Sunday, March 30, 2008

Why I love this guy

If professional cyclists were treated with more media visibility here in the US of A, I think Jens Voight would be a media darling. Some of his quotes are the best. Maybe it's due to the quirky nature of conveying his German sayings into English, but they're the best.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Ronde van Crapcrit (man I love this course...really)

The night before the race I was reading through several different blogs I monitor and saw an interesting post from Hernando talking about how to keep your position in the top 1/3 of the pack and riding efficiently to keep your position. My goal, along with Matt's was to see how this race would play out and attack when we thought it advantageous to our strengths.

From the get go it took a lap or two for the field to get in a rhythm. It took some hard efforts to get towards the front, but once there it wasn't too difficult to remain in the top 15. Three laps in a Third Pillar guy goes flying off the front. Matt bridged across and stuck with him for a while, but then realized it was probably too early and he drifted back to reality. This guy was strong and we let him hang off the front for the next 25 minutes. A slow death which just sapped his legs.

In the meantime, no teams really came to the front to work, so I made sure I didn't put my nose out in the wind too much, but just enough to keep things moving. With 10 laps to go we caught Mr. Pillar. He stayed near the front and attacked again with 8.5 laps remaining. Given that he realized nobody was going to go with him, he sat up as he neared the start/finish line.

This was my chance! The group at the front mushroomed and I kept my momentum and stepped on it. I threw down about 1,250 watts to separate myself from the field and kept a pace of 675+ watts for the next 30 seconds. Looking back I saw a Zteam guy bridging across...good, I needed a friend to hold off the pack for the next 8 laps.

We worked together but this guy was strong. He would gap me on his pulls and I had to yell up to him several times to slow down just a bit to let me get in his slipstream. We kept on putting time on the field, and coming around the final corner we had 2 laps to go. At this point the Zteam'er gapped me and didn't let up. So I knew I had to TT it in for 2nd. I looked back and noticed I probably had 25 seconds on the field and felt pretty good about keeping my position. I knew Matt was probably near the front of the pack making sure nothing really materialized for a chase.

Redlining it and going hard, I came into the hairpin turn. This turn hadn't given me any problems all day, but this time it did. My rear tubular rolled off the rim and promptly got stuck in my brake. The rear wheel fishtailed out and I managed to keep it upright. I was so pissed I yelled out my best William Wallace battle cry to the heavens. I was pissed!!!

I got off the course promptly took out my anger on my helmet. Bye-bye my Bell Sweep were a good friend, but between you or my wheelset, it was an easy thing to replace the helmet versus the wheels. I watched the leader come around on the final lap and he had it in the bag. Matt was second wheel coming around with the pack and I yelled some encouragement to kick some ass! He did and I'm happy we got on the podium.

Afterwards I received a lot of kudos from my competitors, but it still doesn't make up for a tire rolling off the rim. Oh well, more battles on the bike are awaiting tomorrow.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Listen Up

On the recommendation of some friends I'm going to give Pandora a try. The whole concept of a musical genome is interesting, like a journey through sounds that are somehow linked in ways we may not see as obvious. I haven't put together too many personal radio stations yet...a bit afraid of what might happen if I put down Def Leppard as one of my musical interests. Who knows what that will bring!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sysco?!? No damnit

What about working for the world's largest networking company don't people in call centers in the middle of nowhere not understand?!? Come on folks, your VOIP phone is running thanks to our hardware. And for crying out loud, if you're some tele-rep from Information Week calling me to confirm my free subscription, should you know that when I tell you I work for Cisco that it's the IT company, not the food services company Sysco?!?

I mean, come on, if you're working the phones and calling subscribers about a free subscription to Vogue, should you at least have some knowledge of the fashion industry...or are you that dumb that you don't know anything about the customers you're talking to? Ok enough ranting for this morning...get me more coffee food service dude.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Daydreaming on the way home

Sometimes on my way home from work I fall into a state where I totally remove myself from the high-tech world and let my mind wonder...and it usually wonders into strange places. Lately I've taken a particular notice of people with yard equipment: lawn mowers, blowers, brooms and any other sort of tasty yard utensil.

