Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Will She Ever Play Again??

Unlike many parents, Gina and I never pushed our kids to play team sports. Perhaps it's because neither of us played organized sports when we were young. It was different back then. Most kids just hung around the neighborhood, rode bikes, skated, played tag, swam... basically just happy-go-lucky goofing around.

Not so anymore! Many of today's kids are booked solid throughout the year: AYSO or YFL in the fall, rec basketball in the winter, Little League or softball in the spring.

Both our kids have or had friends on this program, and with peer pressure being a dominant force in their lives, eventually they both wanted to play too. So we signed them up.

So each kid came late to their respective sports (Alicia soccer; Brian baseball) and to some extent, each felt a bit behind in the beginning. Crazy, huh!?! Starting soccer at 9 and you're behind because all the other girls started at 6! But they stuck with it and soon enough their skills were right there with the other players. More importantly, they were having fun! Neither kid is driven by competition, but each really loved being part of a team. They made new friends from other neighborhoods and schools. They got exercise!!! And, significantly in my opinion, they were exposed to a new kind of authority figure... a coach. That was not always a positive experience--there has been occassional friction--but dealing with it will prove to be a key lesson growing up.

I'm writing all this in the past tense because, for Alicia, this chapter in life is now over.

Her AYSO U-14 soccer team had a very successful year. They won the SB region, and then won the Area 10W playoffs against the best teams from the coastal area from here down to Camarillo. Then this last weekend they played in the Sectional Tournament in Bakersfield. The sixteen best teams from Central California, divided into four pools. Alicia's team, The Stingrays, won their pool with a tie and two close wins. But the next day they lost in the semi-finals to a powerful team from Turlock, and also in the consolation match. That was a brutally tiring game that went to two overtimes and wasn't decided until the ninth penalty kick in a shoot-out. The girls were exhausted but still proud of their accomplishment--finishing 4th in Central California.

But Alicia had already decided this was to be the end for her. She perceived soccer this year as inconvenience and agitation. The practices were long and difficult, and usually interfered with her busy social calendar. The Stingrays' success was a mixed blessing--while many of her friends were done in November, her team continued on with playoffs. She missed parties to play soccer ...in Oxnard and Bakersfield! And the coach was pretty volatile and loud. Not abusive, but much more serious about winning than Alicia had experienced in her first four years.

So this all leaves Gina and me a bit somber and ambivalent. We'll miss the Saturdays at the soccer fields, gossiping with the other parents, and watching kids play. We won't miss the driving all over town to practices. But really we just hope that these five years of AYSO were a positive experience for Alicia, and one that she looks back upon fondly. I will be absolutely ecstatic if she calls up four years from now in college to tell us that she's playing intramural soccer!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Training - Week 21

Shortened week because of rain and travel.

Number of rides: 4
Riding time: 6 hrs
Time in mid/high aerobic zones: 3 hrs
Best ride of the week: Wed, 5 kft climbing then Hope Ranch intervals
Other: walked a few miles at soccer tournament
- C.O. tt course in 37:15

Friday, February 23, 2007


Gina and I hung out on the Ballard Canyon hill for the Tour of California TT today. The weather was crisp and windy, with beautiful views of a fresh snow dusting on Figueroa Mountain. Here's the view from the hill...
I've got a couple hundred pictures, but for now let's just see a few notables and the top gc contenders...




And another Levi...

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Pine Flat Pics

I stumbled across a huge gallery of nice pictures from Pine Flat. These are by Peter Lanik of CVC. I found a few of our SB boys and am posting them here, with brief annotation. Another version of the race story is in the previous post.


The Wohlberg-powered break (note how blurry the background is... a sign of how fast they are going!):

Once we returned to the hills, John Hunt and Kevin Klein took off in pursuit...

Meanwhile, five of us struggled about 30 seconds behind...

Wohlberg wins and Jesse Moore gets 2nd...

