Season’s End: A Cyclocross Wrap-up

Posted on Nov 14, 2016 in Cycling | 0 comments

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Yesterday marked the end of bicycle racing season. You can read about my somewhat abbreviated road season here. There was no mountain biking worth mentioning.

Cyclocross season started out with big hopes; I won the last race of the year last year (you can barely notice the damage anymore unless you’re all up in my grill, but still a bitch having the fake front teeth – might go for the serious replacement in the next few years when I get a few $k burning a hole in my pocket), I was in better shape than ever before, and, well, that was enough for big hopes.

14691346_523553774507815_7122188837545876297_oI was not disappointed. I started the season with a podium and a pair of near podiums. I was also skirting that line of a mandatory upgrade, but was going to be able to eke out a series podium before getting the bump… and then bikes happened… I flatted in three of my next four races. The first occurred early in a race so having plenty of gas left, I decided to self upgrade for the afternoon. I never returned to the lower class and missed out on a series award solely due to not having finished enough races (I had the points for it) – had I walked across the finish line on that flat day I think I would have qualified, but it is what it is. I KNOW IN MY HEART I’M A WINNER!

Following my upgrade, I continued to flat all over the place and battle a bike I probably should have fully overhauled in the off-season. Bearings were seizing, brakes a mess, tires/wheels not working out at all. Not something I cared to deal with with double-header weekends all over the place so I went full tilt and ordered a new bike from Norco through Western Bikeworks (both team sponsors). Upon arrival a few days later I converted it to tubeless, sized it up, and that was it – fast, futureproof, and reliable. I’ll likely set the old bike up as a pit bike over the off-season since it’s worth very little used.

14595682_10154292147998557_8910834915856431712_nRacing the new category was… interesting. Due to some reworking of classing, moving from 4 to 3 puts you up against the 2 racers as well unless you’re 35+ (next year – shit) so it’s effectively a two class jump (some 2s race 1/2, but they don’t like getting beat up so many do not). This put 3s in a really funny position where they have to beat all of the 2s to even become a 2. I knew I wouldn’t be competitive, and I wasn’t, but it was refreshing to not care about winning, have fun, and watch the lines of the guys passing/lapping me. I started the final series finishing towards the back of the pack due to overthinking things and making a bunch of mental errors, but I’m safely in the front half now despite not having a call-up (the first ~25 riders always get to start at the front, which is a monster advantage) all season.

Yesterday was likely my best race of the season. I started 7th from the back and finished 29th of 64. It was a course that really suited raw power over my lack of technical ability.

What’s next? I’ve already accomplished my yearly mileage goal so I’ll probably take a few weeks “easy” (ratchet down to ~100 miles/week), think about an offseason training plan, put on a few pounds, get involved in some online racing (how badass is this kit!?), and start planning out the 2017 season.

The goals for 2017 are pretty much already set since cycling progression is pretty clearly defined – upgrade to 3 on the road, try track, maybe pick up a new mountain bike so I’ll actually go out and do that, get to the front of the Open 2/3 pack or upgrade to Masters 2 in Cross, and generally do a lot more travel/riding stuff – trace along with the Tour of California, maybe go to Italy with a teammate, maybe go to France for the Tour, PacNW/Cali bike touring, etc… Bikes are good and making it through an entire year (24 races) without a trip to the ER is great.

Inspired: How to Create Products Customers Love

Posted on Oct 14, 2016 in Books | 0 comments

inspiredlgLong time since a book review, eh? I might get back to it. I make tons of highlights when e-reading that I never get back to/review and therefore I get little out of. Recalling my school days, rereading my notes one extra time made them sink in way better – this is more for me than you.

Background: I moved from QA to Product Management about a year ago. Our teams were growing, I had a lot of product knowledge, I’m pretty decent at communicating, my background had me thinking of the customer already… It was a pretty natural fit. Still learning a lot, messing up a little, and enjoying it. If nothing else, it’s been great to have an opportunity to get out of QA – I was feeling a bit pigeonholed there and am no more.

Anyway, one of the best ways to learn this new role is through reading. I’ve reviewed a couple of design books on here before, but I’ve also read a lot more that I’ve not added. GETTING BACK TO IT STARTING NOW.

I discovered this book through a list of recommendations at work, which have been hit and miss. I’d call this one by Marty Cagan a hit and would definitely recommended it. There’s a strong focus on internet service products and consumers, but a lot of it crosses product and customer types.

