The History in Front of Us

•November 9, 2008 • 1 Comment

I think this article does a great job of explaining why this was an historic election and, regardless of your politics, provides evidence of our society getting better and more equal. Many people grew to realize that they could vote for a man because his ideas resonated with them, rather than simply dismissing him as a black man and voting for the white guy. That’s amazing and inspiring.

(just the first 3 paragraphs and one later in the article here, see the link for the full article):

Early on Election Day morning in the Philadelphia suburb of Levittown, Pa., Joe Sinitski, 48, stood in a long line inside a school gymnasium, inching his way toward three blue-curtained voting machines. He wore jeans, a sweatshirt and a National Rifle Association baseball cap. He said he would vote for Barack Obama, a choice that some months earlier he could not have imagined.

“I have to admit, his race made my decision harder,” he said. “I was brought up that way. And I don’t like his name. I’ll admit to that, too.”

Mr. Sinitski, a heating and air-conditioning technician, repeated a joke he had heard back in the spring about the choice in the Democratic primary between a black man and a woman (Hillary Rodham Clinton), and he used a crude term for each. But when I asked him how he might feel to wake up the next morning to the reality of a black president-elect, he said: “I do think it’s an historic election. Part of me feels like it would be really cool.”….

“For a long time, I couldn’t ignore the fact that he was black, if you know what I mean,” Mr. Sinitski, the heating and air-conditioning technician, told me. “I’m not proud of that, but I was raised to think that there aren’t good black people out there. I could see that he was highly intelligent, and that matters to me, but my instinct was still to go with the white guy.”….

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The weekend

•September 1, 2008 • 1 Comment

We didn’t have any plans for the weekend – just sticking around the house and enjoying the last vestiges of summer. But did have a couple of cool events…First, we bought G a new road bike on Saturday! I’m very excited about that (and she is too!). It will be good to help her out with her knee recovery & strengthening, which is going well, and she is also planning to start bike-commuting to work when she gets a little stronger. It’s a great starter bike for her, will fit fenders, and is all ready to go.

We got out on a short ride today, but it was in the hills near our house, so constantly descending or climbing, and it went great. G handled it well and her muscles are more sore than her knee, so that’s a great sign. We’re planning on a bunch more rides…

Secondly, I volunteered to help out with the Portland Triathlon. I’ve got a friend who raced it and she roped me into helping out with the bike course. I had to be down there at 6:45am, an ungodly hour on a Sunday morning as far as I’m concerned, but soon had some caffeine in my veins and rode my bike down there – luckily downhill. It was a cool event and everyone was lucky the rains held off until about noon, so they didn’t affect the event at all. Most drivers are pretty friendly and happy their in a city that will close some roads and support an event like this, and lucky for me, the ones that didn’t like just kept their window rolled up and stomped on the gas pedal to drive off.

Overall a nice, relaxing weekend around home.

Another Monday, Another Crit

•August 12, 2008 • 1 Comment

I rode the Monday PIR series again this week, only this time went with the Cat 4/5 men instead of the novice group. Biggest difference is the length – 16 laps instead of 7 – so it’s about 30 miles instead of 14. It’s also a much bigger group (35 riders vs 10) and the pace is faster (we averaged 24.5 mph last night, finished the race in ~1:20). My primary goal for the evening was to just stay with the main group and get a feeling for the race and getting position. The overall pace of the race was much less difficult than the Sunset Crit on Saturday – more surges, less consistently high pace.

I really focused on staying on a wheel the entire race (sometimes I get a little lazy about that and end up working too hard) and as the race progressed, was able to start choosing who’s wheel I wanted to be on to get the most advantage (good handling skills, big body to block the wind, moving up through the pack). That was fun. It is a constant battle though if you aren’t in the front 10 or so – everyone is trying to move up around you, so if you’re in the middle of the pack & not moving up, you’re falling back because people are going around you.

There was a break of 3 riders, and I’m not sure, but think it ended up sticking. The pack couldn’t get itself together to chase and they were organized, and after a couple of laps they were out of site off the front. Good effort by those guys – it was windy and tough to hold a high speed with a small group.

