Entrepreneurial Leadership and Management . . . and Other Stuff


Positive Spin for ALS Ride

Yesterday, I rode in the annual 50 mile Positive Spin for ALS ride in Massachusetts.  Like most charity rides, this one had a variety of cyclists participating.  Some strong and some, well . . . not so strong.  I generally fall somewhere in the middle.

As I’ve mentioned before, officially, charity rides are not “races.”  Most people riding in them participate to challenge themselves and raise money for a good cause.  While the latter reason is certainly a big part of why I do them, I also like the fact that a reasonable percentage of the people who show up are doing it to test themselves against other riders.  In this sense, they are races.  Needless to say, though, really good riders don’t show up for such amateur events.   Nevertheless, my goal was to finish among the top riders who did show up, which I succeeded in doing.

I was riding alone so I didn’t have a wind-breaking partner to draft.  Luckily, I was able to jump out with the lead group at the beginning of the ride and leech off of two strong riders who didn’t mind pulling me (aerodynamically)for long distances.  I lost my two protectors at mile 35, though, and had to cut my own path through the wind for the final 15.

I ended up averaging 18.2 mph which, while not my personal best for a 50 miler, is pretty good for me.  I also did it without any stops.  The best news is that while I certainly didn’t feel I could have done another 50 at that pace after the ride, I was able to go out with friends doing my usual over consumption of food and alcohol thing last night.  I guess the training is paying off.

 June 23rd, 2008  
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Cycling Crop Circles

Cycling-Club-Signs-10-3-2007 1-54-36 PM-Canon PowerShot SD600-0002In the suburbs around Boston, one frequently runs across strange symbols painted on the road.  Most of these are geometric shapes, arrows, directions and short descriptions to guide those responsible for fixing, destroying, burying or replacing parts of the local infrastructure.  Some of the road graffiti has a more subtle meaning, though – gently acting as a guiding hand for cyclists.

While these navigational beacons are hardly unique to the Boston area, we have more than our fair share of them around here.  They’re placed here by the boatload of cycling clubs in the area to mark predefined routes, race courses and cycling events.  Big rides, like the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge, even have permanent signs posted and maintained by the state. 

Each club has their own symbol, which is rotated when painted on the road so that it’s pointy side faces the direction that should be followed (check out the picture).  Usually, there is a symbol painted before the turn, one right at the turn and then another after the turn to confirm that the rider didn’t screw it up.  Since it’s often the only guidance that a rider will get, missing one of these signs can be costly, at best adding miles to the ride and, at worst, getting the rider hopelessly lost.

These signs are more than just a convenience.  You can imagine that it’s fairly difficult and dangerous to read a map while moving at 25mph and, since the roads around here meander without sense or purpose, stopping to figure out where you are every few miles, which exit you should take from a rotary or which direction you should go at the 12-way intersection gets a bit impractical and, obviously, takes a lot of fun out of the riding. 

So, if you find yourself tooling along some back road in your Chevy Suburban some day and see some alien looking symbols spray painted on the road, keep an eye out for the cyclists that are likely ahead.  You may also want to cut them a little slack since they may have just discovered they were following the symbol for the Department of Transportation instead of the one for their bike club.

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 October 4th, 2007  
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2007 Pan-Mass Challenge Weekend

This past weekend I rode in the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge, a two-day charity cycling event through Massachusetts with donations supporting the riders and benefiting the Jimmy Fund of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.  I covered the ride and the cause in an earlier post, so I won’t bore you with the details here.  What I will add, though, is that the weekend was a huge success.  5,100 riders, 2,500 volunteers, donations of food and services from dozens of companies and countless supporters along the routes of the ride.  The projected total contribution to Dana-Farber’s cancer research and therapy is $27M dollars.  This is no small event.

To me, one of the most important aspects of the PMC is the recognition by all involved of just how many people’s lives are touched by cancer.  I don’t know what the percentages are in the general population, but it seems that virtually everyone is within a degree or two of separation from someone whose life has been changed radically by the disease.  The many forms of cancer have a truly astounding impact on society as a whole, which is sometimes difficult to see in day-to-day life.

