from the new bar, Brian's customers from the previous bar would move to the new one, maybe the new bar would even discover that they could dump one of their existing bartenders and give Brian his job instead.

My over-riding philosophy in all of this that each of us has a talent. Whether we realize what our talent is and where we can apply it to our maximum benefit is another question. Personally, I've been in jobs that I absolutely sucked at. My time at Xerox was a good example. Yes, I had some big months, but I had to work like a dog in order to achieve those big months. I wasn't talented at sales. After being there for 6 months I saw that the people who really did well at the job were working 20 or 30 hours a week and making twice as much as I was. These guys would actually go watch movies during the day. On the other hand, I was working 50 hours a week and making half of what they were. The thinking of the guy sitting beside me at the bar was that I should have just stayed working at Xerox, worked 50 hours a week and earned way less that what felt like equal compensation to the effort I put in. I'm sorry, but I just don't get it.

These sorts of experiences should be a signal to people that they aren't in a position that is in alignment with their skills. Yes, it sucked when I realized that I wasn't cut out to be in sales. At the same time however, I was realistic with myself and realized that I needed to go in another direction. If I really loved sales:

1. I would have done better at it.
2. I would have felt like I was being paid a reasonable amount of money for the skin I put into the game. i.e. If you love to flip hamburgers (fyi - a job I did once and I'm not looking down on it) and you get paid $5/hr, maybe that's just fine. If you're doing something you love, what you get paid to do it, shouldn't be a deciding factor.

In my case, I went back to school, got a post grad degree in IT and never looked back. I look at myself just like I look at Brian. If my current employer were to treat me in a way I found inappropriate I'd quit and within a week or two be employed somewhere else, probably making even more money.

The guy sitting beside me at the bar however didn't see it that way. His thought was that if Brian left his current job he'd have to now slide in at the bottom of the totem pole at his new job. He'd be taking a cut in pay and it would take him years to recover. This kind of thinking I don't get. If Brian is good at his job (which he most definitely is), sure he might have to start at the bottom; but so what? Through his aptitude for tending bar, he'd quickly be back to where he was when he left his previous job.

In the words of Eric Cartman, "follow your dream, you too can reach your goals, Beefcake! Beefcake!!!"

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Up then Down

I took off from work in good time today, completed my massive 10 minute commute home, got saddled up on my bike and went for a 2.5 hour ride up the coast and back. As I was riding I was thinking to myself how these sorts of rides are what it's all about. Get away from work, get outside and do something I love to do, and enjoy the suddenly cooler weather we're finally experiencing here in San Diego.

Then, when I was less than a mile from home, I somehow dumped my chain off the top of my biggest gear, into the space between my cassette and my hub. I have no idea how that happened, I don't even think I was changing gears. The net result was a near instant stop. My chain was jammed into that gap so tightly that as my rear wheel continued to turn it ripped my chain right off my front chain rings with enough force to slam it right through the bottom of my front derailleur. After spending 5 minutes on the side of the road ripping my chain out of there I was able to ride the rest of the way home, very slowly however.

BTW, I love how you can be broken down on the side of the road for 5 minutes, be passed by 20 cyclists and not one of them even asks if you need any help. It's bad enough that people can't even seem to say hi to you when you say hi to them as you pass them on the bike path, but not offering to help someone who could well need it really bothers me. I've gotten to the point with people on the bike path that when I say hi to them and they don't even react, that I now yell a second hi at them, just to make my point. Note however, that my more aggressive action with the hi's doesn't appear to be making a difference; at least not yet.

So now it looks like my powertap hub is messed up, my front derailleur needs to be replaced for sure, and who knows what else is done for. Stay tuned for another $400 trip to the bike shop. Dammit!

Highly Recommended Movie

If you know my taste in movies, you know I love a great documentary. The other night I watched "American Drug War: The Last White Hope". This is one of the best documentaries I've ever seen, not so much because it's the best production you'll ever see in a documentary, but because it covers material that I think the vast majority of America just can't get their heads wrapped around. It also exposes things about the American government's role in the war on drugs that most people don't even know about.

I've long been a proponent of the complete legalization of drugs. The reasons being pretty simple:

1. Since the beginning of time, you've never been able to stop people from doing something, simply by enacting a law. Making drugs illegal doesn't do anything to stop their use.
2. Look at all of the crime that is created simply due to the fact that people can make huge money selling something that people can't buy anywhere else. If people could walk into 7-11 and buy their drugs for probably 1/10 of what they pay now, drug related crime would end instantly. Seriously, instantly!
3. America spends billions of dollars each year funding the war on drugs, when the war on drugs is the stupidest idea in the history of war. Even a retard can figure out that you can't kill an industry by trying to eradicate its supply. The way to kill an industry is to control its demand. On the other hand, one can easily also see how it is in the best interests of those who make their hay "waging the war on drugs" for the war to never be won. And there's the rub.

Whether you think that drugs should remain illegal or not. Even if no one can say anything that will change your mind, you owe it to yourself to watch this movie and learn what the war on drugs is really all about.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Kinda Wonder How it All Worked

I question how it was that I used to be so good about sticking to my 10+ hours a week training program. I had a really good weekend last weekend, getting out for 3+ hours on both Saturday and Sunday. Once the work week started though, I'm again stuck in the mud with little happening on the cycling front.

I don't really feel like I'm necessarily more hectic at work than I have been in the past. I am seeing more unpredictability in the time requirements work is throwing my way. I'm also seeing some of my time being sucked up by my responsibilities as Sponsorship Director for the bike club. This time of year is the time when we need to get sponsors finalized for the 2010 jersey, so there is a lot of pressure to get deals closed.

In some ways I think the work variability is a big part of the problem. I do well with predictable plans that I can stick to and follow. For example, each year when I put together my training program it went onto my fridge, onto my office cork-board, and onto this blog. I knew what I needed to do each day and I seemed to find the time to do it. Now I'm in more of a pattern where on a slow work day I need to be able to have the variability to swap out what might have been a 30 minute speed workout for a 3 hour aerobic ride and vice versa. That's where I'm struggling.

