Monthly Archives: May 2008

Mellow Johnny’s

Mellow Johnny's T-Shirt

Kevin was in Austin this week and picked up a T-shirt for me at Mellow Johnny’s. Mellow Johnny’s is Lance Armstrong’s new bike shop in Austin. It’s named for the nickname Armstrong earned while wearing the Tour de France leader’s “maillot jaune,” or yellow jersey.

Mellow Johnny's Austin

 It’s on Nueces next to La Zona Rosa. It is also a block north of the Lance Armstrong Bikeway, a path that will cut east-west through downtown Austin.

Everyone I know that has been just raves about this shop.

Mellow Johnny's Inside

It’s been described as part bike shop, part cafe, part commuter center, part training center and part museum. They carry Trek (as you would expect), but also have  Swobo, DeRosa, Eddie Merckx, Pinarello, Seven, Crumpton and Gary Fisher. I know that Tim is also proud of the fact that Mellow Johnny’s carries Masi bikes as well (get well soon Tim).

Juan Pelota Cafe inside Mellow Johnny's

I had the pleasure of riding with Bart Knaggs (one of the owners of Mellow Johnny’s) at the Cycle for Science ride last year. Bart’s a good guy and I wish them luck with the new shop, but with the team they have running this place I can’t see them not killing it and becoming a major fixture of the Austin cycling scene. I will definitely check the place out the next time I’m in Austin.

Memorial Weekend Race Report – We beat the train!

Grant at the Stockyards

Memorial Weekend is a hotbed for racing in DFW with 3 crits races in the area. Last year I did all 3 races as a Cat 5 (in an effort to get my 10 races and Cat-up). This year my plan was to race on Saturday at the Glickman in Dallas and Monday for the State Championship here in Fort Worth. Moritz is also one of the organizers of the State Championship, so I planned on working the event for a couple hours as well.

Saturday’s course was a technical crit with a 1/3 mile+ downhill, followed by a 180 degree turn and then a 1/3 mile+ climb to the finish line. I didn’t have any real goals for the race since I haven’t been training since my crash (I’ve been riding a lot, but haven’t done any intervals or real intensity work). Unfortunately, on the 2nd or 3rd lap I got caught behind a crash at the bottom of the hill (on the 180). So I spent the next lap or so chasing the pack. I eventually caught them at the top of the hill, only to lose them in the technical section and downhill, then I would catch back on just as we crested the hill. After a few laps of this my legs started cramping and I pulled out. It’s not in my nature to quit and I could have “time trialed” it solo for the next 30 minutes, but something just didn’t feel right. Pulling out might have been the right move since there were two crashed on the last lap (one on the downhill and one at the finish). Two of my teammates were in the crash on the downhill. One teammate went down pretty hard and has some serious road rash, but the more “painful” part for him is that he broke his frame. Crashing sucks, but it really sucks when you know it costs you thousands of dollars in damage.

Sunday I left early for a long ride with Anthony. Planned on doing a nice 4 hour endurance ride. About 10 miles in I was pseduo-trackstanding at a stop light when I fell over (first time in over a year) and bent my deraileur hanger (to the point that I can’t shift into any of my lower gears). So we rode back to my house and I picked up my cyclocross bike. Between my performance on Saturday, a stupid mistake on Sunday and the culmulative effect of having a newborn (two months of crazy sleep schedules, feedings, etc.) it was starting to feel like a pretty crappy Memorial Weekend.

So with my bike out of commission, I was out for Monday’s race. I also decided that I couldn’t leave Jess alone with both kids again (to go help work the event), but I was able to convince Grant to come with me for a bike ride. Getting Grant to ride with me takes a lot of pleading (he never wants to come initially), but when he does come, we always have a great time. When Grant and I ride, we do two things:

1. Look for bats under bridges. After seeing a TV show about the Congress Ave. Bridge in Austin, Grant is convinced there are bats under every bridge.

2. We chase the train. The area we live in (Near TCU and Colonial) has lots of train tracks, many of them running parralel to the Trinity Trail. There is also a small train that runs through Trinity Park near the zoo. Whenever we hear a whistle, we pretend to “catch the train”.

I figured we would be lucky to ride for an hour or so before Grant got bored. We headed to the Stockyards and saw the cows and rode down Exchange Ave. Then we headed NW on the Trinity Trail towards Carswell Airforce Base. This part of the trail is mostly flat, and crushed granite,  running along the top of the levee –  a perfect surface for a cyclocross bike pulling 50lbs+ of trailer and kiddo.

We started to head back towards our house and were just coming out of Trinity Park when we heard it – the train whistle. Then we saw it – the Forest Park Miniature Train. Instantly Grant shouted, “Daddy! The train! Hurry, let’s catch it!” I didn’t have my PowerTap on my cross bike, but I’m guessing I was putting our 500 watts for the next minute and broke all previous efforts. We caught up to the train and rode beside it for a short distance. The people on the train (literally just a few feet away) started waving at us. I looked back at Grant and he was in awe. I told him to wave back and he instantly got this huge smile on his face and started waving like crazy to the folks on the train. He was like a little rockstar for 10 seconds. Then I asked him, “Do you want to beat the train?”

