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Friday, September 19, 2014

Newsflash: Freelance Cyclist may join local team! But which?

I treated myself to a present this week: new cycling shoes. I was probably overdue. My Sidis were about 10 years old. I wasn't sure I would notice much difference. I did my research and, tried on a few pairs. I tried on Mavic, which just didn't fit right in the toe box. I tried Specialized S-works. They are cut a little two high in the front which cuts in on my ankle. In the end, the Sidis just fit best. Sidi's top models are the Wire and Genius 6.6. I decided on the wire which is fastened with two Boa devices. I figured if I was going to spend that kind of money on shoes I should get the color I wanted. They come in white, black, white/red, fluorescent yellow, and some special colors like the team Cannondale green shoes. I decided I liked the Chris Froome special edition yellow ones. I have no love for Chris Froome but I like the shoes.  They are a different yellow than the fluorescent ones, which are certainly eye catching but maybe a bit too loud.

I got the shoes on Monday, when I got home from work at about 9PM.  I put the cleats on but the maiden ride would have to wait until the following day.  I left the hospital with a laptop and a bag full of work to do but I made it home in time to drop the kids off at drop in child care because my wife had to work for a few hours that evening.  That's right.  I pay for child care so I can ride my bike.  Don't look at me like that.  It's perfectly normal.

It was a good thing I left as early as I did because traffic was a bear.  I got to the ride without a lot of extra time to spare.  I did, however, manage to get some a hot pics of those new shoes.

The ride was a bit of a small turnout.  There was the threat of rain so that probably kept quite a few people away.  I was talking to David Parker before the start and remarking that maybe with the small turnout we'd just have a nice social stay together ride.  Yeah, right!  Not on a Tuesday night.  Sure it started out civil enough on our 3 mile or so neutral warm up down to Galm Rd.  Greg and I pulled at a civil pace and the group was together.  When we made the turn on to Galm I picked up the pace.  That's what we normally do.  There was no headwind so the speeds were easy to maintain.  Greg was on my wheel and he's not a small guy so I couldn't see to well what was going on behind.  I pulled the first 1.5 miles at 27+ mph but it was only 325 average Watts.  That means that the guys on my wheel would have only had to maintain 250W, tops.  When I pulled off to give Greg a go I realized we had opened up a decent gap over the rest of the field.  I was in the middle of explaining to Greg that it was not my intent to ride off the front, and figured we'd sit up for the group when he said, "Our job now is to stay off the front."  I wasn't sure how serious he was but I figured we could give it a go.  Breakaways do succeed on the Tuesday nighter but they tend to form on 211, not with 20 miles left to go.  Greg and I hammered those next 20 miles trading pulls every one to two minutes  It was hard work with barely enough time to recover between pulls.  I also put in a long three mile pull on 471 at 29.2 mph which was good enough for third on the Strava list.    By the time we were done both of us were beat.  We were both on the verge of calf cramps.  But, we has successfully stayed away from the group. And those new shoes?  Fabulous.  I couldn't believe how much stiffer they were and how much better the power transfer felt.  Now I have one less excuse for not being faster.   Damn.

An interesting dilemma has come up since I started going out to the University Oaks Criteriums.  I have been approached about joining some local cycling teams.  Some of these are associated with shops, some are independent.  I am happy to join a team but it is difficult to know which team to join. Are there perks to joining a team?  Fewer than you might think.  There may be a discount at the shop if the team is affiliated with one.  You are generally buying your team kit out of pocket, from what I gather.  Race fees are not usually covered by the team.  I haven't seen too much teamwork during the races.  Still there is the fraternity of the team and that counts for something.  I'll keep you posted as this situation develops.

Here are some of the local teams:

  • Bike World Racing
  • Bicycle Heaven
  • 210 Racing / FG Law
  • Soler Sports
  • Joe's Pro Bikes
  • Geri Atrix

Wednesday night there was the threat of rain again and the majority of the usual suspects did not show up for the ride.  I was running late and had to meet the group a mile or two into the ride.  There were just 4 of us and my legs were fatigued from the two-man time trial at the Tuesday nighter the previous day.  I figured this would be a good day to take it easy.  At least easier.  We rode tempo, trading pulls regularly and staying together.  I did my best to ease off if anybody was coming unhitched.  As a result we reached our usual checkpoints together and there was no sitting up or stopping to wait for others.