Anyways, things are headed in the right direction. I just need to close the gap from the "somewhat got it together" pack that I'm riding in now, up to the "got it together" pack. Maybe I need a faster bike or something ;-)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Trailer Park Boys - I'm Hooked

A few years ago my sister gave me the 4th season of the Trailer Park Boys as a gift (Christmas or my Birthday, I can't remember - sorry). When I first tried to watch it, it never really made too much of an impression on me. With the new TBP movie, Count Down to Liquor Day coming out and all the previews on the Canadian web sites that I frequent, I gave the 4th season a more serious look. I've gotta say, this show is one of the funniest things you'll ever see!

Caveat - If you are my Mom, and you're reading this post, now is probably a good time to stop reading, or at least, proceed at your own risk!

The story line of this show is pretty simple, at the start of each season some combination of Ricky, Julian and Bubbles gets out of jail. They then go back home to their trailer park (Sunnyvale) in Nova Scotia. They then spend a couple episodes with Julian pontificating about how he's going to go clean, get a real job and not go back to jail. By episode three, Ricky is back to growing dope in one of the trailers in the park. They then spend the rest of the season trying to avoid getting busted by Jim Lahey, the drunk trailer park supervisor. By the final episode they're getting busted by the cops and heading back to jail.

When you watch the show, you're reminded of the differences between Canadian and American senses of humor. Just my impression, but most American comedies are all about relating to the characters and laughing along with them as they go through life. Canadian comedies are about something different, they're about laughing at some sorry SOB as he goes through life. The Trailer Park Boys fit this perfectly. You don't laugh along with these guys, you laugh at them as they grow dope, steal and re-sell meat from the grocery store, open up a used furniture store where they sell stolen furniture (stolen from a hotel and a government office), make pornos starring people from the trailer park, steal shopping carts from one mall and sell them to the other, etc. All while trying to out fox the permanently drunk Jim Lahey and his side kick, burger boy Randy.

The other thing that you're reminded of when you watch this show is how things are a little different in Canada. Since I've been watching this show I'm back to swearing a lot more, urinating in public as appropriate, and having a general sense of dislike for The Man.

If you haven't ever watched this show, I highly recommend giving it a shot. After watching season 4, I hit Amazon and bought the entire series. Definitely money well spent.

Here are some funnier clips from the show:

After dishonestly letting Bubbles take the fall for his own work of burning down his dad's trailer, Ricky is convinced by Julian that they should do Bubbles a favor by doing what he want's to do for the day. Starts out as badminton, ends in playing space.



Shit Hawks, they're flying in low:



Never Cry Shitwolf; Lahey thinks he has the boys nailed, it doesn't quite turn out that way:



Problems with the cable guy:



Lahey and Shit Moths:



Ricky destroys Lahey's place over a chicken:



5 swear words you didn't know:

Monday, September 21, 2009

Finally!


Once upon a time there was a Pacific Northwest college football program that went all the way to the top. The Washington Huskies were national champs as recently as 1991. There have been some good years since then; Rose Bowl wins in 1992 and 2001, ending Miami's 58 game home winning streak in dominating fashion, and numerous other dramatic victories.

There were of course some rocky roads that the Huskies have traveled recently. A two year probation from the NCAA in 1993. This was followed by the ultimate axis of evil; namely Barbara Hedges and Rick Neuheisel. Normally when people who are as devious and incompetent as these two put their heads together, the end result is the end of a civilization, mass destruction, or something similar. In this case, Washington football fans took one for the rest of the planet as they watched their beloved program turned into a laughing stock.

Sure, Slick Rick took the team to a Rose Bowl win in 2001, but once he had to depend on his own recruits and management of said players, it was all over. Crappy players and even poorer discipline of said players. There are a few articles out there on the internet that detail some of the complete lack of human decency that existed in some of Neuheisel's recruits, and even worse in how he turned a blind eye to it all. I'll leave that for you to find on your own.

No worries though, with Rick fired just as the NCAA was about to nail him to the wall (note he left Colorado in exactly the same sort of fashion); the ultimate slack ass, Ty Willingham would restore order and take the sleeping giant back to the top. Too bad it never worked out that way. 14 straight losses and the worst ranked defense in the entire county later, Ty finally got his marching orders. Ty's reign was kinda like being a stock market investor over the past couple years; just when you thought it couldn't possibly get any worse, sure enough it did. And that didn't happen once or twice; it happened on a weekly, or even daily basis.

Finally at the end of last season, Washington hired a guy in Steve Sarkisian who we all knew was the right guy for the job. The only question was how long would it take for him to turn around the train wreck that Willingham left behind.

With the Huskies starting out their season against perennial power house LSU, anyone who had been paying attention for the last few years expected another 56-0 beatdown; just like the one that USC put on the Huskies last season. Even worse, it was all going to unfold on national television. Funny enough, the Dawgs only lost to LSU by 8. Realistically, with some better tackling, they might have even won the game. All of a sudden one began to quickly question whether they needed to change their expectations for this team. Last season while going win-less in 12 games, Husky fans learned that they should just be happy seeing their team not get blown out. We all knew we were going to lose, but at least maybe we could keep the losing margin under 10. Now you had to wonder if you should start being a bit upset when the team didn't win. Maybe even expect them to win. Even be a critical when the team made some mistakes because who knows, maybe one or two less mistakes and we wouldn't all have to accept losing any more.

Week two brought Idaho to town, no big deal, the Huskies won pretty easily, ending their 15 game losing streak. Give Sarkisian and his coaching staff credit though. If Ty were still running the show, this would have probably also been a loss.

Last weekend, week 3, brought the big, bad, 3rd ranked USC Trojans to town. Before kick-off I joked with Carol that she might want to get a diaper ready for her USC loving brother Joe because the Dawgs were about to break his heart. Unless you've been living under a rock somewhere, you realize that Washington in fact beat USC 16-13! How crazy is that? Sure, USC was without their starting quarterback, but hey what can you say? Rather than snatching defeat from the jaws of victory as this team has done so many times over the past few seasons, the Huskies actually drove down the field with the game on the line and kicked a field goal to win the game.

