Saturday 30 April 2011

TransPortugal Day 1

Maybe a bit brief... Kate was 4th, probably because she's made out of 50% Norwegian and 50% awesome. She also got bit by a dog and needed deep stitches, wrapping, and maybe shots. Too bad she didn't have the hot dog stick to poke it. Thor threw a lighting bolt at her that came really, really close. She's happy though.

Craig was probably top 10. Seems to have had a good day.

I saw Jon out there, which is often a good sign. However, it's more a sign that he rode fast, bonked, searched for food in a town, and let me catch up.

I rode a lot with Tom Letsinger.

I have a great bike which performed solidly all day. And I have a mind that was set on finishing, and using a bit of IQ, to try to get an overweight, under trained body. Ugh.

You know those days when you set off across unbelievably beautiful country side, at your own pace, with the smell of spring flowers in the air, fluffy clouds ever changing, beautiful farmland, and it's putting a smile on your face all day and life just feel one hundred percent right? That was today. Heavenly, no wonder I love bikes and this country!

Then as we roll towards purple thunderclouds, it let's loose, and it's time to wash away the pieces of angst you're carrying inside. So refreshing, so reinvigorating.

All in I was out for about 8h, came in a few minutes after Jon. Let's just say it's been a while since I've been on a bike 8h in a weekend, let alone a day (here in '09 Perhaps? Or XC8?). Antonio makes it a test. This is not an easy event.

Friday 29 April 2011

Braganca's castle

Lovely hint that we're not in north america.

TransPortugal Day 0

Craig and I roomed together and woke up to a room full of sunshine to contrast last night's rain. Had a great breakfast at the hotel and started recognising all the faces from before. The organisers (and the portuguese in general!) are warm people and I'm entirely surprised by how many remember me.

Standing in brief registration lines meant more catching up. Saw Cassie and Tom; Cassie is helping here again and has kept in contact with many of the names we remembered from last time, and as well they both met Dallas in the race across the west. Cindy would like being here too I suspect...

Putting bikes together is the usual fumbling around. People seem amused that Jon and I can pull nice bikes out of small boxes; he has my grey S&S box and took the rear linkage off his frame to fit everything. My bike is ready to race, don't know about my body. I'd look more normal with my Cannondale here, I don't know if it's the euro weight weenie thing or just an effective Portuguese distributor, but there's lots.

Lunch is all natural and pure power. Make your own salad with oil and vinegar for dressing, tuna and beans salad, pasta salad and a few desserts. They eat natural/healthy here.

Briefing was thorough and good. GPS overview was too. I nodded off for a few minutes, but so far time zone change is feeling mild.

Test ride was fun. We went into town to get cell phones for Jon, Kate, and Jon's room mate Steve. €19 gets a phone, then pay as you go. Cheaper than losing a blackberry out there.

We rode to the Braganca castle in the rain then did part of the route to start getting used to GPS route following. Easy enough.


Kate brought us lefse from Norway!

TransPortugal Day 0 Sunrise

Beautiful day!

Window leaning contest

I hope Craig doesn't win, as the winner by default loses. Drink mix blew up in bag en route, so there's a lot of shaking of crystals out of clothes and suitcase (good thing we're only on the third floor).

Portugal Road Trip

After a demi-sleep on Air Canada, we waited in a security line until it was closed when we were the next in line. The cleared the area, so we had german breakfast in Frankfurt. Craig got the sausage and 'kraut, Jon got a meatloaf that was really a massive slice of ham with mustard, and I did the clubhouse sandwich.

Portugal flight was uneventful, we sat apart and I mostly worked on Angry Birds. The humid air of Lisbon welcomed us.

After rounding up our bags, Jon and I got selected to open and explain our bike boxes. Pain but oh well.

Our hosts greeted us outside. Greg is here again, a Coloradan I roomed with on the last day of my last time here. He said it's harder now than before.

We're being driven to Braganca by cute massage therapists who like Arcade Fire and wear converse - globalization seems to be in full effect. Despite a cruising speed of 170kph on the highway, the time between rest stops proved to long for Jon, then I fell too. We'll have to ditch a few of our re-filled pop bottles at the next rest station.

