Author Archives: sevencyclist

A new decade starts

Really, we’re into a new decade?  I guess so … 2020 … wow, it was just yesterday when they were concerned that the world would end due to Y2K.  Now really, did anyone really think the world would end?  Nature finds a way … hmm … sounds like a quote from a movie … Oh, because it is … Jurassic Park.

Anyhow, in past years, I would refrain from doing any type of new year’s resolutions, but this year, I wanted to do something different.  Last year, I didn’t have time to train for any events (being on call every other weekend).  That sucked.  So this year, I said to myself, screw it.  I’m going to sign up for an event, and no matter if I’m ready or not, I’m going to do it.  So I signed up for Solvang Double Century in March.  I’ll have to make sacrifices, like ride into the darkness after work (and have no relax time at night), just so that I can have training time.  Who knows … maybe I’ll ask to work consecutive on calls, so that I can have consecutive weekends to train.

We’ll see how that goes.  I miss my double century friends, and the feeling of doing a double century … I gotta do it.  Wish me luck.  It’ll be one way to start off the decade.

Oh, and I didn’t do quite as bad as I thought for the year, even though my weekend suffered.  I still got over 6,000 miles for the year.

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Let’s see if we can improve upon this in 2020.

2019 Was Rough … Let’s Look Forward to 2020

The year 2019 was a punch in the gut.  It was a year which saw the passing of my Dad, who was 94 (or 92, whichever record you believe in).  Dad was a paper son, so who knows when he was really born.  It doesn’t matter at this point … all that matters is he led a good life, and both he, and my mom, raised 3 excellent kids (myself included).  We had to spend couple of months, going back and forth from the Bay Area to LA for visits, until eventually he died of complications.  That was a really rough way to start the year.

Meanwhile, at work, I was punched in the gut again.  This time, my group suffered by having it downsized .. in other words, lay offs.  We had a staff of 5, and now it’s 2 .. and we morphed into another group.  We had 3 in California, but now it’s just me.  This is a big change, and instead of having a group, I know work like a remote person.  Now I know how hard it is to be working remotely (even though we are kind of corporate headquarters).

Oh, this new group we morphed into … I have to train myself on a new product, and since I am the lead on my own product, I didn’t have the luxury to fly out for hands on training .. so I had to learn from videos and powerpoint slides.  This is extremely difficult, when you have a product that is extremely complex.  I don’t know how this will turn out for me … all I can say is, I seem to have respect from others in the company … I mean, I did spend 21 years of my life with this place.

This also means that I am on call every other weekend, because of the short staff, and the challenges of getting everyone up to speed, limits my flexibility with weekends off.  That also means I don’t get to go biking as much, and training for those long doubles are suffering.  I actually had to cancel two events, because of the on call rotation.  I just hope it gets better in 2020.  I’m not ready to look for another job yet, but I just hope the situation improves (not just from a work perspective, but from my own personal livelihood).

Despite not having time to train, I have decided to sign up for another double .. Solvang Double, in the 3rd week of March.  I will strive for this, and it will force me to squeeze whatever time I have to train (even if it means spending 3 hours riding in the dark till 11 pm then sleep.  I just need to do this.

Anyhow, here’s to a happy 2020, and let’s see what that brings us.  And I don’t even want to talk politics at all .. too depressing.

Pour over Coffee

I’m not there biggest coffee enthusiasts, but I do like the aroma of good coffee. I probably can’t tell the difference in one blend to the other, like determining how fruity one is over the other. So recently, some friends had suggested a good coffee shop, called Big Mug Coffee, so I decided to try it out.

I read the reviews and it said there would long lines and the drinks took a while to get but I figured I’d still try it out. They have the usual latte but what was interesting was lack of just coffee. So I asked what type of coffee they have and they mentioned something called pour over coffee. I decided to try it out.

It must have taken about five minutes to get just a cup of coffee and a heated croissant. I tasted the coffee and it was ok, but later, I realized this cup of coffee was $5. That was a bit steep. I didn’t complain while I was at the coffee shop but I thought I’d give a Google search to find out exactly what is this pour over coffee.

I guess this is a different way of brewing coffee, where you pour boiling water over some filtered coffee grinds. I can see the benefit, where you have no residue, or no after taste of the coffee grind, but $5 vs. $1?

I just wanted a simple cup of coffee, you know, caffeine. I guess more trendy coffee shops are serving these, but sometimes you just want a plain cup of coffee. Maybe I’ll just stick with Starbucks or Peet’s, instead of these boutique trendy coffee shops.

Sling Drops All Fox Networks from its Lineup

I’m one of those cord-cutters, who dropped their cable subscription for TV, and went with air antenna for local channels, and subscribed to streaming service.  I particularly chose Sling, mostly from word of mouth, and the subscription was pretty low.  Those also included a few local channels (just in case my air antenna cannot get a good signal, which can be common in the Bay Area).

