Sunday, December 26, 2010

2010 cycling review

The year is not quite over yet, but I'm not expecting anything significant happening in the last few days of 2010.

Despite having set no explicit goals for this year, this year has been similar as the previous two years: start out ok for the first 3-4 months, considering it is still winter or just rainy season, then fall off the cycling earth for two months due to travel, and come back with a vengeance (or at least try) for the second half of the year.

2009 / 2010 comparison:
- Jan-Mar: 465 / 518 miles
- Mar-Jun: 388 / 475 miles
- Jul-Sep: 1235/ 841 miles
- Oct-Dec: 1053 / 725 miles

So 2559 miles for the year, which is about 600 miles less than last year, but somewhere in line with the years prior. Clearly, I started out better this year than 2009, but then lost out in the second half. The reason for the August slump was a trip to Germany for two weeks. November was again the best month (2009: 507 miles, 2010: 421 miles) due to my annual cycling camp in Maui, but overall mileage in those last three months still suffered.

In September I decided to add bike racing to my resume, so I joined the Peninsula Velo Cycling club, and participated in two races, the Oakland Grand Prix Criterium, and a week later, the Central Coast Circuit Race in Fort Ord on the Monterey Peninsula. It was a great experience and I was hooked.

My goals for 2011 so far: participate in as many races as possible in the first three months, and move up to Cat-4. After that, either the familiar, annual pattern (travel and forget how to ride a bike), or something new, will happen ... and after getting back to "normal" by mid-year, I will define my goals for the remainder of the year.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Wed, Dec 8

So what has been happening since I returned from sunny, warm Maui to the rainy and cold Bay Area ?

After struggling several days with the shock of the 35F+ drop in temperature, I finally convinced myself to a 1 1/2 hour ride, which left me with cold feet and no desire to ever ride again at anything below 75 degrees. Alas, this is where I live, so what can I do, considering my 2011 goals.

The first step was to renew my 2011 USA Cycling racing license, and then sign up for "Right Start Beginners Clinic" on Dec 5, held in Livermore. This 6-hour clinic covered some indoor, and mostly outdoor training, from becoming comfortable riding shoulder to shoulder, bumping handle bars, crossing wheels and doing emergency stops. All those exercises were held on a soccer field to avoid any injuries in case of falls or crashes. After lunch, the exercises moved to the road, to practice doing left and right U-turns, even one-handed (!), cornering alone and with one or two more riders, riding in a paceline, and sprinting. Apart from getting this valuable information and practice, I enjoyed the comraderie among like-minded cycling enthusiasts. Joining the cycling club and participating in a couple of races already made several new friends.

A day later, the PV Performance Racing Team kickoff took place, introducing our coach and presenting details about the upcoming season.

So now the race is on, literally. I will start the season with the Early Bird Crits in Fremont, starting on January 9, and running through Jan 30, and ending with the last race in that series on Feb 13. Along with all the upgrade points collected by then, plus some races in February, I should be able to move up to Cat-4 by March. So this is it: the goal. The only thing left to do for now: get back on the road ... despite the cold !

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thu, Nov 18

Time flies, and the vacation is slowly nearing its end. The cycling part started Nov 8, and lasted for 10 days, or 8 rides, or 361 miles, or ~10.5k ft of climbing alone in the 86-mile ride from Haiku to Hana and back, and the 61-mile ride around the West Maui Mountains. Maui is truly cycling heaven (maybe until I have experienced Taiwan ;-)), and I can't wait to return next time. I said it last year already, but this time the Maui Century eluded me again by being scheduled on the same day as my departure, so there's still hope; need to stay just one day longer next year. The remaining days here are being spent on hanging out at a beach, eating seafood, drinking water (just kidding), and otherwise enjoying the island.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fri, Nov 5

The time has almost come to get away from it all. Sunday is the start of the 3rd annual, finite two-week loop of biking, eating, drinking and sleeping on the beautiful island of Maui, or my personal cycling camp. The usual routine is to get up even earlier than at home when I have to go to work, and then leave for a bike ride shortly after sunrise. Last year's highlight was the 10k ft ascent to the summit of Haleakala; this year's ambition is to make the ~100-mile roundtrip from Paia to Hana and back. Actually cycling on Hana Road is completely different compared to what you imagine when driving these roads in a car, and if you have ever driven on the treacherous roads around the West Maui Mountains, the same holds true there: it feels like freedom. Aloha and Out.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sat, Oct 30