The metrics for success in that role is so clear. Is the lawn mowed? Check. Are the leaves blown and raked up? Check. Everything look good? Double check. Man, that seems so simple compared to what I've been doing lately. Maybe I should take a week off and fulfill this inner yearning. I'll probably miss making my mortgage payment, but then again my government will probably bail me out in some fashion.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Mmm the Madness

It's the first day of Spring and all is right on my TV. Yes, my TV. Because it's that special time of year where college basketball starts at 9am and doesn't finish until 9pm. It's where dreams are realized and hearts are broken. Hmm, sounds like the Zamora road race this past weekend with all the wind!

Thirteen years ago I was part of the big dance myself. Getting past the first round opponent (UNC-Charlotte) was a great realization of a dream, one that didn't come true when I first made it to the Dance and lost to Alabama. We had a shot against a stacked UMass team in the second round, but the ball didn't bounce our way that afternoon in Albany, New York, and we left very disappointed. I for one was upset enough to shed a tear or two as the clock wound down (...yeah, I'm man enough to admit a good cry helps the soul).

The investment I put into the team was tremendous. The long hours on the hardwood, traveling on the road and placing $1 bets on who's bag comes first off the plane, getting through nagging injuries and numerous assistant coaching changes. Somehow I guess that's why I really enjoy the joys of riding with my teammates in my latest sporting endeavor. There's a camaraderie
within the team that you rarely find, but when you find it, don't let it go as it's a pretty damn precious thing to be a part of.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Nailed it

Go here and do this test. I probably did what 99.99% of others did while taking the test. You'll soon find out.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Our Fallen Friends

The tragic event that unfolded Sunday over at Stevens Creek Road with the fallen cyclists have really been a downer for myself and quite a few other friends in the tight Bay Area cycling community. For those of you who are in the immediate area and will be in town I highly recommend that you get out and show your support at the memorial ride. The details are here

My own emotions run across the entire spectrum and it's hard at this point to put it all into words. How 'bout this word...sucky. Yeah, that about sums it up.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What's an iPod?

Ok, I know what's an iPod, but I'll let you in on a little secret. I don't own one. And it may take quite a while before I do.

So why the laggard-like stance toward this technology? The diagram shown here is technology adoption lifecycle that was really brought to light with the work Geoffrey Moore put together in his book Crossing the Chasm. I first read this book back in 1996 when I was a bright-eyed new techie programmer here in the Silicon Valley. It spoke volumes to me and I've always like to use this adoption curve as a visual reference to many different situations.

Back to me and the iPod. I'm a laggard, plain and simple. But, it's more complicated than that. I'm a technology user who likes to have the most functionality from the least amount of devices. I always laugh inside when I see those poor folks who have two pagers on their hip to match the work and personal cell phone on the other side of there waist. Maybe these folks have discovered a new way of cross-training? Just put enough low level electronics at waist level to make it harder to walk around the office. Or maybe it's an underground techy movement that provides typically young males with vision problems a new male contraceptive device...however low level electronic gamma-waves won't prevent STD's.

When I saw back in the summer of 2006 that I could get a Motorola SLVR cell phone with iTunes already loaded, I knew that it was for me. One less device to keep track of, plus the phone would serve as my iPod. Heck, I had my iPhone before the iPhone was on the market!

This device has served me well. Now that I'm on a work provisioned Blackjack, I'm keeping the SLVR as my iPod. But there are some nuances to how it can be used. The version of iTunes on the phone limits the number of songs to 100 and the phone doesn't really work well with a MicroSD memory card bigger than 1GB. I could do some hacks to the phone to make it work differently, but I'll be fine with what I've got.

I might look at the iPod/iPhone once they get everything put into it. Enterprise access to work apps, GPS, remote control, garage opener, debit card, tail-light for my bike, powermeter for my powertap hub, etc. Ok, these might be unrealistic, but wouldn't it be nice?

Sunday, March 9, 2008

I just dunked on your boyfriend...wanna cheer now?!?

I found this while doing some selfish Googling of my name world wide wimpernet:

Reminds me of another guy with the same name, but that guy didn't have a killer crossover that broke people's ankles from the top of the key. That other guy was more content with just dunking on poor fools at the high school level and making them look bad in front of their girlfriends or parents.

Ok, I'll admit it, it's pretty cruel to think like this, but damn it, it sure felt good to walk into your opponent's gym, and make them look silly while you threw a few dunks down to keep the locals quite.