We're carpooling with Vanessa our driver who has to "make her foot like a ballet dancer" to reach the gas pedal enough to keep it pinned. Our other companions are two Dutchmen from Amsterdam.

Dinner consisted of a Galp station I think with a Sagres beer (hope we make it there) and the entire TransPortugal crew so started to see all the familiar faces, including Kate of course. The restaurant was shocked, only the first time though, when the owner shouted "goal" at the top of his lungs at whatever "futbol" match was on.

The dark drive to Braganca after comprised trying not to fall asleep and Vanessa singing along to Portuguese folk songs then subsequent translation dialogue with Jon.

We've finally arrived in Braganca past midnight and it's time to crash.

Wednesday 27 April 2011

Trans-Portugal bound

Today Jon, Craig and I travel to Portugal. I'd say Kate too as she'll be there, but since she's already in Norway, the bulk of her travel is done.

Needless to say, we're excited. This is the only stage race I've not officially completed, as the heat wave relative to Calgary's cool spring last time absolutely confounded my body. The temperature differential for the first few days appears more minimal, say 10C this time rather than the -5C to 35C jump last time.

The race has expanded by two days and clocks in at just short of 1,200km. I'm tackling that with my base of... well, mostly investment banking. At least my weight is up 15lbs from last time.. err, wait a second, that's the wrong direction too.

Anyway, look for my name on the results below my friends. I'll try to maximize the riding I do given the starting point I'm at. Regardless, I'll enjoy the fresh Portuguese spring air.

It's funny - the 9 days and ~1,200k of this race will be the biggest I've (we've) ever done. Having said that it's less than 1/10th of what Tori has been up to, and by world standards, Portugal is like a child's playground vs. Africa.

The ipad2 came and is up and running, what a marvel of technology.

Lastly, Jon, Craig and I booked seats by each other, but alas today was my lucky day where they undersold some of the business class lie down beds. I got called up to the counter for the lucky-day upgrade, and I've gotta oblige and take it. Sorry guys, can't pass that one up!

Monday 25 April 2011

Palm Springs mountain climb

Little bit of vertical right next to town!

7am on a Palm Springs morning

A coast down the street to a road ride feels so relaxing at times like this.

Palm Springs

I like Palm Springs. It's relaxing to be surrounded by all these unhurried grey hairs with all the time in the world. I like the bike lanes. It's pretty under cover, but America's ageing baby boomers aree driving innovation here. Electric cars aren't on the come from GM or Nissan, they're here already, they're just called carts. Entire communities function without hydrocarbons, other than the flights to get here from cold climates and the inexpensive vehicles set aside for the Mexican pool cleaners and gardeners. Cool golf carts share bike lanes and have their hoods shaped like Jaguars and Bentleys. This way seniors sipping Miller Lite have plenty of reaction time to avoid hitting planters or dog walkers because they only go 10mph. The slowness of it all helps the relaxation.

If standing out on the golf course with a blingy cart is the norm, it certainly isn't that way in the gated communities. The grey haired ladies drove beige or sand colored cars exclusively. Mostly Lexus' and little convertible Mercedes. Their grey haired husbands stuck with sand colored Jaguars and Cadillacs - all perfectly shiny because they stopped at one of those "we employ 100 Mexicans" car washes that polish everything to a radiating shine when they left Maine in 1987 to retire here, and it never got dirty since.

Palm Springs seems like a bit of an air travel security hazard. I've never seen so many people skipping the scanner line for pat downs because of pacemakers. One troublesome lady had more than 3oz of lotion because she said it was dry here in the desert.

The mountains around town seem lovely, there must be more road riding than the one obvious climb I found, but I didn't search too hard on this trip. It's re invigorating to remember how awesome road cycling is - we get so little "real" road cycling at home. By "real" I mean the way the Spaniards, French, Italian and Californians get it... mountainous with twisty roads, velvet smooth blacktop, and cycling kit consisting of no more than jerseys and shorts, without even need for a wind breaker.