This is my third time doing the ride and by far my best effort – both as a fundraiser and as a rider.  I had a very good ride, beating my personal best previous efforts at the first day’s distance (86 miles) by a long shot.  While the event is certainly not a race, many riders keep statistics on how they do during the ride.  I had the additional advantage, in this light, of having my wife, at the finish line volunteering at the event and counting where I stood in relation to other riders.  Apparently, I came in within the first 200 of the 5,100 riders to arrive in Bourne on the first day.  I did the first leg at an average of 18.3mph.  While many did MUCH better than I did, I held my own and beat my goals.  On the second day, I was slower at 17.3mph.  Riding from Bourne to Provincetown (the length of Cape Cod), we had a stiff headwind for about 30 miles of the ride.  I also planned my effort poorly and expended too much energy early in the ride.  Nonetheless, I still came in among the early riders to finish and I’m very happy with my effort and results. 

My body now feels like I’ve been in a street brawl, but it’s a minor sacrifice for a great cause.  Getting old sucks, but it’s a whole lot better than fighting cancer.

Thanks to all those who supported me in my ride by contributing to the Jimmy Fund.  I really appreciate your support of a very worthy cause and of yours truly.

 August 7th, 2007  

US-Based Discovery Channel Team Takes First and Third in this Year’s Tainted TDF

There are some that are calling for this year’s Tour de France to conclude without crowning a winner.  That seems patently absurd to me.  To punish those who are clean because some used drugs or doping to compete makes no sense.  It’s like calling off the World Series because some players were found to be taking steroids.  Geesh.  Take the cheaters out back and shoot ’em.  Let the honest ones have their glory.

If there is any good news to come out of the Tour, at least for Americans, it’s that the US-based Discovery Channel team will take first and third in the race.  While there is one more leg to go tomorrow, traditionally, riders do not try to jockey for position during the stage.  It’s more ceremonial.

The Discovery Channel Team’s 24-year-old Spanish rider, Alberto Contador, will be wearing the Yellow Jersey for the final stage and will be crowned this year’s TDF winner.  34-year-old American Levi Leipheimer, also of Discovery Channel, will share the podium in third place, having completed today’s final time trial with the fastest time.  Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto team) of Australia will take second place.  One more Discovery Channel rider, Yaroslav Popovych (UKR) also finished in the top ten of the race with eighth place.

I’m sure the irony of the fact that the only team, Discovery Channel, from the country with the absolute least interest in the sport in the world, the US, takes first and third positions in the race is not lost on some disgruntled competitors.  Additionally, Americans will take four of the top 25 positions in the race.  Maybe that doesn’t seem earth-shattering, but again, how many kids grow up in the US thinking their going to be professional cyclists?  Not such a bad showing after all.

 July 28th, 2007  

Tour de Catastrophe, Tour de Shame, Tour de Failure

Holy crow!  What a disaster.  So, the Tour de France started with several top riders accused of doping being banned from the race.  Then, during the Tour, a few other riders were kicked out for failing blood tests or illegal blood transfusions, including Alexandre Vinokourov, who was favored to win.  In fact, the manager of Vinokourov’s team pulled his Astana Cycling Team from the race entirely.    Following that, the Confidis Team pulled out of the Tour after its lead rider, Cristian Moreni, failed a drug test.

Now, Michael Rasmussen, the clear leader of this year’s Tour de France, holding the Yellow Jersey (worn by the current overall leader) for most of the race, has been fired by his own team, Robobank, for lying to the team and missing several scheduled drug tests.  This move takes him and the team out of contention.

As of now, Alberto Contador, of the US Discovery Team has the Yellow Jersey.  The Discovery Channel Team has three riders in the top ten.

So, is Contador the last man standing?  Is anyone clean?  Professional cycling is a sport for the elite of the elite.  It requires a combination of superhuman genetics, non-stop training and a will to win that overcomes the agony of climbing 100+ mile hills for 26 straight days.  It appears that the self-selecting group of top riders in the world have found that there is no way to differentiate between themselves other than to push their bodies beyond their already distorted genetics.

