Sunday, March 30, 2008

Inspiring Confidence

I pulled my bike of the roof rack in Grand Junction and found this lovely crack on the seat tube:

Not exactly the most confidence inspiring thing before a big race. I called up my local bike shop and we decided that it was most likely cosmetic only.

In case anyone was wondering why you should buy a bike from a good local bike shop instead of your a sporting goods store, here is a good reason: They're replacing the frame for me. No hassle, no hoops to jump through. They're just going to replace it for me. If you need a recommendation for a great bike shop near Fort Collins, I'll give you the address.

Mad Cow Classic

Christine and I went out to Grand Junction over the weekend to race the Mad Cow Classic. I do this race every year because it's such a nice course.

Executive summary:
I stayed with the lead group as we whittled down the group from 40-ish to under 10. I had a good race and I ended up finishing in 5th place.

Course description:
About 7 miles out, 3 laps around a mesa, then back to the start. Each lap is about 14 miles and 1200 feet of climbing. The lap starts with a long false flat, a long descent, and a short steep climb.

About 30-40 riders lined up for the start. The group was Cat 3, Cat 4, and 35+ open. I'm a Cat 4, so racing with Cat 3's and Master's is a good challenge.

The race started a little quicker than it has previous years. One guy in a Wyoming jersey sat 20' off the front for a while. I don't think it was any sort of strategy, rather it was inexperience. He spent a lot of time with his nose in the wind the whole race (which is fitting for a guy from Wyoming). There was a cross wind on the way out, and I was having a hard time getting a good position. Five guys lined up in an echelon at the front of the group and I tried to start a second echelon, to no avail. I mostly ended up shielding guys, and they weren't interested in returning the favor. Eventually, I squeezed my way into a good position by just squeezing someone out. (My handle bars were in front of someone, ergo I'm going in front of you.) That's not a typical maneuver for me, and I'm trying to get better at taking the positions I want instead of waiting for them to open up.

We didn't go really hard up the first climb, but we dropped all but about 10 people (a handful actually caught up later). The first selection was big. At the top of the first climb a masters rider attacked. Following my pre-race strategy of going with attacks, I decided to bridge up to him. I bridged up to him cleanly, but the pack wasn't far behind and we were quickly caught. This guy made several attacks through the race. I think his plan was to put in some half-hearted attacks until the group got sick of chasing him.

Our first lap around the "loop" part of the race was pretty uneventful. We weren't soft-pedaling, but we weren't going all out either. I did my best to stay sheltered in the slight breeze, conserving as much energy as possible. We hit the big climb towards the end of the lap and it was hard but nobody really hammered it.

The false flat part of the loop was getting hard the second time around. My legs were feeling it for sure. I worked my way to the front before we started on the downhill portion because I really like to go through those high speed corners alone. I was trying to make sure I had access to the front of the group in case someone took off because this is exactly the spot of the race that someone soloed to the win last year. I got boxed in as I was eating a gel, and the masters rider attacked again. This time, it looked real. Once I got to a better position, I tried to get the group to chase. Nothing. They just sat there, willing to let this guy (who was clearly strong) get a gap. I tried two more times to initiate a chase. When that wasn't working, I tucked myself back into the group and chatted with some of the other guys. We decided that he shouldn't get any more of a gap, but we'd leave him hang until the false flat section of the course. I was happy that there was at least some organization and people willing to chase.

By now, we were on the big climb for the second time, and my pre-race plan was to attack here. I felt that there was enough organization among the stronger riders that attacking wouldn't be a good idea. I'd have to wait and maybe counter once we reeled in the guy off the front. We could see he was slowing down on the climb, so I was feeling confident that we would reel him in soon. Amazingly, this guy didn't make the turn for the final loop and instead headed back for the finish line. I'm not sure if he screwed up or what, but we were glad to see him go. His constant attacks were irritating. (Plus he majorly violated the yellow line rule on multiple occasions which is *not* cool. He got a good talking to about it on the road, and I wasn’t above trying to get him DQ’d.)

