Friday, October 31, 2008

What's Wrong With This Picture?

OK, _these_ pictures

Yup, This was todays "lunchtime" ride. This is one of the hazards of riding this time of year: Things are constantly falling out of the trees. Branches up to two inches in diameter can easily be concealed by a deep covering of freshly dropped deciduous leaves. It's on of these that I found today. Some of the trails that I ride in the weir hill/half-mile hill/osgood hill conservation areas in north andover don't get alot of use, and so are sometimes heavily covered. This damage was the result of a one-inch twig that twisted up inside the chain circle, caught one of the spokes, then spun the derailleur up and around the seat stay. The reason I didn't rip off the dropout is that it's Titanium. To quote an advertisement from Merlin several years ago, (talking about their dropouts) "No one hes ever broken one of our dropouts. Not one. Ever." I know, I'm not riding a Merlin, I'm riding an Independent Fabrication, but IF is what Merlin was before they were spirited away by Litespeed, and anyone who has any knowledge of the bicycle industry in Boston will tell you that any IF is as good as - if not better than - any Merlin in the same category.

I'm not too disappointed though. This setup has served me quite well for 6 years now (Sram 9.0 ESP). Trust me, that isn't because I don't' ride this thing like a ten dollar prostitute. My philosophy is, if you didn't crash, you aren't riding hard enough. For example, check out the dent in the chainstay. Remember, this is titanium, not the most delicate material on the planet. Also look here.

I may actually have a spare crappy derailleur I can use that I bought for parts and never used. I seem to remember buying a lightly used one at a bike swap that I snagged the jokey wheels off of. If I'm lucky, it will be the 1:1 actuation ratio typ that I need.

In any case, I already ordered a new ('07, actually) Sram X.9. It will be here monday.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

More Stuff About Me That You Really Don't Care About

I was born in Ethiopia. Specifically, on a US Military reservation by the name of Kagnew Station. My father was a 'lifer', who retired from the US army after 21 years of faithful and unquestioning service to our country. He does not regret his service, but sometimes unfondly remembers certain incidents of his service. I may write more in this in the future, but for now, we can move on with the platitude 'life is what it is'.

What prompted me to write this post was a conversation with my parents at my fathers birthday dinner a few days ago (he turned 68). We were talking about current and historical events, in the context of Joe Bidens recent comments that 'the next president will be tested in office, sooner rather than later'. As this conversation winded around the Cuban Missle Crisis and the us domestic social impact of the building of the Berlin Wall, my mother piped in with the following story:

"you know, the berlin wall is the reason you're here"

My father had been stationed in africa in the summer of 1961. My Mother stayed home in upstate new york living with her parents, and raising my sister, about 18 months old then. Kagnew Station wasn't known as a "permanent chnage of station" destination, so service men were not compensated for their families to move there, though housing was provided if they provided their own transportation. As my father was a corporal, they didn't have the financial ability to pay for my mother and sister to fly over.

When the wall went up, My mother became very worried about the likelyhood of the cold war escalating.

"So I sold our car, scraped money together from family and friends, and got enough to move over to ethiopia with your sister and as much clothing as I could afford to bring."

I was conceived very shortly after that.

I quipped, in response "So, we all have nikita khrushchev to thank for my existence?"

I guess......

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I am such a fucking stud

Really, I'm not kidding. The two of you who have been paying attention over the summer know that I've been hobbled by 'micro tears' in my achilles tendon. Being stuck in a cast for six weeks through april, and may, then on restricted activity until july, and not able to run until september.

So I've been running about ten miles a week since the beginning of october, and toying with the idea of a race. I decided this morning to take advantage of one of the many races in my area.

ok, it's chilly, it's windy, it's 9:30 am. I had a choice of a 5k in georgetown, and 5k in newburyport, a 5k in andover, and a 4 miler in lawrence. Lawrence was closest and had the most amenable start time.

I have this penchant for riding to running races instead of driving. Sort of an ethical thing, if you will. In the midst of getting my running clothes packed into the backpack, then getting dressed for a ride to lawrence in the high 30's, I ended up leaving about 15 minutes later than I had planned. Fortunately, the ride is due south, and there was a pretty steady 20 mph north wind. I got there just as there were ready to shut down registration, but still got in. FWIW - they were _super_ nice.

I ended up getting a nice recovery from the ride before the run started, and manged to stay warm by stretching.

We lined up. It turned out they had the mayors of both lawrence and lynn in the race. Harrumph. Then they had some 6 year old sing the national anthem. Now, you have to give kudos to a six year old for getting in front of a microphone and singing the national anthem, but....ouch. The national anthem is a tough song to sing, which is why we hear so many 'professionals' massacre it. You need to have a very good vocal range in order to pull it off right. In fact, many intramural musical competitions use the national anthem as an audition piece. Well, lets just say you don't hear too many six year olds with good range, and this young lad was no exception.

