Cycling Track Nats Addendum

A few more things to add to my post from yesterday about Track Nationals.

Here are some photos I took at Nationals that I posted on the UCSD Cycling website. Photos another rider took which are actually very decent and have a surprisingly large number of photos of UCSD. I don't actually know who took them, but thank you! (Update: They were taken by Steve McFarland of Tufts.)

Choice quotes from the weekend:

"Are you too good for your home?" -- A slightly delirious Ashley trying to fit her rollers in a bag.

"I don't wanna be a cowboy." -- Stephen before both points races (copying Joe Merlone, who probably copied it from someone else).

"Awesome!" -- What Ashley yelled at me almost every lap of the points race final.

I'll edit this entry when I think of more!

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Track Nationals

I just returned from Chicago where I participated in my first national-level cycling competition. It was the 2005 NCCA Championships held at the Northbrook Velodrome (Google Maps), in Northbrook, a leafy suburb Northwest of Chicago. I participated as member of the UCSD Cycling Team.

My goals for the event were fairly modest because of my relative lack of track racing experience. My two individual events were the 3 kilometer pursuit and the points race. The 3k pursuit is a time trial, from a standing start. Alone you try to ride the distance as fast as possible. It's comparable to running a mile in terms of duration. If you go too fast in the beginning you'll be suffering at the end. It's about metering out your effort such that just as you cross the finish line you are at your breaking point. Two weeks ago I raced in San Jose and did a 4:06 pursuit, so my goal at nationals was to simply get below 4 minutes.

The points race is something like a criterium on the road, but usually much more brutal. Every five laps there is a sprint, and only the first four riders across the finish line get points. The field size is usually over 20 so obviously people go very fast for sprints. Each sprint, including the final, is worth the same points: 5,3,2 and 1 point(s) for first, second, third and fourth. The rider with the most points at the end wins. I have raced a bunch of points races this summer locally, and it was my best event, so I was looking forward to it.

I also raced in two team events, the Italian Pursuit and the Team Pursuit. The Team Pursuit is a four man, 4 kilometer race to the fastest time. Each rider takes turns at the front where riding is most difficult. The other three sit in the draft and work significantly less hard. Time is taken when the third man crosses the finish line, meaning only one of the riders can drop out of the race (usually because of exhaustion).

The Italian Pursuit is an interesting race because it's the only race with both genders. There is a minimum of three riders and a maximum of six. One rider has to be female and there can be no more than four males. Each rider leads the group for a lap, or two, and then leaves the race. The next teammate then does the wind-cutting duties until they leave. Time is taken when the last rider crosses the line for six laps. And a woman has to lead for two of those six laps (but it doesn't have to be the same woman). You can see that if a team has less than six riders, someone is going to go for two laps.

The team had a goal of reaching the podium on team rankings, meaning top five of all the teams. The way team rankings work is every race gives team points to each team based on how well their member raced. All the races and all the team points are added up together and the team omnium is decided. We wanted to be one of the five best teams. The team events I outlined in the previous paragraph are very important in the team omnium.

The racing was held for three days, September 29 to October 1, with a morning session at 9 am and an evening session at 6 pm both days. But you need to realize that for each session racers need to show up at least an hour before the start and often leave half an hour after the end of each session. I & my team were getting up at six each morning and retiring after 11 pm, which makes for very long days.

Did I meet my goals? I think I did. I raced a 3:59.4 pursuit. Of course I had aero wheels & an aero helmet, unlike in San Jose, which certainly helped. But it was still me pushing the pedals so I was happy. That time put me in 20th place (out of ~40 riders), which is the lowest place that gives team points, and that is what I was hoping for.

The points races were on the final day. Because so many men signed up for the points race, there were two qualifying races in the morning, and the best 13 of each would advance to the final in the evening. By the third day of racing I had developed a sore throat and persistent congestion, making everything unhappy. Leading up to the qualifying race I was very anxious about my ability to race in my condition, but I raced anyway.