I contemplated launching an attack on the false flat, but it's so hard to get away there because people can see you for a long ways. I decided my best choice was to wait for the last climb up the big hill and try to create a break. Coming up to the climb, the wind had picked up and I did a good job "resting" by making sure that I wasn't in the wind. I wanted to at least be on the front of this climb to cover any moves or make one of my own.

On the way up, I could see two guys (teammates) making eye contact with each other, and I figured they had something in mind. It was those two guys and me up front. One guy accelerated, and his teammate immediately swerved over into me and guttered me. Totally lame move. If you're going to try to physically block someone, you need to at least be a little more discrete about it. The attack was quickly reeled in and (as expected) his teammate countered with another attack. He got a good gap and it was clear he was going to be trouble. The attacks at the top of the climb whittled down our group to just 6 - one guy was up the road and his teammate was in the chase group (an of course not chasing). That left 4 of us to chase, but one guy wasn't doing much. It was a little frustrating have to carry so much of the load, but none of us wanted to race for second place.

The lead guy was strong. He stayed away until about the last mile. (What a pro maneuver, catching the leader in the last mile.) I was pretty spent from all that work and I found myself in the back of our group of six as we came up to the line. Once people started to sprint, the guy in front of my broke his chain. I had to swerve around him, and it created a gap that I couldn't close. I don't know if I had the legs to take that sprint, but I would have like to have a better shot. Oh well, that's what I get for being in the back of that group. I still ended up finishing 5th, which is a really good result for me.

I'm pretty happy with this race. The cards were stacked against me: They paired the 4's with 3's and Masters. My legs felt pretty good and I was happy about how well all the climbing went. I was able to cover the speed surges. It's always easy to pick the winning move after the race. In this case, if I had gone with the guy after the last climb, I think the two of us could have stayed away and taken it to the line. I look forward to doing this race again next year.

Christine will post some "pictures" later.

Monday, March 24, 2008

UNC Crit

I did my first crit in well over a year on Saturday. (I think my last crit was the 2006 New Belgium crit.) Having lost some skin in a couple crits, I tend to avoid them. And since I avoid them I suck at them. I'd like to be a better crit racer, and the only way to do that is get more practice. The UNC crit was a good practice crit for me because the field size was relatively small and the course was non-technical.

Collegiate races aren't known for their organization, and the UNC crit was certainly no exception. Their priority is to run the collegiate categories, and then they'll run the USCF categories at the end and hopefully make a little more money. Due to their terrible organization, we sat at the start line (freezing) for 15 minutes while they sorted out some issues with the numbers (they gave out duplicate numbers). Our best and brightest college students. *smacks forhead*

I decided that I would try to get to the front of this race early, and that's exactly what I did from the start. I sprinted past the group of riders and placed myself third wheel. I felt pretty good about this until we hit a downhill stretch and the swarm of other riders boxed me in. Before I knew it, I was back in the middle of the pack. For most of the race I was fairly close to the front but I never quite had the energy to push myself all the way up there.

I ended up finishing at the back of the main group. For me, it's a success. I didn't get dropped, and I kept the rubber side down. I don't know if it's my new bike, or if I'm just more comfortable in general, by I was happy with my bike handling throughout the race. I still need to work on holding my position at the front of the pack, but that's something that will hopefully come with practice.



Sunday, March 23, 2008


While Christine was off skiing last Friday, I stayed home and built a planting bed.

Landscaping projects are always deceptively time consuming, and this took me a good portion of the afternoon. This was kind of a fun project though because I got to build something.

After the snow melted this afternoon, Christine and I got to work finishing the soil prep and planting some raspberries. The cool part about building a raised bed is that we didn't have to do much digging into the terrible Colorado soil clay. We mad a mixture of compost, peat moss, and vermiculite (ala The Square Foot Gardener).

The method of mixing the soil on a tarp and then sliding it into the bed worked great. And once we got all the soil put together, it was so nice to be able to move it around easily with your hands instead of struggling with the clay.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Writers Strike

So all these writers went through such hard times while they were on strike and that they couldn't wait to get back to work. So why is there a rerun of SNL on right now? What is it like 3 weeks since they first started new episodes?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

What are you watching

Some notes on a few movies I've watched recently:

The King of Kong - Livia tipped me to this movie. It follows Steve Wiebe's mission to break the world record high score on Donkey Kong. It's an interesting look into an unusual competitive gaming culture, and it also has a great good versus evil vibe as Steve battles with the "old guard" who just doesn't seem to want to let his record go. Dad, if you haven't already seen this, put it on your Netflix queue. I'm sure you'll like it.