It's been four weeks after my second and last race this season, and three weeks since I went cycling last time, when we rode 122 miles with approximately 7000 ft ob climbing on that weekend. It feels like I have meanwhile dropped off the face of the cycling earth. A big thanks here goes to a new work project I had taken on, but which is now coming to completion. The time on weekends was spent on either watching the rain, or showing my colleagues and friends from China a bit of California. So instead of riding miles on the bike, it was driving Audi for about 900 miles while visiting Lake Tahoe and Hearst Castle. It was time well spent and everyone enjoyed the trips. Cycling will resume in a week from tomorrow when my annual, personal cycling camp in Maui begins; two weeks of "bike, eat, Mai Tai, sleep, repeat" deserved enjoyment. And once back, it is already time getting organized for the 2011 race season. My ambitions are to survive the literal Early Bird Criteriums in January, and then have fun and no crashes while attending races throughout the season. It seems it will be a busy year, juggling all the cycling activity, with my now regular trip to China, with work, and with everything and everyone else that demands my time.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Sat, Oct 2: Central Coast Circuit Race Fall #3

In hindsight, I should have stayed home. But then, I would have missed getting a speeding ticket on the freeway, and a DNF on the race course.

Until two days ago, I was undecided whether to race in the E5 category (start at 8:35am) or in the Masters 45+4/5 category (start at 11:20am). The course is a 4.3 mile loop "on completely closed roads- no yellow line rule in effect. The road surface is good and the course features long straights, false flat sections, rolling hills, downhill’s, with a few twisting turns mixed in". Considering a 1 1/2 hour drive down to Fort Ord in Seaside on the Monterey Peninsula, I opted for a sleep-in and the Masters category. While you get older and wiser people in the Masters category, and therefore hopefully less crashes, you also get Cat-4 racers who will soon move up to Cat-3. In the E5 category, you get the 20-year olds who nevertheless can kick your butt. In the end, I think it's a wash. Prior to the race, I had done a reconnaissance loop on the course. While I was not concerned about the straights, false flats and twisting turns, the course has one 4% hill and several smaller hills. It would be tough. The race started out fine, and while I was slower on the hills, I could easily catch up on the descents, especially the one 7% downhill, where I reached 38mph. At the beginning of lap 2, I was in 4th or 5th place, but then the high speed and the hills cost me. On one climb/hill, I felt like hitting HRmax, and found myself last with one other rider. By the time, we turned on to the finish straight, the pack was already gone from sight. Here is where I should have slowed down, recover and pace myself through the three final laps, but instead I just stopped at the side line at the finish, and declared myself "dropped out". With an average speed of 20.1 mph over those two laps, it was a fast race, and fast over for me. Categorizing as "learning experience".


Steven Woo (Third Pillar) caught a glimpse of me.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sun, Sep 26 - 6th Oakland Grand Prix

Today was the first day of my new career: bike racer.

I had signed up earlier this week for the 6th Oakland Grand Prix in the 35+5 category. It turned out that I was the only one from my new club, Peninsula Velo, that had registered for this event. This morning I arrived early, got a 1-day license and bib#, and waited for things to come. I didn't really know what to expect, except that it would be fast and furious. One advice I got, was to hang on to someone's wheel, and I'd be good; it turned out to be a good advice. The course was an approximate 0.85-mile loop through Oakland Downtown streets, and apart from an incline on the finish stretch, it was flat or slightly downhill. The course also had a hairpin turn, which you were advised to only pass single-file. Both the downhill sections and the hairpin provided sufficient opportunity and time to recover before hitting the finish stretch again. The race started at 10:30am, for 20 laps or 17 miles. From then on it was a blur. As advised, I tried to stay covered, and only once I got "stranded" in no-man's land for half a lap between the first two in the break-away and the pack, before the pack swallowed me up. It was rather uneventful apart from one rider crashing, and another one breaking his chain. At some point, I had lost track of which lap we were in. I asked another rider because I couldn't understand the race announcer. The answer was "2" while I still expected maybe 8 laps to go. So soon, the bell for the final lap rang, and the pace picked up. I hung onto the wheel of someone, who after the race said that he kind of started to bonk during the last two laps, and my attempt to make up some ranks came too late. Alas, it was 9th or last place, but still within maybe 10 seconds of the winner and 2-3 bike lengths between 8th place and me. The whole race was over so quickly. I didn't pay much attention to the speed while racing, but I was surprised to see "26" once going up that finish stretch. Final, average speed was 22mph, courtesy of slower speed when recovering. Irrespective of being last, I was happy to place, because my goal was to just survive. Finishing was even better, and "in the top 10" sounds great ;-). Not finishing last is the goal for the next race.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tue, Sep 14

