Saturday, June 28, 2008

People watching at Starbuck's

It's a boring Saturday night and I'm here at Starbuck's doing some programming and people watching. I don't normally say things about people, but when Leo Breshnev's eyebrows walk in and there only one of them of this person, I had to say it somewhere and since it's rude to say it aloud, I guess I had to say it here. It's one of those, 'you had to be there' scenarios. All I can say is that was quite a unibrow!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Tour of Pennsylvania

We've got the Tour of Pennsylvania coming in to town today. I think I'll play hookie and ride out to Latrobe this afternoon for the finish of the race. Latrobe has a few claims to fame. It is the real birthplace of Professional Football (Canton was able to pony up the money for the Hall of Fame though). It used to be the home of Rolling Rock Beer, though I'm not sure that is something to be too proud of. I know what the mountain spring water they used was like. The third is it was the hometown of everyone's (at least people from my generation) favorite toddler TV personality, Mr. Fred Rogers. My dad grew up there and he had quite a few little anecdotes about Fred. One of my favorites was how his father, Jim Rodgers, who was a blue collar type steel mill owner (he married into the one of the richer families in the region which wound up giving Fred a hefty inheritance - yes, people, in case you didn't know it, Fred was loaded. So was Mr. McFeely. Come to think about it, am I the only one who is a bit creeped out by that name?) who was not overly happy about Fred's, shall we say, wimpy mannerisms. So in order to try to change that, he actually paid some of the local bullies to beat him up to try to toughen him up. I'm thinking he should've asked for his money back.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Wednesday Night Championships

I was at the Wed night championships in Pittsburgh yesterday. I took a slow approach to the race and looked for the high percentage moves and found that I could jump across gaps again. In the space of a lap(1/2 mile), I crossed a couple hundred yard gap on several occasions and was even able to then go up to the front and keep on the gas. The moves eventually came to naught as there are about 6 teams with enough riders to bring breaks back so it does get quite annoying. In the end, I almost got the front wheel swept by someone who thought they could make a sharp move through the pack and get into the front with the other sprinters. I was already coming through the hole and had to spike the brakes which effectively finished my race. Afterwards, I was feeling like I hadn't done much. Maybe this past weekend has done more for me than I thought.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The joys of the computer business

I have made a name for myself taking care of non-profit organizations in their computer departments over the years. 3 of the clients have been using my company as their tech support department for more than 10 years. Every now and then, I get a call from a company wanting to make an equipment donation. Yesterday was a day we picked a load of it up. Gunnar, Jeff and myself (all Fort Factory team members too) drove the bus up and were slinging equipment all day. In the end, we got quite a nice donation in printers and computer equipment totalling more than $6K worth of stuff up to date companies would call crap, but the one thing I've pushed over the years is what exactly does the new hardware and operating systems do for us? Does it make it easier/faster/better? 9 times out of 10, the answer keeps coming back as a big NO. The upgrades get pushed on us by hardware and software manufacturers and while there are a couple improvements, they generally serve to increase anxiety amongst users who once again have to learn the new operating system and how to do this and how to do that and deal with the types of questions 'why doesn't the documents print up the same as they did on the old printer?'. I'm generally a step or two behind what is considered leading edge and you know, I like it like that. Let other people deal with the continual problems Microsoft has when the release their latest and greatest (Vista and Office 2007). I think the people at Microsoft have been dealing with the largest collective brain fart in history with these "upgrades". Dealing with the problems these packages have caused clients, I (and thousands of other techs) have probably boosted the use of Ibuprofin quite a bit and more than a few IT people have probably considered pot(medicinal use of course. I think Granny on Beverly Hillbillies always said that, but I don't think she was talking about the same medicine. She was always cooking some sort of munchies up though so maybe it wasn't just shine she was dealing with). I myself have looked to other systems and have been using FreeBSD extensively for my servers. Load and forget it. I like it when customers call me wanting to do something new and not fix something that shouldn't be failing because the software company uses the customers who buy the first version to figure out where the bugs are. There is only one problem with using FreeBSD/Linux/Unix operating systems. You do get put in this crowd.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The land of Canaan