Hunt drops Klein and gets 3rd, while Klein and Andres sprint for 4th and 5th...

Finally, eight of us sprint for the last tee-shirt (6th place) and tenacious junior Grant Van Horn gets it after jumping from 1 km out. As per usual, I get the first non-prize place (in other words, the one nobody goes for).

The 3's finish.

The winner...

Followed closely by Eric, Corey, and Matt...

Note Matt's flat front tire!!

The chase group sprints in...

With Blinger and HeyRon right in there...

The 4's (or 35+ 4/5?).

Doyle getting a strong 2nd, making Simply Fit cry, and Pops back there at 4th...

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Pine Flat (!) RR Report

First of all Mr. Leibold, you must do something about the name of this race. Does this look "flat" to you???

This is Pine Flat reservoir in the foothills east of Fresno, which is the backdrop to the Pine Flat RR. All groups do the same course, riding ten miles up the canyon, then all the way back down into the San Joaquin valley, before returning rudely back up into the mountains for a hill-top finish. It's only 62 miles, but it always feels more like 80 or 90. At least it's not like the old days when it started and finished in Wonder Valley Resort and did a lap around the course (two for the pros!) Despite having done it six or seven times in the last 20 years, I still can't remember the intricacies of the finishing hills. When you're suffering, it sure is nice to know where the tops are! And by the way Mark Be-Lukie, if you think that hill is comparable to Casitas, you're nuts. I don't need no stinkin 23 for Casitas, but I sure used it today!

OK, a quick summary of this 27-hour trip, starting (where else) at the beginning...

We departed SB in a caravan of four vehicles carrying 13 guys (average age: ~44; average weight: too much). A quick dinner in a Paso Robles Mex hole-in-the-wall treated by Brad (thanks again man!) and before we knew it we were in Fresno. Judging by the aroma, they're feeding the cows a tad too much corn. Our hotel was some no-name, rent-by-the-hour, highway 99 dump that I'd never stay in with Gina, but seemed oddly appropriate for 13 middle-aged dork bike racers. What the hell... we were gonna be out by 5:30 AM anyway.

Caravaned to the race and arrived pleasantly early. It's so much nicer to be early and have almost no reg line, and more importantly, get to the potty before the masses when there is no waiting and TP aplenty. BTW, for those not so early, how do ya like the pressure of using a one-holer in front of a line of 15 people who all watched you go into the stall, and half of whom checked their watches when you entered and probably again when you flushed.

The races:

p/1/2 -- A small turnout unfortunately--someone said 17 guys--but one Eric Wohlberg's presence guaranteed it wouldn't be social. Actually, small fields often make for harder races, but not as motivating and/or satisfying. This one was weird and frustrating. Wohlberg attacked about ten times in the first five miles, always causing a flurry of activity, and then his eleventh attempt stuck with both Andres Gil (homeboy from Stockton who works with my highschool good bud Steve Merideth) and Jesse Moore of CalGiant Strawberries. That sucked because we had two more Strawberries in the group (inc. John Hunt, a well-known motor) who now got a free ride. For the next 4o miles we had them within a minute or so, but the chase was never consistent enough to close it down. It's amazing how little it takes to poison a chase. We had ten guys who all *should* have been putting in turns, at least token turns, but some never did, and others would start skipping pulls and sitting on. Once you're down to only three or four guys coming through, who can blame them for turning it down after a couple rotations. I confess to being one of those that stopped trying hard after the first hour or so. I don't know Kevin Klein, but I vaguely remember respecting him when he was in SoCal, but dang if he didn't sit on the entire time. He doesn't strike me as a guy who would race for 4th in a 17-man field. Maybe he's not feeling hot--I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. Anyway, once the race headed back into the hills after the valley, Wohlberg shed his barnacles and motored away for a solo win. Both of the other two guys said he did 90% of the work anyway! Our group started attacking each other and it got pretty uncomfortable for a bit. In a moment of group apathy, Hunt rolled off and then Klein came to life and jumped across and they started motoring. Five of us crested the big hill about 30 seconds behind them but again we had a Strawberry hanging on and a pretty uncoordinated rotation. Five of six places were up the road for good, and by now eight of us were together going for that last tee-shirt. Down in the valley, Leibold came charging past us in his van, screeched to the side of the road, and quickly put out the 1 KM sign. Thanks, I was wondering when that finishing hill would appear! Junior stud Grant Van Horn jumped right away and got a nice gap and was soon followed by a Strawberry and a Lombardy's dude. I slowly mowed them down but couldn't quite reach Grant before the line. I'm glad Grant got the last place because he worked his butt off in the rotation, and even chased back on after stopping to pee. He earned that 6th-place tee-shirt! Not sure about 2nd through 5th, but I think Strawberries got 2nd and 3rd, and Andres and KK got 4th and 5th. Your reporter was 7th.