“Yes Daddy. Let’s go FAST!”

Trinity Park Train

So I pegged it and managed to get us to the bridge for the train in time to snap the picture above. Grant was so excited to finally “catch the train”. I realized we had been out for almost 2.5 hours, so I started to head home. Grant actually started crying because he wanted to keep riding. However, it was getting very hot and I knew we should get back. Luckily, when we pulled up to the house we saw my Sister’s van. The Rosslers had stopped for a visit. This instantly dried Grant’s tears since he adores his cousins Hannah and Jack.

They played outside for a few hours and had a great time.

What could have been a crappy weekend turned into a great weekend. The 3 hours Grant and I spent on the bike was probably the most fun I’ve had on the bike in a long time. Made me realize that it’s time to change up my training/racing for a while. I’m not having fun on the road right now (plus all the races that suit my abilitities have already passed) so I’m going to do one of three things:

  1. Start doing some time trialing. Maybe in time for the State Championships in Aug., but definitley in time for the Texas Time Trials in Sept.
  2. Focus on cyclocross skills and really get ready for cross season in the fall
  3. Get a mountainbike and do some MTB racing

It has kind of come full circle. I got into road racing because I didn’t get into the lottery for the Leadville 100 in 2007. I’m the type of person that needs some physical/athletic goal, so when I didn’t get into Leadville, I decided to try my hand at road racing. Now that I have raced on the road for a year, I’m a little burned out and I feel myself drawn to the dirt again (cross or MTB). However, MTB racing or time trials would require a new bike purchase . . . so we’ll see

Goodbye Corley- the Hoff is back

Hasselhoff

So today was Corley’s last day (our intern). We sent her off in style with a little gift from “The Hoff” (he and Corley have a history). Since Corley is moving to Dallas we decided to give her a box full of $1 bills – fitting since ThinkCash is the leader in emergency cash. Hopefully she will use the money wisely – buying new furniture for her apartment or business books to further her professional education – not spending it on men with lots of chest hair and a perm.

Rickrolling

If you don’t know what a “Rickroll” is you can learn more at Wikipedia.

So now you get it. Rickrolling is a prank  involving the music video for the 1987 Rick Astley song “Never Gonna Give You Up” . It’s a classic bait and switch: a person provides a weblink they claim is relevant to the topic at hand, but the link actually takes the user to the Astley video. A person who falls for the prank is said to have been “Rickroll’d”. People have taken Rickrolling to the next level by playing pranks in public. These pranks normally involve playing the Rick Astley song in a public place (normally causing a disruption). However, the video above takes it to a new level. An Eastern Washington women’s basketball game was the victim of this massive-orchestrated Rickroll.

It’s funny, but everytime I get Rickrolled I laugh. I don’t know if it is the obsurdity of the music video (come on – a denim shirt with jeans) or the simple surprise of it. We’ve played some good pranks at ThinkCash, but no Rickroll yet . . .

Pay your employees to quit

zappos.com

I’ve written about Zappos.com before. The company’s customer service has become legendary. Building the type of culture that can support great customer service isn’t easy. Developing the right corporate culture and hiring the right team members is one of the biggest issues we face at ThinkCash. There is a great story by Bill Taylor outlining one of the methods Zappos uses – they pay new employees to quit.

After a very demanding 1-week training period, Zappos offers new hires a $1,000 bonus to quit. Approximately 10% of new hires take the bonus, but the $1,000 is small investment to “weed out” the new hires that have the level of commitment necessary to succeed. I love companies that are willing to do smart things that seemingly fly in face of convention.

4:30 Century Ride

Texas Motor Speedway

Saturday I rode in the Cross Timbers Classic. I did this century (100 mile) ride last year and really enjoyed it. The event is very well organized and it starts/stops at the Texas Motor Speedway (including a lap around the track at the start). My goal was to ride solo all day (purposefully not ride in any groups/pacelines) and really treat it as a fast training ride. My goal was to finish in less than 5 hours.  Last year I finished in just over 5 hours – with an average speed of 19.2 mph.

The weather was perfect on Saturday and I was just fine with no gloves or arm-warmers for the 7:30 a.m. start. I rode a few bike lengths behind the lead group for the first 20 miles or so (trying to stay in the wind). Then there was some confusion at the point where the 100 mile and 100K courses separated. A couple other guys made the 100 mile turn with me and I ended up pulling them for a while. One guy came up front to take a pull and I decided to scrap my “totally solo” plan and just let the ride play out.

It basically ended up being myself and two other guys for most of the way. As we got back to the speedway the route does a few laps (5 miles) around the speedway. We picked up several of the 100K riders at this point and no one wanted to pull. So I pulled for a couple laps and then drilled it on the last lap and was the first 100 mile finisher. I finished in 4:30 (22 mph average). For fellow power training geeks, my normalized power for the ride was 227 watts – which translates into 341 TSS for me (so a solid workout).