Anyways, I was in about the third row for the start. When the gun went off, I jumped, and just about ran over the person in front of me. These people weren't moving...what the fuck? IT appeared that a bout ten guys had made the move off the front, so I did some 'open field' scatting to get into the open. I was in the top ten at 1/4 mile, and looked to be pacing the leaders.

mile 1 - 6:20. I haven't run a race since february, and have done no workouts other than just 'base miles'. Ahhh, the tailwind...A 140 pounder like me gets pushed along pretty easily.

mile 2 - 13:04. This is more like it. We had gone over small hill then turned into the wind. At this point i noticed, no one had passed me. I'm running in 6th spot and I can see two guys ahead of me fading.

mile 3 - 19:20. I attributed this to a downhill, I have a pretty good stretch and can let my legs find their own rhythm. I moved into 5th and was gaining on 4th. I caught 4th on the next little rise, and he stayed with me as i reeled in 3rd on the next downhill. 3rd and I started pulling away from the other guy, and it was us two, with 1st and second about 50 yards ahead. 3rd was a much bigger guy than me, and I foolishly let him pull ahead, into the wind, without drafting him.

Gettig closer to the finish, I was pacing third about 50 feet back, and thought, with about 1/4 mile left, I had plenty left for a good fast kick. I started to ramp it up and saw 3rd coming back to me, but.....SHIT...wind cramp in the solar plexus. All I could do was pace him, now about 20 feet behind.

finish - 26:16. 4th over all. Shit! 4th in my first back!! I ran 6:34 pace which is only 4 second per mile slower than the last race I ran in february. The 3rd place guy unfortunately was in my age group, I was 8 seconds behind him..damn...should have hopped in his draft when we were coming back in the headwind....but...I got 2nd in my age group!! Shit!!! Am I a fucking stud...or what?!?!

OK, back to reality. 6:34s is nothing to crow about, but it's waaaayyyyy better than what I had even hoped for. I feel good, no pains anywhere. But those wind cramps...Clearly, a lack of intervals, and a lack of anaerobic (sprint) work. It's a bit late in the year, but there are a few good races to come, and now that I know I can sustain 30 minutes running just below AT, I'll work in some intervals.

See you on the road.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I like mountain biking. I'm not the sort that will find a bucolic rail trail, peacefully gliding along an hope for an extended stretch where I'm not bothered by other people. I like finding mud, picking my way through rocky rooty technical single track, cruising in the big chainring along a nicely worn in peaty double track...You know the type. I bought a titanium mountain bike because I knew I would be crashing....often. My philosophy is, if you didn't crash, you didn't ride hard enough. So, I push it. The only stuff I'm not comfortable in is technical stuff with big drop-offs, for two reasons: A) I really don't have a great sense of balance and 2) therefore when I crash, I don't need to be falling down a ten foot rocky precipice, that would _really_ hurt.

I rode my MTB at work yesterday. There are two sections of conservation land close by that are connected by a 1/2 mile section of double track that is _sort_ of private, but has obviously moderate use. All told, it's 8 miles of decent riding, about 50% single track with a couple hard but short climbs/descents, reasonable amounts of mud (really sloppy in the spring). Much of the single track is reasonable rocky/rooty/ at speed.

Also there are about a dozen stone wall crossings. Though most have been 'opened' to make them more ridable, a few still require some significant maneuvering of the bike to pick up the front end, avoid digging in the chainring, then balance the drop with picking up the rear wheel.

Yesterday, I took one of them a bit too fast. This wall only has a slight 'notch' where the trail crosses, and is on a slope. I was crossing in the downhill direction. The front wheel dropped into a slight depression, I was too far forward, the shock bottomed out and I was launched. As I pitched forward head first, my right foot unclipped and my full weight slammed the stem with my right knee, hitting the steerer tube with the connective tissue just above the patellae. I actually saw stars and went light headed (easy there, solo). This picture shows what I looked like after the ride, before getting cleaned up:

This picture is a close up, and you can see the swelling in my right knee, with a small area of broken skin.

Now, I know how to handle this. Unless there's an obvious break, get right back on ASAP....ride out the pain. This worked...except that I noticed I was still in real pain after a few minutes of riding, usually not the case.

My right knee has significant swelling, I'm walking with a limp. Putting lateral strain with weight on the knee sends shooting pains. This picture is from this morning, after a nights sleep:

Notice how my right leg appears to be turned isn't, that's the mass of swollen tissue on the outside of my right knee. This picture is a right side view of the right knee:

I normally have a very prominent patellae, compare that to this left side view of my left knee:

You can see how the swelling has come over the top of the right knee.