Cindy enjoyed the big road climb and the slow paced luxuriousess of it all.  Nothing caps off a ride like chilling by the pool for a few hours with life on the slowest of pace settings.

Thursday 21 April 2011

Sometimes you get lucky

In the last 24 hours the following have happened: we were told our presentation was helpful/good/insightful/appreciated. I guess that makes the stress "worth it". Subsequent to that we golfed and had dinner, both of which were fun. Once the wine took hold, I was convinced to rebook my ticket home to Sunday instead of today. Then my boss lent me his Seven Axiom SL coupled bike, and all his gear save his shorts. Then through a strange chain of events I found out the hotel didn't have space to simply extend my visit through the weekend, which led me to being in a villa on a golf course overlooking the mountains two blocks away that belongs to someone else I know, with use of their car. Clearly, it's been a lucky day.

I went to the nearest bike shop and got some bibs, chamois cream and tubes then rode the Palms to Pines highway which was beautiful, hot and tough. I turned around to make it home before sunset, but 2h of climbing didn't have me to the top. That bike rides like a dream; it's the nicest riding bike I've been on. It's not often "loaner" bikes fit perfect and come with Campy Record either. Don't have gloves, using non-sport glasses, and shoes a bit tight, but I could care less about those details.

Just when I thought it couldn't get any better, Cindy got a spot with the WestJet pass to join for the weekend.

Wednesday 20 April 2011

Declining stress

After a working dinner last night with el presidente to work out the finer points of our upcoming presentation, a roundup at 6:15am to again fine tune, and then the 3h whole enchilada with the exceptionally smart group whom had requested our presence, it's now "de stress time". De stress time involves lunch, golf, and since it is America, possibly the tastes great/less filling battle when the clock reads Miller time.

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Things that are hard when tired

Airport check in ticket machine won't print baggage tags no matter how many tries. Oops it won't for US flights regardless, it just never tells you that and it's hard to deduce things this morning.

Check in to get tags girl "Palm Springs is so sunny and warm it'll be great". Inner voice - it sure will if I get out of the meeting room.

US customs guy - "you don't have the hotel address where you're staying on here". I don't know if I have it, I have an itinerary with a pickup at the airport going to that hotel/resort. "Sir, if you go back outside the customs doors you can make a call to find the address". I did. I don't think the next one I went to on re-entry cared.

Bag tosser onto the carousel once through US customs: "what do you have in here, rocks?". No rocks on this trip. "No really, what do you have in here?". Pitchbooks. Please just don't make me unpack them all to show them to you.

Big fat guy at waiting lounge cafeteria looking at my breakfast, a veggie tray I picked compared to greasy eggs a guy nearby was eating. "That's too healthy for this time of day, you'll live for sure if you keep eating like that." Uhh, can I just pass on this conversation? Look, I know you're trying to be nice. But what if I reversed this; would it be appropriate for me to say that greasy eggs and bacon looks like it's sticking to your ribs and your 280lbs are gonna die early? My fitness and health habits are taking a beating the last few weeks, and this tray of stuff surprisingly tastes full of flavour instead of hothouse bland veggie flavour. I thought I'd just stick to myself over here and cling to a thread of dietary justice in anonymity.

Thirty Three

I don't want my contribution to GDP to dwindle in my ripe old age, so I kicked off 33 by working from 5:15am to 11:45pm, then packing last minute for a flight for an off site client meeting. I'll get to experience the nice weather of the locale from a taxi and conference room then return to catch up on work that didn't slow down when I'm back. And in roughly 20 days from now I calculate that I work for myself rather than for Canada's tax base.
It's odd to picture how I biked with a degree of energy and did this for years.

Sunday 17 April 2011

Birthday weekend

Well, another year ticks by.  Had a great weekend, some fun birthday stuff moreso than I've had for a while, plus some good downtime.  What also kicked up was Calgary's penchant for spring snow, work, and not a lot of biking for this guy despite Portugal looming.  Oh well.

Off for a meeting in the US for a few days this week plus starting work at 5:30am tomorrow has a little stress going on the fitness for Portugal side of the equation. I'm sure I'll get in at least a few miles easter weekend then have a week to recover as my last cramming, even though I'm well aware cycling and cramming aren't very compatible.

