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Sunday, September 28, 2014

(New) lights, (new) camera, (a little) action...

There wasn't much riding the past week.  Monday was a rest day, but I didn't get home from work in time for the group ride on Tuesday.  I went out and hammered some of the hills in the neighborhood with a light.  It was a good short workout in spite of the light being fairly weak (more about being seen than seeing where one is going).  I haven't done this kind of workout enough to know what benefit they provide.  Hopefully there is an increase in shorts 1-2 minute bursts of power.  Maybe some improvement in riding in the anaerobic zones.

By the way, I don't know why Strava's embed code no longer lists ride achievements.  I mean, if I can't brag about my KOMs on my own blog through my embedded Strava data, what's the point?

Tuesday ended up being a very eventful group ride.  Just not for me.  The Helotes group ride is kind of known for poor group riding skills.  The Southside Tuesday nighter is a little faster, a little testier.  It is ridden as more of a race than just a spirited group ride.  Apparently, there was some disagreement on the Southside about who did or didn't do their share of the work closing a gap.  Ther was also an issue of safe riding in a fast moving group.  It got pretty heated.  There was all kinds of yelling, finger pointing, and swearing followed by a tersely worded Facebook post.  I'd share the Facebook post but it has been deleted.  It would be interesting to see what prompted the removal of the post.  I have a feeling certain pressures were applied because it was posted on a group page not somebody's personal Facebook page. Or the moderator of the page just deleted it.  It doesn't really cast the San Antonio cycling community in the best light to have that kind of thing on your page.

I guess the take home lessons are:

1. We all need to either do our share of the work in the paceline or get out of the way
2. Sitting up when at the front of the group or taking hands of the handlebars when riding in the middle of a fast charging peloton are not welcome
3. We all need to be willing to give and receive constructive criticism on a group ride.

There was no more riding until Friday afternoon when I was able to sneak in 16 miles.  I was feeling pretty good and decided to have a run at some hills, one of which started as a Strava segment up a climb which then continued over the other side.  I am generally not a big fan of downhill Strava segments because there are safety concerns.  I also tend to not contest segments that cross traffic lights for the same reason.  I was on pace for a KOM on the 3.4 mile segment but there is a traffic light a quarter mile from the finish that was red.  I was stopped for 30-60 seconds by the light.  I may be a Stravasshole but I won't blow through a traffic light to contest a segment.  These segments should probably be flagged as hazardous because they encourage people to ignore traffic signs and signals.

On Friday I also had my new camera delivered.  Its a Sony DSC TX-30, which is waterproof to 10m and should stand up to the sweaty torture of my jersey pocket a little better than the previous one.  I am still playing with the settings on it and figuring out how to get the best pictures while riding.

On Saturday it was raining in the morning and the rides were cancelled.  My mom was in town visiting so we headed out to watch a movie with the kids around midday and then headed up to the bat tunnel near Fredericksburg.  After a little hike, a big cheeseburger, and a little waiting we were treated to a fascinating 30 minute display of 3 million Mexican freetail bats flying out of their roost.  It was an amazing site, much more spectacular than I had anticipated.

Granny with Keira and Noah at the Bat Tunnel

The other excitement from Saturday was that I got a package delivered from DiNotte.  DiNotte are located in New Hampshire and make some of the best cycling lights around.  The are light, bright, and durable with great customer service.  I got a 1600 lumen XML-3 headlamp and the new Quad taillight.  They are bright, I can't wait to get some rides in with them.

On Sunday I was able to get out for a proper ride.  I had several different options for my ride and I chose to meet the Wheelmen in Helotes for a ride down to Castroville.   It's 58 miles from Helotes but 72 from the house.  I spun over to the start of the ride.  Overall the turnout was pretty low, as far as the usuals go, so I was glad I had gotten in touch with Warren, Greg, and Tim to make sure they were coming.  There were about 15 of us all together.  I pulled the first 15 miles with Warren in a double paceline.  I sat in for 8 miles before rejoining Warren at the front for a fast run-in to Castroville at 26+ mph for 5.5 miles.  We were helped by a gentle tailwind.

The group stayed together pretty well on the way to Castroville.  Things got more difficult on the way home.  This is a bit unusual as we were going into the wind and that usually helps keep the group together.  Warren and I pulled for 5.5 miles and then sat in for a bit.  Things were a bit squirrely in the paceline because folks couldn't figure out that the riders in a double paceline pull of to the outside and the other riders pull through the middle.  Then some riders would get to the front and immediately slow down.  Or get to the front and start strong but progressively fade, yet were unwilling to pull off and allow the others to pull through.  Sometimes the rider on the front was doing just fine but the rider behind would come around on the left with nobody following his wheel and completely oblivious that all the riders in front of him waited for the lead rider to pull off and then just maintained the same speed as they assumed the lead.  It was too tough for Warren and I to sit in with that going on so we moved to the front, strung it out into a single paceline, and generally stuck to the front.  Our group slowly shed riders until we were down to 5.  It ended up being a pretty tough ride.  There was a lot of time on the front and I haven't been getting the miles in like usual recently.  I was tired when I got home.  Tired in a good way.  This was my first ride with the Wheelmen since August 9th, over 6 weeks.  It was good to ride with some folks I hadn't ridden with in a while but my absence made me more aware of the differences in bike handling and group riding skills.