Well, the "taking it easy" year has come to an end. While I decided not to race the Mount Diablo Challenge this year, and while the bike race season is winding down, I have grown the idea to add bike racing to my life experiences. Over the last few weeks, I have signed up with USA Cycling, received a license number (but no actual license yet), have participated in a few club rides, ramped up cycling a bit, and finally signed up with the local Peninsula Velo Cycling Club. So far, so good. I'm still exploring whether or not to sign up for one of the last, local criteriums this year, the 6th Oakland Grand Prix on Sep 26. As of today though, this event is not yet permitted according to USAC. But one step at a time. Experienced Cat 3 racer Rant suggested to race myself into shape, instead of just training for the race. Apparently, there are these progressions in racing:
1. Survive (or DNP ;-))
2. Finish
3. Not finish last
I guess I will be spending considerable amount of time in stage 1, but you have to start somewhere.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sun, Aug 29

Since my last post, I spent two weeks seeing family and friends, consuming nice food and about 17 liters of beer in Bavaria, Germany. Now this is what I call a healthy therapy. In the end I only spent one day mountain hiking and one day mountain biking, but spent lot of time just walking around. I returned home fearing the worst about my fitness, but today's first ride in three weeks was surprisingly good. Nevertheless, with just five weeks left until the Mount Diablo Challenge, and another weekend coming up with limited cycling opportunities, I think I will skip this year's race. It is after all my "taking it easy" year.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sun, Aug 1

After yesterday's poor performance on Diablo, the only thing to redeem myself, was to climb up again today, but also start the ride in Pleasanton instead of Danville in order to get more miles in. In the end, I was able to sustain a higher speed through Juniper, before pacing at about 6mph the next section up to Devil's Elbow, and then climbing the 17% incline just before the summit. Some action at the Summit as a helicopter circled the mountain several times, and the rangers being unclear what actually happened. Totals for the day: 50.6 miles, 4000 ft climbing.
Back down in Danville, the police was still busy with their investigation about the drunk driver who ran over two cyclists a few hours earlier near the corner of El Cerro and Danville Blvd. Fortunately, witnesses followed the truck and detained this a$$hole, who was so drunk that he couldn't even remember his address. The cyclists appear to be fine.
Danville is a dangerous place to cycle; every time I ride through there, there's someone pulling out of a parking space, opening the car door without looking, stopping or driving in the bike lane along Danville's "Auto Row" near the high school, or turning in front of me. Maybe it is safer riding on Iron Horse Trail with deaf runners listening to their ipods, long-leashed dogs, and other slow and erratic traffic. Can't be worse than on the main road.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Sat, Jul 31

Peer pressure is building to sign up for the Diablo challenge, as colleague Kotaro will be starting in Wave 2 on Oct 3rd. In his inaugural Diablo ride at last year's Challenge, he managed a respectable 1:15h.
However, I'm still not convinced I will be in good shape enough until then. Today's ascent to the Summit was again slow, and interrupted by breaks at South Gate, Junction, Juniper and before the Wall. I'm now really curious how I made it up last year with a new personal record (72 min), while it must have taken me around 1:55h today, albeit with all the breaks. Despite having accomplished 395 miles for this month, I think that working too much lately is just taking its toll. Fortunately there's a temporary relief from it soon as I'll be taking a vacation and heading towards two weeks of beergardens, mountain biking, local food and more beergardens, and other enjoyments in Bavaria. Road cycling will have to take a break, but I hope that I can work on my climbing power in the mountains around Lenggries. Once back, the picture will be clearer.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thu, Jul 15

Apparently I'm settling on a blog post per month now. The amount of blogging was usually directly related to the amount of cycling, but blogging now gets the worse part of it: 437 miles cycled since my last post on June 16, and 706 miles since learning to ride again after 8 weeks off the bike.

Thank God that the World Cup is finally over. Despite not being a huge fan of football, special events such as this championship even make me watch the games. In hindsight, considering the wide-spread lack of exciting  games and countless epic failures of overpaid, so-called "superstars", I regret that I exchanged miles on the road with beers on the couch. But before the World Cup even ended, the Tour de France started, and the prospect of cycling diminished even further with the Alps Stages live on Versus on weekend mornings. Only a stomach irritation that last weekend topped that, so that I managed to only ride 30 miles but lose 3 pounds (Thank you, Virus).