So, the big learnings this time around:

  1. Cornering at speed in a group 4-riders wide can be sketchy, especially for the 2 guys in the middle. Inside is easy – just follow a tight line. Outside isn’t bad, you can swerve out if you need to (but would be taken out in a crash). But the middle is tough and you’ve really got to focus on holding a good line tight and close to the inside guy to not take out the guys outside of you.
  2. Tight corners and big fields are brutal – a lot of slowing and sketchiness by everyone, then a big acceleration as the field tries to match the speed that the front folks carried through the corner. Much better to be in the front if possible and have more freedom to take the corner at speed and carry speed through the exit.
  3. The pace was high, but the sprint was doable at the end. I still had enough left in the tank to follow a wheel and get some good acceleration to the finish line. I need to work on my high-end sprint speed and acceleration, but I can at least hang with the 4/5 guys.
  4. Speaking of the sprint – the finish line was directly into the wind on a long straight away. While you still want to be near the front, being set up a few places farther back is ok with a headwind. Each lead-out is going to be pulling for a little less time before the next one, so 4 or 5 guys might cycle through instead of 2 or 3. Need to be careful here though, as being farther back brings some additional risk. I’ll have to keep watching how to set up the sprint and the effects the conditions have.

Overall, a good time, a longer race, and definitely got more comfortable riding in a large group as the race progressed. Next week I’ll focus a bit more on the finish or getting a Prime, we’ll see. But got the Swan Island Crit on Saturday! Races a go-go!

Sunset Crit

•August 11, 2008 • 1 Comment

Saturday afternoon was the Sunset Criterium out at Bethany Village, west of Portland. This is much more of a traditional criterium than the PIR event that I’ve been doing – it’s a 0.5 mile course with a small incline on the backside and some tight corners. Very fun to ride and you had to keep it together while in serious oxygen deprivation.

I rode slowly out to the event for a warm up (about 45 minutes from my house) and enjoyed the sunny day. The warm-up was about right. Got there, signed in, and the women were already going, so I rode circles in an empty inner parking lot to keep the legs moving. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any time to ride the course before our race started, so I really had no warning for the trickiest parts of the course. That would have definitely helped…

Anyway, back to the start line. It was a somewhat poorly attended event, and we only had 11 of us in the Cat 5 race – which is nice considering how tight the course was. The referee runs through the event, explains the primes and the mechanical lap rules, blows his whistle, and we’re off…I step on my pedal and quickly realize I’m in my small chainring and large cog – the easiest gear – and the field is quickly accelerating away. I kick myself because I actually thought about the gear to start in during my ride in, but just forgot to actually get in the right gear before the start…

Anyway, start dropping through the gears and am on the back of the pack. The guy at the front is really pushing the pace – moreso than I expected – and pack is strung out single file immediately just trying to hang on. A gap opens in front of the guy ahead of me and I can’t close it, and boom, just like that 3 of us are split off the back. We start working together and don’t lose too much ground, but aren’t making any up either and the main group gets a 1/4 of a lap or so on us. It doesn’t help that one of the guys in the group can’t corner worth crap so any time he’s on the front every corner is a huge slow-down, speed-up process making everyone work that much more. It was during this part, where we were just busting to try to catch the main group, when we were going up the back side that I threw up, just a little, in my mouth. At that point, I knew I was riding hard enough and had to back off just a tad to recover, then put the pressure back on the pedals.

We ended up dropping the bad-cornering guy, catching a guy that had dropped from the pack, and were 3 again for the last 5 laps of the race or so. We did get caught & passed by the race leader – but only that one guy – and really kept hammering through the entire 30 minute race. I ended up 8th.

So my analysis goes something like this: being in the wrong gear at the start hurt, then the pace accelerated enough I couldn’t catch up. If I started in the right gear (at least the big chainring!) I would have been up in the middle of the pack and would have had a chance to hold on and stick with the main group. Who knows after that…they were away for a long time, yet never got close to lapping us, so I think I could have hung with them if I had contact and at least been in the mix at the end. Oh well…

A few notes:

  • Pre-ride the course at or near race speed. There were a lot of corners and I was taking many of them without braking at all by the end of the race, but not at the beginning. Understanding that line earlier on would have helped a ton!
  • Be ready for the sprint off the starting line. I wasn’t expecting this – but in my race and in almost every race that followed us, there was a surge right near the beginning of the race to try to split the field. It’s going to happen, and you’ve got to be near the front to be a part of it.
  • In a short race like a crit, be ready for a very high sustained effort. I expected intense, but ‘recovery’ was getting a lap in the draft. Would have been a little better in the field, but I haven’t had a that much of a sustained effort for that long in a long, long time!

Well, that’s enough for now. Back to a little bit of work and off to the Monday night race at PIR!

