Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Bzzzkills Might Actually Work

I did this year's LIVESTRONG Challenge Austin on Sunday. Rather than a century ride as in the past, this year's was shorted to 90 (actually about 88, by my bike computer) "due to the organization's standards for road safety" (I guess the roads were crappy enough in places that there wasn't a good way to make a 100 mile route in the area). Instead of taking place NE of Austin (it used to leave from the Travis County Expo Center) and going through terrain that is mostly rolling hills and largely cotton fields (albeit with some tough winds), this year's route was moved to be SW of town. It left out of Dripping Springs HS, and spent most of the time on rural roads in Dripping Springs and Wimberley. I knew this area would certainly be a lot hillier than the old route, but it turns out that the roads were also rougher, and the winds were definitely a bitch once again.

The organization posted the route map, as well as the elevation profile, and even a longer description of the route. The route was definitely pretty (large portions running parallel to rivers), and the out of towners were probably pretty excited to see plenty of real longhorns (I even saw a guy get off his bike and take pictures the first time we hit a pasture full of them). I rode solo in past years, but had Jane and Roman keeping me company for the first 40 miles -- that definitely makes the miles go by a bit more easily. Even still, this 90 mile ride was easily the hardest organized ride I've done. It was definitely more challenging than any of the past true centuries (including the old routes of the same ride).

It took 6 hours of rolling time (almost to the second), which is s-l-o-w: 14-15 mph average. Compare that to the 20.1 mph average for a past 100 mile Hotter N Hell Hundred ride, and that gives an idea of how much more difficult this one was (I'm sure I am saddled with a few extra pounds as well!).

The last HH 100 ride left me with partially numb fingers (also known as handlebar palsy or by its true name, ulnar neuropathy) for probably 2 weeks. I'm not sure if some of that was due to switching to new gloves. They felt a bit less padded than my old gloves, but that might mostly be in my head (as both are Pearl Izumi Gel-Lites). Nick pointed me at the Bontrager Bzzzkill harmonic dampers. They come in aluminum and brass (more effective, but heavier) versions. I ordered a pair of the aluminum ones for $10 online and gave them a try, starting with this ride. I also switched back to my old gloves. Despite this being roughly as long of a ride as the HH 100, but with poorer quality roads, I ended up with only very very minor numbness. So, maybe it was due to the dampers, maybe not...but at $10, it's hard to go too wrong.

Oh -- and my ride managed to raise $500 for cancer efforts! Thanks to all you donated. That was also conveniently the level needed to get a free hat, so I got some swag out of it.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Nobel Committee Cements Its Political Bent

I guess there can't be much claim that the Nobel Peace Prize is apolitical. When Arafat won in 1994, you could chalk it up as a fluke (perhaps saying that to award it to Perez and Rabin but not Top Dog Terrorist would make the prize look overly Israeli-friendly, that it takes both sides to move the peace process). When the Carter won in 2002, you could say coincidence. With Gore winning this year for a movie version of a hyperbole-laden Powerpoint slide'd have to say 3 data points makes a trend. I'm not sure what this does to merit the Peace Price. I can clearly see the case for past recipients -- Schweitzer worked for decades before getting it, and Mandela (despite his bad points) is an easy case to make as well. Heck, Mother Theresa would be another easy example. Those were all major efforts, sustained over long periods of time, often with great personal hardship or risk. Today, it's being awarded for the redemption of a failed politician for a really sweet (and blurry on the details, by his own admission) slide deck with movie distribution.