The 3's -- SB was represented strongly here, with Chicken Ranch, Corey, Eric Forte, Blinger, Ron Takeda, and Steve Smith in a field of 40-50. In an uncharacteristic and bold move, Eric attacked early in the race and was away with one other guy for the next 50 miles. The two of them went over the steep hill together but another group was slowly catching, and in that group were Matt and Corey, and surprisingly they were doing the work. Not sure what was up here, unless Matt was feeling like superman and was worried Eric would get outsprinted. And just behind was a third group coming up strong with Blinger and Ron. From what I could tell, they all just about came together at the bottom of the finishing hill (1 KM to go) at which point Matt realized his front tire was low, so he said F-it and attacked. Three guys came past--in order, an Australian, Eric, and of course, Corey. So, SB nets 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. Blinger, Steve, and Ron were up there too, probably between 10th and 20th. Not sure I have the details right--I'm especially curious about the intra-team chase--so if anyone can clarify for posterity, please do.

[add edit: I just read Matt's race report and better understand the decision to motor up to Eric. He was solo by the time they started the descent into the last valley, and a bigger group was coming up from behind. Odds are that Eric, Corey, and Matt would all have been caught by the bigger group if Matt and Corey hadn't bridged up to him. Bringing two guys up to Eric still had the better odds: 3 Chicken Ranchers & only 2 competitors. How could they have known the Australian dude would uncork such a kick at the end? That's one of the myriad things so cool about bike racing--all the variables and on-the-fly decisions, and you never know for sure which is right!]

35+ 4/5--A few of our crew in this one too. Not sure how the race unfolded but Coach Doyle snagged a 2nd, Pops got 4th, and Dano was top-10 too (I think). Good work boys!

The mini-van race home -- We established beyond any doubt that the Sienna has the superior motor and is much more studly when it comes to pulling, but the Odyssey is like your typical crit rider who cheats and slices-and-dices in the last-lap traffic to pull out the win.

Training - Week 20

Man, this was a hard week--not a ton of time, but a lot of intensity. Tough call whether to keep hitting it hard for another week, or recover now. hmmm... maybe the rain will decide!

Number of rides: 7
Riding time: 15 hrs
Time in mid/high aerobic zone: 9 hrs! (*)
Best ride of the week: A tie... Wed Solvang w/ Cookie and Ben, and Pine Flat RR. A lot of time pulling hard in both.
Other: some baseball
- (*) What I roughly mean by "mid aerobic zone" is an effort level at which it's difficult to breath through my nose, but not impossible. "high" means full-on mouth breathing. Pretty unscientific I know, but still meaningful imho. This week had a lot of mouth breathing!
- Rode tt bike twice on C.O. course: 37:30 and 38:30 both w/ stoplight at Glen Annie.
- OSM in 15:24 Thursday.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Sunny Santa Barbara Saturday!

This post has nothing to do with the title, other than it is 82 degrees outside without a cloud anywhere to be seen. Mostly I just like using alliterations with the day of the week...

Carnac the Magnificent???