Up next Stanford. I kinda laugh when people speculate that the Huskies are going to have a let down after beating USC last weekend. These folks obviously have no idea what it's like to lose 15 football games in a row. It's impossible for this team to ever get too high on themselves. They've seen things as bad as they can possibly be. They are the team that went a whole season without winning a game. They know what's out there waiting for them if they ever even consider believing their own press clippings. Let's just hope that Sarkisian can pilot this thing all the way to a bowl game this season.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Time for Action

This is going to be the week when my riding finally gets back onto a regular schedule.

On the plus side of things, my eating has been much better the past couple weeks. I'm down from 188 to somewhere around 183. I've still got a long way to go, but I've definitely made a good start. Most import is healthy eating. Losing some extra weight is nice, but certainly not the primary goal.

I also spent two and half hours on a nice slow ride today. Up the coast to Leucadia, where I ran into Wells, one of my team-mates. He was riding south at that point, so I turned around and rode back south to Del Mar with him. We also passed the one and only Matt Marshall on our way back south. Nice guy, but he's got to get himself a better looking team kit. Something white and red, with a few yellow stripes are what all the chicks are digging these days, or at least that's what I'm told.

On the riding front I've been pretty regular with getting out to the Saturday SDBC Club ride, but I haven't been doing anything else. i.e. no base miles, no aerobic endurance, and in general very limited fitness. Now that work is winding down a bit, it's time to start making time to get out on the bike and get my aerobic base back.

I don't know about everyone else out there, but nothing frustrates me more than the feeling of having no aerobic base. It means that when you do get on your bike the littlest amount of effort causes your heart rate to quickly climb. Also, when you do ride hard, your heart rate races right past your lactate threshold and pegs at or near your maximum heart rate. I can't tell you how many times on the SDBC ride I look down and see that my heart rate is up around 195 (my max). If I were in shape it would be somewhere between 175 and 185.

Which then leads to the catch 22 of not being motivated to ride. I'm not motivated to ride because I'm frustrated about how far my fitness has fallen, plus when I ride my bike I see first hand how slow I need to ride to keep my heart rate under control. Yet, the only way to get it better is to ride.

Anyway, enough excuses, it's time for action. This week my goal is the following:

M - day off
T - 1 hour of endurance
W - 30 mins. of speed
Th - 2.5 hours of endurance
F - off (maybe do some weights)
Sa - 1 hour endurance
Su - 2 hours endurance

Let's see how I make out.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Paleo Man Rides Again

I'm back on the Paleo Diet. My eating has really fallen off the rails the past few months. It hasn't been helped by all the late work hours, but more than anything, I simply need to get off all the sugar and complex carbohydrates. I'm back up around the 190 pound mark, which is pretty tough to take, especially every morning as I try to squeeze into my pants.

For those not aware, a few years ago I started eating like Paleo Man. At the time I weighed about 195. I had recently had my ass handed to me on the Boulevard Road Race portion of the San Diego Omnium and knew a couple of things:

1. I couldn't expect to climb hills, even as a cat 5 if I was going to weigh in at 195.
2. There was lots of good buzz around the performance benefits of Joe Friel's Paleo Diet for Athletes book. I figured it was at least worth a shot.

After 3 months or so of eating like Paleo Man I was down to around 170 and was riding much stronger than ever. Getting your body running off the sort of food it was designed/evolved (which ever one works best for you) to run on can make a huge difference in your overall performance, particularly when working at an aerobic heart rate. For anyone considering trying this diet out, I strongly advise that you are not going to perform well for the first week or two as your body adjusts.

I kinda fell of the Paleo bandwagon about halfway through the 2007 racing season, when I allowed myself to get way over-trained. The sort of sugar urges I had at the time were insatiable and I saw the Paleo Diet fall by the way side. That was my first full year of racing and training. I didn't have a good handle on what sort of training load my body could take, or have any good sense for reading when I was becoming over-trained; so rather than going into the over-training valley only to the point I could recover from, I fell all the way to the bottom of the canyon and crashed in a fiery wreck. Now that I know myself a lot better, I'm not expecting to fall into the same whole again.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Bit by a Dog Yesterday

Yesterday as I walked down the hall of my building, some stupid chick's dog attacked me. It was pretty straight forward, I entered one of the exterior doors and started walking down one of the hallways. Before entering the complex, I offered to let her and her dog exit. They weren't trying to exit and were just standing there, so I started walking down the hall. As I passed the two of them I heard a bark, sensed the dog was going to do something, looked down at my arm and saw it hanging there with it's teeth in me.

A few thoughts on this:

1. Normally my reflexes are pretty quick, but in this case I didn't even flinch before the dog hit me. Probably because I'm so used to walking by dog owners in this complex and having their damned dogs start barking at me. When I walked by and heard the barking, I expected things to end there. In this case, not so lucky.
2. From now on whenever one of these dog owners in my complex has a dog that is clearly not under control and is barking at me I'm going to punt it into orbit.

It seems like things are going to be okay. I've got one puncture from where the dog's teeth went into my arm, and a few scratches. I went to the urgent care and got some antibiotics. My Tetanus shot from my over the bars crash at Ontario is still active, so I didn't need another one of them.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Randy Clark Passes - One Less Good Guy

Randy Clark passed away yesterday (8/9/2009).

I met Randy when he started working at B&L Bike and Sport, one of my favorite bike shops. When I first met him, it was around the time that I bought my Specialized E5 frame and had B&L build it up with Campy Record parts. My first impression was that he didn't really fit in at B&L. B&L is a bit of a hip, fast moving place. Randy was an older (59 this year) guy with frizzy hair and an unpolished look. When he offered to do my fitting, I was kinda thinking to myself, sure I'll let you, but I'm not sure I have a lot of confidence in what's about to happen. Randy proved to be the best guy I've ever met in the world of San Diego cycling.

For my fitting; I got on my bike, pedaled for a while on the trainer, Randy felt my back and hips as I spun, he made a few quick adjustments, and I left with the best bike fit I've ever had. I soon came to respect Randy as one of the most knowledgeable, honest, earnest, inspired, and enthusiastic people I've met. When I first got on my bike after my accident, I again had Randy do a fitting for me. He could see for himself first hand just how sad a state I was in, yet he came right out and asked me if I wanted to come out and ride with his Big City Velo team as they rode up the coast.

