American Flyers

And now for something completely different: a movie review!

I’m spending the weekend at the Metromint Zoo, a.k.a. teammate Niki Slaton’s house in Davis. She and her husband Jeff have three dogs and five cats, but more on that later. For now: movie! Jeff had obtained a copy of American Flyers, a drama from the 80’s about bike racing starring Kevin Costner and a bunch of people with long but less-than-stellar acting careers. And my spoiler review follows below.

The movie opens with some guy that, as far as my halfway autistic mind* is concerned, looks just like Emilio Estevez but apparently isn’t him. Anyway, not-Emilio-Estevez is riding his bike around wearing a cowboy hat and jeans on the streets of St Louis, along with some gratuitous splashing of huge water puddles that don’t make any sense, followed by a passage of office ‘cross as he very gallantly bunny hops up a curb and rides into a building getting off his bike and rolling into an elevator on its back wheel in a very fluid motion. Obviously it’s all accompanied with 80’s music.

In the next scene or so we see not-Emilio-Estevez announcing to his mom, whom he apparently still lives with, that some Marcus dude or other is coming over for dinner — something she is not pleased to hear. As not-Emilio-Estevez opens the door for Marcus (Kevin Costner with a douchey mustache**) my first guess was that Marcus was not-Emilio-Estevez’ boyfriend. No? Ok, father? No, brother, Niki and Jeff corrected me. And pointed out that this was the 80’s and we wouldn’t be seeing any gay couples in Kevin Costner movies from the 80’s. Hmpf. Fine.

Then some not-so-important things happen that relates to family history, but let’s not bother with that. There’s also some bonding happening between the two brothers over wheel truing, but the end result is that not-Emilio-Estevez comes with Kevin Costner to his home in Wisconsin and they talk a lot about bike racing. Not-Emilio-Estevez hasn’t raced (but he pretends he’s racing on 30-40 mile solo rides every day!) but is somehow quickly convinced that he’s going to try it out with Costner — who turns out to be a pro — at the stage race “Hell of the west”. Before they head out they manage to squeeze in a really awkward double date with Costner’s girlfriend Sarah and a really awkward Baby from Dirty Dancing that doesn’t do much for the plot except tie in a little bit more of the family history that I said I wasn’t going to bother with, so screw that.

Then it appears like the training for the race is performed during a week or so long drive from Wisconsin to Colorado, where the race takes place. Sarah drives while we hear a lot of 80’s music, the brothers look kinda like this:

Kevin Costner and not-Emilio-Estevez

On the way they pick up some really annoying hitchhiking chick that pretends to be a hippie so that not-Emilio-Estevez will eventually have someone to bang, too. They also encounter some arch nemesis along the way — the former teammate of Kevin Costner (on the 7-11 team, no less!) and, as it turns out, Kevin Costner girlfriend Sarah’s ex husband. But that moves into drama land again, and I’m mostly interested in bike racing. Screw the sentimental stuff.

Somehow the quartet reaches Colorado and not-Emilio-Estevez is about to enter his very first bike race. Along with the pros. Because that makes total sense. Yes. They have teams like USA, Soviet Union, and 7-11. Sure, mix and match. The Soviet Union team was the best, because their leader Sergey mostly looks like a wrestler. Unfortunately I didn’t find a full body shot of him, but here’s a head shot at least:

Sergey the Soviet Union dude

The Soviet Union dudes also get to wear the special helmets pictured above. All the rest of them were “helmets” as pictured below, where Kevin Costner wins the first stage beating his arch nemesis in the 7-11 kit (enter exciting 80’s music!):

Dinky "helmets"

Somehow, Niki was more concerned about the complete lack of sunglasses in the movie than the lack of helmets. But she has a point, it’s important to protect your eyes.

Oh yeah, and not-Emilio-Estevez having just entered his first race ever beats a shitload of guys which is good because only the top 48 guys get to continue to stage 2 — guess what, not-Emilio-Estevez placed 48 for maximized drama.

In between stage 1 and 2 not-Emilio-Estevez finally gets laid which is disturbing not only because the chick they picked up is really annoying, but also because the gratuitous flag waving culminates as they are having sex to the American national anthem. Now isn’t that hot.