Monday 11 April 2011

Sunny Calgary weekend

"Team Portugal" did some riding this weekend, of which I made two out of the three days. Friday afternoon Tour de Springbank and Saturday trip though the hills near the Leighton Arts Center are the ones I made. Sunday the group did the big March Madness ride, but my riding was a different madness: rode to 3 patio furniture stores, Crate and Barrel, Trail appliances, Cindy's grandma's, one coffee shop, and home. Sort of a different 5h ride, but unless I settle for never finishing off all this moving into a house properly, it's necessary. If I can make it across the country at least I'll be having fun even if it isn't that fast.

Sunday 10 April 2011


I bought a barbeque from Barbeque's Galore. It's great. The apres work "team Portugual" ride left me hungry enough to devour whatever was made, but these kebabs were too bad.

Now if only the chef were a little better at more advanced meals!

Sunday 3 April 2011

Dear Urban Cyclists: Go Play in Traffic

That headline popped up on my weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal, so naturally I tuned in thinking what kind of an asshole wrote this?

As it turns out, that "asshole" is P J O'Rourke, who had not been in my sphere of consciousness for a long time.  In fact, I'd had no background of him than the "best handling car is a rental car" postulation and assorted rental car stories that come along with it. I didn't know, however, that phrase was credited to him in 1979 until a semester of english in 1999.  In a 3rd year university english class (my english pedigree stems mostly from elective classes in both science fiction and fantasy), where by that rental car topic came up.  My professor credited it to P J O'Rourke - and when I said I didn't know who that was, he said I'd need to read up before next class, "How to Drive Fast on Drugs While Getting Your Wing-Wang Squeezed and Not Spill Your Drink", National Lampoon article in March 1979, which sort of launched his fame. Ahh, public education. Before you become irate at his cycling tirade below, it'll provide some context. If you're a girl scout, devout churh goer, or any one else with a self established and workable moral code, you'll probably be irate anyway.  But at least you'll be de-sensitized for the cycling article.

Dear Urban Cyclists: Go Play in Traffic

From Dublin to Bogotá, bicycles are taking over city streets. What's next, lanes for hopscotch and pogo sticks?

A fibrosis of bicycle lanes is spreading through the cities of the world. The well-being of innocent motorists is threatened as traffic passageways are choked by the spread of dull whirs, sharp whistles and sanctimonious pedal-pushing.

Bike lanes have appeared in all the predictable places—Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Berkeley and Palo Alto. But the incidence of bike lanes is also on the rise in unlikely locales such as slush-covered Boston, rain-drenched Vancouver, frozen Montreal and Bogotá, Colombia (where, perhaps, bicycles have been given the traffic lanes previously reserved for drug mules). Even Dublin, Ireland, has had portions of its streets set aside for bicycles only—surely unnecessary in a country where everyone's car has been repossessed.

Then there is the notorious case of New York City. Not long ago the only people who braved New York on bicycles were maniacal bike messengers and children heeding an abusive parent's command to "go play in traffic." Now New York has 670 miles of bike lanes—rather more than it has miles of decently paved streets.

The proliferation of New York's bike lanes is the work of the city's indomitable transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-(Genghis)-Khan. Her department has a horde of 4,500 employees and a budget nearing a billion dollars. The transportation commissioner's job is—judging by rush-hour cab and subway rides and last December's blizzard—to prevent the transportation of anybody or anything to anywhere in New York. Bicycles are the perfect way to go nowhere while carrying nothing.

The bicycle is a parody of a wheeled vehicle—a donkey cart without the cart, where you do the work of the donkey. Although the technology necessary to build a bicycle has been around since ancient Egypt, bikes didn't appear until the 19th century. The reason it took mankind 5,000 years to get the idea for the bicycle is that it was a bad idea. The bicycle is the only method of conveyance worse than feet. You can walk up three flights of stairs carrying one end of a sofa. Try that on a bicycle.
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Almost everything that travels on a city street, including some of the larger people in the crosswalks, can crush a bicycle. Everything that protrudes from or into a city street—pot holes, pavement cracks, manhole covers—can send a bicycle flying into the air. When the president of the United States goes somewhere in Washington, does he ride an armored bicycle?

