Sunday, 30 March 2008
Saturday, 29 March 2008
Wednesday, 26 March 2008
The last few weeks have seen a good training blast in New York, then the excess of two conferences, and riding in Spain. I can't say that the trans-Atlantic flight back felt very good on the legs, but nevertheless this Wednesday evening was just asking for 10k TT #4.
Tuesday, 25 March 2008
Monday, 24 March 2008
Anyway, lots of pictures are up... Barcelona, Girona, London, New York.
Sunday, 23 March 2008
We arrived at noon and had a delicious lunch at a falaffel place with Sellmo and Lori, after which Tori and I departed to walk to Gaudi's Segrada Familia big church. It was €8 and a little wait to get in, but since it had been under construction since 1882 I wasn't to worried about hurrying. There's a 2 hour wait to go up one of the cathedral towers which we skipped, but seeing the 45m tall main part of the church was cool. There's displays on the different stones used and how many kg/cm2 they can support, where the stone is from, etc. The shapes of the building mimic nature, trees, leaves, animals and such. The main pillars are hard to understand by looking at them, they smoothly transition from round to octagon to square to rectangle and back.
The museum underneath was more instructive than just seeing the impressive structure itself as it explained how/why/when and the importance of all the things an architectural layman like myself has no clue about when looking at a giant church. What I do know is that building a nature inspired 45m tall cathedral doesn't look easy, nor does the 120m tall towers, or the final one that's supposed to be 170m tall. All the stone masonry is amazing in it's precision. The "mural" of stone on one side is so busy it looks like a lifetime of work, the other side has cleaner lines and is supported by stone pillars, or "giant sequoias like those found in America".
We browsed through the gift shop, and although the 2 foot long rubber pencils had some appeal, we didn't buy anything. One of the dozens of giant coffee table books on Barcelona and/or Gaudi archtecture would be a good bet, there's so much unique construction in the city that it gives Barcelona such a novel flavour.
We met Sellmo and Lori at their place again and planned the rest of the day. It was either fit in some riding, or tour the city on their motos. We compromised and did both. Nick's is 125cc 2 stroke, so it has enough power to double. Lori's is a 50cc 4 stroke and would be hard pressed to double. Nick took Tori, Lori drive herself, and I rode my bike.
Our first stop was a famous park, designed by Gaudi of course, that was 6 or 8 blocks straight uphill from the apartment. The motos were fired up and with zero warmup we blasted up the hill, a super high intensity 6 minutes.
The park is cool, built on a piece of donated land from when this was out in the middle of nowhere. There's smashed tile everwhere, marble columns mimicing nature, and odd little buildings built in nature's form. Hundreds of people are milling about, I wonder if Gaudi ever pictured such use and lifespan of his works.
From there we rode down to the beach, we caught too many red lights to have much flow, but did a few 50kph stretches which were fun on my legs. Our stay at the beach was brief, a crazy purple cloud front and wind storm was approaching. I noticed how dark it was, and Lori saw that it was whipping up sand into the air from a beach a mile away. Of course we go about our business for a couple of minutes, then as I've ridden a ways down a dock, I hear a fierce whistling - it's the wind making noise on all the sailboat masts. Everyone is running back to the shops, and we follow suit. I'm nearly blown off my bike, and the cafe we duck into has it's signs blown away and the doors that are perpendicular to the force of the wind are being ripped open, so they barricade them with giant flower pots.
Seems like an opportune time to get a cafe con leche and some afternoon snacks (it's 5pm and our dinner reservation is at 9 - right when restaurants open). The place has more fresh vegetables than I've seen during our entire trip, so we partake. I don't eat much as I've still got to pedal home, but we buy stuff we can transport in the moto's hemet carrier for after the ride.
Once things calm down we aim for home. It's cold out so I start riding right away and the rest will catch up. I can basically keep up to traffic in the city which is neat, there aren't many fast roads. I end up getting home before the gang, totalling 48 minutes of high intensity riding to cap off the last few days of more endurance style riding.
We put away our bikes, download pictures, shower up and get rady for the evening. Somewhere in all that we learn the parkade won't let us out tomorrow morning because it's a holiday, so we move the car to find street parking, which involves parallel parking on the driver's side.
Next on the list is to open Tori's bottle of Wrongo Dongo wine. We settle into the living room, which is above a pharmacia, and looks up a perpendicular street. The furniture is all salvaged by the prior renter (whom Nick is sub renting from) who collected it on the streets on the special day once a week when you're allowed to put out big garbage items. I never would have guessed, it's all apartment chic type stuff. Overall the place is nice, fairly newly renovated inside, and I'm surprised at how big it is. Couple bike hangars on the wall and it'd feel pretty comfortable.
We go via the metro to our dinner place, which involved having a train arrive immediately once we were underground, and immediately after our transfer. Obviously it doesn't always work this way, but man it sure gives the impression of a super efficient system when it does. Of note here, there's municipal issues around plans to tunnel right next to that Gaudi church, apparently within 75cm of the foundation at some points. Naturally the church and architectural crowd thinks the risk of weakening the foundation and setting back the work by decades isn't worth the risk, and they point to a tunnel collapse up in the northwest suburbs 5 years ago as an example - apparently a road and a few houses went for a wild ride one night. I'm sure they don't want the trains running every which way under ground, and I'm no expert here, but considering this church is world famous, in Spain's most architecturally focused city, by their most famous architect, that's on schedule to finish contruction in 25 years or so (from 1882), you might want to dig a few meters of chicane into the tunnel and give more than 75cm of leeway.
