Thursday, October 19, 2006

Unofficially Official

The preliminary results are in and I've got some good news and some bad news.

The good news? My 1 and only official race lap was actually 1:29. Pretty sweet.

The bad news? Dylan's lap wasn't even counted, leaving a 1:36 idle time between John and myself and putting your beloved Earthlings in 3rd to last place in the 5 person coed category. Before the race, the organizers announced that they had technical difficulties with some of the RFIDs and some small number of racers had been deleted from the database. They assured us that the problem would be fixed.

And they've decided to call the race at 8pm, making it 8 hours of Moab. It was probably the fairest call to make, but definitely a tough one. The official communique has more details on the decision;
The race course had some of the scariest conditions ever encountered at this epic event. Racers on-course during the deluge experienced waist-deep flash-floods, chain-binding, brake-pad wearing mud that forced many into walking mode, gaping erosion ditches that seemed to appear out of nowhere and most dangerously of all, bone-chilling cold that brought many to near hypothermia.

...Some teams asked if the canceling of a lap (allowable under the rules in normal racing situations) would be allowed for this course closure situation. The race director allowed lap canceling, as per the rules. Canceling a riders lap would allow a team to forego a very slow, cold, night-lap that would create a late starting split time at re-start and instead give them the opportunity to start early in the re-start and race that lap in much faster conditions in the morning. However, not all teams were aware of this strategic choice and some teams, in fact many of the teams in the lead who had just gone out on their lap were not able to take advantage of this strategy and significant inequities where created.

I've been in touch with the organizers to try to get our results fixed up before they're finalized. Either way we all had a great time riding our bikes, hanging out in the desert, and talking Google. Here's to seeing Dylan's lap counted!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Tomfoolery on the Inflat-a-Slide

While Granny Gear is working round-the-clock to crunch numbers and determine the race winner, the Google Earthlings have moved on to new and greater challenges. First up was a stop at the giant inflatable slide to further demonstrate the team's acrobatic superiority. Here, Dave C. arcs into a front flip:

Dylan's front handspring was sick:

Even on the slide, the competition was fierce. This guy pulled off a mean gainer while Cohen and Dylan looked on in shock:

Donal's so damn tall, this is actually a difficult move for him. Really, how coordinated would you be if you were 7'12"?

Always the innovator, Dylan introduces the face flop:

And this guy takes it up a notch. Once he upped the ante with this tremendous performance, nobody could touch him. After a brief stretching/calesthenics routine, he exploded off the top...

...flew through the air...

...and fell 30 feet onto his face.

He's ok!!!


Sufficiently humbled, team Google hit the road.

Monday, October 16, 2006

As Promised...

As I write this, we're somewhere in Western Nevada a few hundred miles from home. We all had a great time at the race, despite the weather which, incidentally, was absolutely gorgeous on Sunday.

The Google Earth expo tent was a big hit. We handed out hundreds of water bottles, Sketch Up socks, and blinky pins.

Most of all, people loved out Google Earth demo. I pre-rode the course on Friday and uploaded the GPS data so we could display a 3D aerial flyover. For everyone who asked how they could see it at home, here's a link for the course. To view it, you'll need to download and install Google Earth (it's free, of course).

Thanks to everyone who stopped by the Earth tent, we had a lot of fun. See you next year!

Sunday, October 15, 2006


As you may know, the 24 race was postponed for some 12 hours because of insane, dangerous conditions. Organizers decided to hold off on sending out racers at night because of the muddy, rutted and occasionally flood-like conditions. We heard a lot of racers complain about this, but I dunno... something about riding a bike out into a remote area of the desert during a major rainstorm just does not sound like a good idea to this Googler. Call me crazy.

This morning, I awoke ready to ride at 6AMish only to learn that the race had been postponed again. In fact, we didn't get a racer (DaveB) out until 11AM! By then, sunshine had broken through the grey desert canopy. Just thereafter, I had to leave to catch a plane back to NorCal and it was really, really hard to leave Moab just when nice weather returned. Argh!