My Highlights:

  • The job of the product manager is to discover a product that is valuable, usable, and feasible.
  • Engineers are typically very poor at user experience design—engineers think in terms of implementation models.
  • The job of the product manager is to identify the minimal possible product that meets the objectives.
  • The product manager has two key responsibilities: assessing product opportunities, and defining the product to be built.
  • Your mission as the product manager during the implementation phase is to jump on their questions and get answers as fast as humanly possible.
  • It’s all about the team and the caliber of the individuals.
  • Everything begins with the right product team.
  • If you neglect the infrastructure, all software will reach the point where it can no longer support the functionality it needs to.
  • The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
  • It can be dangerous for a product manager to have too much domain expertise.
  • Every new product manager needs roughly three months of hard learning before you can entrust them with the responsibility of guiding a product. During this time, the new product manager needs to immerse herself with target users and customers.
  • If you micromanage your product managers, they will not step up and take ownership the way you need them to.
  • Always hire people that you believe are smarter than yourself.
  • “Specials” (doing explicitly-defined work for a specific customer typically in exchange for their agreement to purchase your product) are so dangerous. They represent bad revenue, and hurt your company’s ability to deliver products that create happy users.
  • The more latitude you can give your engineers and user experience designers in coming up with the solutions to the problems you are trying to solve, the more likely they will come up with something that customers will love.
  • Most managers prefer to see your recommendations on how to solve problems you encounter rather than just a statement of the problem.
  • Every member of the team should be able to see the goals and objectives you are using, their priority, and how you assess each option. The decision—and the reasoning behind how you got there—should be clear to all.
  • Your goal is to [have] at least six happy, live, referenceable customers from your target market.
  • Customer surveys are so easy and so inexpensive, that they’re a must-do for any product.
  • Winning products come from the deep understanding of the user’s needs combined with an equally deep understanding of what’s just now possible.
  • It is an extremely common mistake for a product to try to please everyone and end up pleasing no one.
  • Any startup has to realize that everything starts with the right product, so the first order of business is to figure out what that is.
  • In many cases, the best ideas come from the bottom up.
  • Innovation is rarely about solving an entirely new problem. More often it is solving an existing problem in a new way.
  • [Product managers should] focus on the most miserable thing people have to deal with everyday.

Road Recap

Posted on Sep 13, 2016 in Cycling | 0 comments

Hi there! Still alive. Lots to share about the summer, but we’ll save most of it for later. Road racing season has come to a close and while it’s fresh in my mind I might as well write about it!

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Killer camping and biking weekend w/ the team at McKenzie River and Pass

I had an amazing off-season thanks to my Kickr. Came into the season with a ton more focused miles and strength than ever before, but my mind wasn’t really there. Life, burnout from 31 races in 2015, crashing in the final race last year… In the end I didn’t really race much – ten races, mostly weeknight series.

The bulk of my racing was at the Tabor series. I upgraded in the middle to end of the series last year and it was a struggle. I had resigned myself to winning prime laps and hoping to hang on. This year with added fitness and down about 10 pounds, I actually had some climbing skills! I still couldn’t hang with the big guns for the final sprint, but I was there at the end of the race and even capable of going for primes and recovering as if they didn’t happen. Last year I averaged 15th place, this year… hrm, only 11th, but it was overall a much stronger note than last. I finally got things together with a 6th in the final race with lots of gas left so while I think I had the fitness all along, I simply didn’t know how to race it until the end.

Following Tabor I did a couple of Monday/Tuesday races at PIR. Things went surprisingly poorly following a 4th in the first race. Tactical errors above anything else, but that’s part of the game. I’m certain had I done more races and gotten a handle for it I’d have seen a handful of podiums. Alas, I wasn’t focusing on road this year so no big deal.

On a whim, I went out and raced the state championship down in Eugene. It would be my first and only proper road race of the year. Things were going pretty well in the 3/4 race, but it was an extremely hot day and without support it was not possible on the two bottles I had. With ten miles to go (sixty mile race) I ran out of fluids and my body shutdown. Pretty miraculous I made it to the finish. I probably should have stopped when I noticed myself woozily avoiding riding into ditches on uphills. Yeah, bad… A lot of folks didn’t finish that day so I don’t feel too bad about it, but it was a lot of effort for naught. I hadn’t done a lot of long riding this year either so I pretty much set myself up for failure by not knowing the resources I’d need to get through it or even having the muscle memory/makeup to make the ride possible.

No podiums, but also not much effort. I’m the strongest I’ve ever been and (spoiler alert!) it’s really showing in cyclocross. I’ll provide a wrap-up of that and other things around November.