We ate at a place that occupied an old hallway between buildings and was now covered, it was punk-ish. Good food, I've never had so many shrimp in a shrimp dish before.
Went to a few bars to sample some drinks and the ambiance, each place wanted to be paid right away. One place we experienced bitter beer face like those old Keystone Light commercials with a Catalan syrah, never had a wine taste that odd.
We finished off at Lobo Bar, which featured black and white murals mixing photorealistic, charicature, and futuristic cartoon collages of juxtaposed political commentary drawing on about 100 years of political history. It was a lot of food for thought, I could have stared at the wall for a long, long time. Only a couple of things were colored, one being an asian kid (Vietnam reference? Nakasaki or Hiroshima? Tianamen? Tibet? Khymer Rouge around the corner? North Korea? All of the above?) with a surprised face that looked real enough you'd keep double taking.
We taxi'd it home in a Seat deisel hatchback taxi that the driver loved to lug the engine in. By 40kph we'd already be in 4th gear. Despite a normal 5,000-6,000 redline this guy was determined to never rev the car over 750rpm, probably because he wanted to blow the engine into a black smoke billowing piece of shit before the car was 4 years old.
We got home and had some snacks, and played Jenga, which I'm told is quite popular in general on this side of the pond. Unfortunately this wasn't "giant Jenga" which I've heard great things about, where some genious decided to lever the game's sales by making a larger version.
By 2am it was time for bed, as the plan was for us to get up at 6:15 to load up, find an open petrol station, and navidage to the airport. It was fortuitous that we allowed ourselves enough time as simple things aren't easy for the anglophone tourists. Buying deisel means you have to go in and give them cash first. But of course this wasn't enough, as my pump didn't work still. After a lengthly explanation that laid it all out for us clearly in Catalan, we still had no idea. Somewhere he mentioned he wanted a passport to turn on the pump - fine. As it turns out, trust appears to be missing, or at least applied on a different level here. I'm guessing part of it with foreigners is that they've had enough puking drunk Londoners wreaking havoc to earn the whities a priority of distrust, but locals have to pay first too (they just skip the I'd thing). I wish I could talk to someone to ask them why on earth they think I'd try to rip off €10 of free deisel (above the €20 prepayment) when my car's license plate is in open view. They should get pay at the pump things here. Bars were the same, they'd want money after every round (see above note on Brits, I think I get this, or at least I don't let the inherent assumed dishonesty eat at my value set and ideals).
I hadn't realized ahead how Catalonian and how un-Spanish this are is, or wants to be. They're seperatist like Quebec was/is. They speak Catalan ahead of Spanish mostly, and you ask for Spanish menus if you can't function with a Catalan one (it's pretty different language). We didn't really mix with the Portugese much at Christmas, it was a geography, weather and sites tour more than anything else, but I got the impression that there was one strong national identity.
Apparently the Catalans are cheap too. I don't have much evidence of this other than people telling me, and a distinct unpopularity of paid parking.
Anyway, we found our way via the scenic route to the airport. We're tired, and our late night/early departure reminds us in the morning concourse sun that we're here in recognition of our thirtieth birthdays upcoming, and we can see a preview of ages a few years away in each other's tired faces.
Saturday, 22 March 2008
We left for Mare de Deu del Mont after breakfast, and wound our way through about 30km of approach through half a dozen little towns. Eventually we got to the base of the 19km climb and started our way up. Lots of little boy scout looking kids were coming down, I imagine they did Easter week off school hiking trips. The road was steep and switchbacked, and took us across some magnificent cliffs and gave us great views of the valley to the west. I think the climb took a little over an hour, then I rode back down to Tori and did the last bit again. It was chilly descending, and I've really got to figure out what I can do to reduce front wheel braking chatter - I don't know if the fork isn't stiff enough or the cantilever brakes are goofy or what, but I can't brake over a certain threshold. I just have to go consistently slower, which isn't really like me. I found out by getting waay to close to the outside of the first hairpin for comfort.
At the top there's a restaurant built into a cathedral, and it was busy since it was Good Friday. We went to the cafe upstairs for some muffin type things, cafe con leche, olive oil flavoured chips, and water. We basically ordered 2 of every product he sold. We sat by a fireplace for a half an hour to dry out our sweaty backs to make the descent easier (it was probably 10C so not too bad, but since there was a fireplace there...).
The way down was memorable. After 5km or so, we look ahead and a little white dog is running up towards us. Unfortunately the sight of us and the sound of my brakes scares the bejesus out of him. He makes a millisecond u-turn and starts sprinting down the hill. He's a muscley little white terrier, and I'm amazed that he gets right up to 35kph. We think this is funny for a minute, and are laughing in amazement at how fast he is. We also notice he isn't slowing down, even if we ease up. It's superhuman to watch, but it's like he's doing record setting 100m dashes for several kilometers, even if we try to talk nice to him. Finally, he peels off into the bushes on a switchback and lies down. We stop and take a look, and it seems like he's pretty much run to exhaustion. I'm just speculating here, but I'd guess that was the performance of his life... he had it turned up to 11 for at least 2km.