I guess that worked for not-Emilio-Estevez though because the following day he attacks and has a successful breakaway while the arch nemesis is just getting more and more pissed, and we get some more shots of the wrestler-cum-bike-racer Sergey who really looks quite uncomfortable on a bike. The race leaders keep being in front pulling all day long, since the general public probably doesn’t understand drafting and wouldn’t get that they were the race leaders unless they were in front. The exciting 80’s music culminates as Kevin Costner has Issues and nearly dies but that’s part of the family drama I said I’d ignore. Suffice to say, after some incredibly sappy scenes in a hotel (“No kissing!”, Jeff felt compelled to say, as that really seemed like what the two brothers were about to do, and that’s just gross) not-Emilio-Estevez decides to go on with the race and Costner starts wearing a wool sweater and a cowboy hat. This is probably around the time he started to think about Dances with Wolves.

The third and final stage involves a lot of hills which apparently doesn’t stop Sergey-the-wrestler from breaking away with not-Emilio-Estevez and the arch nemesis. But eventually he’s dropped for a third place while the arch nemesis and not-Emilio-Estevez battle it out HTC-Columbia style with the arch nemesis initially trying to push not-Emilio-Estevez off the road which is countered with an elbow punch in the stomach. After a sprint that seems to jump back and forth in time, not-Emilio-Estevez wins the third and final stage of his first bike race which also happens to be a pro race. Evelyn Stevens has nothing on this Cinderella story.

And then the movie ends with some more sappiness.

I give this movie four out of five possible rusty Suntour downtube shifters. Cheesy 80’s music good, some actual bike stuff good, bad acting funny, but the sappiness pulls it down a bit. I would watch it again, if I had three beers.

* I’m an engineer, ok? We suck at identifying people.

** Aren’t mustaches generally douchey?

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362 days until University!

This was one of those weekends.

One of those weekends of getting up at the crack of dawn to kick ass. One of those weekends to hang out with all the cool kids at Starbucks in a godforsaken place at six in the morning. One of those weekends of scrambling for edible burritos and using Starbucks as a grocery store.

Ok, I’m just going to give up on the pretentious shit right here because it really isn’t working, now is it? As soon as you admit to using Starbucks as a grocery store you have revealed yourself as a silly 20-something (ha! at least for a few days more!) with a cushy job and decent hotels for a bike racing weekend where you get your ass kicked by people who actually know what they’re doing while spending way less money doing so, and while you may feel that your weekend was epic, you’re really just an office rat on a little field trip.

Anyway. It’s not like we had anything better to do for the weekend, so Mark and I packed ourselves into the Surfmobile on Friday night while Tina and Kaya packed themselves into the more adult style, nameless blue Subaru. Now, the Surfmobile is the perfect car. It has a rack that holds 4 bikes.  It has enough space for packing for four people. It has enough space for four people! It has an iPod outlet that goes through the tape machine. It says BRUMMMMMMMMbrumbrumcoughcough and it runs perfectly. Perfectly for a 17-year-old car, that is. According to the auto shop. Mark has the philosophy that the car should be shitty, the bikes should be cherished. I approve!

The Surfmobile took us from a leisurely Thai dinner in Mountain View (a.k.a. where I work) to King City surprisingly fast. We got there at pretty much the same time as Tina and Kaya, had time to clean and tune our bikes, and still go to bed early. Tina and Kaya were on a slacker schedule so Mark and I got up first and headed off for San Ardo. Well, via Starbucks of course. You can tell that I’m new to this bike racing thing though, because I was a bit surprised that Mark made coffee in the hotel room at 5:45 – weren’t we going to Starbucks a block away? Oh yes we were, but he needed pre-coffee coffee. Ok. Fine. I’m still learning!

Starbucks in King City was the place to be at 6 am, Saturday morning. I ran into several people I know and it was teeming with these critters called bike racers in general. Yeah bike racing!

We went on to San Ardo – a fairly uneventful drive featuring Rage Against the Machine and Mark mumbling “that’s the only time you’ll pass me today…” to other cars with bike racks passed the Surfmobile on the freeway. Shortly before our arrival I got a text from Tina – “I got your helmet”. What…? I initially brought my helmet in to the hotel room the previous night, and Tina pointed out that I didn’t really need it in the room. Good point, so I brought it back to the Surfmobile. In the morning, Mark pointed to a helmet and said “Is that yours?”, to which I obviously responded no, since I’d left it in the car. Turns out Mark had brought it in, without telling me. And didn’t really think about this at 5:45 in the morning, and thus my helmet stayed in the hotel room.