For some odd reason, some channels are not reachable at all with my air antenna.  It seemed like most of those were stations based out of Oakland area, but not sure.  Luckily, the Fox affiliate was on Sling … until this past Thursday.  This seemed to be in the news of late:

From MSN’s web site:

The dispute stems from a carriage dispute between Fox and Dish. Both the satellite network and Sling, their over-the-top internet TV service, have not carried Fox regional sports networks for two months since their sale to the Sinclair Broadcast Group. That deal was brought upon by the Fox’s Corporation’s sale to The Walt Disney Company earlier this summer.

A Fox spokesperson expressed sympathy toward Dish’s 12 million satellite users:

“Dish/Sling is at it again, choosing to drop leading programming as a negotiating tactic regardless of the impact on its own customers. Dish/Sling elected to drop Fox networks in an effort to coerce us to agree to outrageous demands. While we regret this is Dish/Sling’s preferred approach to negotiating, we remind our loyal viewers that the Fox services are widely available through every other major television provider.”

The drop comes at an inopportune time for sports fans. Fox networks not only carry college and professional football (the NFL and the XFL starting February), but they will also feature a good portion of the MLB playoffs, including the World Series. The effects could be felt as soon as tonight, as the NFL’s Thursday Night Football package makes its 2019 debut in Green Bay for a game between the Packers and Philadelphia Eagles.

Yeah, I noticed that on Thursday night too!  Luckily, they also had it broadcast on Amazon Prime, of which I subscribe to already, so I didn’t miss that game.

So I started searching for alternative streaming services … YouTube TV!  I looked at it, and compared the pricing to Sling, and it was comparable.  Looking further, it actually had more variety, for a little more per month ($49 as opposed to $45).  Come to think of it, I did also have some add-ons to Sling (like on-demand DVR recordings), so the price actually may be equal.  YouTube TV also has a bunch of local TV offered too (other than the Fox affiliate).

I lucked out, because one of the channels YouTube TV had, but Sling didn’t have, was Olympic Channel.  They happen to be broadcasting UCI World Championships this week.  So I lucked out, and was able to watch the finals of the Men’s World Championship Road Race.  Nice!

So goodbye Sling, and hello YouTube TV.

This is Why I Am a Morning Person

Recently, I had one of those nights where I woke up in the middle of the night (1 am) and could not go back to sleep. I went to sleep, only to wake up again at 3:30. I did the same thing and woke up again at 4:30. I just couldn’t go back to sleep.

Oh screw it. I have fully charged lights, so I went into my cycling clothes, and went for a ride … at 5:15 am.

One of my favorite night spots is the Mary Ave bridge (although it probably has some more official name to it).  I wanted it to be dark, just so I can take this picture.

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Mary Ave. Bridge (at least that’s what it says on Google Maps)

Off I went to climb Montebello Road. It’s so peaceful this time of day, as hardly anyone is out on the road. I was passed by 3 cars, and that was it. There was something about riding on a crisp morning, and I felt like I was climbing it pretty good (even though I didn’t get a PR out of it).

One of the main reasons for me to get out here was to see the views, and they were awesome.  No matter which angle I took, I couldn’t quite capture the beauty, and enormity of being up before sunrise … so peaceful

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View from Montebello Road, just passed Montebello School

As I continued climbing, sunrise came, and that just made the climb even better. I was the only one climbing Montebello at this hour. Where’s everyone? What’s the issue … are you sleeping? Oh, wait, I guess you are.

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Good morning from the top of Montebello, Vidovich Vineyards

As I descended down the hill, I saw a bunch of riders climbing. I guess I was an hour earlier than everyone wanted to start. Yes, I am a morning person!

So Long Fitbit

I’ve had a couple of fitbits, so I know how the ecosystem for that product works.  I was about ready to go out for a ride, and I was wearing my Fitbit Surge.  Then all of a sudden, I felt the watch band slip … took a closer look, and I find the design of the watch band is … well stupid.  It looked like the glue holding the permanent band failed.

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So I did some research, and it looked like the Fitbit Charge 3 should be a good replacement.  Nice sleek design, and seemed to be the flagship of the Fitbit line, moving forward.  So I got it, and the interface looked pretty good, and pretty easy to use.  I try connecting to my phone, and I could never get it to sync up.  Sure, it detected the watch, but I could never get it to sync.

I did a whole bunch of Google searches, and I wasn’t the only one experiencing the problem.  If you do a Google search on Fitbit Charge 3 sync to Android, or even to iPhone, you will see many threads regarding the same problem.  To have your flagship product, unable to sync up to the phone?  I mean, that makes the whole fitness tracking thing useless.

So I decided to look to Garmin.  I know I’ve had some GPS and accuracy issues with Garmin on the bike computer, but maybe the fitness tracking watch will be different.  Based on dcrainmaker’s reviews, the Vivoactive 3 seemed to be a good overall value.  I didn’t need a watch with music, so I just went with the Vivactive 3.

