Worthy of the Onion

Posted in , Travel at 14:36 by RjZ

The Chinese have a way with English that’s already legendary. I thought it was pretty unfair of me to complain about it. After all, I was working overtime to extend my Chinese beyond ni hao (hello) and xie xie ni (thank you) which would put me past most Americans. So I was thankful for “No driving unnecessarily in emergency lane” or even “you are welcome putting soap in.”

The China Daily is different. According to their site they employ over 40 professional journalists and over 400 English speaking staff. The quality of the articles reflects this and here you’ll find writing that could be found in most any English language paper in the world. Probably with loads fewer mistakes than you’ll find here on this blog.

Sometimes they do encounter some difficulty though. Or maybe the author was putting one over on the censors. From the 24-25 January, 2009 issue I received on the flight back:

Fighting Online Porn, Long, Hard

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MS 150, actually a good reason to ride a long way

Posted in Triple Bypass at 18:17 by RjZ

She started it. My friend has MS and that really pisses me off. It’s a nasty disease and like most diseases nobody should every get it. She’s required to stick needles into herself everyday to keep the symptoms like blurred vision and weakness at bay. But what pisses me off is it was this friend who started this whole “Triple Bypass” thing. She’s the one who got the new bike and is riding the MS 150.

Clearly, she’s not going to do it alone. She joined the Left Hand Brewing Team and our Triple Bypass team of idiots is joining her for support, because 2 x 75 miles in as many days is a perfect training ride for the big torturous climb a few weeks later. Unlike the Triple Bypass, the MS 150 is actually for a good cause. That’s why you should support me and donate some nice tax-deductible money to support me and above all to help find a cure for MS. I’d like to get rid of as many excuses for her to inadvertently make me do stupid things as possible. Click here and donate!

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Doing the math

Posted in Triple Bypass at 18:18 by RjZ

Over and over again, I’ve been doing the math and trying to figure out if I am going to finish the Triple Bypass before dark. I think that must be why they schedule the thing in summer, so that the days are longer.

It’s 120 miles. A typical recreational rider can keep up an average of 16 to 19 miles per hour on the flats. (Sorry for the imperial units here, but the route is miles, so my speed has to be as well.) That’s 6h20m to 7h30m with no breaks;

Triple Bypass Route

Triple Bypass Route

there are five stops along the route and I will be using them. At the moment Last year when I was riding I think I could hold a good 17 mph pace. Although clearly not for a 120 miles, a distance I have never actually completed.

But then there are these hills. They’re mountains, but I like to call them hills so that I can forget that there’s 40% less oxygen than at sea-level at the top of them. Or that it can snow in summer. Right, there are these hills. Long climbs don’t really lend themselves to the same average speeds. I don’t know what the average rider does up climbs, but I know that I managed only a 7 mph pace during my ride up Colorado’s paved 14er, Mt. Evans.

The Triple Bypass is 55 miles of downhill (yay!) and virtually no flats, so we’ll call the other 65 climbing. At my pace that’s 9h30 minutes of climbing. I sure better go fast on those downhills if I expect to make it before they close the route down.

Clearly the answer is speed on the hills. How to get there? I am open to suggestions, but my plan is <gasp> intervals. Even USA Today (so you know it’s true) reported that intervals can get you fit in just three minutes a day! Intervals are painful and when I tried doing them the first time I started running they made me throw up. This time I plan on starting slowly, incorporating my heart rate monitor into the mix. Into my workouts (really, they’ll start soon!) I am going to insert at least six reps at 30 seconds each of high intensity at least zone 5 heart rate work. 

That means my normal slow jogging pace and three minutes of sprinting thrown in; my normal boring trainer pace and three minutes of stand on the pedals pushing. Same thing for riding when the weather finally permits. Anybody think this will help? Sound like a good program?

Because faster is the only I am going to finish this thing!

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Not so obvious things about traveling to China during the coldest month of the year

Posted in Travel at 17:55 by RjZ

  • Don’t check the weather before you go. It will give you the wrong impression of cold. As I mentioned earlier, cold feels different depending on humidity and wind and Weather.com’s “feels like” index really didn’t cover it. If you do check the weather, remember that average temperature means it can get much lower (or, if you’re lucky, higher) than that. Remember that cold snap in your neck of the woods? They might be having one too. Dress for that.
  • Don’t assume you’ll be able to get warm inside a cozy restaurant. Or a shop, or most anywhere. You might try a hot-pot restaurant. The propane power burners at the table might just give off enough heat to warm you up if the meal itself doesn’t, but many restaurants, from high to low end aren’t heated or aren’t heated significantly. The same goes for four star Chinese hotel lobbies and office meeting rooms. I stood shivering in a hotel lobby that had to be even colder than outside waiting for a the receptionist to dutifully record my visa and passport information. She sat directly on the portable radiator and only source of heat in the large marble covered lobby.
    I had to hold me teeth from chattering during one presentation in front of my smoking, but thick jacket wearing Chinese colleagues. They knew the meeting room wasn’t heated, but I had missed the memo.
    Unheated shops block the wind enough to give the appearance of warmth and actually the higher floors of the shopping markets get downright toasty, but you’ll need an extra shopping bag for all your layers.
  • Bring layers. A woman from Montana told us she was wearing five while she helped fix the heater in our hotel room. The Chinese are prepared with thick woolen long underwear. Very few people wear hats though, so you and that Canadian couple in their maple leaf toques will stick out on the Beijing subway, but come on, you didn’t really expect to blend in did you? Also, how are the locals not cold without hats?
  • Everything is brown and dreary. Everything is decorated. Winter isn’t pretty to North Eastern China. It doesn’t snow regularly enough to give things a wintery, glittery glow, but the trees are barren and the scrub is brown. Coal dust and smoke billows from private homes in addition to power plants. That may explain why just about everything is decorated with giant red lanterns and other symbols of the Spring Festival/Chinese New Year. A red and gold overload, but lovely.
  • There aren’t many tourists, but there are many travelers. Paradoxically, the hotels and some restaurants are empty but the trains are booked while the Chinese prepare for the Spring Festival holiday by traveling home to their families. We had little trouble finding place on trains just the same, but we had to pay a little more sometimes (perhaps 20 RMB/~3USD) or wait in longer lines than are supposedly normal. All in all, everything seems open for business, in spite of the short daylight hours, so if you are looking to see sights with no one around, there is no better time. Maybe read the the other points over again. Or the next point.
  • Don’t bring flu medication. Chinese pharmacies are inexpensive and give you a chance to try some aincient Chinese medicine and practice your pantomime skills at the same time. It’s easy to pantomime coughing, throwing up, headaches and stomach ache, even a high fever, but I am open to suggestions on how to politely show diarrhea? I don’t imagine this tip would apply for everyone, but I ended up having each and every one of those symptoms, so, I don’t know, be prepared. Three days in China with a high fever don’t make for my best trip ever, at least the ancient herbal cough remedy was really tasty.
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A cold day in China