These guys get tested for drug use constantly.  The top riders even get tested frequently enough to see if they’re getting transfusions of their own oxygenated blood.  Can more be done?  Can the sport be cleaned up?  I dunno.  It would be very sad if young cyclists come to believe that they can only win by following their now banned brethren.

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 July 27th, 2007  

Tour de France Mashup

While looking for some information about the Tour yesterday (other than controversy about doping, it’s really difficult to get decent information about the Tour de France in English), I stumbled across this great website.  It’s a mashup that superimposes today’s TDF stage on a Google map, adds a chart of the elevation of the stage, then, and this is the cool part, shows various riders on the route with their live heart rate, speed, power output and cadence.  Apparently, some riders/teams are broadcasting their GPS coordinates with their ride data for the world to consume.

There aren’t loads of riders involved, but it’s cool to see the data for the ones that are.  Their low heart rates at any speed make me feel even less significant as a bike rider.

The data is only live, so once the day’s stage is over, the site just shows the route.  Worth checking out . . .

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 July 20th, 2007  
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The Pan-Mass Challenge

Pan Mass Challenge Route

The Pan-Massachusetts Challenge (PMC) is a charitable, 2-day bike ride across the state of Massachusetts that raises money for cancer research and treatment at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through its Jimmy Fund.  The ride was the first fundraising bike-a-thon in the country, starting in 1980.  Since then, over 42,000 riders and 25,000 support volunteers have made it one of the largest and most successful athletic charitable events in the world.  Last year, 99% of the $27M raised was given to the charity (making up 50% of the Jimmy Fund’s annual revenue) with only 1% used to support the massive event.  This year’s ride will take place on August 4th and 5th with 4,800 riders and 2,500 support volunteers along its several routes.  There are already 165,000 donors and rider sponsors.  This year represents my third time making this cycling trek in my home state.

Now onto the shameless sponsorship request . . .

As readers of this blog know, this type of post is highly unusual for me.  I even feel a bit skittish about posting such a request, like I breaking some unwritten blogging rule.PMC-Logo  I guess I feel like this situation is a bit different – I’d like to think about it as presenting an opportunity.  If you’re like me, the charitable donations you make are often driven by an event, request or because it’s the right time of year.  While I consider myself a relatively generous donor to many causes, sometimes I still need a kick in the pants to remember to write the check.  Of course, each of us has a different capacity and ability to donate to charities and we all have our favorite ones.  If giving for cancer care and research are on your list this year and you haven’t had the opportunity to give through another channel, please consider this your kick in the pants.  I’d appreciate your support and donation for my ride across Massachusetts this year.  Supporting me isn’t what’s important of course.  Supporting a worthy cause like cancer care and research and a great organization like the Jimmy Fund is.  So, sponsorship of my ride is less important than sponsorship of these organizations and efforts.

And here’s the tear-jerker story to compel you to donate . . .

The PMC is a fun and athletically challenging event (especially as my old legs lose their power), which becomes more emotionally meaningful for me each year I do it – this will be my third year.  There’s nothing quite like the experience of reaching back and trying to find the energy to climb a hill 90 miles into the ride when you spot a lone kid on the side of the road holding a sign that says: “because of you, I still have my daddy.”  All the pain and weariness of the ride immediately drains from your body and the next mile takes on a whole new meaning – although with the added challenge of struggling to hold back tears.

If you’re interested in donating to Dana Farber and this seems like a reasonable way of doing it, you can do it online at this web page.  My PMC Gift ID is: wh0028 if you choose to sponsor me.  Of course, you can make the donation directly to Dana Farber if you prefer.

No obligation and donations can be made anonymously, if you prefer.  Thanks for even reading this far and if you choose to donate, thanks in advance for your support.

 July 14th, 2007  

Tour de France Crash

I’m a bit late with this, but if you haven’t been watching ESPN 8 (“The Ocho” for Dodgeball fans), you probably missed the huge pile-up crash a couple of days ago during the Tour de France (or, perhaps more appropriately, the Tour de Dopage, as the 1998 Tour became known as).

