Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Random Local Bike-Racing Gossip

Before these little tidbits drift out of my feeble brain...

SB may soon be getting another top racer for some winter-time training. Bobby Lea, an up-and-coming domestic rider with Toyota-United, will be riding here during January and February. No doubt he's heard of our famous, highly-prestigious group rides and needs to fill out his resume with a victory in the Polo Fields sprint. Of course, he has no chance to win Bates Rd. as that is the domain of the climbers who would never allow themselves to be beaten by a trackie.

Speaking of trackies, former world-record holder Rory O'Reilly is starting to put in big miles again. I think he's trying to keep up with his kid--no easy task. Despite being over 50 years old, I'm quite sure Rory could still be competitive in P/1/2 SoCal crits if he puts his mind to it.

From the rising to the falling... Local team Fastrack/BDC is folding. They've been a good presence in the local riding scene for the last few years, but never seemed to go to races much beyond our immediate area. Maybe they're still shell-shocked from Black Sunday at Mothballs this year, where their top sprinter ChickenRanch got spanked by Blingerman. Or maybe it's just that leader Dave Lettieri is tired of the road scene after nearly 30 years of involvement and wants to put his energy into MTB racing. Who knows... I'm just banging on the keyboard to procrastinate returning to my work.

Finally, it's my sad duty to report that after ten years of Fighting the Man in SoCal and poking fun at $12k Dreamers everywhere, Roger Worthington (aka Max Kash Agro) is ending his Labor Power team and scaling back his own racing. Although I personally won't miss the team and its stable of high-paid mercenaries, I will miss Roger's and Dave's presence in the races. A grittier pair of Masters you'll never find. Actually, it may be too soon to write Hawk's obit... word is that he'll be starting his own little team. I think he should call it "The Management".

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Training - Week 8

A very good week.

Number of rides: 6
Riding time: 18 hrs
Time in mid/high aerobic zone: 5 hrs
Best ride of the week: It's a tie: (1) Sat. roco was great; felt solid for all 4 hrs; rode the two climbs hard with Ben Haldeman; finished strong on C.O., and (2) Sunday: roco-OSM-Painted Cave-Stagecoach-Painted Cave-home; with the boyz; stood the whole way up stagecoach due to silly $5 bet with Geoff.
Other: nothing but riding this week.

  1. I've adopted a new Thanksgiving ride tradition--do a long'ish ride getting to the edge of bonking, ride through a really nice area (Hope Ranch or Montecito will do) taking in all the incredible aromas wafting out from the kitchens, and do not eat the food you brought along. Instead, just relish the hunger ...and remember, that sensation is a daily reality for many of the less fortunate among us.
  2. After many years following the conventional wisdom of going easy and long for much of the offseason, I've decided that doesn't work for me anymore. If I feel good, I will ride at a threshold pace. Here's why... I don't believe in burn-out, at least physically, at the kind of mileage most of us ride. As long as we eat right and get enough sleep, trained cyclists should be able to handle 20-25 hrs a week with a decent amount of intensity. And personally, mental fatigue won't be a problem either because I can sustain my motivation knowing this may be my last year racing hard. Plus, in California, most of the good races are early. My favorites are in March, April, and May. Besides, you never know when the rain will hit--it will hit eventually--and you'd hate for that to be precisely when your intensity is supposed to start, after having softpedaled the previous couple of months.
  3. This blog is getting too serious and boring... I need to do something to get on Ron Takeda's "list"...

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Just about the time of the latest E. coli scare, I decided to plant a winter garden. I took a picture of the greens patch every morning at breakfast time. This video shows you 45 days of growth in time-lapsed style. Now this garden is supplying us with daily delicious organic greens every day.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Gobble Song

Santa Barbarians celebrate Thanksgiving. (See Rob Lettieri ride his scooter through.)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Training - Week 7

A decent week with amazing weather for Novemeber (mid 70s and clear).

Number of rides: 4
Riding time: 12 hrs
Time in mid/high aerobic zone: 3 hrs
Best ride of the week: Sunday; 5+ hrs; down to SB, then wit da boys North to Refugio and up to the peak and back.
Worst ride of the week: Thursday before lunchtime ride; had weird erratic heart-rate issues.
Other: 30 minutes running.

Friday, November 17, 2006

OMG, OSM Repaved!

