Kilometers and Memories

Old Shorts

Above are my cycling shorts that are too old, too thin, too ripped and too transparent to wear anymore. For precisely the same reason I should get rid of them, I want to keep them. I have ridden many kilometers wearing these shorts (at least 30,000 kilometers worth in this photo, likely much more) and made lots of memories. All of my Cal Cycling shorts, and most of my UCSD Cycling shorts are worn out. But they are taking up space, and I can't imagine wearing them ever again. I intend on eventually purchasing new kits from my former cycling teams to replace these, but it won't be the same. I am in mourning.

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25 Hours of Frog Hollow

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Last week I traveled to Utah with seven friends (above: Paul, Chris, Stephen L, Mike M, Mark, Mike H, Matt and me) to ride our mountain bikes. The main attraction was the 25 Hours of Frog Hollow race that was held 10 A.M. October 31 to 10 A.M. November 1. The twenty-fifth hour was provided by the end of daylight savings time that happened during the race.

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The race was held just outside the sleepy Utah towns of Hurricane and La Verkin, near St. George. The location is amazing, which I'm told is not unusual for Utah. Above you can see Matt watching the sunset on the mountains and the (nearly full) moonrise as he gets ready for a lap.

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The course itself is broken up into four sections. It starts out with a climb, mostly on fire roads. Next is a descent on the Gem Trail which is fast and smooth and extremely enjoyable. After the Gem trail, there is a section on flat fire road that connects to the Virgin River Rim trail (I think that's the name) which is a very brutal and demoralizing stretch of rocky single track. The trail is littered with sharp-edged flat-topped rocks spaced inches to feet apart. It was difficult to maintain momentum and the terrain made my back hurt.

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I rode four laps of the course. My first at 11 am, then 3pm, 8pm and finally at 3am. The pace of laps naturally slowed at night, and we also got some sleep in the early part of the morning. The bright moon meant I didn't need my lights for most of the climb on the night laps. This kept my eyes sensitive, and I could see the sky filled with stars. On one of the night laps I stopped for a minute or two to just enjoy the calm and emptiness of the desert at night. The weather was very amenable to racing. It was clear the whole race with minimal winds. The daytime had temperatures in the mid-70s (F, of course), and nighttime in the low 40s. For the very curious, I have the GPS track of my ride online. I didn't clear the GPS between laps so there are some weird smoothing effects on the graphs during the time I turned off the GPS.

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My team was made up of Matt, Chris and Stephen L, and we came in fifth of six finishing teams, out of seven that started the four-person category. The other team in our group, Paul, Mike M, Mark and Mike H, finished one lap up on us and in fourth place. Neither of our teams had any designs on actually competing for a high place in the event, so we are both satisfied with the results. All of us also had Halloween costumes. Mike H above shows his very warm Luigi costume that came in handy for one of his night laps.

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I want to also mention the ride we did a few days before the race, on Gooseberry Mesa. This was riding like I have never done before. The mesa has huge rock-face sections that we crossed on which the trail is marked by painted white dots. It felt like sight-reading music for the first time, picking our way on carefully planned routes to cross technical rock sections. The trail network is built on a mesa that narrows to a point high above the surrounding land. The land below is the area on which the race was held, and a few of the fire road sections can be seen.

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A couple of the trails we rode tracked the rims of the mesa very closely, especially the south rim trail. In this Google Earth image, you can see just how closely the red line tracks the edge of the mesa, and below you can see the sharpness of the mesa edge near the point. It was truly spectacular riding!For the very curious, here is the GPS track for that ride.

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Nobel Canyon

Nobel Canyon

Yesterday I rode the Nobel Canyon trail in Cleveland National Forest with Mike Hannon, Mike Morton and Stephen Lynch. Yes, it was two Mikes and two Stephens. My GPS track can be seen here.

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2009 Tour Pool Wrap-Up

Fire Truck

The 2009 Tour de France pool is over, and Team Storky came in fifth. In terms of the time gap to the winner, this team did better than any I've been part of before. But it lacked several things: luck and winners.

The team lost Levi Leipheimer, a nearly-guaranteed top-five finisher, Jens Voigt who always finishes tours well-placed and is capable of winning a stage, and Robert Gesink, a promising young Dutch rider who has won a Tour of California stage ahead of Leipheimer and finished seventh in the 2008 Vuelta a España. No other team in the pool lost a single rider of the caliber of Leipheimer, nor three riders of such skill and ability.

The team also got exactly two time bonuses, for a total of 25 minutes of bonus time. This put Team Storky as the second-lowest team in terms of accumulated bonus time, ahead of only the astoundingly unlucky Team John Arnold. Team Wells got over eight times as much bonus time as Team Storky. On one stage, a group of eight escaped from the pack and reached the finish before everyone else. Of those eight, three were on Team Storky. Time bonuses go to first, second and third. The Team Storky riders got forth, fifth and seventh. That outcome is emblematic of the kind of luck the team had throughout the tour. It appears that to win the pool, a team needs at least a sprinter or two that can finish well-placed on a number of stages reliably, something my team didn't have.

