January 29, 2014

Weekend Lookback (albeit late)...

Monday came and went in record time thanks to the Birthday of my little one....we ran around and had fun!

Then again we spent Friday and Saturday running around and having fun too. Friday consisted of running around to collect gifts for her Birthday party - not sure when giving gifts to party attendees became the norm, but it seems sorta on the lines of "everyone gets a medal." I'm not a fan of wild gift giving to kids that, in general, have most everything they could want to begin with - and mine certainly qualifies. Instead we asked for a donation to the animal shelter project that her Girl Scout troop is starting, but she still got a bunch of stuff anyway, but I digress...

So Friday - we got some gift bag items - about $2.00 per bag of erasers, small rulers, pads of paper, bouncy balls, that sort of thing. I thought it was a pretty creative expression on her part; well meaning and somewhat practical.

Saturday was the party - Karaoke with 10 girls was hi-larious and I actually knew many of the songs. Mia and I sang a hawt duet of "Pumped Up Kicks"...for those who forget, here ya go:


We ate pizza, drank apple juice "champagne" and ate ice cream cake...good fun. From there we headed North to the Cow Palace for the Golden Gate Kennel Club's annual show. It was kinda boring - sitting around watching various "dancing" dogs and such, but then we wandered into the dog staging area about 4:15p and thing picked up immensely. We saw maybe 30 different breeds and spoke with a bunch of owners who were very gracious in sharing knowledge and free pets of their pets. A couple of shots:





Sunday was the fourth installment of the Early Bird Training Series, so I spent the day talking safe riding and pack anticipation. I also shot a video or two...


Rolling Double - to - Single paceline

Rolling 3 abrest to double paceline

After the race I headed over to the Team Ole Racing launch BBQ, just in time as I hadn't really eaten all day! Chicken, salad, and a few (ahem) dessert items were just the precursor to the nights main entertainment...

Single Malt Scotch


See, Colleen's husband Kevin knows a thing or two about the stuff, while I know nothing. He offered to educate me a bit and hauled out a solid row of samples for the task...I tried four different ones. The Laphroaig (smokey and peety), Balveny's (smoother), Dalhwhinnie (Kinda Caramel-y), and a fourth that was the most pleasant, but which I can't recall the name of. Learned a bit about single-malt scotch, namely that water to cut is FINE...which worked out since I had to drive home that night. All in all it was a fun experience - but I'm not rushing out to buy any new ones quite yet...more of a Gin man myself!


January 23, 2014

Thursday Rant - Pay to Play

This post started as one thing..and then pivoted to something completely related....

Wednesday I was up on Hwy 9 at Hwy 35 and headed south. I passed Castle Rock State Park - a fine little hike that is easy access from around the bay area. Sure enough there were about a dozen cars parked on the side of the highway, undoubtedly enjoying the nearby seclusion on offer. My first thought upon seeing the cars wasn't "how nice, they are out in nature..." - Nope...my first thought

What a bunch of cheap asses!

You see they all parked outside the parking area to avoid paying the hefty $2-10/day use fee for park users. This is the way it is, the way it's seemingly always been. Park outside and walk in, save the $5 for your post-hike coffee. I've done it myself. Except now I'm old and curmudgeonly so I see things from a different perspective, which is much more DO YOUR PART!

I know the argument: "these are our lands and we already pay taxes" except that doesn't really get to the crux of it. California is, finally, starting to dig itself out of its latest financial disaster - for now. Of course parks took a hit and were forced to decrease services, close parks, limit hours, etc...all of which could be mitigated if the free-loaders would pay for their use. How about some perspective:

From the California State Parks website we learn that CSP is responsible for 280 parks encompassing some 1.5 Million acres, employs about 1800 people full time, and had an operating budget in 2011-12 of just over $200M, of which just over 52% came from revenue generation. Here is a look at District revenue targets:


So, now to the simple math part. The CSP produces a statistical report each year that breaks down all kinds of stuff including paid and free day use. Since I wandered by Castle Rock State Park yesterday, let's look at their use trends/estimates from 2011-12 (most current year available). They had 15,688 paid users generating a total of $72,892 in fees, but they had over 119,000 FREE day users! At a conservative $5/day use fee, that's almost $600,000 in additional revenue that was not realized by the Cal State Parks system for just this park! A quick look across the system and we can conservatively estimate that paid use is a mere fraction of FREE use (Henry Cowell had ~95,000 paid visitors, but over 600,000 FREE!).

