Monthly Archives: August 2007

“Catting-Up”

txbra

So today I received what I have been working towards all Summer, I got my USCF upgrade to Category 4. You earn a Cat 4 upgrade by competing in at least 10, qualifying, mass-start races. From here on out my ability to move up in categories will be based soley on results. You need to earn a certain number of points in a 12 month period to move from 4 to 3 – and you earn points by placing well in large races.

The great thing about getting my upgrade today though was it enabled me to race in the “B” race in the last Tbi Wed. Night Crit of the Summer. You must be a Cat 4 or Cat 3 racer to compete in the B race, plus the B race is longer and faster than the C race I had been competing in. The B race also starts ~30 minutes later than the C race, so next season it will make it much easier for me to get to the race without having to leave work early.

This week’s race was also special for another reason.  One of TBi’s junior racers, Ivan Musaka, died tragically over the weekend. Ivan was only days away from starting his first semester at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, TX.  All proceeds from the race were going towards Ivan’s memorial fund. Several area racers also donated several hundred dollars to use as prize money in the races in order to generate more interest in the race. It worked and the B and A race had 35+ riders.

For the B race there was enough money that they decided to do a prime on every lap. My goal for the race was to simply finish with the pack and see how I measured-up; therefore, giving me a good gauge of what I need to work on for next season. My second objective was, in the slim chance, if I had an opportunity to get a prime, to go for it with the intention of donating the winnings back to Ivan’s fund.

The race started fast, but not a “break-neck” pace. I tried to always be in a rider’s slipstream in order to conserve energy. We averaged over 24 mph, but I felt good. On the 7th of 10 laps, I made a move to get towards the front of the pack and decided to go for it. I opened up a pretty good gap and it looked like no one was going to chase me. What I didn’t realize is Tammy, a strong women’s racer for Colonel’s/Lonestarworks and Joe from the Broken Film’s Team started to work together to chase me down. I heard Joe at the last second as we approached the line and I tried to shift to a bigger gear to sprint and my chain slipped, Joe beat me by a bike’s length.

At this point I was pretty spent, but managed to get back in the main pack as they came by. I recovered and was able to stay with the pack at the finish. I unofficially finished 13th out of 35 riders – not bad for my first B race. As I’ve said before, I will definitely need to work on my sprinting for next season.

Hotter n’ Hell – 63 miles comes down to 15 seconds

Dad and Grant Pre-HHH

So the beginning of my  HHH experience this year started slowly. Jess, Grant, Wrigley (the dog came too)and I weren’t able to get out of Fort Worth until 5 p.m. Therefore, we hit traffic and it took us about 3.5 hours for what is normally a 2 hour trip. We rolled into the hotel, unpacked and the next thing I know it was almost 11 p.m. I planned on getting up at 5 a.m. to eat and ride to the start line for 6:15 to 6:30 (the race was scheduled to start at 6:50 a.m.) . The picture above is Grant and I at 6 a.m. right before rolling out. Since I haven’t joined a team yet, I wore my ThinkCash kit – which is a pretty good-looking kit (keep in mind I’m biased since I designed the jerseys).

There were 100 racers in the Cat 5 race and there were a couple teams with mutliple riders; however, team tactics rarely work in a Cat 5 race, so I didn’t expect any organized attacks. After a quick briefing by the race official, we rolled out shortly after 7 a.m. The pace started quick and we averaged 26-30 mph for the first 10 miles or so. We got a good tempo going and average 25 mph for the first 40 miles. There were only about 50 of us left in the lead pack and several riders were really suffering and would probably soon drop-off.  But right about that time a break-away from the 45+ race (we had earlier caught and passed the 45+ field) came up on us and the race officials had us go neutral for a couple miles (going neutral basically means you stop racing and just soft pedal for a while). This let everyone that was struggling recover, so I knew we were now looking at a large-pack, sprint finish.

The next 20 miles were into a 15-20 mph headwind, so no one was willing to attack and fight the wind alone. Finally with about 4 miles left we turned out of the wind and really picked up the pace to 30 – 35 mph and basically shed all the remaining struggling riders. There were now about 35 of us in the lead pack with a couple miles to go. My legs felt good and I decided to make a move to get in the front of the pack; however, when I went my legs felt really strong and I decided to go for it – I could see the final overpass into town ahead. I’m a decent climber for my category so I though if I could get a small gap and maintain it until the overpass, no one would catch me on the climb and then it is downhill with a couple turns downtown to the finish. I shot passed the lead riders and opened up a gap of maybe 50 meters or so. No one had made a strong move all day, so everyone in the pack got very vocal as I shot passed and started to chase me down. The front group did get organized and managed to catch me just as we reached the overpass. I didn’t have much gas left in the tank, but I managed to get back in the pack as we rolled into town. My legs had no juice left, so I was a non-factor on the last couple of corners and the sprint to the finish, as a result, I finished 29th – 15 seconds behind the winner. That’s racing – 63+ miles of racing comes down to 15 seconds.

