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Friday, November 28, 2014

The Turkey Fever edition

This cold has really knocked me on my ass.  I'm well into the second week of it and just feel miserable.  I've been doing my best to still get out and keep up with my fitness but it hasn't been easy.  In the week and a half since my last post I've had  a trip to Chicago to visit family.  It was a good trip, very relaxing and enjoyable, even if I spent a good portion of it on the couch wishing my cold would get better.

I've been playing with POV action cameras a little bit and have a few observations.  The battery life on the GoPro Hero3 is quite short, even with the bacpac.  The Shimano camera has better battery life but has many drawbacks.  The first is that it produces .mov files and I'd rather have .mp4 files to add ANT+ data overlays.  Transcoding between file types takes quite a bit of computing power.  In fact, an hour and a half of camera time took about 40 hours to change file types without loss of quality.  That's insane.  Yes, my laptop is not designed for video editing and processing but still...

The Shimano camera is also difficult to operate and it's saving grace is the wireless connection to your phone which works great except when it doesn't work.  Shimano also has a setting to automatically rotate the video 180 degrees in the event that you mount the camera upside down, which just happens to be the way to mount it on the bike.  The setting works when playing back the file in QuickTime but not in other media players so not only do you have to change file types but you have to rotate the video as well.  Finally, Shimano has yet to release a PC software package to accompany the camera for editing and data overlays. That left me with Garmin's Virb Edit program which is easy enough to use but in Windows 7 there is a 4GB file export limitation which is fairly restrictive and requires truncating the video or exporting with decreased resolution or framerate in order to reduce file size.

The GoPro camera is a more user friendly camera and gets a better picture.  If only the battery life were better.  I have fixed the computer side of the equation with a new laptop on order.  That was a poorly thought out decision that did not please my wife at all.  Oops.  I'd be very interested to see the quality of the Garmin Virb camera which is probably similar to the Shimano camera, if not better.  I'm balking at the $249 price tag, the cheapest I could find it for, and want to see if there are Christmas sales that bring the price down.  I am also curious to see if they release a second generation of the camera that will shoot 1080p at 60fps or 4k at 15 or 30 fps.  Hopefully, if there is a new camera, it will be announced in January at the Consumer Electronics Show.

My usual weekday evening rides ended but John wanted to start a Wednesday night ride starting at his office.  He had scouted out a 3.4 mile loop that is low traffic.  I rode over from the house last Wednesday and anticipated there being 4 or 5 of us on the ride.  I should have known better.  Getting people to do a night ride is like getting people to go on an epic ride over one hundred miles.  Everybody says they're interested until it's time to ride and then they disappear.  It ended up being just John and I.

Here's a video of the occasion with the Shimano camera.  It took me so long to convert file types and everything that I was just glad to have it done with and chose to ignore the data overlays getting cut off and the poor resolution I was forced to use to export the file.

If you made it to the end of that video you clearly don't have enough to do with your time.  This past Wednesday was the day before Thanksgiving and there was no night ride.  We'll see if the tradition will continue this week.

The weather was pretty poor the rest of the week, cold and raining, including Saturday. Sunday I left the house to meet some folks at Bike World for a ride. I figured I would try the GoPro Hero3 Black and see how that went. Set up was easy. I started the camera before I left the house, even though I was driving to the start of the ride. I thought it might add a neat dimension to the video. Of course, now that I had a camera on the car recording all the "action" I went right ahead and zoned out, missing my exit off the highway and having to do a U-turn. Only three of us showed up to the 1604 location and there was a ride leaving a little bit later from the Alamo Height location so we figured we would head south and ride from there. Shaun and I parked at The Quarry and met up with Matt Mayes, Blair Jones, Rob Kane, and Ryan Wohlrabe. Ryan and Rob rode about 80 miles but the rest of us rode a shorter route, about 50 miles. I thought the video came out pretty good (again, I had to speed it up because it can be dull watching hours of somebody else riding).

Monday I was able to pick up my new bike before hopping on a flight to Chicago.  It's the new Trek Emonda SLR9 with Dura Ace 9070 Di2 shifting.  Amazingly light and responsive.  I did a very brief 8 miles ride from the shop but I'm looking forward to getting more familiar with the bike this weekend.