The Instinctual Gambler

There are times where the sixth sense kicks in and if you don't listen to it you're bound for trouble. Other times it's that little voice in the back of your head that won't be quite and keeps nagging you to recognize the obvious of the situation. Either way, if you're stubborn and don't listen to what your body is telling you, you might just be setting yourself up for something that won't be that enjoyable. I think as you mature this is a skill that you learn to use more often. Gut feel, instincts, sixth sense, call it what you will, I know my kids aren't listening to their instincts so I'm praying it's something they'll eventually develop. And nothing to their fault, but their dad (aka me) almost acted in the same way during yesterday's Menlo Park Grand Prix.

This crit is pretty straightforward. Four corners with the shape of the Indy 500. Not much room between corners 1 &2 or 3 & 4 to make moves past riders, but long straightaways that had
you either hammering in the wind or seeking shelter from it, or as the case on the back straight, flying down the course at 31mph and not catching a soul. There's some potholes along the way, nothing too bad. Then again, I can see those from a mile away with my vantage point on the bike.

After arriving and signing in, my teammate and I walked around and took in the sites. There was a weird feel in the air. Hard to identify at first, but in retrospect, it was probably due to a crash or two (foreshadowing for sure for the rest of the day...). As we're warming up, we see a guy roll by with a cantaloupe-sized strawberry road rash on his shoulder and think, "Ouch!". We dismounted a few minutes later and got on the course for a lap or two before our start time. Nix that idea...

Coming down to turn #3 there are two fire engine
s and an abmulance. From what I could see it looked like two women from the race before ours had gone down hard. Come to find out the officials had to neutralize the race and were about to restart. We quickly got off the course and watched the 5 lap shootout that ensued. Weird, but that's the same thing that happened last year in the cat 4's race when there was a crash near the start/finish line. That instinctual sixth sense was starting to fire up big time.

The women finished successfully and we line up for the M35+ 3/4. From the get go this was a hard race. My Powertap data shows that for my 20 minute max effort, which just happened to be the first 20 minutes of the race, that I was effectively racing at 10% over my threshold the entire time (...thanks normalized power for the reinforcement). I hung mid-pack and tried to chill, but did launch a nice little bridging attack about 10 minutes in. Another local racer I know got on my wheel and within 20 seconds we had bridged across to a break of four guys. I thought we had a good group of guys from well-represented teams and this break might work out. Nope, we got caught three turns later.

Given the chest cold I was recovering from, I didn't have much in the tank at
that point. I eased off and went to the back. Ten minutes later the hair on my neck went erectile when I saw the accident fifty yards in front of me unfolding. A bunch of guys went down right at the start/finish line (which was pretty dangerous...this really deserves it's own post). Immediately the race was neutralized and folks were recovering. A teammate of mine, the same guy who raced with me the year before and "enjoyed" the restart fiasco of doing 5 laps for the glory, rolled up and said, "I'm thinking of DNF'ing. This is just like last year and it's not going to be good." Wow, for a second it sounded like my sixth sense had been reincarnated into a bike racer who looked a lot like my teammate!

It didn't take me long to weigh the costs/benefits of the situation. You already had a pretty aggressive group of riders, who were about to get 25 minutes of rest since they had to bring out 2 stretchers for the injured, and then they'd probably only have to race a few laps for the eventual finish (come to find out afterwards they raced seven laps). Nope, not my cup of tea.

We found the
nearest official and told them to DNF our numbers. I felt like Kenny Rogers...this was the time to fold'em:

You got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em,

Know when to walk away and know when to run.

You never count your money when youre sittin at the table.

Therell be time enough for countin when the dealins done.

It felt so strange to do, but it felt right. On the way out a few other folks asked what I was doing, and I doubt they could see it in my eyes (ok they couldn't...I was still wearing my sunglasses), but the zest for racing was extinguished and I wanted to part of any ensuing carnage.

I have never DNF'd before and it felt strange to not at least roll across the line at the end knowing I made it through the whole race. But man, the vibes I was picking up just didn't feel right and I wanted no further part of that, no way, no how. Spooked, a degree. Should I have toughed it out? Maybe, but what purpose would that have served?!? Hell, even the family was there to watch, and I know I didn't want to have them see me involved in anything bad.

So you leave and live to tell about it. As news came from other teammates in races later in the day, there were some bad accidents in three out of the four remaining races. Much love to those who are nursing injuries this morning...heal quickly. They'll be other races on the horizon...

Friday, March 7, 2008

Saddle up

Merco RR took the wind out of my sails and left me thinking a bit. A few conversations with different riders, listening to their perspectives, understanding their feedback and generally soaking it all in has me ready to get back on the bike today.