That's all for this post.  I had a a busy week complete with a couple of nights of 4 hours of sleep, busy day with 26 endoscopies, and have to get up to run a 5k for my kids' school.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

To bee or not to bee? It's not really much of a question.

There's been a lot of excitement over the last few days.  I'll take it one day at a time, as usual.

Saturday was a break even day.  At least Strava-wise.  I don't remember the specifics but I got home late from work after a long week.  When I woke up to rain I opted not to go to the pre-race group ride from Bike World.  I made home-made waffles for the family and had a couple extra cups of coffee.  When I got too restless and the sky was looking a touch brighter I headed up to Boerne for a short ride.  I wasn't exactly sure what I had in mind but I wound up heading out to Tapatio Springs.  It wasn't raining when I started but after only about 5 miles a light rain started.  With temperatures in the low 60s and a decent wind I decided that 15 miles with a couple short hard efforts would be sufficient.  If there are going to be hard efforts they might as well be on Strava segments where you can try to beat your personal best. I chose the longest climb in Tapatio, where Bob Cornes nabbed my KOM a while back,  and the uphill climb from downtown Boerne southbound on 46.  I'd never really given that one a go.  There were actually a couple of Strava segments on the Tapatio climb and I was pleased to come away from my ride with 3 KOMs, one of which I already had but I beat my previous time.  I celebrated with some street tacos from Taco Cabana.  They are delicious.  Unfortunately,  I was the victim of a terrible Stravatrocity.  Apparently, Justin and Allen had some Strava-Sniping of their own in mind.  Later that day they grabbed 3 KOMs from me on Scenic Loop.  I'll hand it to them, they were flying!  What goes around, comes around.  That north wind did not go to waste!  By the way, I am trademarking Stravatrocity:  When your KOM is rudely swiped from you, especially when done on a group ride.  The tailwind?  That's all part of the game.

That evening I had a nice evening out at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens.  There was an event called Brews and Blooms where local craft brewers had samples of their beers.

We had a good time with friends we hadn't seen in too long.  For better or worse, I did not get to enjoy the ingurgitation.  I was a victim of poor timing, as the brew-fest occurred on week 3 of a 4 week abstinence.  Why?  I'm not really sure.  A friend of mine (you know who you are) swears off alcohol during periods of heavy training.  He's done this a couple of times over the spring and summer and I suppose I was curious to see what the effect was.  I noticed two things, so far.  I drink less.  I eat more.  That's about it.  Nothing earth shattering.  Still, it's an interesting test of will power because I do enjoy a cold beer or a glass of wine.

Sunday the real fireworks happened.  It was the third and final race in the University Oaks Criterium series.  I was planning to go out and race the Cat 5 at 8AM and then the Cat 4/5 at 10:35.

Last time I came out and raced I did a bit more work than necessary in both races.  I won the Cat 5 but didn't have much left by the end of the 4/5.  I didn't want to make the same mistake.  I intended to do the least amount of work necessary to take the prime and the win.  It started out according to plan.  I attacked on the false flat on the back side to take the prime with a wide margin.  Somewhere shortly thereafter the group split and it was Jason, Aari, and I off the front.  Aari fell back after a few laps and then it was just me and Jason.  If I didn't help Jason he'd tire out and we'd be caught.  I felt like I could still get the win from the field but it seemed like kind of a dick thing to do; get yourself into a 2 man break and then not help.  It's funny how cooperation can happen without any discussion.  Jason and I immediately fell into a rhythm of each pulling one lap and trading pulls on the early part of the finishing stretch.  There was no need to discuss this plan, it just happened.  We both did equal amounts of work ensuring that we stayed away from the bunch.  On the last lap I attacked a little further up the false flat than on the prime lap but was able to open up a decent gap and coast across the line.  3 for 3 at Uni Oaks!  In Cat 5, of course...

