Sunday, August 13, 2017

Light at the end of the tunnel (and my eclipse pics)

So the Tour is over. Boo hoo (no, seriously).

Being as I have nothing to replace it with (on TV that is) I've started riding more, which is a GOOD thing. You see, every year I seem to have a mid-summer slump, my annual riding doldrums, where for whatever combination of reasons (ie: excuses) my fitness declines to an almost embarrassing point. And every year I have to work REAL HARD to get back to where I was around the end of April. I'm in that part of the year right annual 'comeback'. 

I've upped my riding from 2 or 3 days a week to 5 days a week the last few weeks. Before that (just a few weeks ago) I couldn't BUY a PR on STRAVA. If you don't know what STRAVA is, it's a free online site where you upload your Garmin (or any other brand of GPS ride-track), and in a nutshell the site compares me to me (and also everybody else who's ever ridden any portion of what I just rode). A "PR" is a "Personal Record" (personal best). Any ride is (can be) broken down into "segments". Segments can be made by anybody on Strava. A segment can be anything...a climb, a portion of a climb, a downhill, a flat, an entire ride, you name it, it can be a segment (tho there is a minimum distance, anything too short is too difficult to accurately time using GPS). 

Then when you upload a ride-file, STRAVA compares that ride to it's enormous database of ALL segments it contains, and gives you times for all your segments along with any PR's, and also 2nds or 3rds (your personal 2nd or 3rd best) and also 'cups' which is the overall top 8. This overall part is mostly for the REAL riders...they call it the "leaderboard", which is an all encompassing list of 1st thru whatever for every segment...first place is the highly coveted KOM/QOM for that segment, and then it goes down the individuals placings for every person who's ever ridden that segment (note: you only get your best time in the leaderboard...when you set a PR your old one is deleted and your new time is your spot on the board). 

I actually have TWO comebacks every year...the first is right after THE HOLIDAYS. By the end of January I'm typically deep into my 1st comeback. And by February/March I'm constantly setting PR's on rides. That is a good thing. It means that I'm STILL getting faster (which considering my age is an amazing thing!) For a former pro rider it won't be such a good they'll never again be as fast as they were in their pro career. I think if I were an ex-pro I'd create an alias STRAVA account every few years and start over...considering that as THEY age they will likely just get slower and slower, not faster and faster. But being as I am and always have been a total recreational rider (who got into cycling later in life) I have almost nowhere to go but up (for a little while longer least I HOPE that is the case). 

Another wonderful part of STRAVA is that it's much like Facebook (only better) similar fashion, you can search for people and then 'follow' them, and then they can 'follow' you (for someone to follow me they have to request it, and then I get to approve or people I don't know or like can't just start following me, and vice versa). So in a nutshell, everybody who is following me will see every ride I upload (unless for some reason I make a particular ride 'private'...which I don't know when I'd ever do that, but during every upload I have the option to make that ride 'private').

On a side note: some Pro's upload their rides to STRAVA and allow us mere mortals to follow them...TJ is one, and Nate Brown of Cannondale is another. I'm following both. Every stage of the recent TDF Nate posted his ride! How awesome it was to look at a pro's STRAVA file for all the TDF stages!

So....STRAVA not only allows me to compare ME to ME on every single ride I do, but it also adds PEER PRESSURE into the mix. Everybody I'm friends with (who is "following me") will see all of my rides. If I really stink up the road/trail, they will see that. However if I have a 'smokin hot' day, they will see that too. And another cool thing of STRAVA is that you can then make comments on other peoples rides (such as "WAY TO GO, you were ON FIRE today!") It's always a wonderful feeling to get nice motivational comments from your riding friends! The other thing STRAVA does on that line of thinking is 'kudos'...which is very similar to a 'like' on click a button and that person sees you gave them a 'kudo'. Yeah...kudos' are lame IMO...give me a comment or nothing...kudo's are just lazy. If the ride was plain and no real accomplishments were made, then there's nothing to say. But when I do a LONG HARD RIDE, I'd appreciate MORE than a kudo. SAY SOMETHING! 