Portland Twilight Criterium

•August 11, 2008 • Leave a Comment

The organizers have really done a good job of making this a popular event downtown. I’ve been the last two years and course is great, the racing exciting and the purse big enough to draw some really good racers. I’ll be back for sure. (Just watched this one…not quite fast enough for this event!)

Crit #2

•August 6, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I raced again this week with the Novice group. There were only 11 of us and it was quite windy, so the average speed was down and breakaways were extra hard to pull off. The most excitement came when I was pulling & heard 2 guys off the front of the next race coming up behind us and I accelerated to match, thinking they were in my race, and the pace picked up significantly until our mentor guy chased me down and let us know those guys weren’t in our race. It was a fun acceleration though!

The wind was tough – it was almost a direct headwind on the back stretch and tailwind on the front stretch. Speeds were slow on the back, but it was a lot of extra work to try to get away, and on the front speeds were high, but again, with a tailwind, hard to get away. The corners offered some interesting opportunities to get away if you played it right, but no matter where you jumped, you’d get hit by the wind eventually and would need to hold off the much bigger advantage of the pack in the wind.

At the end of the day, I didn’t have much left at the end (pulled a pretty fast lap, pulled a second time, and was pulling coming into the final spring) and was tired anyway because I had played an ultimate frisbee tournament over the weekend, and finished 10th out of 11. Learned a lot about the wind this week and that I really need to suppress my desire to up the speed of the pack in the middle of the race. I’m ok with doing my fair share, but its really hard to put the hurt on from the front.

Gonna race the Sunset Crit on saturday in the 4/5 category, and plan on racing cat 4/5 for the last three weeks of the Monday PIR Crit (I don’t think its much faster, just a bigger field and twice as long). Just going to sit in for these races, see how its played, and jump when it seems interesting and chase when it needs to happen. All about getting in shape, understanding my capabilities, and trying out some tactics at this point.

My First Crit in Portland

•August 1, 2008 • 1 Comment

Monday I headed up to PIR after work to get my first race in for the season (I have raced crits 2 or 3 times before, maybe 6 years ago back in Salt Lake at the DMV, but really not too much)…I’m a little behind there as the series has been going since June, but better late than never! I hit it right and without knowing it got into the first race of the August points series, so it should be interesting to see how I do. So far so good with a 6/17 finish in the Men’s Novice category. Not bad, but I definitely think I can do better. And in case your wondering, the OBRA guys put on a great race, the tarmac is very smooth, and overall it’s a very cool experience with a lot of riders out to see what they’ve got.

A few notes on the race:

  1. Pace is slow in this group. Very few of the racers are willing to get out in front and lead the pack. I was a bit too ambitious with this and cranked up the speed a couple of times, but then got stuck on the front and was a bit blown out by the final sprint.
  2. There are some guys that are willing to work…need to be more outgoing & talkative during the race to get a few folks to work together and up the pace. I see this as an advantage to me – I’m a decent sprinter, but not the most explosive, so whatever I can do to tire those explosive guys out – without doing too much damage to myself – before the finish is a good thing.
  3. Pavement is very good and smooth at PIR and the corners are not very tight. The track is wide, so if errors are made on the inside, it’s easy to drift out. This is good practice for taking these corners as tight as possible and really learning to maintain speed through the corners (and putting the hurt on the people that have to slow down more).
  4. Some of the riders in this group are not so good at holding their lines in the corners and as the inside rider, will drift out…need to watch out for this and stay near the front of the pack to stay out of danger!

And my goals for the series (last race is August 25th):

  1. Get used to the criterium format,  riding in an unorganized group, and bumping/contact during the sprint.
  2. Figure out some tactics and the right balance for me for pulling & upping the pace versus sitting in and waiting to be strong at the sprints.
  3. Try some break-aways and see what happens…From what I understand, this will be tough in the Novice category because all breakaways tend to get chased down rather quickly, so it’s really hard to put any distance on the pack.
  4. Get stronger by chasing down breaks, attacking when I feel good, and finishing with a strong sprint. The race is short (~30 min), so that let’s me be very aggressive with pushing the pace, yet being able to recover quickly and have something left for the sprints and chases.
  5. [Edit]: Sit in more, but stay near the front and out of the crashes/fracas. Someone went down hard this week a few riders behind me and got pretty scraped up and some equipment broken. Want to stay out of that!

Next race is Monday, can’t wait to get out there again!