I understand that not everyone can pay and that these are public lands that have been set aside for our use and enjoyment, but if each of the free users would commit to paying even 50% of the time they use the park it would provide the kind of financial stability that seems so ethereal in todays World. We have the largest state park system in the country, but it needs the committment and resources of those who USE it in order to remain the best state park system in the country....so, come on..Pay to Play!

Then something weird happened...

I read the CX Magazine article about our World Championships Team members having to foot their own bill, often at last minute prices, to attend next weeks World Championships, and the idea of "Pay to Play" took on a whole new meaning. There are a couple of points I'd like to make about this shameful exercise.

1. As a coach I spend $100/year on my coaching license. As a club director I spend $150/year on my club dues, and as a racer I spent $150 for an International License this year. This doesn't include the cost of permits for my clinics (if I want access to the insurance, I have to permit the clinic), attendance fees for those who come to the clinics, and gawd forbid any late fees associated. I feel like I truly pay to play! To that end I should have a voice and I think USAC needs to re-evaluate their priorities and spending. Cyclocross, while not an Olympic sport (so the argument goes), has seen the largest surge in participation (read: racing licenses), event permits (read:  fees for USAC), and coverage (read: everywhere!)...yet those who are the forefront of the wave - our elite riders - receive nary a hint of appreciation for the prestige they are adding to our National programs.

2. As a participant I think this type of "Pay to Play" approach is an embarrassment. Love of the sport carries most of us through the trials and tribulations of a seasons racing be it road, mountain or cross...surely those who rise to the top should have some sort of cherry-on-top for the hard work and sacrifice they have endured. There is a tremendous swell of 'crowd sourced' support for those racers who aspire to take on the Worlds best, and this is a good thing, but where is the buy in from our National Governing Body to provide that stable funding stream that allows those resources to be re-directed at sending the local junior phenom to a regional camp, or even to a skills clinic to help them reach the next level? To that end I'd like to see USAC set aside a reasonable budget for ANY National Champions and those eligible to compete in the World Championships, to have their expenses covered. This years US team is roughly 20 riders. If we take at face value the "program cost" for on-site support at $800 per athlete and add a conservative $2000 for travel, that is $56,000 to support the 20 best CX racers in the country at Worlds. That's only 746 licenses ($75/ea) out of a published 70,000+ members, attending over 3,000 events, as part of over 2,600 clubs -  or put a different way, it's only...140 guys like me!

In 2012 USAC had over $14M in revenues, support of the CX Worlds Team would be 0.004% of that total..how does that add up?


Ok....rant done for this week...

January 21, 2014

I wrote this in 2007

The article below I mean....I can't believe it was 7 years ago...and still the Early Birds are rocking along, I'm still writing for Pez, and still madly in love with cycling and working with new riders. A few things have changed from then to now, but the essence of the experience isn't much different. Just a couple weeks ago i got to fire off an Advanced Clinic for a team of masters...guys that are eager to learn. Here they are starting to get the echelon a bit:

I've done this drill with tons of riders and it's always fun to watch them improve. Nearly all of the riders think they have pacelines and echelons down before we start, and inevitably they make mistakes large and small in the first few laps...but they persevere and eventually they get better...not quite Pro better, but better enough that if they keep after the learning as a team they can begin to blow up races as they intend.

Anyway - the post below is mostly a shout out to embracing the PROCESS and to my fellow mentors and leaders...guys like Larry Nolan, Dan Smith and John Cheetham...and of course Laurel Green, whose changing womens racing every year with her development team. These and the vast millieu of volunteers who come out to help new riders bridge the gap...that's what has me excited for 2014..and embracing racing again after a long time wallowing along...


Improve your cycling performance: It’s only January, but you’re already thinking about the race season ahead, and even if you’re not actually engaged in structured cycling training yet, this is a great time to adopt some of the traditions of the baseball world via some Spring Training.

I am fortunate to live in the largest cycling district in the United States – Northern California – and to enjoy the myriad of benefits that comes from an active and thriving race culture of more than 5000 licensed participants. We are lucky to have races every weekend all year long, and to be home to some of the best development and elite programs in the country including California-Giant, Team Tibco, and the Specialized Junior Team (among others) but if I had to pick a single program that defines NorCal racing it would be the Early Bird Criterium Series. 

california_crit
Ok, so it’s not the Early Bird series, but it is crit racing in California – back in the Tour of California ’07 at Longbeach.