I guess I wish the race organizers had made their mind up about when they would resume the race much earlier, as that would have saved myself and hundreds of others from getting up @ 6AM for absolutely nothing :-(

Despite all this, I had a killer time through most of this event because of my fellow Googlers and supporters. Everyone was super helpful, kind and fun to hang with.

Best line of the trip: while getting up this morning when it was very cold and very dark outside, I heard one racer shout:

"Hey, does anyone have any sun block?"

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Mud-Fest / Mechanical Bonanza / Sean Invents the 4-speed MTB

Lap 4 - Stads and Sean got talked into riding along with Tasha for the peak of the mud-fest. Tasha hit it hard and after mile 4, we never saw her again. Meanwhile, the rain and the mud were brutal.

Sean and I broke every part of our bikes that could be broken. My saddle is done for, my brake pads are cooked, and I can't shift into my granny. Meanwhile, Sean finished with only four working gears -- but he pretty much matched my time on his fifth mountain bike ride ever, so I'm officially humbled.

Sean soggy after the finish. And to the right: I'm not even sure whose foot this is, but you get the point.

Right after we finished, Birdsong headed out for lap 5 and we got the news that this would be the last start until 7am because of the weather.

The team reacts to the tragic news.

While we slogged through the course, the kiddies rode the 24 Minutes of Moab race - this little monkey put in a strong showing.

One good thing - I got to rock my short new stem. 70mm, 5 degrees... I can't even tell the difference climbing, but it's way easier to get my wheel up on the drops. Fit Kit be damned, I like me the short stem. Check it:

Crepuscular Times

As it turns out, I am not destined to ride nocturnally this evening; rather, I will be riding crepuscularly, at or around dawn. This is most unfortunate, as despite my butterflies, I was actually rather looking forward to riding through the pitch-black torrential rains, if only to look back on it and raise my fist in triumph (triumphantly in my mind.)

We've done our best to hang as a group tonight, emptying the keg and learning about each others deepest and darkest secrets. We met our neighbors as well. They helped with the keg while we sat around their campfire.

I yearn for warmth and to ride soon.

Paddle, paddle, paddle your bike

Greetings from Lake Moab. I am warm and content here, rocking gently in our rental RV Ark. Thought the muck, mess, and soiled bike gear is piling up like Katrina refuse. As the team sous chef and general support wench I have spent a wet day running between said craft and the start line with warm food, drinks and snacks; as well as waiting in the mile long bike washing line which started in the upper expo area and ended in lower lake moab. This trip has been by far my most extreme cooking experience ever. It all started with cooking breakfast at 75 on I15. Pancakes and bacon and coffee form Dave's sweet new french press:

My only request was a call out for left hand turns, so as to be prepared to catch the pots and pans sliding off the propane stove, and to brace myself.

The pre-race dinner was pasta with spicy tomato sauce and sausage, which disappeared before the entire team could get back. Every cooks dream - to have hungry masses to feed and for it all to gratefully disappear.

Disaster struck in the morning when I set about washing all the dishes piled in the sink. The leak was discovered by Birdsong when he ventured to the back and stepped in a mud puddle in the bathroom. Up until now the mess had only consisted of desert dirt, and a lot of it. But now there was water too, turning everything to mud, and possibly coming from a questionable source. We tracked the source down to the crappy kitchenette sink. Which explains why the bathroom door doesn't shut anymore as the cheep fiberboard wall has warped. The greater ramifications being that all dishes must be now washed either in the bathroom sink or by carrying water from there in a largish tupperware.
It's been interesting to say the least.

Breakfast consisted of hash browns, which took forever to cook, but as most of the group were scurrying around setting up the little Google earth tent, no one seemed to notice. Though when the taters were finally golden brown there were hungry riders who licked their plates clean, making the wash up not too messy.