While up in Chicago we went with the kids the Science and Industry Museum which is a pretty neat place.  I did go running each of the three days we were there.  There's a nice newly completed path from near my Mother-in-law's house to Lake Katherine which ends up being around a 4 mile loop.  The temperatures were in the mid-20s so it wasn't too bad running.  It would have been pretty nippy on a bike though.  Here's a Strava shot of the run.  It was the fastest of the three runs but it's my blog so I can post the one I like best.

Here are some of the photos from the week:

Finally, I got some nice snuggle time with my puppies who had to be boarded for the week. They missed us.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A trip to back east and playing with POV cameras

Before everybody gets too upset about the long delay between posts, let me just say that I have the perfect excuse for the extended wait:  I didn't post anything.  That is all.  I now consider myself absolved.  Write up your own stories of cycling and life.  It's not so easy.

The real reason behind the long break was a week off the bike (actually 9 days) and a short trip to Boston for work.  It's been over a year since I went a week of more without riding.  It would have been more difficult without the out of town trip.  My trip to Boston was, ostensibly, for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.  I had a poster to present on RNA sequencing for differential gene expression in non-alcoholic steatohepatitis.  Trust me, it's as fascinating as it sounds.  Take a moment to collect yourself.  The blogging can wait.

I got some good time in Boston with a couple colleagues.  Most importantly, it was my first trip to Boston in nearly 9 years after living their for 8 years.  It was great to see the city again and somehow cathartic as well.  They still have a statue of me in the public garden:

I visited my old school campus and some of the places I used to live.

I actually did ride a bike, a HubCity bike from Boston's public bike share program.  I rode a few miles from Brookline Village back to the Hynes Convention Center taking in some of the Esplanade along the Charles River.

I got to have a beer at the Cheers bar, where I used to valet cars when I was working on my engineering degree.  Most of the car parking was for the restaurant upstairs which is called The Hampshire House.  In the TV show it was Melvin's.  Of course nothing about the real Cheers is like the show.  The facade of the building is the only similarity.  The inside of the bar is completely different.  The bar is actually called The Bull and Finch Pub.  You walk in and nobody knows your name.  Even if you used to work there.

After a few days out of town I was happy to get home and made a point of going for a short ride the day after I got home.  I figured I would feel awesome after a few days off but I really felt like I had lost more fitness than recovered from fatigue.  The ride was pretty short and pretty sedate, other than a couple of hard efforts.  I really never felt like my legs got going.

On Thursday and Saturday I ran with my dogs.  Once a year I have to take a fitness test for the Air Force.  I have a thing about getting the maximum possible points on this test so that means that each year I wonder if I can still do 64 push-ups and run my 1.5 miles in a little over 9 minutes.  There are sit-ups in there too but I don't find that too challenging.  At some point each year, I will run a few time just to make sure I remember how to do it.  On Saturday I had wanted to go for a ride but when I woke up and it was 36F and raining I figured that a run would be the way to go.  The dogs and I ran 5 miles around my neighborhood.  We ran through a local park, that had nobody in it.  Well nobody except for one couple who reminded me that dogs were not allowed in the park.  I think my dogs were better behaved than they were.  I don't know why you would have a park with trails and no allow dogs in their.  Not only were my dogs well behaved but I stopped to pick up dog poop from somebody else's dog.  I actually left the park better than I had found it and if I hadn't brought my own dogs I would not have had a bag with me to pick up poop.  What do you think of your little "no dogs in the park" rule now.  Yeah, that's what I thought.

That brings us right up to Sunday.  I met 12-15 other riders at Local Coffee on Broadway and we had a 40 mile ride.  It was a mix of riders from Bike World Racing and Bicycle Heaven, a kind of Joint Operations exercise.  The weather was supposed to be nice, starting in the 50's and sunny then warming up into the mid 60s through the morning.  Well, it started in the low 50's with a light rain and never warmed up.  It was kind of damp the whole ride.  But we had fun.  I kept expecting the ride to get a little spirited but it stayed calm throughout.  I'm sure the weather had something to do with that.