We peek into the bushes and he looks stunned, won't move or bark, just panting uncontrollably for a long time. His legs and body are quivering really weird. So we wait, and of course the second his rear legs work, he gives himself a push forward that puts him over a bush covered ledge that he tumbles down. I climb a little ways forward to see what's up, and now he's hooped because there's thorny vines everywhere, and he's essentially got one wrapped around his neck and it's stuck on his collar, so he's now hanging himself, which I'm sure didn't feel good to have air cut off since he had still been panting.
So it's time for me to start navigating this 12 foot near vertical ledge, totally covered in thorny vines and other brush, and quickly at that. At this point I still haven't even been really that close to him, and I'm kind of wondering if he'll freak out and bite me since he's essentially "cornered" and was totally freaked.
After some climbing, and some slipping, and some cursing at thorns grabbing every sensitive spot on me (bike kit doesn't fend off pokes very well), I've got a lot of scratches, a little bit of bleeding, and I'm in position to unwrap his neck. After a few pets I figure we're good to go and start undoing the vines. He seems happy and just tries to dig his feet in to he doesn't slide further down.
So now we've got two creatures who don't do well with steep hillsides and vines, the surface sloughs off easily, going down doesn't look smart as it's just more/worse dense bush, and my mtn bike shoes don't seem to grippy (not sure I have any shoes that'd be much better). Turns out this guy is like 30lbs of muscle, and he's still not moving and just shaking. Ideally I'd have 2 free hands to climb with - one for support and one to push vines around, but that's not going to happen. I grab him like a football, he doesn't protest, and we're off to earn some more scratches.
Finally we get out of this, and Tori seemed happy and did some paparazi photos. We sat down and tried to figure out what was up. I had little scratches, nothing bad. His pads were fine, couple nails had a little blood, but nothing too bad, which was a relief. His fur had little blood marks from thorns, but nothing meaningful. So we sat, and he just shook. Didn't want power bar or water. Didn't say anything. And he didn't seem like he was capable of, or intended to, move under his own power. We decided he'd earned the name Turbo. No doubt the downhill helped, but I had no idea something that size could go so fast for so long. Finally we put him aside, and he started walking back into the bushes of death. We were emphatic that this was a bad idea, and he actually stopped. I pulled him back out from the 2 feet he went in, and we couldn't figure out what to do. We were 2k from a hotspring building that had people at it, so we decided to take him and put him there so he could drink or mooch some food when it suited him. Tori's bike had more reliable one hand braking so I used that, and man did my shoulders and biceps get a workout. Heavy to carry football style, plus the road was so steep I was a the max of what one brake could do. We got him there, and after a few minutes he walked around and tried to sniff where he was at. We told some lady there was a little lost dog and she said she'd pay attention if it looked like food or drink were warranted. As we chatted he started to walk back up hill, so maybe we ruined his day even more. At least he was showing some energy.
After that, we departed and made our way down. As we navigated back home, I rode with some racer kid for a bit, he went flying by when I was off to the side waiting for Tori at one point. He was skinny and looked like he was working really hard putting out force all around his pedal stroke, and I was surprised that he was easy to catch up to and easy to stay with, I wasn't even breathing much at all. If those are the Watts he can put out, he sure doesn't make it look easy at all.
We ate at Mimolet in Girona and had a tasting menu with more delicious courses than I can remember, but essentially soup, salad and other appetizers, then fish and pork dish, then cheese and fruit and chocolate desserts, all small enough that we weren't stuffed. There was a lot of Easter stuff going on in town so it was quite crowded, most traffic we'd seen so far.
Thursday, 20 March 2008
We rode into Banyoles then headed north to all the towns that started with the letter P in search of a climb up Rocacorba, a nearby mountain. As we looked at a streetside map a cyclist passed and said Rocacorba is over this way. We caught up to him and had a fairly functional Spanglish chat. He's a policeman based in Girona and did the world police and fireman games in Calgary in 1998 or whenever it was. He was riding a Scott CR1 but doesn't road race, just cross country mountain bike races. He was conversant with trails in Kananaskis, Canmore and Banff. Small world. We sort of hit it off.
After 10 minutes of pleasantries, we hit the base of the 14km climb and did what any normal cyclists do - put the hammer down for the climb. He's a relatively light little guy and I worked hard to keep up on the steep sections (every km was marked with grade, elevation, distance, etc. by nice signs put up by the Club de Ciclistas Banyoles). I was pretty spent by the top.
The top of the hill was steep, and I was glad it was over. I was overheating on the way up, except in the shaded parts. The top had TV and radio station, cell phone towers, an inrun ramp for paragliders, and a skinny little cat. We waited for Tori to join us.
After picture taking and pleasantries were done, he started the descent, the Tori and I made our way down later. Chilly - the air was clear, sun was shining, but it was probably only 10C at the top.