Given that riding a bike in a city is insane and that very few cities need more insane people on their streets, why the profusion of urban bike lanes? One excuse for bike lanes is that an increase in bicycle riding means a decrease in traffic congestion. A visit to New York—or Bogotá—gives the lie to this notion. You can't decrease traffic congestion by putting things in the way of traffic. Also, only a few bicycles are needed to take up as much space as my Chevrolet Suburban—just one if its rider is wobbling all over the place while trying to Tweet. And my Suburban seats eight. The answer to traffic congestion is lower taxes so that legions of baby boomers my age can afford to retire and stay home.
Bike lane advocates also claim that bicycles are environmentally friendly, producing less pollution and fewer carbon emissions than automobiles. But bicycle riders do a lot of huffing and puffing, exhaling large amounts of CO2. And whether a bicycle rider, after a long bicycle ride, is cleaner than the exhaust of a modern automobile is open to question.

If drops in pollution and traffic congestion are wanted and if discomfort and inconvenience are the trade-offs, we should be packed into tiny circus clown cars. These fit neatly into bike lanes and provide more amusement to bystanders than bicycle wrecks.

In fact, bike lanes don't necessarily lessen car travel. A study by the U.K. Department for Transport found that the installation of "cycle facilities" in eight towns and cities resulted in no change in the number of people driving cars. Bike lanes don't even necessarily increase bike riding. In the late 1980s and early 1990s the Dutch government spent $945 million on bicycle routes without any discernible effect on how many Dutch rode bicycles.

But maybe there's a darker side to bike-lane advocacy. Political activists of a certain ideological stripe want citizens to have a child-like dependence on government. And it's impossible to feel like a grown-up when you're on a bicycle if you aren't in the Tour de France.

All but the most athletic among us get on and off a bicycle the way a toddler goes up and down stairs. Wearing bicycle shorts in public is more embarrassing than wearing Depends. Exchanging briefcases for backpacks takes us from the boardroom to the schoolyard. And it's hard to keep a straight face when talking to anyone in a Skittles-colored, Wiffle ball-slotted bike helmet that makes you look like Woody Woodpecker.

Bike lanes must be intended to foster immaturity or New York would have chosen instead to create 670 miles of bridle paths. Being on horseback has adult gravitas. Search plazas, parks and city squares the world over and you won't fine a single statue of a national hero riding a bike.

This promotion of childishness in the electorate means that bike lanes are just the beginning. Soon we'll be making room on our city streets for scooter and skateboard lanes, Soapbox Derby lanes, pogo-stick lanes, lanes for Radio Flyer wagons (actually more practical than bicycles since you can carry a case of beer—if we're still allowed to drink beer), stilt lanes, three-legged-race lanes, lanes for skipping while playing the comb and wax paper, hopscotch lanes and Mother-May-I lanes with Mayor Bloomberg at the top of Lenox Hill shouting to the people on Park Avenue, "Take three baby steps!"

A good, hard-played game of Mother-May-I will make us all more physically fit. Fitness being another reason given for cluttering our cities with bike lanes. But why is it so important that the public be fit? Fit for what? Are they planning to draft us into forced labor battalions?

Bike lanes violate a fundamental principle of democracy. We, the majority who do not ride bicycles, are being forced to sacrifice our left turns, parking places and chances to squeeze by delivery trucks so that an affluent elite can feel good about itself for getting wet, cold, tired and run-over. Our tax dollars are being used to subsidize our annoyance.

Bicycle riders must be made to bear the burden of this special-interest boondoggle. Bicycle registration fees should be raised until they produce enough revenue to build and maintain new expressways so that drivers can avoid city streets clogged by bike lanes. Special rubber fittings should be made available so that bicycle riders can wear E-ZPass transponders on their noses. And riders' license qualifications should be rigorous, requiring not only written exams and road tests but also bathroom scales. No one is to be allowed on a bicycle if the view he or she presents from behind causes the kind of hysterical laughter that stops traffic.

