Monday, June 26, 2017

Giro and Genes

The Saturday Giro offered up a little surprise last week in the form of a random rain shower. I'd ridden out to Starbucks as usual, this time under particularly hazy skies and with a truly awesome humidity level. As the first riders started to filter in, one of them said that it was pouring rain out at the lakefront, barely half a mile away. I was rather surprised, but soon realized that the thick haze had been hiding the big black clouds off to the northwest. Looking at the radar, we had a good chance that we'd miss most of it by the time we hit Lakeshore Drive, and indeed we did. All we got was a brief and very light sprinkling of drizzle that was unfortunately greatly augmented by the still soaking wet streets and associated wheel spray. Otherwise, though, the ride was good -- and hot. Sunday was similar except that there was no rain and for some reason the group was a lot larger. As we were flying down Chef Menteur Highway, all strung out because someone at the front had boosted the speeed up to around 30 mph, I figured the line of riders was a good two city blocks long. On the return trip I found myself ahead of the group with Taco, mainly because neither of us likes to stop half a mile from the turnaround to stand around under the only shade tree in the area for five minutes of doing whatever those guys do when they're standing around under the tree. Anyway, it was clear that the group was lagging behind a bit. Normally, I'd expect to be caught by the group a few miles down the road, but on Sunday every time I looked back I couldn't even see them. Pretty soon Taco's speed started inching up. I was just sitting on his wheel think how much it was like being behind a motor and wondering when he would motion for me to come around and take a pull.  He never did, though. What had started as a leisurely 22 mph soon became a brisk 24 mph, and then for a long time stayed at like 25.5 mph before a final little push up to 30 over the last mile. All that time I was just glued to Taco's super-smooth wheel. Despite having never put my nose into the wind, it was a pretty decent workout for me.

So some time around Christmas, I think, my daughter had given me a 23andMe kit that I finally sent off for testing about a month ago and for which I got the reports last week. Having already seen Danielle's report, I wasn't too surprised with anything in mine. I'm apparently 98.4% European, with a lot of Irish and Iberian/Spanish and French, which is what I'd expect from what I know about recent ancestors. Like Danielle, I also had 301 Neanderthal variants, which is apparently more than 83% of those who have thus far been tested, so I guess some of my distant ancestors were, shall we say, open-minded about sexual partners. Most of the predicted traits consistent with mine - no bald spot, likes salty stuff, detached ear lobes, long ring finger, straight dark hair, predisposed to weigh less than average, lactose intolerant, not a deep sleeper, etc. It also suggested that my muscle composition would be "common in elite power athletes," which kind of calls into question the whole thing I guess. That's based on a ACTN3 gene variant that increases production of  a particular isoform of alpha-actinin. This is the most-highly specialized of the four mammalian alpha-actinins, with its expression restricted largely to fast glycolytic fibres in skeletal muscle. Theoretically, I think it would mean that my muscles contract particularly rapidly. Looks like I'm heterozygous for it, though, for whatever that's worth. The implication is that without that genotype I'd be better at endurance. Also, my weight is likely to be similar on diets high or low in saturated fat with the same number of total calories. That's related to the gene for apolipoprotein A-II, which I gather is normal. Anyway, it was kind of interesting.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Making the Best of It

Wet asphalt, worms and solitude on the levee this morning
It was a dark and stormy night.  Really.  It was.  What it wasn't, however, was the kind of life-threatening storm that the media had been hyping. Basically, there was a lot of intermittent rain and a fair amount of wind, but it was, in a way, disappointing. The power flickered once and that was about it. Still, the forecast was for nothing but rain and I saw no reason to doubt that part was accurate, so when the alarm went off at five-whatever in the morning and I could hear the cars on the wet streets outside, I shuffled off to the kitchen and made some coffee. Outside, it looked like the rain had practically stopped, at least temporarily. I drove The Wife over to the shuttle stop on campus around 6:15, and on the way looked up to see a little patch of blue sky through a gap in the thick cloud cover. I was already making plans as I drove home. I could probably get out the door around 6:45 on the rain bike so perhaps there was hope. A quick check of the radar confirmed that the city was in-between rain bands and would probably be that way for at least a couple of hours. I threw on some riding clothes, pumped up the Pennine's tires, stuffed a rain jacket into my pocket, pulled on shoe-covers, and headed for the levee. The streets were wet but whatever was falling from the sky was could hardly be called rain. I ended up getting in a perfectly fine twenty-two miles, thankful that I had a rain bike with full fenders as I rolled through puddles and over the stretched-out bodies of the hundreds of earthworms that covered parts of the levee bike path. It wasn't a hard workout or anything, but I was glad I'd made the best out of that little lull in the weather.