In addition to getting a ride in I was on a mission to test out an action camera.  My friend, Mark, has a GoPro Hero3 and a Shimano Sport Camera.  I have been thinking about getting one of these but I wanted to see what the quality of the images would be like as well as how difficult it would be to add data overlays in Garmin's Virb Edit software.  As you know, I already take a lot of photos when I ride.  I edit those photos a little bit and share them on social media and on the blog.  Photos take a bit of time to sift through, straighten, crop, adjust contrast and fill light, etc.  I am interested in the action cameras but do not want to be spending a ton of time editing videos.  That doesn't sound like too much fun to me.  I also don't know that anybody cares to watch video of other people cycling.  Maybe in a race.  Heck, I watched video of a race that I was in and I got bored.  On the other hand, some of the action cams take nice still photos and can be mounted facing forward or backwards from a bracket on the seat rails.  I imagine that this backward facing mount could capture some nice video and stills in a race or a spirited group ride.  I got about 40 minutes of video before the battery died on the Shimano camera.  I think that I didn't charge it all the way because even in the cold it should last longer than that.

Here's the video.  The data overlays are off by just a couple seconds.  Don't worry, you'll live.  Play the video at night.  It'll help you sleep.

It's not much of a video.  It recorded in Quicktime Format but the Garmin Virb Edit Software needs an MP4.  I lost a little fidelity in that conversion.  Then, when trying to export the video grom Garmin's editing program I found out that on Windows 7 the program limits you to 4GB file sizes which forced me to cut back on the framerate and resolution even further.  I'm sure this stuff goes faster with a little practice but this video actually took a surprisingly large amount of time screwing around with things, converting files, exporting files, uploading files.

This afternoon I took my daughter out to the museum and then a little window shopping and a carousel ride.

When we got home we found out that my wife and son had dressed up one of the dogs to look like a jester.  The dog was not laughing.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Age is just a number- the young and the old got after it this weekend

We're finishing up a nice visit from my parents who made the tortuous drive down from Colorado for a long weekend.  Who am I kidding?  They are retired, every weekend is a long weekend.  They arrived on Friday, which was Halloween.  Just in time for the annual headache that is Halloween.  I'm not much of one for holidays.  It's a bit much for me and I have trouble getting excited for these things.  I was commissioned to take a few pictures of my little ninja and kitty.

Luckily it was Granny who circled the block with them and Mom trick-or-treating.  There is a troublesome paucity of tricking taking place during this annual ritual and altogether too much treating.  That is the consensus opinion of the Prankster and Endodontist International Society (PEnIS).  I fully support their desire to promote trick over treat.  It's about time.

Earlier in the day my dad and I went on a 40 mile bike ride.  My dad is like a lithium battery.  He just got out of the car after 16 hours of driving over two days but he wasn't interested in lying down or chatting.  he and I lack some basic social skills ( He was, however, vaccinated with a phonograph needle whereas I just got a prick.  I still am one).  Like a lithium battery he goes and goes and then suddenly, instantly needs recharging.  After a short nap he's ready to go again.  

We rode from the house north/west along I-10, on and off the frontage road, up to Fair Oaks Ranch.  The we rode east on Ammann Rd to Blanco Rd, down Blanco to Heubner and then back on 1604 and Vance Jackson.  It was a good 40 mile ride that was a bit of work on the way out but a nice tailwind on the way back.  My dad is riding well and you'd never know he's nearing 70 years of age.  It is harder for him into a headwind when he would really benefit from a draft but is rarely close enough to the wheel ahead of him to really take advantage.  But I guess a ride with your dad isn't supposed to be a hammerfest, just a nice spin, which is just what we did.

On Saturday we headed over to Cibolo to meet the San Antonio Wheelmen.  It was chilly, in the low 50s with a decent wind from the northeast.  The ride started out pretty casual but then got down to business on Green Valley.  I've ridden with these guys long enough that I know what to expect.  I'm also one of the pace-setters of the group.  My dad is not familiar with the rides and cannot anticipate the surges that occur in more or less the same spots every time we do a particular ride.  He was already riding fairly hard into the headwind. so when the group surged he was off the back.  I sat up for him and we rode together as I tried to do my best to shield him from the wind.  We were never that far behind Tim and Kelley and I realized after a few miles that we were, essentially, going the same speed.  Might as well ride together and fight the wind as a team.  Of course that would mean catching them.  And with a little pulling and pushing we fought out way up to Tim and Kelley.  We caught up with the lead group when they stopped to repair a puncture.  Knowing we were traveling a little slower we went on ahead up Pioneer Rd and they caught up to us at Stagecoach.  From there it was just a couple of miles to the rest stop.

