American Gothic... in Spring... in Boulder

You know that potential snow storm I mentioned a couple of days ago? Well, it came, and it brought its friend – 20-40 mph winds – too. Put together and one ends up with +12" of snow. A couple more inches may fall overnight, but the the belief is the worst is over.

Luckily, we didn't need to drive anywhere today. But those that did often found themselves confronted with some very bad conditions. The main highway between Boulder and Denver was shutdown, and parts of both of the major interstates that bisect Colorado had sections closed to due road conditions and accidents... one being a 40 car pile-up.


Chloe's "6 year"

Chloe met with her new pediatrician today and, inoculation prep and execution aside (what a scene that was), all feedback from the doctor is positive. She's in good health, has her 6 year molars coming in, and is now 48" tall (85th percentile) and 52 pounds (75th).


Cabo for Spring Break? No. BoCo!

Today starts Spring Break week for Chloe and the rest of the students in Boulder Valley School District. We're foregoing a trip to Miami, San Padre Island, Cabo, etc. and staying right here in BoCo. Scheduled highlights for the week include:
- no set wake-up time (that's a highlight for Daddy, too!)
- a trip to the Denver aquarium.
- some serious spring and summer clothes shopping... she's outgrown a lot in a short period of time.
- her 6 yo check up (she probably won't consider that to be a highlight.)
- a playdate with some school friends.
- a round of mini-golf.
- possibly some sledding... despite last weekend's warm temps, there's talk of a sizeable snow event later this week.


My own Joan Benoit

Despite the recent spate of cycling posts, I'm not the only one doing some quasi-serious cardiovascular training.

Peggy's recovered quite well from her stress fractures from a couple of months ago and is in full-on training mode for the Colorado Half-Marathon in the beginning of May. Self-proclaimed as "America's Most Scenic Course," the route begins West of Fort Collins, CO and goes along the Poudre River canyon for most of it. And mercifully for the runners, it follows the river's downstream flow. The elevation loss isn't dramatic (about 350 feet over 13.1 miles), but as Peggy says "It's better than flat or uphill."

Then on Memorial Day, she'll be running the Bolder Boulder, a 10K here in town. We've heard this event is known for both things that happen both on the race course and along it. On the race course, there will be about 50,000 runners, ranging from world-class runners, to moms and dads with baby joggers. Along the race course there will be about 30 bands and other entertainers that are schedule by the organizers to help create a fun and festive time for runners and onlookers. And there are also the "unscheduled" attractions that apparently make this quite a fun time... past years have had belly dancers, slip-n-slides, and plenty of super soakers.


A Better Second Go-Around

After last Saturday's "performance" at the crit, I knew – or rather, hoped – that I would do better by some measure in today's race. Thankfully, I did.

For starters, I was able to clip in better... not perfectly, though. It took me only two times to clip my left shoe in, but even so, I was able to stay in the main pack as we left the start line. Thankfully, the pace for the first initial laps was a little bit more relaxed compared to last week, and I was able to hang on towards the back of the pack for a while. Eventually, attacks began, breaks started developing and the next thing I knew, I was in the dreaded "no man's land" – riding by myself in between the main pack and those that fell off the pace early and had since regrouped a little. I probably should have tried to speed up and latch on to the group in front of me (allowing me to draft some and recover), but didn't. At the same time, I knew slowing down to let others catch up wasn't in my best interest either, so I stayed put and kept my pace going as long as possible.

Eventually, the race organizers started pulling lapped and those-about-to-be lapped riders. I was able to avoid the first category (unlike last week) but after a couple of more circuits I could see my time on the course was numbered. I pushed along for about another lap or two and then got "the whistle" (which translates to: "you'll be lapped soon, so please exit the course.")

While I wasn't able to complete the entire 40 minutes, I do feel better about my slight improvement over last week. I had a better start, I stayed calm throughout the opening laps, and made better decisions regarding when to expend energy and when to save. Plus I feel like I'm making some improvement in my cornering skills... being able to take corners with a little bit more speed.

After the race, with a beautiful sunny-and-70 day on hand, a couple teammates and I wanted to get some extra riding in, so we headed over to Deer Creek Canyon to do some climbing. And we got a fair share... nothing crazy steep, but it was plenty long. About 13 miles to the top, with an average grade of about 5%. It felt great... I hadn't done a long climb like that in a while, and while my legs felt a little tired towards the top, it was definitely a "good tired."

I'm still not sure if crits are my thing, but will probably due a couple more in the weeks and months ahead to see. If nothing else, they do serve as good race and group riding experience, and are a very good short-and-intense interval workout! Next up (probably): a road race where approximately 50% of it is on packed dirt roads, and there's a short 17% climb.


