Posts made in November, 2012

Race Recap: Taneytown CX

Posted on Nov 25, 2012 in Cycling | 0 comments

Last race of Sportif Cup. Means nothing to me, but I needed a picture.

Twelfth (that’s a really weird word to type)! I can’t seem to escape it. Two 12s in a row preceded by a 13. My points dropped from 395 last race to 393 this one so I suppose I did do about .5% better.

I totally wasn’t into this race. I signed up without looking where Taneytown actually was on the map, looked the night before the race, and went to bed already not looking forward to it. After the 70 mile drive up to near Gettysburg, I undo the bike, do the normal pre-race stuff, and don’t like anything about the day. It’s 35 degrees, windy, I feel slow, the bike feels slow, and the course has all sorts of off-camber stuff that I seem to be terrible at.

The race starts, I get going decently, make some passes, am around 15th or so nearing the end of the first lap, and completely wipe out. Went too fast into a tight off-camber corner and washed out the rear tire. Probably looked much worse than it was. Got back on, realized my rear brake cable had popped out, get back off, fix it, and I was finally on my way again. Probably lost about 30 seconds. I push the entire second lap just to get back to where I had been. The rest of the race was rather inconsequential with a short battle that I lost on a slide followed by a poor dismount, and gaining another few places due to attrition.

Aside from the fall, it turned out to be a better than expected race. I felt good and the result was good. Still aiming for that Top 10, but only one race left in which to do it. The nifty online race predictor says I have no chance, but I’ll set out to prove it wrong. If it happens, great. If not, this is a “home” race put on by “my team;” It’ll surely be a good way to close out the season.

GPS pow. Pretty long race. That’s good for me, especially when I go down at the start.

Update: This getting older stuff really is for the birds and really is for real. Not only at the start of the race was I still a little sore from my 5k a few days prior, but the day after the race the entire left side of my body feels as if I was hit by a car. Again, my “crash” wasn’t much of one. It was fairly high speed, but I hit the ground about as well as one can and slid a bit; something that a few years ago I surely wouldn’t have felt the next day. Le sigh.

Update #2: A video of the course is available. Don’t look for me; different race than I was in.

Race Recap: Virginia Run Turkey Trot

Posted on Nov 23, 2012 in Running | 1 comment

Doing what you’re not supposed to do.

I’ve been running this one ever since I was a kid. At the time, it was likely the only such trot in the area… Now it seems every town has one, but I’ve stayed true to my roots and continue to head out to Centreville on most turkey days (sometimes I’m out of town).

Running has been interesting for me this year; I’ve only managed about five miles per week and didn’t run at all for about two months late in the summer, but my times continue to improve. As usual with 5ks since “the injury” in 2009, I had no idea what I was capable of. I went out for a short and quick pace-gauging run two days before the race and struggled to put in a 6:20 mile. It was doable, but certainly didn’t leave me thinking I could do three of them. Regardless, I plan on going out at 6:15 pace and see what happens.

Do the usual pre-race stuff, get to the line, and suddenly we’re moving. I’m pretty far back in the corral because I was counting on them speaking for a few minutes like they usually do. Not this year. Time to move. Cross the line, start the watch, and here goes… Traffic is insane, but the running is feeling effortless as I jump back and forth across the road to avoid slower feet and legs. First mile through in 6:12. Odd. Way easier than on Tuesday and I feel like it’s no thing. Finally out of traffic, make a few turns, crush some people due to an optimal racing line (apexes, people!), hit the hilly section, still not feeling like it’s much effort… Second mile down in 6:10. Alright, when is the crash going to occur? It doesn’t. Final mile down in 6:02 and a solid, but not 100% push into the finish to cross in 19:08. A seven second post-injury best on far worse training than that best was earned on. I’ll take it. 6:07 pace overall (subtracting extra mileage for traffic, that’s a 19-flat). Absurd. This maintains my claim that cycling can make you a pretty damned fast runner. I’m not winning races, but I’m now only 20 seconds off my adult best, which is nothing.

69th out of 3664 starters. 15th in age group.

One of these days I’m really going to try training again. Promise.