My wife has had a nasty cold so she wasn't able to go to the cooking class she had scheduled for her and my mother.  That meant that I was filling in.  I was the only male there, and possibly the youngest person there.  We were the only ones with enough foresight to bring a bottle of wine.  That earned us a lot of jealous glances.  We cooked Boeuf Bourguignon along with some appetizers, a side dish, and dessert.  It was not something I would have done normally, but it was fun and I was glad I went.  The food turned out delicious.  Although, that might have been the wine talking.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A bad case of the runs

It's amazing the efficiencies that can be realized with a free enterprise system.  In the world of government medicine at Brooke Army Medical Center nobody there is little incentive to work harder.  People working in the endoscopy suite answer to their union not to the physicians or the bottom line.  Any implication that somebody should work harder or faster is met with paperwork filed with the union or a retaliatory Equal Opportunity complaint against whomever insulted them by asking them to do their job.  I have seen nurses show up, new to the job, eager to put their best foot forward.  Their first 6 months are their best 6 months on the job.  They get the stink eye from others who perceive their willingness to work as a slight against them.  They also come to realize that they are working harder than anybody else and not getting paid more.  So, they slack off.  If hard work doesn't allow you to go home earlier or take home a bigger paycheck, what's the point? At BAMC I struggle to get 5 endoscopies done in half a day.  At every step of the process, from checking the patient in, to putting in an IV, to turning over rooms between procedures, is an opportunity to slow down the process.  One thing I can say is that these folks rarely let a good opportunity go to waste.  On Friday I started a 4 week rotation with a former Air Force Gastroenterologist who now works in the private sector.  My first day with him we did 26 procedures.  The first 23 were done by 2:30 PM but then we had to go to two nearby hospitals for the other three, which were also lengthier procedures.

On Saturday my usual riding plans were scrapped.  There was a fundraiser 5k run/walk at my kids' school.  My wife has a bit of a contentious relationship with some of the overbearing parents at the school.  Apparently, she had taken this 5k as an opportunity to prove a point.  She told me I'd be running it, and she told me I'd be running to win.  I'm not sure the point that was supposed to be proved by this but I was pretty sure I wasn't supposed to question it either.  The trouble was I have been running once since December 17th and that was a short jog with the dogs.  I wasn't sure I was up for winning a competitive 5k.  Surely there would be another kid in the school whose dad was an avid runner, right?

The run was 6 laps around the school grounds.  It was actually a half mile short of a 5k and 7 laps would have been better.  It was clear from the time we got their that nobody was treating this competitively.  All the parents were there to run/walk with their kids.  There was no registration, no clock, no timing chips.  Still, the play caller had not altered the game plan.  From the starting whistle there was a mass of 5-10 year old kids sprinting at top speed.  I ran with them as they slowly tired out and fell off the pace over the first half mile.  There didn't seem to be anybody there to really run.  I kept up the pace.  At this point I figured I was there, I was running, let's see what 9 or 10 months off meant.  I managed a 6 minute mile pace.  Not too bad.  Afterward I was chatting with another cyclist, Bryant, whose kid wanted to do an extra couple of laps, so we did that.  I was a bit embarrassed by the whole scene which made me feel a little like Kramer in karate class. (Videos may not play on mobile device, esp iPhone)

 Running is horrible for my legs when I haven't been doing it much.  My 20 minute morning run was feeling a bit insufficient so I headed out for a bike ride in the afternoon.  My legs were already sore and heavy.  I spun easily and called it a day after just 15 miles.


 This morning I decided to get some miles in.  It has been a while since I rode more than about 50 miles.  I did not count on how horrible my legs would feel this morning.  Everything was tight, heavy, weak, sore.  I didn't think I was supposed to feel this way at age 35.  I'm still invincible, right? I left the house at just after 7 and spun easily for 15 miles before meeting the crew for the Sunday Pastry ride.  200W felt like quite an effort, that's normally warm up or recovery kind of effort.  I showed up at the ride with 5-8 minutes to spare.  It was a good crew.  I got to finally meet Blair, Brandon, and Chris after hearing about them from friends.  Nice guys, all riding for Bicycle Heaven.  We also had Alec and Jesse, Aaron, Ben, Benny, Robbie, and Dave.

Start of the ride, Aaron and Brandon leading

Over the shoulder.  Ben, Blair, and the others.

From Blair's cell phone

We started out with a pretty easy pace, although I did pick it up a little bit on Cascade Caverns.  We rode though Boerne and up to Spanish Pass and Tower.  My legs were in no shape to climb Tower quickly.  Brandon took off at the bottom of Tower and 2 or 3 others went with him.  I rode with Chris and there rest were behind us.  We regrouped at I-10 before heading back into Boerne for a stop at the Bear Moon Cafe. The ride home from Boerne was interrupted by Aaron's puncture.  It's not a ride if Aaron doesn't break a spoke or get a flat.  That happened on Scenic Loop before we got to the Cafe.  After the Cafe, on the climb up to Babcock Rd, a few of the riders got a little fiesty and rode off the front.  They weren't too far ahead and my legs didn't feel like chasing.  I figured we would regroup at the top.  The others, apparently, had different ideas.  They took off.  I was only a couple hundred yards behind but I still had I was at 60 miles with 20 to go, on sore legs, and they were at mile 45 with 5 to go.  I picked up Alec and Greg (who had met us on Scenic Loop) who had also let the hammerheads go.  There were still 4 or 5 riders behind us.  We spun easy, the others caught up, and we finished the official Pastry Ride together.  Greg and I spun another 15 miles.  My legs were trashed by the time I got home.  Actually, they were trashed before I left the house, but 82 miles hadn't done them any favors.  Rest day tomorrow, and I need it to recover from that bad case of the runs.


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.