I don't look at STRAVA every day (but I should)..but after I do a ride and an upload I then go back thru to see what I've missed, and make appropriate comments to my friends. For instance, after today's ride I went back and saw that Fatty, his wife Lisa and my friend Dave Thompson all posted their Leadville rides (and EVERYBODY knows about Leadville, right?) If you're not really up on Mt biking races, Leadville is the Paris/Roubaix of mt biking races. It's 103 miles with over 10,000 feet of climbing...AT ALTITUDE (the Columbine Mine road goes over 12,000 feet, and the top is the half-way turn-around-point of the ride). 

The 2017 Leadville Trail Invitational went down yesterday (Saturday, Aug 12th). Fatty and his wife Lisa were SMOKIN HOT (as usual)....BOTH coming in with a total elapsed time of UNDER 9 hours! My friend Dave (who has now ridden Leadville about 4 times I think) JUST MISSED the highly coveted "SUB 9 HOUR RIDE"...he got an official time of 9:06. You get a special belt buckle if you make sub-9. Fatty and Lisa (aka Hammer) did it on Singlespeeds...(AGAIN). THAT alone blows my mind...ONE FREAKING GEAR, and they ride it faster than about 95% of the OVER 1200 people out there. Lisa holds the womens SS record. Fatty WON the SS division a few years back. 

Lisa's son and daughter both raced it this year...her son finished (which is an AMAZING accomplishment for ANY cyclist...if you're riding too slow they'll pull you off the trail). I still haven't heard about her daughter...if something happened (crash, whatever) or if for some reason the system just didn't get all her 'stats'...I've called up her bib number a few times and it doesn't say "DNF" (Did Not Finish), has no finishing time, and it's missing the checkpoint info from about mile 60 to the end. So I'm still waiting to hear about her..she's in college now, and routinely rides with the 'boys' at school, continually giving them a real education about getting 'chicked' (what it's called when a guy gets beat by a girl). 

This was Fatty's 21st consecutive year of racing Leadville, and his 20th finish (he crashed out the year his wife Susan died, which had happened about a week before the race). now I seem to forgot where I was going with this. OH..right...MY COMEBACK! (what a side-track that was, eh?) And so...I've started setting PR's again (HOORAY!). Not as many as I would like, but it's a real mental help to start setting SOME. When you do a few rides with ZERO PR's, 2nd or 3rds, that is really a slap in the face. And everybody will see that you sucked...again. So STRAVA is truly a wonderful motivational tool. Sometimes you just don't really feel it, but then you know that if you slack off, everybody will know that. Nothing gets you more motivation to ride than knowing everybody will see it and be able to analyze it and see just how horrible you did. 

So STRAVA is once-again fueling my annual comeback. Riding 5 times a week is paying dividends Sept/Oct I will once-be at the razors-edge of my capabilities, setting lots of PR's on every ride. I'm not quite there yet, but I'm headed there fast. And confidence is like money, it takes money to make money....and it takes confidence to GET confidence. When you're down and can't BUY a PR, one fine day things will align and for one ride (or segment) everything comes together and I suddenly get a PR. Getting a PR out of the blue. When you've been in a drought of PR's, it only takes ONE to give you a well-needed boost of confidence. And then suddenly you get another...and another...which totally amps up your effort fueled by confidence. And before long, you're back on that razor's edge of your fitness. 

And that's a REALLY WONDERFUL place to be. 

I'm not there yet, but I think I can see it from here. There IS light at the end of the tunnel, and it was ME who switched it on. I've found my mojo again. 

Here's to you finding YOUR mojo in whatever it is you do.      


Quick addition from THE MONDAY SOLAR ECLIPSE. These are the shots I took w/ my cell phone looking thru a set of the eclipse glasses. I took a bunch, but most were just blobs of light...these 3 showed what we saw....they aren't necessarily at 'full' eclipse (here in Calif we only got about 65%). But it was still pretty cool...can't even imagine how awesome the totality zone was (my little bro drove his family from Houston into Nebraska and saw it ALL!).'s what I saw:

Keep in mind we had clouds and we only got to see this much briefly as the clouds were moving.  I have no idea why they background is different in all 3 shots...I really couldn't see much as I was using my phone to block the sun as best I could (still QUITE bright mind you) so when I saw a blob of light in my screen I took the shot). And we were sharing the ONE set of glasses with about 15 of us...but still I was very appreciative that one of our guys had a set (I was going to use my cereal box viewer but that was nothing compared to looking AT IT thru the glasses).