On the 4th of July weekend a week earlier, we were graced with three consecutive days of good weather. 116 miles more, and one climb up Diablo with TBV. Either TBV is in race-shape already, or I'm still lacking in fitness, as he beat me (up) on the last 2.5 miles to the Summit. I have to do better than that, especially if I will race the Diablo Challenge this year, obviously trying to get a new personal record.

The traditional lunch rides to either Coyote Point or up Ralston have given way to actually going to lunch. So while the remainder of our little group skips food, I can sit down and indulge. Now I should probably add that these rides have been replaced by bike-to-work rides. My plan is to continue to make the 28-mile ride (one-way) twice a week, but compensate with more frequent Diablo rides on the weekend, due to the Ralston climb now falling through the cracks.

Pace-wise, I'm a little behind this year. I'm sure the next 5 months will fix that.

2010 riding stats (2009 stats in parenthesis) as of 7/15:
#of rides: 37 (28), annual mileage: 1224 (966), pace: 2295 (2009 total mileage: 3142).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tue, Jun 16

It's been awhile since my last post. Thanks to the cool and rainy spring, a 4 1/2 week trip to China, and some time to recuperate from the trip, I was off the bike for a total of 8 weeks. This obviously comes at a price, and cycling since added 268 miles in 3 weeks, but I clearly have been feeling the loss of fitness and strength. Diablo Summit was attempted three times but only conquered once, and every time I felt the "Registration for Mount Diablo Challenge is OPEN" looming over my head. Too early to make a decision. About half time into this year, and the 2010 cycling goals are still non-existent. Even lunch rides are falling victim to the World Cup, a cold, and still the occasional day where it feels like winter. I think I need to take it easy this year, and maybe enjoy more the kind of cycling we did last weekend: riding from winery to winery, while accumulating miles and promille at the same time. Or just drink, for a change.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wed, Apr 14

This is the time of year when the weather turns better. Now that it really seems to be happening, after a rather long winter, it would be time to get rolling again. But this is also the time when duty calls one to a foreign country, where the only cycling is the one done on a gym bike. I hope to get one more lunch ride accomplished tomorrow, before the next five weeks will be spent longing to come home and ride the familiar roads.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sun, Mar 14

Less blogging means less biking. Today the weather wasn't too shabby, sunny, low 60s, and I was happy to exchange the bike computer in the gym (always displaying a handle bar with white (!) tape) with the real thing. The last three rides I've done stretched out over four weeks and just added 130 miles to my mediocre annual mileage so far. It's about time to get temperatures in the 70s and the weekly lunch rides going again. Still though no cycling goals for this year other than taking it a ride at a time.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sat, Feb 13

Planned to ride Diablo today, but arrived in Danville without arm- and legwarmers, so the quest ended at South Gate. The temperature was actually pleasant but didn't want to risk getting cold later, and then even more so racing downhills at 30mph. So it was a short venture today, and I was able to spend more time plucking weed in the afternoon. Sunday is supposed to be an even nicer day; the car's thermometer already read '73F' around noon today here in downtown. I might get away without the extra clothing tomorrow.

This evening, the battle between the Olympics coverage from Vancouver on NBC, and the Chinese New Year Show on KTSF from Beijing. While Beijing is 16 hours ahead, Vancouver is in the same timezone as San Francisco. I can understand that the CNY show is taped, but why the heck is the Olympics coverage not LIVE ?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sun, Feb 7

It's the time of year, when a certain nation assembles in front of big-screen TV's in homes and bars, in order to drink cheap beer and eat Doritos and chicken wings, to watch a 6-hour spectacle, where half of the time is spent on something called "Pre-Game show". It's the same time of year where it is OK to fall asleep on someone's sofa before sunset; and the same time when 40-year old's use the half-time break to throw a football in the backyard like 50 pounds and 20 years earlier, and when 20 minutes later, people arrive at the ER, hyper-ventilating, with torn ACL's because they went "deep".
During this hour-long spectacle, millions of dollars are spent on silly commercials mostly featuring geckos and watery substances, and men in suits and ties attempt to analyze each move in the game to the tiniest detail ("The torn shoe laces cost them the game"). The actual game technically only lasts 60 minutes, but it is stretched out over like three to four hours due to insertion of replays from eight different angles, players shown walking around unbuckling their helmets, slow-motion of players getting whacked, more commercials, and due to "I'm tired, I've been on the field for 48 seconds" breaks or timeouts in order to discuss dinner plans. Actual plays only last about 5 1/2 seconds, when players dribble around trying to confuse the opponent, while one guy tries to throw an oval ball to one of his team mates, without getting overrun by 350-pound humans wearing 35 pounds of padding and kitchen towels at their hip. A play ends when someone gets buried under four to five bodies of the opposing team, or fails to catch the ball (try round balls for a change!). The game usually ends with a bunch of people emptying a large water dispenser filled with Gatorade over some poor dude with giant headphones. Not sure why they don't show the Super Bowl on the Comedy Channel.

