Monday, April 26, 2010

Groove Subaru Spring Crit

Man, another 8AM start. I guess I'm getting used to it. At least it means I don't tie up the whole day racing.

The course was on a very wide loop through an office park in Golden and it's pretty non-technical. Just one actual corner. My legs, sore from some Saturday intervals in the wind, felt immediately tired. A small group escaped from the front early in the race, and I thought they would quickly get swallowed back up. It started to look like nobody was interested in pulling them back in, so I made the decision to bridge up to them. I made it up, but the main field wasn't far behind. I guess that group was growing big enough to worry about.

Various other attacks went down in the first 20-30 minutes of racing. It was surprising, and cool, because I don't recall seeing that kind of activity in a cat 4 race often. I went off the front once hoping to get some other people interested forming a breakaway, but when I looked back I was all alone. With 20 minutes left in the race, there was no way I could go solo, so I sat up and reintegrated.

As usual, the finish came down to a bunch sprint. It was a pretty hot last lap, and I was too far near the back at the start of it to make much of a difference. I hung on for the finish in 16th place.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Christine's iPad

The best way to really surprise someone with a birthday gift is to give it to them over a month early. Christine has been thinking about getting an e-reader so she could read some books when she travels, and the iPad is a good choice for her since she can also watch movies and do some other stuff on it too. I would have waited to get one for her, but she's gone for the next few weeks (except on the weekends) and has an east coast flight in there too. Seemed like now was a better time to have a new toy than next month.

I'd been working on getting an iPad all week, but they're a little scarce. Not as scarce as iPhones tend to be at first release, but they generally don't last too long at the stores. I called one of Apple stores after my race this morning and they said they had a couple left. They weren't open yet, so I cruised over and waited for them to open and I grabbed the last one in the store.

Apple has the in-store experience dialed. After someone brought out the iPad, the sales person can just complete the transaction from a handheld device. And when I told him I wanted the printed receipt, he reached under the table and grabbed the freshly printed one from what I can only guess is a receipt printing fairy.

So far, it's a pretty cool toy. Christine already took off to Austin with it so I haven't gotten to fool with it too much. A couple BSG discs are coming this week, so I should be able to load them on it for her next trip. I think she's most excited about playing Scrabble though.

Louisville Crit

I feel like race season has started. Today I lined up for my first "real" crit of the year.

8AM Start. Ouch. That means I needed to leave Fort Collins by 6AM and get up with enough time to get some food in me. As far as I can tell, there are really only a couple good things about being the first race of the day: You can warm up on the course, and the port-o-potties aren't completely dominated by nervous racers.

I got on the trainer and warmed up for a bit before I decided that my long sleeved jersey was going to be an overkill. After I swapped my number to a new jersey, I just decided to take some laps on the course. I did this race last year, so I was already familiar with hit. It's a really simple course. Wide and safe, and there's a hill. I love it when there's a hill in a crit.

The first 15 minutes of the race felt pretty hard but then it predictably slowed down to something more reasonable. I didn't make too much of an effort to be at or near the front of the race in general. I wanted to chill out and see how my knee was feeling after the ski crash last week. Turns out, it's feeling okay, so that's nice.

I finished the race safely in the lead group. Rubber side down, all skin intact, knee is functional. Success.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Injury update

The fall I took on Saturday at the end of The Five Peaks race was pretty bad. I wasn't going particularly fast, but a ski is a long lever and when your binding doesn't release, it's a great way to f up a knee.

My knee was sore Saturday evening, but I was able to walk around and I applied some ice and ibuprofen to the situation. (And some beer and hottubbing of course.) Sunday morning, my knee was a little puffy and walking was considerably more difficult. I started to fear the worst and I was annoyed at myself for taking a dumb fall on an easy section of mountain. I took some more vitamin-I, did some more icing, and by the evening it was feeling better.

This morning, it was still feeling fairly decent but I wanted to get it checked out anyway. Mostly, I was afraid that there was some damage, and I'd be able to hurt it even more if I wasn't careful. I figured I'd have to wait until later in the week to get an appointment, but they had an opening at 10:50 that I took.

They took some X-rays, and the doctor did a fair amount of tugging and twisting on my knee. I kept waiting for him to find the right combination of moves that would suddenly bring the pain. Thankfully, that never happened. All of my ligaments are intact and strong. I probably strained something, but it should heal up over the next couple weeks.

I breathed a huge sigh of relief when the doc gave me that news. As much pain and twisting as I felt when I crashed, I don't really understand how I didn't destroy something. I'm extremely thankful (and lucky).

(In minor "injury" news: My lips got sunburned. That's kind of annoying.)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Five Peaks ski mountaineering race

Wow. That was easily the hardest day I've ever had on skis.

The Five Peaks is North America's longest ski mountaineering race with 10,000 feet of vertical and five separate ascents in the Ten Mile Range behind and in Breckenridge Ski Resort. I first heard about this several months ago, and I knew I just had to do it. I emailed a few friends, and thankfully Taylor shared the same sentiment as me and we were quickly registered for this foolish race. I didn't know for sure if we could do it, but it was sure as hell worth a try. My only goal was to finish the whole thing before the time cutoff. (After a certain time, they wouldn't let you go up the mountain any more.)

Bright and early, we were at the start line for a 6AM start. Ouch! The race starts with a 4.5 mile climb from the base of peak 9 at about 9600' above sea level to the top of peak 10 at over 13,600' above sea level. That's as hard as it sounds. I tweaked a knee kind of funny early and I also started feeling some rubbing on my heel. Uh-oh. I thought I was screwed. But I changed my steps a little bit and amazingly it all worked itself out by the time we hit the first descent.