Results

That Brain Cancer Awareness Campaign

Posted on Jun 10, 2016 in General | 0 comments

If you’ve not yet blocked me on Facebook due to the overposting that was the month of May (or any given month depending on your taste), you will likely have noticed that through the entire month of May, I was reposting a new daily image about brain cancer. The campaign was the brainchild (PUN!) of a friend named Noelle. Her father was diagnosed with brain cancer around the middle of last year, and being a friend of friend, she found her way to me and we’ve been chatting ever since.

What she put together for this campaign was nothing short of amazing and extraordinary. The best part is that it can be reused every year with little to no modification. It was just the two of us sharing this year [I think], but my hope is that we can raise more awareness of the campaign among the brain cancer community and make it go crazy. If you see me posting these next May, please don’t hesitate to repost – brain cancer sucks, it can hit anyone for no good reason, and for something that is more or less a death sentence, it receives far too little attention.

The full campaign can be downloaded at http://bit.ly/26p4PVD and I’ve attached the images below.

Lastly, if you have any design needs, while I’ve never personally used her services, based on what she’s done here I’m pretty sure she’d do a kick-ass job for you: http://noellemullinsdesign.com.

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Adventure Time

Posted on May 29, 2016 in Vacation | 0 comments

Every year I head to DC to run in the Race for Hope to benefit brain cancer. This was our second year running in memory rather than celebration. It was a rainy day and a lot of folks had conflicts, but we were still out in force and will continue to be so. On the running front, I’d injured myself on my bike a month or so prior and was walking with a limp – no sub-19 (the usual goal) this year – was a nice walk, though.

Prior to the race, Dad informed me that he’d like to get rid of Mom’s car. He was no longer using it, but couldn’t bring himself to sell it. As my first cross-country trip was a bit abbreviated due to weather and park closures (NPS strike), I was eager to cross the country again. We only had a single car and I sometimes disappear for weekends for biking things. While I drive maybe once a week, it couldn’t hurt to have a second vehicle so I committed to taking it.

The nature of my work allows me to be just about anywhere in the world as long as I have a laptop, a handful of devices, and internet. The original goal was to camp the whole way to save a few bucks and work in coffee shops. Due to the work and traveling necessary, and camping rates, that didn’t really work out too well. I’d get to campsites by dark, which is no fun – part of the camping experience is to enjoy the place. Setting up in the dark, eating in the dark, etc., and then waking up to work and figure out your day… It was less than ideal. Besides, campsites in the western half of the country are mostly still closed for the season. It simply wasn’t meant to be. Instead, with hotels.com I was able to find enclosed spaces with internet everywhere I wanted to be for roughly $55/night. Versus the $20-$40 to tent camp? It was a no-brainer.

Before leaving, I made a rough plan of where I wanted to go. That gave me a route, which I built on roadtrippers.com. I followed that for the most part, but the real planning was done day by day as I figured out how tired I was, how much work I had, when that work had to be completed by, what there was to see, and what I could realistically drive without killing myself. The site was super awesome, works on computers and mobile, and integrates with Waze. I couldn’t have asked for much more from a free service.

I won’t bore you with the details of each stop, but you’re welcome to browse the daily schedules.

Day 1 – DC to Baltimore – Race for Hope, spending night w/ Dad and Sis on business trip.
Day 2 – Baltimore to Pittsburgh – Breakfast w/ Dad and Sis, Washington Monument (MD), Giant Quarter, Log Church, Fort Ligonier, Keystone State Park.
Day 3 – Pittsburgh to Cleveland – Primanti Brothers and Heinz History Museum.
Day 4 – Cleveland to Detroit – Cuyahoga Valley National Park, A Christmas Story House, Lake View Cemetery, and Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge.
Day 5 – Detroit to “Chicago” – Heidelberg Project, Belle Isle, Elmwood Cemetery, Eastern Market, Shinola, Indiana Dunes.
Day 6 – “Chicago” to Minneapolis – Michael Jackson Home, Robie House, Cloud Gate, Lakefront Trail, The Old Fashioned, WI Capitol, Babcock Hall Dairy, Pink Elephant, Orange Moose.
Day 7 – Minneapolis (rest day) – Grand Rounds Trail, Minnehaha Falls.
Day 8 – Minneapolis to Badlands – Jolly Green Giant, Sioux Falls, Corn Palace, Al’s Oasis.
Day 9 – Badlands to Custer – Minuteman Visitor Center, Badlands National Park, Minuteman Missile Silo, Wall Drug, Chapel in the Hills, Mount Rushmore.
Day 10 – Custer to Greybull – Black Hills National Forest, Devil’s Tower, Bighorn National Forest.
Day 11 – Greybull to West Yellowstone – Buffalo Bill Dam, Yellowstone National Park.
Day 12 – West Yellowstone to Portland – USS Hawkbill, Craters of the Moon, Mural of Pennies.