Perfectly smooth asphalt from bottom to top of Old San Marcos. I've been waiting nearly 20 years for this. It was so moving and beautiful that I had to take pictures...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

100% Accurate Weather Predictor

If you awake on the South Coast of Santa Barbara County and you see clouds hugging the mountain ridges like in today's picture at right, then the wind will kick up later in the day. Even if it's perfectly calm in the morning, it will get blustery. 100% guaranteed.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Medical Insurance Fraud, or Why the House Isn't Clean

Feeling all motivated and on-top-of-the-world after my coffee this morning, I decided to do some serious house cleaning to surprise Gina when she returns from DC on Wednesday. I've learned a simple truth after all these years: house clean, good-mood Gina; house not clean, time to get out of dodge...

No shortage of places to start--piles of junk everywhere. Now I know that 95% likely I could toss stuff in the trash, never miss it again, and feel a liberating rush of progress. Unfortunately I always get stuck on the 5% chance that it'll come back to screw me.

Take this stupid thing for example, which is the first item I encountered in my house-cleaning frenzy. What you see in the picture is basically a little ice chest and a cheapo electric pump and some rubber tubing. After waking from my clavicle-repair job in June, this contraption was strapped onto my shoulder keeping it cool. Nobody at the hospital ever said anything about it, and I didn't ask. When you first come up from anasthesia, you aren't at your mental best.

Anyway, I quickly discovered the thing doesn't really work, the motor is noisy, and it's a pain to be tethered to an electrical outlet. I never used it after the first day.

Three days later I get a call from some place I'd never heard of and they're asking how I'm feeling and if the Iceman is working. The what?!? Well it turns out the call is from the little company that makes the ice chest, so I tell them I don't use it and they can have it back. They tell me to just leave it on the porch and they'll pick it up later that afternoon. So I put it out there. Two days go by and nobody ever came to get it, so I brought it back in and promptly forgot about it.

That is, until the insurance company let us know that they were being billed $1,000 by the little Iceman company, and that they weren't going to pay a penny of it. Good, they shouldn't pay. It's fraud. That thing couldn't cost more than $50 or $60 to make. I used it one day. They apparently don't even want it back. At the time I got all worked up anticipating a battle if they tried to bill us directly. I would refuse to pay and threaten to expose such obvious fraud by showing the world the $1,000 ice chest. They would quietly back down but continue trying to rip off other, more-gullible insurance companies. That was three or four months ago. We haven't been contacted yet by the Icemen.

But you see my dilemma, don't you? As soon as I get rid of the stupid thing, I will certainly get a bill for $1,000 dollars and I'll have no way to fight it and expose the fraud. If I keep it, I'll probably never hear from them.

So I just got on with my day, without any house cleaning.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Training - Week 6

A good week with a couple 4-hour rides. Still feeling the effects of donating blood though.

Number of rides: 5
Riding time: 12 hrs
Time in mid/high aerobic zone: 2 hrs
Best ride of the week: Wednesday; up OSM and Painted Cave, then up OSM again; may be the last ride on the bumpy OSM as it is being repaved top-to-bottom!
Other: 1 hr running

Saturday, November 11, 2006

More Bike-Racing Demographics

Category and age groups for men and women racers in Northern California/Nevada and Southern California/Nevada. Data is from the NCNCA and SCNCA websites.

There are about 1,000 more licensed racers in NorCal than SoCal, and most of that difference is in the category 3, 4, and 5 ranks. Does that imply NorCal does a better job of attracting new riders and providing grass-roots services? I think so. For example, every weekend in January Velo Promo promotes crits and road races with mentoring sessions for new racers, and the attendance is really good. We don't have anything like that down here. We do however claim the one-and-only woman cat 5 racer in California and that person happens to be SB's very own Carissa Horowitz!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Bike Racing Versus Running Racing, Part 1

When a bike racer goes to a running race for the first time, his likely reaction is "Damn, look at all these young people, ...and are all those women really going to race, or are they just here to cheer for their husbands/boyfriends?!?"

The answer for all you spandex-clad middle-aged white-and-nerdy male chauvinists is:

Yes, they are racing. And there are probably more women than men.

