Another long ride

I find myself facing another sporting challenge.

A good friend has stuck by me through some very tough times in my life. Having been a very keen cyclist with regular 100+ miles per week I stopped riding a few years ago. A busy job and life became too much for me and either my job or my hobby had to give way. I was totally burnt out. The physical exercise allowed me to de-stress, I was able to take on more work and push myself even harder. Being a person that finds it hard to moderate many things in my life, both work and fun, I stopped riding and focused all my efforts to my work.

On reflection it doesn’t sound like a successful strategy, even the benefit of hindsight doesn’t really give enough objectivity to decide either way. So back to the good friend, a friend who never gave up encouraging me to get back on the bike. A focussed guy who could aim high, work hard and deliver. The sort of person that can dedicate their spare time for months to train for one of the hardest Ironman triathlons on the circuit and complete in in less than 13 hours. Watching him cross the line was a memorable experience, the brief flash of joy, relief and pride of accomplishment. I’m proud of the man I know that can completely throw themselves at a task.

Given this support and demonstration of dedication, I was always going to yield to the constant nagging to complete another 100+ mile cycling event. Cue the Wiggle dragon ride, 126 miles and over 3000 metres of climbing.

I took the plunge and signed up -

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So confident of completing the ride I found myself 6 weeks after registration having not started any training. I have long been reading about the benefits of training with a power meter. I was planning to purchase a pair of Garmin Vector pedals. They have been delayed for a long time now, perhaps even two years. The recent patch of bad weather highlighted the benefits of some indoor training, although having said that, I hate turbo trainers. Perhaps this is a leap of faith also. I will share my thoughts on my recent purchase of a Wattbike. Customer service from these guys is great, they are passionate about their product and it shows. I took delivery of a Wattbike pro on friday, only to find that it had been damaged in transit, bah! Bang goes the training for the weekend. Hopefully I can get a replacement some time this week and start sharing my training logs and discussing the journey of training for a challenging 126 mile sportive from a very poor base level of fitness.

Current mass 93.1kg, fitness shot – I puff after dashing up a single flight of stairs.

Really looking forward to the challenge.

Cisco marketing fail

The recent Cisco negative marketing campaign against Juniper surprised and disappointed me, see the following URL for info http://www.overpromisesunderdelivers.net/pdfs/Why_Cisco_Not_Juniper.pdf

I remember being amazed by the capability of Cisco equipment in 1997, when I started building ISP infrastructure. You could create blisteringly fast Internet backbone networks using 7200 and 7500 routers. The marketing was slick and there wasn’t really anything else on the market that you would want to build your network with.

A few years later the growth of the Internet accelerated to the point that we started to work around the limitations of core routers and Internet scalability using techniques like route flap damping. It’s been a while since I built Internet backbone networks, I understand that route flap damping isn’t used any more as the solution became more cumbersome than the problem. Now Internet backbone routers are fairly chunky beasts with control and forwarding plane separation making RFD redundant.

The lack of control and forwarding plane separation seemed to be the start of the demise of the dominance that Cisco enjoyed in the backbone router market. The emergence of the Juniper M40 router circa 2000 marked the start of the erosion. Large service providers were struggling to cope with the demands of Internet growth.

Traffic was growing rapidly, an Internet backbone year was equated to being 90 days. Core networks were having to plan network capacity changes that would normally last for a years worth of growth, Internet change was so fast that 90 days later you were planning the next upgrade. Exciting and fun days, Juniper came to the rescue of the largest providers, offering great, yet flawed routers (the M40 had active backplane components), that enabled service providers to cope with the growth of the Internet without sacrificing performance.

Juniper engaged with potential customers, educating them about the benefits of their router architecture without drawing heavily on comparison with other vendor equipment. This marked the start of my journey in understanding how hardware bolted together and the benefits that can be gained by hardware design philosophy. Juniper’s approach was engineering led with very little marketing hype.

After Juniper gained some market share, Cisco produced some great hardware (perhaps a little late to market) but they didn’t resort to any cheap shot marketing stunts. The recent campaign is very disappointing, I would like to see educate customers on why their hardware architecture is great compared to the competition.

