17 March 2009

Toutes Les Choses que font on heureux.

Well, my spring break commenced this week, and I've been genuinely enjoying how it's gone so far.

I really went into the holiday with absolutely zero plans, and it's all played out very well in seemingly serendipitous ways. I decided on a whim Saturday evening to return to Dallas, see my parents, and celebrate my upcoming birthday with some old friends; chiefly my best friend from high school who I rarely see, and my good friend Jon. I had a wonderful time there, and my friends and family really helped make me feel special. I had reservations about making the time and spending the money to travel, but I'm glad I did now. Outside of that, I've fared on the side of audacity recently in some other facets of my life, and I see the rewards coming already.

(Note: This was written over spring break and never finished. Life became very busy soon after that. I have decided to publish it as written with the original datestamp. Normal posting will resume soon. I will continue with a short summary of spring break written congruently with the rest of the post.)

Spring break has been quite busy. It's during SXSW (South by South West) for me this year, and my good friend Eddie came into town and has been staying with me. I also found time to work on my bike and get it rebuilt with it's new Groupset (the wonderful SRAM Rival). My man Drew at Austinbikes also sold me some delightful high-end Mavic wheels that he was letting go for a good price so that he could upgrade to some Fulcrums that run tubeless tires. The finished bike is now depicted in the header.

After that, I stumbled upon a used but virtually like new Digital SLR that was perfect for me. I snapped it up, which will bite me in the ass later as that was all of my savings pretty much, but it's worth it, as I got lots of SXSW pictures. Eddie is hobbyist photographer as well, with a penchant for Concert photography shot with high-speed film (he really likes how grainy and vivid the colors become). I got to seriously play with my new camera, and it's readily apparent by the quality of my work over SXSW that the learning curve was present, but ascended fairly fast.

All in all, Spring Break was wonderful, and I got to do a wide variety of things and spend time with wonderful people. What more could you ask for?

14 March 2009

Le Projet du Vélo Jaune

After something catastrophic happened to my commuter bike two weeks ago, I've been looking for a solution to its replacement or repair. It's a bike so old and worn that it's barely worth fixing, and I couldn't justify retail price for any replacement components; chiefly the rear derailleur and the rear wheel, which had the rim bent so badly that it can't be trued.

When the most economical replacement to be had was found to be about a $125 used bike, I decided to investigate Yellow Bike, as I mentioned earlier in the week. This ended up being a wonderful experience, as the people there are truly helpful and honestly willing to assist a person with a bicycle in need in whatever way they can. With their assistance, I managed to replace my wheel with a used wheel (after overhauling the hub) and, with a new chain, get the bike running single speed with a few hours of work over the past few days. The derailleur will require a bit more work, as it was all an integrated piece with the old derailleur hanger (which fit into the sliding dropouts of the frame), and I've had to acquire a new hanger. I will return on Monday to attempt to repair the shifting system with another derailleur.

Anyway, I know this entire entry reads like a plug for Yellow Bike (and they have definitely earned that sidebar link), but they are a seriously great group of people who just want to help everyone with bikes. Even though I'm almost done there with my bike, I think I'll be back several times to volunteer and refine my mechanic skills. I highly recommend stopping by if you want to learn a lot about bikes, or keep your beater bike running. They are currently working on a new location, so let's hope that their transition goes off without a hitch so that this valuable resource for cycling in Austin grows and becomes available to even more people.

11 March 2009

Il Fait si beau.

Yesterday was interesting, and I'm really enjoying this extra hour or so of light, so I ended up taking an evening jaunt about Shoal Creek for two hours. Little League season has begun, and so it was lively at the baseball field with families and their children enjoying the weather and the season. Most of the people at the field were nice, and the people in the concession stand will fill up your water bottles for you, which is super nice. I also passed by a duplex I've begun looking into renting in the Shoal Creek neighborhood, so if you read this and are interested in splitting a 3bed/1bath duplex, drop me a line.

