Two states
One apartment
Two houses
Two graduations
Four cars
Four jobs
Five rats
One betta fish
One dog
Two kids
13 years
One wife.
Happy Anniversary, E.

Scenes from the biker life

Scene 1, Sunday – first club TT of the year. The course would be familiar to Solobreak and anybody who raced the Blue Hills Classic. It’s about 11.4 Km, with a nice 1.1 Km, 5%-average hill in the first third just to screw up your pacing. I put on the dork suit and made a run, and shaved a couple of seconds off my PR. Here’s a graph of my power from this week’s run (yellow) compared to my fastest from last year (red):

TT Power Comparison

Though the x-axis is time, it’s pretty easy to key a few locations on the course to the power curve. We start at the gas station near the corner of Canton Ave and Blue Hill Parkway. The first 0-power dip is the corner of 138. The second is the oblique right from 138 onto Canton, where I get out of the tuck briefly to freak out about traffic and not hitting the curb. The last 0-power moment I think comes near the intersection with Atherton, where we start the final descent to the finish. There, I stay on the aero extensions but freak out momentarily about picking my way through the potholes near the shoulder.

Hey, at least I’m consistent.

Comparing the two graphs, I see that I was maybe 10 or 15 seconds faster to 138 this time, but gave some of that advantage back on Canton. Average power overall on the two runs was the same, but this time we had light winds from the northeast instead of light wind from the south. Unquity is essentially southbound until the state police barracks, so the wind conditions probably helped a bit there, and held me back when headed northeast on Unquity. If I had thought to check that before the race, I may have pushed a little harder at the start.

The next run is 8am on June 27, and if you’re in the neighborhood you’re welcome to drop in. Just get in touch.

Scene 2 – the tail end of MTB Day in the Blue Hills. We showed up barely half an hour before they closed, but they had the obstacle course open. Andrew got to ride his first seesaw, and he also won the bike limbo contest. The dude on the 26″ unicycle gave it a good shot, but he was no match for a skinny 8-year-old on 20″ wheels.
Scene 3 – Monday’s bike commute – well, calling it a commute is a bit generous, because I just ride a couple of miles down to the train station. The full commute takes more than an hour, and while I probably should do it, I usually don’t. This week, I’m practicing my underway camera technique. The dang thing has too many buttons.

Monday’s commute passed uneventfully. Tuesday morning, I was admonished by an SUV driver to “get on the sidewalk” as we cruised through a school zone. In the evening, I rode down to meet the family at Andrew’s baseball game and was nearly right-hooked. If I hadn’t been paying attention, I’d have been caught under the wheels of a Mini. I’ve lived in Canton for three years, and this is the first time I recall being insulted on the road in town. Unfortunately, it probably won’t be the last.

Can’t we all just get along?

Just name a hero and I’ll prove he’s a bum.

“Just name a hero and I’ll prove he’s a bum.”

That’s the call-out quote on the back cover of my tattered copy of Baa Baa Black Sheep, Greg Boyington’s memoir. For those of you didn’t grow up watching the TV show loosely based on his exploits, Boyington was a Marine fighter pilot in the Pacific theater of WWII, awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions as commanding officer of squadron VMF-214. He also drank heavily, divorced more than once and largely abandoned his children. Clearly, he knew his subject when he penned that line.
All this came to mind, again, with today’s news of Floyd Landis confessing to sustained doping during his pro cycling career. In a somewhat surprising move, he also implicated just about everybody he ever rode with or worked for in the European peloton. Bitterness might underlie that decision, or perhaps he’s trying to encourage other riders to rise up and overthrow the corrupt money machine that is the Pro Tour. I don’t know and, like the fate of Amelia Earhart or the whereabouts of half my socks, I’ll probably never know for sure. No matter, he’s a hero for finally confessing, and a bum for buying into the system in the first place and stringing us along for years.

We want to believe that people who achieve great things are equally admirable in all aspects of their lives. We basically decent people see ourselves as the same as these high achievers, just not quite as athletically or politically or musically gifted. We want to believe that by hearing interviews and reading articles and watching games or races or speeches or whatnot, we truly know these people who have risen to prominence, and can admire them for what they are. But we’re deluding ourselves.

Even in the Facebook age, we’re like icebergs. We show tiny peaks of our selves to a broad audience, with the rest concealed to all but a few we let dive beneath the surface. That’s not to say that every person is equally rotten; it’s just that we barely get to know the people we work or play or live with every day. How can think we know someone we’ve never met?

