Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How Do Yo Measure Success? - Part 1

The question I get asked the most whenever the subject of my short amateur bike racing career comes up is, how many races have I won?

But then I always think of the same thing... does amount of races won really defines success? And how do you really measure success?

The question as it is, is pretty easy to answer. In fact I can answer that question with one finger. I find it interesting that this is the first question asked by people who have never seen a race and are usually not competitive. I know it seems like the obvious question to ask...but I have never seen that as a way to quantify success. To me, success in racing is so much more.So much happens in a race to really put in down to one question.

Racing for me isn't about winning and losing. While in many sports this how you quantify the success of a team or how well you're doing...I think it's quite different in endurance sports. In any race there can only be one winner...but there aren't 2 teams...and there are no ties. It's 40 people in a race and most, if not all of us want to win. Winning races is rare for most of us but I don't know if it truly defines a good race. For me racing is about getting better, it's about the races with the race and the all out battles with friends. 1st place may be hard fought...but even harder is the fight to be not be DFL or to beat someone you've never beat in a race.

At the end of this year I've had some time to think about whether it's been a successful season. Things didn't start out or end exactly as planned but was this year successful for me?

The start of the year seemed promising. Cut 10 minutes off my PB time from 2 years ago in the Prairie Roubaix. Finished in 5th place out of 16 teams at the Salty Dog Enduro in the 2 man team category the next month, missing third place by one lap. My first MTB XC race went pretty good as I missed 10th place by a few seconds in my second race in the Sport category.

However, my training went a little off the rails when the Midweek Mayhem crits were cancelled. Up next was a mountain bike race in June in a foot of snow and freezing tempartures which ended up doing more then a bit of wear to my mountain bike. After that came another disastrous race in Cat 4 in the Bike Banff Fest where I lost contact with the pack when 2 riders rubbed wheel in front of me and half the field got dropped and then lapped. The cap off the month, I was helping out as trail ambassador for the Furious 3 race which was also super muddy and ended doing even more wear damage to my mountain bike.

I was gone most of July on a business trip but upon return I participated in my first 24 Hours of Adrenaline race as part of 5 man with some friends. Our goal for the race wasn't placing but to have fun. We managed to get 5th out of 20 teams despite just going out and having fun. I also managed to churn out some pretty decent laps times...and I might have even managed a few smiles during my laps. This was one of my highlights of the season mainly because I got to ride on an awesome team and the weather conditions were awesome during the race.

Up next, I entered into the Tour de Bowness races and the Jay Lap races. This year I decided I wasn't going to do any of the road races...just focus on the hill climb time-trials and crit events in order to prepare for 'cross.

My first road race was a hill climb results which I was a little disappointed with the results as I was one second slower than my result a couple year ago despite increased amounts of training. The circuit race was going pretty good but ended up being behind a crash on the final lap which split the group up...although I managed to avoid the crash and finish up about mid-pack. During the crit my only goal was to not get dropped and stay with the pack. I finished the race about mid pack again and accomplished my goal of finishig the race which I was really happy about.

During the Jaylap Hill Climb I ended up getting to my start a little later then planned as I got held up at work and missed where the sign-on was. Despite getting a great warm-up and feeling pretty strong during the race I still finished up over a minute off the leaders time and in the bottom half which was disappointing as hill climbs are usually my strong point. The crit was pretty much the same goal as the one in the Tour de Bowness which I was able to accomplish once again.

Despite some low's during the first half of the season...I still think so far I was having way more success then previous seasons. I felt stronger then before and much more confident on my mountain bike then before. I was finally keeping up to my team on the group rides and riding with faster people without getting completely shelled.

Next up...cyclocross 2012.

- Kyle

Monday, July 11, 2011

Banff Bike Fest Criterium

The first road race of the year is always the most nerve-racking….and this race is not for the timid. I had gone down to Banff last year to watch Cyrus race and the atmosphere had been incredible and the many crashes…not so incredible, but I still wanted to be part of the show.

This was a really important race for me… I really wanted to do well in this race, I was so close to my upgrade to Cat 4. The week leading up to the race did not look promising...a crash during my training crit that ended up cutting the race short…track cancelled due to rain and possibly more rain on Saturday in Banff.

An hour before my start I found myself wading through a sea of kids. They were all so anxious to do the kids races and there were so many smiles despite the rain and cool weather. It must be an amazing feeling for them to get a chance to ride (or run) on the same closed we would be using…. How often do they get to ride in the middle of the road without fear of cars?