What do the following nine people have in common?

Cody O'Reilly, Tom Anhalt, Lindsay Blount, Craig Zimmerman, Aram Dellalian, Michael Johnson, Steve Strickler, Ivan Dominguez, and Ken Hansen.

The've all been mentioned on the pages of this blog and subsequently gone on to win a race in the first few weeks of the 2007 bike-racing season!

Who will be next???

Pro Team Spotting

In the last two months, riders from all the following teams spent at least some time riding the roads of Santa Barbara:

Discovery Channel, Credit Agricole, Gerolsteiner, Healthnet, Slipstream/Chipotle, and BMC. Last year we also had CSC, but this year they're up in NorCal before the ToC.

Pretty cool, eh!?

Aching Erker

Send positive thoughts about healing up toward Portland where Jake's been struggling with a knee problem that has kept him off the bike for nearly a month! I suggested he try running, which would either: (A) balance out his leg muscles and pull everything back in order; or (B) give him so many new aches and pains that he won't even notice the knee trouble.

TT Torture

I swear it seems like I go slower on my TT bike than on my road bike. Is that possible? Will spending enough time on the thing help? Is my position just terrible? Or, most likely of all, is it a huge mental weakness?

This is my current position:

Please let me know if something looks horribly wrong!

Pine Flat RR

Heading out the door now to meet up with a motley crew heading over to Fresno for the Pine Flat RR. It would have been nice to hit Cantua Creek RR on the way, but the logistics just didn't seem sensible. Choices were, leave SB at 3:30 in the AM, or spend the night in Coalinga.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

White and Nerdy (Lego Style)

I'm a proud daddy.

Like a lot of boys, my 11-year-old still loves playing with his legos. He also loves computers and video games. From what I can tell, that's pretty normal for kids his age. A few months back he started learning how to use movie-making software (Adobe Premier Elements) and GIMP, which is a free, open-source tool like Photoshop. He's become quite a whiz at both these.

But lately he's become the world's Number One fan of Weird Al Yankovic. Surely everyone knows of Weird Al, right? But just in case you don't, he's really clever at writing and recording parodies of popular songs. Classics like "Yoda" for The Kinks' "Lola", "Another One Rides the Bus" for Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust", and "Eat It" for Michael Jackson's "Beat It".

So my boy combined all these interests (legos, computers, movie-making, and Weird Al) and produced the video linked below, which I think is really cool and is the result of a lot of patience and work. It's a lego version of Weird Al's "White and Nerdy" which is a parody of "Ridin' Dirty".

White and Nerdy, lego style

The real White and Nerdy

...and finally, here's Ridin' Dirty

Monday, February 12, 2007

Score: Taggers 978, Neighborhood Wall Painters 977

It seems that every week or so I see some man or woman out with a bucket of paint and roller attempting to cover up the latest "artwork" of our local youth.

I admit that I'm making an assumption the graffiti is the doing of the younger folks in our community. I never actually see them so I don't really know. Maybe the taggers are actually middle aged soccer moms out for a good time after a few margaritas.

I do know that the people painting over the graffiti are not young--they're in their 60's and 70's, retired, and probably pretty mad. What do you supposed they did when they were bored teenagers?

Not sure why, but the graffiti doesn't really bother me that much. I do wish it were more artistic, like some of the work you see along a few LA freeways. Those are so good, they're probably legal, and nobody would dare cover them up with gray paint. What we have along the bike path is probably sprayed on in 60 seconds or less.

Two things that do bother me when I ride are broken bottles and dog poop. Even sitting here with my glass of Syrah as I type this, my heart rate goes up just thinking about some moron who tosses a bottle out of his car or the inconsiderate jerks who let their dogs poop and pretend not to see. Sorry for such negativity... I'll try not to make a habit out of it.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Training -- Week 19

The rains never came, so got in good rides all week. Climbed five days.