I've been hurt worse, and recovered. I'll recover from this as well. But the _important_ part is that the bike was unscathed.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Another strange dream

I'm playing a cheap quarter (25 cent) slot machine. Very cheap, looks more like something you'd get mail order, in the 50's. I'm in an equally cheesy casino, playing this machine. It has "Million Dollar Slot" written across the top of it. The bars align, then the machine starts to blink "You've Won A Million Dollars" and starts to spit change out, not just quarters. As it's spitting out the change, there's a counter that shows how much money has been dispensed. The machine stops giving change, and the counter notes $567.27. I asked the pit boss about it, and he said, "I guess the machine did'nt have a million dollars", then shrugged and walked away.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Better Late Than Never - Monster Dash Duatlon Race Report

I had intended to be much more active running this year, as an attempt to transition from 20 years of road and mtn bike racing (cat.3/master, vet/expert) to running and multi sport events. But an achilles tear in february kept me from running until july, and I'm still only running less than ten miles a week.

This report is about the 2007 edition of the Lowell Monster Dash. Now, this race happened a year ago. Why am I writing about it now? Here's why:
* I'm a lazy sack of shit
* My performance in the event was, shall we say, less than spectacular - certain caveats notwithstanding
* I only recently found 'evidence' of the caveats (just today, in fact, I found pictures on the web, after searching for many months)

The lowell monster dash duathlon is sponsored by the lowell elks lodge. It's advertised as a two 3.1 mile runs and a 15 mile bike. These distances are not correct, at least the bike leg isn't. In fact, you'll find three different distances advertised for the bike leg depending on where you look: 13.5 miles, 14.5 miles, and 15 miles. I didn't have a computer on my bike, so I can't tell you what I clocked. To make matters worse, the official website for the event doesn't even _list_ the distances. This is the first of 'problems' I ran into in this race.

Anyways, It's advertised as a 'Monster Dash'. Now, what's the first thing that comes to mind when you read 'Monster Dash' in the context of a race?


I thought - 'Gee this sounds like fun, I'll make a costume'. Most of these events have a 'best costume' category, which is what I was _really_ entering, but I had this bizarre idea of a Viking Warrior flying past amazed crowds on a TT bike. That was it, I was going as a 'berserker'.

I bought a viking outfit at wal mart, a 4' long sword at target, made a backpack sheath for the sword, and disassembled the horned helmet from the viking costume, attaching the horns and the plastic 'skull' motif to an old bike helmet. I spent probably six hours putting the whole thing together between modifications and shopping, slightly less time than I spent that week actually training.

So I go to the event, get there early enough to drive the bike course (always a good idea for TT events), and of course, get my costume together. As I'm preparing things - setting up the transition area - checking out the bike - I noticed something peculiar.....there were _no_ other costumed competitors....hmmmmmmm...."Monster Dash"? indeed....This would be the second problem I had with this race.

I had only brought the one helmet to the event - the one with the horns and skull decoration. I had brought clothing that was appropriate for the cooler conditions and that included the costume. But hey, no one ever accused me of being shy, and I spent too much time preparing and was too psyched up to bail out. So I said "screw all you buzzkillers". I dressed in full costume, and went to the start line, lined up toward the back of the ~110 competitors. I received many compliments, especially from one of the organizers, the _only_ other person there in costume. He was dressed as a friar.

As a bike racer for the past 20 years only recently transitioning to running, I held no illusions about running well. The week before I had run the Pinnacle Challenge, a double duathlon. In the 5 mile road run there I paced about 6:45. This day, in full costume, including the bike helmet and sword, I paced a 6:44, for a 39th place overall....Not bad!!!! However, people cheered me as I went by, one of them yelling "Go Thor"!.....more on that later.

I knew my best result would be on the bike, but dressed in a horned helmet, flowing faux fur tunic, and with a 4 foot sword attached to my back, I knew the aerodynamics would be, shall we say, be 'compromised'. I passed _alot_ of people. The coolest part was with the sun at my back, seeing the horns from the helmet, the handle of the sword, and the flowing tresses casting shadows before me. I was a Valkyrie!!! (well, ok, the valkyries were know what I
mean). Since the distance wasn't clear, my pace was as well as could be expected considering the costume and the fact that I was keeping my heart rate below AT because of the impending run. I finished the ride in 42:31, which was the 15th fastest bike split. At the pinnacle challenge the week before, I completed the 13.75 mile road bike leg in 39:37, which was good for 7th fastest bike split (out of 71). That was also after a 5 mile run and a 6 mile MTB leg. This day there was an appreciable headwind along the river which constituted a good six miles of the course. So, I wasn't disappointed, but had hoped for better. This moved me up to 21st overall.