Background 
The Early Bird Criterium Series (The EBs) is a five-week block of training races that have been around for over 25 years. It’s a chance for riders at every level to shake out the cobwebs of the off-season and start to put a fine point on their race fitness, but the real benefit – their raison d’etre if you will, is the rider development program that offers new racers a structured curriculum to help learn the fundamental racing skills that experienced racers may take for granted. I am one of the five directors that create and manage the curriculum each week, and then share it with our cadre of committed mentors who volunteer their time to help new and aspiring racers “get it” faster. 

By The Numbers
Year after year the EBs continue to bring out a large contingent of riders looking to jump into the world of racing…lots of riders…typically 300 a day for the races. Of those more than half typically participate in the training clinics. We have five directors, and each leader has 3-5 leaders that help lead the weekly curriculum. These riders are backed up by an all-volunteer group that ranges up to 40 mentors per weekend, all ready to help new riders integrate into the community. 

There are two mentoring sessions each day, one in the AM for women and younger Cat 5 riders and an afternoon session for the older Cat 5s. There is also a clinic each day for our aspiring junior riders – and this has shown tremendous growth over the past few years – we had more than 50 participants in the junior clinic alone last week!

Race Learning 101
Each week we run series of drills built around racing fundamentals.

    Week one
brings general pack etiquette and concepts like 360 awareness, predictable movements, protecting your front wheel, heads up – hands in the drops, and assertive vs. aggressive riding. 

Paceline drills follow, gradually getting the lines closer together, lap after lap we work on overcoming hub fixation, unnecessary braking, the importance of relaxing and anticipation. These may sound simplistic, but that’s the point – teach the basics, affirm the basics, reinforce the basics. 

    Week two
we tackle cornering. Basic outside-inside-outside cornering is a good jumping off point, and sounds pretty fundamental right? Well, it is, but we try to put in place a process that has the rider constantly returning to the fundamentals – a sort of mantra for safe racing. We move from single rider lines to side by side and quickly to three abreast. 

Teaching the nuances of close quarters riding is impossible if you simply let ideas run, so we stick to the basic curriculum that includes important concepts like those mentioned above and then seek to offer specific insights that matter. Counter steering, leaning the bike, and steering with the hips are introduced

A perfect example is the ‘progressive response model’ of contact at the elbow. We start with the default of riding the drops with the elbows flexed a little. This creates an immediate buffer of 3 to 6 inches between bars, safer. Contact is inevitable, but too often riders default to a hyper aggressive response when first touched, they push back in an effort to assert their domain. Instead we want the EB riders to learn to be supple on that first contact – absorb that hit with the elbow and body, no reaction. 

The second time the rider stiffens the elbow a little – sort of a “hey, I’m right here!” response. This keeps the riders bars apart and sets a little bit tougher tone. By the third contact we are looking to defend our territory and so we step up to a rigid response, but only at the elbow. A death grip on the bar translates all subsequent movement directly to the bike and creates instability, so we strive to avoid that!

Sprinting
    Week three
we jump into that most prestigious of skills – sprinting! Unfortunately, sprinting and new riders don’t always go hand in hand, so the EB series tries to offer some fundamentals to help. The first key is to sprint in a straight line – so we mark off a series of 200 m courses at each corner and rotate the riders through in small groups.

First we demo each rider on a good jump by holding them static and having them simulate the sprint form – without moving. Then we line ‘em up and send ‘em out for 25 m of straight line sprint in a large gear four times. Check.

Next we move them up to 100 m unrestricted, then 200 m unrestricted sprints eight times each. That’s a lot of structured practice, but not quite enough so we stress to the riders that they should practice their sprint technique every week on every ride. 

    Week 4
is when we try to put in some formation and anticipation into the mix by emphasizing the varied skills learned over the first few weeks with pack skills riding . In previous years we’ve run a variety of skills like “thread the needle” where we positioned mentors as moving “cones” a bike length or two apart and had the participants slalom through them, working on peripheral vision and 360 awareness. We’ve put a group of riders “in the box” with mentors acting as the four corners. Then we have them rotate through the “box” at low to moderate speeds. This forces them to deal with close quarters riding and protecting the front wheel. We also run a double pace line and have the participants go “up the middle” of the narrow seam. These drills are great for developing confidence and competence!

    Week five
is when we put it all together and try to simulate race conditions. Of course there is also a race each Sunday of the series that gives the riders additional real world experience. All told the Early Bird participants get five to ten hours of instruction on race fundamentals and five weeks of practice races to reinforce the learning! 