Number of rides: 7
Riding time: 14 hrs
Time in mid/high aerobic zone: 6 hrs
Best ride of the week: Wed., Solvang loop; like the old days!
Other: none
- OSM in 15:14 Thursday
- Rode tt bike twice; Sat. did C.O. course in 39:00

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Mothballs Crit in Pictures

Certainly there are a thousand little stories from all the different events and competitors out at the Mothballs Crit this last weekend. In this post, we'll use a bunch of pictures to tell the stories from a few of the races. We were very fortunate to have some extremely good photographers out there. Steve Weixel has a huge set of pictures from every race. Get yourself a cup of coffee, sit back, and enjoy Steve's galleries. We also had teammate Mark Shimahara out taking pictures too. His typical subjects are TdF racers (see his site), but Sunday he shot our races because he was too sick to race. Michael "CroyKey" also took some nice shots and compiled them on a CD that we should pass around.

OK, let's get down to it. Below are a few of the races described with pictures from Steve, Mark, and Michael. Click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Men's 4/5 -- What a way to start the year TnA!!

A full field...

Dano working hard like always...
Geoff and Jason controlling the front...
Textbook...keeping it fast on the last lap...
Which allows TnA to open up a sprint with a clear lane to the line...
And the bike-throw seals the deal!
Congratulations, first race of the year and your first vee!!

Women's 1/2/3 -- Strong individuals can overcome a strong team

The group that broke away. Trish Bell (soon to be Trish Black) leads a group of Velo Bellas, aka Hernando's Harem of Honeys...
The race animators... the woman in front was very strong and no amount of teamwork would deny her on this day!
Good job Girlfriend!!

Masters 45+ Your reporter mixed in with the big crit monsters!

It was great to have Paul Thorsen back out in a bike race.

Chris Black lurking.

Carissa looking good!

Kim pulling yours truly.

Mark y Mark

Malcolm Hill trying to escape

Kim and Malcolm.

Chasing something.

On bell lap, the VOS team was rolling a
nice train, and guess who had the perfect seat!
Followed by Robert Neary and Steve Strickler, each of whom stand at a good 6' 5" so I'm thinking they're not getting much draft from me.

So I jumped first at the last corner and went right by the VOS train, but was then mowed down by Gibby Hatton and Butch Stinton. Gibby went so fast he was already out of the picture when we approached the line. Stricky is coming up along side of me...

But somehow I was able to hold him off. Like I told him later, since he is the 45+ national crit champ, and I smoked him in this sprint, well, you do the math...
My sweetie cheered...
So a 3rd place is ok for me in a flat crit, not exactly my specialty. Then I forgot all about it and began to get ready for the next races. When I finally got around to checking the results, long after the 15-minute protest time expired, they had #317 listed and the person who went with that number in 3rd spot. Woah!! It's not every day that I beat Strickler in a sprint... please don't deny me this simple pleasure! A couple people vouch for me, including Stricky himself, and the nice Echelon folks decide to change it. Then, out of nowhere, the head official comes charging over all red-faced and fuming, begins to yell at the volunteers that they usurped his authority and he threatens to suspend me if I ever pull a stunt like that again (his words). Now I understand that bike racing needs rules, and of course I know about the 15-minute window between when results are posted and when they become official, but jeez, when there is absolutely no doubt and no contention, why be such a jerk about it. I think he wanted to teach me a lesson so the published results on the web probably won't list me. Gee, I'm crushed.

Men's 35+ 3/4

This year's SB smackdown would occur in the 35+ 3/4 race with a large contingent of the Chicken Ranch Army...

...e.g., Coach Doyle..
...and a strong group of TGI/Hazardous Waste boys, e.g., Jason the Hammer...
On the bell lap, the VOS team again had the group lined up behind them, and once again our heroes are in the best seat in the house...
...which leads to a repeat victory for Blingerman against his good buddy Chicken Ranch. Sorry Matt, you gotta get bitter and meaner...