I'm going to start including the data from my cyclocomputer during training rides in the journal entries specific to rides, and maybe even for races. Here's the data for Yesterday:

March 10th, 2009:
Trip Time: 2 hours, 7 Minutes
Trip Dist: 31.1 Miles
SpeedMax: 30.5 MPH
SpeedAvg: 14.5 MPH
CadMax: 174RPM (must be wrong)
CadAvg: 64RPM (I need to stop coasting)

This reminds me, I actually acquired a Polar computer a while ago, but I've been putting off installing it until I finish a bunch of other work on my bike, including a rebuild and a refit. The heart rate information should prove to be a valuable training tool.

This afternoon, I need to go by Yellow Bike and see if they can help me with my commuter bike, which got seriously damaged the other week, and needs at a minimum a replacement rim, chain, and rear derailleur. On top of yellow bike, some people at UT are trying to launch "Orange Bike", and there are some other community bike shops in the area, but I don't know much about them. I'm actually quite fond of community bike projects, and I really love these organizations, because they go back to the simple beauty of the bicycle: a machine that allows a person to go exponentially further than they could on their own, with very little materials cost (relative), and a lot of ingenuity. The reason I actually got into cycling was a concern for community development and city planning; what with the way that cities in Texas are built around cars and driving, and are incredibly difficult to traverse in other ways. Riding in heavy traffic with apathetic or animous drivers still frightens me considerably (though I am much better than I was), but a bunch of more seasoned cyclists I know (such as Miguel and the T4K People), can easily hold their own and commute almost anywhere in Austin par vélo.

While I've thought that yellow bike was a cool idea for a long time, I've never really participated in it, even though I've been living in Austin again for over half a year now. I'm not sure why. It probably doesn't help that most of the bikes assembled for "community use" without any compensation at all by the volunteers usually end up stolen, and that makes me quite sad. For the time, the project is in a transitional period as they try to relocate, and only one of their shops is actually operational, leaving them sort of hard to find.

My living situation is rapidly deteriorating, and it's creating a considerable amount of stress in my life. I'm trying not to let it affect my schoolwork and training, but it's hard to balance it all, and I'm expending a lot of my time and energy that could be spent studying or riding on trying to sort this out.

Wish me luck.

10 March 2009

La Journée après hier.

C'etait dur. Je n'ai pas l'envie de parler sur ça.

Since I didn't get to ride today, I'm going to try to relearn how to ride on rollers. Hopefully, being able to do that will help me fine-tune my form in a way I can't in the real world.

On the upside, the premier Driveway Crit is this week, and continues almost every week through the season, so I should be able to get a lot of experience at relatively little cost ($10 entry fee for students, and I don't have to drive there, hooray).

Bonne chance à tous dans la vie.

08 March 2009

Après La Duxième Course, et ma santé.

I unquestionably did very poorly at the A&M Criterium, having been pulled 9 minutes into a 30 minute race. It was a bit discouraging, to say the least. As a rather analytical person, I have trouble with judging myself in a kind light after a failure that must be attributed to me in one way or another.

Well, what went wrong? Daylight Savings, waking at 5AM, and my natural propensity for insomnia got me a full two hours of bed sleep, so that could have definitely been better. Also, when we got there, I had trouble registering, since the guy doing that didn't show up until about 20 minutes before the race; and I accordingly spent a lot of the time leading up to it running around instead of getting ready or mentally prepared, and then ended up on the starting line while hearing nature's call. None of those situations are ideal.

I suppose a lot of skill in dealing with this will come with more race experience. Either I will become better at preparing for races, or I will become better at mentally dealing with that sort of physical and mental stress caused by those sorts of pre-race conditions. (Hopefully, both of those skills will develop).