After the rest stop we predominantly had a tailwind and the riding was easier.  Sometimes a tailwind has you feeling so good that as your spirits rise with the speeds things can get a little out of hand and we were riding along at speeds in the low 20's.  Over the rolling terrain this was a bit much for my Dad who had been working hard battling the headwind for 30 miles already.  Finally, around mile 35 his power just wasn't there anymore.  I was stuck in the middle watching the group get further away while watching my dad in my rearview mirror.  I didn't want the rest of the group to stop and wait for us.  They needed to have their ride and I know every crack and pothole along the route so we weren't going to get lost.  I sprinted ahead to catch the group.  It took me one mile to catch them at 25.5mph and 350W.  A nice little interval. I told Francisco that we'd be coming along behind and not to worry about us and then I dropped into the little ring and we spun back to the car together.  Although it was colder and windier than I would have liked it was a good ride both with, and without, the group.

On Saturday night we went out for dinner at Perry's Steakhouse which is very posh and delicious.  We had a fabulous meal with enough meat and wine to give an elephant gout.  It was also a good way to celebrate my Dad's birthday, even though it was 6 weeks after the fact.

Mom and Dad at dinner (and my daughter's scalp)
My wife loves a good meal out:

Wife, out on the town!

That had us well fueled for the Kendalia-Blanco ride with the Wheelmen on Sunday.  The November ride schedule was a little late getting published which meant that when I asked last week what the rides would be this weekend I got to have a say in that.  I requested this ride because it's one of my favorites.  It winds around on some nice rural ranch roads including across the ranch of Peter Holt, owner of the fantastic San Antonio Spurs.

Before we left the house in the morning my daughter asked if she could come along, so rather than load up the Colnago it was the Burley tandem that went on top of the car.  This was another ride that was a bit chilly at the start but we started with the tailwind and came home into the headwind.  The first 8 or 10 miles of the ride we stayed together, for the most part, although I was working hard to keep that tandem moving at the pace of the others.  When we turned onto 101 (Little Blanco) I stopped to wait for my dad and a couple others.  The rest of the group went ahead.  It ended up being my dad and I, Andy, and Colin and his Father riding together.  We had a beautiful ride on 101 and then a little hammering down 473 to 32.  473 is always a fast bit of road and today was no different.  Well, it was different in the sense that today I was laden with 40lbs of bicycle and 40lbs of child.  When we got to the rest stop my dad said, "You must be exhausted dragging that thing around"  I caught my breath enough to agree.  "Yeah, I'm pretty tired."  At that point my daughter chimed in, "I'm not tired!"  When riding with kids like this on the tandem they spend most of their time daydreaming and letting their legs get pushed around in circles.  But, she was having fun and that was enough for me.

The second half of the ride was slowed when another rider had a puncture on 102 just before Trainer Wuest Rd.  There was head wind and a lot of gradual uphills to sap our strength with only a horrific car accident at the junction with 1623 to distract us.  See the slides below, there's a picture.  After that we had the long ascent up Crabapple Rd which has you climb slowly for 6 miles before the road shoots skyward maxing out at 21.4% gradient, according to the cartographers at Strava.

I may be number 4 on the leaderboard but that didn't happen on this ride.  We started the climb in our smallest gear and I wasn't sure if we would make it over the top, especially hitting that section that's about 20%.  We got as low as 4.9mph but we made it to the top.  It was all downhill from there.  I was very proud of my daughter.  6 year old, 51 miles, 3:45 in the saddle...pretty impressive stats!  I was exhausted after that and today my legs are heavy and aching.

My dad went back out today for 50 miles along a route I had drawn up for him.  He rode 195 miles over 4 days.  Who says 68 is old?