Men's 35+ 1/2/3 -- It's hard to race when you're not paying attention!

This race had some genuine motors and would likely be a good show. Too bad I was snoozing in the back at the critical times!

We roll out...
On the second or third lap, Rich Cimadoro, Jerry Jayne (both Amgen), Olaf Vanderhoot, and Michael Johnson are off the front and motivated...
And then it gets worse as Craig Nunes, Dennis King, and Dirk Copeland take off in pursuit...
And soon both groups are together and rolling. Note the lack of any TGI/Hazard's boys...
OK, so now there are seven strong guys OTF. You'd think we'd be highly motivated to chase, right? Well your doofus reporter (that would be me) didn't know exactly who was in the break, and worse, I thought one of us had made it. That confusion lasted for 4 or 5 laps until I took inventory and saw we were all present and accounted for. Ooops. But still it gets worse, because I looked around and saw Turbo was still with us and I've done enough races with him to know that when he wants to, he can get across to a move like this at will. So I try to stay alert for takeoff. Only problem is, his teammate MJ is in the move (unbeknownst to me) so why should Turbo drag up any goofballs?!? So, the rest of the race consists of a few half-hearted chase attempts, always marked by smarter guys with teammates up the road...

CW tries to escape.

Cookie marked by
OV's teammate.

Choo-choo and Turbo.

Me hoping for

Cookie tries again.

Meanwhile, up the road where the real race is happening, MJ attacks the break with a few laps to go...
BTW, for those interested in learning more, borrow or buy "The Hard Road" in which Michael Johnson is prominently featured as he tries to make a go of professional bike racing on the Net Zero team a few years back. The guy is a motor.

The burden is on Amgen to bring him back as they have two guys...
But MJ stays away for the win...

Dirk rolls in 2nd.

And Dennis snags 3rd.

Disappointed OV
takes 4th.

Craig 5th and Jerry 6th.

And you can always count on Mark Scott to express his feelings clearly!!

P/1/2/3 -- Crit racing at its best!

So we're standing there waiting to start and the conversation goes something like this...

Ben (in Webcor colors still): "Yea, I'm kinda tired and can't race the full 90 minutes so I think I'll sit in the first 30 or so."

Me: "Yeah, I'm still sick so I probably won't even finish as it's my third race today." [ed: what a baby!]

Well, it turns out only one of us was telling the truth because, just past the very first corner on the very first lap, one Aaron Musicant shoots out of the field on a full-gas flier just screwing around. Anyone who's lived here for any length of time knows Aaron is just goofing around. But not Ben. So he sprints off in hot pursuit with a cling-on attached and by the end of lap one he's disposed of Aaron and he's not looking back...
A couple laps later, my old teammate Arjuna Flenner is off in pursuit along with Aram Dellalian and Uthman Ray...
And soon they've all coagulated and are off to the races. Undoubtedly Ben was doing lots of work, as he's known to do. [Note: He's not even trained yet. He rides a couple days a week. On the Solvang loop Wednesday, he had me and Matt groveling on his wheel all the way back to town on the 101. If/when he gets serious, he will be crushing it!]

Soon a second group is off in hot pursuit and this one has some marquee names (Copeland, MJ, Rigo Meza)...

The chase.

Turbo following.
He quickly shed
these guys.

And joins up.

Now the chase is
really stacked.

Soon the front break makes it around and rejoins the field, up a lap. Now their teammates go to work to bring back the second group on the road. Here is a focused and coordinated Time Factory Team...
And Cookie and Choo-choo work in support of Ben (even though he's not in uniform)...
But as per usual, it's CW who really does the most, and soon the threatening group is brought back!
No real moves for the rest of the way except...
CW and Turbo gobbling up
$25, $50, $75 laddered

Dirk and CW
sneak off to snag the
last "unlapped"

The break's sprint was mixed in with the field and Aram Dellalian pulls out the win!
A fun day with excellent organization and race promotion from Echelon. Thanks!