Anyway, my expectation today was that roads are deserted as usual on Sundays like this. For some odd reason though, it was pretty busy on the roads, either due to people having forgotten that Super Bowl is today, or that people were running late buying last minute essentials (read: cheap beer). The weather was not as sunny as the weatherman said, so while I was happy with the exercise, I wasn't with the cool wind and dark clouds today; even Mount Diablo didn't look inviting, and a fellow cyclist said that is was freezing coming down. For me, 35 miles, with the mandatory stop at Peets. Now, time for a nap.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tue, Feb 2

Today's Groundhog day, and apparently there are six more weeks of winter ahead. Since this tradition is not common here in the West, I hope that only the East continues to suffer from snow and ice, har har. The weather was rather nice last Sunday, sunny and temperatures closing in on 60F. The fifth ride of the year and last ride in January added 45 miles to my annual total of 156 miles; it's been always slow at the beginning of a year. I still haven't thought about any cycling goals for this year, but I think I'll take it easier than last year, while just trying to maintain the same fitness and fun level.

A fun story, first brought to my attention by Diablo Scott, is the attempt of some dude to rename Mount Diablo to Mount Ronald Reagan:

Mijares, a devout Christian, says he believes the word "Diablo" — Spanish for "devil" — is "derogatory and profane," according to the federal board report. Mijares was unavailable for comment Thursday.
In 2005, he attempted to change the name to Mount Reagan, but the board, citing its Commemorative Naming Policy, told him the late president needed to be dead for at least five years before receiving such an honor.

Well, good luck with that request.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wed, Jan 27 - Apple iPad and the Epic Whining on the Internet

What this has to do with cycling ? Nothing really.

Today, Apple announced its much anticipated tablet computer, the iPad. I didn't follow the presentation closely, and while I was not thrown off my chair by the iPad, a bigger version of the iPod Touch, I didn't see it as what whiners on the Internet described as "Epic Failure". These whiners'^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hcritics' comments ranged from "This is terrible. A flop that will set Apple back at least two years", "Where’s the DVD drive?" to "No phone, no Google voice, no camera, no flash, no PDF support, no expandable memory …. No thanks Steve. No deal!" and "lets sell all Apple stocks before is too late!!!" ... woah.

Well, let me chip in with the whining:

1. 64GB flash drive? Are you kidding me ? My Espresso machine has a larger disk. 1 TB is the minimum.

2. 3G only ? What about 4G ? Or 5G for that matter (wait, wasn't this the acceleration that the iPad can sustain ?)

3. Can't make phone calls, can't use as a TiVo, can't use it as a Slingbox ... this thing is USELESS !

4. I really expected an entry-level price of $79.99. I mean for such a useless computer, asking for $499 ???

5. Even if it had one camera, I need two, or better, three. Need to shoot 3D movies.

6. And Yes, where's the DVD drive ? And the second DVD drive to make drive-to-drive copies ? Not even mentioning an 5.25" floppy drive.

7. The screen is too small. I mean, do I need a magnifying glass to use it ? Everyone here in the office has a 24" LCD monitor, so why does the iPad only come with this tiny 9.7" screen ?

8. No built-in FM tuner, how in the world should I listen to radio now ?

I think I can find many more points to whine about. What was Apple thinking ???

< /sarcasm >

Friday, January 22, 2010

Fri, Jan 22

Happy New Year ! Yes, it gets old quickly.

Started out the year with three rides in the first three days of the month, including the first ride up Mount Diablo, and another ride one weekend later. Then last weekend, after I failed to get myself out the door, winter hit the West Coast with a vengeance. If 5-10 inches of rainfall weren't enough, this week we had approximately 5 winter storms, with thunder, with hail, snow on Mount Hamilton again, thousands of people without power, 18 ft swells at the coast, coast lines falling into the ocean, and even a tornado warning for the Bay Area. At least the water reservoirs are filling up quickly, something that is needed in Year 3 of the Drought. Tomorrow, Day 7 since "winter" started, we are supposed to get a break from the rain .. at least a small one. I hope to be able to get out for a bike ride; two weeks can do some real harm to your fitness.