Once at the bottom main road, we turned left to log some more distance. This was a third tier main road, ie. Crowchild and Transcanada were the two sizes up. This had no real traffic to speak of, lots of picnic areas on the sides, little towns, lush green fields, and sloped gently upwards through natural preserves in the volcanic mountain park to the town of Olot. We stopped along the way at an incrdibly busy roadside restaurant for a coffee out in the sun, the continued climbing to Santa Pau, a relatively high mountain town with a giant cactus Tori liked.
The return trip was mostly downhill, we actually hadn't realized how much we were climbing until we were descending so fast that I couldn't take the turns in the windy road without braking.
On the way down we spotted tomorrow's destination, a road on the east of the valley at the top of a mountain peak. It's hard to describe how enjoyable the riding is here. No real traffic, totally smooth pavement, nice climate and sunny skies, with mountains and valleys all around. Picking good routes is easy, I honestly don't see any value in a guided trip. And the argument that guides provide food and water doesn't convince me either, as I can easily stick 6 hours of gels and such into my pocket, and water is in roadside taps, roadside "pop" machines, gas stations and coffee shops all over the place. All you need is a bike, snacks, and carbs for breakfast and dinner. Cyclists are fairly plentiful, and many seem Euro or local, as judged by the amount of flourescent colors on their jersies.
We showered, and I found some teflon motorcycle chain lube that the owner had in his garage, the rain the first evening took left my chain squeaky, and I left my tools and lube in the bike box in Girona. It's super slick stuff, I just don't know how long it'll stay on. When I was pedaling the chain backwards to put it on, the friction probably dropped by half after the first full rotation when I applied it. It was actually quite impressive.
We spent an hour and a half walking around Girona, beautiful city, although the downtown is cool, it's a bit like Banff for being touristy. All the buildings are 4-5 stories high and aren't very far apart. We ate a great dinner and now it's 11pm and bed time.
Wednesday, 19 March 2008
We packed our bikes in the car and drove to Girona after the walk and chat. It's a nice easy drive on toll roads that seem fairly cheap. It rained a little and was cool, but the terrain is beautiful. Our B&B is a little north of Girona, and took us a while to find. It's a large stone country house (mansion) owned by some Brits who did a full modern renovation on it. We were tired but suited up for a ride, which made me realize my plastic raincoat was left in the bike box at Sellmo's.
It wasn't hard to find great riding, it goes out right from our doorstep. Even with sprinkles iit wasn't cold. The roads are one lane (or no lane?) and are fairly empty. Like pretty much totally empty. And they're narrow. So really it feels like ultra-wide fresh blacktop personal bike path through the rolling foothills of the Pyrenees, in the afternoon humidity and slowly setting sun. And in case that needs any clarification, that feels a lot like cycling nirvana.
To be honest, I didn't think it'd be too tough to come across great cycling here. When a guy like Lance, who obviously can afford anywhere, and needs a great cycling training ground, picks a spot, I'd guess there was a little forethought that went into it.
Our B&B people gave me a number of a cycle tour guy to call, and after we chatted I couldn't figure it out. I'm sure it was the right thing for some people to pay €200/day for route finding and support, but I'm fairly confident my cycling nose and range with a pocket full of gels is sufficient to find good enough routes. Plus I've got some articles that quote Lance's preferred routes.
Tori and I went to Banyoles for Chinese tapas for dinner, and are relaxing in our room. Heavenly!
The taxi to Heathrow was expensive but quick, and we had a quick breakfast before boarding a fairly empty flight to Barcelona.
Upon arriving we inadvertently went to the wrong baggage area, then could go back, so we had to exit, re-enter security, walk over to the right spot, etc. Somehow all that took an hour.
We took a shuttle bus to pick up our pre-arranged rental with Sixt, some European rental company that doesn't charge "American" prices.
The lady who gave us our car was probably a retired supermodel, I'm guessing near 40. We were impressed, but got down to the business of upgrading the VW Polo to something a little longer. We got a Golf wagon, which I guess we'd call a Jetta wagon. Turbo diesel, brand new car with only 16km on it. Nice vehicle.
From there it was the first foray onto Spanish roads, and it's totally different from Portugal. A wide, Crowchild like road was travelled slowly and calmly at 70kph with nobody passing or jockeying for position whereas in Portugal that'd be a 130kph affair. Scooters ("motos") are everywhere, and the buzz around like a swarm of bees. They're easily half the vehicles on the road.
We easily navigated to Nick & Lori Sellmer's place and found a parking garage. He's got a sweet, spacious apartment on a one way street with nice markets, fruit and veggie stands, and dozens of banks and coffee shops right around. Heavenly really. We had a coffee and brought our luggage up to his place, then snacked and put the bikes together.
Sellmo toured us via bike to his school (IESE), then up to Tibidabo a giant beautiful church overlooking the city. Beautiful road, beautiful view. It's an easier city to navigate than London (what city isn't?) Especially after seeing the hilltop view. Further, it's on a consistent gentle slope, so that alone helps a lot. All in we rode just under two hours.
