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Monday, September 1, 2014

Week in review

I am obligated to start every blog post by stating how busy I have been and why I haven't been getting out and riding as much.  Blah, blah, blah.  I didn't get out at all during the week.  Monday was a long day at work, 6:30AM to 9PM.  Tuesday I was able to leave work before 6 but had to get home for my daughter's birthday.  Wednesday there was plenty of work but I also had to put together a one hour lecture on cholangiocarcinoma for a weekly combined conference we have with the gastroenterology department at University Hospital.  Yes, it did go together the day before but it actually went pretty well (I think).  After the lecture I went back to work with the sole intent of catching up on clinic notes I hadn't had a chance to write all week.  That quickly turned into me sticking around to see three new inpatient consults because, as the ERCP fellow, it seemed to be a case of "Oh, as long as you're here..."  That kind of annoyed me because after hours the inpatient service should pick up the consults otherwise I'd be on call 24 hours a day for one year straight.

The military occasionally hands out a "training holiday" which, ostensibly, is a reward for meeting some kind of milestone.  In my case it is essentially a day off for the hospital where all the clinics are shut down.  Only essential inpatient and emergency services are available.  In fact it is more a stick than a carrot in the sense that the training days seem to be determined in advance and then taken away if the group does poorly on inspections or exercises.  The training days always come on a Friday and frequently on a holiday weekend which makes a nice 4 day weekend.  This weekend was Labor Day and I was very much looking forward to some riding and relaxing. With all the late consults on Thursday I was in at work Friday morning for 4 ERCPs.  None of them were straightforward.  I was at work until 10PM or so.  I had to decompress a little after that and got to bed around midnight.  So much for riding and relaxing.

Saturday I got out for what was to be an "easy" ride from Bike World with Aaron, Shaun, and Trae.  I made it over there in time but as I was taking the bike off the car I noticed that the cranks were binding up when spinning backwards.  The wrenches at Bike World did a great job troubleshooting that for me and it turns out the drive side bottom bracket cup was loose and would catch slightly on backwards crank rotation spinning itself off the bottom bracket shell until it jammed the crank.  That might not have happened with and English (BSA) threaded bottom bracket rather than Italian.  Or maybe it just would have happened when the cranks were rotating forwards.  Anyhow, we got it sorted and they even adjusted my Chris King hubs which had some slight lateral play.  This is normal for a new set of CK hubs.  I offered to pay them for their troubles but they refused.  They said they were in early on Saturday before the shop opened and they were happy to help.  That's good service!

It was a good ride, overall.  I got to meet, and ride with, Bob Cornes whom I had seen on Strava but never met.  I think there were 7 of us all together.  We made our way out Blanco road.  It was supposed to be an easy ride considering most of us were planning on racing the next day.  Starting just 2 miles into the ride we were moving.  The 11.5 miles from Huebner/Blanco to Ammann on Leroy Scheel was covered at a brisk 23.3 mph.  Not exactly a light spin.  After that we shut it down a bit and finished with a 21.2 mph average.  As we were coming back into Bulverde we met up with Ed Solis who I haven't seen in 4-6 weeks.  We road 8 or so miles together but when Aaron hit a pot hole on some second hand 80 or 100mm carbon tubulars (23c) and punctured Ed had to keep going.  I was ahead of Aaron and didn't realize it had happened at first.  I waited a bit and then the others came racing along to ride the 5 miles back to the shop and get a car to go pick him up.  That's the trouble with training on tubulars.  You can always carry a preglued spare tire but it doesn't pack nearly as nicely as a tube.

I took the time to get all my stuff organized Saturday night for the next installment of the University Oaks criterium series on Sunday.  I was planning on racing the Cat 5 and the Cat 4/5.  I did not have high hopes for the 4/5 coming as the second race of the day but I wanted to get a sense for what the race was like.  My family came out for the first race.  I planned to sit in a bit, try not to work too hard, but take the prime and the win.  It worked out pretty much just like that.  I did my share of pulling but also sitting in.  I didn't take any flyers off the front or toy with the idea of lapping the field.  I made the same move for the prime as last time which was a breakaway on the climb on the backside of the course.  The win was the same move and I was able to sit up and coast over the line.