The skiing off of peak 10 was actually pretty good. The initial decent was a dicey side slip through a narrow chute, but after that it was pretty good. After a short bit of equipment messing in the transition area, we were on our way up to the top of peak 9. It was a much shorter climb this time, but I wouldn't call it easy. Taylor is a machine and there was no way I could keep up with him. Again, the skiing off of peak 9 was surprisingly good.

From there, it was off to the first of 2 ascents up peak 8. This ascent included a special bonus: a boot-pack section where we had to put our skis on our backs and hike up. It was actually a nice change of pace because it used some different muscles. By this point my hip flexors were cooked. Skiing down from peak 8 was a little demoralizing because I knew that I would have to climb every one of those vertical feet again on my second ascent up peak 8. I don't know why they decided to have us ascend peak 8 twice, but that was rough.

The second ascent up peak 8 followed the T-bar for a while. Some people riding the T-bar up were confused at why we were skinning up, others shouted welcome words of encouragement. The T-Bar route was steep and near the top of it I took a little spill. I knew I was right at the friction level of my climbing skins, and then a nice gust of wind came and made me look like a fool. Harumph! At the top of peak 8 for the second time, the ski patroller offered us an Italian sausage. Sounded tasty, but I had no confidence that I'd be able to keep that down.

I should mention that the routes down from the tops of the peaks are double black diamonds. Double black diamonds are generally above my level of expertise. Double black bump runs are almost surely above my skill level. After several thousand feet of climbing, double black bump runs are well above my skill level. I crashed pretty good near the bottom the bottom of the peak 8 descent. My backcountry are considerably harder to drive than my alpine gear so I guess I shouldn't be too surprised.

We reached the base of the peak 7 climb and the end was in sight. We were there well within the time cutoff, and I said to Taylor: "Well, we have the opportunity to do this whole thing." I must have looked like I was in pretty bad shape, because he asked if I wanted to go up to the top or ski down from there. We both agreed that we had come way to far to quit early and up we went.

The ascent up 7 was terrible. There were a ton of switchbacks, but what made it most difficult was the hard packed, wind-blown snow. We were constantly slipping and had to side step for long sections at a time. I was so relieved to get to the top. Taylor had made it there well ahead of me and was enjoying a well deserved sit in the snow. I took a short break too and then we were on our way to the finish line.

The ski down was really dicey, and I rode pretty conservatively. My legs were completely cooked. Towards the bottom, I took another good spill. I think the snow had softened up or something and I just didn't do a good time of paying attention. It was a pretty rough crash and my bindings didn't release. I torqued my right knee pretty good and I just decided that I needed to get up and finish before any pain or swelling caught up with me. There was no way I wasn't crossing that finish line.

We finished the race in around 7.5 hours. For comparison, the superhuman winners finished in just over 4 hours. Amazing. When I entered, I had no idea if I could do it. I'm glad Taylor joined me, and I'm glad we conquered the first ever Five Peaks race.

Getting ready to start

At the finish

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Kuzca's Lion

One of the first toys that my dog played with was a stuffed lion. I took it out of the toy rotation when my roommate's dog was going to tear it apart. Normally I'm all for some toy destruction, but I kind of wanted to keep this one around and it's been sitting on our entertainment center ever since.

Somehow it got pulled off of the entertainment center recently. I didn't know it until Kuzca brought it upstairs and hopped on the bed with it. She's very cute with it on the bed right now.

Kuzca and her lion

Good Customer Service

Some companies have terrible customer service (United Airlines, for example). Others have pretty decent service. In a short span of time, my Canon digital camera and Garmin cycling computer both needed some repair. (Bad karma?) How would they rate in the customer service department...

The CCD on the camera just stopped working for some reason. Our gear gets a lot of abuse, but I can honestly say this just stopped working in the middle of taking some photos. Canon has a 1 year warranty and wouldn't you know it, our camera was one year and 2 weeks old. I feared the worst when I went to their web site, but I was pleasantly surprised. For starters, I could do everything on their website which meant I didn't have to waste any time waiting on hold for the customer service department. But even better, I punched in all of our camera info (including date of purchase) and the site promptly told me that the repair would be covered under the warranty. I like that they have a little fudge factor in their "1 year". I mailed the camera back to them (in Virgina) and they got it back to me a week and a half later.

Next up was my Garmin Edge 705 cycling computer. Some of the rubber on it had worn away and needed to be repaired so water wouldn't get inside. Unlike Canon, I had to get on the phone and wait for a while to talk to one of their people. Garmin makes things pretty easy (on themselves, mostly) by setting a flat repair cost for each thing they sell. So whether I cracked my Garmin or the battery died, I'd generally be paying the same thing. When I told them the simple repair that needed to be done, they said it was small enough that they could discount their usual repair fee. They discounted it by 50%. Nice. One week after I dropped it in the mail, I had the refurbished unit on my doorstep.

I've bought several things from both Canon and Garmin and I'll continue to buy more. I like the it when the toys I buy are well supported.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Carry-On Items

I flew to Austin last night to spend the weekend with Christine at the "winter home", and since it was such a short trip I decided not to check any luggage. Any time I travel with bike stuff as carry-on, the TSA people get some confused looks on their faces as the try to discern what's coming across the screen of their x-ray machine. Yesterday they didn't like what they saw and they pulled some stuff out of my bag to see what kind of contraband I was sneaking on to the airplane.

I didn't know it, but you're not allowed to take tools longer than 7" in your carry-on luggage. I understand the rule, but it's funny because if I had told them that my pedal wrench was a large pencil, it would be okay. Maybe next time I should tape a Bic pen to the side.

So for your reference:

Not okay as carry-on:

Fine as carry-on?:

I didn't want to scrap a nice pedal wrench (I finally upgraded from my cheap shitty one not too long ago), so I got a box from the airline counter and checked them as luggage. Funny. Glad I had plenty of time at the airport.