But that’s ok because this just helped me have an even more relaxed pre-race routine. Basically I just walk around wearing pants, eating sandwiches, and talking crap with everyone I know and then some before my races, while everyone else is busy not eating and warming up. This is my run-around-like-a-chicken-with-its-head-cut-off routine. I usually employ this so I won’t start my warmup too early, but usually it has the result of me missing my warmup completely. This time I could add to the mix an ever more relaxed air by responding “I don’t know” whenever anyone asked me when my race started. This was since it turned out I had the option of changing my 8:45 cat 3 race to the 8:30 1/2/3 race, but who knew if my helmet would arrive on time? I sure didn’t. I’m just hoping this relaxed pre-race routine of mine will intimidate people enough to lead me to a win eventually – I think it’s more likely to happen this way than through actual strength and skills!

Turns out my helmet did arrive on time, and thus it was time to HTFU. I changed my registration to the 1/2/3 race, and thus my first road race with the 1/2s. Of course, HTFU is relative. It was a flat race and the distance was the same for both options. I would suck either way, so I may as well suck with the 1/2s, right? And race with my teammate Ryan Hostetter! Yeah! She’s awesome, because she’s, like, actually thinking during races. And thus I can theoretically learn from her. If I listen. Which I did some of the time. Most of the race basically went like this: ride ride ride, things are fine, flats, going well, flats, whatever, it’s flat, ride, ride, does anyone know any good jokes, ride, ride. Fast forward to the end of the race: I guess I listened when she said I should gun it and TT for the last few hundred meters. I did that! She didn’t really specify whether it should be ahead or behind the pack… But, uh, I guess it was the latter.

So I got DFL. Or, looking at the bright side, I got first out of the cat 3s! Oh, I guess that should be singular. I got first out of… the cat 3! YEAH!

And on we went to Santa Cruz via burritos, minus Tina, who went home to go do some track thing or other instead. Saturday evening was fairly uneventful as appropriate during a bike racing weekend – nap, coffee, food, HOT TUB! (ok, that was a highlight), sleep.

After a solid 9 hours of sleep we got up on time for Mark’s race. Well, I did, at least. Mark and Kaya had already been awake for quite some time but that’s not my problem. Expect for at the point where Mark tried to make coffee in the hotel room I guess, upon which I asked him to go back to snoring instead. He failed at making coffee anyway and I went back to sleep. Then Mark stopped by Starbucks on the way to the university (and University Road Race, if that hadn’t been apparent until now!) so I could get a grocery bag with Almost Real Food. I never go to Starbucks outside of bike races, but during bike racing weekends… it’s awesome. They have great yogurt with granola and berries, bagels, bananas, croissants… they’re all edible. Yay edible!

Since my race didn’t start until two hours after Mark’s I spent a lot of time running around the parking lot being worried about food. Yeah, I’m hungry like that. Teammate Rae and I spun around for a bit too, talking strategy. The race goes like this: UP UP UP UP UP down down down down down UP UP UP UP UP down down down down down. Basically it’s just vo2max intervals for 14 laps and all you can do is to hang on for dear life while other people get shed. That seemed simple enough, although I had to ask for clarification on the finish: with our superior strategy, clearly it would be me and Rae left at the end, so then what would we do? “We’ll sprint it out”, she said. I had to concede to that even though I felt a bit cheated, given how badly I sprint.

But then she went and changed her mind on me just before the race. “I have a new plan! Scratch the first one! Let’s just do all the stupid shit we can, and then we’ll write awesome race reports!” Sounds good to me! Except I might be out of quota on race reports…? I think I’ve written like half of the ones on our team site in the last couple of months. Also, what kind of stupid shit can I possibly do in a race like this…? I was just wondering for what fraction of the first lap I’d be able to hang on. And then I’d do the remaining 13.something on my own – how can that become good race report fodder?

