Bubble in the desert

A blog I started whilst on a GE "Bubble" assignment in Nevada. I'm back in Cambridge (UK) now but still miss the desert and my friends out there.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Emigrant Crit Race - 2nd Place

As the afternoon drew on it became clear that the dark skies were more than just a result of our recent bout of forest fires. Driving to the course the rain started and then the thunder and lightening. On arrival I was hesistant to be a tall guy with metal cleats on his shoes walking around.

Emigrant crit is damned hard and was very wet. It's more than a mile loop with a big climb and a fast downhill.

After a brief warm-up of a couple of laps (and some discussion with the local sheriff about whether we would be allowed to race) we were off. Pretty soon 'high cadence' Robert took the lead up the hill and Allan jumped in behind him and I followed. The whole thing was looking fruity from the start. The course levelled out and then we hung a reasonably sharp right before heading down a wet hill. Well, Robert had no fear at all and created a gap on the downhill. I had plenty of fear and used my brakes, which I'm afraid probably punished those behind me too. Even Allan, with his years of experience wasn't keeping up with Robert so I elected to follow Allan's wisdom on this occasion. At the end of the race Robert confided that his front wheel was skipping out on the first descent (INSANE!).

As we rounded to climb again Robert was ahead by perhaps 10 seconds, with Allan, me and Rick behind. Allan shouted something like, "let him suffer out there and keep steady Rick", so that's what we did. Rick lead the climb on that lap. As we came around again, Robert had extended his lead and I lead the climb for the 3 of us - well, that is what I intended to do but I dropped Rick and Allan. I rode the next several laps on my own until after one climb I was surprised to see Rick catching me up and Allan nowhere in sight (I would have expected the opposite).

Rick and I worked together for a couple of laps and I think we took some time out of Robert. Rick's cornering was much better than mine so by following and copying him I was able to slick things up a lot. We weren't catching Robert but i felt it 50/50 that he would fall off in one of the corners so we pushed on. A couple of times his chain fell off on the climb and we began pulling back at him but Robert got back on and sprinted like hell so we didn't get much benefit.

With 2 laps to go I pulled to the front to take my turn and to stretch my legs I came out of the saddle. Just doing that for a few seconds let me drop Rick, which I had not intended to do but I was also figuring we had lost first place by then so it was me and Rick fighting for 2nd. I pulled the rest of the hill and made a little more space on Rick and managed to hold it on the descent (after he had showed me how to do it).

An uphill climb to the finish line and I notice Rick 20 yards back and out of the saddle. I worked it pretty hard to maintain my lead and cross the line for second place but was unable to talk when I crossed the line I was panting so much.

So, a second place, which is OK. I like to reflect on why I didn't win and this time it was because I was not prepared to risk the kinds of speed Robert was doing on fast downhill corners on a wet road, so 17 points instead of 20, not so bad!

Forest Fires and Rock Slides

What with Rock Slides closing Kingsbury grade and the recent bout of forest fires, things have been getting interesting around and about. I think the rockslide is cleared up now but the fires are still burning.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Tour de Nez - 100 miles, 7,500ft, 100 degrees

We set off around 8am. I turned up on my own for the event but by chance had parked next to Scott fron Bsgetti's so I started riding with them.

Coming out of Reno we were soon in back roads and hills, very pretty. The first rest stop was about 15 miles in, just before we had a nasty stretch to do on the very busy 395.

Through Washoe (still on the nasty 395) I was surprised to notice a giant in a field behind the chocolate factory.

As soon as was possible we pulled off the 395 onto a road that runs close to the foothills all the way to Carson (Franktown Rd?). A very quiet section.

As we came in to Carson most of the riders turned left to go back, obviously doing the 100km run not the 100 miler. There was just one rider ahead of me so I caught him up. Darren was a good find! A pretty strong cyclist who knew how to draft, though we didn't do much of it really since we were mostly grinding up hills in the windless heat.

The first big climb was up highway 50 to Spooner Summit. The hill was long but the gradient pretty easy. But the road surfaces was awful. The only decent part of the shoulder to ride on was next to the busy and narrow highway. Kingsbury Grade (the next road along to the west) is still closed due to a rock slide too so there was even more traffic here than usual. At times, roadworks and ironwork pushed us into the main highway lanes which was extremely unpleasant and quite dangerous.

We eventually reached the summit and found our lunch stop in the forest. As usual I had no problem eating during the event and routinely stuffed extra cookies in my pockets to munch on as I was leaving the rest stops. A pleasant descent led us to Lake Tahoe, which we headed around for a while before going up Incline Village.

The selected road to get up Incline was awfully steep and by now it was 100 degrees and had been for some time. At the top we had a rest stop and even in the shade one of the bike computers read 99 degrees. The rest stop was awesome though, mainly due to the ice cold water. I was surprised that a few people dropped out of the race at this point. The last hill had been a kicker and it was very hot and one guy told me he was seeing things. I guess the thought of 4 miles straight up Mount Rose was not a great motivator either. Eventually we headed out to get 'er done.