At the top by the church there's an amusement park as well, oddly enough. Strange.
We rode back home and showered, then went out for a walk and dinner. We took the underground train, which was clean, cheap, and on time according to the countdown timers placed at the station. We stopped in a beautiful tapas bar for a beer and fried peppers, some anchovies, bread, ham, and potato wedges with tasty sauce, and of course more cafe con leche.
After that we walked to the historic part of town and wound our way through the narrow streets to find a beautiful chruch plaza and a wine bar. We sat on the street and drank some delicious bottle. There were 4 local guys at the next table telling stories, smoking, and drinking a bottle of rose wine (I don't know how to do the accent over the e on blackberry). Noteworthy that this wasn't a sign of being gay.
We dined at some place that was ground floor in an old stone building. Nice place and good food. Good stories and fun times too!
After that it was back to the apartment to wind down for the evening, considering we were up at 5am on 4.5 hours of sleep, it was a long day.
Monday, 17 March 2008
Will Lacey, Tori and I went for a walk through the neighbourhoods. There's no "big houses" as an obvious statement of the cost of places, but the Bentleys, Porsches and Rovers parked outside would indicate this isn't the cut rate part of town.
We walked towards the Museum of Natural History, and stopped for breakfast half way there. Breakfast for three, which were egg dishes and coffee, was £40. Wow.
The Natural History museum is free, and the building it's housed in is absolutely spectacular. We spent time in the dinosaurs, geology and primates areas, as well as a cruise through the bird specimen hall. Super cool all around.
We got back to the hotel around 1pm I think. Tori and I napped for a few hours, bodies are confused. Our breakfast came at 8am, and after that caloric excess we decided to nap a bit more. As it turns out, we didn't wake up till 1:30pm, laziest day I've had in years. I think it was catchup for days of odd schedules, and Tori was a little sick.
We quickly built up our bikes to go for a ride. I picked a route from a bike club that had the routes google mapped. It looked easy to navigate. In reality, nothing in this city seems easy to navigate. This drive on the left thing makes me feel like a fish out of water, it's painful on the brain. I think I'd have to ride here every day for a week before even considering getting behind the wheel of a car just to start to get the flow.
We went through some very posh neighbourhoods, where all the cars are Maserati/Ferrari/Rover/Bentley/Benz, etc. Then we made our way to Arabic neighbourhoods where english wasn't heard anywhere in earshot. Cars and busses are courteous to bikes, but the roads are still congested.
At one point I rode a few blocks behind a Ferrari. I don't see the appeal of that car here other than looking cool. He was inching along in spots, and had to hug the side of the road, slowing down to move past traffic blockages and driving within inches of the parked cars with the mirrors. Seems like a Mini or a Porsche (narrower car) would be a lot better. I think he enjoyed flooring it out of stop lights though, the engine was loud enough to set off the alarms of the Porsches on the side.
After cleaning up, we had dinner at Nobu. I guess I see why the place is famous, ithe dinner was fairly creative and impeccable.
Sunday, 16 March 2008
A liquidity crisis and a bailout says a few things. They can't meet short term liquidity, which is never a desireable state. But what it also says is that the repurcussions of actually having them fail are too great to allow it to happen. Realistically, the effect of the repurcussions probably aren't known with much precision due to how intertwined the system is. Obviously to take an action of this nature, some intelligent and high level minds came to the conclusion that it'd be bad.
Good time to keep the balance sheet inline. Assets that rank higher on the risk spectrum get less expensive when liquidity dries up. And owning such assets, and taking such risks, can potentially deliver commeasurate reward. Keep eyes peeled for the right situations!
Saturday, 15 March 2008
1. Travelers Plus fare. Not first class, but better than economy. Priced same as Air Canada economy when I booked. Better seat, more room, footrest. Feels nice.
2. Bean medley salad with meal. I love bean salad. And why airlines don't do more low glycemic food over crap processed buns I can't figure out.
3. The little disposable tea cup. I'm going to try to steal it, or more accurately, delay its trip to the rubbish heap.
BA was great to me!
What I do remember is the clients that listed close to some financing strategies for a tough market, a few M&A idea pitches that seemed to have traction, Brad Wall's speech and a subsequent conversation we had after (I'm not much of a politico, but I can say I'm a fan of him and his approach), and of course after the 40 corporate presentations, which ones stood out in my mind as the investment ideas to hone in on. I'm obviously rather cruddy as this part as I decided 5-6 years ago to part with my Petrobank shares in the $1.50-ish range... now that it's in the $50 range I'm officially a dumbass. Doesn't take too many "30-baggers" to help the bottom line out!
The Waldorf=Astoria is very polite to me with my bike. Almost surprising. "Let me get that door for you sir/nice day for a ride/where are you going/wonderful way to see the city/etc."
The UN building is neat in terms of history. It's also about the quality of an underfunded inner city public school that was built in the 70's. I guess they have more pressing budget issues than renovations at a Manhattan cost, but it was surprising.
The first 3 days of riding saw me lose a pound or two, and now I've layered back on. Spain will undoubtedly peel it back, I just need to survive London first. My legs feel good after the three hard days of riding, the sitting around has been killing me.