Posted in Travel at 22:29 by RjZ

As I am writing this, I can see a man walking his dog on a frozen, windswept lake, framed by a Chinese pagoda and rock formations. I am at the Junhui Jianguo hotel in Tianjin, China awaiting a business meeting and even just sitting next to the window I can feel how cold it is outside. I didn’t bring enough clothes for this. Of course, I don’t think I could have; it’s almost Fargo cold out there.

Funny thing about cold is how much wind and sun effect the sensation of cold for us. Living in Boulder, I am used to cold; it’s often well below freezing in the winter. Except, while it was much colder in Boulder, last month before my trip, than it is here now, it feels much worse here. It’s winter. I expected it to be cold. I even spent some time testing my gear in Colorado before deciding what to bring. Too bad I hadn’t reckoned on humidity, wind and solar radiation mostly blocked by pollution. It’s just much more difficult to tolerate the cold here. Even in short trips from the car to a restaurant (rarely heated much here) or a customer site (almost never heated except for small offices) I notice it.

Tuk Tuk, Chinese style.

Not so well insulated from the cold if
you ask me. So far, I’ve been on business
and able to spend time in a warm car.

Next week I’ll travel around as a proper tourist and I expect it will be much worse. Then, instead of being able to warm up now and again in a car, I’ll be trying to stay out all day holding my camera with too light gloves on my hands as I walk around, outside, all day. Good luck on that. In the north east it’s cold enough that even the Chinese are wearing hats (few did so in Beijing) but they’re still hardier folk than I. I may end up with a souvenir hat of one of the Chinese military. A fake fur lined hat may look silly, but it will come in handy here.

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Stupidity ensues

Posted in Triple Bypass at 9:06 by RjZ

A friend of mine got a new bicycle. She’s excited to get out on it and is planning on riding in the MS 150 this June. She e-mailed us the day after New Year’s to invite her cycling friends to come and play and to follow the beer trailer for two days of riding from Denver to Fort Collins and back on the Left Hand Brewery team. Now this is a great idea. It’s going to be a fun ride. It’s flat and relatively easy and a guy will actually be cycling with cold beers in a bike trailer–there is no downside.

That’s when the e-mail thread started to get stupid. One friend wrote that we could “train” for the MS 150 by riding the Elephant Rock Century. I rode this easy enough 100 mile bike ride last year. It was a beautiful ride through rolling high plains south of Denver. While I was certainly exhausted during the ride, selective memory had me believing it was actually kind of easy once it was over. I think I’ll skip that one.

Then another added, joking, I can only assume, that we could always do the Triple Bypass. The Triple Bypass is such a coveted Colorado ride that it registration filled up for this ride last year in just fourteen days. There are many stupid people in the world after all. It’s 120 miles over three Rocky Mountain passes for a total climb of over 10,000 feet (3000 m) in a single day.  It’s so popular that you can sell a registration to it on Craigslist.

But I didn’t think of that when I agreed to do it. I didn’t think of just how difficult this ride really is and that the occasional long-ish weekend ride will hardly be enough training to complete this mother of all Colorado rides. No, I only thought of the bragging rights. Your entry fee includes a jersey, after all, and Colorado cyclists see these jerseys on the roads now and again, and they have no choice but to think how strong the wearer must be. (I hope they don’t give out the jersey after completing the ride…)

We signed up. Sitting at computers at different locations we counted down before pressing the button at the same time, allowing peer pressure to inspire us to new heights of stupidity. Less than a day later, the ride was already full. 3500 riders had joined in under four days, a new record. Stupidity knows no bounds.

After I looked at a suggested training program, my stupidity started to turn into fear. At an average of 12 miles per hour (which at my current fitness level would be quite an achievement) I’ll spend 10 hours on the bike. The only way I will survive is by actually ‘training’ not just ‘putting in a few miles’. Regular rides, cross training, core strengthening, multiple times a week, every week. Crazy. Why did I do this? I have no choice now. Stupid peer pressure. From now until 11th of July, this blog will regularly be taken over by reports on my progress. Feel free to laugh at the quixotic nature of my quest. I’ll log miles here and people with actual experience can tell me how much more I need to be doing if I expect to do this thing in less than 12 hours. Oh, and I’ve got some business travel to do first, so, I’ll get right to all that training…in February.

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