Above: The fire department was training across the street from my apartment on Sunday, in no way related to the Tour de France. I just wanted to share that.

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DTV Delivers

Big news.

Universal Sports, which is part of NBC, is going to show the entire Giro d'Italia live! I'm guessing that because Lance is riding the Giro, Universal Sports figures Americans will be interested. Down here in San Diego, the local NBC affiliate broadcasts several digital channels over the airwaves. They have their main channel 39-1, that shows full-1080p high definition TV. They also have 39-2, a weather channel, and 39-3 shows Universal Sports. Neither is HDTV, but I'm not complaining. The Tour de France is always on cable, so I have to go to a friends apartment to watch it. I'll be glad to watch this on my very own couch.

My mornings suddenly got much earlier for the next month.

Update May 9: The Giro is being streamed live online, not over the air. It is just a commercial-free stream of the Italian coverage (with inconsistent English commentary) on the Universal Sports website. I guess I read what I wanted to read. I'll take it however I get it.

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My Eddington Number is 48

A couple days ago I was browsing the internet on astrophysical topics, when I came across Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington's wikipedia page. He's best known for the Eddington limit, which describes the luminosity limit of a star as a function of its mass. Near the bottom of his page linked above, there is a description of the "Eddington number," which for any person is the greatest number of bike rides they done which have been that at least that number in miles long. From the wikipedia page:

The Eddington Number in this context is defined as E, the number of days a cyclist has cycled more than E miles. For example an Eddington Number of 70 would imply that a cyclist has cycled more than 70 miles in a day on 70 occasions.

This is very similar to the Erdős number and the h-index, which measure a scientists publishing impact. I don't have an Erdős number, nor an h-index, but I do have an Eddington number. And since I have a nice GPS database of my rides, I figured I could easily calculate it.

Eddington

Above shows two Eddington calculations, in miles and in kilometers. The curved blue line is x=y, and it's curved because the y axis is using a logscale. Where the blue line intersects the Eddington lines is my Eddington number. The downward arrows show my actual integer Eddington numbers (48 for miles, 74 for kilometers), while the upward arrows show that 49 and 75 aren't above the blue line, and thus aren't my Eddington numbers. Since the definition is in miles, my true number is 48, but the kilometer calculation shows that the number is also a function of your unit.

Unfortunately, I don't have records before I got my GPS, so my true Eddington number is surely larger.

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No More Tunnels

Tunnels

Tunnels

By far my favorite place to ride my mountain bike (that is reachable without driving) are the single track "tunnels" that are typically reached through Peñasquitos Park (although they aren't actually inside the park, they are on non-park city land). They are called "the tunnels" because for most of their length they are covered by low bushes and trees just over head height. There are four of them that total a few miles in length and vary in technical difficulty. Until about a month ago, they were somewhat illicit and not patrolled, now they are very expressly illegal. During the rainy season I think it's perfectly reasonable to close them. Muddy and wet ground is especially susceptible to erosion, and nature doesn't need human help to erode the ground during the rainy season. The ditch my bike is pictured in above was fairly level ground the last time I was there, less than a month ago (*).

Unfortunately, there is strong evidence that the City of San Diego is planning on closing them permanently, or at least severely curtailing how many can be used. Since the tunnels are fairly far from any road, it's only cyclists that use them with regularity, but the city feels it needs to consider all the other potential users. Cyclists are the lowest on the public land user totem pole, so you can see how this can do nothing but hurt our interests. I suspect that if they're kept open, they'll have to be upgraded so hikers and equestrians can use them, which will remove much of what is attractive about them (which is the lack of those two groups for a large part). If they're closed for environmental reasons, only cyclists will miss them. It's kind of a lose-lose situation for us.

The City of San Diego isn't full of complete idiots, there is a series of legal drag race events that take place in the Qualcomm parking lot. This alleviates the pressure of what many people want to do and would resort to doing illegally without other options. There is a similar pressure from cyclists who want quality single track trails. If trails are available, legal and fun, cyclists won't have to resort to cutting trails and breaking laws. We'll see if the city has enough foresight to recognize this.

(*) For those my friends to are familiar with Peñasquitos, if you're heading east, this is just past the big deep sandy patch where you used to have to ride on the extreme right, and just before the really rocky climb. I think it's in the center of here. The second photo above is the top of the third tunnel, the farthest north of the three linked tunnels. The riding I did do today (I didn't go into the tunnels) showed that many of the lines we rode in the summer are now completely different.

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Tour of California Disappointment

Below is the map showing the just-released 2009 Tour of California stage 8 route. And I'm disappointed. I thought the stage would end on the top of Palomar Mountain, but it is simply going to pass over the top, circle back around and finish in relatively boring Escondito.

ToC 2008 Stage 8

Just like when the race goes through the Bay Area, I am familiar with much of this route. The race starts in Rancho Bernardo, and heads east on Highland Valley Road. That road has several nicely steep sections that kick my non-professional racer butt. I'm sure that the pros won't charge up those hills so early in the race, but their pace would drop me, no doubt.

They go up the hard side of Palomar which is a world-class climb. It is every bit as hard as the Tour de France cols I've climbed. In February the top of Palomar can be quite cold (sometimes it even snows) so the temperature changes along the route could have an effect on the race.

