Monday 30 April 2007


Is 30 hours of work on one weekend supposed to tire a guy out? If not, the 16 hour Monday oughtta help. This is like TransRockies for my brain.

Thursday 26 April 2007

It only lasts so long

Lately I've been receiving a fair amount of news that fits firmly in the "bad" category. Acquaintances moms with brain cancer. Guys found stone cold in their easy chair with heart attack. People going blind. Chronic disease. Uggh.

Some of these people I'm very close to, some of them it's past tense now, and some I'm a bit more removed. But I'm really not all that removed. And who ever really knows when it comes a few steps closer rather than staying few steps further away?

This stuff goes on all the time, it's not like it's anything new. I'm health conscious. I eat decently well, and I exercise my brains out. Phyical capacity defines who I am. Probably indicative that I haven't lost the genes of the Vikings. It used to be weights, wrestling, combat. Push self harder, get stronger. Then it shifted to aerobic fitness. Ride bike up big hills, cross countries, through jungles and mountains. Dumb physical pain defines me, and I suspect it always will. Maybe it's therapy, maybe it's escapism, maybe it's nothing. And that might alter some risk profiles, but that's about as much as it can do.

But now I'm more sensitized to health, or at least it seems to be presenting itself front and center more often. I'm tired and strung out from work, and the Wall Street Journal just ran a recent article on men, whom as a group have all kinds of collective problems, which is hardly news. But I love how they hone in on stress, and how meeting deadlines isn't the healthiest thing going in terms of lifestyle. Not too many degrees of freedom there. The article goes through depression too. Funny how few degrees of freedom I see in my lineage on that subject either.

In a half hour I'm going to watch a presentation by Dick Hoyt. Dick is an achiever. I've invited 9 people whom I know through my career, and 100% of them accepted the invite, which isn't typical of dinner engagements. I guess that tells me other people are looking forward to hearing what he has to say. I certainly am.

Wednesday 25 April 2007

Market Risk Premium

The market risk premium is a financial concept that is generalized as something like this:

A broad portfolio of risky assets, so broad such that risk from any particular asset can't really have any material effect, returns in excess of the "risk free rate", which is what you earn on securities with "no risk". This risk premium compensates you for providing capital to projects with a risk greater than "no risk".

That's pretty hacked up, but its the jist of it. Most people agree with the above. The "risk free rate" is usually stable government short term securities. In my humble opinion, these aren't risk free, as they don't seem to price in the possibility of government collapse from aliens attacking us (see how close they came to winning in Independence Day?). Or maybe they do price in this risk, and I just haven't been able to empirically measure it. I'll leave that for another day.

Now measuring the risk premium is different. There's lots of empirical data, but really it's all data mining. What really is a broad portfolio? Over what time period? There's lots of defendable answers to both, so there's lots of defendable answers to the risk premium question.

The bottom line is a model is guesswork. It's a simplification of reality by definition. It's an attempt for mankind to lay a framework of orderly thought over things that may or may not be orderly. Good models generate plausible forecasts. Forecasts are never really right anyway...

Measurements of the risk premium have been done in numerous academic settings. There's support for a range of values, but usually I see between 6% and 11%. That means, on average, over time, broad portfolios of risky assets (ie. this is usually assumed (yes, another assumption) to be something like the S&P 500 or Wilshire 5000 stock indexes [side note: do broad stock indicies represent diversified asset classes?]) return either 6% above the risk free rate, 11% above the risk free rate, or any number in between those two, or if you pick a peculiar time period and do cruddy statistical work, any number outside that range as well.

And why does anyone need such a concept? To look forward to the future. To make estimates and educated decisions. But when was the last time history predicted the future accurately? Ok, enough on that mental hurdle for now.

What's the point of this? Pick a number between 6% and 11% and stick it in your models. Then show sensitivies run at other percentages. Why? Because you aren't going to magically find the "right" number after midnight with your investment banking co-workers. There isn't a "right" number, just like there isn't an exact, agreed upon average temperature for the month of April. Daytime? Night? Highs? With or without windchill? What time period? Where?

