Since last writing a month and a half ago, I’ve ridden another five races. There has been a weekend or two off in there, but also a double-header.
The first race was closing out the first series I was doing. I finished 11th and 10th in the first two races. This time, I had a great start and had a great race going (5th or so) with one lap to go. I could feel a small group of riders right on my back, but I had held them off the entire race and was feeling strong. And then I thought to much about it, crashed [lightly] twice that lap, and finished 10th. So close. The venue for this was a pretty awesome that I hope to spend more time at if only for their pink lemonade water fountain. Yes, a regular water fountain with ice cold pink lemonade. Results | GPS
The next two races opened up the Cross Crusade series. I think this is one of the oldest cross series in the US. They even claim to have invented the call-up. Pretty cool. This pair took place at the Alpenrose Dairy just a handful of miles from home. This place has a velodrome, a faux Wild West town, hosts CX races all the damned time, and is a functional dairy. Pretty cool. Their call-up system was based on a couple of races that I didn’t do so I didn’t fare too well in that department despite having a decent standing in the only major series that had been run thus far. With this being a popular series, there were TONS of riders (something like 11-1200). On both days I raced pretty well and enjoyed my first taste of slippery off-camber NW ridiculousness, but I started in 60th or later place and only made it into the 40s. The course was mostly the same, but reversed the second day and didn’t have great passing opportunities. Fun, but competitively, a wasted weekend; a key to a successful CX finish is getting a great starting position and that’s not with 59 people in front of you. Result #1 | Result #2 | GPS #1 | GPS #2
The third race was also a few miles from home at the edge of PIR and Heron Lakes Golf Course.Compared to the previous weekend, the course was easy and flat, and suited my abilities better. My group got called up second to last so again (last week I was called up in the middle both days, which with named call-ups means towards the back, then for the next race they reverse the order, which doesn’t change the middle) I was playing a game of passing the entire way as I started 10 from the back (~80th) and made it up to 33rd. I’ve been messing [positively] with the bike fit and my technical skills are improving greatly; I can feel I’m going faster, I just need to get a good start! If we’re reversed for the next race, that’ll be my chance! Results | GPS
Ew. What is this? Sticky, peanut buttery mud along the ENTIRE course. This is foreign to me. Following a week of record rainfall, we found our way to Hillsboro to race around the Washington County Fair Complex. As the name may make obvious, that means fields, and flat ones at that… You know, the type of place you’d hold a fair. Flat fields do not drain. This race was an absolute mess and I loved it. As expected, group call-ups were reversed so I had a great starting spot! 20th or so. Mucho pumped, but only for the first 30 seconds until the guy in front of me collided with a barrier, took me out with him, and I found myself in dead last. I’m talking 92nd of the 92 starters. Ugh. Wasted start. I contemplate just throwing in the towel, but I’m already covered in mud since we went down in a pool of it, and this kind of traction is new to me… Great learning lesson. Well, I’m glad I stuck with it. The course was very wide so passing wasn’t much of a problem and I seemed to be pretty good at riding mud. I chugged my way nicely through the first couple of laps, spied some folks that I knew had been placing well, picked them off, and crossed the finish in 16th. With that placing, I earned a few points for the series, which will get me a named call-up (happens before the groups) that I feel I probably should have been getting all along, but c’est la vie. Great race, filthy bike, filthy Mikey, pretty dirty car. When do we race next!? Results | GPS
Today marks the first day since my mother’s death that I feel like I’ve really gotten back into the swing of things. I’ve been working since a week after her passing, but it hasn’t felt quite right and my productivity has been pretty horrid. Luckily either nobody noticed at work or maybe I’ve been too hard on myself. Could be the nature of the work I’ve been doing (lots of wheel spinning), but I think it’s been a good bit me.
It took three months to get here.
I don’t think I took her death particularly hard because we had so much time to prepare and cope with it beforehand despite it being much more of a rapid thing due to the nature of how she actually passed, but my mind has clearly not been right. It hasn’t been focused on her, but perhaps only because it hasn’t been capable of focusing at all.
It’s almost like my mind did a reboot, my BIOS had all sorts of errors, and then there were some system updates queued too. There was a shutdown, things will never be the same, and I’ve got a different outlook on a lot. Welcome to the Matrix?
On the coping front, nothing has really changed. I don’t think I went through “the phases” (please don’t tell me I’m still in Stage 1!). I still (this is where I started) think back to memories or see a photo and it dawns on me that that’s it; she’s no longer here. There’s no more of that to happen. Someone who played such a large role in my life is just gone. Completely. Forever frozen in time.
My lack of faith likely doesn’t help matters as I have a hard time making sense out of nothingness. I do lean a bit towards reincarnation so if anything I’ve been more kind to all matter of life except for jerks who try to run me over.
Three months. I’m not over it. I’m certain I’ll never be, but I’m back to living again.
