Monthly Archives: March 2008

She’s here!

Baby Lauren

Lauren Grace Cooper

7 lbs 11 oz

Mom and Baby are doing great. I’ll post better pictures (not from my cell phone) next week. Thanks to everyone for their thoughts and prayers.

Off to have a baby!

stork

So I may no be posting for a few days since we are headed to the hospital in the morning to have our second child. Expect lots of pictures next week.

What a workout!

Cherry Pie Hill Workout

So Saturday my teammate Ed organized a training ride out in Palo Pinto. Six of us took on the challenge (5 Moritz riders and our mountain-bike-phenom buddy Matt). There are two races in Mineral Wells/Palo Pinto in a couple of weeks, so this was a great opportunity to train and pre-ride some of the course.

If you know Ed, you know he trains HARD. So we had no doubt this ride would be epic. Here was the plan:

  • Meet Ed at a small B&B on Lake Palo Pinto (where he and his wife had stayed the night before).
  • Ride 11 hilly miles to the base of Cherry Pie Hill.
  • Do 3 sets of 3 hill repeats up Cherry Pie Hill (that’s 9 times up CP Hill!)
  • Then ride the first half of the race course, taking a short-cut back to our cars.

For those of you not familar with Cherry Pie Hill, it is the longest climb in North Texas – about 1.5 miles @ 6%-8% (it’s 350 ft. vertical). So the thought of doing 9 hill repeats up CP Hill was a little daunting. So how did it turn out?

  • just over 72 miles in 4 hours
  • over 5,800 ft. of climbing
  • “The Big Ring Challenge” on the 9th and final climb up Cherry Pie Hill we all agreed to stay in our big chain ring or suffer humiliation – everyone made it
  • some tempo work into a nasty headwind on the way home

Overall a great ride. Let’s hope the hard work turns into some W’s for Moritz in April!

New website, kind of like having a baby

PAyDayOne.com

So last night we launched a re-design of the PayDay One website (as a reminder PayDay One is a subsidiary of ThinkCash - PayDay One is our payday loan service and ThinkCash provides installment loans for emergency cash needs). This is the 7th time in my career that I have been part of a new website launch or re-design. In the past I have compared it to the birth of a child.

When I joined Blockbuster in 2003 I was basically the first external hire for the online team and brought in to help launch the business and run marketing. It took us 9 months to launch the website/service. I sent out a “friends & family” email for our beta launch asking people to try the service and give me their honest feedback. The subject line of my email was “Ben’s Baby” and I basically described in the email that I had poured my heart and soul into the business over the prior 9 months and felt like a parent – both proud and scared to let my “baby” out into the real world. Little did I realize that Jess and I would find out the next week that we were pregnant with Grant.

Now we have just launched a re-design of PayDay One after almost 9 months of work (from concepting, to design, coding, QA, etc.). I’m really pleased with the way it turned out and I think it really reflects the personality of the brand. The team has worked very hard on this for months and they deserve kudos.

You’ll notice that we prominently feature customer testimonials on the website. We spent a day shooting the testimonials and spent a lot of time with about 10+ customers. It is always nice to talk to our customers and hear their real world stories about how we had a positive impact on their lives and helped them with their emergency cash situations.  We work in an industry that gets a lot of negative publicity (some of it very deserving with the way our competitors operate) and to be honest, all the negative perceptions can really take-a-toll on you as an employee. So it is always fulfilling to talk with the customers that we help and have them literally thank us for helping them. I’ve tried to avoid “getting on my soap box” to defend our industry, but if you would like to become more educated on the industry, Kevin D has some great posts here, here, and here. I’m just really proud of the work we do and now I’m also proud of the website that is our “face” to the consumer . . . and as a side note, we’re having another baby in 10 days!

Happy Birthday Grant

Grant

Today my special-little-guy turns 3. Time really does fly by. Jess and I often talk about the fact that we can’t remember what our lives were like before he came along. We truly are blessed to have an amazing, smart, funny, healthy and happy kid. We can only hope that baby #2 is just like her Big Brother.

Jesuit Ranger Round-Up Race Report

Jesuit Ranger Round-Up B Race

Moritz Chevrolet Cycling had another great weekend. On Sunday we attended the Jesuit Ranger Round-Up in Celina. The race is a fundraiser for the Texas High School Cycling League and one of the few road races in the DFW area (most of the RR in Texas are near Austin).

Our top results:

A Race – 2nd place (great work Justin)

B Race – 1st (Thomas) and 4th (Brian)

I raced in the B race (Cat 4/5 race of 75 riders) with Brian, Thomas and Camilo. We discussed during our warm-up that Thomas would try to go on an early break while the other members of the team would block. If the break didn’t stick, we would then work togther to protect Brian for the sprint (Brian is the closest thing we have to Tom Boonen). Our plans worked pretty good because we accomplished both goals!
 
On the second lap of the race (the race was 5 laps of a 9 mile loop) Thomas went on a 3 man break with about 30 miles to go. Camillo and I controlled the race by setting a false tempo and chasing down any breaks that tried to form and bring back the breakaway.  I basically spent just over an hour at the front of the pack in the wind. We eventually convinced some of the Plano Athletic Cycling guys to help us at the front since they also had a man in the break. I think the pack was very confused because you rarely see teams “block” for a man up-the-road in a Cat 4 or 5 race.
Thomas of course did the most amazing job of all keeping such a high pace for such an extended period of time and pushing himself to the limit to out-sprint his two breakaway mates at the line. Once we knew that the break was clear and going to make it – Camillo and I banded together to help lead Brian out for the sprint. Brian delivered and took the field sprint for 4th.

