Monday, February 22, 2010

Walking, Talking, and Living a Normal Life...

... sometimes is taken for granted.  How often have you gotten out of bed, walked into the kitchen, said "Good Morning" to your wife and then went on about your business attacking the day?  I've done it thousands of times. It's just so, well, natural that is easy to forget what a miracle it is.

There are so many people out there that can't do this.  People that have been paralyzed, people that have cancer, people that have MS, people that have heart failure.  So many people that would love to be able to get out of bed and walk into the kichen and not give it a second thought.

I've actually been there. Walking after pneumonia was an exercise in planning.  How do I get from point A to point B without passing out or coughing?  How am I going to get to sleep tonight without laying flat?  How in the hell am I going to get up 6 flights of stairs to my car?  All of these questions and exercises in planning just to do normal things.

It gives one a lot to think about.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

An Outside Ride!

It finally warmed up enough to get outside and ride in KY. It was a flat out awesome day! It is amazing how warm 45 degrees(F) feels after the HORRIBLE stretch of 20 degrees days.

I met up with some teammates on the road. I was worried about how I was going to ride given how poor my fitness level is, but happily the I managed to ride pretty well. I still struggled on the hills a bit, and when the duration went over 2.5 hours I had to slip into survival mode.

All, in all, it was good. There is a possibility of getting out on the road tomorrow too! 2 days in a row, that is unheard of this year!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

My Dog is My Hero

Most cyclists identify heavily with a pro cyclist. We all wish we could be Lance. Personally, I wish I could be my dog. Why? Because she just gets it done. She doesn't complain. She just does it.

My female dog is getting well into old age. She is 91 in dog years. Back when she was in her 70s, she managed to dislocate a hip. She screamed bloody murder, then crawled into my lap. She had absolute faith that I would make it better. That absolute, uncompromising faith is so rare and so beautiful.

We absolutely had to fix her. The vet, Lee Hankins, told us that she would do well with an FHO, which is a fancy acronym for a procedure in which the femoral head is removed. The leg is bound for a few weeks, and the scar tissue forms to create a false joint. This seemed preferable for my little girl, and much less harsh than a total hip replacement. So that is what we did,

She came out of surgery just fine. It's tough enough for a 45 year old to do this. She handled it gracefully in her 70s. After a few days she was getting around on 3 legs just fine, and after 5 days, she was downright rowdy! I am certain I would have been in a nursing home if our positions were reversed.

When we got to the point where she needed to start using the leg, she suffered through physical therapy without complaint. Physical therapy for her consisted of me holding up her good leg and making her stand on the bad one. She did this with grace and ease, no complaints. It was so much better than the whiney, wimpy, complaining humans that I endure while going through physical therapy for a broken wrist.

The little girl made a full recovery. She is getting deaf now, but she is still expecting to play every night, and she still is active at 91 years old. I hope I can be as graceful in my old age as she is.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Winter of my Discontent and Glimmer of Hope

It has been a very rough start to the season. My early base went very well, was well ahead of where I had been in 2008/2009. Then I got KO'd with a whopping, almost fatal case of pneumonia. This destroyed my fitness. I'm not complaining, because I survived and emerged weak but undamaged. A major illness definitely puts things in perspective.

It took about 4 weeks to feel somewhat back to normal in terms of power. Low normal might be a better way to put it. At the same time all of this was going on, Louisville was getting whacked with the worst winter in years. Snow, extreme cold, wet when not snowing, all of that stuff we cyclists just hate. It has been miserable. So it's been a lot of trainer time, which in some ways has been very good considering the recovery from illness.

Then I managed to injure my shin. The accident was so stupid I'm not even going to explain it. I ended up with 30 stitches and another week off the bike. Fortunately, when I finally got back on my bike, I hadn't lost much fitness and the rest may have actually been beneficial.

I did a field test today. For those of you who don't know what a field test is, it is a way of setting a baseline and measuring progress of your training. It's usually an all out effort for a given distance or time. Field tests are very painful!

My field test was a 30 min test. I usually have a good idea of what the results are going to be, based on certain workouts. Given my weakened state, I had no idea of what I could do on this one. I knew what I'd like to do, but also knew that was unrealistic.

I did the test this afternoon. It was BRUTAL!!! The results, while not stellar, were not quite as bad as I expected. It gave me a glimmer of hope that my fitness is returning to normal. It's going to take a lot of work, and I'm going to get destroyed in early season races, but all is good. That glimmer is enough.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Why Green?