Big City Velo was a local San Diego cycling team that Randy put together and backed. He had some help from some local sponsors like Canari and Leader Bikes, but at the end of the day; Randy was the guy who made it all happen.

Less than a month ago I got an email that the San Diego velodrome was putting on a benefit race for Randy. That was when I first learned that he had cancer. It started only a few months ago when he had a melanoma removed from his nose. A couple months later he wasn't feeling well, went to the doctor and discovered that the cancer had spread to his liver. And a month or so later, he's gone.

I know that there aren't too many people who read this blog, which is kinda sad, not for me, but for Randy; because I don't see too many tributes out there to him right now. He's a guy who deserves to be recognized as one of the truly good people who made this world a better place. Randy was the sort of person there aren't near enough of on this planet. He will be missed big time.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Yes, I still ride a bike; kinda

For the past couple months, there hasn't been a lot of cycling to report on.

Partly due to lack of motivation, but mostly due to other priorities. The past 3 months or so I've been side-tracked with trying to go from 0 to 100 with Oracle's 11g version of ADF (Application Development Framework). ADF is one of the pillars of Oracle's Fusion architecture, so it's something that we're starting to develop some applications with at work.

ADF is Oracle's packaging of Java Server Pages (JSP) and Java Server Faces (JSF) into their integrated development environment, JDeveloper. For the non-technical folks, ADF is a framework for developing open-source web applications. As someone who has 10 or so years of solid software development experience in a JavaScript like scripting language (Pnuts) and a cursory knowledge of Java; I was expecting things to be pretty straight forward learning ADF. In reality it's turned out to be a lot more involved, ADF has kinda become a way of life for me.

It's not helping either that we don't have the largest workforce in our IT department these days. We have less resources than ever, but still the same amount of work to do. The bottom line in all of this is that each week I've been juggling my regular responsibilities for our manufacturing systems, developing an ADF application, and trying to learn ADF as I go. So, I almost have two jobs, an 8am to 4pm job doing my regular work, and a 5pm to 12am job doing ADF.

Not a lot of time left for cycling.

The good news is that I'm starting to become pretty proficient with ADF. My application is pretty much completed and ready for release on August 24th. Now I'll finally have some time for riding and getting back into feeling like a real human again.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Got out on the SDBC "B" Ride

I rode the "B" ride on Saturday.

Joel Price, who I met through this blog came out. After what seems like a year of talking about it, this was the first time we've gotten to get out on the road together. No matter what Joel tries to tell you, he's a strong guy. He definitely has the power to do well in races if he chooses to race one day.

From my side, I haven't been doing a lot of riding lately. With my parents having been down for a week and me feeling a little burned out, I've been avoiding my bike. It was definitely a little rough for me at times, but in general a really good ride. I was able to push things on the flats and do pretty well on most of the hills. I'm definitely lacking some muscular endurance for hills like Torrey Pines.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Good Ride Today

I had a really nice endurance ride after work today. Out on the ride I felt something I haven't felt for a long time; me pulling up with my left leg when sprinting. While, I'm taking it somewhat easy on these endurance rides (I usually try to keep my heart rate under 157), I also try to get some sprints and jumps in, particularly at traffic lights. When I see a green light in front of me I usually gun it, both so that I can make the light as well as trying to work on one of my biggest weaknesses, namely changes in pace. Today for the first time I could actually feel my left shin muscle flexing at the bottom of my pedal stroke as it tried to pull my foot up.

I also seem to be having some good success with getting some of the scar tissue at the top of my knee to break up as well as strengthening my quads and hamstrings. I've been doing a lot of single leg squats in the gym, which is really helping. Doing one leg at a time gives my knee a chance to bend under load and really gives me a chance to increase some of the strength in my leg muscles. I'm nearly to where I can go down to a 90 degree angle and get back up again, so things are looking up. Back when I first started doing these, a long time ago, I was lucky to be able to bend 25 degrees and then straighten back up. I'm also finding that I can sometimes feel the tissue at the top of my knee pulling away from the wires that are in there, especially on rides. It hurts a bit at first, but if I rub it down the pain goes away.

The bottom line is that I'm feeling really good about my decision to step back from racing and instead concentrate on my left leg and having fun on my bike. I'm getting to the gym once or twice a week, making time to use my electro stimulator five times a week, and still riding 8 to 10 hours a week.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Goat Canucks Goat

Its spring time, and if you're from anywhere near Canada you know what that means; it's time for the male of the species to descend into his Stanley Cup Playoff bunker and forget about all of the now minor issues that real life might be trying to distract him with. The best hockey you'll ever see is on TV (or the internet in my case) every night of the week and on most nights, available in multiple doses.

The Canucks are off to a flying start, winning their first round matchup with St. Louis in four straight. For the guys at GoatCanucksGoat, that means at least 4 goats donated to African families in need. Check it out, this is a pretty crazy idea:

http://www.goatcanucksgoat.com/about-us/

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Went to the Neurologist Today

I went to the neurologist this morning. With the small, yet no where good enough improvements I've seen in my nerve recovery over nearly two years now, I wanted to get one final opinion on the status of my nerve. The opinion of the guy I saw this morning is that when the traction pin was put through my knee, it grazed my peroneal nerve. Didn't sever it, but damaged it irreparably. His prognosis is that the nerve won't get better and it won't get worse. In his words, "of all the people I see this is a pretty minor problem, on a scale of 1 to 10, it's about a quarter". Uh, well, sure, I don't have significant neurological issues. I do however have a complete inability to race my bike any more.

The peroneal nerve for those who might be interested:

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Keep Plugging Away

This morning I rode around the San Luis Rey road course for a few hours with a couple of my team-mates. We started out in Escondido, worked our way to Champagne Blvd, and headed down to the course for a couple laps. We then rode back to the cars in Escondido.

Based on how I'm riding these days, I'm really starting to think that losing my discipline with my muscle stimulator wasn't the best thing. My hip surgeon had suggested to me that using a electro-stimulator on my leg might help bring back the atrophied muscles. Back in November and December 2008 I was pretty religious about strapping it onto my left shin four or five times a week. It seemed to help resuscitate my shin muscles because I got to the point that I didn't need to use my brace to hold my foot up any more. Once I started seeing some progress, my thinking was that since the muscles were now able to function better, they wouldn't need the stimulator. I then stopped using the stimulator as much.