Soon after I got to work this morning -- yes, I took the car -- it started storming again, and later in the morning my phone lit up with a tornado warning. The sky is still dark and the streets still wet and the rain is still falling, but I got in a ride today when I'd have bet money I wouldn't have. The Volvo place still hasn't called about the tail light they were supposed to order, although I did have some fun on Monday when someone from the dealership called to check on how nicely I'd been treated and whether everything had been done to my satisfaction. It would be nice to have a right turn signal again, but I have to admit I'm not all that anxious to deal with the hassle of getting the car out to Metairie and all, so I'm good with waiting for now.

Keith emailed that the latest kit order had arrived. I had ordered a second pair of shorts and a second jersey, so now I'll just have to figure out how to get over to his office now that mine isn't so conveniently located any more. Unfortunately, the next reasonably nearby race isn't until August. I've been thinking about looking for something outside of LAMBRA next month, but it seems like promoters in the south are afraid to put on anything big in July because of the heat. There's a weekend of races in Crockett, TX. I had to look up the location on Google Maps to find out it's kind of halfway between Houston and Dallas, so around 6.5 hours drive time and no chance of winning enough to pay for lunch, and it's the weekend that Danielle comes in from Washington. There's something the following weekend up in TN but now we're talking about 9-hour drives.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

An Early Start

Here we go again.....
It looks like the hurricane season is off to an early start around here. The threat of a tropical storm -- wait, I mean tropical "cyclone" as they are now calling them -- kept me off the bike this morning. That turned out to have been way overly cautious, though. Although the streets were wet at 5:30 am, there was never much rain. I could have easily gotten in a couple of hours on the levee without getting all that wet, especially if I'd taken the rain bike. I ended up driving the car to work almost two hours earlier than usual, still without hitting any significant rain. Even now, the radar isn't looking all that bad and is showing mostly just a huge area of light rain. Oh well. We'll see how it all works out later today, but I'm thinking that most of the dire weather predictions of last night will turn out to have been a little exaggerated.

Mid-week on the river levee
So anyway, last week was actually a pretty decent week, riding-wise, even though there weren't any races nearby. I did both the Saturday and Sunday Giro Rides, mainly because Sunday was father's day and I had to visit my father at noon, so a northshore ride was definitely not a possibility. Saturday's Giro was fairly fast and I made a point of making a few good efforts, especially for some of the sprint points. Those felt pretty good, actually.

Sunday's Giro was definitely slower and easier, and it included a couple of stops for flat tires, all of which were Scott's. The legs were feeling a little tired on Monday when I rolled out for a solo recovery ride on the river levee. I didn't feel like I needed a super-easy ride, just something smooth and steady. That turned out to be 22 miles at 17-20 mph in easy gears. At the moment I have no idea what the rest of the week is going to look like. The chance of rain doesn't drop below 75% until Wednesday night and they're still showing a 95% probability for the WeMoRi, but given the crazy weather right now you can't really trust any of that. I'd really hate to miss two days of riding right now, so I'll just have to play it by ear for a couple of days I guess.

Bob Perrin goes down in the Bastille Day race
back in 1976 - riding his Pennine, I think.
I rode with David Hughes for a while on Friday and he sent me a couple of scans of photos from the newspaper of the Bastille Day race back from July 11, 1976. The scans are pretty bad, but they always are when they come from an old newspaper.

Meanwhile, at the office I'm looking out the window at the low, ragged black clouds streaming in from the south and not feeling very optimistic. We're not expecting our actual furniture to arrive until the end of the month, so it will likely be June 29th or 30th before I have a real desk and file cabinet and can unpack the boxes that are currently lined up against the wall.

I took the car in for "scheduled maintenance" on Friday, which means they did an expensive oil change and ordered a new tail light assembly. The service rep is supposed to call me today about it, but I doubt I'll be able to get the car back there until tomorrow at best anyway. The windshield leak thing is basically my problem unless the extended warranty will cover it, which I haven't checked on yet. I'm pretty sure a tube of black silicone seal will solve the problem anyway, but we'll see.

Monday, June 12, 2017


The 46th annual Tour de Louisiane stage race is in the books. This was an interesting year. Lots of grassroots events like ours have been struggling, if not dying out entirely, in recent years. There was a time not all that long ago when I was contemplating adding more classes and categories. Lots of races were doing that, and with field sizes rising consistently it seemed like a good plan. That all started to crumble about five years ago. It feels like we've kind of bottomed out the last couple of years, and it was time to scale back on a few things in order to scale the event to the expected participation. There were a few things that were clear, however. For one, we had some good venues that the riders really liked, even though the cost of securing them was getting pretty high. Also, although the field sizes were smaller than they had been at the peak, the level of competition was still as strong as ever. That didn't really leave us much room for scaling back. We reduced the prizelist a little bit, and didn't spend anything on free stuff to give to the riders, but what really made it work was raising enough cash to cover most of the venue and officiating costs.

