Tuesday, June 29, 2010

jack mcgowan handicap - tips for punters

[Image © Mal Sawford] I rode the Jack McGowan handicap on Saturday... what a disappointment! Last year over the same course I finished a pleasing seventh (or eighth?)... and then in my excitement forgot to claim my prize :-( Alas, what a dill! This year was a bit of a disaster... lots to learn and remember for next time:

(i) I learned my lesson about warming up in the rain at last year's 1:20 Hill Climb: don't do it! You end up wet and cold, not warmed up at all. Luckily I remembered this lesson and my warm-up, although short due to the showers, did have me ready to go at the start time.

(ii) But then the race started a half hour late and we were all left standing in the rain waiting whilst the organisers fixed a non-compliant printer in order to procure the start list and times. I know this frustration — on races I have run we have encountered similar problems. Luckily I found a dry spot under a friend's umbrella... thanks Mic (and Will)!

(iii) My mark was the same as last year... middle marker. Unfortunately, this year the group was dreadful for the first 20k's. Despite the lovely bikes, people would skip turns right from the get-go. Wheels were being dropped and huge gaps were opening up and needed continual closing as we lost valuable seconds that built into minutes to our pursuers --- all the gear and no idea! Guys... don't do this. Ride smoothly and take regular turns. Work together or you will lose.

(iv) We were caught by a pursuing bunch only 1/2 a lap into the 2 lap course. What a disaster. I darted around the front of our group in time to slide into the passing bunch. Next time I will wait at the back. I wasted too much effort (not much, but it was unnecessary all the same).

Shortly after this we were caught by yet another bunch and the hammer came down...

(v) I moved through the bunch taking a few turns then figured the bunch was so big and the workload being shared so unevenly that I would slide towards the back and sit on for a bit. MISTAKE! Gaps started opening in front of me. I closed a few... and then the guys at the front hit the gas and the speed picked up. As we turned a corner I was left in the slight breeze and dragging along in the gutter.

(vi) Next MISTAKE, don't close gaps one at a time. You will wear yourself out. What I should have done is close all the gaps at once with a big push up to the working riders at the front, then sit and do turns. What I did was close the gaps as they opened. I ended up in the gutter with no legs left and a gap open in front of me as a rider dropped off... ARGH! I couldn't close the gap. Bad, bad riding Alan.

(vii) From here I worked turns with a few stragglers until then end of lap 1. Then just one other guy and I worked turns for the next 10k's until we caught another little bunch... just in time to be caught by scratch. Somehow I did manage to sit on the back of the scratch bunch in the rain with the grit being spattered into my teeth... for a time. Until a gap opened that I couldn't close. These guys are quick.

I limped home with 5 other guys to the finish... well, at least we made it!

TIP 1: use your strength wisely and judiciously!
TIP 2: A bit of extra speed work would help for races like this too ;-)

Friday, June 18, 2010

algorithmic compositions for the vuvuzela

Here are some ideas for algorithmic compositions for the instrument of the season, the vuvuzela. These ideas were generated during a lunchtime discussion with Peter Mcilwain.

Mexican wave
Sound a note if somebody to your left is playing a note.

Splitting wave

Sound a note if somebody to either side of you is playing a note.

Sound a note if the ball is at the point on the pitch nearest to you.

Sound a note at an intensity proportional to the distance of the ball from you.

Team kicker

Sound a note if a player on the team you support kicks the ball.

Sound a note if any player kicks the ball.


Sound a note whenever you feel like it.

We take no responsibility for the din that will ensue!

Friday, June 11, 2010

earthstar decay

The rain has brought the fungi. The diversity of those living in our small patch of garden and nearby is extraordinary! Most recently discovered is an Earthstar (Geastrum pectinatum) right outside the front door. A round shell of tissue splits open along lines of longitude forming a multi-pointed star with a spherical centre that (apparently) contains the spores. I am waiting for rain drops to cause this to explode in a puff.

Dozens and dozens of shaggy ink caps are forming miniature castles before distintegrating into the telltale black goo that sticks to your shoes if you inadvertantly brush past one. A huge mushroom (well, it was perhaps 10 inches in diameter) sprang from the mulch, no doubt growing on the remaining roots of a recently removed tree. It was tempting to BBQ it but I am no expert at identifying these things and don't wish to end my days writhing in pain from a toxin-laden winter's supper! In a nearby garden perhaps a dozen Fly Amanita, the infamous red toadstools with white spots, form a garden fit for a faery rave. Winter is a terrific time to be looking at your feet. True, the wildflowers are in hiding, but their "opposites" are well worth investigating. As always, decay and beauty go hand in hand. Nature's amazing organisms provide the ultimate display of ingenuity and diversity.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

swallowed (w)hole

Do my eyes deceive me? This is (apparently) a real, unadulterated image [Reuters, see The Age]! An entire building has been swallowed by this sink hole in Guatemala City.

I don't really have much to say about this. Gosh! What will the "owner" of the block of land be thinking?

cycling capital rides the bandwagon

Judging by the many hundreds of cyclists I see trundling down Beach Rd. on a weekend morning, the dozens on Kew, the huge turnouts for races, mass participation rides, the slow and the speedy climbing the 1:20 and the amount of lycra to be seen in our caf├ęs, Melbourne's cycling "scene" is in magnificent shape.

Now at last, the city has its own bikes for rent. Compulsory helmet law and all, the scheme is under way. Good luck! I am hopeful that the local vandals have the sense to leave unattended bicycles alone. Please!