The second run....well...that's where it fell apart. I did a 7:42 pace. ick.

But, coming into the finish, buoyed by the cheers from spectators showing appreciation for the only costumed competitor, I withdrew my sword, sprinted for the line, waving it wildly over my head and screaming a battle cry!!!!! YYYEEEEEAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

Check out the cool shadow....

As I noted, I had no illusions about doing well, I was there to have fun, which I did. Some young college kid from U Lowell came up to me afterwards with his buddy, asking for a picture. He wanted me to pull his head backward while I held my sword to his throat.....sure, why
not, I beat the kid by five minutes anyways.

I placed 28th over all. I went through the results posting, and found out that I got 2nd in my age group!! (45-49). This is also where I found that there was actually a guy named Thor in the race!! So maybe the people yelling 'go Thor' weren't actually yelling for me, but considering that he ran the first leg at a 5:57 pace, he was a more than a minute ahead of me at the halfway point in the run where I heard the yells....maybe, maybe not....

Problem #3:

So I waited around for the awards ceremony, but...hold on, they announced the winners in the 40 to 45 group and 46-50 group......Uh, hold on kids...You advertised 45-49. In fact, they even announced winners in the 30-34 and 35-39 age groups. I complained. You can't give awards in age groups that are different than what you advertised. Not only that, but why did they change the gradient and include _6_ years in the 40 to 45 group, while all the others are consistent in 5
year groups? I was told "it's too late to change it now". I felt even worse for the guy that actually _won_ the 45 to 49, this little mistake pushed him to 5th.

Here's where it got even more stupid: The results were posted on cool running a few days later.


Note the second column....'place in division, 2nd'. But, on the 'age group winners page:


1 2 Jim St Pierre 36 DRACUT MA 1:14:20
2 3 Kyle Welch 39 CHELMSFORD MA 1:14:46
3 4 Jeff Cadobianco 35 WALTHAM MA 1:15:13


1 5 Fabio Piergentili 44 ANDOVER MA 1:17:02
2 6 Ray Johnson 43 WOBURN MA 1:17:32
3 12 Kyle Bowers 41 BOXBORO MA 1:20:30


1 39 Scott Graham 48 WESTFORD MA 1:30:58
2 51 Dave Tyler 48 LOWELL MA 1:34:10
3 84 Myles Collins 46 WESTWOOD MA 1:48:39

I emailed the promoter about this, and was told it was the fault of the timing service company. Um, no, it's clear they had the right breakdowns, some one changed it somewhere else, after the timer handed in the results.

I _could_ take it personally, Maybe they don't actually _want_ costumed competitors, maybe the guy who got 3rd in my age group is a friend of the promoter, and would have been too embarrassed to have it publicized that he got beat by a guy in viking costume. Whatever the case may be, I'm not taking it personally, Harboring that sort of emotion can be destructive. I had a good time and my efforts were appreciated by a lot of people. I'll give everyone the benefit of the doubt and acquiesce to a 'mistake'.

That said, I'm not going to run it this year. Not because of the three issues I listed ( though I wouldn't blame someone if they were to make that decision), but because I tore my Achilles tendon in february, and don't have the base miles built up to run 6 miles at tempo without
damage yet. It is good incentive, however. Had I not been injured, I would have done the race again. This time, with a full season of running events, being coached by Fernando Braz this past winter (andover track workouts), and incentive, I would have gone for it, training and
resting properly before the event. Oh well, there's always next year.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


I know, 'bad blogger', going for more than two weeks with no post...shame on me.

I've been distracted, I really don't care to go into it, but hey, "i am what i am and that's all that i am".

More relevant to the purpose of this blog, I just bought a slightly used Scott CR1 frame and fork. I plan on building it up with the campy chorus and associated parts from my tsunami, and maybe slowly replace parts with newer, lighter components over time.

The bike is sharp looking, and very light....stupid light.

I've also been tracking my power vs HR on my commutes. Now, the absolute power may be incorrect, but it's repeatable, so I can use it as a number relative to my personal performance. Besides that, I _did_ to a calculated measurement using an on-line calculator, and it came up about 1.3% difference. Anyways, I've been averaging about 225 watts and 160 BPM during my ten mile commutes since I installed the power meter. It will be interesting to see what sort of difference I get after I come out o the basement and start commuting next year (assuming I or anyone else has a job or course).

On a side note, I've been running more lately. Maybe start training for racing soon. There are a few local off road 5 ks, I can try, just to see how things go. Next year I should be stylin'.

That's all for now. I know, very lame blog entry. give me a few days to get back into it....rid myself of these distractions.