I probably tightened up a little between races, there was a two hour break.  The Cat 4/5 race was faster (not much)  The Cat 5 race was 35 minutes at 23.9mph and the Cat 4/5 race was 40 minutes at 24.2mph on my GPS but there were some accelerations in there that were harder to follow.  In the Cat 5 race I was setting the pace and in the 4/5 I was following.  In addition I burned some matches on the front and closed some gaps I could have left for others to close.  I battled 2 of the 4 primes.  Basically, I didn't race very smart considering there were a lot more racers and they were a lot faster than the prior race.  The winner of the 4/5 had actually won the 3/4 race earlier that day.  It was a good learning experience.  I can power my way to a win in the Cat 5 but the 4/5 requires tactics.  It would help to get out for rides more than two days per week as well.

I don't have separate GPS files for the races.  They are roughly laps 2 and 4 but there is a little coasting at the end, cool down laps etc...

Here are pictures from race day:

I have plenty of other pictures from the Cat 3/4, 40+, and Pro/1/2/3 events as well, just click the links.

I did get to enjoy my Labor Day.  It was a hectic morning and I was definitely pissy getting out of bed this morning between staying up late editing photos, not sleeping well, getting the kids breakfast, then being asked to troubleshoot a printer problem as I'm trying to get out the door and running late already.  I'm a bastard when I'm in a bad mood.  I spun over to Helotes to meet the Southwest Research Institute group for their ride.  I was looking forward to getting 2-3 hours of lighter riding in.  I was not looking forward to the route chosen which was about 14 miles on Highway 16 out of Helotes with a decent shoulder but not too scenic and traffic moving at 70mph.  It was the right turn onto Highway 46 to get over to Boerne I was really dreading.  This is crappy chipseal for 11 or so miles without a good shoulder and fast moving traffic.  About halfway you can turn into Tapatio Springs which is some great riding but there are quite a few hills.  I don't mind the hills but they sure can send some slinking away with their tail between their legs.  Luckily, Doug had heard through the grapevine that the ride on 46 had gotten worse since he was last out their and he suggested a route change.  We spun up Scenic Loop to Toutant-Beauregard.  I didn't pull a bit out to Toutant and barely made it into the big ring.  That was the goal for the day.  Chris was setting a decent steady pace up to Babcock Rd and my goal was spinning not speed.  Of course, when we got to Toutant I was getting itchy feet and was having trouble sitting in.  There wouldn't be any harm in me setting a steady pace for a few miles, right?  Well, I guess the trouble comes in when the road turns up.  At 150lbs, a decent power to weight ratio, and a willful ignorance when it comes to suffering I just don't slow down as much as some on the hills.  Oops.  The group fell apart a bit on the "3rd Step" on Toutant but we regrouped afterward.  Shortly thereafter Amy's water bottle cap came off and went skidding across the road.  I've seen plenty of dropped water bottles but never just the cap.  We will have to review the "Righty tighty, Lefty loosey" rule with her.  She stopped to get the cap and I went ahead to tell the others that she was off the back.  The others acknowledge that information with a caring shrug of the shoulders.  I stopped and waited for a couple minutes and when I didn't see her I rode back up the hill in search.  She and Chris met me halfway up the hill as they were on their way down.  I asked if she found it and she matter of factly said it was just her water bottle cap and she didn't care.  I promised I would not mention in any online writings that she certainly spent a lot of time not caring about it while I was waiting on the side of the road for her.  Heck, I'm glad she didn't care about it or she might still be out there looking for it.  She then proceeded to forget she had a water bottle without lid and dumped it all over herself trying to take a drink.  Amy is good fun and I know she doesn't mind a little ribbing.  In fact, she hands it right back.  It's been a while since anybody called me an ass-clown but I forgot how good it felt.

After the rest stop the pace picked up a bit on Ammann Rd.  We cut back through Fair Oaks Ranch.  At one point I tried to get my phone out to get some pictures (at a stop sign).  I had turned the screen brightness all the way down last night and in the bright sun I could not read a thing on it.  I couldn't even see if the phone was on or not.  As a result, no pictures from today's ride.  Normally I don't mess with a phone while riding.  The pictures aren't as good as with a real camera and it's more finicky to deal with a touchscreen with sweaty fingers on bumpy roads.  Trouble is I've just about killed my point-and-shoot camera with sweat from sticking it in my jersey pocket.  I think a waterproof camera might be next.  I don't like the idea of a case because I like to be able to reach into my jersey pocket, turn the camera on, take a picture or two, and put it back all with one hand.  My father has suggested a bento box on the top tube but aesthetically this is less pleasing to me and seems to be one step closer to a touring bike and panniers.  I've got my system and it works.  Actually, it doesn't work.  The camera is about dead.  The battery won't hold a charge for more than 3 hours of riding, or so.  It used to hold charge for days on end.  If I let the camera sit for a couple days it will have a dead battery when I pick it up again.  It's hard to get pictures when your camera battery is always dead.