Ouch!  It’s not easy to see, but these guys are moving pretty fast when they go down like dominos.  Also, if you consider all of the sharp, pokey things that make up a bicycle, you can easily imagine how unprotected body parts might get pierced, sliced or severed.  Let alone the painful effect of bare skin moving along pavement at high speed.

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 July 12th, 2007  

BCSM – The Ultimate Bike Fit

A while back, I had the opportunity to visit the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine, home to Andy Pruitt and his gang of cycling experts.  I’ve posted about Andy before and how his books have been very helpful in assisting me in ridding myself of many of the aches and pains that are associated with long distance riding and, ahem . . . age.  Of the many services BCSM provides to athletes (or in my case, people who think they’re athletes), bicycle fitting is a big part of their stock-in-trade.

As all serious riders know and some less serious riders should know, bike fit is critical to efficient and fun riding.  Trust me, if your bike doesn’t fit your body well, your bike’s gonna win the battle over the long haul and it just won’t be fun to use.  For those interested, comfort on the bike is also highly correlated with performance.  As, of course, is the dynamic between an individual’s musculoskeletal system and the geometry of the bike.

Having fractured my neck several years ago in an accident.  I have somewhat limited range of motion in my neck and shoulders.  That makes it a bit harder to get a bike to fit me well.  I have had many fittings before and ride a custom bike (Seven Elium).  I’ve been having some difficulty doing long rides recently, though, and thus my desire to seek out Andy and his team.

At BCSM, Andy does, among other things, a 3D bike fitting.  Passive sensors are placed on the rider’s body and video recordings are taken of the rider as he/she pedals their bike in a stationary trainer.  The result is pictures like the one below.

What a mess.  In the picture, 1 is the motion of my left knee.  2 is the motion of my right knee.  3 and 4 are my left and right feet, respectively.  So, my left knee moves from inside my foot to outside of it during the pedal stroke and my right knee stays inside my right foot during the entire stroke.  As you can imagine, ideally, you’d like to have your knees and ankles aligned through the entire stroke.  When they’re not, you lose efficiency and, like me, start having knee problems.

Andy changed my seat height, decreased the length of my stem (the tube that attaches your handlebar to the steerer tube – where your front fork attaches to your frame) and built up orthotics for my shoes.  After making these adjustments, my knees looked slightly better (the muscles in your legs have to be retrained for the changes).  More interestingly, my cadence picked up about 10-15 RPM at the same power level (good thing – I could spin faster, which makes pedaling easier).

I’m not sure where my knees are now, a couple of months after the changes.  Subjectively, they look like they’re in a better position.  They feel a lot better, though.  The other changes BCSM made have made my overall riding experience a lot more comfortable and I’m riding faster this spring than I was riding last fall.  All good.

If you’ve never had a fitting, any good local bike shop can do one.  They won’t use cameras, lasers and computers, but they can probably make your bike better with a few simple adjustments.  It doesn’t cost a lot, either.  If you’re heavily into riding, you probably have had bike fits before.  If you find yourself in the Boulder area, you may want to have one done at BCSM.  My fit also gave me parameters for a new bike when I get one.  It’s certainly more expensive than a bike shop fit, but if you’re serious, it can make a big difference.

 May 31st, 2007  

Cycling Posts on yourcycling.com

To try to get just a little more focused in this blog, I decided to start writing posts related to detailed cycling-specific stuff on my new blog on yourcycling.com.  On that blog, I’ll be mostly writing equipment reviews, outlining details about some rides I’ve done and generally whining about how sucky my most recent ride went.  I’ll still post cycling stuff on this blog, but it’ll only be the more important stuff – to me, anyway.

Yourcycling.com is a sister web site to yourrunning.com, yourclimbing.com and yourmtb.com.  They’re all sites of the Enthusiast Group – a company that develops web sites “that serve sports/recreation enthusiasts in telling their own stories without professional writing or photography help.”  Pretty cool stuff.  If your into cycling, running, mountain biking or climbing, they’re definitely worth checking out.

Using the Lijit search box on the right of this blog should search both my 2-Speed blog and my yourcycling.com blog – a one-stop shop.  But, it’s not working right now.  I’m gonna have to figure that out.

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 May 12th, 2007  
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