Sh*t keeps breakin’

May 28, 2008

So the day after my post about the bike, I was climbing a steep hill in a high-ish gear and felt/heard a sharp SPRANG! from my rear wheel. I’ve had that loving feeling before, and sure enough, I had snapped a spoke. Fortunately only 1/2 mile from home. I took the wheel in to get the spoke replaced and the wheel trued up, and the bike shop guy called back to let me know my rear rim was cracking all over the place. The cracks are hairline now, but the wheel is eventual toast.

Spoke breaks really piss me off, because as an ex-extremely mediocre racer, I have clinical data that proves that not only am I much less powerful than I once was, but even when I was at my best I was pretty weak. Like my VO2 max topped out at 60, which is OK but hardly ‘genetic enduro mutant’ like. And I have no fast twitch to speak of, my vertical jump is 6 inches on a good day. Yes, I’m a slow guy with no endurance. So WTF on the whole spoke snapping thing? It’s not like I was pulling a (pre doping?) Vino and shattering the spent lead group of Tour elites with a blistering attack. I was climbing a freaking short not so steep hill on my way back home from work

As for the rim, well, I’m no Alberto Contador. The extra weight in my belly, fueled by late nights of coding and the incredible amount of yummy sugar snacks at the office, may be aerodynamically efficient, but it does nothing good for the power to weight ratio, and I’m afraid that my non endomorphic physique contributed to the rim fatigue.

No worries, don’t panic, said the bike shop guy. But I would start looking for a new wheel if I were you.

The thing is, the wheel is a 24 spoke Bontrager, and they dont even make those anymore. So I think it’s time to upgrade to a new set of wheels, something bomber that wasn’t made for an anorexic little grimpeur.  While a nice pair of Ksyriums would be great, I’m value-drooling over a set of Neuvation wheels, having read the reviews that rate them very high. In any case a wheelset is the best upgrade you can make on a bike, and I’m very close to springing for the rear wheel at least….

Since the rear rim is cracking slowly, I’m just going to keep an eye on it and keep riding. But the god of equipment upgrades wasn’t done with me. The next time I went out, I was just finishing my Mercer Island 2 lap AM special when I clicked out of my pedal, tried to click back in, and couldn’t get in. I rode swearing the whole time up the 14% grade to my house with one leg. Thank god for granny gears! When I took a look at the pedal, the retaining spring had cracked. This is the second pair of eggbeater pedals I’ve trashed, and I was done with the brand. That day I picked up a pair of Speedplay light actions. Installing the cleats was somewhat labor intensive, but straightforward. I was worried about finding the tiny little pedals with my feet, but had talked to enough friends that rode them to be assured that this wouldn’t be an issue. Sure enough, they felt completely natural. The best thing you can say about a pedal or a saddle is that you didn’t notice it, and these fit the bill. I’ll weigh in on their durability as time goes by.

Hopefully I can motivate to get out of bed by 5, on the road by 5:30 to do a long-ish Issaquah loop. Work is super busy these days, but a 5:30 – 8:30 session on the bike does wonders for my temperament.

My bike setup: (not so) initial impressions

May 20, 2008

A while ago I had written about a good bike setup for me that allowed me to keep my shifting at the brake levers and use the aero bars. Last month, after a particularly brutal winter that delayed the onset of spring riding, I found a pair of deda akros bullhorns and strapped them on. The brake levers are at least 4 inches further forward than they used to be:  I needed to lengthen my brake lines to account for the increased reach. And the ride and handling is completely different, I’m thrown forward much more and feel like I need to  be conscious of steering with my hips because a little motion with my arms does a lot more.

But, all in all, the adjustment has gone well. This year, due to patellar tendinosis and work, I haven’t gotten in the miles I would have liked to, and I’m in not so stellar shape. But I’m clocking the  same speed on my Mercer Island 2 lap morning ride as I did when I was much leaner and riding with standard road bars.

The only issue has been saddle discomfort. I’m making an effort to stay in the aero bars more,  that puts a lot more pressure on my, well, my ‘taint’, for lack of a better term. Even though I’ve jammed the saddle all the way forward, I’m riding on the nose, and what I’ve got has got nowhere to go. I’m looking for some relief, doing online saddle reviews, which is by definition impossible. But I think I’ve found a winner  in the Koobi Au Enduro, a saddle that keeps the split going all the way down the nose of the saddle, which just sounds wonderful to me right now.

Now that I’ve adjusted to the increased reach and saddle fore-aft position,  I feel a lot more powerful on flats an slight uphills, even with a super weak left knee. In fact, riding is just about the only thing I can do, because it is in a single plane, unlike soccer.  I’m still in denial about soccer being hard on the knees, but this injury is primarily due to trying to follow some 20 year old kid around on the field. I’m just glad my soccer team has morphed into more of a drinking team, because that doesn’t require young, strong knees.