Summary
Jumping into racing is an intimidating proposition for most new riders. Lots of speed, lots of close quarters, lots of presumed risk. The Early Bird Training Series has been offering new riders a structured curriculum and mentored approach to the basics of racing for over 25 years. This series is a great model for any rider looking to get some “Spring Training” in the mix as they prepare for a season of racing. The skills are straight forward with an emphasis on safety and long-term participation in the sport – we seek to build lifetime racers! USA Cycling has been working with the EB Directors to begin incorporating the curriculum into a National model that can be easily used by clubs and districts to foster their own rider development in the coming years.

Two Quick Thougths

Yep, it's late and I should be sleeping.....however, two things caught my eye in their semi-glazed state....

1. bike racing is STUPID! VeloNews posted up the "10 Best Climbers Of All Time" and a raging debate ensued over whether EPO dopers were somehow less credible than amphetamine dopers across time. The silly part is that we glorify DOPERS for their epic tales and efforts because that is the "history" of this stupid sport....how hard can someone push their body, how many rules can they break to win - because winning is the only thing that seems to be on whatever list is put forward. "No, Lance is No1 b/c he beat dopers, no Merckx is No 1 cause he only doped a little..." WTF is wrong with us?

2. Science Trumps Stupidity - Quit posting your inane articles about the end of global warming, the war on christianity, or the rise of nuclear winter in the oceans from www.myopinionisfact.com - if it doesn't have a solid peer reviewed perspective I don't want to hear the silly diatribe. The shit that gets floated across the internet and FB as "laid-in-stone-gawd-damned-fact" is pretty irritating, the more so when it's pulled from mediocre resources and passed off as intelligence. You're not smart for posting someone else's bad opinion, for fucks sake....

January 20, 2014

The Weekend Lookback...

Monday is often a rest day for cyclists....and thank good-ness it is! I had laundry to do, bathrooms to clean, and bikes in desperate need of a bath and tune. I kinda want to ride though....after the biggest week I can remember in the past couple of years, I just feel like keeping the momentum going I guess. My biggest weeks over the last 6 or 7 years? See below...the caveat is that I'm pretty sure not every ride I did is in the list below, so I don't know for sure if that represents my actual riding, but it's probably pretty close.
2014 - 267 miles last week!
2013 - 231 miles
2012 - 202 miles
2011 - 216 miles
2010 - 177 miles!
2009 - 200 miles
2008 - 424 miles on a ride from Sunnyvale to Santa Barbara, next biggest week was 275 miles!

Wow, if you'd asked me I'd have said I was "racing" during much of that time, and actually pulled a few results...but sub 200 mile week are not the way to be a fast guy by and large - although quality is the most important element, total miles matters. Anyway, I didn't start this post to look at weekly mileage...actually to look at daily mileage (lol). Speaking of long rides here was Saturday's ride in all it's 105 miles of glory:

Here are my previous daily long rides for the year - with the same caveat as above, I may not have a power file for the ride and it sure FEELS like I rode farther on any given day than these show:
2013 - 68 miles in February
2012 - 77 miles in September
2011 - 85 miles in February and August
2010 - 71 miles in October!
2009 - 100 miles in July
2008 - 155 miles in May on the way to Santa Barbara...my longest ride ever I think

Sunday Early Birds - Once again I spent Sunday working at the Early Bird Training Series. Those from 'round here know it well as it's been a mainstay of Januarys for over 25 years and has helped countless riders make a smoother transition to the peloton. I was in charge of the curriculum for the day and came up with some drills intended to help riders get better at moving around in a field. Here are the descriptions, maybe try then with your riding group:

Pack Skills Drills:

  1. Pack Skill Drill 1 – Thread The Needle: This is a MOVING drill. Position 3 or 4 mentors as ‘off-set moving cones’ (per diagram) and two mentors as the final ‘gate’, with the field staged behind the first cone. Riders then proceed to pass the ‘mentor cones’ alternating sides until they get to the front, at which point they proceed through the two ‘gate’ mentors, who are riding within a few feet of each other, and return to the ‘field.’ Alternate starting sides on each pass. X = mentor, * = riders path

*
X   *  X
*
*
*  X
*
   *
     *
X *
*
*   .
*      .
*   X
*
.   *

field
Mentor Notes: This is NOT a slalom race! Mentors should position themselves approximately 1 – 1.5 bike lengths apart and emphasize subtle, controlled movement between the ‘cones.’ Cue riders to look behind before moving over, avoid using the brakes appropriately, and gradually move closer to the ‘cones.’
  