After messing with the phone at the stop sign I had to catch up to the group.  I passed on rider who had been yo-yoing off the back of the bunch for a while.  I helped him get back up to the group, or the 3-4 riders who were waiting at the rest stop.  Then we had to catch Tim and Mark who had gone off ahead.  I put in a solid effort into a headwind on the I-10 access road to make this catch.  I wanted to bridge this gap with the group rather than alone so I kept checking my mirror, making sure that Amy was on my wheel.  I assumed Doug and the others would be on her wheel.  When we got down to Old Fredericksburg Road and made the catch at the corner it was just Amy on my wheel.  Things fell apart a bit after that.  Kelley, Tim, and I rode back from Leon Springs together while Kelley entertained us with stories of all the men she meets stalking her.  Sounds like paranoid personality disorder to me...Plus, it's a well known fact that stalking is the ultimate form of flattery.  Some people just can't take a compliment.

After spending the morning in the sun I decided to take a break and spend the the sun.  We had a family outing to Splashtown, a local water park.  Its low budget and seedy but the kids had fun.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

AT&T woes behind me (I hope), on to less important things...

AT&T screwed up only a few more times this week.  Finally they came and replaced the RG tonight and miraculously all my services were working again.  Of course I will pay for all the service I did not receive over the past 12 days and I won't get paid for diagnosing the problem (when they couldn't even be bothered to send a technician to my house) and saving them thousands of dollars for digging up a cable that doesn't need to be dug up.   Most annoying through all of this was the fact that none of the technical support personnel seemed to have any technical knowledge and they are trained to read off a script at the expense of listening to the customer.  Getting one of them to shut up for a minute to listen is an exercise in futility.

I was stuck at work doing some ERCP's on Tuesday so I missed the Helotes nighter.  It was just as well.  It turns out Saroni went down in a minor accident and a couple others were caught up in it as well.  The cause of the accident?  Let's just say it's important on a group ride to point out hazards in the road, even small ones.

Just like that we arrived at Wednesday.  I went to get my bike and realized I had a flat rear tire.  This is the second tire in 1500-2000 miles and has had repeated flats.  This needed fixing, and soon.  I was still able to get down to Lifetime Fitness in time for the ride.  It was a pretty good showing considering the temperatures that pushed triple digits, 9 riders all together.  I had planned on repeating the soft and cuddly version of the ride that we had last week where we all stayed together.  Unfortunately, it was not meant to be.  Rob and I pulled the group at a reasonable pace to Fair Oaks Parkway, unintentionally dropping the group on the climb to the Parkway.  Once at the top Eddie came racing by and that made Rob a little antsy.  Eddie took off again on Cascade Caverns and Rob started chasing.  Aaron and I followed and I pulled past Rob and the three of us blew by Eddie and didn't look back until we got to the end of Scenic Loop.  So much for "stay together".  I wound up tying my second best time on Cascade Caverns and netted Aaron and Rob top 10s on the segment (Aaron picked up 2nd on the leaderboard).  We sat up and waited, for a while, for the others.  When the ride doesn't stay together in the first half some of the others work so hard chasing and using extra energy without a draft to sit in that the second half of the ride is invariably slower than it would have been otherwise.  The ride back from on Scenic Loop started with an extended wait for everybody to regroup.  Then we actually rotated pretty well for a bit until Aaron, Rob, and I hit the front.  The speeds might have picked up a bit.  Oops.  The group fell apart and I held back at the Cafe to wait for Bill and ride up to Babcock with him.  No big fireworks for the night.  It was a reasonable ride, although I should not have been sucked into the hammerfest on Cascade Caverns <<conveniently glossing over the fact that I led the charge>>.

Thursday, I decided I would find time to drop off my wheels to have the hubs adjusted (normal break in maintenance for Chris King hubs).  I decided to pick up new tires while I was there.  It's nice to keep business local.  I went in to Bicycle Heaven and they recommended the Specialized Roubaix Pro.  I have learned two things about Bicycle Heaven that are a bit contradictory.  On the one hand, I have learned to respect and trust their advice.  On the other hand, they preferentially push anything made by Specialized.  Specialized makes a lot of good stuff but I can't say it is head and shoulders above the competition.  It makes me wonder if the profit margins are higher.  That's the skeptic in me.  The Roubaix Pros seem like a decent mix of speed and toughness with a 23mm tread on a 25mm casing.  I'll see how things go.