I’m still adjusting to the increased stretch forward, I’ve felt some back pain but that could be partially the result of my body compensating for the knee, as well as a bad posture at work. The other day I did a May Valley ride to Issaquah and felt some back pain, but was able to stretch it out and have it completely dissapear. So maybe the morning sessions on the TRX have not been completely in vain!

Morning Runs and Requirements

December 29, 2007

I used to run at lunch, it was a great stress reliever. These days, it makes more sense to run in the morning, things get too hectic at work. It still relieves the stress, in fact I usually start the day much more relaxed after a good run.

Right now I’m spending a lot of time on my runs focusing on form, specifically leaning forward and picking up my legs. Leaning forward felt really strange at first, like I was sticking my butt out. I think that’s because I actually was sticking my butt out, bending at the waist. Now focusing on leaning my pelvis forward and moving my legs back has made leaning a lot more natural.

The other thing that I’ve been working on is picking my legs up instead of lifting them forward. This feels really weird, like I’m almost running in place, I’m still playing with this, trying to concentrate on not pushing off at all.

I’ve been trying to relax my breathing — not the frequency, but the urgency, if that makes any sense. I’m just trying to breathe in and out easily, and relaxing my upper body when I exhale.

Finally, I’ve been experimenting with my arm swing. Swinging back on level ground and downhills, swinging forward on uphills. Anything to maintain the forward lean angle with the ground.

One thing I havent been focusing much on lately is effort. When I start the run, I start as slow as I want to. When I pick it up, I go as fast as I want to. I haven’t been pushing the pace at all, but the strange thing is that I’m running as fast as I used to when I was pushing it. Runs have turned into a great meditation — I’m focusing on form and breath and all of a sudden I’m gliding. I think that this is all in my head — I’m no Kenyan when it comes to form or effort. But it’s been great to get out and look forward to long runs as a chance to unwind.

When I’m not focusing on form, I’m thinking about a problem at work, or the new project. Garmin has done a lot of the heavy lifting to enable uploading to a web site — initial investigation shows that they have plugins for mac and windoze, and provide javascript access to their API. So that side of the house looks covered. Which is fine, I don’t have any issues with accessing/uploading the data, I just want to remix it in a relevant way.

One thing I was thinking about this AM was that I like to do a lot of long runs or rides because they are adventures. Even the climbs I was doing, like Outer Space and Orbit in a day, were about having a great time on moderate terrain and covering a lot of ground. The North Ridge of Stuart was another grand adventure. Every 1/2 marathon I do is a mini adventure of one kind or another, and RAMROD was some of the most amazing riding I have ever had the fortune to experience. In 2005 we got blown off of Rainier’s standard route, but still had a blast.

The thing that is missing from all of these great memories is data — I would love to have seen a Google Earth view of all of them. I would have loved to be able to insert comments/pictures at any point in a map, for instance mile 60 of RAMROD when the previous nights dinner asserted itself :). That way these adventures can be stories that I can share with people, to give them a sense of what I was feeling/thinking at what point, and where these adventures actually took me. It would have been great to see what my heart rate was doing up Cayuse Pass or slogging up to Muir with a 50 lb pack on. It would have been great to show the turnaround point on Rainier and how far off of the standard route we were (hey, 2 feet of new snow buried the wands. You try finding them at midnight in a blizzard!).

To sum up as more requirements:

  1. the application should allow me to inject pictures/comments into a map of the event.
  2. the application should show me my speed/heart rate/average pace/average hr when I roll over the map. (Ooh, that’s going to be a tough one 🙂

Time to stop talking and start coding

December 23, 2007

I was in the middle of a lengthy blog post on Java complexity when it hit me: I’ve been opinionating this whole time, with nothing but vague references to my work to back it up. So much for credibility 🙂

Obviously I can’t spill the beans about work, other than in very specific instances of technology use, like I have been. But that is of limited interest. Who really cares what I think about technology X , or that I got in a flame war about Code Coverage? I think more people would be interested in what I’m using for code coverage, how I’m using Spring, or Rails, or Ext or {insert technology x here}.

Something that would be even better would be to document an actual application, one outside of work that I can be completely transparent about.

So…I’m a data geek. I love data, and I love the way it has become so easy to mash up. For me collecting and exposing data is what motivated my early involvement in the project that eventually became a real company. While Evri has a noble mission statement that is applicable to data in general, an itch I have that is not getting scratched right now is the juxtaposition of exercise data with geoloc data in a way that is actually useful to me.