I started my warm-up…alone in the parking lot on my trainer, while it started to drizzle. The course was already infamous for crashes under ideal conditions and the rain was going to make this a much more challenging race.

I finished my warm-up on the trainer and proceeded to pre-ride the coure. As I went by the crowd during one of my warmup laps. I heard a little boy saying “I’m cheering for number 79…GO NUMBER 79!”. Awesome. Now I have to kick ass.

Staging started and I seeded myself in the first row. The countdown began, the racers silenced and the crowd cheered. My first official road race of the year and I was ready to put the hammer down.

The race started and I managed to get second wheel going into the first hairpin turn. So far, so good…tires held up and everyone up front went single file through the turn. As we came around the turn to complete out first lap…I saw the guy on my right lose contact with the ground and slide across the tarmac into the fence. The announcers informed the crowd there wa s a crash and that it was holding up some of the racers. The few survivors all knew what to do…we attacked and pushed the pace. We got into a group of 4 and managed to get away from the peloton.

The 4 of us managed to work loosely together and stay away for most of the race. The course was starting the dry up a little on where the pack was riding so it was getting easier to focus on the lines through the turns.

I went up to the front to take a pull and was leading the lead group then I heard the same little boy yell “Look, it’s number 79, I told you to cheer for him!” That was probably one of my best moments of racing.

Nearing the last few laps of our race…it seemed like we were either slowing down or the pack was starting to reel us back in. 2 more riders from RMCC managed to bridge up to us and now we were a group of seven heading into the last lap. The group consisted mostly of RMCC riders so they worked as a team with a couple of us interloping on their plan.

Last lap…the pace went up considerably. RMCC formed a group and it was hard to get past them and I was trying to have enough left for the final sprint. We hit the last turn and I emptied the tank sprinting for a much needed 6th place finish.

It was over so quickly…one of the best crits I’ve ever raced. I went out and accomplished the goal I had set out for myself. It was all smiles as I did my cool down laps. Even though I didn’t win…it still felt like I did. All my anxiety about the race course conditions, my result, my upgrade points were all gone at once. Finally….Cat 4. 1 of 3 season goals complete.

- Kyle

Photo Credits: Christina Hirolta

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Day 5: Innsbruck to Venice

This was going to be another early day but we were finally off to Venice. This seemed like this is one of the places that everybody could not wait to get to. Our our way out from the hotel we made a stop to see the Olumpic ski jump on the top of the hill and we also went inside a church. I found the inside of the church much more interesting then the ski jump. Maybe it's because it wasn't anything new to me as we have a pretty nice ski jump tower back in Calgary. After taking picutres it was off to Italy.

The drive was really scenic as we wound in and out of tunnels through Brenner Pass As we made our way into Italy you could tell right away where we were. The trees different and there were vineyards everywhere.

At our first rest stop we got introduced to the Italian way of ordering food. First you had to go see what you wanted, then you had to line up to pay for it and then after you got your receipt, you went back to order what you wanted. If it sounds like is...on top of people butting in front of you in the line and trying to pronounce what you wanted, it took a while to get food but in the end it was worth it.

We made our way into Mestre where we got off the coach and then took a boat into Venice as no vehicles are allowed in the city. The ride was about an hour or so and there were everythign from tugboats to cruise ships in the harbor. As we neared Venice, from a distance you could see some building that were beginning to lean as the whole city is built on a marshy lagoon which why it is sometimes called "The Floating City". As we cruised for the port the site was unbelievable, it was unlike anything I've ever seen before in my life. I never thought in my life I would get to see Venice, so it was breathtaking.


We got off the boat and made our  way into the main town center, Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square). There we saw the St Mark's Basilica and the infamous square with lots of pigeons, but not as many as there used to be. I was about to take a quick look inside the church but no backpacks were allowed and I didn't want to get seperated from the group so I went with a few people into the narrow streets of Venice.

Walking through the streets was like navigating a maze. There were little shops lining the streets selling all sorts of things. The only thing in my mind was to find the Rialto Bridge. I was able to navigate my way through the streets by following signs that were on the sides of some of the buildings but it would be pretty easy to get lost if you happen to miss one of them. As I made my way to the bridge, it was difficult to get throught eh streets as some of them were only wide enough for 2 people and of course some people walked 2 abreast which blocked anyone from getting through easily. Finally I found my way to the bridge and took a few photos of the spectacular view.