It's like arguing with your spouse, it's an unproductive sink hole of time.

I'm off to navel gaze on the average temperature of April.

Monday 23 April 2007

Coulee Cruiser

I was looking forward to the Coulee Cruiser all last week. Not quite with the anxiety Tori was, but more for the symbolic kick off to another season of mountain bike racing. I can't stress enough that I'm drawn to this by pure love - I love mountains, I love bikes, and I love racing. Sounds like a holy trinity to me.

Weather was a concern leading up to the race, but the surprise was all to the upside. Acceptable warmth (or lack of frigidity) and a dry course limited the suffering to just the self induced type. The course was typical Lethbridge Coulee - steep. It's always a tough one for me.

It's always interesting to see how the field sorts itself out from the last reference point at the end of the prior year. Some are faster, some are slower, and some are the same old. It's just great to see the gang all in one spot for a few hours.

If anyone is looking for training tips, I can at least provide some insight into what doesn't work well. Sitting at a desk 80 hours a week, eating expensed meals that aren't really "athletes food", and generally being stressed out and worn down, are things to avoid. With those in mind I can console myself a little. My inner self contemplates the tradeoff between time spent doing work and the inevitable utter lack of commitment to anything it will one day help me achieve.

Having said that, I'm not sure I really had much more in the tank. I only would have felt better about the whole experience. Looking at who left me in the dust, there's no surprises. I rode portions of the race with Chris, Pat, McKee and Devin, and had a hard time hanging on... go figure. More sustainable power and less weight in each of them.

And even though she didn't recognize me on the course even though I said "hi", I'm happy that I saw Tori out there in the midst of the action, within a few minutes of the end of her race. No wipeouts, broken parts, blood or tears. Good experience!


Wednesday 18 April 2007

Pizza again?

My birthday present to self this year was my inaugural Tuesday night Hammer Ride of the year. After commuting home in horrendous traffic to pick up my bike. As a side note: I can't believe how much of the population accepts the cost, hassle, frustration and resource consumption associated with gridlock as the status quo. It is absolutely ridiculous. I find it hard to fathom how rational beings don't seek out other alternatives.

Once I made it to Westhills, half a dozen of us left to inflict training and pain on our collective selves. At the 20km mark I realized I was right with guys on the hills who had been dropping me shortly before. Of course this just applied to short hills where I can go anaerobic temporarily to mask my inferior power to weight ratio. It was a beautiful night and I had a blast. Devin wasn't feeling his normal self, I suspect he forgot to bring pizza in his jersey. That doesn't mean I had a chance of keeping up of course.

It felt so good driving home all tuckered out. I know I'm getting fitter as I could bounce off my heart rate ceiling on ten hard intervals during the ride and feel normal just a minute after.

I'm now on the full R&R program by sitting at a desk from 8-11, never elevating my heart rate, then taking a cab home!

Monday 16 April 2007

Broken Record?

I've established a pattern lately - work more hours than generally recommended during the week, and bike as many hours as possible on weekends. I'm happy that the second portion of that statement is still holding true at least. So here's my 5 minute post at whatever past 10pm on a Monday (and yes, I'll be here at 6am tomorrow), which has been another typical unsavory start to the workweek. I'm not breaking any records, but I realize I'm beginning to sound like a broken record!

Last week, my Nigerian/Canadian co-worker George, who in a cruel twist of fate sits under the coldest vent in the office despite never experiencing a temperature below 28C until he moved away from Nigeria, passed along a piece of advice he recently received from his wife. I'll paraphrase it as:

"You can't keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result. If you want a different result, try a different approach."

This is a common bit of wisdom. I've often heard it often phrased in terms of "banging your head against the wall".

George is quiet. But like many on the quieter side, proof is in the pudding as each carefully chosen word clearly carries value.

Thank's George. Great tip. I owe you one.

Sunday 15 April 2007

Cycling Fan Again

My fan following of cycling races other than the local scene waxes and wanes through the season. Early season drama sucks me in, then I shut it out completely when doping scandals take hold.