The NOBC Cat. 4 team had a great weekend of racing
For a change, the weather forecast for the weekend was pretty good. Warm temperatures with no real chance of rain on Saturday, and a fairly low chance of rain on Sunday morning. We ended up with a hundred twenty something riders, which was pretty good by current standards, and I'm sure it would have been better if there hadn't been the conflict with Tulsa Tough that pulled away a number of riders and essentially all of the Texas riders. I can't remember another year when we didn't have a single Texas rider. The road races went quite well.  Sitting on the side of the highway for four or five hours can be pretty brutal when it's hot or cold or raining or windy or some combination of the above, but in this case it was actually quite pleasant.

Charles got some good shots on Saturday
The humidity on Saturday was fairly low and there was a nice breeze that kept us fairly comfortable all day. Even the 5:30 pm time trial that always involves me standing in the sun at the start line for a couple of hours wasn't too bad. Results went pretty smoothly, although I was surprised to find one Cat. 5 rider who didn't know he had to finish the prior stage of a stage race in order to ride in the next. He kind of begged for an exception, but I really couldn't allow it without opening up a whole can of worms. There were a number of riders who had DNF'd in the road race that morning and how would I explain letting someone who hadn't even started it go ahead and ride the Criterium?

Sunday's criterium was pretty fun. As usual Robin did a ton of work getting the course set up with the  Covington police and fire department and we got things started at 7:30 right on schedule. We kind of screwed up a little in a couple of the races when we didn't pull some riders soon enough and they ended up getting lapped. Pulling riders after they have been lapped rather than before creates all sorts of problems for stage race timing. We did finally pull them once they were again separated from the pack that had lapped them, and we calculated their times as if they had been pulled on the lap during which they had been lapped, which seemed to work out fine. We had both Erich and Kenny doing the announcing for the big races, which worked out really well. They made a great team with the microphone. We'll have to see if we can get a second mic next time, because I'd love to do that again. The results got posted quickly and by 1 pm or so I was on my way home via Starbucks where I stopped to email the results to the newspaper reporter who, just a little while later, texted me that he'd just had a blowout somewhere on the interstate between here and Atlanta and was going to miss the Sunday deadline. Hopefully we'll see something in a day or two. In the meantime there have been a lot of nice photos showing up that I've been sharing to the Tour de Louisiane facebook group and LAMBRA page. I got results up on the LAMBRA and NOBC websites before dinner, so just some loose ends to tie up over the next few days and I'll be ready to start thinking about the Deep South Dino Ride that Mike Lew and I have been kicking around for some time this fall.

A window and a view!
So this morning I rode to the new office on Poydras Street. Since they put in a bike lane on Tulane Avenue, a street that in the past I would never have considered taking, I had a nice twenty minute commute via the Jeff Davis overpass bike path, Tulane Avenue, and LaSalle Street, locking the bike up in the bike race in the building parking garage. This was fortunate because shortly after I got there it started storming and basically hasn't stopped all day. The offices are currently kind of a mess. We're using surplus furniture until the stuff we ordered arrives, presumably toward the end of the month, so there's no incentive to take anything more than necessary out of the boxes scattered about the floor. On the plus side, I have a nice view looking southwest between the Superdome across the street and Benson Tower. On the minus side, it's been freezing in here all day.  Most of this floor is empty, so it's pretty quiet, plus three of the people in our five-person office aren't here. Right now I'm about to ride home in the rain, which at the moment is merely moderate rather than severe like it's been most of today. I'm going to get wet, but the radar isn't offering much hope for the foreseeable future. I guess I used up all of my weather luck last weekend.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Movin' Out

Two days until our office is moved from the tranquility of University Square and its aging shopping mall buildings to the glass and steel and six lanes of Poydras Street. It will be a nice change, I think, on balance, although my commute will become a bit more stressful. Fortunately, the new bike lane on Tulane Avenue is fully operational now, so I think Jeff. Davis to Tulane Avenue to S. Johnston to Perdido should work out pretty well. It may be time to take a look at the old commuter bike and make sure it's up to the longer trip, however. The rear tire and the Mr. Tuffy's in both tires are pretty much at the end of their lives and need to be replaced, but I don't guess that's going to happen for a couple more weeks with the way things are going right now. It looks like we will essentially be camping out in our new office space for a week or two with temporary furniture, aka surplus tables, and that kind of thing, so I guess I'll be working out of boxes for a while.