Good news! My ankle is back. I had to take two weeks off from all activity and over a month from running. It’s still a bit tight and I tweak it lightly now and then, but I don’t think I suffered any long term damage. I had to forego the first trail racing series race of the fall and will likely opt out of the next one or two just to give myself more time to heal and strengthen, but I may get back out there before it’s over. Or maybe it is time to give up on running altogether.
Anyway, I’ve done a slew of bicycle racing over the past two weeks. I began not feeling in the best of shape due to the training missed from the ankle, but all has gone pretty well and I’m much stronger now for it. As racing is going to be a weekly or more frequent thing this fall, look for roundups such as this.
August 24, 2014 – Kruger’s Kermesse. This would be my first race on the new cyclocross bike. It is quite nice and well above my capability so my equipment is no longer an excuse. I’d only been on the bike twice before, and being so much faster than my old steed, I wasn’t prepared for its capabilities. My negative splits (later laps being faster than earlier ones) indicate that. The race is for cyclocross bikes, but it is called a “farm crit.” There are no obstacles so it’d be a pretty safe ride for the fresh ankle. And it was fast (I averaged 17mph off road). I did pretty well, picking folks off the whole way, and finishing 7th in the “C” class (there’s beginners, my group, guys who are pretty good, and then guys who are great).
August 26, 2014 – Tuesday PIR. On two days rest, I made my way up to the local speedway to attend the last of the weekly races that occur there. They are held on Monday and Tuesday nights, which makes for A TON of races per season, but this was the first I managed to get to. I wasn’t able to preride the course, but being a 2-mile circuit, there were a handful of “easy” laps in which to learn it before things got serious. In my last proper road race, I broke my wrist by getting ansty. This time I stayed calm, found my way behind the wheel of a strong looking guy with plenty of room to maneuver, and field-sprinted to 3rd overall. I actually won the field sprint as the first two guys sprinted early and we didn’t reel them back in. I was gaining ground on them both without really feeling like it was much effort so I’m pretty sure I could have had the overall win had I known to go earlier, but that’s part of the game. Just a comfort thing that will come next season when I do the races more regularly. For most of these guys, they had done dozens of this same race already this year. Of note, this race was with Cat 4s too. Race average was about 24.5mph. I think flat and fast is my jam. Can’t wait until next year.
August 30, 2014 – Gran Prix Ryan Trebon #1, David Douglas. The first proper cyclocross race of the season took place just across the river in Vancouver. Picked my buddy Dolan up (who won his race by over a minute!!! Yeah, dude!), made our way there, got a bit of a preride in, and… raced. I was pretty pleased with my performance; I felt strong, but was majorly slow in the singletrack technical sections, which will just come with practice. It was a wet and muddy one so it was really true CX action. So wet that I was constantly wiping sweaty rain from my face and eyes, which led to some aggro… Some jerkoff riding behind me told me to keep my hands on my bar. I wasn’t swerving or anything, and, well, he was behind me. I kindly told him to eff himself. Looking at the results, I found he was from Seattle. It all makes so much sense. I didn’t have my typical strong finish and dropped about four spots on the last lap to end up in 11th place. Kind of a bummer, but c’est la vie. Also dropped my chain on the final corner so I had to run across the finish line. Good enough to get my name announced over the loudspeaker and not lose any places so “woot.” GPS boom.
September 6, 2014 – Gran Prix Ryan Trebon #2, Het Meer. Another one across the river in Vancouver. Gave Dolan a ride again. Unfortunately, he didn’t blow away his field because they bumped him up a class, where he still managed 11th place. Dude is having a great year. This race was again very “real” CX except for the fact that there was a beach section. I watched some videos of folks nearly killing themselves in the sand and chose to run it, but that didn’t help me from killing myself. I got a good call-up at the start of the race, but wasted it completely as I unclipped the wrong foot and mentally froze over the first barrier. From there, the mental mistakes only piled on. I crashed half a dozen times and have a nice raspberry on my hip and scrapes up my leg. Pretty lightweight damage for bicycle crashing, but man… brutal day. Every time I’d make ground on and/or pass a competitor, I’d go down and have to chase again. The guy who finally finished just ahead of me had to find it comical as I think I passed him 2-3 times only to finish behind him. I would have likely gotten him, but we went from 2 laps to go to finished (no bell/final lap). Kind of annoying as I was saving something for that final lap that we didn’t get. Regardless of the mental mistakes, this was a pretty good course for me as it featured a lot of long flats to power down so I still managed 10th place. I’m just going to put this one behind me and work on my off-bike skills this coming week. There will be chaos — keep pedaling. GPS it.
To add insult (and injury) to injury, I tore up my hand riding past a thorn bush after my race, and when unloading Dolan’s bike at his house, saw there was a branch attached to it, pulled it off, and the one monstrous thorn that was on it entered my thumb. I didn’t leave the couch the rest of the day.
I’m pretty optimistic about the season… Just need to keep practicing that off road riding and I’m sure to see some podium time.
After a solid two weeks of racing, a full training cycle following the sprained ankle, and all culminating in a crash-a-thon, I’m ready for some rest. No racing planned for this week and an abbreviated set of training (maybe only 6 hours). GOGO recovery!