Hope your viewing was as good or hopefully BETTER! 7 years from now I'll be on the east coast and MUCH closer to a totality zone (I hope) and will drive to see it ALL myself. At least I hope so. We never know where we'll be in 7 years.


  1. Well...tomorrow the Vuelta begins. And I won't see ANY of it (my upgraded satellite package to get NBCSports for le Tour doesn't include the Olympic channel (owned by NBCS) for some reason...and I'm not upgrading to a higher package. Sadly I'll just have to read about it. HOPEFULLY it's going to be a dynamic exciting race like usual, but the pundits are saying it's going to be a Froome going out in style party, that he and team Sky will control the race much like le Tour. I hope not...but w/ Valverde out, Quintana (who wasn't on great form in le tour) not even there, leaving only a few contenders to truly amp it up. Knowing there's a 40k TT near the end again works in Froomes favor, he can afford to lose time (if he has to) and know he can gain it back. So we shall see how this plays out. Sky has another powerful team to back him. However this is Contadors going away party...his last Grand Tour of his last season. maybe he can pull it off...I'd LOVE to see him really put Froome in duress. GO ALBERTO!!!

  2. Hey, hi there! I would LOVE to see Contador pull out the ride of his life -- you know I love underdogs, and always get sentimental about retiring riders (well, at least, if I liked them) -- and he certainly gave us many thrilling moments. I'll miss the first week of La Vuelta, though, working tomorrow, then have much to do Sunday before I take off to drive to Tennessee to see the eclipse!
    My original plan was to drive to Louisville (about 3.5 hours), stay overnight, then put in another 2 hours or so to get to the KY-TN border north of Nashville. but, my cousin from Tampa got a cabin near Gatlinburg and asked me to join him there for a few days of hiking, kayaking etc. So that is where I'm headed, although it will be a much longer drive there (and back). I'll take my bike in case there is a reasonable opportunity to ride (for me that means relatively flat and safe roads!) I'll need to remember to pack LOTS of bug spray!
    In 7 years the next total eclipse will actually pass over where I live, but since one never knows what will happen, I decided to make the trip now (plus, Monday is my birthday -- 63 oh no!) I'll hold onto my eclipse glasses, though, to be ready for the next one.

    I've been hearing about Strava a lot and it does sound motivating! There is an ex-pro (Phil Gaimon) who has made it his mission to take Strava KOM's from anyone he considered a doper -- pro or not.

    Somehow I hadn't realized Fatty had ridden Leadville that many times! Matt, did you ever hear anything about why he dropped the blog? Just tired of it, outlived its purpose, too much on his plate? He is a talented and entertaining writer, I do hope he keeps it up!

    SusieB, I need to find LA's commentaries and listen -- especially since you intrigued me about some animus toward Jens. I expect I'll find them on youtube.
    I thought you probably liked the "running of the bulldogs" commercial!
    I can't get the Olympic channel either, as far as I know, but I haven't searched yet on Roku to see if there is a way -- PSVue might have it at added cost, but I'm not willing to do that although I enjoy watching track & field and gymnastics from time to time. And you know that I don't care for football/basketball/hockey at all. The only time I ever watched b-ball was after the boy who lived across the street went pro -- at that, only for just a little while.

    I didn't subscribe to the NBCSports Gold app for this year, I was hoping that they would drop the price after the Tour -- maybe they will after the Vuelta -- I did enjoy having it for the spring classics. $40 for the year of cycling is still not bad, though IMO. But, since I can still watch Euro streams of most races for free, although not always (but almost always) with English commentary, that is what I am going to do for the Vuelta.

  3. PS did you see the interview with Floyd Landis on cyclingnews? What a piece of work he is! I agree with the those in the comment section that he is still deflecting from his own misdeeds and hasn't really taken responsibility for his actions. So sad to see that Dave Z is partnering with him -- but I remember that they were roommates and pals before Floyd was popped. I just thought a little better of him.


  4. Hey Rae....Fatty never really gave much of a reason when he decided to hang it up...I remember being rather floored. Wish he'd come back, even part time.