Here a shot of Jason and me on the breakaway.

I won some great merchandise.  I haven't had to buy groceries since Aug 10 with these spoils of victory.

On closer inspection one of these prizes would foreshadow an ominous tragedy in my future.

The first 37 minutes of the 40 minute Cat 4/5 race went great.  I generally stayed up in the front third of the pack.  Bobby took off and won the first prime.  About 20 minutes in the bell was rung for the second prime and I worked my way up the pack then narrowly outsprinted Bobby, winning with a thrust of the bike across the line.  I won some Electrolyte Fuels System, which is probably the most self explanatory name of a sports drink out there.  It's probably what Captain Obvious drinks when he's exercising.

Here is a video of the sprint from Bobby's GoPro camera.  The prime lap starts at about 20:10 and ends at 21:52.

The real excitement came at the 37th minute, which was the last lap of the race.  Marcelo had taken a flyer and Bobby and I were reeling him back in.  I was leading the chase and Bobby was on my wheel.  Half-way up the backstretch I was struck in the forehead by something.  I realized, as it was buzzing trapped behind the bridge of my sunglasses, that it was a bee, or wasp, or hornet.  As I was reaching up to dislodge it I was stung.  That's no fun. Without thinking about it I sat up and went from 2nd to the back of the field.  Well, a bee sting is nothing to worry about.  I've been stung plenty of times but never had a problem.  Fire ants?  Well that's another issue.  I get a nasty reaction to those.  I hiked up my skirt and chased, coming in 6th.  Not bad.  You can go to the 37th minute of the video above to see the rather anticlimactic shot of me reaching up to extract the insect from behind my glasses.

Here's a nice shot Robert took during the race:

That's me in the Ride Away Bicycles jersey, pre-bee strike.
Here's a great shot I found online of a bee leaving its stinger behind;

After the race my wife pulled the stinger out and left with the kids.  I was planning on sticking around and watching the P123 race.  About 10 minutes after the race I could tell the sting was swelling a little.  That's to be expected.  At 15 minutes I was starting to itch from head to toe.  At 20 minutes I could see the hives starting.  I packed up the car as quickly as I could and got home.  I took 50mg of diphenhydramine in addition to the 25mg the EMT had given me at the race.  Then I jumped through the shower.  At this point I had hives from head to toe including in placed where the sun doesn't shine.  I was thinking that I'd lay down, let the benadryl kick in and feel better in a bit.  My wife, being the voice of reason, threw some clothes at me and ushered me to the car.  I called the BAMC ER on my way in to explain the situation.  They were their usual class act and whisked me right in.  The put an IV in and I got some IV diphenhydramine, ranitidine, and methylprednisolone.  Then I slept for an hour or so.  125mg of diphenhydramine will do that to you.

That was a miserable experience.  I slept most of the rest of the day.  I even had to turn down going in to work to do an ERCP, which was a first.  The pictures don't do it justice and can't begin to express how I felt.  Luckily, there was no airway compromise.  All the same, I am the proud new owner of an EpiPen!

New standard issue equipment

Top Left: coalescing hives on my lower leg during the car ride to the hospital.  Top Right:  Hives on my flank.  Bottom Left:  Looking positively mongoloid from facial edema in the car. Bottom Right:  Eyes almost swollen shut in the ER.
That'll have to do it for now.  Let's call it part 1.  I'll bore you with the rest of the week in another post. Here are the photos from the racing. My photos weren't coming out too nicely and my xD card seemed to be slowing things down, but taking action shots with the cloud cover can be difficult.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thou shalt not bring thine bicycle into the hospital

I took Monday off from riding.  I stopped on my way home from work at Ride Away Bikes to pick up my new helmet mirror from Ed.  I always enjoy hanging out at a bike shop.  Jason and Ed at Ride Away are pretty entertaining guys.  I'm the kind of guy who bike shops hate because I'll hang out for a while and chat without buying anything.  On the other hand, I'm the kind of guy who will go into a bike shop but not actually be shopping.  Bike shops should be social centers as well as commercial enterprises.  My opinion, take it or leave it.