Wednesday, 12 March 2008
Also, from the link over on the right, I put up a few pictures rom the last few days. Nothing earthshattering, but I can't make time to edit them into my blog posts, so check them out on Flickr.
Tuesday, 11 March 2008
I had a hard time sleeping, and stayed up rather late. When morning rolled around I dragged myself out of bed for a bagel, coffee, and a juice.
After doing about 90 mins or work on the computer, it was time to roll. People in the Waldorf aren't bike haters. They ask where I'm going, is that my bike or a rental, etc. Employees hold doors open and say "have fun". It's nice not to be nagged.
Sun was shining and it was super nice out. Did the regular "dodge the traffic" on 49th over to the Hudson River. Along the Hudson, by the city docks, moving vans were being unloaded for what looked like a film shoot to me. I came around a corner and there's two guys, one pushing a tall couch on wheels, and the other with a tall desk on wheels. I came up pretty fast and slammed on the brakes. Instead of saying "slow down buddy" or the typical Calgary response, guy says "we're just setting up the obstacle course here to keep you on your toes". I had some coke flavoured Cliff Blocks before I left, which have caffeine and are making me feel good.
I pedal north and the sun feels warm on my back. My legs feel a lot better than yesterday, the sushi dinner worked it's magic. I do feel tired inside, but for now the Watts are coming easy. I know I'll peter out part way into the ride as I've pushed the last two days, but I want a good workout. I figure I'll try to find external motivation. I climb up over the GW bridge, and again I'm amazed with this thing. 2 decks of 8 lanes bumper to bumper. Like twice the Deerfoot suspended 20 stories above the river.
As I near the New Jersey side, a guy rockets past me on the sidewalk. I'm riding slow on the bridge, for me the time to pick it up is on the open road. He's riding a nice Isaac carbon bike with an SRM. He's got full team kit on from a local shop or team and is around my age, likely minus a year or two. I speed up and tail him until the bike lane gets wide enough to double.
Erik: "Nice bike"
Ok, that's a little shorter than I expected. We're going up a little incline, and I sense dude wants to drop me to ride alone, as we're up to 450W.
Erik: "It's great riding weather, what do you do for work that let's you get out on a Tuesday afternoon?"
Dude: "I just leave."
Ok, I can respect that. Just leaves. Not much of a conversationalist.
Erik: "How far are you planning on going?"
Dude: "State line."
So I'm realizing that we aren't going to ride in company and have a nice little cycling chat. I don't actually remember exactly where the state line falls where it's back into NY. What I do know is my legs feel good, the coke flavoured Cliff Blocks had a lot of uppers in them, and I was looking for some motivation to get a good workout in, despite being tired. I think the trinity just formed. Last try on the chat...
Erik: "What kind of pace you doing today, are you watching your Watts?"
Dude: "Time trial practice to the state line."
Freeze frame... rewind 5 seconds. Did I see something hit the pavement back there? Yup, I think the gauntlet was thrown down ; )
I say "ok" and leave it at that. I take a swig of water, shift up a gear, and pick up the pace. Dude winds it up too. We crest a false flat so I shift up again and slowly start winding that gear up. Dude does the same. Now it's obvious that we've got a little game going here, cause there's no mistaking this for some casual riding. We're "engaged".
A modest downhill starts, and I'm not letting the Watts drop at all. He ducks in behind and I've decided I've got enough in me to hold this for a while. We're riding north, so I can see the shadow dude casts. I can also hear the breathing. I promise myself I'm not going to look back. We're doing rollers, and I'm doing what I've been doing for the last 2 days - pushing hard on the way up, and hoping I recover on the backside. After what seems like an awfully long time, I'm alone. I try to keep the pace up until Piermont, then I slow down and roll right through. I pass Nyack as well and go through north Nyack, where the realtor of choice is no longer Re/Max but instead Sotheby's. I snap a few shots of houses, mostly the ones with empty lawns as those are the ones you can actually see - but the defining charicteristic is that they're on lots that are probably close to 10 acres, have rock or iron fences, and the houses are probably 8,000 sq. ft.
I turn around at the end of the road, a state park on the shores of the Hudson. Nice spot with a mountain right behind. As I make my way back a lady passes me in a Porsche with a big black dog hanging his head out the back. I'm feeling tired and stop in for a mocha and a snack, but it doesn't do much to give me energy, I'm spent. My goal was to drive myself to feeling spent, and now I'm here, in perfect time to sit through three days of conference and shift gears to client entertainment, 5 course meals, and wine budgets.
I plod home slowly in the eveing sun, knowing I'll just make it back in time before the sun sets. The hills I was charging for the last few days I can only ride at 75% of the prior intensity and even that feels like a challenge.
The wind is blowing on the GW bridge, and is a direct headwind as I ride south on the Hudson River park paths. I don't care as the slower I go means the longer I'll be out before showering and packing up my bike.
Tonight I'm off to replace some spent calories at Insiem, an undoubtedly expensive Italian place on Broadway. I'd be just as happy with cheap carbs and another day in the wind, but I know a few days of rest will do the legs and body good.