    And so...2 stages down in the surprise at BMC taking the TTT. And also no surprise that Sky/Froome put time in his major rivals...just like the ITT in the Tour. I do wish I could WATCH this race but don't want to spend the $. Jeannie says we're switching back to Dish soon as DTV is just too expensive (again). I hope this Vuelta is the race we were hoping for in the Tour...(not that the Tour was bad, it was closer than ever, but not really in doubt due to the ITT near the end). Froome may be good but we saw his achilles heel: STEEP finish...and there are a few in this he will be hard pressed to hold off everybody (I hope). We shall see.

    Anyway...Rae, hope you get to see THE Eclipse in totality in little bro took his family into Nebraska (from Texas), and one of my engineers is up in Wyoming. I'll have to settle for watching it (I HOPE) in my converted cereal box at work tomorrow...IF we aren't socked in by fog, which has about a 70% chance I'd say. If not, maybe 8 years from now...I'll be retired and can go drive somewhere.

    Happy viewing everybody!

    Crazy signing season so far...lots of movement among the teams. Movistar sounds like they picked up some big guns for Quintana next year. Quickstep lost Kittel but picked up a new guy they are jazzed about (the next Sagan they say).

  5. Loved this post, Matt & YOU are SO impressive! To be setting PRs again so soon after a layoff is damn impressive! Pat yourself on the back!

    And I'm so sorry that you don't get the Olympic Channel as it's GREAT! I watch something almost EVERY DAY! If you love Olympic sports, it's a must. And the Vuelta is on LIVE every day in the AM for 2 hours & then I get to see the taped 2 hour version at night. Last week it was on between 8-10PM, but this week they shoved all the OLD 1992 Olympic Dream Team games into the 8-10 slot & the Vuelta coverage won't be shown till 10pm my time. Boo-hiss! Still, it's been so fun to see daily coverage. I think it's been at least 7-9 years since I've been able to watch daily coverage of the Vuelta & it's quite fascinating; the land & houses look SO different from the Tour.

    Matt & Rae, you would NOT believe how Froome is riding the Vuelta! He's riding like when he dominated in the TDF in years past, UNLIKE this year! Honestly, I can't believe it's the same guy! Meanwhile, Bardet & Aru are SHELLS of their Tour selves! Tejay was looking really good there in the beginning but then on one stage, he had 2 BAD crashes & that made him lose some time (could have been much worse) & then the next day, he lost a bit more because I'm assuming he was SORE. He looked better on Sunday & hopefully, things will continue to improve for him. Also, Contador had a REALLY bad day early on in Andorra (sickness)& he lost over 3 minutes & thus, he looked completely out of the GC, but heck, he's been the biggest animator of the race since! I can't remember anything quite like it! Without losing that time early on, he would have definitely been Froome's biggest rival for the win. And this is his very last race, I believe. He's RETIRING.

    One thing really bad at the Vuelta so far has been the motorbikes - TONS of them & they don't seem to know how far to stay from the riders. Bobke & Paul (our commentators for this race) are apoplectic about it almost every day. Also, the TV footage by Spanish TV is terrible - they don't seem to know which rider(s) to show at any one time & they jump around constantly. I guess I'll have to stop bitching so much about the TDF's lack of PIP each year as compared to the Spanish TV coverage, the French do a fab job!

    Did you hear the really AWFUL news about Team Cannondale? They may FOLD! Some new sponsor for next year pulled out at the last minute & apparently their money would have funded more than 40% of the team & without it, they can't stay in the World Tour & without being in the Tour de France, all the OTHER sponsors would bail. Hopefully, Vaughters can pull a rabbit out of his hat as he needs all the magic possible to save the day & team.

    I'll try to come by more often the next 2 weeks & keep you updated on the Vuelta.

    Are you watching the coverage of Houston & Hurricane Harvey? My company has an office there & even though it is not under water, the office is closed till after Labor Day as it's too impossible to get around & some of the employee's houses are affected. I feel so badly for them. I can't even imagine. I heard this morning that only about 15% of homeowners there have flood insurance. What were they thinking?!

  6. Hi SusieB, thanks for the Vuelta update! I've figured out how to DVR the Vuelta with my PSVue subscription, so although I am a day behind, I'll be able to see the rest (why didn't I realise how before I left for TN?)