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Since I already have a couple of Garmin Edge devices in Garmin Connect, adding the Vivoactive should be a breeze, and since I’m used to using the software, it is an easy transition.

So long Fitbit.  Good luck, and hope you fix your sync’ing issues.  All the great features you have doesn’t help a whole lot if you can’t sync to a phone, which has all the tracking features you need.

Pretty Productive August, 864 Miles

Aug2019Wow, August has come and gone, and with that, a very productive month from the numbers.  I haven’t checked what my largest mileage totals for one month is, but this ranks pretty high, 864 miles.  What’s interesting is I didn’t have an organized ride that I went on, and I didn’t even crack a century on one ride.

One thing that helped was this contest that my company had for its employees.  It’s actually geared for running or walking, to see what the highest number of steps you can achieve in a two week period.  They had a formula for bikes, where for each 3 miles, you get 2000 steps.  So that encouraged me to ride more than the usual 10 mile per direction on a commute.  It also encouraged me to ride every day for this two week stretch.

Other than that, I was able to crank out 40+ miles on weekends where I was still on call.  So with my usual weekend rides, plus the on call rides, I was able to achieve a healthy number.  A lot of this was in preparation for a double, which I later found out I wouldn’t be able to do, due to PTO’s taken by other members in my team.  Oh well.

Either Heat or Fitness or Umunhum Did Me In

I’ve done Mt. Umunhum a number of times since the road had been been opened up to the top. However, this summer for some reason, I’ve had issues making it all the way to the top. The last few times was because I waited too long and by the time I started Umunhum, it was 12 noon, and it was already in the mid-90s. Since all these times, I was riding solo, I had the easy option of turning around.

This time, my friend Amanda, from ACTC, was co-leading the ride up Umunhum. So this would give me more motivation to finish it, knowing there is a group, and I didn’t want to let them down, but it was hard.

We first started with some warm up hills, Harwood (as if we didn’t have enough climbing to do). These were steep short pitches … Steep meaning 20+ %. While climbing, my immediate thought was, “I need to upgrade to a 12-30 or 12-32”.

It was cool, we stopped for 3 group pictures. Awesome way to keep everyone together.

This was in the middle of a residential street, so we had to make several attempts, and that was hilarious.

Earlier in the day Amanda made a comment that I looked slimmer. At that point, that seemed like a surprise, and maybe a curse?

I maybe it up Hicks fine (I wasn’t the last one), and yes, another group shot (but hopefully we won’t be baking too much making this shot).

On our climb up, I didn’t realize what little I had in the tank, as I quickly took my place in the back.

I didn’t bother to check what the temperature was, but I know I was suffering. I get past Bald Mountain, and after that, it just felt like the heat just ramped it up. I felt so weak, I couldn’t turn the crank. Since this so wide open, the shade was very few and far between. I ended up stopping 3 times, and each time was not just stopping … I ended up walking for a number of paces. I was so tempted to turn around, but I had to continue, with 10+ people waiting for me, and to take that group shot at the top.

Finally made it to the top, and was grateful for all the times this group re-grouped. It was awesome.

I’ve been in heat many times on other tough climbs, but never suffered like this. Maybe I need to upgrade my gearing? I did notice some others had lower gearing. Maybe I should have brought my triple and my Seven? Oh well, at least I made it once this summer.

Summer Fitness Competition at Work

In an effort to build morale, companies will organize some friendly competition between different groups of teams.  They count number of steps, and they even included an option to convert cycling miles into steps.  That’s cool … with all the miles that I do, that should be good for us.

Recording miles was a bit of a challenge though.  I have a fitbit, and it is able to calculate steps when I ride, but I have no idea how it calculates this.  The organized competition does have a direct calculation … cycling step = (miles/3)*2000.  When I compare the number of steps on fitbit, to the calculcation, the fitbit step is way off … by about 1000 to 2000 steps.  Damn, so I had to take the graph that fitbit has, and subtract the number of steps based on the time I used for my ride.  Yeah, that was a pain to do.

I eventually was able to get my steps calculated, and I ended up with the highest step count on the team.  However, there were other teams that blew everyone else away.  My largest amount was 51,000 steps, due to a 71 mile ride I did.  However, there were a couple of guys who had 90,000 and 70,000 step day.  I later found out these team had two members who were doing marathon runs every day.  WTH?  That’s just unfair.

Oh well … it did promote camaraderie, and team bonding, which is good.  Hopefully, it also encouraged others to be a little more healthy, or at least physically active.

How Did I Get That Many Miles In?

It’s end of July, and I decided to look at my Strava stats … Whoa. 782 miles in the month of July? I didn’t ride a really long day … I think the longest was 55 miles, but I guess if you do enough 50+ mile days, they will add up. I didn’t ride every day, but I did keep it consistent, so I think that may have had more of a factory.

I will say that having Tour de France coverage in the morning did prevent me from doing longer morning rides, but I guess as long as you keep doing them, it does count for a lot