HHH finish

In hindsight, if I would waited and made my move just as we reached the overpass, I probably would have had a good shot at the win (or at least top 3). But considering this was my first road race (my other 9 races have all been criteriums), I’m OK with the results. Plus, Jess and Grant got to see me at a finish line for the first time. It was great – just as I crossed the finish line I could see the two of them on the left, cheering me on. I even got a “Go Daddy” from Grant.

Hotter 'n Hell Cat 5 Race Map

You can check out the race profile from my GPS unit here. We finished the 63+ mile course in 2:45, averaging just over 23 mph, so it was a pretty good pace for a Cat 5 race. I’m moving up to Category 4 this week, so this was my last Cat 5 race. That means next year I’ll be racing the full 100 miles . . . can’t wait!

Blame my parents for my food fussiness as a kid!

Yucky Food Face

The results of a very interesting study came out today, revealing that food fussiness in kids is probably hereditary. I was a notoriously picker eater as a kid – something that my family always gave me grief about. But you can’t blame them, how many Cajun kids from South Louisiana don’t eat any seafood? [Note: I’ve grown to love seafodd as I get older, I’m now a huge sushi fan.]

The study says that food preferences appear to be “as inheritable a physical characteristic as height,” and is actually a normal stage of human development. Scientists theorize that it was originally an evolutionary mechanism designed to protect children from accidentally eating dangerous things – like poisonous berries or mushrooms, etc.. The “fussiness” tends to kick in when kids are 2 or 3, newly mobile and capable of disappearing from their parents’ sight within seconds (which I can attest too having a 2.5 year-old). Being unwilling to eat new things they stumble upon may turn out to be a lifesaver for toddlers. The study also says that most kids grow out of the “fussiness” by age 5; however, I grew out of mine around age 18 😉

So this news is a double-edge-sword for me. On one hand I can use it as an excuse when my family still gives me grief for my past food fussiness; however, it also means that Jess is right when she blames me for Grant’s food fussiness.  I guess I can only hope that he really outgrows his by age 5 and not 18!

Hotter n’ Hell? Maybe . . . but not as hot as last year

HHH

So this weekend I will be riding in Hotter ‘n Hell.  The Hotter’N Hell Hundred is an annual bicycle ride in Wichita Falls, Texas. It is held each year on the 4th or 5th Saturday in August (always 9 days before Labor Day) and includes professional as well as amateur races and a rally.  For the rally riders, there are road routes of 100 miles, 100K, 50 miles, 25 miles, and 10K.  The race was first held in 1982 as part of the Wichita Falls Centennial Celebration, thus the description: one hundred miles (i.e., century) in one hundred degree Fahrenheit weather (the race is held in August, usually the hottest month of the year in Wichita Falls), to celebrate the city’s 100th anniversary. Approximately 10,000 to 12,000 riders participate each year, making the Hotter’N Hell Hundred the largest sanctioned century bicycle ride in the US.

Hotter 'n hell 

Last year I rode in HHH as my first century ride. Jess and I got a hotel room in Wichita Falls about 1 mile from the starting line, so I was able to ride my bike right to the start. Some years Mother Nature is nice and temps for HHH are in the high-80’s or low-90’s – not last year. Last year we had record heat (it got up to 108 degrees). I figured that I would finish the ride in 6 hours, 6.5 if I took my time at the rest stops. I saw some of my buddies from Panther City Bicycles at the start and decided to ride out with them. Unfortunately, the start of the rally for HHH is crazy, with 10,000 plus riders trying to get up-to-speed. So I decided to hammer away on my own and try to break free of the masses. The first bad omen for the ride was at mile 15 where a group of very fast moving riders came by me on the left, weaving-in-and-out of much slower riders. When they got about 50 feet ahead of me someone touched wheels and about 30 guys went down HARD. I had to swerve off the road in order to avoid joining the pile-up. At that point I decided that I would ride solo the whole way, instead of jumping in a paceline and working with riders that I didn’t know (or trust).