And then you've got the skill of trying to stay healthy. BKW (see my links) just posted on his blog a great piece about how as cyclists we're pretty in tune with our health and those telltale signs that give us clues to whether or not we're coming down with an illness. I couldn't agree more to what he wrote. The past two weeks I've seen a nice hacking cold go around my family. I knew it would probably hit me after taking out the kids and wife. It got me, but due to my preemptive strike I nipped it as best I could. However, that nagging back injury is still at play. If this continues I may have to just re-evaluate the 2008 season and focus on a little "me" time for healing. At least the wife will be happy that my weekends might be freed up a bit.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Merco RR

Coming into this race I was not feeling the best. I re-aggravated my L4/L5 injury about a week earlier when I pushed myself hard on a cold and rainy days while doing a ton of climbing up Kings and OLH. I was able to get my prescribed workouts in leading up to the race, but I had a sense in the back of my mind that I probably wouldn't be on the same form as I was at Cantua.

Prior to the race we (Allen, Matt and myself) had some chats about what we wanted to do. Needless to say we wanted to at least push the pace and make this race hard. We were hoping for strong winds and attacks from other teams to help make this race interesting. Several teams were well represented (Davis, Colavita, Dolce Vita, Wells Fargo, Synergy, Don Chapin) and thus you would think that they'd be doing stuff towards the front to help push the pace. Not quite so...

As we were lining up for the start, I voiced my concern to Matt that it might not be that easy to move within the group as we did have 100 riders. So I decided to do a bit of pre-race "racing" and moved myself up to the front of the pack as our group was called up to the starting line. This was a smart move as only 4 miles into the race I heard a guy go down behind me. From what I heard it sounded like he had taken a hand off his handlebars and was adjusting something (maybe sunglasses). He hit small pothole and there went his day.

The pack wasn't used to the fact that the entire width of the road was open for us so moving around wasn't too bad, but as folks became used to riding across the whole road we looked like one big mushroom coming down the roadside. The wind was gentle, but not strong enough to make a big impact. None of the big teams ever got to the front to take control. A couple of meek attacks occurred, but nothing stuck as the pack quickly jumped on them. Personally, I would have let them gone up the road a ways and suffer, but that's just me (Clark, remember how we made the Zteam guy suffer at Pesky...I wish that would have happened more often). Anyways, back to the race.
About halfway around the first lap Matt attacks while I was setting tempo and I let him go and watch to see if others try to bridge. No one tried, so I just maintained the pace and watched him get about 500 yards out in front of us. After a few minutes a couple of folks decide that maybe we should reel him in. As we're within 100 yards of Matt two guys bridge across, they reached Matt but it didn't work out. For the rest of that lap myself, Allen and Matt spent time at the front setting the pace.

As we rotated through no other teams really wanted to come forward to assist. Every now and then a Dolce Vita rider would attack, but he'd pop after about 45 seconds and we'd have him back in our midst. Coming into a tricky S-turn with about 18 miles to go, a couple of riders attacked. Allen promptly chased them down and brought the pack with him. At this point I decided to attack from about 10 riders back. As I attack and pass Matt, I hear Matt mutter under his breath, "Go Todd!". Yo Matt, I was one step ahead of you, but great minds do think alike. It was ironic that we both thought the same thing at darn near the same time because we both recognized that the pack had slowed when Allen finished pulling us up to the break and a ton of people on the front were grabbing for their water bottles.

I got about 75 yards of a gap and a NowDirect rider was trying to bridge across. Just what I needed as I knew I didn't have the strength to TT to the finish this week. I eased up just a bit and barked some instructions to the guy on my wheel. He was dying, so I eased off for about 15 seconds, then yelled at him to pull through. He was slacking, so I dug again with him in tow. 30 seconds later I look back and yell for him to pull through and we can "TT this bitch!". Apparently my latest dig to stay away put him in the pain closet even though he was on my wheel. I looked back one last time, and saw the peleton in an arrow shape and knew they were chasing us down. So I let the gap close and got back into the group towards the front. I knew that was probably my best shot for an attack, and my back was feeling pretty fatigued at that point.