Race Recap: Schooley Mill CX

Posted on Nov 12, 2012 in Cycling | 1 comment

 

SORRY, NO SWEET PICS

 

“Disaster averted” summarizes this day at Schooley Mill in the boonies of Maryland (another beautiful, untouched place) just south of Baltimore

Wake up at 5:45. Had scheduled our programmable coffee pot the night before for the first time. Coffee ready for me when I wake up? Awesome. This thing’s going to be getting more programmed use, for sure.

Pack car up and leave the driveway by 6:15. Neighbors must think I’m crazy as I seem to do this at least once a weekend.

Hit the highway and break into yesterday’s waffles. Were much better yesterday when not soggy and cold, but they’ll do as there’s really no food more “cycling” than them.

Arrive at the park around 7. Unpack bike and head to registration. Pretty sure the weather forecast was calling for 70. What’s 43 doing?

En route to registration, my quick release rear skewer decides to give up. If that’s never happen to you, trust me, it’s fun. ReasonsToNotRaceHorizontalDropouts++ (very few bikes allow this to happen… my pieced together, overweight pile does). CRASH. Luckily, fall over into some grass. Pride is the only thing damaged.

Register. Drop a deuce. Meet a team member, Brian, in the bathroom. Nice guy. More on him later. Pin my number. Back to the car.

Weather is warming so I drop a layer and head out on a recon lap. Appears to be a really good course for me as it’s not too technical and will require a lot of “go.” I’m better at “go” than “maneuver.” Lots of wet grass, though, which should prove fun as I have no experience on it.

Get back to the car, lay my seat down, sip some coffee, and wait.

10 minutes prior to race, hop out of the car, get ready to go, look at bike. FLAT REAR TIRE. Panic. Instead of bringing my full set of tools and spares, as I normally do, I brought nothing today. Why? Unknown, but I think two races of not needing squat attributed to it. Never again. Luckily, that teammate, Brian, is parked right behind me and still around (most had already left for the start). He has a tube for me. Awesome. And then he’s off. I peel out my old tube, spend no time figuring out why it’s flat (you’re supposed to try to identify the cause in case there’s something in your tire that will render the replacement tube flat as well), and try to put some air in this new tube. “TRY” indeed. For some odd reason, my pump doesn’t want to work with it. With Brian gone, I’m nearly SOL… There’s another guy parked a few spots down and I’m able to bum his pump. Back to my car… Schrader valve… and it’s not on of those unscrew-and-flip-around deals. GAH! Give it back to him and pout. AND THEN BRIAN SHOWS BACK UP AT HIS CAR. I borrow his pump, finish the job, and hope they haven’t already started. I arrive at the start line even earlier than my last race (started last and 15 seconds back), get a spot, and that’s that. Brian is my savior. I owe the man breakfast the next time we do a shop ride together.

The race. I lined up in about 35th spot. Not terribly bad. At the g-word, I start a bit slowly, drop about 10 spots, but no big deal; I’m in the thick of things as opposed to the back of them so that’s good. Make our way through the course for the first lap and I’m around 20th place and feeling good. Had replaced the quick release for a nut and bolt setup and no flats. I pick off a handful more folks on the 2nd lap and find myself in a small group right around 15th. For the next two laps, the five of us jockey back and forth as slips and slides are the great equalizer; get in front of the pack, slide out, face passing them all again, they slip, pass them, and so on and so on. Had I not managed two bungles (luckily neither on the tight right-hander that’d put you in a pond if you screwed up) I would have been clear of the group, but they were bungling the same so it really was a wash. My first came in a twisty, wet, slow, grassy section where I slid and went down. Low speed and I was back up in a matter of seconds, but lost two spots. The second was when I was about to break free from the group… Hop over a massive equestrian barrier and fail my remount. By fail, I mean carbon and leather several inches into my a-noose. Ow. Drop those same two spots again… One of which I wouldn’t get back. On the final lap, I had a group of about five right on my tail. One got past me heading into a sharp turn and completely bit it. With about a half mile left and a section in which I was pretty strong at (a technical little uphill and a road sprint) I figured my place was sealed. Not so. Somehow, the guy who went down hard is on my tail within seconds and I let him by as he clearly had more than I did. I stayed on his tail and we caught a rider ahead as we made our way onto the 30-second road sprint to the finish. The guy who had crashed and passed took off so I had no hope there, but I was right on the tail of the other and was happy to draft him up the short climb/sprint. With a final effort to get around him and make a gap, I saw him raise from his bars and knew the spot was mine. My first finish with anyone near… Great times.