Come on Cisco, supply us with information that gives us confidence in the products you produce and give us a an alternative to Juniper for our core routing needs. Until you start doing this, engineering led service providers will continue to use Juniper in the core.

my first Stand Up Comedy Gig

Had my first comedy gig on Monday night. Was great fun, I was hyper all day. A memorable experience. I had a mind fart half way through but fortunately I managed to hand break turn the rest of the gig to completion.

The 3 experienced comics showed us how to capture an audience, each with a very different style of comedy. I had no idea of the depth of talent in the UK. Seems comedians are very supportive of each other.

Sarah Archer was the MC, she did a great job getting the audience warmed up. Not sure how she kept the energy levels so high for the whole gig. Sarah’s view on the Irish whilst performing an Irish dance had everyone chuckling. Sarah kept her cool on the sidelines and rapid fired the virgins out one by one. She seems to be unaffected by the heavy stench of terror.

Stevie Gray’s fusion of almost music with inventive lyrics got a great response. I’m not a fan of audience participation but he made it work to great effect.

Next up, 6 comedy virgins. I was number 2. We all managed to get some belly laughs from the 100 strong crowd. The audience surfed on the back of our adrenaline fueled sets.

Tony Cowards finished us all off with relaxed mix of the perils of interbreeding mixed with puns aplenty view on bodily functions. Tony wins the crowd over with a nerdy yet charming persona, and even winces at some of his own puns.

The whole night was highly entertaining, anyone who has half fancied a go at performing a comedy gig should put themselves in the expert hands of Sarah. She knows how to introduce the mechanics of creating your own persona and comedy routine. Sarah has a great way of tuning in to people and knowing exactly what to say.

The whole comedy course has been very memorable. I have learnt so much in such a short space of time and made some great new friends. Everyone on the course was do supportive, we all had a blast from start to finish.

Now it’s all done, there’s a titter shaped hole in my life.

Wilier New Forest Sportive 2009 – The ride of the roadkill, and roadkill to be

Wanted to support a work friend with his first 100 mile mile sportive, so the New Forest event was selected as it’s close to his home. I had no idea what the ride would be like aside from the fact that it wasn’t a major leg killer of a ride. My GPS showed something like 1500 metres ascent, so nothing too major in the way of climbs.

A punture in the first few miles made us both a little nervous, as we stood by the side of the road fixing the puncture there must have been 50+ riders passing us. With the puncture fixed we picked up the pace to try and make back a little time, after a few miles of pushing it we decided to slow a little, we had many limes ahead and were in danger of digging way too deep into the energy reserves.

The ride could be summed up with a few words:

Roadkill – A surprising amount of dead animals on the road from badgers and squirrels to deer.

Cattle Grids – I had never been to the New Forest and was totally unaware of the number of critters roaming loose. The grids were to be respected, any harsh breaking or attempts to corner would have resulted in slipping across the shiny metal surface.

Roadkill to be – A close calls on many ponies and very close call on a baby pig. I have never seen ponies slowly wandering around on a road before, I had lost count after the first 20 miles.

The ride coincided with an Audax event, we must have overtaken one group at least 3 times. The riders were slow and occupying a lot of the road, trying to overtake meant straying on to the other side of the road.

We clocked a finishing time of 6:37, given the puncture time and stop at the feed station to top up the tyres I think we could have shaved another 10 to 15 minutes of the time. I enjoyed the day out despite the annoyances, it was a good experience but I don’t think I will ride this event again as I thought the route was a little dangerous to attempt a fast finishing time. The food wasn’t properly though out either, there were bowls of nuts and sweets that I wasn’t even going to think about eating. It doesn’t take a lot of thought to figure out that perhaps some of the riders would stop for a leak at the roadside.

I enjoyed seeing the satisfaction on my friends face as he crossed the line. A pleasant pub lunch with a beer to wash it down afterwards was a well deserved treat to finish the day off. This was my last sportive of 2009, only 2 in my first year. The planning for next year is underway I have entered the Mad March Hare Sportive in March 2010 and aim to ride at least another 3 during the remainder of the year. 2010 should see my entrance to road racing, a little research is needed on the type of events. This winter needs to be one of plenty of training ride coupled with some weight loss to make the goals for next season feasible.