I wish the race organizers would have given us the grand spectacle of a mountain-top finish. I am grateful, however, that they've finally dipped below the Los Angeles divide.

Oh, and I can't forget to note: parts of the race go through Indian reservations, so the racers can get their gamblin' on, if they feel like it.

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Car Pit

Rusty Car

Rusty Car

Rusty Car

Rusty Car

Today Steve Lynch and I did some exploring off Peñasquitos Park and came across these derelict cars dropped into a small gorge. A VW Beetle, Audi and Ford Explorer (high gas prices, you know) were ones I could identify. There were two others rusted beyond recognition. It looked like after the cars had been shoved into the pit, they had been sledgehammered, to make sure they were really dead, of course. The Beetle was missing its motor, among other things, while the Ford didn't have any seats in it. The Audi was probably a nice car once upon a time, it had a sun roof (or moon depending on trademarks).

I like to imagine this is what might happen if the world order collapses. People just junking once useful and valuable things when you can no longer get gasoline or electricity. Kind of like Mexico.

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Tour de France Fantasy Pool

For the last few years I've participated in a friendly Tour de France fantasy pool with some friends. We get together, have a barbecue, and pick teams of riders. It's very much like fantasy football or baseball teams. Each team pays $20 to enter, which goes to the winner (naturally). However, the winner is obliged to use that money for a party after the Tour, so everyone wins in the end.

Some years ago an Excel spreadsheet was written to help calculate the scores. It's kind of clumsy and surprisingly un-automated. So I threw together a Python script in an afternoon which is much more automated and puts the results on the web for easy viewing.

Graph

Above is the graph of how each team is doing as a function of stage. Along with three friends I formed two teams, "Storky's Bitches" and "The Pump Handles." Neither names were my first choice; I blame Kris Wells. I've never done very well at the Tour Pool, and it's looking like this year will be no different. Of course, it's early, so things may change.

Take a look at the full results page, and check back each day throughout the Tour to see how things are progressing.

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San Juan Trail


Ride History Mashup

Below are some mashups showing the frequency density of where I have ridden my bikes in the last three years. (I never use my GPS on the track, so velodrome riding is not represented here. And besides, that isn't very interesting.) The circles on the maps represent a place I have passed through, and the color how many times. Red means many, perhaps as many as 5000 times for the area near my apartment, and blue means few, as few as once. That 5000 doesn't mean I've done 5000 rides, it means that there are 5000 GPS waypoints in the 100 meter radius circle around that particular point. As waypoints are recorded closer than 100m apart, the same ride could have multiple waypoints inside each circle. Also note that the circles on the map are much larger than 100m.

Click on each for a larger view.

I made a Google Earth KMZ file containing all the points. If you open it, be patient as it will take a bit of time to load. Download it here.

San Diego

Bay Area

LA etc

I think I'm planning on posting the code here, as I think other people might like this fun bit of code. But I want to clean it up a bit before I make it public.

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2008 Tour of California

...or rather, Tour of the Bay Area, Central Coast and North of L.A.

2006

2007

2008

2006, 2007, 2008 route maps

In the three editions of the ToC so far, the closest it has come to San Diego is Long Beach, basically 2 hours away. That stage was on the fairly-boring Long Beach Grand Prix course. This year, the first four (of a total eight) stages are within two hours of the central Bay Area. Each are interesting. The closest stage this year to La Jolla is over two hours away, if the traffic is good in LA (ha!).

I am forced to wonder if the northward-tilt of the ToC makes good business sense. While the Bay Area is quite large at over 7 million people, the greater Los Angeles area and San Diego County together account for nearly 20 million people. Perhaps cycling is more popular in Northern California, but it would have to be three times more popular per capita to make business sense. Additionally, the weather is generally better in Southern California which would make the riders happier and the spectator turnout higher. Furthermore, Amgen, the title sponsor, is headquartered in Thousand Oaks.

I certainly don't think a race through downtown LA or San Diego is practical, but there are many roads in both areas that would make an excellent part of the race. I should know, I have ridden my bike on many roads I could recommend to the race organizers.

I will follow the race all the same, but I wish the organizers would bring the race near me at least one of these years (before the race evaporates, like every major American race eventually does).

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Cleaning the Compy

Me

Found while cleaning my computer, above is a short movie I made a long time ago showing me on TV at the 2002 Tour de France. I'm near the top of the Col du Galibier, which is one of the highest passes in Europe and is used by the Tour de France nearly every year. In the above still image I'm on the left of the frame in a Cal Cycling kit with my yellow Cal hat on. You can hear me yelling "¡venga! ¡venga!" as Santiago Botero (who is Columbian) sprints by for maximum mountain points. Here are three different views showing how I looked that day.

Me

Me

Me

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Collegiate Nationals Photos

2007 TTT

Above is a photo of Tyler Ofstad, Me, Chris Nekarda and Alex Jarman in the 4000M Men's Team Time Trial. I've posted more photos from my camera on the UCSD Cycling website. Update: The website is now very different and those photos are no longer there.

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