Back in January at our team camp I was able to hold around 280 watts up the hour long climb of Montezuma. After an hour of riding this morning I was having a hard time keeping it over 200 watts on the hills. You don't have to be a genius to see that:

a) I've regressed.
b) You're not going to be able to hold onto any sort of fast paced ride if you can only putt out 200 watts.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Done with Windows

This weekend I took the plunge and jumped on the Linux bandwagon.

I've wanted to check out Linux for a long while now. You hear so many good things about it like; stability, security, cost (free is always nice), etc. With all the constant security issues in Windows, especially this latest Cornficker worm, I got to the end of my rope with Windows. When I found myself using my computer, not having any confidence in whether it was secure or not, I knew it was time for a change.

So, I made a trip down to Fry's. There's always a good excuse to head down there. I wanted to buy some more RAM anyways, plus I needed a good way to back up all my files from my hard drive. At first I was thinking I'd buy an external drive and back all my files up on to there, but when you look at some of the prices on hard drives these days, it becomes obvious that a hard drive upgrade is the right answer. $130 for 1TB of storage! Back when I bought my PC 6 years ago, my 160GB drive was pretty big.

My original plan was to set up a dual boot on my existing hard drive. However, armed with this new hard drive I decided to go all in; swapped out the hard drives and installed Linux onto the new drive. I then just transferred my files from the old drive to the new one, and voila, up and running on Linux. If I had to do it again I could probably do the whole thing in less than an hour. I'm really impressed. Last week I had no clue as to how one would install Linux or what the implications would be. With a minimal amount of reading online documentation and some basic computer hardware knowledge I was able to pull this thing off.

For those who aren't familiar with Linux, it's an open source operating system. Linux is then distributed as a pre-built package. For those of us who are used to the nice graphical interface of something like Windows, there's a distribution type known as Desktop Linux. Desktop Linux has all the sorts of point and click capabilities one is used to in Windows for things like printing, file management, web browsing, etc. After looking around the internet for 30 minutes or so, I came to the conclusion that the Ubuntu distribution was the right thing for me. If you want more info, go check out their site, the documentation is very well written. They've got guides for how to go from Windows to Linux, how to run Windows and Linux on the same hard drive, how to install Linux, etc. Basically you download the distribution from their website and burn it as a bootable cd; from there you can install it, or even run your PC in Linux off the cd without installing.

At this point I'm up and running full steam, with one exception. I can't seem to get my bluetooth mouse and keyboard working. They were working after my install; however, once I loaded all the cumulative Linux updates they stopped working. It's rather odd in that my PC can see other bluetooth devices like people's phones. This'll be something for another day. My wired mouse and keyboard are working fine.

One of the first things you notice about Linux is how software is distributed and installed. In Windows you hunt and peck across the internet looking for an application that will meet your needs. Maybe you want a media player, so you install Windows MediaPlayer, Winamp or RealPlayer. If you've installed any of these apps you know that RealPlayer is constantly trying to get you to buy something else. MediaPlayer and Winamp constantly need to be upgraded, etc. If you're looking for something more specialized, say for example a video file combiner, you might end up grabbing some freeware. That freeware might have a ton of bugs in it, might just install a virus on your PC, who knows?

In Linux (for the most part), all the software you need is cataloged inside the environment. So, if you want a media player you simply click add/remove applications (note that it opens in seconds, not minutes like the Windows add/remove programs) and then browse through all the open source, free media players that are available for Linux. Each of these programs is managed, distributed, and QA'd by the Linux community, so they are validated to work and be secure for the Linux OS. Each of the programs has info on what it does, a ranking based upon how popular it is etc. If you install it, check it out and don't like it you can simply remove it (and btw you don't need to restart your machine after you install or remove something). These applications aren't a bunch of useless crap apps. For example, if you like MS Office, there's a Linux word processor that will save and open MS Word files.

First impressions vs. Windows:

1. Much, much faster. It takes literally 20 seconds to boot my machine. And when you do see your desktop you can use your machine. Not like Windows where you wait another few minutes for your hard drive to stop spinning.
2. So far, a lot simpler. With 1 hour of reading the usage manual on Ubuntu's website I think my parents could use this OS and get more out of it than they get from Windows.
3. Really easy to customize. For example, you can add as many "workspaces" as you want to your Linux desktop. You can then run different applications in different workspaces. This makes it really easy to run multiple applications at the same time, yet keep them separated visually.
4. Everything you're used to doing in Windows can be done in Linux.
5. Windows applications of course won't run in Linux. I have read somewhere that you can get a plugin for Linux that will allow this to happen, but don't know for sure. Not being able to run some of my Windows apps like some games is a little frustrating. But, I can always just put my old hard drive back in and have my old Windows environment when I want to play a game.
6. Free!
7. Sorry, now that I'm back on my laptop I had to come back and add this one, no more of the stupidest keyboard key in the history of computers, the damned "Windows Key". What sort of impression do you have to have of yourself to look at a keyboard that has been pretty much constant since the days of the typewriter and say to yourself, "hey you know what, I think we should add a key to the keyboard just for Windows!".

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Interesting Wildlife Encounter

One of the folks I work with posted these pictures and the following write-up on our bikes mailing list. Normally when you hear of folks interacting with nature on a bike ride it's something like a mountain biker avoiding a snake, or a road rider barreling into a deer or bear on a descent. It had to be pretty amazing to witness something like this first hand:

"Koalas are not social and don't come out of trees very often. They don't normally drink water at all. All their food and water comes from the eucalyptus leaves that they eat. That's why they sleep about 22 hours of the day. Their caloric and liquid intake is not enough to keep them awake more than a couple of hours. But Australia’s major drought has changed all that."



Sunday, April 5, 2009

Omnium

Well the San Diego Omnium is over. I went into this with what I felt were realistic expectations and a positive attitude. I figured I could do top 10 in the time trial, hang on for as long as possible in the road race and possibly pick up a point or two, and then try for some of the primes and a top 10 in the crit.

Time Trial:

For those not familiar with this race, the TT is 2 laps of Fiesta Island, pretty much flat as a pancake. The total mileage is something like 8 miles.