The trusty old commuter. Hopefully it won't get stolen
I picked up the old English frame from Louie Letterman some time in the 70s and built it up with whatever was lying around, either at home or at the local bike shop. The rear wheel came out of a shed behind the old Adams Bicycle World back when it was on Calhoun Street and since it was for probably a 7-speed or 8-speed bike, you have to force the dropouts on the frame apart to squeeze it in. The quick-release on that wheel is an old Simplex one from the 70s that used to come standard on the Peugeot PX-10. The front wheel was originally from my old Atala from 1971, but when that wheel finally quit due to rust and corrosion it was replaced with a nice old clincher wheel with a Campi Record hub from Billy Richards. The front is 700C, the rear is 27", the frame was designed for 26." The front center-pull brake was a prize from one of the Betat Extravaganza races some time back in the 70s or 80s. It barely works but at least will accommodate the short reach needed for a 700C wheel crammed into a 26" 3-speed frame. The fenders came from Gus Betat & Sons when they were on Broad Street and were routinely removing the painted, chromed steel fenders from Atala bikes in order to make them look more like the 10-speeds that Americans wanted at the time. Since the wheels just barely fit in the frame, especially with fenders, I use a 23 mm leftover training tire on the front and some kind of cheapie 1 1/4 inch tire on the back. Both have Mr. Tuffy tire liners in them. The rear rack is an aluminum Pletcher rack that was popular in the 70s, and since one of the rear fender stays broke off, the fender is partially held in place with zip ties attached to the rear rack.

So just to add more stress to everything, the dog seems to be kind of sick and I'm about to make an appointment with the Vet. Tomorrow I will hopefully pack up the last few things from the my office. In the meantime there's a new fire drill about proposed state budget cuts affecting teaching hospitals. At least I was able to make it out to the WeMoRi this morning.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Crunch Week

It never fails. The week before the Tour de La, or for that matter almost any other major weekend operation, something unexpected pops up to throw a monkey wrench into the works. It looks like this year will be no different. On the plus side, the weather forecast doesn't look disastrous, which sometimes happens. On the minus side, there are a lot of loose ends this year and I'm expecting a ton of things are going to have to happen between now and Friday. We're trying to slightly scale back some of the race's expenses to accommodate the smaller turnouts that have come to be normal over the past few years since the Lance bubble burst. We're all really missing those 50-rider Cat. 5 fields that used to provide a lot of the race revenue as well as a lot of the future Cat. 4s and Cat. 3s. Interestingly, the Cat. 1/2/3 fields don't seem to be suffering as much as some of the others. Anyway, I've definitely been thrown a curve ball this week.

Where we are now
For well over a year our office has been planning on moving from University Square near the uptown campus to the 1555 Poydras building downtown across from the Superdome. The process has been moving along at a glacial pace amid various considerations of timing, space, renovation costs, etc., especially since there hasn't been a huge sense of urgency about it. A couple of months ago, however, the renovations to the space at 1555 were underway and it finally looked like it was actually going to happen. Last week it was looking like the actual move was two or three weeks away because of a delay in getting the new furniture delivered. Things that have to do with space at a university, however, are never that simple.

Where we're going
At the end of last week we were basically given the order to pack up and be ready to go by the end of this week. Naturally, this is also the week before the Tour and the week in which I'm planning on taking Friday off so I can take care of all of the last-minute issues, print out waivers, load  up vehicles, and go across the lake in time for Friday night registration.

So after I finished up the 2017 Race Bible on Sunday, Candy and I went down to her office where they have a big copier and printed out and stapled 150 ten-page, front and back, full color, booklet format copies. At least that's out of the way! We are still desperately seeking follow cars and lead vehicles for the road races on Saturday morning, which sadly is the normal situation for this sort of thing. Despite having raised a lot of sponsorship dollars, we'll be lucky to break even given the relatively low turnouts for races over the past few years.

Covington always
makes a nice
poster for the crit.
I remember when we put on the Tour with about $300 in cash and a bunch of merchandise prizes from the bike shop and no police or toilets or parking or anything. Oh, how times have changed.  For the road race we have 10 police officers, five or six officials including motorefs, and a venue budget of well over $3,000. Sunday's criterium in Covington involves another $2,500 in police costs. The whole event, which might have 150 - 175 riders in a good year, costs around $14,000 to put on. Figure over $100 per racer with total net entry fee revenue of maybe $7,500. Ain't nobody gettin' rich here! Just last week I was looking at a plea from one of the big Florida promoters trying to get people to pre-register for one of the races there because he needs 200 riders pre-registered in order to no cancel. If we could get 200 riders around here most of our problems would go away and we might actually come out ahead. Anyway, hopefully we will muddle our way through the weekend, not screw up the results too badly, keep everyone out of the hospital, and wrap up a fun race for the 46th consecutive year, not a single one of which has been a "given."