Why green? Well, it matches my handlebar tape, that's why! I'm rather well known for my green handlebar tape. I wish I were better known for my palmares, but hey, such is life. Back in 1990 or so, I was racing my beloved Vitus 979 frame. This was a frame that my mother and father bought for me for my 20th birthday. I had replaced the Vitus with a beautiful red and white Guerciotti in 1988.

For some reason, the Guerciotti and I didn't get along. Part of it was mental. My mother had been an instrumental factor in getting my father to purchase the Vitus. It was my first real race bike. It was a great one too. That bike was spectacular. Not too long after getting my Vitus in 1985, my mother passed away on February 11, 1986. I cherished that bike.

But, like all bike racers, we're always looking for that edge and always for a new bike. My Guerciotti was a treat to myself for my first engineering co-op. It was a beautiful bike, but as I stated before, we just never clicked. Somewhere in 1990, I picked up my Vitus, now covered with dust, and noticed it was 3 lbs lighter. So I started riding it again. I rode better, further, faster. Suddenly, I was competitive in races again. It was like magic. It was almost as if, the Vitus embodied my mother's competitive spirit.

In 1991, I got knocked into a ditch during a training ride. I survived, but the Vitus didn't. It took a few weeks to realize this sad fact. I kept having trouble cornering, and it turned out the reason was the rear triangle was bent. It was devastating!!!! I had to switch back to the Guerciotti. It was a whole 3 lbs heavier, and it didn't have Mom's mojo. I spent a few days psyching myself up to ride the Guerciotti. Part of this involved building up the bike. Somewhere along the way, I noticed that in the Guerciotti decals, there was a bit of green. Considering the bike was red and white, it seemed natural to add the green handlebar tape to round out the Italiano look.

Well, for some reason the green handlebar tape sealed the deal. The Guerciotti and I got along great! The rest of the 1991 season went well, and I even upgraded to a cat 2! Being a bike racer, the Guerciotti got replaced with a Trek the next year, but the green handlebar taped stayed. I also noticed that it helped me get picked in race finishes. You see, I'm rather small, and I tend to get eclipsed by larger riders in finish line photos, but usually my handlebars can be seen. The green stands out!

So from there on, as long as I could find it, I had green handlebar tape. For some reason, other color tapes don't work quite as well. In 2006, I switched to orange to match my new team's colors. Well, that switch (both the tape and team) turned out to be disastrous. It took a full 3 years to recover!

Every now and then I think about switching colors. The green tape doesn't match my team's new kits. It's tempting, up until the point I remember the last time I changed colors...

Hello World!

Hello World is the first program a coder reads/writes when learning a new programming language. It's entirely appropriate my first entry in my new blog. I'm still thinking about all of the things I want to blog about. As the name of the blog implies, there is definitely going to be a lot about riding my bicycle or others riding/racing their bicycles. There will be the occassional race report as well as the occassional race rant.

Other topics will be software development, life, random musings and shoutouts (blogouts?) to others that are doing great things in the blogosphere.

So my plan tonight was to grab a quick dinner on the way home, let the food settle, let the dogs out, then jump on the trainer for 1.5 hours. Then I checked the work crackberry, which led to a code review, which led to a few very long emails (with more to come). The ride did not happen, which is irritating. It's my own fault. I violated my basic rule of "get on the bike before you do anything else."

The code review was a bit frustrating. The developers are offshore in India. The offshore team is a bunch of bright, eager individuals. But they are bright, young individuals without a lot of experience. They have been indoctrinated in the cult of "get it done, and get it done quickly." I want that too, but I also want it done well. This leads to the inevitable clash of desires. The developers are looking for "templates", where they can code within a well defined framework without giving it a lot of thought. Unfortunately, coding does require some thought.

I review the code, point out that such and such class has too many reponsibilities, or that the concepts that have been derived from the requirements are not quite the ones that immediately pop out as rational ones. This leads to a couple of hour meetings, and few more hours of crafting emails to further elaborate my points.

Fortunately, the offshore team is willing to learn. It's going to make them better developers, and it's going to teach me a few more things about working with offshore teams. It would be even better if this knowlege transfer was going to an associate in my company. That would be an investment, where now I've just trained someone who may not work on my company's projects again.

That aspect of the offshore model is incredibly frustrating. The constant rotation of developers means I have to teach the same concepts many times to the new inexperienced developers that rotate onto the project, while the newly experienced developers go on to bigger and better things.

At least it adds fuel to the fire to turn the pedals faster.