Tour de June

Posted on Jul 2, 2015 in Cycling | 1 comment

Who got busy with racing in June? This guy. Why? Not entirely sure, but I got some good off-season training in, the scheduling worked out, and I was feeling strong so why not? 13 races, 3 podiums, 1 upgrade = good times.

Hammer Velo Crit 5s – Final sprint (guy in green won, I got 2nd)

The month started with an ugly night at Mount Tabor. It was wet and there was a crash on the first turn so we split from the start and it turned into a time trial. 6th. Maybe I had a shot at the monthly standings? … Until that weekend when I entered my first ever criterium, placed 2nd with relative ease, and knew it was time to move up. I also doubled up that day and tucked in to finish in the 4/5 pack a few hours later. Upgrade request submitted Monday and accepted just before the start of the next Tabor… I’d be riding with the 4s in a race that already gave me trouble… Except it didn’t and hasn’t; I’ve managed to stay with the pack until the final sprint all month save for last night (July, so it doesn’t matter for this post!) when I gave 100% [and failed] to win a bottle of beer. I couldn’t even keep up in 5 much of last year. Progress!

Tabor 4s – Fully spent after leading teammate out

I’ve been heading up to PIR every Tuesday night for the 4/5 circuit race too. I missed the first one due to the weather, but managed to place well enough in the remaining four to take third overall for the month. PRIZES! I don’t know what I won, but I won something, and I eagerly await receiving it. Highlights were a 3rd and a 2nd. Both times it was all about taking it easy the entire race, reading who had the strong wheel, being close to the front on the final turn, and not going too soon or too late. I’ve never really considered myself a sprinter, but maybe that’s my jam?

The highlight of the month was a long weekend spent in Bend for the High Desert Omnium. Started with a time trial (went great, 25.2mph average [1mph faster than an early season TT], 8th in class), a crit that same afternoon (struggled, was dropped, but didn’t lose much ground on the pack, 11th), and a beautiful 60-mile road race the following morning (was gassed going up the final hill/finish and lost touch, 19th). I won nothing and didn’t even score a point for the overall, but it was an amazing weekend. I came home feeling like a pro. My life for those few days was nothing but cycling. It was awesome.

Things on the bike are going great. This is the road season I’ve wanted to have ever since I first attempted road racing a few years ago. Life has gotten out of the way and simply allowed me to ride. The bike itself has a couple of items that concern my wallet, but the wheels are still mostly round and the chain is in one piece so I’m just gonna keep riding it. With Tabor ending next week I’ll probably back off on racing altogether in July as the heat really begins to hit and focus on getting into peak shape for the late July/early August weekend crit series. After that? CROSS. YES, CROSS. YES.

I still have yet to win a damned race EVER. Including running, I’ve been 2nd [I think] five times and 3rd another few. Can someone run the odds on that? Will I ever get a chance to stand atop of the podium with both arms raised? Ideally, I’d do it before I reach Masters age (shit!) in two years. I think I can. I’m pretty sure I can. Just lacking a few watts. Core (I have none) and diet (I’m up about 5lbs right now) are going to be the focus in July. Might just be enough to get me that extra second on the line. Here goes!

Results

Dear Mom

Posted on Jun 21, 2015 in General | 4 comments

It has been a year now without you. I miss you a lot. I still think about you a dozen times a day. I still expect to receive a call from you at any moment. You were pretty much the only person who ever called. I used to share my life here and I haven’t in many months. Why? Because you were the main audience. You were and likely always will be my number one fan. I know you’re probably still reading so this is me realizing my selfishness and promising to get back on the train.

I must confess that I recorded every voicemail you left me from the day you became sick; I never knew which would be the last and something about keeping them made me feel better. I do listen to them from time to time. It’s nice to hear your voice even though it hurts. I do suppose the finality is beginning to sink in. I won’t be getting a call and you won’t be commenting my latest post, but I’ll be damned if I don’t have a voicemail of you singing me happy birthday that I may or may not have played for myself this year and will forever more.

It has brought  me great solace over the past year to see how much you’re still present after passing. I see you in my habits, I see you in the girls, I see you in Jessie, I see you in Dad, I see you in random lines of text on billboards, I see you in the sky, I see you in odd items on the shelf of the grocery store, and so many other places. It’s weird, but it’s awesome and it’ll never fade. For that and for you, I’m thankful.

Love,
Mike Jr.