When I strap on my Garmin 305, I want to be able to:

(1) Track my HR, speed and location for any activity that I happen to do outside.

(2) Upload my data, and with little to no extra configuration

(3) View/Pivot on the data in the following ways:

  • I want to be able to view my stats — specifically, how hard am I working over the course? What is my average HR, average pace, average elevation gain, etc, for that run ?
  • I want to see that run/bike/run on the richest map UI possible. Right now that’s Google Earth, tomorrow it might be something else.
  • I want to be able to track those stats over a specific segment of my bike/run/ski. I want to break them out per mile, but also be able to be able to select a segment of my bike/run/ski and view them.
  • If the route I have just run correlates (within an adjustable delta) to a route I have previously run, I want those two to be grouped together.
  • I want to be able to view my progress (or lack thereof) over those routes by graphing the stats over time. If I run course X on week Y, then run it on week Y+1, I want to see how my average HR compares. I want to see how my average pace compares.

That last point was the important one to me. One way to measure fitness is Actual Effort Expended — how hard did I work vs how fast did I go? Ideally, if E = effort and P = pace, you would want E to drop while P increases. In other words you want E/P to go to zero. I might graph it the other way so that it looks good on a graph (going to infinite instead of zero.

Every solution I’ve looked at so far does (1) and (2) above, but they don’t quite do (3). If they do,

(1) they charge you for that kind of calculation.

(2) they make you do the calculation.

First of all, I don’t think that anyone should be charged for that. I think that the ability to mash up and pivot data is very close to being commoditized, and that the cost of that should be underwritten by ads. Additional services, like personal training, should be subscription based. But the ability to view and manipulate your data should be an inalienable right, goddamnit.

Second, I want to be able to view and pivot on this kind of data with little to no effort. I don’t want to do anything more than adjust standard defaults if and only if needed. I don’t want to have to create or update or enter new routes, I want them to emerge from the data. I want my data to tell me when I’m in shape, when I’m out of shape, when I’m having a bad day, when I’ve got a new favorite route, when my route starts to change, etc.

I dont want to think too hard about manipulating my data. I may be a data geek, but I want to have a low to no barrier experience once I upload the data.

Over the next year I want to treat this like a real software project. I want to

  1. determine feasibility
  2. evolve requirements
  3. evolve user scenarios
  4. build a data model that supports those scenarios
  5. start implementing trace route prototypes of the software using things that I want to, and processes I want to.
  6. move the app off of my box to an EC2 stack.
  7. point my friends at it (and make them write their own filters if they use some other kind of GPS).

I want to have some fun, on my own time, with something I might actually use, and sharpen up my total stack skills on the way. Stay tuned fearless reader (even if that fearless reader is the fearless writer 🙂 This one actually excites me.

The first step in the feasibility process is to make sure I can actually parse Garmin 305 data….I’ll update when I get some more details.

searching for the perfect bike setup

October 3, 2007

Last year I decided to start road riding seriously again. I dropped a chunk of change on a nice titanium frame roadbike, and rode the RAMROD with a good friend, actually, by the end it was more like 20 good friends in an extremely fast paceline who didn’t mind that I couldn’t pull through until mile 120 when I underwent some kind of reincarnation.

This year, with work picking up, I felt significantly less motivated to log 70 miles in the AM before work, and the hours working restricted me to 2 fast laps around Mercer Island in the morning, for a whopping 32 mile ride, 28 if you don’t count the 5 mile limp to work. Mercer Island is still a great course to ride, there are 2 stop signs in 10 miles, and it’s up and down, twisty and turny. And at 5:30 in the morning, the only traffic you see are people walking their dogs and other cyclists.

Still, I was getting kind of burned by the repetitive route (and had no time to go longer / different), and halfway through the summer I decided to get some tri extensions.

Wow, what a difference. All of a sudden I was stretched out low and fast and moving much faster than I did when I was riding the hoods. I loved being in that super stretched out position.

Being a geek, and especially an equipment geek, I started drooling at all of the fast tri bikes I saw, and wondered about how I could convert my current rig to reflect my current riding style — after all, I was never in the drops anymore, and to be honest, drop bars with tri extensions seem too cluttered to me.

I was all about to spring for a standard base bar, new brakes, new shifters on the end of the tri extensions, and all that jazz, when I read this article, which really nailed both my riding style and a much simpler solution that would let me keep my STI shifters and be able to shift while climbing, which is about the only time I shift a lot. It’s not going to kill me, especially since I’m very non competitive, to reach over to an STI lever and shift while in the extensions. And those Deda base cow horn bars are a measly $59 dollars. Which is only about 20 Lattes (converting to Latte$ is a great way to justify anything).