After taking some pictures, I had to make my way back to Piazza San Marco to meet up with the group for the gondola ride. Although I was able to find the signs to point me back in the direction of the plaza, I still managed to get a little lost and asked a local to point me in the right direction. After meeting up with the group, we walked over to the wharf where there were gondolas waiting for our group. We got into groups of six, bought some wine and then set off for a trip though the canals with the sun starting to set. Unfortunately, our gondolier did not sing...even after we asked him.

After the gondola ride we had another couple hours to kill before our dinner at the resturant. About half of the group decided to go our a tour of the glass factory to see how Murano glass was manufactured. The glass master made a few thigns, but he managed to make a horse of glass in just a few minutes. Becasue the glass can only actually be manfactured in Murano to be Murano glass, the glassmaker had to destroy the figurine. I ended up buying a small vase as I found it was something unique to bring back to Canada.

After getting my vase. I went to walk around the city some more and met up with some people from my tour and whom were mostly smashed from drinking wine on the gondola. I waled with them for a littel bit before going off on my own to take more pictures as I had now had some perfect lighting. I wandered back to the bridge while going a different route to see all of the shops. The place really felt much more alive at night then it did during the day. I had enough to do a pretty long walk and really just wanted to see as much as I could of the city. The group met up again a few hours later and we went to an Italian (obsviously) resturant for dinner. The dinner was really good with musicians playing accordians at our table and singing songs all night long while we ate. We had some pretty good wine...but not excellent and some pretty good pasta. This was also the first time I had ever had a risotto, which was delicious.

After dinner, we hurried back to the harbor to catch our ferry back to mainland, then we drove a short while to our hotel in Mestre. Next day we just had a fairly short drive to the city of Rome.

- Kyle

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Day 4: Munich to Innsbruck

The next day I when I woke up, I felt amazingly pretty good despite having 2L of beer. Not even a trace of a hangover or a headache which I usally get when I drink that much (for me that's a lot). Today, we were driving to Austria but it was supposed to be a pretty short drive but we were still going to have a pretty full day.

Out first stop was the in the country side to see the infamous Neuschwanstein Castle. From a distance it didn't really look all that spectacular and I figured that was probably the best look we were going to get of it.

I guess the ulterior motive for the stop was because there happened to be some snow on the ground and probably about half the people on the bus had never seen snow before in their life, so that was a pretty big thing for them. For just made me think of home...and all the snow I was going to have to shovel when I got back.

After a short while, we got back on the bus and then proceeded to the town of Schwangau, which is the town at the foot of the road to the castle. Ther were several ways up the the castle but a few of us decided it would probably be faster to just walk up to the castle which took about 20 minutes.

The castle was huge. I don't even think any pictures can do it justice. The architecture was absolutely amazing and up until that moment, I never really thought castles like this existed. We didn't have time to take a tour of the inside of the castle so just walked around the courtyard and took pictures. After leaving the castle we travelled down the road to a restaurant for lunch. There I had more Hofbrauhaus beer (my new favorite), some currywurst with some pommes frites.

After we got back on the bus, we kept on driving through the mountain passes and then we had another stop at the Zugspitze view point near the Austrian border, which is the highest peak in Germany. After taking photos we hopped back on the bus and made our way to Innsbruck, Austria.

We arrived in Innsbruck and it was a really nice city surrounded by mountains. We proceeded straight into the city and got off to walk around the city. Our first major stop was at the Golden Roof landmark.  After a brief history lesson some of us proceeded into the Swarovski shop, which is what Austria is also famous for. 

A few of us then decided to go to a cafe to try some hot chocolate, which was amazing! Then we walked around trying to find a cybecafe so that some people could check their e-mail. After leaving the cafe we made our way to the Schnapps shop where you could taste anything you wanted for free. I ended up buying a small bottle to bring back home after tasting about 10 different flavors.

After we the shop we went back to the cybercafe to chill out for a bit before the group had to meet up to go to our hotel. After walking a short distance to the coach we made our way to the hotel for dinner and then got some sleep after a pretty big day.

- Kyle

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Day 3: St. Goar to Munich

Imagine being in Germany for your first night then at 5am you are woken up by an air raid siren. I didn’t know if it was some sort of wake up call or if something was happening but needless to say after the almost a minute of full on siren (and several more off in the distance)….I went back to sleep.

After getting up for the second time we all assembled for breakfast and then we had a stop at the beer stein store next door. The store had all sorts of steins and the owner himself also designed and made them. He explained a lot of history behind them and also showed us a few of the collectibles ones. I ended up buying a couple of steins for myself. After the store, we got a little bit of time to take some pictures of a castle on the hill and some of the valley and then we drove off through the Rhine Valley. During our drive out we found out the source of the sirens at night. It turns out a ship had capsized in the flooded river so they were sounding the alarm went it start going over.