I was making good time and got to Hell’s Gate in 3 hours. Hell’s Gate is at mile 60 and is the time cut-off point. Normally, if you don’t make it to Hell’s Gate by 12:30, they won’t let you finish the 100 miles and instead send you on an alternate route that totals ~78 miles (this is done for safety reasons depending on the heat). Last year it was so hot that they closed Hell’s Gate at 10:45 (it was already 104 degrees by that point).

I hit mile 80 in just over 4 hours. I was tired, and hot, but energized by the thought of finishing in under 6 hours. Suddenly around mile 88 we started to hit some fairly large, rolling hills. This was odd because everyone I talked to that had done HHH said it was totally flat for the last 30 miles. Some of the hills got so steep that people were getting off their biles and walking up.  I hadn’t seen a rest area for 20 miles and was basically out of water. Finally I approaced a small rest area at mile 95. I decided not to stop and press on, heck, I’d be done in 5 miles and could drink and eat all I wanted to at that point. As I passed the rest area one of the workers yelled “20 miles to go”. 20 miles? It should be 5. So I turned around to find out what was going on. Long story short, some joker moved a bunch of the directional signs around, so myself and about 500 other riders that were out front had been sent 20 miles off course. We were basically in Oklahoma. But the worse part was this news from the rest area worker, “This isn’t a real rest area. We just threw this together when we found out where you guys were. We have no water or food here and there isn’t another rest area between here and the finish. We’ve called in SAG wagons to come take all of you back to the finish.”

There was no way that I was riding back into town in a SAG wagon. The workers tried to stop several of us from continuing for fear that we would get further lost, or heat stroke. Luckily the Joy, TX fire department came to our rescue and brought bottled water for those of us that wanted to continue. They also offered to hose us down with the firehose. Remember the joy you had running through your sprinkler as a kid, multiply that by 10, that’s how good the firehose felt. When it was all said and done, with the delays, with the event workers not letting us leave, etc. I finished in 7.5 hours and actually covered almost 120 miles.  My first century ride had almost become my first 200K ride (for the metric-challenged, 200K is 125 miles).

I rode back to the hotel and dragged my dehydrated, tired carcass into the lobby. The first sight I see is Jess running towards me with tears in her eyes, “What happenend? You said 6 hours, and then all these people started coming in the lobby that had been in a crash, then I hear that they hospitalized a bunch of people for heat stroke, I thought something had happened to you.”

Well, I survived what many people said was one of the toughest HHH’s ever. I promised that I would come back the following year and do better. Little did I know at the time that I would be coming back to compete in the Cat 5 USCF 100K race. This is the biggest Cat 5 race in the country (field size is 100, which is huge for a Cat 5 race) and is also one of the longest at 62.5 miles (most Cat 5 road races are around 40 miles).

This year Jess and Grant will be there to cheer me on and for the first time ever Jess should see one of my finishes (every other event Jess has attended, she’s missed seeing my finish, normally by a matter of seconds). But the heat shouldn’t be a factor for me this year. I should be done racing by 9:45 (62.5 miles at about 22 mph), so the heat shouldn’t the same factor for me like it was last year when I finished around 2 p.m. @ 108 degrees.

This will probably be my last race as a Cat 5 since this race will give me enough to move up to Cat 4. So I’m going to do everything I can to place well, since it might be a while bef0re I see the podium again.

UPDATE – AUG 2008: Read about my evolution as a cyclist . . . here

For all of your horse trailer and accessory needs . . . Circle M

Circle M Trailers Website

I posted previously about my sister’s family moving to Texas. The reason they move is that they bought a livestock and horse trailer business in Mabank, TX called Circle M Trailers. One of the first projects had on their “to-do” list was a new website, which they launched today. The site looks great and was actually designed by Tye Spain (one of the web designers that worked for me at JCPenney.com). The site has a clean, modern look without forgetting that purpose of the site is to sell trailers. Now I just need to help them set-up a Google AdWords campaign to make sure their new site gets the traffic it deserves.

ThinkCash TV


The past couple weeks have been pretty exciting for us at ThinkCash – as the results come in from our first round of national TV commercials. This has been a labor-of-love for several months now. Kevin D. and I actually wrote the scripts for the spots and worked with an amazing animation-house in Dallas called Reel FX to produce the spots. We developed 30-second, 60-second, and 2-minute spots for our campaign (the 60 is above).
I think the spots accurately portray how our product can help consumers, while also capturing the personality of our brand. I produced ~10 different commercials while I was with Blockbuster Online and I think this one tops all of them.

Bad things come in threes – UPDATE

So sometimes they come in fours . . . was rolling out for a group ride this morning and got my fourth flat in three days. On a positive note, my flat-changing skills right now are in top form.