Immediately we noticed the wide shoulder and fresh tarmac leading up Mt Rose and the relatively gentle gradient. Mount Rose is a really lovely ride, perhaps as good or better than Kingsbury. Mt Rose itself is around 9,500ft so it was unsurprising to see the snow up there.


Even the rest stop at the top had piles of snow still there - in 100 degree heat!

Here's my new buddy Darren at the top.

Destination Reno. One last look at the view before heading down.

Here we go! 3,500ft straight down :-) Great fun and very fast.

We got back to Reno in time for some food and to join the rest of the huge cycling celebration. It was quite fun to watch the pro crit race though some of the spills were pretty horrible.

I don't know how much water I lost today but I seem to be more salty than salt itself. So, not a bad day of Death Ride training, though the Death Ride is longer and has more than twice the climbing.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Fredricksburg Two-up Time Trial

I teamed up with Dave VanWagenen for the Fredricksburg time trial. This game involved riding 15 miles hard but as a team. So, each taking a turn at the front as the other rested in the draft behind.

Unfortunately we were the second team off the line and within 4 miles had made up a minute on the folks in front and then had nobody else to chase down. This didn't suit my sheepdog instincts very well.

We rode pretty hard but both Dave and me are quite new to racing so were not a super slick racing machine when working together. I messed up a couple of the u-turns quite badly for example.

About a mile from the end after i had pulled us up a hill, I drifted left to let Dave come through on the inside. He came through like a train and shouted, "this is it" as he dropped me. I gritted my teeth and got back on his wheel, and I think he eased up a bit. Then half a mile out he did the same again!!!! Bike racing is funny like that. As you sit there in the draft for a minute you can have quite a rest. Change down a gear and take it easy. Then when it's your turn to get in front you are full of beans. Throughout the race, as I got in front I pulled quite hard, too hard in fact - I didn't give Dave much chance for a rest.

As a slicker machine I think we would have won it but we were both pretty pleased with a second place (in the Cs).

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Dinosaur Footprints like you would not believe

On the way back from Rafting we checked out some local fossils. We started with a nice view of Red Rocks.

After a while of stopping here and there we were getting a bit disappointed when we came upon this.

I have never seen anything like it. Dino tracks all over the place. These are the supposed culprits. It is staggering to think how long ago these were made.

What an awesome end to a great trip.

Rafting at Idaho Springs

Sue and Carla highly recommended this rafting trip, though someone died rafting just the week before, which gave us some food for thought.

In the event the rafting company were really well organized and had lots of safety measures (as Sue and Carla had pointed out). This first picture gives an idea of what a class 4 rapid looks like. You can hardly see Nigel at the front of the boat (the most extreme seat, which he knowing choose and thoroughly enjoyed!).

Here we are getting ourselves into another fix and loving it (Trent, me and Nigel are the UPA contingent).

I have to confess that although I have known Nigel for around 15 years and have read a lot of his work to do with ISO standards I never once imagined him to be quite such a fan of extreme sports. I doubt there is anyone in the UPA more extreme! Well met!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Hiking Quandary - 14,000ft+

After a week of sleeping less than 6 hours a night it was tough to get up at 4.30am for a hike on Saturday but we managed it. We met up with Sue and Carla in Golden and drove to Breckenridge to get started on Quandary Peak.

The day started a little chilly which probably woke us all up a bit. We soon had some great views and before long the landscape for miles around began to unfold.

Here is the team - Nigel, Trent, Sue and Carla.

A nice shot of Sue

Amazing flowers all over the place.



Great camouflage gear!

Fell in love on the way to the top (with the Husky not the girl!). I can really see myself with a dog like this one day.

We finally made it to the top. Time for lunch and awesome views all around.

A week of training finally paying off (excellent camera reflexes Sue!)


Another pose kinda natural like.

Coming down was not a complete picnic. Quandary seems to be one enormous pile of rocks.

It sure was pretty up there though.

We got back and went for a quick beer before heading back to Sue and Carla's for an awesome wholefood dinner. I have now decided that Carla's cooking is my favourite style of food. Kim and Max came for dinner too - great to catch up with them again. It's a shame I don't live around the corner since they are such a fun bunch to hang out with.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The photogenic Jakob Nielsen and friends

Trent with big J
starstruck kiwi

Trent with Janice James (UPA founder)

Giles (president of UK chapter) interviewing Jakob for a pod-cast.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

UPA 2006 - Hiking

The Experienced Practitioner day at the conference sold out months ago so a few of us organized an Alternative Experienced Practitioner workshop and then went hiking. We had some really interesting discussion before hiking up to Royal Arch on the Flatirons at Chautauqua Park.

Before we left, Larry gave us the benefit of his local knowledge and scared the hell out of everybody with his description of lightening danger. I checked with the Rangers when we arrived and they checked the radar for me - no thunder danger! We thought we might rename Larry 'Lightening Larry' !

Trent (or should it be Tigger?) bouncing during team photo.
upa hikers - kiwi's can jump - trent demonstrating

Hiking with spontaneous workshop discussions built in - this time Nigel and Ken are in conference.
Nigel and Ken in conference

Nice views along the way.
on the way to royal arch

More discussion among Experienced usability professionals.
some UPA folks on a hike

Nearing the top (of the 'false summit' - not everybody's favourite phrase!)