The car itself was a trooper. It didn’t drink any fluids, did pop on O2 sensor around 1/3 of the way (can be ignored, but since fixed), the oil looks perfectly clean, and I got about 22mpg. I was expecting better, but I did have luggage, a bike on the roof (I did bike a lot of places), the O2 sensor could have hurt efficiency a bit, and let’s face it, the car had 135k miles.

It was an awesome trip, I’m so thankful that I was able to do it, and I can’t wait to do more.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

  • Maryland is the worst. East coast mentality is so east coast. Seems to altogether disappear once you hit Western PA.
  • Pittsburgh is a pretty cool place. Lots of history, a tough demeanor, but everyone was really pleasant. Was surprised to see how much was invented there and how responsible the city was for the growth of our nation.
  • Cleveland had nothing going for it. It was cheap so that was cool. Had lunch and a pretty serious bike repair done for a combined $8.50.
  • Detroit is a very cool town. I know we all joked about buying blocks back when they were for sale for nothing, but we really should have. It’s still mostly a ghost town, but the infrastructure is there, those blocks are now all gone, the people were super friendly (folks in “the hood” would say hello to me from their stoops as I passed, clad in spandex). Young people are flocking. I’m not sure the jobs are there yet, but for someone who telecommutes it’s got a lot of draw if they could do something about those winters.
  • Indiana could go away. My second time passing through it and it’s really got nothing going on.
  • Chicago is always a nice stop. I think I’ve seen the Cloud Gate a half dozen times now. Never gets old. And that lake shore… So nice.
  • There might not be a more friendly place than Wisconsin. It’s almost painful. Mmm cheese and ice cream.
  • I’d been to Minneapolis before, but this was my first time actually seeing it. It’s got a lot going for it. No wonder it ranks really high on all those internet lists, but similar to Detroit – that winter.
  • Not much to say about South Dakota. The woman were all oddly attractive. Young and old.
  • Wyoming is cold. Unexpected. Apparently it’s the second highest state so that makes sense. I’m talking 20 degrees at night. I stayed in a super cool historic hotel in Greybull. Basically had a full apartment for like $50.
  • Idaho is amazingly beautiful no matter where you cross it, but so darned empty. I didn’t know they had volcanic fields there and didn’t expect to see the backside of the Tetons.
  • Oregon is home so I blasted through it in the dark. I’ve got plenty of time to see all it offers.
  • You can make it from Yellowstone to Portland in a day.
  • REI is the bomb. Apparently they used a faulty glue on my 10 year old tent for a totally unimportant piece. I took it in to see if they could reglue it, but instead they gave me a brand new tent. Not what I was looking for, but that’s their policy and why they deserve all your camping business.
  • This country is large. There’s so damned much to see. I’ve now crossed it twice. One of the more difficult things in planning is making those choices that eliminate other possibilities. You simply can’t hit it all. I could easily see needing maybe another six crossings to see all I’d want to see. Time to get planning!
  • I’ve now seen where Trump supporters live.

Shiny new fingerprint collector

Posted on Apr 29, 2016 in General, House | 1 comment

Sometimes it’s better  to cut your losses. Our existing stove had a quirky computer. It’d somewhat randomly read a sensor error and not work for hours. I took it apart last year, cleaned up connections, tested all the obvious items (it all checked out), and the issue was resolved for about six months without having actually fixed anything. And then it came back… And I wasn’t going to attempt to fix what I couldn’t figure out again so we went shopping. Behold the newness! We got a monster deal at Sears with a price match and applying for their credit card (to be paid off and closed immediately) – something like $800 for a $1300 stove delivered and installed. Hoping this will take my daily fried eggs to the next level 😉

Would ya look at that!?

Would ya look at that!? Just look at it.

Farewell, Shreddette

Posted on Apr 28, 2016 in Cycling, General | 0 comments

Awaiting pickup.

Awaiting pickup.

I really dig indoor park riding. So much so that I went out and bought a bike for it. Unfortunately, it’s hard to learn at this age and hitting the ground at my size or really any adult size hurts. About half the time I go riding I return home with something to mend (screw digging through my elbow, crushed shins, a limp for weeks, etc). I’m currently dealing with a hip pointer that’s more than a month old and not getting too much better (hip flexor is still OW). Last week I did some soul-searching and put the bike up for sale and it sold yesterday for my asking price. It’s not often that I sell a bike without it being an upgrade so this is a big deal. We had a good run and I learned some techniques that will help me in my other cycling, but my days jumping things and getting rad are now over. The new owner will be traveling the US in a Eurovan so the bike is sure to see some great sights and I’m glad somebody will be using her better than I could ever hope to.