This past week was definitely a trying one. I was one of the family members who had to make the decision on how long to prolong a life. It is not a decision that I would wish on anyone. It's gotten me down and I really needed a getaway weekend. So I hopped in the car and went down to Canaan Valley and did a couple of races. The first on Saturday was a road race with some extremely nasty climbing. We began under the shadows of the windmills at the top of the ridge. Not really being in a race frame of mind, it quickly became a race of survival. The final climb was a steep 5 miler that I would compare to the grade of the Brasstown Bald climb in the tour of Georgia. I finished up and was definitely bummed out as I lost alot of points to the current series leader who seems to be foregoing the mountain biking this year to go for the WV 40+ road series. He's 8 points up on me now after 2 events. I'd hoped for better than I did, but if you're not ready in the head for a difficult race, you're just not going to do well. Thankfully the next couple of races, we're back on my turf as the races don't have the big hills and usually finish in a sprint. Then it's to the WV stage race that I won last year. It should give me a chance to get a lead in the series since I'll have teammates at the next few races that will be able to help me gain the necessary points back.
The second day of the weekend was the WV Mountain bike champs. I started the race out with the mindset of 'just ride the race, don't race it'. I got a good start and hit the course proper in about 12th place. Being on a single speed did make it difficult as I had to cede positions and fall back to 20th on the long draggy and bumpy fields. I kept thinking to myself, just keep riding, don't push it. A teammate of mine was having a very bad day and kept washing the bike out. I tried riding him back into contention and just when he seemed to be getting the legs and confidence back he wound up with a huge glop of mud in his eye. I kept on pedaling and was slowly bringing people back. I got myself back to 15th place thru the early parts of the 2nd lap. Then we hit the big climbs which lead into what the locals call the moonrocks. Unless you know the local lines and even then, you're off the bike quite a bit. I out walked the few riders I was close to and started leading back down the hill. I lost only 3 places on the climb leading into the moonrocks, but gained 2 back and then we hit the descent. I did ok with only a couple bungups. I kept it together, then we hit the last real climb of the day and I just didn't have it. I had to bail and walk the bike again. I guess it's one of the drawbacks of singlespeeding. Towards the top, I was able to get going again after losing 4 places. I started getting a bit pissed. Then everything started firing. I was able to wind up the pace and regain the minute or so on the riders I had to cede on the climb. Most of it was because of my cyclocross background that reminding me to stay where it was wet and not try to tip toe around the sides and be in the sticking muck. From 3 miles out, I caught the first of the 4 that past me, I blasted past the first on on the flats, then caught another on a descent. Once on the twisting single track that was a bit muddy but not technical, I kept the steam up and caught the next two right before the graveled road climb with only a mile to go. I got half way up the climb and saw yet another rider just ahead who I had to let go on the first lap. He was off the bike as well but I could see he was having trouble on the climb. I got myself up to the top and then gunned it once I'd gotten back on the bike. It was not quite about half a mile from the finish and I caught him on a quick roller coaster. Instead of sitting behind him, I did the single speed blast over the top of the roller and spun it hard and created a big gap. At the final turn, I took a quick peak and saw that I'd demoralized him and he was now just riding it in. I didn't take any chances and came blasting down the hill to the finish and at least made the finish look good. I wound up with a 4th in my class, 15th overall and top singlespeeder in a non singlespeed class. Not too bad considering I'd started the day feeling like crap and was just looking to ride rather than race. I'll be taking next week off to train in the mountains and recharge for that huge race the Barbour Detour. I neeed a win and I'd like to repeat from last year.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Tiger vs Rocco (US Open Golf)

This is a tough one to pick for me. On one hand, you have to root for Tiger, since he is coming off of injury and is the best golfer in the world currently. For me though, Rocco is a local boy done good. They're making it entertaining as I'm watching the espn feed at work here. GO ROCCO!

Campy Veloce Compact crank for sale

Well, its been a couple weeks now and there has been absolutely no improvement on how my legs feel with this damn Veloce crankset. It's about a centimeter wider than the old crank and it just is not agreeing with my legs. I was comfortable in my races this weekend, but just could not generate power. I noticed this last year with new the cross bike. I swiped the crankset from that bike to put on this one and the phenom followed to this bike. It's got to be the cranks. I noticed this one time before when I used Dura-Ace on my GT bike. I'd noticed the same issues and in looking at the bike closer I'd noticed that the Dura-Ace was even wider than what the Veloce I'm using now is. I had exactly the same issues. I wasn't working hard, the breathing was normal, I felt ok, I just couldn't move the legs to crank out the really hard efforts. So, I'm putting this crank up for sale and getting another one. My FSA Gossamer crankset that I'd used on my old cross bike is going on the bike today. I'd had decent results with it a couple years ago so I think I'll give it a whack. I know I didn't have the power issues I had now when using it so it might be a fit on the road bike.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Last weekend was a good one for me on mistakes. First, I used a new bike with only 15 miles on it for a race. Even though it felt ok, the feet positioning weren't quite right on it and it just didn't go as well as it could have. I've been racing for over 24 years now and I should know that you don't just put a bike together, ride it around for a couple miles and then go race on it if it isn't the exact same thing as the old bike. The bike does look cool and isn't that what it's all about anyway? After that poor excuse for a time trial, I spent the next couple afternoons riding the Philly course sans sleeves. Common sense says use sunscreen and pull the damn sleeves down on the shirt. Well, the sunscreen was gone after an hour of sweating and I'd forgotten to use it on Sunday. I'm currently sitting with shoulders that are seriously burnt and sore. After the skin peeling is done, the shoulders are probably going to look a bit spotty instead of a bit more tan like I was hoping. I guess I'm that example for all to look at and say 'nope, that's not going to happen to me.'