    Yes, I did get down to TN - in the Smoky Mountains National Park -- to meet up with my cousin and experience totality! It was such a neat experience! There were people there from overseas and as far away as Texas and Delaware. It didn't get completely dark as I thought it would, perhaps because we weren't at the centerline of totality -- more like dusk just before it gets dark-- you know how it will be pretty dark at ground level but there is still light to the west up into the sky -- that is how it was, light at the horizon all around and about half up the sky (and in one direction it looked light sunrise w/ pinks and yellows) but right overhead we could see stars. Inside the sun's corona it was just like a big black hole in the sky! I am so looking forward now to 2024 when it will be passing over my town -- you all are welcome to visit!

    I am SO upset over Cannondale -- got this email today:

    #SaveArgyle crowdfund campaign: Fairly Group offers $2 million match challenge
    Slipstream Sports announced an Indiegogo campaign on Wednesday with the goal of crowdfunding at least $2 million to #SaveArgyle. Fairly Group has made a seven-figure commitment to Slipstream Sports and, along with other key supporters, has issued a “match challenge” that starts out with up to $2 million.
    A tiered reward structure offers perks from $25 – $50,000 that include insider content, #SaveArgyle swag, name on sponsor page of website, invites to ride with the team, POC team kit and helmet, team bikes and invites to training camps, races and into the team car. Donations will only be processed if the team continues in

    I don't twitter but if I did I would be sending this #SaveArgyle to Patrick Dempsey, Lance, anyone I could think of who loves cycling and has $$!


  7. I've been watching Harvey little bro lives in southeast Houston (Seabrook, pretty close to Galveston). Their house is only 11' above sea level, so they were quite worried about the surge. But they did really great, no real house damage (some leaks they found)...but unlike others they weren't wiped out. He sent a picture of their boat dock (which is on the ocean) and it's totally underwater (you can see the sign sticking up out of the water). They were REALLY lucky, as so many weren't.

    The news about Cannondale is horrible! Can you imagine the team w/ the 2nd place TDF rider folding? Hope JV is able to pull the rabbit out of his would be horrible for all those riders to go begging for a ride next year.

    Rae, so cool you got to see "totality"! I think we'll be on the east coast (like in the Richmond area) come I'll have a reasonable chance to see the next one. It was just WAY too far for this one...Oregon/Wyoming were the closest points, and that was a LONG ways (a few did go).

    I'm only keeping up on the Vuelta on Velo News...which is pretty sad actually. Sounds like a pretty good race!

    OK..gotta scoot. Later gaters!

  8. Gosh, Matt - I'd forgotten you had a brother in Texas! Is he & his house still ok? I'd seen/heard that areas that previously hadn't flooded haven't all stayed water-free. Fingers crossed! I look at the coverage every day on the internet & then on TV at night & it's just so awful, it's barely comprehensible. The damage will be in the tens of BILLIONS! At least there aren't near as many deaths as in Katrina. I saw one old man rescued from his house yesterday & he had been all by himself as the water just kept rising IN his house. He was in shock. What can you even say that would help? And since most apparently don't have flood insurance, they will lose EVERYTHING. Those poor, poor people.

    BTW, I LOVED your eclipse photos. I didn't get the glasses & thus didn't look at all & now I really regret it. Hopefully, in 2024 when it's closer to me (PA, I think), I'll get my butt in gear sooner & get the glasses!

    VULETA update - I was SO upset last night because I fell ASLEEP on the blasted sofa somewhere after 10:30 & woke up at midnight, right as the coverage was going off the air! Could not BELIEVE it! I'd been watching the Buckeye-Indiana CFB game since 8pm & thought I'd click back & forth from 10-11 & then watch the last hour of the Vuelta as that's when things really heated up & heck, I missed BOTH! According to what I'd read earlier in the day, Contador attacked on the final mt & Froome crashed TWICE! Consequently, Contador made up some time on ALL of the GC faves & Froome lost time to all but he's still the leader. This weekend's stages should also have LOTS of action as there are MORE mts! Actually, this race has been jam-packed with mt-top finishes! No wonder almost NONE of the top sprinters came. It would have been torture for them!

    Well, hope ya'll have a great holiday weekend. Get lots of riding in, Matt. :) Will you watch some college football too? Ohio State (your dreaded foe) started SLOW last night but finally started playing as I expected by the end of the 3rd quarter. Still, they have WORK to do! Good thing they didn't play a fellow Top 10 team!