Tonight's dinner was a little spread out as team members were coming and going at staggered intervals. So as team members staggered in drenched, muddy and cold they were greeted by the childhood favorite: Mac n' Cheese.
Now, as the race is on hold, we are hanging out here in the filth that has engulfed this poor piece of American craftsmanship.

Thought you'd enjoy a glimpse of the mess and mayhem that is...

We'll show you the progress we make once task force Google earth descends with their scrub brushes and aprons on the drive home. Till then may the cleaning fairies and speed demons be with us.

From 24 to 12

We're awaiting the arrival of Dave from the last lap of 24 Hours of Moab tonight. They've shut down the course for the night because rivers have sprung up over sections and thunderstorms are threatening for the rest of the evening. 24 Hours of Moab continues tomorrow at 7am. Until then, we're hanging out, keeping warm, and trying to polish off this keg.

Clearly You're Not a Golfer

This weather sucks. I'll say it again as if to imply its suckiness...this is quite miserable. While it comforably drizzled during my first lap, as I anticipate a midnight departure for my second lap it is torrentially downpouring; and not a warm rain, but a really rather cold, bitter kind of rain. The kind sadness and melancholy prevail on.

I am dreading this lap. Dreading it like the day I left the womb (that was the worst.)

Race Day Blues

In my last post, I was brimming with excitement and anticipation. So far on race day, I've gone through a roller coaster of emotions. I awoke to rain. When I stepped out of the RV, it must not have been falling long, because the ground was still somewhat sandy. My first reaction was, 'this sucks, but we'll manage.' With the race start just half hour away, the drizzle shifted into a mild downpour. Our sand turned to soup. Despite the total crap weather, I got a charge out of the race start. This is it, we're off to the races!!..literally.

With the race underway, I snapped out of my funk and manned the expo tent for awhile. People were really stoked to see the course in a 3D demo on Google Earth and even more excited to learn that they could create their own course flyby. Our tent was small and lacked the shelter that all the other tents had, but this did not stop many from crowding around a laptop in the rain. A race organizer from Park City hung at the tent for almost an hour describing his race in June with hopes of gaining Google Earth as a sponsor. His race sounds pretty cool, I hope to go next year.

After about an hour, Dylan started preparing for his ride. I hung out with him in the race tent and tried to get him to confess any pre-race jitters. He was cool as a cucumber and before long, John rolled in with the baton.

And then he was off.

For the last few hours, I've been pretty shiftless. I have no idea what to do with myself. I'd like to be hangin out with other teams around campfires talkin about the race and bikes, but the weather is relentless. The rain clears from time to time, but the clouds never part. Any hope of sunshine is quickly dashed by another downpour. Despair. My first lap is coming up and as the rain falls harder, the ground turns more mushy than ever and the sun gets lower.

With all the money spent and weeks of planning all the tiny details(like trapsing all over the Bay Area scoping out rental RV's), I feel somewhat ripped off by mother nature. Rain in the desert!!

The First Few Hours at Moab

Early Friday morning, we pull over to a lookout in western Utah. It seems like we should be able to see Moab from here. 13 hours down... a few more to go.

First stop in Moab; the legendary Poison Spider cycles. We stock up on all the little things we forgot in the packing chaos the evening before.

We pull off rt 191 and travel a few miles down a rough dirt road. As we crest a peak we can see the festival spread out below us, with tents, campers, and cars all collected in a flat spot like a puddle of water. We park the rv and get the bikes ready for our practice loop. By the time we hit the trail it's already 5:30. About halfway through the preride we see the sun dipping below the horizon.

Everyone rises early on Saturday to help set up the Google Earth tent. I import my GPS data from the night before into Earth. It's an instant hit with the crowds as people come by to watch the course play through in 3D.