I got 14th (3 omnium points), not anything too bad or too good. I did ride the same time (20 minutes) that I did back before I hurt myself, which was somewhat encouraging. It was a windy day out there, which doesn't help the power challenged like me either. What was most amazing was some of the times that people put up. The guy who won in category 4 put up a time that would have been second in the pro race. While I didn't have my speedometer working on the day, I'm sure I rarely broke 30 miles and hour when the wind was in my favor. Some of these guys were averaging close to 29 mph for the entire time trial.

Road Race:

This race is two, 22 mile laps of one of the toughest stretches of road you'll ever race on (at least in San Diego). The first 11 miles of each lap is pretty much downhill. The first time I ever rode this course, I at first was enjoying the descent. Then it dawned on me that I'd better really enjoy the descent because all those hills were going to be climbed on the way back up to the finish. The last 11 miles of each lap are pretty much uphill the whole way, something like 1800 feet of climbing I believe. What's worse, you're almost always climbing into a strong headwind.

While I knew that the road race was going to be a real challenge for me, I had hoped that I'd be able to at least hold on to the group through the first lap. Doing so would have given me the chance to at least help my team-mates out a bit on the descent/rollers of lap 2, which it turned out would have been very valuable as our climber did get dropped on the second lap descent. If I were there I could have ensured that this didn't happen. I knew for sure that once we started the climbing of lap 2, the climbers were going to hammer it and leave me in their dust. From there I was expecting to gut it out to the finish.

The reality however was that I got dropped near the top of the first big climb of the first lap. As we were going up the climb I was looking down at my power meter and seeing numbers like 340 or 350 watts. I know for sure that I can't hold that sort of power up 11 miles of climbing, so I wasn't too surprised when I got popped off the back. With a giant headwind and no one around me to work with, there was going to be no catching back on to the main field. It became me vs. myself for the rest of the first lap.

When I got to the end of the first lap, a couple guys had caught up to me, so we started to work together. As we worked our way down the descent we caught one more guy. Eventually when we got to the rollers near the bottom of the descent, we were into the sort of riding that I can do really well, so I hammered it for a few miles. At that point me and another guy had managed to pull away from the rest of our small group, so we both worked together to keep our gap to the finish. In the end I finished 25th.

It did make me proud to know that I rode this race as hard as I could possibly ride it. While it sucks to not finish with the group, this race and the 2 laps of the course I did last Saturday showed me point blank that I'm just not physically able to ride at this level any more. When you can't pull up well with your foot, it's like you're racing with a 25 pound weight straped to your back.

Criterium:

As much as I enjoy criteriums, the Huennekens course is one that I don't have much time for. With only one real corner, the race is pretty much a 40 minute drag race. The points in this race are awarded both at the finish and via two point primes during the race. So if you fancy yourself as a GC guy, it's really important to be in a good spot to go for these key primes. Back when I finished 3rd overall in cat 5 a couple years ago, I was able to get some points on both the primes and finish top 5 in the race, which helped me move up from 4th to 3rd on GC.

Our team went into this race with one of our guys, Max, in 5th place, so we wanted to make sure we could get him to the front for the point primes and the finish. I had him at the front for the first point prime, but I'm not sure that he ended up getting anything. I nearly had one of the $25 primes, but my lack of speed once again foiled me. I got a good jump on the field and was out front coming to the line, but someone managed to sprint up and catch me. For the finish we had a 5 man train going with a lap to go. I was there in 4th position working as hard as I could, but again it didn't really come together for Max. In the end another of our guys got second, so we got something positive out of it.

Revisiting my goals for the race; I came close to a top 10 in the TT, didn't hold on too long in the road race, and came close to a prime, while worked hard for the team in the criterium.

The bottom line for me in all of this is that I can't keep putting all the hours I put into training to race if I simply can't physically do it. Sure, I could continue to show up at races each week and finish in the top 20. I'm not sure what the point would be however. Instead, I'm going to re-purpose my training time and focus much more on getting my left leg back to 100%. Sad news for all my groupies I know, but that's how it's going to be until I feel like I'm 100% or at least much, much closer.

I will say that my ability to move my toes and foot is definitely getting better. Until the last month or so I haven't felt like doing a lot of dorsi-flexion specific exercise would be of any benefit because if my nerve can't fire the muscles, what would the point. I have been using my electrostimulator a fair bit, that's definitely helped get the muscles at the top of my shin to come back a bit. Hopefully now is the time when finding some good strength building exercises will be of real benefit.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Road Bike

Joel had asked for a picture of my road bike. Since my baby is kinda run down (decals are faded, odd little dent here and there, etc) I thought I'd instead show her in her somewhat original glory. This is Specialized's stock SWorks E5 photo:



I bought my bike as a frameset on eBay back in 2006. I then bought the 2007 Campagnolo Record group, a FSA seatpost, better stem, etc.

These days it seems that everything out there is carbon. Even cheap, crappy bikes are using carbon frames. When I put this bike together I had a few things I was looking for:

1. Something very stiff. I couldn't give a crap about the ride quality, not that it's bad on this bike, but for how many miles I ride a week my ass is plenty tough.
2. Something that wouldn't splinter into fragments WHEN it was in a crash. I've seen way to many carbon frames disintegrate upon impact. I don't need to be riding around a criterium worrying about what's going to happen to my bike when I crash.
3. Something that wasn't going to cost a fortune.

The reason I bring up carbon being on everything is that in my experience, unless you're willing to pay big money for a top of the line carbon frame, you're going to get something that resembles a wet noodle. Or at least after a year of hammering on it, it's going to. That was my experience with my Specialized Roubaix. When I bought it I thought it was a great deal that I got a $2500 bike with a carbon frame. After a year of riding it, I could really notice the frame flexing whenever I hammered on it. It became clear to me that I could have bought a top of the line aluminum bike for less money and been much more happy.