Following the race, cooldown, meet and greet some friends, congratulate other racers. The usual. Met an employee of my “home” shop (Revolution Cycles) who commented on me riding a Cross-Check and doing well. It was a compliment… I think. I think he was inferring that my bike was slow and it was a hit to his ego to lose to it/me. Having chopped the handlebar and installed the Ergon grips (love them – immensely), I’m not too sure it’s as slow a steed as I originally thought or other folks seem to think; I’m able to hang with the competition everywhere and not only in places that I could make up for with fitness. Regardless, I’ll likely look at retiring it next year as I hope to get even more competitive and it likely is slowing me down by at least a few seconds per lap.

Results

I finished 12th. One better than last week, but looking at the points awarded (some cryptic system of calculating how good your performance is based on who you race), it was far and away my best finish yet. At AACX I scored 423, while this time I should be (I had to submit a correction so my exact number isn’t published yet) at 395 (lower is better).

As far as the race and organization goes, CX continues to surprise me… Folks are very organized, there’s tons of cheering, there are great vendors (mmm crepes at this one!), and it’s an all-around good time. One of these days I’ll try to spend a whole day at the event, but work and football have been getting in the way lately.

I don’t know what or when my next race will be, but the season surely isn’t over yet. It’s dangerous to set goals for this stuff because you don’t know who is going to show up any given day, but I’d really like to see a top 10 before the year’s out.

Yay cyclocross! Oh… and you want GPS?

Working from Java Shack

Posted on Nov 8, 2012 in Coffee Shops | 2 comments

20121108-122119.jpg

Two down, many more to go (I continue to add and subtract so keeping count and ensuring that count is accurate long-term is futile).

Java Shack is a spot I’ve been to a few times before. It’s a popular meet-up and post-ride stop for many cyclists in the area, but today is the first time I’ve actually ridden here. Located right between Courthouse and Clarendon on a side street diagonally off Clarendon Blvd, it’s easy to miss unless you know to look for it. You don’t want to miss it, though, as it’s a gem.

The ride: I almost didn’t visit a shop this week because it’s been so darn cold. I missed last week due to the wild weather and dealing with home repairs so I really couldn’t afford to miss this one. Following a short morning ride on the trainer, I showered up, and hopped… back on the bike. About a five mile jaunt from the house with half on the trails (W&OD to Custis) and then the other half heading through Arlington on Fairfax Dr. and Clarendon Blvd. Between the trails and bike lanes the remainder of the way, it was a pretty safe journey. I think the wind was at my back as well so it was smooth sailing all the way. I dread the ride home tonight after a club (DC Road Runners) happy hour and awards ceremony so I may hop the Metro, but I digress… It’s a very rideable location. This was also my first ride without the laptop. There’s about 1% of my work I can’t do on the iPad, but the addition of the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover has made working on remote machines even easier while also significantly cutting down on my backpack weight (losing the weight of a 13″ MacBook Pro really did make a big difference).

Parking: A single bike hoop provides parking for two bikes. Typically, riders will drink outside so they just line their steeds up along the patio fence unlocked. Car parking is street with meters. As this is a prime workday location, parking is at a premium during the day, but currently I spy a handful of spots right out front.

Food: A variety of baked goods made somewhere offsite. They also have some add-water oatmeal for purchase, bananas, and… some other stuff. They’ve got your munchies covered, but don’t really attempt to cover meals at all. They do heat frozen Jimmy Dean sausage sandwiches in a microwave (just guessing on the microwave part), but I’ve had one and can’t recommend it. The baked goods are all pretty decent. Definitely better than the garbage you’d get at Starbucks. But seriously, don’t plan on eating more than a light snack here.

20121108-115721.jpgCoffee: A bit bolder and dry than I prefer, but still very good. I can’t let me own taste affect their overall rating so let’s go with… THEY MAKE GOOD COFFEE HERE. The barista even asked me later in the day how it was. That’s awesome.

Seating: 16 seats at 8 tables inside, 10 seats at 5 tables outside under an awning with heat, and 8 seats at a few tables outside in the elements. Chairs are decent, but a bit uncomfortable. Tables are old… Small kitchen tables? Slightly rough on the wrists.

Power: I spy four dual-outlets on the interior and one outside under the awning. No power strips.