After a scenic drive through the Rhine Velley we arrived in Munich. After getting to our hotel and taking a shower we headed out to the old part of Germany for a walking tour. We got into town and walked for a bit to near the Marienplatz where we met up with our tour guide. Our tour guide started taking and it was in perfect English…a very familiar accent…turns out he was a fellow Canadian who had moved to Europe 5 years ago from Vancouver to be a tour guide.

The guided tour was really good and we got to see some really interesting building as well as learn some really interesting facts about Germany pre and post both World Wars. I was really fascinated by some of the buildings which had the textures painted on after they were rebuilt after the war because Germany did not have enough money to rebuild them to the way they were after they were destroyed during the war.

After the walking tour, it was time to drink massive amounts of beer at the beer hall Hofbrauhaus. The beer house was awesome. A server just walked around with five 1L steins in each hand and just asked who wanted beer and then he put them down the table. The beer was probably the best beer I’ve ever had. Our tour guide Joe said the only ingredients were hops, barley and water so it was the purest beer you could have (and he promised if we only drank beer we would not have a hangover). The beer was really smooth, crisp and it went down pretty easy.

For food, most of us ordered the pork knuckle which was pretty much a giant piece of meat on a bone with a piece of fried fat on top (crisp) served with two german style dumplings. The pork knuckle was really heavy and filling so I’m sure it did a great job soaking up all the beer. By the end of the night I ended up drinking 2 steins which was probably equivalent to about 6 beers. I chugged the last 1/3 of the second beer which turned out to be a really bad idea.

After the beer hall, most of us got on the coach and made our way back to the hotel where my roommate proceeded to pass out after having about 4 steins.

Tomorrow we will be heading to Innsbruck, Austria.

- Kyle

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Day 2: Amsterdam to St.Goar

Today, we got a free morning to see some sites and walk around town. It was a little rainy but not too bad…mainly just a light drizzle. After getting dropped off in the town centre we decided to walk over to the Anne Frank house museum as a group. The Anne Frank house was a pretty surreal experience. I don’t think I said even two words to anyone while I was in there. Most people have read the story but to actually see where they lived and understand how they were able to hide for so long in the house is really amazing. Going through the house really made me appreciate the freedom that I have even to do something as simple as riding a bike. After we finished at the museum, three of us decided to walk down to the Van Gough museum. It was a pretty good walk and it was fun to see all of the different architecture and how compact the city is. The Van Gogh museum was really big and it was hard to try and see everything while trying to keep track of time. After the museum we went for some poffertjes. We went to a place that our tour manager recommended and the poffertjes were amazing. They look really small pancakes which they then put on some butter and then dump some icing sugar on.

After finishing up our snack, we now had about 30 minutes to try and get to the other side of town. We starting walking in the general direction but after a few minutes we managed to flag down a taxi. The taxi was an Audi A8 which was pretty really nice but not what I’d expect to be a taxi. The driver was really nice and spoke extremely god English. He was able to get us to our meet location just in time for us to get on the tour bus.

From Amsterdam we drove over to the Rhine Valley where we'd be staying in St. Goar. After arriving in St. Goar after about a 6 hour drive, we got into our hotel and right away there was chaos. There were four flights of stairs to go up to get to our room and there were no elevators. The stairs were packed with a lots of the people trying to get their packed heavy suitcases up the stairs. It was pretty comical sight…but after a while with people helping out, we all managed to get their suitcases to their rooms. After getting settled in our rooms and having a quick shower, we had dinner and then we went for some wine tasting. The wine tasting was held in wine cellar built in the 17th century and the current owner was gave us some different wines to taste from different harvest periods. I’m not a really big fan of wine but his wine was actually really good. I tried some ice wine and I was blown away so I ended up buying a bottle to take home. As a gift they let us keep the shot glasses that we tasted the wine from.

After the wine tasting we all went down to the hotel bar for a few drinks. I went for some German beer which was really good while most people were trying to see how many Feigling shots they could do. I think they said the next day they had about 4 boxes of 50…

- Kyle

Monday, January 10, 2011

Eurotrip 2011!

Day 0: Calgary to London

The next set of entries will barely be cycling related but I don’t want to start another blog so I will blog about my 2 weeks adventure to Europe. I chose to go to Europe because I felt I needed to experience a few different cultures and possibly have a sneak peek of the cycling for my next adventure here. My tour was going to do 8 countries in about 12 days so it was going to be very busy days.