Oh well. RACE! It started great, I hung on for the initial ascent. Then we got to the descent, where I also hung on (well, I better, don’t I?). Then I hung on again, and it was all going pretty well for three whole laps! On an attack I was dropped, but I’d hung on for longer than I had expected and we’d already shed some people before the attacking commenced while I hung on. I rode around the rest of the course mostly solo while alternately heckling/cheering on the men’s 4/5 race that was going on simultaneously to ours. I also managed to be subjected to a matchmaking attempt at some point — that never happened in the cat 4 races! The best I ever heard there was when someone told us about her pirate boyfriend during Berkeley Hills, but then it turned out that we misheard and he was actually a pilot, and the whole pack was disappointed.

Anyway, back to racing — I rode around for a whole bunch of laps, got lapped a few people, then I was told I had one lap to go. Sweet! I had found a sekrit trick! Instead of doing 14 laps, I only had to do 13, since I was lapped! So I kept going and as I rode up the hill the last time, I saw Rae approaching from behind. She’d said we’d battle it out in a sprint, right? So I sped up and crossed the finish line well before her! Never mind that she was a lap up on me, I don’t think that mattered at this point.

End result? 7th from last! That’s good enough for me!

Oh, I forgot to check what that was from the front, so I didn’t see that until today when the results came up online. 16th. Good enough for me!

I don’t know what sick mind thought up this course, but I can’t wait until next year!

362 days to go.

I think I have a crush on University Road Race.

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Things I cook

Eating is important. So I made meatballs:

Meatballs

No, I did not buy those meatballs at IKEA. I just wrote I made them. I did, however, buy the lingonberries that you can see in the lower right corner at IKEA. And of course, the silverware (Dragon*) and the plate (365+**).

I also made some stuff that Swedes thought was Indian food in the 80’s:

Swedish "Indian" food

That’s shrimp, bell peppers, onion, mushrooms, cream, canned tomatoes, brandy, paprika powder and “svennecurry”. Svennecurry is just plain curry powder, but after realizing that curry powder is not something that all Indian dishes consist of, the next step for a Swede is to assume that it’s one of these fantastic Swedish inventions and will thus prefix it with “svenne”, which is the Swedish equivalent of Joe Schmoe.

* That means “tarragon”. It has nothing to do with fire breathing monsters.

** That means “365+”.

Posted in I'm Swedish, I eat shit like this, IKEA | 1 Comment

Disappointments and what follows

Disappointments in life:

  • You find out your significant other is cheating on you with the assistant
  • You get fired after your boss finds out who’s been stealing all those paper clips
  • Dunnigan Hills without wind

Only one of these has happened to me, but… really?! No wind?! Since I had decided not to HTFU and do the cat 3 race at Dunnigan, my race can be summarized as follows (and I’m going to use the quote function on WordPress):

We rode around being bored for 43 miles, then there was a sprint finish.

Yup, that’s how exciting it was, my race report can be summarized in a single quote. That race really, really sucks without wind. I attacked all I could, but when you have 19 people from approximately 19 teams (it might have been 20 teams, I didn’t count) every single one of them is going to want to be in every break attempt so I guess on some level we were all in a break together. Every single one of us. There just wasn’t a pack behind us. And there was no wind or hills to make it hard. Sucks.

Fortunately awesomeness followed to make up for the sucky race. The rest of the day was spent floating down some river or other drinking PBR and some pink stuff served from a bucket kept afloat by a fish shaped floating ring and observing some of the, ahem, shall we say “less accomplished” specimens of Americans. After climbing out of the river and spending some time being lost on a bike path, we embarked on a trip to a local establishment where pizzas were procured. Entertainment was provided in the form of Sacramento locals singing karaoke, although this gentleman also decided to give it a go along with Phil Mooney.

All in all it was a pretty good day, despite Dunnigan betraying me.

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Slacker!

Apparently it’s been several weeks since I last wrote a blog post! In case anyone is still reading my blog, I can announce that I don’t have much in the way of an excuse for not writing except that I had nothing to write about, but it’s not like that usually stops me. A few things have happened since last. For example, I got my lovely Nexus phone back after using my old silly brick phone since April when my Nexus screen cracked. This means I can now take much better photos! And this blog post will be appropriately decorated by “much better photos” (really people, I’m just talking about image resolution, they aren’t going to be any more interesting – you have to go to someone else’s blog for that).