Bike lanes can become an acceptable part of the urban landscape, if bicycle riders are willing to pay their way. And if they pay enough, maybe we'll even give them a lift during the next snow storm.

—Mr. O'Rourke's many books include "Don't Vote—It Just Encourages the Bastards."

Sunny Sunday

I was about to leave the house for some distance on the MootoX, when Kate texted. Pefecto. I'd be happy to be pushed twice as fast for training effort on one of her "long, slow distance" paced rides. Ugh I need some real legs to keep up, Kate's always a machine.

Anyway, great day to be out. I was about 6 hours door to door, which is just what the doctor ordered for weekend bootcamp.

Even this intrepid winter rider is ready for spring.

I'm a chef now

I've been riding more, way more this weekend. Which hopefully makes me fitter, but aside from that hope I can guarantee it makes me more of a vegetable when I get home. A hungry vegetable.

I don't give much credit to the servings per box/can whatever when I've done a 5.5 hour ride, especially the day after a 5 hour ride, the day after a 3 hour ride. But a guy can only mooch so much food in his life, so it's "cooking" time.

I made a box of pasta (with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper) on Saturday. It definitely tasted more gourmet when prep'd on the gas stove vs. the prior ones I had cooking "experience with". Tasted like more hydrocarbons died.  I use less resources though when I eat tuna from the can and pasta from the pot with the spoon I stirred it with.

My new microwave can do a can of hearty beef and potato stew with more gourmet credentials than before.  I don't think chefs should eschew microwaves or microwavable food unless they write letters and transport themselves by horse drawn buggy.  Having said that, the skill of completing a can of hearty stew with just the right amount of pepper, HP sauce, and tabasco is not to be underestimated. If HP sauce's tamarind-y goodness doesn't fill you with an air of class, recall it is "House of Parliament" sauce after all, with the picture on every bottle (I'm not kidding, pull yours out of the fridge and check). Side note to microwave industry: a truely awesome microwave wouldn't explode food all over, or if it did, would magically clean itself.

Saturday 2 April 2011

Calgary vs Portugal

With a spring snowstorm, it's time to put my money where my mouth is. I often espouse that a few garments from MEC solve most of Calgary's weather situations... so here we go.

It's nearing Portugal time. Need to ride. Got in 5 hours today. Rode through more snow than has been in [most] of Portugal since the last ice age. It's been a while since I rode the Moots MootoX. Big, comfy, slow. Rolhoff is perfect, Schmidt dynamo hub is perfect. Added resistance and weight.

I talked to a few people - most just spew out some derivation of "you're crazy". And maybe I am just a touch. But I also know that I'm not going to improve my fitness by watching the snow fall.

Stopped at Second Cup for a beverage, where the owner was chatty and perceptive. "That must be hard, like running on soft sand or something right?". Yeah that's not a bad analogy. "Something must have you motivated to get out?". Brief Portugal story in response. "Well that's great, at least it's not really cold, have fun."

Sat next to a table of 8-10 year olds and heard a conversation that blew my mind. The little girl wanted to be a professor of the classics, probably mythology. A little black boy didn't want to be some stereotype like a sports star, he wanted to either choreograph or costume design on Broadway. The other little girl wanted to be a CGI animator and work for Pixar or Disney. I think the babysitter's mind was sort of blown too. What ever happened to wanting to be in the NHL or a veterinarian? It sounded more like a group of NYU twenty year olds than suburban Calgary kids.

Anyway, back to the bike thing. Last time I rode Trans Portugal and struggled with the heat, someone told me I should train in the heat more. Easier said than done:

Trans Portugal - now of course everyone puts prime weather in their marketing photos, but there's a limit to how much the truth can be stretched.  Do you see any snow here?  I don't.  I see sunflowers and riders in jersies and shorts.
Calgary - no jersies and shorts (well, if you're wearing them, they'd better be base layer).  No sunflowers.  But who cares... as long as I can ride I'm happy.

Friday 1 April 2011

Life is looking up

Got out for a 3h ride, didn't freeze. As if that wasn't bi-winning enough, eating leftover Tony Roma's ribs in the tub.