I stayed at the front and continued to put in significant pulls. Nobody would pull around! Finally a CVC rider pulled through; I turned to him and said, "Thank you". To which he then turned back to the Colavita rider and bitched him out, "Why don't you give the big guy a break?!? He's pulling his ass off!". Thanks CVC, you're my friend at future races. We approach the 5k sign and there are still way too many riders in the pack at this point....wheelsuckers. Teams weren't driving the pace at the front and I was getting tired of trying to be doing that role by my lonesome. I ended up sitting about mid-pack as we got closer to the line. Since the pace wasn't blistering there wasn't any room to really advance in the peleton.

With about 3k to go, I found the wheel of a Davis rider I had marked due to his prior good result at Snelling. We started to make progress up the left hand side of the road when a guy a few riders ahead of him touched his brakes. This set off a chain reaction. Next thing I know I'm seeing the Davis guy brake and his rear wheel starts to move hard right. We touch wheels and I had to turn into him hard to stay upright. And for those who never have experienced this, doing the wheel-touching drills are what saved my day. I stayed upright at 20mph but those behind me weren't so lucky. I felt somebody briefly touch my rear wheel and I knew they were in trouble. Why did I know? Because if they had done the right maneuver and turned their wheel into mine, the contact would have been harder and caused me to slow down. But alas, it was a brief tap and then I heard that sound that we don't like to hear. I didn't look back at the crash, but it was a blow to my morale. This took the wind out of my sails.

I wasn't interested in my placing at that point, but did take a glance up the road to see where Matt and Allen were. I saw Matt near the front so I was happy we had a guy in position. With 300m to go, the moto-ref rolled up to me and said, "You've got to be careful, you can't swerve like that." I'm big enough on the bike that I probably blocked his view of what happened in front of me and all he saw was what happened behind me. I told him, "I'm sorry that those guys crashed, but I had to turn into the wheel in front of me just to stay upright just like I was coached to do at the skills clinic." I rolled across the line, tired and bummed out knowing there was a helping of asphalt given to my fellow racers who were behind me. My sincere apologies to those nursing injuries this week.

After the race I got quite a few "atta-boys" from guys thankful that myself and SJBC were setting a hard pace. On one hand I respect their comments about our strength, but on the other hand it makes me just a bit mad when somebody comes up to me, says "wow, you really put in a ton of work at the front..." So Mr. Sit-on-my-wheel-and-don't-pull-through, why didn't your team of 8 get to the front and do a bit of work. I could get all worked up over this, but on the drive home Matt made a good point. Perhaps these teams that field a large number of riders only have one or two guys with the level of fitness to keep the pace high, and thus the rest of the team just sits in. Ok, valid argument, but this race would have been more fun if more of the well-represented teams would have attacked and done some work. Plus, another lap would have been nice as it would have narrowed down the field more.

Anyways, this was a fast 46+ miles of racing. We averaged 24mph and I ended up doing 333 watts of normalized power over the course of almost 2 hours. So yeah, I got my hard ride in. As for tactics, we didn't do the best on this. We probably should have protected Matt better; his result was great for the fact that he was near the front and attacking every so often. If we had one more teammate we would have had a very solid group that could have set the pace, attacked at will, and have a guy saved for the final group sprint (hint, hint...get registered early and often this season as the M35+ 4/5 races are filling up super fast).

Saturday, March 1, 2008

On the docket, Het Volk & Merco RR

For all the problems I've had with (which fully deserves its own post), I gotta say I love watching early in the morning with a cup of coffee and the newspaper. Gilbert is attacking at Het Volk, and I really like his style. He's the strongest with 25km to go and he just drops folks by going off the front again to drop those he caught from the original break after he bridged across.

So coming up this weekend is the fun in Merced. I haven't been racing for long, but I'm feel like I'm quickly becoming the Rick Steves of the central valley. Learning about all the backroads and local faire as I travel through the area for races. Some folks complain, but it's really a great way to discover new areas of the state that I haven't seen before. Maybe my tune will change in a few years when I realize that I've been doing the trek for many years and I get bummed out about the growing urban sprawl. Cynical, yeah...but I've seen it happen already. Just as long as Casa de Fruita is still in business.

The crit isn't on my list for today, but the RR is (Merco RR...). This looks like it will be a fun race with a relatively large field who hasn't seen much action yet. How can I make this prediction? Because I'm an Excel junkie and spent a bit of time looking over past results this season and slapping a few vlookups into a spreadsheet to give me my analytical advantage. Here's my's not focused training on long threshold intervals, nor doing sprint work. It's being able to know your competition and using something from the Bill Gates armada to give you that slight advantage of knowledge. Like GI Joe said, "knowing is half the battle".