Our lunch stop (probably the best conference lunch spot all week!)
made it! royal arch (at last)

A popular lunch spot apparently. I have never seen such tame chipmunks - they took food from our hands.

Nigel chilling out.
Nigel with his head in the clouds

Under the arch.
lots of arches

View from the Arch.

Happily we all made it back!

Fortunately we only saw one Black Bear and he was stuffed!

I think we all had a nice hike. I certainly did. It was a really good chance to see a little of Denver and get to know people a little better.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Pre-conference tour with Trent

Went for a bit of a drive with Trent, pictured here in front of Long's Peak shortly before we headed into Estes Park. Trent was very disappointed to not see the "promised" Elk around the town and was not really appeased by eating an Elk burger either.


Not knowing Trent well I think I began to deduce something about his character from his slightly reserved demeanor when it came to posing for a photo.

Here's me at the Buffalo Bill museum.

We also saw his grave.

We rounded off the day by having Dinner with Suzanne and Greg at Japanos on Pearl Street in Boulder (once again, Trent's bashful nature is revealed)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Business Card - what do you think?

I'm a little disappointed that I couldn't fully spell out how great the recycled paper I'm using is - Neenah Environment PC100 White 100% Post Consumer Recycled Paper (FSC certified).

On the upside, thanks for the folks near and far who gave me comments on this. Comments came from New Zealand, the UK and of course, Nevada. Quite a multi-national effort.

East Valley Crit

Scott and I had been preparing for the Crit all day, winding each other up and deliberately not doing much lunchtime to save some energy.

As we arrived it became clear that there were a lot of people in the C category, perhaps 20, and some potential power houses amongst them. One, Jef, wins the time trial fairly convincingly and is preparing for an Iron Man event in a couple of weeks (2.4 mile swim, 100 mile bike, 26 mile run).

After a warm-up we got under way. As usual, the game was to tuck in and not use too much energy, but being sporting, Scott and I took our turn at the front of the pack for a while. It's funny how quickly you notice the people who don't do that, but this is racing and that's ok (kind of, it just makes you want to beat those people over the line).

On an early tight turn, David, from work, hit a stone or something and his back wheel kicked out alarmingly. I think those of us behind him were the most alarmed but we all stayed upright and he went on to get a good finish. Crit racing seems to be a bit like that.

As the final lap dawned I realized way too late that there was a breakway group with my old time trial buddy leading it. I think I hadn't noticed they'd broken away because there were other riders out on the track warming up for the next race. I think my main race mistake was not noticing that development. Had I noticed I think I would have tried harder to pull up on them earlier.

Half a mile out, and into the full force of the wind, I got to the front (not clever) and said to Andrew, 'are we going to reel them in?' (meaning - work together to reel them in). He thought it a good idea and tucked in behind me(!). I switched into sheepdog mode and chased the lead group, heading in to the wind (at apparently 28mph according to Scott). I'm told I did a good thing and narrowed the gap but I kinda realized what I was doing at the time - I was losing a race! Just before the last turn riders came past me like they were riding motorcycles. They felt a good 5mph faster than me. I tried to hang on but I knew I'd blown it by then. I didn't sprint too early, but when I did stand to sprint I only had a couple of 2 seconds of sprinting in my legs (not the 6 or 7 seconds that should have been there). So, I came 1 millionth out of 20 in the race I think.

What of Scott? He got an impressively high place, 3rd perhaps. I guess he must have been the first of the pack over the line, right behind the breakaway group.

Another valuable learning experience. Damn! This Crit thing is like planning your cleverest chess strategy, whilst pushing your heart-rate, pushing your legs, and being tough enough to find and hold a decent line in the turns (not to mention avoiding the unpredictable wobbly people). Excellent fun and more addictive every race.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Running - weirdly fast

Sienna (yoga teacher number 2) explained that she knows how she will be when she runs from the moment she wakes up in the morning. I am the complete opposite of that. I have no idea how I will run until I start running, and even during the run I don't have a clear perception of how I feel or how fast I'm going.

I've had a bit of a bad back recently and it was 88 degrees out, so I set my GPS virtual running partner to 8.30 minute mile pace. After the first mile I was surprised to see my lap counter register 8.01. Even more surprised to see 7:42 for the more difficult 2nd mile (all on trails). In the end I averaged 7:44 for 4 miles and felt that I could have run longer too. Apparently, this 4 mile effort burned 600 calories. Quite unbelievable that 2 Venti Chai Lattes from Starbucks provides sufficient fuel for that and some left over!

I guess I can tell that food the night before, good sleep and reasonable ambient temperature have a big effect on my running potential. Also, the effect of other recent exercises seems pretty huge too.

Hmmm - the running puzzle...

Monday, June 05, 2006


Finally managed to lose a bit of weight, around 8lbs so far it seems.

I crash dieted for a while during the start of May but found myself without energy when I tried to run. I seem to have the balance about right now but I would still like to lose another 7-10lbs.

A holiday in Brazil and Christmas didn't help my weight much, as you can see.