Being a mature athlete

Posted on Jan 20, 2015 in Cycling, Running | 0 comments

After being an endurance athlete most of my life, today I realized that I am at last a mature one.

This morning when standing up after cleaning the cats’ litter, I did something funky with my knee. It felt as if my ligaments weren’t properly aligned as I brought them to a straight position and they pulled a bit. The weather outside is absolutely gorgeous, I just got my bike back from the repair shop, and I had some miles planned for the afternoon… but I chose to not ride.

The time missed from potentially seriously screwing up my knee far outweighs the time missed from not going on a ride or a couple while I rest it. Hurrah, maturity.

How to get free airplane Internet

Posted on Jan 18, 2015 in Tech | 0 comments

This has been confirmed on a Gogo-equipped flight on Alaska Air using iOS devices. I would assume it to also work on Android, but I check mine in my luggage because it’s a pile of dung.

Important note is that you need to not have the Gogo app installed. Your browser will detect it and you will not see the necessary options below. If you had the app installed, you may need to wait for a cookie to expire, restart your browser, or restart your device; I had trouble getting it to not try to use the app I didn’t have, but it eventually came around.

Step 1 – Join the in-flight wireless network
Step 2 – Open your web browser
Step 3 – Navigate to the entertainment portal
Step 4 – Select a movie to watch
Step 5 – When it asks you if you have the Gogo video app, say “no,” and click the button for the App Store.
Step 6 – Enter the confirmation code that… I don’t know what it does. I’d assume it just confirms the creation of a session.
Step 7 – When the browser directs you to the App Store, leave it
Step 8 – Enjoy your 10-15 minute (still testing to find the exact number) free online session. Check your e-mail, Facebook it up, etc.

If you use your web browser, be sure to leave a tab open to the page that prompted you to go to the App Store. If you leave this page, it can be tricky to get back to it.

After your internet goes away, go back into the page that asked you about the App Store and simply hit the App Store button again. You’ll be put back at Step 6.

Why does this work? By having to download an application from the App Store, Gogo must give your device temporary access to any location; they don’t know the exact server that will feed you their application. Since apps can take a long time to download via plane wireless, they have to give you a decent window of time in which to get it. Except you’re not going to use that time as they intended.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why we cannot have nice things.

2014 Year in Review

Posted on Dec 31, 2014 in General | 0 comments

This year was easily the worst of my life. Numerous people passed away, lots of health issues for others, and every time there was a possibility of something going wrong, it would. Farewell, 2014. GTFO.

Goals

Umm. It seems I didn’t set any. I said I would, but that was in the midst of home buying so I must have just not gotten around to it. Regardless, I got a good bit done. Maybe goals aren’t required once you’ve good habits formed?

Of all the measurable things I do, I only seemed to have done more so I’m happy.

  • Running took a hit as I sprained my ankle and kind of lost interest for a few months following it. My total will be a handful of miles below 200 (down from 400).
  • Biked just below 4000 miles (up from 3500) and greatly increased the quality of those miles; my fitness today compared to the start of the year is night and day. No crashes this year (down from 2), but bike repairs were $1000 anyway (up from $0) – carbon fiber is more expensive than bone.
  • Didn’t swim once. That’s sad.
  • Dropped a solid 5-10lbs (I fluctuate daily).
  • Burned roughly 220,000 calories through measurable exercise, which is identical to last year. Interesting.
  • Read 26 books (up from 18) and 8100 pages (up from 5700) so that’s cool. I highly recommend (my 5-stars) Unbroken, Why We Ride, The Big Short, and Ready Player One.
  • Reviewed 39 place on Yelp (down from 65). Meh.