  1. Pack Skill Drill 2  – Up The Middle: This is a MOVING drill. Pack divides into two pacelines (R and L). The riders at the BACK of the paceline roll up the center of the paceline (alternate starting R/L sides) and taking up the front position OPPOSITE where they started (eg X1 moves to X4). After each full rotation the group moves a bit closer together until, ideally, the riders are inches apart and moving smoothly.
X4    *    X3
X5     *    X2
X6    *    X1
     *          *
Mentor Notes: Groups should be a minimum of 6, but larger is ok too, as it allows more time ‘moving up the middle’. Cue soft elbows and hips, breathing, and the fact that modest contact is NOT unexpected.
  
  1. Pack Skill Drill 3   – Gutter Ball: This is a MOVING drill. Pack divides into two pacelines (R and L). This is a rotating paceline with the right ( R) line riding on the cement portion of the gutter. There are two (2) versions of this
    1. Clockwise RotationTwo pacelines starting near the gutters – start a simple clockwise rotation where the right line – ideally with a few seconds between riders – drops back through the gutter to the end of the paceline, rotates left and then comes forward. Start this drill with ample room to spare on both sides and try to get closer each time through.
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    1. CounterClockwise Rotation: Two pacelines again – simply reverse the rotation to  counter-clockwise, this has the “forward” line moving up the inside in the gutter. Again, allow ample room between lines and a few seconds between riders going forward at the start of the drill. As they get better move the lines closer and with less space between the riders moving up.

pavement
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“Gutter Ball” is only done on the long straight aways – from Turn 2 to Turn 3 and from the exit of Turn 4 (200m back from the start finish) to Turn 1. The rest of the lap is a simple paceline to reform and offer quick feedback.

I haven't run the numbers yet, but we were definitely smaller than previous weeks, likely due to the football game and the erroneous belief that it was "sprinting" day..which tends to nerve out new riders for some reason....maybe they think we're gonna start them off with full blown field sprints!?

January 16, 2014

Thursday Rant 1.2

Right, so....I rant on Thursdays and I'm real creative so I even have a numbering system. Yea, it's real easy first number is month, second number is week. Now, about that rant...

The continually evolving rant format I'm considering a kinda list thingy....well, anyway, let's try it out. How about a top five this week, and they may not actually be rants...

5 (1) - The rise and fall of Chinese No Name Frames and on Being Italian. For a couple of years I was very anti-brand name bikes. I figured it didn't make much difference, I was fast on most stuff (hey, it's my blog, I can be fast if I want) and there was no way I was dropping North of $3K on a bike. So I bought a couple of 'em....road and cross. Actually the 'cross bike was totally rad...well made and durable. I rode and race it all over the place for a couple of years and it was faultless.

The road bike less so, but that was mostly due to the "Fondo" head tube as it set me about 3cm's higher than my previous Tarmac. I was content

I got a bike to test this week. A very Italian bike. It changed my life.

It's so stiff and fast, small and lightening quick. Totally pro - so pro in fact that it belonged to a classic Italian PRO who raced it around Italy and stuff. The thing is, it made me once again appreciate the quality of a fine bike and a fine build. I am having so much fun ripping around on it that I can hardly wait til tomorrow...I'll do a write up on the ride soon, but in the mean time it has rekindled my love affair with going fast on a nice bike...not content.

4 (2) - Guests. My friend Adam came to visit this week - he's here for a month. We're doing a little training camp while he's in town. Actually, I'm just trying to keep up with his training camp, but it's all good. The thing about guests is that they are a great way to reconnect with what you lost. Last year was tough and I sorta lost my way in the milieu of life upheaval. Having Adam here gives me a path back to some of those things that bring me happiness. So, we're gonna ride and have fun, snack and drink beer...and it's just part of my 2014.

3 - Stuff you can't do...yet again hours have been wasted watching people do stuff you and I likely can't.




Ok, it's after 11 and I'm tired....all that ripping around. So, I'm going to sleep...but hey, I made 3!

January 14, 2014

Camp Started Today... and Airplane photos too!


Camp started today - well, in as much as my friend and athlete Adam Carr arrived in town yesterday and we've committed to riding a LOT while he's here, it's a camp to me!

Here was todays ride:


Of course one of the coolest things was picking him up at the airport because I got to see these awesome little models of truly cool and famous aircraft. The stories of each didn't really photograph well, but as I understand it they are part of a collection originally housed at the Nut Tree Restaurant, but recently acquired by the SFO Museum - they are each a very unique aircraft and amazing to look at






Beechcraft




This one may be my favorite...so elegant!


It's estimated that over 90% of all military pilots up to WWII trained in the Jenny!

First plane to fly coast-to-coast non-stop!