Circuit of the Cotswolds Sportive 2009 – contains link to GPS data

Entered the Circuit of the Cotswolds sportive in June 2009 (http://www.circuitofthecotswolds.org), as I read in a magazine recently, I had to recalibrate my hardometer. This was my first 100 mile sportive, or any sportive for that matter. I rode with G, a friend from work. We seem to work well together and are similar in ability. We suffered from a few mechanical glitches but other than that no major events. The first feeding station was bypassed, seemed like a good plan as we both had plenty of food and drink to last until the 50 mile station.

The first 50 miles seemed fairly uneventful, energy levels not depleted too much we both felt like we had enough fuel in the tank for us to last the full distance. I knew there was a big hill coming up, the organisers had made no secret of the 25% Cleeve Hill. I was totally unprepared for this hill, I think I managed to snail my way up the first third until I was a broken man. Even the walk to the top of the hill was unpleasant. I saw a few people overtake me on my hike but none of them managed to ride up to the crest of the hill. I think my weight was 90 Kilos at the time, at 170cm this puts me at over 33% fat, not exactly prime climbing physique.

The next hill came shortly after, I was still suffering from digging deep on Cleeve Hill and didn’t fair well. I had a another short walk after hitting a brick wall on the 20% climb. This was my lowest point in the ride, I spent the next 5 miles trying to recover and gain some moral to finish the rest of the course. Luckily G wasn’t feeling quite as depleted as I was so I had a welcome tow until I felt vaguely human again.

The next 40 miles were a slog, every hill seemed to be twice as steep. Looking ahead sometimes filled me with dread, I wasn’t sure I could handle any more tough climbs. Nothing really challenging hit us so we were able to plough our way through the smaller hills that stood between us and the finish line. Our legs were feeling heavy with the last 20 miles or so. We didn’t charge back to the finish but we did manage to maintain a reasonable pace, the ride time was 6:53 with an average of 14.9 mph. The event was chip timed, with all the stops for mechanical problems, food and my short walks the event time was 7:21.

Crossing the finish line was I was full of relief and emotion. We had survived a gruelling day in the saddle, faced nearly 3,000 metres of climbing and still managed a smile at the end. I would recommend the event and I plan to ride it in 2010, but this time I aim to be a little more prepared for the ride. Hopefully I can continue with the weight loss, my weight has been hovering around 83 Kilos for a few months now. With a little more dedication over the winter I would like to be 80 Kilos before the start of 2010. The aim is to hit the next sportive season better prepared than this year, hopefully I can improve on the time for the Circuit of the Cotswolds and move from a bronze to silver or maybe even gold award.

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Intro to the Cycling Bison

After many years of cycling, most of them on a BMX, I decided to get some miles in on a road bike. A colleague spurred me on, he was commuting with a 12 mile ride each way. Sometime his commute would be extended and would ride the full 43 miles or so in to work.

I had ridden a road bike in my late teens, riding 50+ miles on a Sunday with a group of road racing enthusiasts. This is where I learnt to suffer on a bike, but I never really put it to use. When I moved from the area I did’t carry on riding road bikes, or any bike for that matter. I managed to get a few skinny years in before the lard came to stay.

I was impressed that the friend (G) was consistently putting in 100+ miles a week. I was left wondering if I could to the same. I thought that I could save some money on the gym membership that I was going to and use the commute as my exercise plan. Rather than start riding a few days a week, I foolishly started riding every day. The 20 mile a day new routine was a tall order, my legs were in a lot of pain for 3 weeks until my body recovered enough for the rides not be stiffen my legs. I started commuting by bike/train in April 2008 weighing in at 96 Kilos with a height of 170cm. This month proved to be a bit of a shocker, temperatures dropped to almost freezing. The only cycle wear I had was a 19 year old pair of Sidi shoes that I used in my late teens, a short sleeved top, a pair of almost thread bare cycling shorts, and a pair of fingerless cycling gloves. I don’t suffer much from the cold, I seem to be able tolerate it well, but the unseasonably low temperatures added to my physical suffering.

The first month I proved to myself that my fitness was pretty poor, the good part about this was my fitness was rapidly improving. The commuting gave a solid base level of training for further things to come.