The qualifying race was 45 laps, or about 17 kilometers (on a 383 meter track). Let me point out that the longest points race I had ever done up to that point was 45 laps here in San Diego, on a 333 meter track, or 15 kilometers. Luckily for me, despite my condition, I was still able to read a race. I guessed that the large rider in front of me (~6'-4") was about to make a dash for the sprint with about a lap and a half to go. Thinking that such a big guy makes a nice draft, I grabbed his wheel (figuratively), and sure enough, he went. After he pulled me around for a lap I went around him and ended up taking third on that sprint. It turned out that those two points were enough to advance me into the final.

The final was 75 laps, or nearly 29 kilometers. After racing the longest points race of my life in the morning, I raced one 77% longer 10 hours later. At this rate I'll be doing double century points races. Ouch.

Because I knew that with my sickness I was under full strength, my goal for the points race was to not get dropped and sprint for high placing in the final sprint. The finishing order in a points race is ranked by those who have points first, and then by finishing order. I knew that if I went for points during the race I would get dropped after the huge effort, so I had to save up for the end and get ahead of other guys without sprint points.

My plan worked pretty well because I got lucky, twice. With four laps to go a rider crashed in front of me. He was sliding from my left to my right with one foot still attached to his bike, and his bike was in front of him in the slide (imagine the bike is dragging him by his right foot up the banking of the track). In the microseconds I had to make a choice I aimed for that leg thinking it would be a better target than his body or his bike. Just as I was about to hit his ankle his foot separated from his bike and I went right between. The officials shot the gun twice to halt the race while the crashers were taken off the track, and during the lull in action I advanced about 20 places in the pack and settled in at about 6th or 7th place. When racing resumed I just had to hold on for four laps and sprint hard for the line, where I eventually placed 20th after the orderings were worked out.

If you had asked me the morning of the points races if I would even advance to the final, I would have been doubtful. I'm happy I pushed through my discomfort and did respectably. Now I want to come back and do the race healthy. I think I could do some damage if I was healthy!

The Italian Pursuit was a very successful race for our team. The way qualifying works in this event is the teams race in the morning alone for a qualifying time. Then, the two fastest teams face each other on the track at the same time in the evening for the gold and silver medal, and the 3rd and 4th for bronze. All the teams 5th and lower in qualifying are given that place in the final rankings. This means often your hardest effort is in the qualifying because you are guaranteed certain placing after that. We rode a very good race and qualified second.

In the final we raced a very skilled team from Penn State, which had no fewer than three "ringers," people I who I consider more bike racer than college student. Two of them only register in the fall to race at collegiate nationals. One of them I know for a fact spent most of last year in Australia racing, which is a goodly distance from Pennsylvania. This is to basically point out that we knew we had no chance of beating Penn State in the final, so we didn't race quite as hard as the qualifying race. Additionally, one of our members, Tona, was doing other races during the same session, so we wanted to keep him from over exerting himself. But we were very happy with second, especially because everyone on our team earned the second place.

The Mens Team Pursuit had a similar qualifying system, and we qualified fifth. We raced a very good, disciplined race -- something I'm proud of. Looking back I think we could have gone a bit faster and qualified fourth (0.6 seconds away), and that's something to remember next time we do that race. Qualifying fifth was a good and a bad thing. It was good because it meant we didn't have to race again (this was the same day as the points races), but it was bad because fifth isn't nearly as nice as fourth. We were in a tight battle for second place in the team omnium with Marian College and every little placing mattered.

Speaking of the team omnium, we ended up the weekend in third place overall, behind Penn State and Marian College. After Penn State, we had the most talented riders. Marian had over twice as many racers as UCSD, but beat us 800 points to our 792, a 1% difference. Marian also has cycling scholarships and a velodrome on their campus. They beat us with quantity over quality. This was the first year for UCSD going to Track Nats as a team, and we really made an impression around the country (well, to those who pay attention to Collegiate Track Cycling).