This Film is Not Yet Rated - I had no idea the movie rating process is so arbitrary and secretive. Watch this, and be shocked like I was.

Mr. Death - Fred Leuchter was once a sought after expert on execution equipment. His rise is followed by a great fall after he is hired by a revisionist historian to do some research on the gas chambers at Auschwitz. It's shocking what this guy convinces himself of, given the fact that he's running "tests" on things that are way out of his area of expertise.

F**k - A documentary about the F word. Not a must see, but it was funny and entertaining. I particularly liked Billy Connolly.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

First '08 race

The racing season started on Saturday with a time trial near Fort Collins. I've only done one other time trial before, and this was my first one using aero bars. This was only my third time on aero bars and I'm still messing with the position on my bike.

I don't know what exactly happened, but I couldn't seem to produce any power (even with the sweet TT helmet I borrowed). Maybe it was the lack of experience on the bars, maybe it was the killer wind, or maybe I was just having a bad day. For the most part, I was 30 watts under what I know I can do for that kind of length. Very frustrating.

I went out again on the aero bars on Sunday to see if I could make some tweaks to the position. We'll see how much it helps the next time I get out for a TT-like effort.


Traffic Jams

Some Japanese scientists recreated (for the first time apparently) a "shockwave" traffic jam. A shockwave jam is when one car slows down and all the cars behind it have to slow down. The congestion travels backwards through traffic like a shockwave. The video is pretty cool to watch, because you can actually see this congestion traveling:

A guy by the name of William Beatty has also determined that you can "swallow" the compression waves by leaving a lot of space in front of you and driving at a constant speed. The problem with that approach, however, is that as soon as someone in another lane see that kind of space they get all excited and switch lanes effectively killing your buffer. I like the idea though, and it's something I typically do.

(From Freakonomics)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

My car, the goose magnet

The other day I walked out to my car and there was a goose hanging out next to it, squawking away. I stood there and watched it, and it was squawking and poking at his reflection in my car. I suppose I should be annoyed that this silly goose was pecking my car, but it was pretty funny.

Goose Pecking Car


I've been needing a new phone ever since I ran my Motorola SLVR through the wash last year. I finally caved last week and preemptively spent Bush's economic stimulus check on an Apple iPhone. If nothing else, it will drastically improve my texting ability. I think that makes me one of the cool kids now.

It's a pretty cool device. I don't like that I'm now paying more for my cell service (since I have to get a data plan), but I must say it's pretty nice to hop on the web with my phone to look something up on the fly. The web browser is decent, and the touch screen has some nice features (like zooming in and out of web pages).

There are certain things Apple does very well. Interface design is one. Packaging is another. Documentation, not so much. There's plenty of stuff online so it's not that big a deal, and I guess it saves some trees.

The iPhone isn't without it's flaws. It is suprisingly not a good iPod. Yeah it plays music and all, but the interface isn't as nice as an actual iPod and I miss being able to surf through tracks without looking at the device. Since the iPhone has a touch screen, there is no click wheel and no tactile feedback. Without the wheel, it's also much more difficult to fast forward through a long (2+ hour) track without jumping all over the place in time.

My biggest pet peeve at this point is the headphone jack. In typical Apple form-over-function fashion, they recessed the headphone jack to make for a cleaner look. Sounds good in theory, but now none of my headphones will actually fit into the recessed port. I wish those damn white ear buds fit my ears, so I could just use them and be done with it. My second (minor) pet peave is that the line-out adapter I built doesn't work with the iPhone. I think I can make some modifications to make it work, but I need to do some experimentation.

Enough already

It's March and I'm already sick of election season. I was really hoping Hillary would tank last night so we could move on from the primaries and get on with the partisan mud slinging.