Decor: Cozy. No real style, but… cozy. All kinds of random stuff on the walls, old tables that appear to be laminated with goofy images from I can’t imagine where.

Restroom: A single toilet. Feels like home. Clean, fresh smelling.

Sound: Surprisingly, not too bad considering how small it is. Not too much talking as everyone here is getting their work done.

Network: As I’m no longer traveling with my laptop, I’m not able to perform the web-based and Flash-utilizing tests at Speedtest and Pingtest. Luckily, Speedtest provides an app. I think Pingtest provides better information, but the network here is good so there’s no packet-loss to worry about. Speed measurements show 12mbps down and 9mbps up. Not jaw-dropping, but certainly not dragging. This is a very good network on which to get work done.

Clientele: No common trait other than a love of coffee. Suits, hipsters, homeless, regular old folk. It’s a real mix.

Overall: A good coffee shop. Small, cute, and gets the job done. I’d love them to have more food options, but would prefer they focus on what they do best, which is make coffee. Their staff are all very friendly and they provide coffee and lemonade at the Apple Store on release days so bonus points for that. B+

iPad mini – Lacking resolution

Posted on Nov 6, 2012 in Tech | 0 comments

Today, I buck trends. Everyone who seems to have their hands on an iPad mini loves it. I don’t, and it all boils down to one thing, the screen.

My desk lineup – iPad mini is 2nd from left. Yes, I should clean my keyboard. GET OFF ME!

In 2010, Apple came out with what they call the Retina display. The gist of it is a display that has such a high-resolution that the human eye cannot discern pixels at a typical viewing distance. As viewing distance is relative to the device in use, this varies, but it’s been a feature in every portable product the company has released since its introduction. I own many of these devices, and therefore am used to having such a high quality display.

When Apple first announced the mini, the fact that they’d be releasing it with a “standard” screen stuck out like a sore thumb. There are a couple of reasons why they’d do this, but they all boil down to keeping weight and cost down. While they did manage a lightweight and svelte device, the cost isn’t all that low and I find the screen wholly unacceptable. Fonts are rough-looking, any game other than one using pixel art looks bad… It’s just… not good. I’d have to think if Steve Jobs were around (this is a dangerous can of worms for me to open), they wouldn’t have released this device. It feels like a step backward. Steve Jobs would not have approved a step backward regardless of the timing or nature of the ~7″ tablet market. This worries me for the future of Apple.

Ok, so overall I don’t really care for the device and it all boils down to the screen. Surely, within the next year, Apple will release a mini with Retina. What will I think of that?

It will be the perfect tablet. Previously skeptical of a smaller tablet, the mini really is the perfect size. What they’ve done in such a small package, as opposed to other manufacturers, is really maximize the real estate. Browsing a page on both this and the competition with them sitting next to each other is like the difference between browsing on a smart phone and an old java-based web browser in a flip phone. It’s night and day.

And then there’s iOS. The same great, familiar, uncustomized-by-a-vendor OS that we’re all used to. I was able to tap one button (“Restore from iCloud backup”) and everything from my full-sized iPad was magically on the mini.

The build quality of the device is unrivaled. Not the plasticky, cheap feel of the competition. Granted, it’s $130 more, but if you want to play with toys, you only have to pay for toys. It’s thin, solid feeling, incredibly lightweight, and the size really just seems perfect; in portrait mode, the on-screen keyboard is the perfect size for thumb typing. The full iPad is awkward in portrait and requires hands in landscape lest you risk pulling your thumbs out of their sockets. The competition is never comfortable, but I think that’s more due to how the keyboard is being presented on the screen than the hardware.

Did I mention the weight? I’m really, really surprised by it. There is no fatigue when holding it, which makes it a much better reading device than its big brother.

It uses the new Lightning connector, which I’m a little less salty over… After $100, I’ve got all the new cables I need, but… bah humbug. It turns out it is a pretty nice new connector, but… bah humbug.

So… Should you buy one? I can’t recommend it. Apple is hiding an ace up its sleeve and it’s called Retina, and I’d wager we’ll see it sometime next year. I want to love this device as it is proving to be the perfect form factor, but no Retina? No thank you.

Related article: Happy iPhone 5 day to you too! – September 21, 2012
Related article: On the Nexus 7 and Android – September 18, 2012