John takes the first loop and Dylan takes the second. Before the race even begins the skies open up and rain starts coming down. The festival grounds turn into a a mud fest that would make Woodstock jealous. I take the third loop and the rain lets up a bit. I decide to ride the single speed, based on the conditions being so hostile toward derailleurs, and the fact that the guys in the single speed category are turning out lap times of 1:10. I make it back in 1:36. Not too bad for a computer geek.

I'm sitting inside our nice and warm, but incredibly dirty rv. Wet clothes are sprawled over the furniture in the meager hope that they'll dry before our next lap. Tasha's out now riding and Dave waits in the race tent as the rain comes down and the sun sets on the desert landscape.

Until next time...

Hesitantly Jovial

I woke up this morning to torrential downpours. Actually not; but it was raining somewhat strenuously. What a downer that was. I had no desire to leave the comfortable confines of my sleeping bag. And yet I did, and as it turned out, it wasn't that miserable out. But it did get pretty miserable while I was on my first lap. Just a cold, bitter rain coming down, as I shivered my way through 15 miles. But in the end, my time wasn't all that bad. I pulled a 1:37 and that was with a drivetrain that I'm positive was out to spite me. And I was spited; slightly. But nevertheless, it was pretty damn fun.

Here's me right prior to my first lap, evangelizing Google Earth to the passers-by from our Expo-tent-like pulpit. You'll see my retinue standing back behind the Google Earth Expo tent, watching closely as I espouse the Earth message. This inter-personal dynamic between the members and extended members of our team, clearly demonstrated by the way they stare intently at me, is leading me to believe that we've begun to form an almost simian-like caste-system between us.

I may not be team captain, but I am clearly Alpha.

Lap One is over!

John got a time of 1:40, Dylan is out, the rain is working us!

The Night Before

In the last hour, 'Behind the Rock' campgrounds outside of Moab, Utah have quieted. Bonfires smolder, RV generators killed, gone is the occasional figure walking behind the glow of a headlamp. Everybody is bedding down for 24 Hours of Moab which begins in twelve hours. Except Tasha, Dylan, and Andrew who, from what it sounds like from the other side of the RV, are having a slumber party complete with chocolate brownies and scary stories.

Just 2 hours prior, the Google Earthling's campsite was alive and bustling. Bloody knees were mended while gratuitous bike porn glowed in the background from our luxurious RV's television. Lagunitas flowed freely which brought about much rejoicing of our first ride together as a complete group We had set out to complete a loop on the course to explore the terrain that we'll be so intimate with for the next 24 hours. Sunset was quickly approaching. Our departure was long and drawn out with nine riders, their complicated drivetrains and fancy forks needing attention. A few thought to bring a light while others held out that we would tear through and complete before sundown. Like goldilocks and her middle ground approach, I opted for a small camping headlamp not meant for biking to avoid yet another device requiring another half hour of tinkering.

Before arriving, I had examined the course on Google Earth to get an idea of the terrain features and most importantly elevation profile; to be quite honest, I was not expecting much in the way of technical challenge. As if this foreign soil had sensed my arrogance, in the second mile, the climb turned into an uphill gruntfest over rocks. I had to pop many a wheelie over ledges and the occastional baby heads to keep from toppling over. 'Behind the Rocks' trail continued like this for a few miles with
rolling yet jarring obstacles.

There were more than a few sections marked with XXX where I had to call upon my freerider within me. Where others dismounted to hike-a-bike our crew blazed down the craggy ledges and drops. Perhaps this is where our team will shine and stand a chance against the pro XC racer endurance androids. I'll be forever in John's debt for snapping this pic of me navigating the lower half of 'Nose Dive', a notorious section that ate this guy for breakfast(I hiked down the first half.)

On the way out of another XXX section was a tough set of uphill ridges. John and I jumped off and watched a skinny guy on a fully rigid single-speed 29er effortlessly fly down and up what we had just cleaned with all we had.

Not to be outdone, Dave appeared moments later on his own single speed to show us some of his grit.

Tasha was right behind Dave. Armed with her new Yeti, she forces her way up the ledge.