It was a grand adventure and really taught me about how hard I can push myself. Now I want more!

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Well isn’t that just super!

Well, dammit. I just managed to delete my entire MySQL database for this website. I'm going to post my old posts using Yahoo!'s and Google's website cache, but I feel stupid.

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North Korea

I have been reading all kinds of travelogues about North Korea recently. I find it an incredibly interesting place, it's kind of frozen in time since the Korean War. It's very Orwellian, the way China and the USSR used to be. I find the utter ignorance to the outside world of the average North Korean fascinating. And Kim Jung Il is always amusing (10cm lift shoes!), except when he's allowing his people to starve by the hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions).

See what the CIA thinks about North Korea.

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Today I installed a cantenna on the roof of my apartment building. A "cantenna" is a highly directional, high-gain microwave antenna made out of a can, like a soup can. The most common application is for long distance wireless internet links (802.11x). I made my cantenna out of an old Maxwell House coffee can.

The cantenna points towards the UCSD Cancer Center, which is roughly 325 meters away from my apartment. This is outside the usual range for wireless internet. My apartment faces Southeast, while the center is Northwest of my building, meaning I cannot see the building at all from inside my apartment.


After getting permission from the apartment maintainence supervisor, I put a 16" long peice of 3/4" square pipe on the facia of the building. On top of that I screwed on an old flag mount, one you would attach to the side of your house on independence day. The flag mount has a part that has one pi steradian movement, allowing me to have a good measure of freedom to aim the cantenna. The cantenna is wired to a Linksys WET11 which lives in a plastic box under the cover of my porch ceiling. From there an ethernet wire goes inside through a small hole in the screen door frame.


It was amazing how easy it was to get a strong connection! I had already done some simple tests, holding the cantenna up on the end of a broom. But nothing was guaranteed until I actually installed the thing. All I have to do is make sure the trees stay pruned back!

While it isn't the fastest connection ever (~300 kb/s max) it is very cheap (free-99). I estimate I've put about $100 into materials. My own DSL/Cable connection would cost that much every two or three months. It's especially fast to campus computers, where I send most of my data back and forth.

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Yay! More Photos

Let me start by saying that film is dead for amateur photography. The photos I took below are from my nice 35mm Minolta SLR camera. It's a much better camera than my digicam, and it was a joy taking pictures with it. The reason why film is dead is this. The film took over a week to be developed, and it cost $14 for only 24 shots + a CD. That's highway robbery, especially considering how long they took to come back.

Moving on, here are some photos from a Padres game on May 15, 2005, and some photos of my new apartment.

The Padres new park is nice:


It's built on an old rail yard, of course:


My new Mesa apartment, which will save me lots on rent over where I was before:


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Old Old Photos

Some time ago I came across some old slides of photos I assume my father took. They appear to be from the mid-1970s. I scanned them but then kind of forgot about them. I was poking around on my archive DVD of photos and came across them. Here are my favorites:

A pretty sunflower:


My parents old kitchen, and one of their malamutes.


All I can think when I see this photo is "What a nice road to ride a bike on!";


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Funky Bike Mount

The Garmin 301 Forerunner, which I've mentioned before on this site comes with a velcro wrist band. Which is great for running but when I cycle I prefer to have nothing on my wrist. Whatever I have on my wrist tends to slide down and rest against the top of my hand (because my wrist is bent upwards holding the handlebars). The skin then gets pinched whenever I go over a bump -- which is often.

But my anal-retentiveness doesn't stop there! Simply putting the unit on the handlebars wouldn't suffice. I prefer to have nothing at all on the handlebars because I shift my grip over the entire width of the bars. I wanted the unit front and center, where it belongs, anyway. I knew I had to be creative!

I have faced this problem before mounting a Polar HR unit in front of the handle bars. That time I built an aluminum mount that was wedged between the stem and faceplate. That has since broken (it wasn't the best design anyway). I wanted something similar.