Outside of that, my leg (the injured one, which has atrophied a bit and has a calf full of scar tissue) is bothering me. I dunno why, it comes and goes. I hate wondering if I'll be in pain like that forever. Additionally, today I felt more strongly the emotional problems in our team structure, which isn't always super supportive. Sometimes I feel like I could just hang up my jersey indefinitely and some people wouldn't miss me. I know that's not entirely true, but a more psychologically developed team would have devices in place to prevent those feelings from occuring. I wish I had the resources to change our team for the better in that respect, but the saying "it takes a village" has validity. One person can't make a team. Regardless, I definitely appreciate the support from people like Sean, Michael, Jacob, and Miguel. (Update: also guys like Clay and Kenneth. I feel compelled to complete a name list when I start one.)

On the Upside, I really enjoyed meeting people from all the other teams. I met some nice guys from MSU, and I really enjoyed meeting the Texas State team; which is full of friendly, laid-back people. I'll enjoy seeing them again, and as always the A&M guys were great. Also, I met one of the photographers shooting the race, and I look forward to seeing his work from today. (Update: I found some pictures of me.)

I should chill out on judging myself so harshly, but it is discouraging to see teammates who have been racing and training as long as I have meet with seemingly immediate success. Then again, most of them haven't been injured, don't have maladaptive physiologies, or have come from more athletic backgrounds. All I can really do is note the things that prevent my success and attempt to overcome them. Hopefully experience and time will make me fast.

Sois Courageux !

Well, the A&M Collegiate Criterium is tomorrow (well, Today).

The team finally got the situation with the NCCA registration straightened out, so we were able to register licenses on Friday. In lieu of finding an extracollegiate team, I've signed my club as Austinbikes/Revenant, their shop club. That's a great group of people on that roster, and I only hope I can do their spirit justice in the community and on the road. For the future, I'm checking out AT&T (also sponsored by Austinbikes), and I need to ask my teammate Brenna about her team, San Jose. I always run into the AT&T people on rides, and they seem like a really down to earth bunch.

This week went a bit smoother for training. I didn't have class on Thursday, so I really pushed it, and got in an aggregate 3-4 hours of riding, including a morning hill climb in Far West. Try that instead of coffee one morning, it's a real eye-opener. After that, I went to Physical Therapy and got some good advice from my PT, Steve, who's also a competitive cyclist. We went over my posture (I have some pretty pronounced scoliosis / skeletal posture problems), and I got a thorough explanation on how my posture needed to change so that I could ride better, and how I could work towards that. I got to try that out this evening on my pre-race spin through Shoal Creek, and I can really feel the difference.

Also, the UT Kit came in (Made by Hincapie); and it's really a clean looking, classy and functional. You just feel more competitive when you put it on, it's really nice. The way the bib shorts are cut is really supportive of your body's musculature.

Anyway, I just finished my compulsive cleaning of my bike and the changing of my tires, meaning it is now bedtime. Wish me luck!

07 March 2009

l'Internet, C'est un chose Terrible.

After a defective cyclocross frame debacle (More on that later, don't shop at Performance), I have a bunch of left-over bike parts, some of which are cyclocross specific.

I decided to sell the remaining cyclocross parts on craigslist, starting with the tires.

As usually happens when selling on Craigslist, after a while I began to get e-mails. One of them seemed innocuous at first, but soon went weird places:

"Hey man,

are your sweet tires still for sale?


I replied that they were, and then the weird began:

"I dont really know much bout bike tires but i need some. My boyfriend wrecked my car so i need some new tires for my bike so i can ride it down to work. so what are some good tires?

It is weird to try and find something like specific bike tires on Craigslist if you don't know what you are buying. I replied that I hadn't seen his bike, and since they were a strange sort of tire, they probably wouldn't fit his bike; however if he could read the old tire size, I would tell him if they would fit. His next response became officially strange:

"Yeah it says 700 something. How does $30 dollars sound, and a little man to man action?


At this point, I just quit replying, but I continued to receive e-mail:

"yo dude so do we have a deal? I need some tires and im kind of gettin restless now since me and my boyfriend are temporarly [sic] apart since he crashed my car. Let me know tough guy............"
This was really creeping me out at first, but Scott said he thought it was probably a prank, seeing as I'd posted the ad on facebook. This makes a lot of sense, after the fact, seeing as there are no pictures of me in the ad. The last e-mail, which was just one word and some question marks, leads me to the same conclusion.