Tony Hawk was featured in the entreprenuer section of USA Today. He's 40ish now, has a pretty big business going, has made millions, and still skates every day. The headquarter office warehouse had to have the roof raised 10 feet to make room for the air he'd pull on the halfpipe. The article said that among US teenagers, his name is more recognizable than Michael Jordan, and anyone in baseball or football too. His quote at the end was "all I want to be remembered as is a skater". I've always been a fan.
After this I watched a little morning TV that was basically an Idol type show where dance troupes from around the country attempted to do Michael Jackson justice by doing Thriller video remakes. Entertaining to say the least, including side bits where they show hours of moonwalk practice. What it really shows is that MJ is nearly untouchable.
Once some show on MTV about an Italian guy looking for amore in America with 15 American girls came on (That's Amore!), I got dressed for riding. Total trash. As I was walking out the door they were wrestling in a vat of spaghetti.
I crossed the GW Bridge and was doing my intervals along the road. They were obviously harder today, but were coming along fine none the less. As I fatigued I visited the ocean/earth/atmoshphere science campus of Columbia University, Tallman Mountain state park, and the town of Piermont where I had a delicious mocha. Piermont has a creek running through it and is quaint. The entire town looks like Norm Abrhams of This Old House went door to door for the last 30 years plying his trade. I stopped at a fairly large bike shop and asked what the riding was like north of town and if I could cross at the next bridge. Next bridge with bike crossing was 20 miles further, which during the summer might have been do-able. I wasn't willing to be out that long when it's just a degree or two above zero. I rode north a bit to take in the scenery, then re-traced my route home. The mocha had me fired up again and I was pushing good Watts until the GW bridge. All in it was another 4 hours, with 17 efforts at or above the 400W range. I'd say 10 were 45 seconds to a minute, 4 were 1-2 minutes (2 min at 421W was longest), and the rest were 35 seconds or so. Legs are tired.
Tonight I stopped by a bakery/deli for a bean salad, then went for sushi. Both have been better recovery foods for me in the past than Mexican, so we'll see how I feel tomorrow.
Sunday, 9 March 2008
After that it was 2 more phone interviews, and a little discovery channel while I got ready to ride.
I didn't bother with a map, I can find my way around well enough by now. It was windy but nice, and I started with a trip on either Madison Avenue or Avenue of the Americas up to Central Park. I love riding in New York, you can feel in minutes that this place is busy, courteous, always on the go, full of history and culture, and that the world is a better place with New York doing it's thing. Faces in Calgary are pretty homogenous. Here there's people from 20 different countries on every street corner. It seemed very New York-ish that only 4 blocks from my hotel I came to a stop light where on my left was a Rolls Royce and on my right was one of those pedal trike things with a guy selling flowers, ice cream and pretzels. The remainder of the vehicles were of course yellow cabs and delivery vans.
Did the loop around Central Park and saw the populace out enjoying the day, so many people seem to get along so well doing so many activities. There's bike lanes, walking lanes and rollerblading lanes. But nobody uses them! Everyone just does their own thing and they look out for people. Most of the signs say "please yield" and "be courteous" and so forth. Sure beats directive rules like being pulled over at home by the RCMP for riding two abrest. I cut west toward the Hudson. I was off a little on the streets to get myself efficiently to the path along the river, but I wasn't really aiming for the fastest route.
From there I was pushed by a tailwind up toward the George Washington bridge. That was the first 500W+ climb of the day, it's steep.
Crossed the bridge and started riding north towards Nyack. Depending on who you're talking to, it's sometimes confusing if they're saying Nyack or New York. Accents can run thick here.
The road was beautiful, temps were nice. Only issue on the road was twigs and bark in the bike lane - pretty foreign at home, but considering the road is half canopied by trees, it goes with the territory.
I wasn't keen to stare at my Powertap, but I pushed hard on every hill.
All in it was a great cycling day, and I don't think I'm alone in that opinion. It was cold and rainy yesterday, so there were lots of riders out. What's lots? My best honest guess is that I saw a thousand riders. I was leaving town at the time a lot were returning, and there's 12mm people in NY. A thousand would be 50 groups of 20. I'm sure I saw at least 25 groups of 20, a handful of larger groups, and then 1's and 2's and 3's and 10's galore. Wow.
I did make it to Nyack, which is small and quaint. I'm not sure what really goes on there, but they seem to make hay on the weekends selling antiques to ladies with long fingernails in BMWs/Rovers/Volvos/Benzs/Audis/Saabs/Lexus'/etc. There's a log ot big mansions along the parkway to get there, and it seemed fitting that one of the first modern glass buildings in town was a plastic surgery clinic.
Some of the best intervals of the day were during the last 10 minutes of riding. I exited the paths at 52nd street and started cutting east across town. At the first light an elderly Chinese guy on a 50cc scooter pulled up next to me. We drag raced to the next light, no match for me! Problem was, scooters don't fatigue. We did the same thing for 12 more blocks until park avenue, at each light he'd pull up and say "very good, very good" in thickly accented English (the r's weren't working well). The hardest was the 3 block stretches without lights where he could slowly keep winding the little engine up. We'd be the first off the line at any light (little vehicles just go around the sides to be the first at lights), and pedestrians finishing crossing on the other side would watch and point to their friends, too funny.
