Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Soloist Races At Last

On Sunday I took the Soloist out for its virgin race, the San Marcos Circuit Race just north of San Diego. Most of the riders I had talked to around here, including the UCLA road squad, recommended it highly as a well run, fun and challenging course, and since there aren't all that many races left in the area (surprisingly enough), I figured it was worth the trip.

The race organization did not disappoint. The Ranchos Cycling Club lived up to their reputation, and put on a very professional race. The course was closed to traffic and two lanes wide the who way, the road was in great shape, corners were swept, and registration was a breeze. The first thing I learned on Sunday was that Cat 5 races here fill up FAST. Of the 50 open slots, 45 were taken by preregistered riders, and the other five were full as soon as registration opened. Fortunately, I was third in line.

From the start I knew I wanted to be in the lead few. The course was a 1.7 mile circuit, with a 60 foot climb just before the finish, and all the downhill immediately after the start/finish line; Cat 5 was scheduled to do 30 minutes plus three laps. I quickly fought my way to the front of the pack (it wasn't hard, with the entire road open), and sat in around third wheel. On the fourth lap I wound up in the lead after the climb, and I pulled around the first bend until an attack came around on the downhill. It was instantly caught, and I held about fifth place for a while longer. A few teams were well represented, including Sun Coast Velo, and San Diego Bicycle Club, but the best tactics came from two guys from UC San Diego: more on them later.

With three laps to go, several people took off. I stayed with them until just after the second time up the hill. My attack came a lap too soon, and I was left with nothing for the final climb. It didn't help that just before the penultimate climb I got an intense ache in my lower back. I suspect that I'm over-reaching into the bars, still, but I haven't had time to prove it (or time to find a shorter stem; I'm already riding a 90mm). With no real motivation left after the leaders took off at the top of the last climb, I settled for 16th out of 50. The two UCSD riders I mentioned earlier worked together, with one giving a fantastic leadout; they broke fast enough that they actually took first and second.

Before the race, I met Paul K., and several of his friends. Paul is a helicopter mechanic in the U.S. Navy, and raced mountain bikes about eight years ago. This was his first ever road race, and he hung in to the end, despite being on one of the most challenging short courses I've ever ridden. His friends were there simply to give him support. One of them took pictures of several of the races. The Cat 5, juniors, and some Cat 4 photos can be found here. I hope I get the opportunity to ride with them in future.

Finally, I must ask for your help, oh great, wise, and mighty readers. My new bike needs a name, and I'm fresh out of ideas. If you have an idea, leave one for me in the comments section of this post. Whoever provides the winning name will get a prize yet to be determined. Go!

Friday, July 25, 2008

I Really Dig the Styles They Wear

I must apologize to my glut of regular fans; I have been lax in my updates since arriving in sunny LA. I have no good excuse, other than I just haven't felt that anything blog worthy has happened. Since arriving in LA, I haven't done anything that special. I moved in my stuff (not hard, since it all fit into my rather small car), I found some yummy places to eat (too many to list, but the sushi place is closest), found the nearest grocery store (two of them, a Ralph's, and a Whole Paycheck) and figured out how to get to work (walk three blocks, turn right, walk one more).

Riding wise out here, it's spectacular. The Cervelo is in hog heaven out here, since nothing is flat. I took a ride through Bel-Air a couple days ago; in three miles I gain twelve hundred feet of elevation. To put that in perspective, Old Mill Rd. on the east side of Cleveland gains 320 feet in exactly a mile. And most of the riders I've met out here look at a hill like Bel-Air as a good start to the day.

If climbing isn't your thing, there's always the Pacific Coast Highway. The PCH is a little four to six lane road running along...that's right: the Pacific coast. Bikes are allowed on it, in fact it's usually the only way to get to some of the better rides through the Santa Monica Mountains. It is not, however, for the faint of heart. Most of the road has a very nice shoulder on which cyclists can ride. Sometimes, though, the shoulder is taken up with parked cars and every so often, like when you cross a bridge or the like, the shoulder just goes away. Usually the cars will let you in. Usually.

Riding on surface streets here is something of an adventure as well, though less so than on the PCH. The amount of traffic in LA means that often a cyclist can keep up with, if not entirely out-pace, traffic. So far, this has meant that I've not had any issues with rude or inconsiderate drivers; I'm not delaying them at all, so they mostly leave me alone. Of course this isn't always the case, as was demonstrated on July 4th.

And otherwise that's about it. Work is a lot like work, but I like the other staff on my unit, and the new hospital UCLA just opened is awesome to work in. It was designed by I.M. Pei, so it's very big, open, and full of natural light. It also doesn't hurt that I'm on the top floor ICU, with a fantastic view of the Santa Monica Mountains out one direction, and a look downtown in the other. For now it's time to chill and fine tune the bike in preparation for my first California race on Sunday. Race report here afterwards, I promise!

Friday, July 4, 2008

From Every Mountainside...

In honor of all of those who gave their lives, that we may have this day; in honor of those who place themselves in harms path, that we may grow old with this day; and in honor of those who will come after, that they may enjoy the continued blessings of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, may we hold this day with honor in our hearts. To all those who consider themselves American: Happy Independence Day.

Swim Out Past the Breakers...

At long last, I am in sunny Los Angeles. I checked into my apartment today, and started getting moved in. It's definitely easier when everything you have to put in there fits into a compact sedan. More details on the trip later, once I have time, but I shall leave you with the following:

1.) Zion National Park is quite possibly the most stunningly beautiful place I have ever seen, is wholly deserving of its name, and should be on the list of places to see before you die. Period.
2.) The Mojave Desert is really big, really hot, and surprisingly pretty to look at.
3.) Las Vegas is really big, really hot, but air conditioned and carefully engineered to make parting with money as enjoyable experience as it has ever been.

And now it's time for bed here on the left coast. I promise pictures from the trip at my earliest convenience, and more details of good times and debauchery from Vegas et al. Best of luck to all my fellow Snakebiters at the Sizzler this weekend!!