Another unfortunate consequence of the Tour weekend is that I am off the bike and stressed out for two or three days. I was happy to have managed to get almost 250 miles in last week despite all the rain. This week is looking to be kind of rainy through Wednesday, but after that it should be nice until the rain starts moving back in some time on Sunday. Hopefully we'll be able to get through the criteriums before any of it hits, but it's way too early to tell at this point. At least there doesn't appear to be any threat of severe weather.

Our mayor's name is Mitch. He can mobilize resources
to remove statues like nobody's business.  Not so much
when it comes to routine city services or crime prevention.
Sunday's Giro was a little odd. Everything was pretty normal all the way out to the turnaround at Venetian Isles - moderate to fast pace but nothing severe. I was hanging out near the tail end of the paceline since my legs were feeling a little sore from Saturday. I was expecting to go harder on the way back. As usual, I didn't stop under the "turnaround tree" where a lot of the Giro likes to take a quick break and soon found myself with VJ, Taco and one other rider. We cruised down Chef Highway for a while expecting the pack to be swallowing us up, but then VJ went to the front on his TT bike and just towed us along at 24-25 mph for miles and miles. For some reason the rest of the group had decided to take it easy on the way back and we never saw them again. After we got back to Marconi I turned back and rode the other way until I finally saw the group coming over the Bayou St. John bridge. Sometimes these things happen on the Giro!

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Flat Tire Weather

Scattered Giro riders waiting on the first flat of the day.
It's around 10 pm on Saturday and outside it's raining - again. I've been pretty lucky this week, having somehow avoided being caught in any heavy rain, but it's been impossible to avoid riding on wet roads. Twice this week I did my morning rides on the Rain Bike, and one day I had to skip riding altogether. On Wednesday evening a few of the NOBC officers got together over at Lakeview Brew to go over some things for the upcoming 46th Annual Tour de Louisiane. Of course it was raining. I went there via Canal Blvd. which has an underpass at the train tracks just before the Cafe' that often floods. There was a rushing waterfall of water pouring in from the right as I drove through about six inches of water. Fifteen minutes later it was at least six feet deep and the police were out there to keep people from trying to drive through it. I had to take the long way back to get home. On Friday I went out to the levee in the morning. It had rained earlier but the streets were dry enough that I took the Bianchi. That was fine until I got to the place where there is a bypass around the big pipes that Jefferson Parish installed to pump rainwater to the river. The whole thing is an engineering disaster. They obviously failed to pack down the mud on which they put that section of asphalt, and for the past few weeks the asphalt has been cracking under the weight of, I guess, the police cars that patrol the bike path.  Well, yesterday morning there was a big slab of asphalt sticking up in the air and the rest of the path there was covered with mud that had washed down the levee. I was lucky I saw it in time to slow down and kind of tiptoe through the mess without sliding out or crashing into the broken asphalt. Of course the bike was covered with mud. I ran into Steve Johnson, and then as we were turning around at the Little Dip we saw Woody, so I rode with him most of the way back. This morning I went out to the Giro only after checking the radar and deciding there was a reasonable chance of staying dry even though the street was still pretty wet. We kind of lucked out and got the whole ride in without getting rained on, so that was good, but of course there were flat tires to deal with.

There's never been any doubt that riding on wet roads results in more flat tires. In fact, it's probably the main reason, right behind having to clean the bike afterward, that a lot of riders won't go out when the streets are wet. What nobody ever seems to agree on, however, is just why there are so many more flats when it's wet. The most common theories are that the rain washes a lot of stuff onto the road, that the water causes stuff to stick to the tires, and that the water lubricates the sharp things making it easier for them to penetrate the rubber. I suppose it's probably safe assume that all three things are in play. Invariably, the flats seem to be caused by tiny little shards of rock or glass or whatever that gets embedded in the tire. Such was the case today when we had a flat no more than two miles from the start of the Giro. I count myself lucky this week since I survived five days of rides without flatting. Well, that's if you don't count my commuter which somehow developed a flat tire despite the Mr. Tuffy's. Anyway, the forecast isn't looking too optimistic until Wednesday, so I guess the wet rides aren't over quite yet. At least the hourly forecast is looking pretty good for tomorrow morning's Giro Ride time, not that I am putting a lot of faith in the forecasts lately.