It was a great feeling to really work as a “team” and I think in a strange way it gave me even more motivation than I’ve had for some of my individual goals. The whole time we were blocking I just kept thinking “we need to give Thomas a chance”. I know it gave me a little boost because the hour I was blocking I set a new high for my 60 minute normalized power – 270 watts (not the most impressive FTP, but not bad considering I’m only 67 kg). This is higher than what I’ve been using as my FTP in training, so I actually increased the FTP in my Cycling Peaks software.

In the Pro/1/2/3 A race Justin and Danny worked well together to put Justin in position for 2nd.  Danny went on the attack 5 laps in and got a small break formed. When the break was caught Justin counter-attacked with another group of 10-12 riders that worked well together to hold the pack off.  Justin missed the win by inches (not bad since he’s coming back from a pretty bad hip injury).

So this makes two weekends in a row where we have had a guy go on a three man break (Scott last week at Lago Vista and Thomas this weekend), have his teammates successfully block (Ed and Danny for Scott last weekend – Camillo, Brian and I this weekend) and then out-sprint his breakaway companions for the win.

Baby #2 is coming in a couple weeks. Therefore, I’m not racing the next couple of weekends. I will still be training hard though for the Mineral Wells races the first weekend in April (Grandma is nice enough to come stay with the family while Daddy goes racing).

The Best NES Game Ever!

So a couple weeks ago at ThinkCash the topic of Nintendo games came up, which sparked a heated debate. That’s right, when we aren’t trying to figure out ways to help customers with installment loans for their emergency cash needs we debate if Contra was better than Metroid. I proclaimed that the greatest NES game ever was Mike Tyson’s Punchout. The debate then became the best Punch Out character: King Hippo, Bald bull, Soda Popinski , etc.

My vote – Super Macho Man. I consider myself an authority on Punch Out since I spent the better part of 1987 mastering the game.

Mike Tysonmike tysonmike tyson

Watching the commercial above brought back a lot of good memories – drinking Jolt Cola and eating Domino’s Pizza with my buds while playing Mike Tyson (and wearing a Coca-Cola rugby shirt, Chuck Taylor’s and a Swatch watch). I’m definitely a child of the 80′s.

Lago Vista Race Report

Photo courtesy of nathanscottphoto.com

 Mortiz Chevrolet Cycling had a great weekend in Lago Vista racing La Primavera I&II. Here’s the breakdown:

Saturday

1st, 13th and 17th in the Cat 3 race.

3rd and 16th in the Cat 4 race.

1st and 17th in the Men’s 45+ race.

Sunday

4th in the Cat 3 race.

12th and 13th in the Cat 4 race.

5th and 9th in the Men’s 45+ race.

Overall, a great weekend. Big props to Scott for his win in the Cat 3 race. Scott broke his arm in a crash at New Braunfels a month ago, but he didn’t let it slow down his training. His breakaway with two laps remaining in the race was pretty impressive.

Lago Vista Profile

As you can see from the profile above, the race was a 4 or 5 mile loop (depending on the day) with essentially a long gradual climb followed by a fast decent to a little power climb finish. The course suited me well and I did OK. Saturday I burned a few matches going on a couple breaks – almost got one to stick. Finished with the pack at 39th (we had 100 starters both days).

Sunday was a race of attrition. A stiff wind kicked up that was essentially a crosswind for most of the course. Brian and Thomas set a fast tempo to start the race and the speed never let up. We averaged 23 mph over the 40 miles on both days, but Sunday’s speed is much more impressive considering the wind. New teammate Camillo got 3rd on Saturday and is a good climber, so he and I decided to try to get something going with about 2 laps-to-go. I went off the front on the first climb of the second-to-last lap and opened up a pretty good gap. Camillo bridged up with another rider. However, the other rider was pretty baked, or not interested in working together because Camillo and I did all the pulling. After several rotations we realized we couldn’t hold off the field with just the two of us pulling, so Camillo and I sat-up to wait for the pack.

On the last lap Thomas did a great job of “escorting” me to the front of the field so I would be in good position for the finish. For the first time all weekend I had a pretty good line on the finishing climb and was able to sprint past a few guys for 12th. We started with 100 guys on Sunday, but only 50 finished and only 25 finished in the front group (other guys came in anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes behind). Like I said, with the wind, climbs and speed, it was definitely a race of attrition.

I definitely feel like I have a better “sense” of the race now and I’m learning to conserve my energy. I’m doing the Jesuit Ranger Round-Up race in Celina Sunday (it raises money for the North Texas High School Cycling League).  It is a Cat 4/5 race of 45 miles (rolling hills course). Most of the Moritz Cat 4s will be there, so hopefully we can do well. After this I’m taking a couple weekends off from racing to accomplish a few things:

  • Get some long training rides in (with lots of climbing) in preparation for the Minerals Wells races and Fort Davis.
  • Celebrate Grant’s birthday (hard to imagine he is 3).
  • Have a baby! That’s right - our baby girl is due on March 28th.

I would really like to get a good result before the baby comes, because I have a feeling my structured training days might be over for a while.

Snow? This is crazy

FW Snow 

So this weekend I was racing my bike in 70 degree temps. Yesterday I went for a ride after work and it was 70 degrees and sunny. Right now as I look out my office window (see pic above) it is snowing. They are predicting that we will get 2-4 inches of snow over the next 24 hours in Fort Worth. But guess what – Sunday it should be 70 degrees and sunny again (good thing because I have a race in Celina).

Best “color” by a commentator ever!

This commentator nailed it. Listen to the whole video, ” . . . this guy needs a hug”