My lesson from this, short of plumbing the depths of cynicism, is to strive to melt the iceberg. I don’t mean that I intend to abandon all boundaries and start posting about my toenail clippings or dirty underwear – unless you think it would drive traffic, in which case I’ll get right on it. No, I mean being unashamed of my shortcomings, weaknesses and failures, while taking perhaps a bit less pride in my strengths. Likewise, I need to recognize the heroes around me. I don’t need to look far to find people worth admiring. Yes, if I could see the whole person I would probably find some bum-like attributes. But that’s part of being human. If we all came to terms with that, maybe some of us would feel less compelled to cheat to get ahead.


Biking in Barnstable
No racing this past weekend, but still managed to cram quite a bit of biker life into two days. Friday turned into a short-notice full day off. I had planned to take the afternoon off to ride down to Barnstable, but then the opportunity for a quick run up to Svelte Cycles HQ presented itself, so I dashed up there on Friday morning to conduct a little business. I wish I had brought my camera, as Justin’s modest digs contain a large slice of biker nirvana. The Gaulzetti road bikes hit all my bike nerd buttons, though that’s not why I went up there. I’ll save that for a later entry.
Then, a mad dash home to make final preparations, suit up and hit the road for Barnstable. Last fall I did the Plymouth-to-Canton direction of Bike Route 1 but the outbound route was new to me. I translated the map into four pages of cues, threw on the MTB pedals and shoes for the walk across the Sagamore bridge, and hit the road. The forecast predicted afternoon rain, so I rode the fender bike, but such precautions turned out to be unnecessary. Except for a suicidal squirrel in Bridgewater, my trip was unremarkable, but for the rare treat of four hours of sunshine and solitude. I didn’t even make a wrong turn.
Satruday afternoon I reversed course and rode home, wishing I’d had the foresight to print out the cues in reverse order. I only made one wrong turn while mentally re-calculating the route, though. Other than that, another long afternoon of steady-state pedaling over the (mostly) lightly-traveled roads of southeast Mass. I wasn’t feeling all that great – by Monday, I had a full-on cold – but back-to-back four-hour days are a rare treat.
No racing this weekend, either, unless you count the first club TT of the season. I’ll just chew on solobreak’s analysis of why we have such a glut of Cat 4s. I’m part of the problem, for sure.

Snap, crackle, pop

It’s been a bad stretch for bones in my little corner of the universe. Two weekends ago, my buddy JP’s front wheel found the only pothole on the course and he wound up with a cracked clavicle and major road rash. I’d tell him to complain to the race promoter, but, well, he was the race promoter. Bad deal.
Sunday, Dougie J broke his ankle on an easy MTB ride, pulverizing a planned riding trip to Italy and some big races along with his fibula and talus (probably…ankle anatomy isn’t really my thing). And some people say MTBing is safer.
Speaking of Italy, CVV crashed out of the Giro yesterday, again. Italy is just bad news for the poor guy.
So what does this have to do with little ol’ me? My number’s going to come up. Falling off the bike is a natural consequence of getting on the bike. Seriously, if the PROs can’t avoid broken bones, how can I? I just hope it isn’t too bad when it happens. I have lots of reasons to live.