But this year has been nothing but good news so far. If you haven't already, tune into Mical's race calendar and watch her whip booty down in the US (her blog link is over to the right). First NMBS race, Sea Otter, it's all been good so far, and I'm thoroughly impressed. And I know I'm safe from hearing the next doping scandal here (unless they find some performance enhancers in ice cream, as I've never seen anyone with more ice cream in their diet than Mical).

And secondly, while we're into "big bike races" and "big bike marketing", who can believe that I'm trucking around every weekend on the same bike that's won Paris-Roubaix two years running? That's kind of cool. I keep telling everyone those skinny little stays seem to make the bike feel fairly comfortable (even though I'm only talking rough pavement, not anything meaningful like cobbles). Last year was a break from 16k out, and this year was from 20k out. That takes guts, and some serious strength. Love it!

Salvaged the weekend

Coming out of last week, I thought I might have a tough time feeling at home on a bike this weekend. Fortunately, a commute home and 2 hour "warmup" ride with my buddy Matt seemed to get my body back into the swing of things for Saturday morning.

Saturday was a fun ride with the whole crew out to Elbow Falls and back. Dallas proved his might by laying down huge watts on the flats, it must be the Frosted Flakes and chocolate milk before bed. Devin certainly should be wearing a green jersey out on the road with his sprint performances this year, out of a strong field of probably 20-30 he took honours into Bragg. Then, just to rub it in, pulls out a soggy piece of pizza out of his pocket and starts chowing down. I'll hang up my bike for good when I'm still first one off the back, when he switches to Wildcat Strong in his bottle cages.

Got some good tempo riding in on the way out to the Elbow Falls pass, Dallas pulled out the big hammer and just rode people off his wheel till it was only him. I did my best to stay with the group I was in, but I have a really hard time doing so on the steep climb portions, and eventually got off the back. We regrouped for the final climb, and Ed Roddy and I coaxed each other to the top faster than either of us likely would have managed alone. It's always great having a partner to climb with.

All in it was a 150k day, and I ate very little while out on the road. I did lose energy eventually, but considering how last week went I'm happy.

Sunday I switched over to the mountain bike, really the first ride of the season. Shawn Bunnin and I made tracks at Nose Hill, I had decided early on that we weren't going home till I had 10 solid climbs in. He waited till about climb 4 or 5 before pulling out his extra horsepower, which really helped my maximal training. Of course I'd need 15% more to actually stick with him, but I'm one of those riders where having the carrot out front really, really helps.

Later in the day, after my legs were totally fried and felt like jello, I had the bright idea to take my singlespeed up to Nose Hill with Tori. One particular climb ended up being absolutely to the limit of my ability... I was mustering all the strength I could just to keep the gear ticking over. And that one was a full 5 minute climb, one of the longest ones I've found up there.

Time to relax!

Thursday 12 April 2007

Lethbride is Going to Kick My Ass

It's 10:30 on a Thursday night, and I'm going to take a breather for a little post.

I've ridden a bike 40 minutes this week. First was 20 minutes on a trainer, intending for some quality intervals, but I dismounted feeling like junk and gave up. That was two days ago.

I also commuted in today (20 mins), and will eventually commute home, so the grand total will be about an hour. It will feel hurtful riding home on the bike path in the dark, as I rode my Cervelo today, hoping to do the deadgoat road ride. But alas, I didn't make it to the club ride and am still here under the flourescent lights. The Cervelo is a road thoroghbred, relegated to cruising the bike paths at night, with my fat ass on it. I obviously don't have lights on it, as that would contradict it's beautiful esthetic.

But to make up for the lack of biking, I've been filling my time with the office.

Not what I'd call ideal preparation two weeks before first race.

Wednesday 11 April 2007

Most Intense Massage

It's been a long week so far. I haven't been sleeping well, I tried to do a bike workout Tuesday and called it quits after 20 minutes. Mind and body weren't playing along. I never like that feeling, but on the other hand, I'm willing to listen to my body.