So if you're the sort of person that rides their bike every now and then for the fun of it, yah, a cheap carbon bike is great because it's probably going to be more comfortable than an aluminum bike, but if you're going to race, or ride more than 10 hours a week I think you're going to be more happy on something made of aluminum, titanium, or even steel.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

I found a mistress

For a while now there's been a joke going around work that my road bike is my wife. It all got started when my boss asked me if he could borrow my bike for the weekend. He asked me this while straddling my road bike that just happened to be in with me at work that day. To try to get across to him just how offended I was that he was both standing over my bike and was asking me something as outlandish as he was; I explained to him that asking me to take my bike home was the equivalent of me asking him if I could take his wife home for the weekend. From that point on he's referred to my bike as my wife.

So, I guess one could consider my new Transition to be my new mistress. Check 'er out:



Until last week I had no intention of buying a new bike. Until last week's SDBC club night at one of our sponsors, B+L Bike and Sport, that is. As I was putting together last week's SDBC weekly update I was adding the link for the "too good to be published" deals for the event. Looking through the deals, I was amazed at some of the bike pricing B+L was offering us. I won't say exactly how much I ended up paying for this bike, but lets just say that it was significantly less than the already extremely discounted price that the bike was selling for in the shop. The deal on offer was way too good to pass by, especially for the level of bike you get with the Expert model. It's the same frame as the Pro model, just with some lesser components.

I ended up taking my old Kestrel Airfoil in and getting my Campy Centaur drive train, Vision aerobars, Campy shifters, etc. moved on to the new frame. I can't wait for Tuesday evening and my planned TT workout on Fiesta Island.

Redlands - Won a Prime! - 23rd

Redlands is probably one of the most enjoyable crits you'll find out there. Check out the course map below. Corner 1 is something close to a 150 degree turn around a pointed curb, turn 2 and 3 are back to back 90 degree right and lefts, and then you've got two fast, open corners in 4 and 5. One might expect a lot of crashes on this course, in general however I've found it to be really safe.



We had 3 guys in the race today. It kinda worked out where we each played the role of one of the three bears today:

  • For Alcino, things were just right. After his usual bout of nerves prior to the race he stood on the gas at the end and finished second.
  • For EPete (Euro Pete), things were a little too hot. He crashed with a few laps to go. Pete rode really hard during the race and he's one of our best finishers, so it sucked that his day ended early.
  • For me, things were a little cold, maybe more lukewarm. It would have been nice to get a top 10. Getting a prime win however was a really nice reward.


I got my prime the only way I knew I could, attack way early. As we headed up the home stretch and the announcer called for a prime everyone let up for a bit. I was up near the front, so I decided to go for it. I calmly rolled up to 3rd or so and then hammered it. I got through turn 1 really well, as I got back on the gas I looked under my arm to see how close the field was behind me. As long as I've been back racing, each time I've tried to jump away, I've looked back only to see the entire field right on my wheel. This time I looked back to a 80 foot gap. Wow, finally something encouraging! So I just kept hammering. I was able to hold my advantage to the start/finish and take the prime. There's nothing like rolling across the start/finish and hearing the announcer call out your name and sponsor.

From there I got back in the field and got my heart rate down from 192.

The finish was pretty strategic for a cat 4 race. Normally cat 4 races end in a mass drag race to the finish. With a couple laps to go Andrew Jessup, one of the really strong cat 4s attacked. Most of the time these sorts of efforts are pulled back after a lap or so, Andrew however is a really strong rider and easily could have turned his bravery into a win (he time trialed for 20 minutes to a win at Imperial). With 2/3 of a lap to go we managed to catch him. Right away a little guy from Team Possibilities took off. Alcino saw him go, but unfortunately didn't react quite fast enough. Alcino nearly caught him at the line, but just ran out of road.

The reason I bring this up is that I'd really like to see myself be able to get up to the front and pull these sorts of guys back for Alcino. Jumps, changes in pace, etc. used to be one of the things I did best. If I'm not going to be winning races, I would at least like to make a meaningful contribution. If I'd been able to get up there and help Alcino he would have won. I'm not there quite yet however. Before I can worry about covering attacks, I first have to be at the front at the end of the race.

All in all a good day.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tour of Murrieta - Perspective

For me, Murrieta was an experience in mental adversity much more than physical adversity. Things got off to a reasonably wild start on Saturday's Criterium. I've never done this race before. All I've ever heard about it is that there tend to be a fair number of crashes, especially in the second corner where things narrow down from a couple lanes wide to a single narrow lane. In category 4 races where things never seem to get strung right out you can quickly see how a big wide pack of riders going into a narrowing corner is going to lead to problems. With 100 guys in the field, there was definitely a good opportunity for things to go really wrong.

Naturally however, the idiots that are out there are always able to throw you a curveball or two. About 10 laps in there was the requisite corner two crash as it looked like a guy didn't do a good job of holding his line and the clown who was behind him had overlapped his wheel. As always, this is an easy recipe for a certain crash. What was most interesting was this guy from Citrus Valley Velo who didn't seem to be paying any attention to what was going on in front of him, didn't see the crash, and came barreling past me and others and nearly smashed into the back of the crash himself.

Not to be denied, this same Citrus Valley guy then managed to get involved in a crash right in front of the finish line. A few guys apparently weren't watching what they were doing and went right over the traffic cones that were set up in front of Ralph's announcing stage. I really can't understand how this sort of thing happens, but sure enough the Citrus Valley guy and others went over the bars and crashed right there in the home straight.

As for me, I kept it pretty cool in the field, took the odd pull and did my best to get a good finish. I was up in the top 10 with half a lap to go. As always my issues with my left foot and resulting inability to sprint with the fast guys, resulted in me dropping back into an 18th place finish. Nothing spectacular, but it was the best I could do on the day.

Fast forward to Sunday's circuit race and things got even hairier. On the menu was 11 laps of a 3.5 mile loop. As usual for road races, the course was open to traffic, so the center line rule was in "effect". i.e. if you cross the center line, you're out of the race. For some reason however, the officials did no enforcing of the rule. When this happens, it really makes things dangerous because you've got idiots shooting up the open road on the wrong side of the center line, then trying to duck back into the field. In one case a guy clipped by bars as he tried such a stunt. When I gave him a piece of my mind about it he seemed to be befuddled by why I was so concerned.