One of the benefits of finishing so quickly is that I was home before 1 p.m. to give Jess some relief and watch the kids for the afternoon.

Career Advice

Dwight Schrute

So last week we pranked our intern Corley pretty good. As I mentioned in that post, we will miss Corley, but we’re happy that she got a great opportunity with an agency in Dallas. I was thinking of some career advice for Corley (doesn’t seem like 10 years ago that I was in her shoes) and I came up with some good “rules” for any recent grad about to enter the Rat Race.

Your first job is not your destiny – Your first job is just that, the first of many jobs you will have in your life. If you decided you don’t like your job or career field, it’s never too late to change.

Attitude matters – People recognize co-workers with a positive attitude and those people tend to get promoted much faster.

Always learn new skills – Every opportunity you have to learn a new skill (from copywriting to managing paid search campaigns to coordinating a photo shoot) – do it. The more skills you learn, the more valuable you become.

Know your strengths and weaknesses -Know what you are good at, then do as many projects as you can that leverage those skills. Conversely, avoid projects in areas where you are weak and can become easily exposed. I’ll use another one of my cycling analogies here – if you weight 200+ lbs, you will never be a great climber, so avoid races with a mountain top finish.

Learn how to navigate the office – Every organization has a unique way of getting things done, the sooner you can figure this out, the better. For example, being nice to office managers/executive assistants can make your life much easier – they are often the gatekeepers.

Don’t be afraid to have fun – This is something that any intern will realize after working at ThinkCash. You can be professional and still have fun in the office. In fact, enjoying who you work is critical. You spend more time with your co-workers than your family in most cases, so life is too short to not like the folks you work with. I’ve been blessed to work with some great people at iChoose, JCPenney and Blockbuster – all of them made coming into work, not work.

Baby steps – Don’t get caught up with advancing too fast. Every ambitious person I know came out of college with defined career goals (i.e. I want to make $X and be a VP of X by the time I’m 28). If you follow the steps above and just work hard – the rest will take care of itself.

This last step might be the most difficult. As much as I love working in the “Internet industry”,  it does distort reality. I know lots of guys that have made millions before the age of 35 (some of them before the age of 25). We hear the Mark Cuban and Mark Zuckerberg stories so often, that every smart person that works in the industry starts to wonder why they haven’t achieved the same level of success. I know lots of very smart folks that change companies every 9 months trying to find a “homerun”. At the first sign that the company isn’t going to have a liquidity event, they move on to the next “homerun”. If everyone sets the career-success-barometer at “becoming a multimillionaire”, then we are going to have a lot of unhappy Gen X/Y r’s.

In short – enjoy what you do, work hard, have fun - life is too short to be unhappy.

Blockbuster Museum

Blockbuster sign of the times

I’m very familiar with Blockbuster. I was part of the team that launched Blockbuster Online and I ran marketing for that business for several years. Additionally, I worked at a Blockbuster store off-and-on through high school and college (I still know how to work the POS terminal), so this great faux news story by The Onion on a Blockbuster Museum is both hilarious and sad for me.

It is pretty astonishing how quickly the business model has become archaic. It makes me think of the old Chrysler spots featuring Lee Iaccoca where he says you either “lead, follow, or get out of the way.” However, with the speed-of-business in today’s world, you only have a split second to decide if you are going to lead or follow. The same is true in cycling. If someone jumps, you have less than a second to respond and try to follow their wheel (so you can ride in the protection of their slipstream) otherwise you are off the back and your race is over. Blockbuster’s race is over (the Circuit City merger would do little to help them compete in the “new world” of media consumption).

Larry Bird should never rap, Tony Romo should never sing

So there was a period of time in the late 80′s and early 90′s where every ad exec, TV writer, etc. thought it was a good idea to have non-rappers rap. Rapping is a skill, just like shooting 3 pointers and acting – not everyone can, or should, do it. This old Converse commercial is Exhibit A. This spot features some of the best players in the history of the NBA, but none of them can rap. I just can’t imagine a situation where a group of folks for Converse (and whatever agency they used) sat in a room reviewing the rough cuts of this spot and thought “Wow, this turned out really good.” But you could ask the same question about Jason Kidd and his questionable rap effort and hopefully the person that came up with the idea for Baseball Boogie is now in a Mexican jail.

On a related note, Tony Romo should never sing

Good for what ails ya

Grant and Lauren

Everyone has bad days. Whether something comes up at work, you get a flat tire, or you crash on your blke at 30 mph - everyone has days where they wished they never got out of bed. I have a trick for those dreaded days – a picture. It is always a picture of Grant. The picture changes from time to time (as Grant grows) but I always have the picture on my computer at work and on my phone. Looking at the picture always puts a smile on my face and makes me realize how lucky I am. Now that we have 2 kids, the picture has changed to the one above. I figure the “healing powers” of the picture should now be twice as strong ;)