A whole bunch more photos are available on Facebook if you’re friendly with me over there.
I haven’t posted about it yet, but if you’re reading here, you probably already know. My mother passed away on June 21, 2014, due to complications with her treatment for brain cancer. Ultimately, she didn’t die from cancer or any of the side effects of it. I’ve not really made that public until now, but I kind of needed to get it off my chest. After such a lengthy and unprecedented journey, that really sucked. I’ll be posting more regarding cancer, dying, and Mom in general as I feel comfortable with it, but for now I leave you with a slideshow I created for her services and recently added some of her favorite songs to:
Trail running is stupid. My stance is firm on this despite a wobbly ankle.
Was having a great race (I was with the guy who finished 8th) when halfway in I came to an off-camber, downhill, and sharp turn. It happened in a flash so I don’t know if it was related to a root or rock, but the bottom of my right foot was pointing left for an instant and it hurt. I hobbled to a walk and quickly realized this wasn’t the kind of ankle twist that you can walk or run off. Race over, man.
Being halfway through the race also meant I was as far from the start as possible. I hobbled my way down the single track trail, pulling off whenever I heard footsteps behind me. Being a great race, there were a lot of footsteps behind me so that .5 mile off the small trail took forever. Luckily, it was fire road after that, but the first post I came to was marked “1.75″ (the race started at 0). I figured it’d be roughly a 30 minute walk, but I didn’t properly account for hobbling as opposed to regular walking. It took FOREVER. On the way I found a nice walking stick to take the load off my foot, and as I neared the end a group of three women from the race met up with me in order to give me company for the remaining bit of the walk. Portlanders are the best.
Once I got home, ice and ibuprofen. With any luck, this’ll be a 2-3 day thing and I’ll be back out to race next week. Already feels a tiny bit better, but I’m still hobbling around and am not able to ride today (last day of the month – was supposed to ride 50 miles in order to complete 1250km in July so extra bummer to not reach that goal).
So trail running is stupid, my ankle hurts, I’m failing a monthly goal, and blah. I suppose I’ll live.
Another race down. Fortunately, this went much better than the last. I went out rather slowly and picked my pace up all the way through the finish. Pacing myself, a novel idea, no? I don’t know if my result was much or any better because I beat some people I had lost to last week and lost to some I had beaten last week. But I felt better about it so I’d have to think I ran better.
Anyway, this course was more of the same. Up a trail, down another, back up again, and back down again. It wasn’t until the final downhill that I began feeling fatigued. I had run with another guy the entire race (we got to chatting after he slipped and fell trying to pass me on the inside of a turn – it had rained) and once he got by me around Mile 2, I kept pace with him and was even gaining towards the end, but as soon as we hit that downhill he flew away from me and caught and destroyed the two folks we had seen off in the distance the whole race. In that final downhill mile, he put 30 seconds on me. Pretty nuts.
So yeah, back to the fatigue bit… Running downhill is harder than uphill. On that final stretch, my quads and left foot couldn’t handle any more pounding so I was more or less sidestepping the whole way down. I went just as fast as everyone other than the guy who blew everyone away, but it’s clear I have much room for improvement there. Unlike riding elevation, where I suffer on the way up, but my weight helps me on the way down, you seem to suffer for having extra weight both ways when running (up because duh and down because of the pounding). I’m sure my muscles will harden up with more practice, which I’ll be getting over the next ten weeks or so of weekly races.
I no longer hate trail racing. It’s clear I’ve got a lot to learn (I’m sure there are best practices for running up and down that I could stand to read up on), but my body isn’t hating me as much as after last race and I’m sure it’ll only get better. Do I love it? Not quite yet, but I’m also not ready to rule it out as my next addition.
I grabbed this one for its relevance to what we’re currently working through. It builds upon the principals from Lean Startup, which I haven’t yet read. In hindsight, I probably should have read that first, but this book stands up pretty well on its own.
Who would I recommend it to? Anyone with their hand in UI/UX design, which should be everyone out there.
The premise is that designing a user experience is difficult to do in a lean environment. All too often we get caught up in the old BDUF approach. Collaboration is the key and it starts at the design phase. Someone from every discipline of your team should be involved from the start to the finish. This establishes ownership and understanding of the goal and product. There’s no more “Oh, my job is done, on to the next thing and I’ll half-assedly glance back at this other thing now and then.”
One of the key suggestions for getting great UX in a fast moving environment is to design toward outcomes rather than a backlog of must-have deliverables. Similar to how a backlog is created (or how one should be created), customers are polled. Rather than having one person responsible for that interaction, the entire team is. How? Regular user acceptance testing. Get the product in front of actual customers and see what they say. Have everyone view the results. This book and idea are primarily focused on UX, but it can go for any feature of the product; getting more people involved in understanding customers can never hurt.
My Highlights (brackets = paraphrasing, indented italics = my comments):
A decent read and pretty quick read. If you’re interested in UX in the slightest, you ought to give this a go.