Today was my second massage session with my new masseur, whom I've nicknamed Greg the Gorilla. If a person new to massage experienced this as their first massage, they'd probably charge him with assault. But it's the product I'm looking for.

This was probably the most painful massage, or hour, I've experienced. The "right" pressure seemed to be one that got Greg's elbow within 1mm of my femur, no matter which muscles and tissue were in the way. I was breathing deep, panting, ceasing to breath, sweating, and seeing nothing but white heat. Greg had his feet braced against the wall and the vents, and was breathing like he was doing sets of weights. I could feel his arms and hands quiver when he as pushing as hard as he could.

It was good, I feel like a new person. I need to stretch more and sit at my desk less.

Monday 9 April 2007

Sunny Weekend

Looking at the forecast on Friday night, I couldn't stomach another weekend where the high's were 0C and +7C for the two weekend days when only 3 hours away the corresponding figures were 16C and 18C. Simple choice - packed up the car and went west. Called mom and dad to see if they were busy, and surprise, surprise, they could fit the overnight trip into their retired schedule.

The temperature started to pick up past dead man's flats, the wall of the mountains was seperating the two air masses. Canmore and Banff actually looked respectable for riding, car was showing 7C as it was still warming up in the morning, but I was fixated on the other side of the continental divide.

We parked and got a motel room in Radium, then quickly suited up for our ride. Headed south towards Invermere together, then parted ways. I rode to Fairmont then back up the west side road to Invermere, stopped for a bagel, then rode up the hill to Panorama. Nice ride, although the road is a bit rough. Didn't even feel a chill on the coast back down. All in, a nice 4.5 hour ride without the added challenge of maintaining body heat.

We had dinner at a German restaurant down the road, typical heavy food, schnitzel and spatzle loaded up on my plate.

Sunday we rode from Radium back to Castle Junction. Dad broke his Radium hill climb record up to Olive Lake, and we rode together for 60km. Beautiful mountain views in that valley, pretty hard to beat. Snow capped peaks, lots of animals, wide shoulder that's cracking a bit, but all turned out well. Finished the day off at 103km in about 4 hours, not too bad considering the hills and winds. Riding the Cervelo instead of a 'cross bike with fenders was pure bliss.

It was reallly warm driving through Banff and Canmore, high teens. Lots of people out riding in shorts and jersies. Drove back on the 1A just to switch things up and saw Jon Nutbrown getting in some miles.

Thursday 5 April 2007

New Guy

Our "new guy" is funny. He has a tendency for strange things to happen to him.

For example, he just asked if he could head out from work for an hour to get his hair cut, then come back and finish a few things off before the weekend, as this was the only appointment slot the haircut place had available.

He went to get his haircut. Part way through, the front door of the place burst open, and a man walked in yelling and fell to the ground. He'd been shot in the stomach. He was lying there with blood pooling on the floor, and the employees and customers were in shock. Police, ambulance, firetrucks and news reporters show up en masse. He was almost done, and had a cab waiting outside already to take him back to the office. But the police insisted nobody was leaving until they got statements from everyone, and had combed the area for evidence and let the canine unit check everything out.

Sounds like a tall tale, but it's verifiable through the news.

I just sat at my desk and worked on a long to-do list of projects thus far today. Frankly I can get along fine without that kind of excitement.

At least we can live vicariously through "new guy".

Anoushka Shankar

Last night was the last of the BD&P World Music Series at the Epcor center for this year. I had an extra set of tickets so Jon and Kelly came along. As luck would have it, we found other cyclists in the crowd, Finn Pedersen and Peter Lawrence were there as well.

Anoushka is a sitarist, and she seems to be experimenting with the bounds of traditional Indian music and more modern influences. I don't really have a musical vocabulary to describe what I heard, but it was unique and I liked it.

Later, I found out she's Norah Jones' sister, which I guess makes sense now that I learned Norah was born as Geethali Norah Jones Shankar, then just dropped portions of the name. More can easily be had on the web.