Saturday's ride was the Lifetime Fitness ride.  I drove to the start rather than ride.  From the moment I parked I was annoyed by the number of people already making excuses for their poor showing and asking me if I was doing the A ride or B ride, and did I know how fast that was?  I bit my tongue.  I didn't know there was an A ride and a B ride.  There is just a ride.  If you can't keep up you don't.  Even on the "A" ride there are two classes of riders (three today):  There are those who hang on and those who set the pace.  I tried to do my share of pace setting but in reality there was a rider out there in a class all his own, Shaun Moffett.  Shaun is a Cat 2 rider, aspiring to be Cat 1, and you can't even pretend the competition is close when he's riding.  It's always an impressive display of force.  We rode 50 miles over Green Mountain, Evans Rd to Nacadoches and then over Krueger Canyon before returning on Schoenthal and retracing our route home.  We averaged 21.4 and I picked up a KOM on a segment I didn't know existed as I had to bridge a decent gap up to Shaun and took George with me.  Apparently I took the KOM from Shaun, which is a bit of poetic justice because he's the one who rode off the front and made me chase.  I'll admit it, I was dog tired at the end of this one.  I'm sure if I'd spent a little less time on the front I cold have saved a bit of energy.

The ride was big enough that towards the back of the group things got a little sketchy.  For the most part it was the same 5 or 6 riders setting the pace up front, most often Shaun.  After the climb up Krueger Canyon we regrouped and rode down Schoenthal together.  It took some doing but we were able to get a rotating double paceline going.  There were several misfires and false starts.  It's amazing how many people can ride this well but never develop basic group riding skills.  Luckily Shaun and George were willing to come forward and coach those who couldn't seem to figure things out.  This reminded me of my time with the Charles River Wheelmen 15 years ago.  If you didn't know what you were doing in the peloton you would hear about it.  The rule was simple: pull through and rotate with the group or ride at the back.

I was a bit amused by the passion with which one rider posted to Strava.  I thought it was a little over the top, although I'm sure the rider is a great guy.  I know he and his son are quite active in the cycling community, and this is not meant to be a slight against him personally, just me being amused...

 This is followed by 8 comments, all his-

Now that's almost as crazy as some guy starting an egocentric blog where he goes on and on about his cycling exploits.  Just insane.  Clearly this gentleman was proud of his efforts.  Big kudos to him!

Last night we went out to celebrate John's birthday.  We had a great time and Melissa did a fantastic job putting the whole thing together.

Blue shirts and jeans...the new black

We were not exactly bouncing out of bed this morning, and it probably had to do with more than just the cake.

Bicycle cake!

  I did a 40 mile ride from the house trying to keep a steady effort the whole time at about 220W (normalized).

Monday, August 18, 2014

AT&T: Rethink Possible. Um....impossible?

Forget this cycling nonsense.  Let's have some good old fashion complaining.

Last week, on August 10, my new AT&T U-verse television service went out.  We've only had the service for a little over a month.  The hope was that it would save money and have better service than our prior provider, Time Warner Cable, who were unresponsive to complaint, had service that would go out for days at a time without explanation, and continually increased rates as a reward.  I called AT&T on August 11th and they apologized, had me go through all the usual restarting and unplugging devices and checking cables that I had already done.  They then told me that that they would be out the next day between 12 and 4.  My wife and I made arrangements for somebody to be home.  They never showed up.  When I called back they apologized and said they would be out the following day.  We were there.  They were not.  After several more phone calls and hours of my life on hold they tell me it is a "line problem" and nobody needs to come to the house, the work will be completed outside.  Last night they said there was somebody working on it as we spoke and it would be fixed by today.  It wasn't.  Today's line was that the line in my yard would have to be dug up but the company it was contracted out to couldn't get to it until August 29.  That means that in the first 6 weeks of paying for AT&T U-verse television service it would be out of operation for 3 weeks.  Nice.