So here it is, a funky bike mount:

GPS Mount

I used a Polar HR mount with a piece of PVC pipe stuck inside of it. I then used four zip ties (two in tandem at a time) to attach the mount over and under the handlebars and around the stem. I also used some pieces of rubber to make the whole arrangement thicker so the watch band would be tight. Luckily for me there was a small hole between the polar mount and the front of the stem where I could fit a band:

GPS Mount

The 301 uses the normal wristwatch style attachment with the pins, so I just bought a cheap drug store plastic band a cut down one side so it could fit through the hole pictured above. You can see that the band has been slimmed:

GPS Mount

The mount isn't the most steady -- the unit does shake. But I think it's pretty sturdy and I'm confident that my gadget won't go flying.

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Garmin Forerunner 301 & Mac OS X

I recently bought a Garmin 301 Forerunner, a nifty wrist-sized GPS unit with a heart rate monitor. The premise is pretty cool -- I can see my heart rate next to the elevation profile of my route, along with an interactive map showing exactly where I went (once I upload the data to a computer, of course). I've been without any kind heart rate or cyclometer for almost 6 months since my old Polar S510 decided to croak. Apparently my sweat is so caustic that I rusted one of the buttons stuck and I lost some functionality. Then the battery died. A perfect excuse to upgrade, right?

Even before I bought the 301, I knew that it would have some problems. Specifically, Garmin is one of those block-headed companies that refuses to acknowledge Mac owners as more powerful than their market share suggests. We spend more money and buy more gadgets than Windozes people; see the iPod. I purchased the 301 anyway; I have an unconditional satisfaction guarantee with REI in case I give up on this project.

My hope was to to be able to use the 301 with a Windows Virtualization Software. This is one of the first GPSes to use USB, rather than the antiquated serial that manufacturers still cling to. So I figured it may just work with VPC. However, no luck. It seems like it almost works -- when I plug the GPS in Win XP recognizes the device and loads the Garmin USB GPS driver. The GPS shows up correctly in the device profile. I can install the Garmin software perfectly too. However, the Garmin software refuses to connect to the GPS. Very frustrating.

I verifed how it should work by using a regular PC, and I had no problems. Both the Garmin and MotionBased software works.

MotionBased is also annoying. The upload program is only Windows. The main interface is entirely web-based, but has poor Mac support. It makes Safari crash and I have had middling success using IE or Firefox. They have a free account option with limited functionality, and for $100/year the full suite of analyses. It's unlikely I'll be shelling out any money to them until they improve Mac support.

Right now I'm leaning to keeping the 301. I have enough access to Windoze machines to be able to use it. But I'll keep it begrudingly. Garmin is a big enough company to put some time into Mac OS X.

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UCI Track Worlds

Last weekend I attended the UCI Track World Championships in Carson, CA (basically LA). It was awesome. It's amazing seeing such good riders because they make going fast look easy. When I'm going hard (which doesn't equate to fast) I don't look good, not like these riders. Of course, I took photos. Highlights:

ADT Panorama

A not very clean panorama, but it gives you the general idea. The turns have a banking of 45 degrees. The track is 250 meters at the sprint (black) line. The track is made out of special siberian pine – so special that the whole arena is at a positive air pressure with constant temperature and humidity. There are about 6000 seats. It is by far the best facility in the United States. More Info.

Chris, Tona and Megan. Megan flew out from Colorado to spend her spring break with us dorks in San Diego

The Madison was insane!

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First Post

So here is my attempt at some kind of, thing. Like the title suggests, this whole thing will either: 1. Distract me too much 2. Waste my time 3. Get neglected and suffer rare updates.

I didn't want to make a whole website from scratch and I wanted something a little slick looking. And I've heard about this blogging thing. Although I don't think I'm going to blog, per se, I think this software has some advantages over alternatives. I like to play, too.

I guess my main goal of this site is for my own purposes. I'll post things here that interest me. I think it's primary purpose will be to post notices when I add new photos. Let's see what I do with this, huh?

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