It's still snowing and I'm trying to figure out if I can survive another weekend of crap riding. Sunday looks nice!

Monday 2 April 2007

Massage Problem Solved

I've been going for bi-weekly massages for about 8 months as a work perk. The place we go to has some OK staff, and it took me a while to work my way through to who actually pushed on the muscles a little versus who just petted you and sent you home. They were decent massages for a free perk, but not what I'd necessarily seek out for sports massage if I were spending my own dollars.

Lately there's been some turnover at the clinic, so I talked for a while with the front desk girl. There's one masseuse I avoid like the plauge, I'd pet a kitten harder than she massages. The one who I was seeing regularly put a little effort into the cause, but she wasn't really a sports massage type. After some discussion, it turns out I hit the jackpot. It's a guy named Greg. Front desk was working on the assumption that men only wanted masseuse's. Sure, I guess that's a preference, but I also don't want 3rd rate service, I'm not into wasting time and effort for "nothing".

My mental image of Greg is now as "Greg the Gorilla". That's not derogatory, a masseur needs some upper body strength. Greg the Gorilla walks into the waiting room and extends his hand for me to shake... his upper body is mildly musclebound, especially compared to my cycling physique. He say's he's worked on cyclists before, and eventually we figured out the connected cirlce (again, one of these Calgary is a really small town type of things).

I got more massage value out of that half hour than I have had in the last 8 months. Greg was pushing so hard I could hear his breathing elevate from the workload, and I was breathing hard just to remain remotely tranquil. I could feel knots in my calves, hamstrings, glutes being pulverized. I know I'm going to be sore tomorrow, but it's a useful sore. It'll take a few times to really work them out, but I've got 100% confidence they'll be on the losing end of this battle. I'm happy.

Climate Change? Who knows. Warm Weather? Nope.

Climate change and weather are different as can be to climatologists, geographers, and people in the know... but to the general population it's often just dismissed as a semantic difference. What I can confirm is that Calgary sure isn't seeing any cycling friendly warm spring weather yet this year. Let's warm up the region a bit by leaving our collective doors open, I've had enough of the snow/sleet/ice! Maybe when I'm bustling with energy I can handle that stuff, but when I'm tired from work... I'm a little less prepared to do battle with the elements for weeks on end.

The gang tried to make another good riding weekend, but it was a bit tough after a beautiful Friday evening ride with clear roads and warm temperatures. Saturday was a bit of a personal battle for me, I was rundown from last week, and although I'm sure I could have pushed up the pain threshold a bit to stick with the group as everyone jockeyed for position along the rollers on lower Springbank, it just wasn't the pace of riding my internal guages were suggesting I should be up to. People are fast at this time of year. I'm hoping I'm fast later. I know I'll be fit both now and later, but fast is different. Only time will tell.

For the second time in as many weeks, turning north was the "right" choice by weather. We caffeinated with a bunch of the crew from our ride and from another ride in Cochrane, then reorganized ourselves and headed out for more. Unfortunately, the "more" I had in me was less than the "more" the other 5 riders I was with had. I turned back at what I felt was a sensible spot, and unfortunately got my first flat of the year within a few kilometers. Better then than with a group.

Made it home ok, unwound a bit, then got the cell phone flurry for setting up a sushi dinner. Dallas, Tori, Jon, Craig and I indulged (this is after I ate a box of Maccaroni for carbo-loading) and told tall tales about cycling. Good time had by all... then off for the obligatory DQ stop to top up Dallas' caloric reserves.

For me, the funny part of the evening was chatting after in my "over furnitured" living room, and despite seating for 9, seeing Dallas, Jon and Craig all line up on one couch. Good times.

Rode Sunday out to Cochrane in the crappy sleet with Craig Stappler. Good ride, we rode hard enough to stay warm, without riding really that hard. Bike froze up again, but at least the roads didn't. It was actually a pretty refreshing ride, but seriously, I've had enough of this stuff.

Well, there's my ramble. A weekend of riding, a weekend of sub-par weather if you measure it in terms of bicycle riding.