On this occasion I picked up the mirror and a new jersey from the shop to support the LBS.  I also found a great gift for my dad.

There were three single malt scotch jerseys to choose from and I emailed pictures to see which he preferred.  This was the winner.  He also sent a selfie taken at that moment of him post ride with a bottle of Lagavulin 16.  68 years old and taking selfies, riding his bike, enjoying life!

Selfie: Dad making the most of retirement.  The prescription Rudy Project frames had to get sent in for repairs so he's stuck with the Bolles for a bit.

 Some advice from the old man- Bowmore 10 is better than Bowmore 12.  Some advice I got while living in the UK: when you are in Scotland it's called whiskey not scotch.

From the bike shop it was home for a little Lego time with the kids.  We might have jammed on Rock Band 3 for a little bit too.  Maybe.

On Tuesday I received a shocking e-mail at work.  It was a group e-mail and didn't single anybody out.  Apparently, the powers that be do not approve of bicycles being brought into the hospital.  I have not ridden my bike to work at this hospital but I know of some who do.  Locking several thousand dollars worth of carbon mobile artwork to a bike rack outside the hospital isn't a reasonable alternative for a lot of cyclists.  This policy won't make it any more likely that I'll ride in to work.  I would never question policies established by commanding officers.  It is not as though the military has an interest in promoting fitness of its personnel, as suggested by this headline from the Washington Post on December 10, 2012:

It is also lucky that there is no storied history of bicycles in the military.

25th Infantry Bicycle Corps

Bicycles were big in the British military, with or without adequate dentition

Even the Germans has bicycles.  This is the outfit I'll need if I spend any more time with Ed.
Whatever.  I have only seen one person bring a bike into the hospital and it was always stored in his office.  It is not as though there are hordes of rogue cyclist clogging the hallways and riding their bikes down the stairwells.  So, the few people looking out for their fitness and getting some exercise in are given yet another disincentive from doing so.  Rather than criticize leadership let's consider this a public service announcement from the V3 blog to any readers considering bringing a two wheeled self powered means of personal conveyance into Brooke Army Medical Center.

I was intent on getting to the Tuesday nighter.  I managed to get home in time to ride from the house feeling quite dapper in my new Ride Away Bikes jersey.  Despite my resounding victories in back to back cat 5 races the local shop teams are not knocking down my door recruiting me so I figured I would ride flying the colors of the shop without a team.  There are two big teams in town: Bicycle Heaven and Bike World.  Bobby has also extended an invite from FG Law/210 Cycling.  If I race next year I may end up joining one of these teams.  We'll see.

I spun down to Helotes easily.  We had 15-20 people show up for the ride which is a pretty small turn out.  Robert took us down to Galm and then we started turning the screws.  I took a pull early on Galm followed by Greg and then Rob again.  Pretty soon I was riding 3rd or 4th wheel and the guys at the front didn't seem to want to put the effort in so I came around for another go.  Here are the details:

I started with a 1.2 mile effort at 26.6mph and 330W on the east to west portion of Galm before Government Canyon State Park.  Then there is a half mile from 14.1 to 14.6 miles where the power drops off as I am back in the paceline.  After that I got restless and, as above, there was seeming reluctance to push at the front, so I pulled around for another 1.3 mile pull at 23.4mph and 347W (clearly more of a headwind given the divergence of power and speed).  Overall it was 2.9 miles at 25.1mph and 328W over 6:58.  Not a bad effort, but not a maximal effort either.  I was checking in my shiny new Clearview Micro mirror repeatedly to make sure the bulk of the group was still there.  I like to wait until 211 before the group completely disintegrates.