With the phone repaired and returned, I’m hoping that I have now finalized my experiments in material strength, and thus I will summarize the experiments and the results here:

Object Material Test Height of drop Outcome
Phone: Nexus One Plastic, glass, little gnomes switching circuits Drop purse with phone inside, post-race at Cat’s Hill 50 cm Touchscreen cracked. Unusable.
French press: Bodum Plastic, glass, metal Fall from dish rack onto counter 20 cm Coffee pours from both ends.
Glass: Skir, from IKEA Glass. Duh. Fall from dish rack onto counter 20 cm Well… Skir means “fragile” in Swedish, and IKEA would never lie.
French press: Bodum, Starbucks-branded Plastic, glass, metal Fall from table 1 meter Still makes delicious coffee

Conclusion:

  • Glass is like cats, and fares better the higher you drop it from.
  • If I hadn’t won the coffee prime with a French press in it at the Wente crit earlier this year, I might have had an uncomfortable gap in coffee consumption at home, so I must keep doing this crit regardless of how many crashes there are.

And on to the photographic documentation of what I’ve been doing. I’ve been working. These are some of the things I’ve done for work this week:

Decorating the space above our tech lead's desk

Having coffee in the sun with visiting co-worker Karolina

Taking co-worker Quazi out for drinks before he leaves us for grad school

Of course, I didn’t take any photos of when I spent trying to run tests that weren’t working, and when I was reviewing heaps of patent applications, but I can assure you that it looked just as festive as in the last photo.

I have also been eating. I do this a lot, by the way. I’ve been eating this:

Yum!

This is a meal that wouldn’t be possible (or at least not as good, or reasonably priced) without IKEA, where I acquired the shrimp and the caviar. Yum! I’m Swedish, I eat shit like this. (This, btw, is a good example of my photography skills not having improved one bit – just my camera. I really can’t do food photography.)

I also rode my bike for a bit. I did another time trial (Beat the clock, the practice time trials on Cañada Rd) that went a lot better than the previous one. Let’s just say I missed my start and still beat Christine Thorburn. This is completely true, but I won’t elaborate on that, because it will only go downhill from there.

I raced Patterson Pass, which was awesome and I wrote a race report. After the race I paid my first visit to a McDonald’s since I moved to the US three years ago, when my carpool buddies Rae and Mike wanted to get some post-race food after having left their post-race sandwiches at home. I ordered a Sundae and learned that it is really good when drenched in salt! Who knew! (Actually, Molly knew, as it turns out.)

I’ve also spent some time being excited about Dunnigan Hills which is happening tomorrow! I really like the Velo Promo road-races-in-the-middle-of-nowhere season! Dunnigan Hills was the first race where I got a top 10 in a race with more than 10 people in it, so I have a soft spot for it. And with that, I will retire to my sleeping quarters, as I have a date with three hot cyclists at 5 am in the morning.

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Time trials are better when Cancellara is doing them

Since one can’t keep claiming that one has 3.06 % fast twitch muscle and not enter any time trials, and since there were no other races last weekend, I somehow got up at 6 last Sunday and dragged my ass over to the 680 for my first individual time trial outside of a stage race, or my third ever.

I had prepared by slapping a pair of clip-on aerobars onto my new road bike without paying much attention to fit, watching this video of Cancellara from last year’s Tour de Suisse a few times, and going to the track with my team the previous day where people tried to make me sprint (unsuccessfully) and eat delicious barbecued food (successfully!). I had also borrowed a trispoke wheel from my coach (thanks Sean!), but as it turns out, this wheel is cursed. Every time I borrow it, the race course turns out to be so insanely windy that I would be blown off the the road if I tried, so I haven’t actually used it yet.

And with that, I will give you the forecast for Cañada on Saturday: I am expecting 18 mph winds with 40 mph gusts.

I’m not going to write a race report. It was a goddamn time trial. I rode my bike alone for a while, I turned around, I rode it some more, and it sucked. Done.

Time trials are better when Cancellara is doing them.

Aside from that, le Tour de France is le over, and I’m having le rest week, so there’s really not much going on — just me climbing on the walls, except not in a good way. Maybe this will result in me writing really long posts about the metaphorical paint drying on my metaphorical walls, or race reports about time trials, or maybe I’ll just find out what normal people do with all their time and try that out.

Maybe I should tag all my posts written during rest weeks so that they can be avoided.

Posted in Racing, Rest weeks | 1 Comment

Baby squirrels!

Nils and I came across these baby squirrels as we were walking to lunch today. It doesn’t get any cuter than this!

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