My flight to London was a 9 hour flight from London so I was trying to think of how I going to pass the time on the plane. After got my seat, I saw someone I though I recognized trying to get to his seat, turns out he was going to be sitting with me for the flight. After a few minutes he turns to me and we both sorta recognized each other and it turned out we went to the same high school 10 years ago. We had a really good chat for a few hours and it really made the time go by fast as we caught up a little bit about life, politics and real estate. He is going to school in Amsterdam and was just on his way back so it was pretty crazy to actually know the person sitting next to you on a random flight by yourself.

After landing in UK, I took the “Tube” (London Underground) from the airport to Russell Square where my hotel was located. Right away I noticed that the public transportation system was much better than anything we have back in Calgary. The map of the transit system pretty looked like spaghetti and I was a little confused trying to figure out where I was but once the train started going, I figured it out and was able to locate where I needed to get off.

I arrived at Russell Square and after walking around a bit, I was able to get my bearings and find my hotel. I didn’t have much time to walk around after I got to my hotel so I just went for a walk to try and locate the tour meet up point which was at the basement of the Royal National Hotel. After asking a few questions, I went to see if I could find a store to sell me a SIM card for my phone.

I found the phones stores but none of them were able to sell me a roaming SIM card so I just went to a Starbucks to grab a coffee. After grabbing my coffee, I went back to the meeting place to meet up with the rest of the tour group. I thought it was going to be a fairly small group, but it turns out it was sold out and we had a full group of 50 people on the tour. I met up with another Canadian, an American and a few Aussies right away. After the briefing we all decided to go out to a local pub for a pint and a bite to eat. The dinner was pretty good and much better then the standard pub fare that we usually get back home. The beer was pretty good but to be honest I was expecting a little better. After dinner we headed back to the hotel as we had to wake up quite early to board the coach the next day.

Day 1: London to Amsterdam

The first thing I did when I woke up was obviously take a shower which was much easier said then done. This was when I noticed that everything in Europe is much smaller and more compact then anything that we have back in Canada. I literally had to stand sideways in the shower the entire time and was bumping into everything as I tried to wash up. I almost fell on my face trying to get out of the tub as the sides were super high.

After boarding the coach we left London in the dark so I wasn’t able to see any major sites except for the Tower Bridge. The plan for the day was to drive to the port and take the ferry over to France and then drive through Belgium to Amsterdam. As we got on the ferry we got to see the White Cliffs of Dover was are cliffs of sheer white. They stretched as far as the eye could see along the coastline but it was really cool to see from the top of the ferry.

I slept part of the way on the drive from France but there really wasn’t much to see. When we arrived in Amsterdam I was really amazed how flat it was. There wasn’t a single hill in site. After the bus stopped at the hotel for us to put away our luggage, we had some dinner then we were onto our first excursion. We took the coach back to the center of town and the first thing that they told us was to watch out for bikes.

There were thousands of bikes! 99% of the bikes were the infamous Dutch bike which is a single speed bike with coaster brakes. Because the twn is so flat, gears aren’t needed and so I’m sure this really helps control the pace on the bike paths. The bikes racks were filled with almost identical bikes and they were literally fighting for space amd some racks just had bikes toppling over each other. There was even a bike “parkade” which probably held thousands of bikes, it was crazy.

The group then got together for a river cruise through the canals with an open bar. On the ride we got a taste for the typical Dutch music (techno?!) and probably the best Heineken that I’ve ever had in my entire life. I guess maybe it was because we were much closer to the brewery (Heineken is brewed in Amsterdam). After the river cruise we walked over to the infamous Red Light District. I wasn’t able to get any photos because it is apparently run by a private security firm and if you’re caught taking photos they will take your camera and smash it on the ground.

After doing a quick tour of the Red Light District, most of us decided to go check out a "cultural show". All I can say have to go to Amsterdam. It was pretty unbelievable what I went to go see but it was a little more culture then I was expecting.

After the show we went to go check out a coffeshop. We went into one of the famous Bulldog Cafes and was pretty much what you'd expect from a palce where it's legal to smoke to marijuana. A couple people bought Space Cakes but most of the others went downstairs to smoke a few joints. I left after about 10 minutes and decided to head down to a bar where the rest of the group was hanging out. After about hour we prety much got kicked out of the bar as they were closing up so we all went back to the hotel. Tomorrow are supposed to get about half a day o free time to walk around the city before heading off to Germany.

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