Over the past week I had also had trouble connecting to my network hard drive.  I thought it was an old drive and crapped out, the way they tend to do.  I went out and bought a new one and this was not visible on the network either.  Cutting to the chase, none of the ethernet ports on the U-verse gateway (that's AT&T speak for their combined modem/router) were working.  I had four devices connected via standard ethernet cables and when I logged onto the gateway via wi-fi and pulled up the configuration page the gateway showed none of my ethernet devices but I could see that each of the million wi-fi devices in my house were assigned IP addresses by the DHCP server.  Hmmm...if all of the U-verse television equipment connects to the gateway via ethernet it's no wonder the television service doesn't work.  I called AT&T and suggested a new gateway.  Even if it doesn't fix the television problem I still need my router ethernet ports to work.  If replacing the gateway restores the television service then it saves my yard from being dug up and 2 more weeks without service.  I called and finally was able to explain to somebody what was going on with the gateway and that it needed to be replaced.  I also had to recap the saga of the past week.  Again.  He was patient, understanding, and helpful.  He told me he could have a technician at my place between 5 and 8 PM.  Guess what?  We were home, AT&T never showed up.

As I type this I am on the phone with AT&T.  I have been on the phone with them for over one hour, much of it on hold.  I had to recount the whole series of unfortunate failures on their part to get to the point:  The new gateway that was supposed to be delivered tonight, in person, was not delivered.  Elizabeth from AT&T is doing her best to apologize and is trying to send a new gateway via UPS.  Of course, it won't be here for 2 days.  We'll see....

Pseudocientifically proven.

Back to things that matter....or not....

It's Monday, and that means it's a perfect time to recap the weekend rides.  Saturday was the first day of my reprieve for the San Antonio Wheelmen.  That's right, it's not a reprieve from them, it's a break from riding with me.  We'll see if the pace slows significantly without me there.  It might, but there are some other strong riders in the group.  If turnout improves and the pace slows than those two factors may be related but we cannot discount the cooler temperatures that typically start rolling in during the next few weeks (think 90F not 100F).  So Saturday I went out to meet what is likely the fastest organized ride in the city...the Lifetime Fitness/Bike World Saturday ride.  It leaves at 0730 and getting the 13 miles over there was going to be a stretch so I opted to meet them at about mile 3 of their ride, 10 miles from my house.  I left with enough time to spin casually over there and it was a good thing that I did because I had a flat tire at mile 6 that I had to change.  This was on a Continental Gran Prix 4000 IIS tire that had only a couple hundred miles on it.  The last tire lasted only about 1000 miles.  Not much mileage out of these tires.  At $60 per tire it may be time to switch to something a little more durable.  Conti 4 Season, Schwalbe Ultremo DD...?  I still made it to the appropriate locale to rendezvous.  Not wanting to appear the leech by sucking wheels my first ride with the group I started on the front pulling alongside Mark Saroni, pro triathlete and regular on the Tuesday nighter.  We pulled up Blanco road with a little tailwind at 20-22mph and only got a brief scolding to hold 18-19 until everbody had a chance to warm up.  As luck would have it the Wheelmen route was intersecting ours today and we passed them winding our way from Blanco to Hwy 46 on some of the smaller roads west of Bulverde.  When we hit turn on 46 there was a surge from the front and I had to scramble to bridge the gap.  By the time we got to the top of the climb 2 miles up the road I came away with a KOM thanks to bridging the gap and then topping the climb first.  We had a relaxing rest stop discussing the vagaries of saddle cut-outs and perineal numbness.  We hammered a bit harder on the second half of the ride.  Mark and I rode most of the way home together afterwards before having to split and go our separate ways.  The "group" portion of the ride was 22mph for about 50 miles.  Not too bad. Refreshingly, there were a lot of folks willing to pull and nobody complaining about the pace.  

Saturday evening I got called in to work for a case that was supposed to start in the OR at 6 but, as is typical, didn't start until around 8PM.  I didn't get home until 11:30 or so and it was not clear if I was going to have to be back in at 7:30 in the morning for a couple more cases.  I had made plans to ride with Kelley, Tim, and Andy from Helotes as Kelley needed miles leading up to the Hotter 'n Hell Hundred in Witchita Falls and the ride from Garden Ridge to Gruene with the Wheelmen was neither far enough nor fast enough.  I barely made it out of bed in time to load my stuff in the car and drive over to Helotes.  There was no way I had enough time to ride over there.  I showed up at the last minute and made a quick call to the GI fellow on service to ensure there were no cases I had to come in for.  We rode 74 miles with Tim and I doing the majority of the pacemaking.  There were 5 of us in total as Eddie opted to come along.  We had a bit of a headwind down to Castroville but it was predominately a tailwind on the way home through Quihi to Rio Medina and back to Helotes.  We averaged 20.4mph over 74 miles with just 5 of us and I wouldn't say that the pace was too hard.  Normalized power for the ride was just 214W.