Making things even worse, there were again 100 or so riders and not a lot who were willing to work on the front. The result was points where things really bunch up and slow down. Again, prime time for a crash. I believe we had 5 on the day in the circuit race and some of them were real classics. In one case I had to try to dodge a bike as it returned to earth from 5 or 10 feet in the air. My favorite however was the moment when I turned to one of my team-mates, remarked that there were a certain number of people that were riding like idiots, and noted that there were going to be more crashes. Literally 5 seconds later 3 guys went over the bars right in front of us.

I managed to keep it safe and get through all the crashes okay. With a couple turns to go I again got up near the front, but the result of the sprint was even worse than the day before. In this case I was going as hard as I could and people were streaming past left and right. In the end I came through in 31st. A very demoralizing result.

Days like these really make me question why it is that I race:

1. 5 crashes in the circuit race, 2 crashes in the crit.
2. My inability to put out the sort of speed that everyone else can means that even though I have as good or better of an engine as everyone else, work my tail off, etc.; it counts for nothing because at the end of the race they leave me in their dust.

When you consider these two points together, you begin to question whether the risks that are associated with racing are surpassed by the benefits. When the results are mediocre, why put yourself through the risk of racing?

The bottom line for me in all of this is that I need to figure out whether there is something I can do to overcome the issues I have with my left foot. If the answer is no, it only makes sense to bring the curtain down on my racing "career".

Stay tuned as I have some ideas in the pipeline regarding some tools that might help me do better despite my foot.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Yes, I'm Still Alive

I've kinda dropped off the radar for the past few weeks.

The evening after the Roger Millikan Criterium I started to feel sick. I then spent the following week in bed with the flu.

The next week I started to feel a little better. That next weekend I headed out to Vegas for the Southern Nevada Stage Race, which turned out to be a disaster. I didn't do very well in the morning time trial (4 miles up hill), but that wasn't such a big deal as the road race was to follow. The road race went really poorly however. Bad enough that with 20 miles to go I pulled out of the race. I was having a hard time doing anything and feeling quite weak. I knew that there was no way I was going to put in the last 20 miles, so I called it a day.

I spent last week taking it easy and getting healthy. I'm starting to feel a lot better. My plan is to get back into full training this week, go race Murrieta next weekend and then try to build my aerobic endurance back up for some of the races to come.

When I spend time away from cycling for a while like this I always find that I start to question exactly why I spend so much of my time on riding. I definitely love to ride my bike. With the struggles I continue to have with getting my left leg working, I do question whether I'm wasting my time on the racing. More on this after Murrieta.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Red Trolley - Good and Bad

The good: Ralph (race announcer) called my name 3 times, I raced pretty aggressively, didn't get dropped after 3 laps like I did last year at the Green Trolley (last year the Green Trolley was my first race back after breaking my leg, I wasn't too strong at the time), spent most of my time at the front, chased down a number of breaks.

The bad: With 2 laps to go an accident happened right in front of me. I had to slow down quite a bit. In doing so I wasn't able to catch back on to the field.

I'm not sure where I finished, but it wasn't anything worth reporting. I don't want to dwell too much on this race. When I consider how far I've come since my accident I have lots to be proud of. When I see myself not getting good results, even though I've been putting in a ton of hard work, it's hard to take.

For those who are in to the visual stuff, here are a few movies courtesy of Carol:





Sunday, February 1, 2009

Imperial Valley - Great Team Result

Last Saturday I went out to Imperial Valley for the Imperial Classic. I raced in the category 4 and 35+ (Category 1-4) race. This race takes place out in the Imperial Valley, which is a 2 hour drive east of San Diego. So the turnouts are never going to be too good.

Category 4:

We had something like 8 or 9 guys in the category 4 race. With only something like 20 guys in the field we knew we had a really good advantage, we just needed to exploit it.

Our goal for the day was to try to get some breaks up the road. Myself, Alcino, Bo, Josh, whoever we could, then have the rest of us make it as difficult as possible for the rest of the field to catch back up. One of the things we said we were going to do for sure was not let one of our breaks get caught and then just sit there in the field. Often when a break gets caught, at least in cat 4, everyone slows down and takes a breather, we knew that we wanted to keep the pain coming. As soon as a break got caught we were going to attack again.

I took off a few laps in as things were going pretty slow. That seemed to liven things up a bit. After I got caught, Bo got up the road with a couple of guys. Josh soon followed with another guy. Josh and the guy he was with lived in purgatory between Bo's break and the field. The rest of us then spent our time getting on the wheels of anyone who tried to jump up to the breaks. We did a fair bit of soft pedaling on the front of the field, Wells was letting gaps form all over the place, etc. The bottom line was that we made life hell for everyone in the field.

Eventually Josh's break was caught. Then Bo and one of his breakaway mates came back to the field. Unfortunately we then made our one error of the day in not realizing that Bo had in fact had 3 guys in his break. So, there was still one guy 30 seconds up the road that we didn't know was there. It wasn't until the last lap that we heard Ralph announce that we were racing for second that we realized that there was a still a guy up the road.

Patrick took a flier with a lap to go, which made the field work even harder to catch back on. I put in a pretty good pull from there and then Alcino and Josh did their thing down the stretch. In the end, Alcino got 3rd and Josh got 4th. It would have been great to get first, but more than anything it was great to be part of a team effort where we actually worked as a team.

35+ - Category 1 - 4:

I also did the 35+ 1-4 race, which was a real adventure for me. This was by far the fastest I've ever ridden in a race. 28/29 miles an hour for a full hour. I was able to keep it on my smaller chain ring for the entire race, which made things roll pretty nicely. When you race with the upper category guys, they don't slow down for the corners, so it's really important to find a gear that you can turn at 100 rpm or so and get comfortable.

This race gave me a whole new level of respect for the guys who race in the upper categories. Even though the race was steaming along at close to 30 miles an hour, guys were still attacking off the front and I was doing my best to hold on at the back. Every time I thought things were going to slow down a bit, they only seemed to get faster. I ended up pulling out with 5 to go because things were starting to get a little squirrely and I knew that there was no way I'd be finishing near the front.

I have to say that this was one of the best days I've ever had racing, especially as part of the team. We went into this race with a realistic plan to exploit the weaknesses of the rest of the field. We worked as a team to execute it, and in the end we got a podium result. I was really proud of the way that everyone worked together and we all put it on the line to get Josh, Bo and Alcino the best results we could get them.