Events

  • January – Mom became a 3-year survivor of Grade IV brain cancer. That’s pretty much unheard of. We also bought our first house.
  • February – Suddenly lost Heather’s Aunt Betsy. Heather’s mother visited for a short bit afterward. I turned 32, but don’t feel a day over 14 as long as I look past the grays in the morning. Heather also began her new job!
  • March – Suddenly lost a good friend, Edward Johns.
  • April – Bought a “new” 2009 Audi A4 Avant – great driving car, but what a turd. Celebrated our 2-year anniversary – went to the coast to celebrate. Also spent a day in the Columbia Gorge.
  • May – Paid a visit to Bend to visit Molly and the East Coast for the Race For Hope.
  • June – Mom passed away from complications with her cancer treatment. Had some visitors from out of town, did some wine touring, and visited The Gorge again. Competed in the Mount Tabor racing series – did alright and won a beer.
  • July – Rode my bike from Seattle to Portland in a single day with Michelle. Also took part in the 1st Annual Flabapalooza.  Competed in the Portland Trail Series – did alright and sprained the heck out of my ankle.
  • August – Made a quick trip to Seattle. My family visited – went to The Gorge yet again (never gets old).
  • September – A whole bunch of cyclocross racing.
  • October – Adopted two cats at the Oregon Humane Society – look for a post regarding them soon. Believe it or not, also did a whole bunch of cyclocross racing.
  • November – Another good personal trip (I had a number of work trips that aren’t really worth mentioning) to the East Coast. Spent a week with Dad just kind of hanging out. Cyclocross racing also ended with a doubleheader weekend in Bend – got to hang out with Molly again. Oh, wait, that’s a lie; there was one final race just before Thanksgiving that I crushed – 4th place.
  • December – A quiet month. I spent Christmas alone, but had the cats to keep me warm. Delivered a bunch of care packages to the homeless via bike the morning of – wore a santa hat and had a speaker blaring holiday tunes.

We’ve begun to really settle into Portland life and love it possibly more than when we first arrived. We have a solid number of friends now and Heather has hit her stride at work. I’m still unsure of remote work, but it has been working out and I’m starting to figure out what works and what does not. It’s lonely and has been a slow process, but I think I’m getting it.

I won’t promise a post on goals and instead give you the gist of what’s coming next year – a lot more biking, a fair bit more running, some more blogging, the same amount of reading, no crashes, no broken bones, maybe another few pounds lost, and I don’t want anyone to die. Okay?

2015, it’s not gonna be hard to beat the previous year. Let’s go.

Previous years in review: 2013, 2012201120102009, 200820072006.

Let the offseason begin

Posted on Dec 12, 2014 in Cycling | 0 comments

Technically, it began about three weeks ago with my final cyclocross race, but I’m only now getting around to writing about it.

My base training for the year, as usual, was abbreviated. We were new to the area, I dragged my feet on getting the proper winter gear (I had only just gotten a nice setup for cold weather back in VA, but had nothing for rain), and then we bought a house, which absolutely killed my mileage. I was catching up from the very start and as a result, more or less missed road season.

By June, I was feeling somewhat fit again, but the season was winding down and all that was really left were the weekly series at Mount Tabor and PIR. I joined up for Mount Tabor, but this being my first year for having to put out real power (I’m more of an endurance rider), I was not at all ready for a constantly up and down race. In the middle of the series, I went on bereavement and missed a few races and training, but came back at the end with a focus of primes (prizes for being 1st place on a certain lap). In the final race I won a bottle of beer for blasting through the first lap. Most expensive bottle of beer ever and it ruined the rest of my race, but winning is winning.

It was now time to do a trail running series up in Forest Park. despite not running much at all and having zero trail running experience, things went pretty well until I severely sprained my ankle. I had to bail on the remainder of the season, saw more abbreviated cycling, and just barely had it back together a month later .

The cyclocross season began with a farm crit. It was my first time on my new bike and my ankle was still pretty questionable, but things went great. I finished in 7th place. Having wanted to get a race in at PIR before the season was out, I made my way over the Tuesday after the CX race and ground my way to 3rd place with plenty of gas in the tank. Things were looking bright.

I finished up the Gran Prix: Ryan Trebon series, which consisted of races across the river in Washington with two 10ths and an 11th place finish. Hurray for consistency! I was finally getting the bike dialed in and feeling quick leading into Cross Crusade.

Unfortunately, I took a little break from racing for a week or two to repair my beat up body (lots of soft crashes, but they add up) and did not do the races that were arbitrarily (I didn’t see them listed anywhere) selected as the call-up qualifiers. Despite finishing pretty highly in the only other series that had been run so far, I would be faced with starting far behind folks I had been beating.

At the first and second races, I started around 60th. They were held on a tight course that didn’t make for great passing. I would only make my way up to the 40s each time. At the third race, I started at the absolute back (80th), but it was more open so I made it into the 30s. Three races down, a bunch of worthless finishes.

I would finally get my chance at the fourth race when I started directly behind the call-ups. Except I was taken out on the first stretch and found myself in dead last (83rd). It was here that I found I was pretty skilled in the mud as I made my way past ~100 folks (there were other groups out at the same time) en route to a 16th place finish. 16th place granted me a single point. I assumed that would finally get me a call-up as I was “in the running.”