My stomach was empty before this started, but my mind was off it enough that by the time I got back I was nearly bonking.
After showering I walked 3 blocks to find a restaurant. I passed 11 I think. Some mom and pop looking Italian place tugged at me, but I resisted walking into the first opportunity. I was even closer to an "American-Japanese Beef Art House", but out of the corner of my eye I spotted... Mexican. The guacamole came to the table with 4 flavours and crushed chilis to spice it. The 3 ceviche appetizer might have well been the first three stairs to heaven. I had giant shrimp encrusted with chipotle sauce and flakes. Chipotle and I tend to get along well together.
All in I did 4 hours of riding. Looks like a lot of calories burned. I spent about 15 minutes above 400W in a dozen pieces, which is the ass backwards math trying to capture "going hard on hills" - the whole interval thing. Rest of it I tried to do sections of 300W and also tried not to drop below about 240W unless I was coasting or such.
The MacBook Air is proving to be a great travel companion.
Saturday, 8 March 2008
Checkin and security lineups were relatively short, which was nice. Going through security, both the people before and after me were carrying laptops as well (little odd for Saturday flights I thought). The MacBook Air, like many Apple products before it, drew lots of attention. Pulling it out got the "wow, cool, is that the new one?", which progressed to "can I feel it, how much does it weigh, do you like using it, is it fast enough, what about no optical drive, yada yada.". This must be how Ferrari owners feel, and why they buy them in the first place - attention.
What can one do during an airport wait? I should have installed Civilization or Warcraft on my MacBook Air. Instead it was spent draining my blackberry batteries - 3 student phone interviews plus a half an hour with our architect. At least it's productive downtime.
Every now and then my heart rate picks up and my legs twitch. A skeptical doctor might read more into it, but I think it's more like a dog chasing squirrels in its dreams... subconsciously I'm chasing bike buddies up imaginary hills.
On the flight I managed to finish my recent book, Lone Survivor. The story is of a US Navy SEAL who makes it back, but the messages concern a lot more. The two most easily identified are that warfare is warfare and shouldn't be confused with politics, and secondly America sees right and wrong and chooses a side. American's are patriots on a much different scale than what we can muster.
Canada backs up that chosen side when it counts, but doesn't march itself out to take the heat in the same fashion. Popular opinion might have it that we'd rather keep two sides from shooting each other and work out the problems at hand.
"The Plan" to improve riding form
Guys like me have plans, lists, spreadsheets and the like around a lot. I actually don't keep a cycling plan in arithmetic detail, but I do know when it's time to trim down, ride longer, ride harder, or rest. I should arrive in time to put my bike together tonight. After that it's time to work towards my goals for Sunday-Tuesday, of which I'll have to do some degree of work, but it won't be much of the days.
1. Enjoy and find new experiences in the big apple!
2. Ride hard for 3 days. It's going to be cold and windy. New York 5 degrees C is that damp Atlantic cold. Not cycling weather? Forget that. I like cold, and I like headwind. I say bring it.
This is my chance to "build up" for the riding Spain will offer. I'm aiming for 3 days at 4.5 hours, and I've got fairly ambitious sets of intervals planned withing those hours to make them count. It's basically chasing imaginary Jon/Shawn/Craig up the hills at high watts, in between laying down the "normal Erik" tempo. We'll see what I can deliver before shutdown. My recollection from the past is that just being nearer to (at!) sea level means I'm going to be able to punish myself.
3. Pending successful completion of #2, the three days of conference (sedentary, but not exactly "rest") with calories galore should help me recover well for the weekend.
There's a few variables during the rest of the trip, but we'll cross that bridge once I see how the start turns out.
We circled for a half hour before landing, winds were terrible on the way in.
I'm thinking about doing a little walk for some grub tonight, but I'll put together the bike first. I might prefer waking up a little hungry for that first New York bagel tomorrow.
I had a great Friday night this week that's a few degrees differnet from the above. Met Jon, Shawn and Craig for some riding at 4:30. We hammered Sideshow and Scenic Acres until it was confirmed that I as the slowest one present. We rode some tecnhical downhills and watched the sun set. We cleaned some steep uphill sections that many riders never can clean, which shows trail conditions are good and we're each fit enough to deliver the high wattage 30 second climbs, and I will add here the tidbit that I certainly didn't granny ring them ; )
I feel very comfortable with the geometry of the Scalpel which is great, I'm just riding it naturally and feeling at home. It feels so fast to ride, like a 'cross bike with suspension.
We had fun. In generic terms we're uniform in fitness and technical capability, enough so that it's a great riding group.
After that it was a few phone interviews as we're currently hiring, dinner with Tori, packing, and a little shopping trip to MEC, where I picked up the Pangea 40 backpack. I had look at 4 stores and probably 20 backpacks before this one found it's way into my life, and so far it's sweet. I was using an older one (I think from grade 5 actually), and somehow I'd lost a MEC one along the way, but it was more outdoors oriented and less travel oriented (ie. One big cavern to stuff things into rather than organized space).