I still don't know who did it, though...

It's just not easy being a tough guy, I guess.

La Journée de la course et après la.

Wow, it's been quite a while, and my apologies for the delays in writing. Life has been hectic for the last couple of weeks, marred by issues with school (had to drop that photo class over camera issues), my family, and my living situation.

Before I get started, though, I want to just acknowledge some of the people who really helped me out over the last couple of weeks; chiefly my good friends who were there when I needed to talk or get out of the house, and the people at school (surtout le département français) who were flexible with the problems I was having. It really made a big difference to just have that bit of support.

Anyway, onto a Walburg post-race report. The wind was even worse than predicted, with gusts hitting a ludicrous 35-40 MPH! Some of our riders didn't even race in it because of the rough weather. At the end, only Josh and I ended up riding in the group. I felt I was as prepared as I could be, considering the hardships of the preceding week and my inexperience, but that didn't equate to immediate success.

The race began with a "neutral roll-out", which means that from the parking lot and meeting area, the race begins slowly and noncompetitively, with all of the riders moving to the beginning of the race area in formation before the agressive riding begins at a designated point (in this case, coming out of a turn). In this instance, however, I was being treated agressively in the pack during the roll-out, with people riding closer to me than they would during the race, and passing me over the center-line (which was against the rules in this race and in several other races, for safety reasons involving open road races). I am not sure if this struck me as unusual due to my inexperience, or because the other people did not have very good peloton etiquette. It's always hard to tell in a Category 5 race.

Anyway, I was unsure what to do in response to that, and had accordingly been sifted from mid-pack to being closer in the back by the end of that rollout. Being in the back of the pack is rough, especially with other inexperienced riders. The guy in front of me was keen on slamming his brakes, so I didn't want to stay and closer than a foot from his wheel. This presents a paradox, though:

In a race such as Walburg, with horrible crosswind, it is essential to the rider to find the advantage of a group's aerodynamics to remain at speed. The peloton can go much faster than a single rider, because they can distribute and break up the wind more easily, with only people on the outside of the group having to deal with it directly. If you do not want to deal with the wind, just get out of it and stay inside the group. I was doing this for a few miles, but the hazards of staying too close to those in front of me fond of quick deceleration began to cost me that aerodynamic edge. The cutting wind began to erode the peloton's integrity, slowly but surely. Every time a crosswind blasted us, the guys at the end would shudder and try to hang on. Right as the tail end containing myself began to string out a bit after a quick accelleration by the main group, a crosswind came again and literally blew me two feet to the right. In that moment I knew the group was lost, and I jumped up out of the saddle to try and catch them, but the lack of shelter from the wind was costing me more in effort to catch the group than they were spending to leave me there.

Anyway, from a competitive standpoint, the race didn't go terribly well. I later found out I was my category's Lantern Rouge, finishing near half an hour behind my teammate who started at the front of the race. I wonder how much staying at the front could have helped me in the race, but the important part is that I learned from it and will try my best not to let that happen again in the future.

Outside of that, I had a lot of fun, and I got to eat a "World Famous" Walburg Meatball Sandwich (along with like two loaves of free sourdough table bread and three sugar packets) soon after the race. I'm not sure what about the sandwich qualified it for world fame, but it did in fact taste like a meatball sandwich, and was in that respect very satisfying. However, a little chip got knocked out of my bike's paint on Josh's bike rack. It's a bummer, but whatever, battle scars are cool.

In the future, I'll strive to make my race reports more detailed, and include information from my Cyclocomputer, etc.

We'll have one soon enough since the A&M Criterium is tomorrow!

04 March 2009

Mes Supporters sont assez impatient des nouvelles.

My Tifosi grow restless. Please be patient, my friends! Tales of Adventure and Speed are coming!