Once we turned onto 471 a couple of the tri guys went off the front as I was sitting in, recovering from Galm.  Poor Robert was left out there all on his own pulling.  I don't know why nobody would come forward to help out.  The others were comfortably sitting on his wheel as he was tiring out and the tri guys were riding off the front.  That kind of thing irks me.   It even looked as though rob was edging over practically begging somebody to come around to lend a hand.  I came forward to help Rob and bridge the gap. Unfortunately, Rob was spent at that point and couldn't hang on.  And those guys who wouldn't come around to help him?  Well they saw me come around and tried to latch on to my wheel.  I didn't like that much.  Classic wheelsucker move.  I don't mind helping a guy out but I prefer it be somebody working for the good of the group.  Just one paragraph ago I was jabbering on about checking the mirror and not riding off the front of the group.  Well those kinds of niceties don't apply for the wheel suckers.  I put in a little dig to make sure the catch wasn't made and then bridged up to Carlos on his tri bike.  It took 0.7 miles at 407 average W and 28.9 average speed (34.3 mph max) to make the catch but it got done.

After making the turn onto 211 it mostly came back together.  On the first climb we broke up again with 5 of us going off the front.  By the second climb that was whittled down to 3, I think.  After that it was me and Chris trading pulls.  Chris is a wirey guy on a Cervelo.  I may have ridden with him before but I can't remember.  At first I could have sworn with that build, that bike, and jersey that it was Skokan.  But it wasn't.    Chris is a strong rider with a good poker face.  I was suffering, we weren't making up much ground on the tri guys, and he seemed cool as a cucumber.  I was waiting for him to drop me but on the last climb on 211 it was Chris who cracked first and dropped off the back.  I rode over the top on my own and didn't push too hard over San Geronimo before easing up on the downhill stretch that followed. This allowed Chris to catch back on.  I figured it would be more fun if both of us traded pulls and pushed each other rather than each riding in solo.  We basically two man time trialed our way back into Helotes into the headwind.  It was a lot of work.  I was trying to put in one mile pulls at about two and a half minutes.  Chris and I worked well together and split the workload pretty evenly.  We were the first two finishers on traditional road bikes.  It's hard to compete with the TT bikes especially when they are ridden by strong riders.

I rode home with a woman named Lori who lives just 3 miles or so from me.  She is a nurse practitioner and works with the wife of one of the gastroenterology attendings at Brooke Army Medical Center.  Small world!  Riding home with Lori took me over Kyle Seale Parkway rather than 1604 to Babcock, and in order to get home after that I had to add on a couple miles because the usual route is closed for road work.  I took advantage of the detour to explore a new subdivision that cuts through to my neighborhood.

Here's the ride with photos beneath.  If you are reading this on your phone or iDevice and can't see the pictures do yourself a favor and read the blog on a proper laptop or desktop.  It seems like too much work for me to get images to show up on non-Flash enabled devices.  If anybody has an easy way to embed these slideshows with photos stored in Picasa Web Albums let me know.

Wednesday was the usual ride from Lifetime Fitness.  There were seven of us, including two first time riders.  John F, who I've ridden with several times, and Orlando, who I don't think I've ridden with before.  Both are strong riders and it was good to have them out with us.  I had wanted to keep this ride together as a organized single paceline.  We were largely able to do that although it did get a little frisky out there at times. Bill was off the back on Cascade Caverns.  Eddie had made the mistake of running the day before and he was still feeling it.  We regrouped at Scenic Loop (it's a friendly ride even when it's frisky) but Eddie chose to ride in at his own speed and Bill did the same shortly after.  We had a good paceline going down Scenic Loop.  We probably could have benefitted from rotating more frequently but sometimes you stay on the front a little longer so as to ensure you are doing at least your fair share of the work.  Andy veered to the left at one point when I was second wheel and he was pulling.  I pulled through on his right.  Apparently, he wasn't really pulling off, he just didn't hold his line.  Luckily, Andy isn't the type to get offended.  It was a great Wednesday night ride.  It was a pity to leave Eddie and Bill behind but I appreciate them encouraging us to ride on.

Today was a nice day off from riding. I finally had time at work to write up a case report I've been meaning to do and the afternoon was mostly conference at the University Hospital. That means I got home at a reasonable time and was able to mow the grass, have dinner with the family, wash the dishes, take out the recycling, and eradicate a hornet nest. Now that I've put the monotony of my life down in digital ink for any who are interested, I only have the folding of laundry left to look forward to.