The fifth and sixth races were held three hours from home down in Bend. The call-up lists were published shortly a day or two prior and *gasp* I wasn’t on it. A quick e-mail to the race director later, and I was listed. I probably should have pleaded my case to him at the start of the season (he can add folks at his discretion and my results likely warranted it), but lesson learned. Had I not gotten the call-up, there was no way I was driving six hours across mountains to mail in a mediocre placing. But that didn’t happen. I packed the car at 4AM on Saturday and made my way down (Friday night was Halloween and I wasn’t missing that). Despite the grogginess, I pulled a 15th place out of my hat. Hurrah! More points. The following day, 12th. A successful weekend.

The seventh race was back home in Portland. It was a nicely muddy course for me and I was absolutely crushing it until I literally crushed it. I had a light dump on my drive-side, my derailleur seized up, and threw my chain into the spokes. I was in 7th or 8th when that occurred and reeling folks in. After five minutes spent in the pit, I got back out there to cross the line in 60th. This would prove my only mechanical issue all year. Given the conditions and the number of mechanicals I saw others having, I’d say that was a great success. Due to a cold, this would be my last race for the series. Seven out of eight ain’t bad. Due to the few throwaway races, I was nowhere in the overall standings, but I’m thinking I’ve got a real shot at the top next year.

I closed out the season just before heading east for Thanksgiving. CX would end right where it started, at Kruger’s for a farm crit. This time, race than being flat, dusty, and fast, it was cold, muddy, and slow. This race being it for a few months, I poured everything in and came out with a 4th place finish. I couldn’t have been happier (except for if I had gotten 1-3 spots higher).

I had been planning on continuing my training straight through the winter, but my bikes and schedule would have none of it. My road bike decided to explode, resulting in a $600 repair, and my cross bike needed a rest… Or at least that’s my excuse for not getting out there. Perhaps my mind is what needed the rest. I’m getting 4-5 hours in per week and ramping up my running again in preparation of my yearly May 5k and a planned Hood to Coast next year. My bike should be back in my hands within the next day or two and I’m also looking to get involved with an indoor cycling class so the miles will start accumulating again soon. Heck, I typically take all of December off so anything I’m doing this year is better.

Next year? Lots more road racing and about the same amount of cyclocross. I doubt I’ll bust through Cat 4 on the road, but an upgrade to Men’s B in cyclocross is looking like a strong possibility. Ride on.

Results
Pictures

Go ahead, talk about death

Posted on Dec 12, 2014 in General | 4 comments

It’s going to happen. To me, to you, and to everyone you encounter today. In fact, it accounts for half of the experiences that are shared by the entirety of the world’s population (the other is birth). So why don’t we talk about it? For the same reason we don’t tend to talk about race, marriages, salaries, genocide, addiction, etc.; it is uncomfortable. It doesn’t need to be. Just once break the mould. With your loved ones, with your friends, with a stranger (ok, don’t go that far…). It is a wildly interesting subject and what you discuss may prove beneficial in the future.

One of the hardest things of losing my mother was the elephant staring us down from the corner. Death. The only question was when. Brain cancer or not, the elephant exists for us all. Despite our circumstances (maybe it was easier to deny the obvious?), we never did discuss it. I wish we had. Knowing her thoughts would have my mind in a much better place now, and arranging services and such after the fact would have been a lot less… not complicated, but certain decisions would have been easier.

On a recent visit to my father, we sat down and had a chat that everyone should have with their loved ones regardless of age (if you have children, your chat should be with a lawyer and you ought to leave with some written documents). We went over his will and had him make it abundantly clear as to what his final wishes were. He was hesitant to share the latter, but having just been through not knowing with my mother, we forced it out of him. Aside from discussing the will, this conversation took all of 30 seconds.

What spurred this bit of writing was an article I read, The Case for Work-Death Balance. The whole death thing extends to work. Let’s face it; for most of us, our jobs define five out of seven days of our week. Why is it that bereavement and care of the sick and/or dying is so poorly granted or defined? Like the writer, I am lucky enough have an outstanding employer who allowed me remote work and as much time off as necessary. Also like the writer, I found that working was actually a great way to keep my mind occupied so I was back at the grindstone pretty quickly.

Go read the article and I implore you to chat with your loved ones sooner rather than later. You never know when it will be too late, and I promise that you’ll regret having not done so. You can thank me later, but hopefully much later.