Mandarin and Minty Fresh

It's been awhile since I put anything up about Chamberlain. And chances are, the last time I did was probably well after his last bath. So this morning, the boy was due for a new scent... the accumulation of dog-funk over the last several months was getting to be a bit much.

I didn't have any luck finding his shampoo, so I delved into Peg's stash of little bottles of "spa" shampoos and lathered him up with Mandarin and Mint. He sat pretty well for the exercise, and not surprisingly, a lot of dirt and hair came out (I spared you a picture of the "ring" around the tub after I drained the water.)

While I thought it was worthwhile and not done with malice, Chamberlain apparently have revenge on his mind: shortly after I put him outside to shake himself dry, he began to roll around in the dirt and grass.


We're Signed! Next Up: Sealed and Delivered.

We learned this afternoon that we are "under contract" with the house we made an offer on! Now the REAL fun begins... loan commitments and structure, inspections, movers, changes of address, deciding what room to turn into the Steelers Shrine, putting stuff on craigslist, etc.

We're set to close on May 15th, and plan to move in the last week of May sometime. Our plan is to get whatever work needs to be done prior to furniture being there (e.g. painting Chloe's room.)


A Rough, Short Day in the Saddle

Hoping to at least keep progressing in my training and racing, I took part in my first crit today. If you need to know what a "crit" is, look at my post from exactly a week ago, and towards the bottom of it you'll see a link.) Unfortunately, my hope of progressing, for all intents and purposes, vanished within the first several feet of the start line.

While it isn't everything, I had heard from teammates that the start of a crit is very important. Unlike a traditional road race where there is usually a "leisurely" rolling start, the start of a crit is instantly fast. So if that doesn't go well, one puts oneself in a hole pretty quickly, and that's what happened to me. I had trouble clipping in my left shoe and by the time I did, I was probably already 2/3 of the way back in the pack.

There was a break from the get-go, but I was able to latch on to the back of the 2nd (chasing) group, but I was impatient and panicked and tried to make up as much ground as fast as I could. I made some poor choices in how I took some turns and expended my energy at the wrong times trying to improve position. Eventually, it all came to bite me just north of my saddle and I fell off the pace and eventually got lapped by the leaders. I was able to stay on the course for about 3o of the 40 minute race (race organizers pull lapped riders for the final laps to give the contenders a clearer course on which to race.)

Not a great first crit performance by any measure, but I realize I need to be patient with this racing thing. I'm a 37-year-old rookie and there's gonna be a learning curve. And, there's probably another race next weekend.


Keeping our fingers crossed

We made an offer on a house today!

Because it's a Friday and some of the paperwork has to be signed-off on by a relocation company that is aligned with the seller, we may not know definitively whether or not we have a contract until Monday. But, at this point, all of the verbal agreements have gone well... we just need that extra ink to be put on paper.

The house is in the same neighborhood as our current rental, which was one of our goals... Chloe's able to go to the same Elementary School, and we're able to stay in the neighborhood where we've made some great friends. Other perks of the house is that it is 2.5 years old and one-half block away from a new park that is being built. If all goes to plan, we'll close mid-May and probably move in late-May/early-June.

Hopefully, I'll post more news for you early next week.


My First Time... Trial

I entered the bike racing arena again* today and took part in my first individual time trial.**

"What is a time trial?" one may ask. Well, put simply, it is a type of road race where it is each cyclist for and by himself in a race against the clock. Riders leave one at time at equal intervals (i.e. there is no mass start) and one can not draft off of (get in the slipstream of) other cyclists, even if they are on your team. (In more traditional road races, drafting is both commonplace and vital.) If you want to read more about individuals time trials (or ITTs) and to see some of the specialized equipment some use for TTs, click here. (FYI: I'm not a cyclist with such equipment.)

The race I entered was the Frostbite Time Trial, and it took place north of Ft. Collins, CO (about 1 hour away.) In the days leading up to it, it appeared as if this race was going to live up to its name: even on the morning of, the forecast was for a high of 41 degrees, mostly cloudy, and a 50% chance of rain and/or snow. While those conditions are good for some of my other pursuits (e.g. staying in where it's warm and dry, skiing, etc.) they're less than ideal for cycling. Thankfully, the weather ended up being pretty nice, all things considered... no rain/snow, mostly sunny, only a slight crosswind, and temps in the upper 40s.

The course was an out-and-back... 5.5+ miles out the road, go around some orange cones, and head on back. I hadn't ridden the course before, but after seeing both the elevation profile online and driving along side of it on the way to it, I had a pretty good idea of what it was going to be like. Generally speaking, it looked like it was basically a slight downhill on the way out, and thus, a slight uphill on the way back. But like many things, sometimes, just sometimes, looks can be deceiving.