Blue Hills Classic 2010: At last, my butt is famous

I’m fading fast – I hope I didn’t pick up a GI bug from contaminated drinking water, but something has zapped my energy tonight. Not to mention that I’m past the 24-hour freshness date for race reports. So this will likely be short, or at least unedited.
Yesterday we had the fourth running of the Blue Hills Classic road race. My club hosts the race, and we have not yet managed to put a club member on the podium in any category. I wanted to change that this year, and I thought we had the horsepower to do it in the Cat 4 race. However, a quick scan of the pre-reg list revealed that we’d have to find our way past a couple of big teams to make that happen. Threshold Cycling brought 13 riders, and Cambridge Bike 8. Both are well-organized and know how to work as a team.
I prepared about as well as I could. My fitness has been quite good in the last few weeks, and the race is held on my favorite training loop. I knew the contours and the potholes perfectly. Since our race was just 21 miles long, I figured a break had a very small chance of succeeding if we could keep Threshold and CB from blocking the bunch when their riders attacked. My plan was to hover near the front, cover breaks if I saw CB and Threshold go together, but otherwise try to keep my nose out of the wind until the last lap. I had three teammates with me, and while we were down on numbers to those two teams, perhaps we could sneak somebody by them.
For a moment on the first lap, I thought maybe the race had ridden away from me. Cruising down Canton Ave at nearly 40 mph, I had shuffled toward the back of the bunch when a split formed, with maybe 20 riders in the front group. I saw my two teammates up there, so I didn’t try to close the gap. We all came back together on Unquity Hill, though. The second lap was somewhat similar, except this time the split group was smaller, contained CB and Threshold, and I went to the front to bring them back. I probably didn’t absolutely need to do that, but it wasn’t a very long or hard effort. The second trip up Unquity was pretty tame, but I found myself bumping bars as we came around the start area, trying to maintain a forward position.
Coming down Canton for the final time, I sheltered behind my teammate Can for a while. Can has many fine qualities, including throwing a very comfy draft, but a bit too late I realized that we had slid toward the back of the group as we ran downhill. The final corner is 5-6 minutes out from the finish line, and after we sprinted out of that corner I yelled to him that we needed to move up. He chose a line on the shoulder, which I didn’t feel comfortable following, so I tried to pick my way through the group as best I could. Or at least that’s how I remember it. The bar cam video looks a bit different:

The video starts on the last lap, soon after the turn from Unquity onto 138. We have a couple of riders off the front at this point, with Eric Vandendries and then Larry Alford of 545 Velo taking monster pulls to bring them back. Looks like the last escapee to come back in was Gert Reynaert of Threshold.
Nick Liddell of Threshold, our cameraman, stayed near the front all the way down Canton, and then took the lead through the final corner onto Unquity, when Gert makes another appearance, surprising Nick by dive-bombing the corner from the outside. Things get a little sprinty after that as we all get on the gas out of the corner. The pace is high but even until about 8:25 in the video, which is about where we start the final trip up Unquity. I think when Greg Whitney got off the front there. I make an appearance on the video at about 9:12. At long last, my butt is on the Internet! I’m famous! At that point, Nick fades so we don’t really see the end of the race. I was creeping up, but as soon as we hit the coned-off intersection that marked the point at which we got full width of the road, I stood up, swung left to get a clear line, and lit the afterburners. That pulled me up to 13th place, with top 10 an agonizing bike-length away. I heard crash noise as I crossed the line, but I didn’t look back to see whose sweet ride turned into a small heap of frayed carbon filaments.
Since GeWilli mentioned Watts/Kg on climbs today, here’s a screenshot of the last 2:30 or so of my race:
I averaged 426 W for the last 2 minutes, and I’m around 71 Kg, so that’s just about 6 W/Kg. And it was all I had left.
I think I did a fairly good job of reading this race, but I was obviously out of position through the last corner. If I had done a better job of staying forward, I may have snagged an even better result. I wanted to win, and I didn’t, so I failed to achieve my goal. But this is my best result in a 4s race, so I shouldn’t complain too loudly.
It’s also the last race of my spring campaign. The next two or three weeks are chock full of family visits and other enriching activities, so I’m not sure when my next race will be. There will be a next road race, though, because I feel like I’m finally starting to figure this stuff out. I may have delusions of adequacy, but I think I’m within sight of competence as a Cat 4.

I’m boiling my drinking water, I have a race tomorrow, and Steve Garro just kicked my ass

Earlier today, a catastrophic break in a 10 foot water main caused the Mass Water Resources Authority to issue a boil-water order for Boston and several suburbs, including mine. In other news, there are freaking 10 FOOT WIDE water mains, and they can break. At least I’m going to learn a lot about the water distribution system in the next few days.
On an unrelated note, I’m racing the Blue Hills Classic tomorrow morning. This is my favorite road race of the year, primarily because it’s a 10-minute bike ride from my garage to the registration tent. We are the host club, and we have only four riders in a field that’s dominated by large teams from a couple of other local clubs. I still want a Blue Hills jersey at the top of the podium. I think we have the talent to do it, but we’re going to have to race the smartest race of our lives. And I’m going to have to race way over my head to pull it off.
Topic 3: I don’t know Steve Garro. He’s a custom bike builder from Arizona, and he posts on a bike forum I frequent. Oh, and some mishap or other put him permanently in a wheelchair a while back. Go have a dose of life ain’t fair. Thanks, Steve, for reminding me that every day on the bike is a gift.