Monday, June 9, 2008


I got to stop by Philly this past weekend for the pro race this week. It was cool to see Mike Friedman there. He's one of the local 'Pittsburgh boys done good'. He's been having a pretty good year this year and it was exciting to see him all over the front matching moves, trying to get into the one that was going to stick in the last few miles of the race. Unfortunately the last time around Independence hall, he got swarmed and finished in the teens. It made for great viewing and I was yacking with him mom and stepdad as the final short circuits were starting. It would have been good to see a teammate up there helping pull some of the moves back so Mike didn't have to react to everything, but after a long hot day like that, maybe they weren't able to. In the women's race there were also a couple teams from the Baltimore and DC area there. It was cool to see some of them actually hanging in with the main group. Arley Kemmerer looked pretty good going up the hill though she wound up finishing in a group about 8 minutes down. I would imagine that alot of that time was from the 'damn, it's hot and we're dropped. Let's just ride in to the finish and be done with it'. She's one of the several crossers from the MABRA/MAC series there and it's good to see them racing in an event of this stature. On a day like yesterday, anyone who finished had to go through quite a bit to do so. The girls who were off the back in the first couple laps were getting cheered on just as much as the front runners. Their race was over, but they were still climbing and making the effort to get up the hill and keep going. You have to admire that when it would've been much easier to just bag it and go find some shade and a cool drink which is incidently what I was doing at this point. I finally got some good sun for the day though the ol' Irish skin was a bit redder than I would like. But it was a good day. I got to see some friends, enjoy a good race and even found a source for some good remedies for the physical issues I have had to deal with over the years. On top of that, I was mistaken for someone who was in their early 30s. The lady could have been someone who had just been out in the sun for a bit too long, the old 'let's massage the ego of this poor sap so he buys some stuff from us' or maybe I'm not showing the years as bad as I think. I'm not going to quibble over it though. I have to take the compliments when I can get them.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Political Commentary

Well, I think this is my first political statement here. I generally don't post political stuff online since I'd probably scare people in doing it. But the one comment about the upcoming election I will post is said all in this nifty picture from a wonderful little website I found several years ago and refer back to it many times, With the word "Change" being used so much in campaign speeches, this picture would be one to remember no matter who you plan on voting! Go to and buy some stuff now! I'm on commission.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Climbing that big climb

WARNING! They don't let just anybody ride in this area.

Well, I have the 2nd round in the West Virginia road series coming up. Of course, there are some god-awful big climbs on it. The first is a 7 mile stepping climb and the race finishes on a 5 mile 'we did this because we like to see racers suffer' climb. It does finish near the windmills at the top of the ridge. I guess watching those come into view might help keep me from thinking about how much the climb hurts and how much I want to throw up. The climbs are not quite as high as the ones at the Mountain State Classic, but any climb over a mile for an old crit rider like myself is going to be tough. Last year, I cracked off most of the pack in the first major climb in the Mountain State til I followed a couple rapid accelerations near the top. I should've known to just keep myself steady since I'm not the light mountain goat I used to be. Nothing like trying to climb mountains when you are almost 20lbs over what you used to consider race weight. The next time you are snickering at some poor sap like myself, get a haversack and put 2 gallons of milk in it, then try climbing a hill. You'll see what sort of hell we have to go through. Anyhoo, enough whining and complaining about things I totally have control over. This past weekend, I finally got into the Laurel Highlands to do some training. These are the mountains that were used for Nationals the past couple years and further on up the ridges, the Tour de Toona. This is home turf for me. I do love coming up into those hills and have done rides where I've been over 4 and 5 major ridge crossings where the climbing is an average of 1200 ft per climb. It makes for a full day, especially when there are lots of little 2-400 ft pops between the climbs. The scenery on the tops is nice. Here's a few photos from Sunday's ride which took me over the ridges 3 times.

The first one was pretty tough at a 7.5% average grade. It wasn't too long, but I did have to work at it. The second one was about the same and the third while not as steep, was the hardest of all. It wasn't so much the climb was tough, but the only easy way out of the park was the way you came in. The road is broken and not taken care of and really beats the hell out of you if you're coming down the hill at over 25mph. I used to drop the cars at the top and they wouldn't see me til they were able to open it up at a couple miles to the bottom and could take it up over 50. Over the years, I'd had a few cars try to keep up with me and they'd almost wind up wrecking. It's tough to go fast on the descent now with all the potholes and bumps. If you weren't tired at the top, you certainly were at the bottom. It's almost as bad as some of the gnarly descents I've been on in a mountain bike race. There's also no catching any scenery on the way down either. Take your eyes off the road for one second and you are definitely smacking something that is going to make your day miserable. On the whole though, it was a great ride. I have to get a few more of these to get ready for the summer races. I really need about 3 weeks off from work. Any rich women out there want to take care of me so I can get some training in? I'm a pretty good cook and I can sing and dance too.

Some pics from the top above the Rolling Rock Farms (Favorite Haunt of the Mellons, Scaifes, etc. )