I learned yesterday that my start time was 11:22:30a (riders start in 30 second intervals) so my plan was to get up there around 10:00a so I could dress appropriately, register, and warm up. While my arrival time plans worked out, things afterward didn't go as plan and I had to cut short my warm up time. I did what I could in the time I had, kept myself hydrated, downed a carbohydrate gel, put electrical tape over the "speed" portion of my bike computer (I didn't want that as a distraction) locked up the car and headed over to the start.

It was then I noticed that there are a lot of racers in my race category who kinda do look like the guy in the photo on the wikipedia page I referenced above... aero bars, sleek helmets, disc wheels (i.e. gear to help improve aerodynamics.) Thankfully for me, I wasn't planning on winning today; rather, my aims going into today's race were 1) to get a gauge on how I felt at this stage of my training, 2) see if I could keep a pretty hard pace for over 11.5 miles, and 3) not finish last. Of course I wanted to do well but I let go of my podium dreams even before I registered.

As I'm waiting in line to start, I look out on the course ahead of me and was surprised to see what looked like a slight uphill right from the start. It didn't look steep or anything, but it wasn't what I expected. Nonetheless, 11:22:30a comes around and off I go. I get out of the saddle for the first several pedal strokes to come up to speed and then sit back down to try and settle in for what I expect to be about a 30-35 minute ride. I read some several sources that the biggest mistake most people make in a TT is to go out too hard, too soon, and end up "exploding" before reaching the finish line. So, for the first 3 miles, I focused on cadence, perceived exertion and heart rate. And with the last half of the course being a slight uphill, I definitely wanted to same some energy.

It was right about then that the guy who started 30 seconds after me came wheeling on by. Not much I could do except stay in the best tuck I could and keep my legs pumping. And wonder if I was on false flat or what, because I'm still looking for that slight downhill. A couple of minutes later, the guy who started a minute after me goes on by. So, my objective at this point is to keep him in my sights as best I can, for as long as I can, and not let another racer go by.

After about 5.8 miles, I approach the turnaround point, jam on the brakes, make the "U-ey", get out of the saddle again for a couple pedal strokes, and start to make my way back. I quickly noticed that despite what my eyes were telling me, I was indeed going slightly downhill for the first half of the race, for out in front of me was a stretch of slightly inclined rollers. By this point, guy #2 who passed me was pretty far ahead. I wasn't too discouraged, because now I could see the guy who started 1.5 minutes before me was approximately 250 meters in front of me. And I thought: "There's my rabbit."

On I pushed and with each little roller, I noticed I was getting closer to him. With about 1 mile left, I swung out a little bit and passed him (Yay! Not last place!) and began to focus on 1) not letting him re-pass me and 2) finishing strong. It was then I realized that I probably took a slightly conservative approach to the race thus far for I had some energy to spare. (Live and learn, eh?) Also, it probably should have been the furthest thing from my mind at this point in the race, but as I approached the finish, I thought what looked like a slight uphill. "The Start/Finish area can't be uphill both ways!" (I spoke to several other racers afterwards and they, too, thought the course was full of optical illusions.)

Thirty three minutes and six seconds after I started, I finished. The only relatively concrete numbers I knew at that point where that I averaged about 21.5 mph and 169 beats per minute. As for place, that information wouldn't be available for several hours, so I returned home knowing that it would be somewhere between 3rd place and 2nd to last. It was tonight, then, that I learned that I came in 27th place (out of 38 racers.) A "good enough" result given it was my first TT and that I wasn't equipped like some of my competitors... plus there's the whole conditioning thing, too, but it's early and I hope to improve that over the next several weeks.

So... what's next? This Saturday I plan on doing my first "crit" (short for criterium), and who knows, I may have to revisit the poll I placed on this blog several weeks ago.

* I actually did my first bike race ever while living in PA. It was a road race in upstate New York.
** There is also a racing discipline called Team Time Trial (TTT). The concept is similar (i.e. no mass start) but in this discipline, a number of riders (usually ranging from 3 to 9, all from the same team) work together and can draft off of one another (but not off another team if it would happen to catch up to it.)


New features

A couple quick FYIs:
  • I recently found out that 10 people can be e-mailed automatically when a new post is added to this blog. If you're interested, contact me off-blog and give me the e-mail address to where you want a notice sent. Please note, though: As some have noticed, I'm prone to typos and other writing mishaps on my initial submission, which, after they have come to my attention, I usually go back and make the necessary corrections. In such cases, you might also get an e-mail when a published post is edited, but I can't say for certain... just putting it out there as a possibility.
  • It's been there for a while, but if you scroll all the way to the bottom of the "homepage" for this blog, you'll see a "weather widget" for Boulder, CO.
That is all.