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:

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


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.


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.