What a contrast to bike racing! Here's a little data for you. I took the results of last weekend's SB Half Marathon (just runners, not walkers) and broke it down. This plot shows the age-group and sex percentages of the ~1,500 finishers. More women than men, and the 20-29 group is the most populous.

Now let's do the same thing for bike racing using the USCF membership data for the SoCal region. There are nearly 3,000 licensed riders and here is the percentage breakdown by age group and sex...

Pretty sad, eh!?! BY FAR, more men than women, and most of them are in the 40-49 group. Why are the demographics so different???

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Weekend for Ladies Sports

Saturday: Santa Barbara Half Marathon--by far the biggest running race in SB. 2,000 pre-entries including the fastest men and women in town. This race is a major fundraiser for the SBAA which in turn donates thousands of dollars to local high school running programs. Good stuff.

Gina ran the half despite still having tired legs from Long Beach three weeks prior. She finished in the top-15 out of around a thousand women.

The Men's race was won by Aaron Sharp in convincing fashion, as he ripped a low 5-minute first mile and never looked back. That's him on the left at about the 1/2 mile mark on Shoreline... note the big mob of runners down the hill in the back ground.

Todd Booth ran a strong second. Todd is amazing on a mountain bike and also a very strong runner. I've always wondered why he isn't better on a road bike...

Saturday and Sunday: Storke Field at UCSB. AYSO U-14 Girls mini tournament and league playoffs. Alicia's team had a tough three-game weekend against strong teams with bigger and faster girls than our Stingrays. Nonetheless, our girls prevailed in each game thanks to their determination and skill. They converted a couple of beautiful corner kicks, with big-time flying headers into the goal. This team has great chemistry and it will be exciting to see how far they can go from here, representing Santa Barbara at higher levels.

I desperately wanted to bring a camera to catch some shots of the team, but Alicia was having none of that. It seems that Dad taking pictures is an extreme embarrassment for a teenage soccer player, so I acquiesced and left it at home. But I did have the camera phone and snapped the crappy picture at the right just after the trophy presentations.

Training - Week 5

One step forward, two steps back. No excuses--just didn't get out when I had the chances. Too bad as the weather is incredible for November (mid 70's and no wind)

Number of rides: 2
Riding time: 3 hrs
Time in mid/high aerobic zone: 30 minutes
Best ride of the week: Saturday morning through Hope Ranch--crisp clean air, no traffic.
Other: 30 minutes running, 40 hrs sitting on my butt
Notes: 18:00 up OSM Thursday after donating blood.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Blood Doping in Reverse!

Today's ride proved to be a painful yet enlightening experience. You see, I donated a pint of blood three days ago, which at my weight amounts to a bit over 10% of my blood. Now the human body quickly recovers the total volume of blood (within 24-48 hours) but it takes much longer to regenerate the lost red blood cells to the pre-donation levels. Depending on the individual, it takes anywhere from 3 weeks to a couple of months. So, three days after donating, my volume is back to normal but the red-blood-cell amount is probably still down 10% or so.

How would this affect a maximal aerobic effort?

Every Thursday a group of us ride up Old San Marcos Rd. at lunchtime and frequently it's an all-out effort. This road ascends 370 meters at an average slope of about 8%. Last week I rode a time of 15:59 and according to Analytic Cycling that required an average power output of approximately 300 Watts, or about 5 W/kg in my case.

Today, with basically the same conditions and an equivalent all-out effort, my time was 18:00. That translates to approximate 260 Watts, or about a 13% drop in power!! It was a very strange sensation, like riding with extra weight or some mysterious force working against me.

I did a bit of research and discovered that precious few studies have been done on the impact of blood donation on aerobic effort. One that gets cited often is:
  • Panebianco RA, Stachenfeld N, Coplan NL, et al: Effects of blood donation on exercise performance in competitive cyclists. American Heart Journal, 1995

Apparently this study's findings are consistent with my observations today.

Now what I find particularly intriguing--and troubling--is imagining the impact working in the other direction. If a rider boosts his red-blood-cell amount by 10% does he get an equivalent increase in power output? Probably not, but even at 5% it would still have a dramatic impact on race results. In hilly category 1/2 or Masters road races, that improvement would take a 10th-to-20th-place finisher and make into him a winner. I don't see why that amount of improvement wouldn't apply at higher levels too. The temptation to cheat at the Pro level must be overwhelming.