After snapping this sunset pic, John and I both agreed the sun was about to leave us. My GPS had measued our distance so to be around 7 miles which meant we were only half way through a lap. Without my glasses or a proper headlamp, the ride back would become more of an adventure than I'd bargained for.

Deciding not to wait for the others to show up, John and I set out at a brisk pace. The route merged with a jeep trail and flattened out and John broke away for about ten minutes -he must have been really mashing in the big ring! As we approached another XXX section, I tried to size up considerable ledge drop with a rough landing. The point of this trip was to get a feel for the course, but I also wanted to avoid injury. My inability to turn anything down pushed me to drop my seat and go for it. I came away unscathed, but I'll have to decide during the race if I take it or dismount.

Only a few minutes after the ledge, the sun was completely gone. John was pretty adventursome riding at a moderate speed in no light conditions, but without my glasses, I couldn't see much of anything. I broke out my little Petzel headlamp which was very mediocre and for a few miles we crowded around its glow trying to feel our way back. John continued to be daring and strayed from the small spot of light that I could barely provide. After a few close calls on my part of skidding through unseen ruts and ditches, the glow of camp lit up the far off valley. With our destination in sight, we both picked up the pace and reached camp. My GPS tells me we completed 13 miles in 2 hours 5 minutes. That time included a few stops for pictures and regrouping; my race time should be consdierably faster than that.

It's now around 1:30am Saturday morning and I'm sitting next to a wide open window in our RV listening to the now quiet desert. Nobody stirs, but I can feel the excitement that tomorrow will bring. We will ride tomorrow and we will not stop for a full day!

Friday, October 13, 2006

White Lightning

So mid-ride tonight, around 6:30pm or so, darkness prevailed. At least in the sense that I was pre-riding the trail without any lighting and suddenly I couldn't see a thing. And so much like the scene in the epic Jean-Claude Van Damme (JCVD) movie, Bloodsport, where he is suddenly blinded during his final Kumete by his opponents nefarious chalk powder maneuver, I was placed in an almost identical situation where I was forced to focus inwards and amplify my non-visual senses in order to finish the ride and make it back to the RV in time for beer. And make it back I did, indeed. When you're riding fast desert trail blind, you tend to think that while although you might at any second severely endo upon hitting a rock whilst front-weighted; you also gain a sense of confidence such that because you are unable to see the undulations of the trail before you, you tell yourself to proverbially "fuck it" and hope to hell you're picking the right line.

And speaking of the RV and beer, what a brilliant move it was to eschew individuality in favor of our driving in the aggregate. I almost feel like I might spend some time trying to articulate the range of emotions I went through during my time in the RV (mostly ranging from sober to not), and compose them into their own blog entry (surely of the highest journalistic caliber), rather than just nonchalantly mention our road-rules-esque journey as if almost an afterthought. And most likely I'll do this, in a sort of "On the Road" esque literary memoir. Yes, yes indeed. I will do this shortly, in a day or tow, once I am less inclined to drink beers and watch movies with my team-mates.

Godspeed to us.

Blogging from the road

3.49PM: One for the road: David picks up a keg of Lagunitas from Google.

6:35PM: Dave, Andrew and Erinne on the sofa, David driving, Dylan up top, and Sean.

6:14PM: Sunset colours, somewhere south of the Sierra Nevada Mountains

6:04AM -- Sean's at the wheel, the rest of the earthlings are asleep in the back, napping between shifts. ait, make that 7:04am, we're on Mountain Time now. Sean's at the wheel, Donal's playing co-pilot, the rest of the earthlings are asleep in the back, napping between shifts. We've been skipping across state lines. Right now we're in Arizona, but we're not going to stop in this state -- Utah beckons!

4:23AM: Sean couldn't stop in Vegas without just a little bit of gambling action.

11:37AM: First stop in Utah.

12:26PM: Erinne's at the stove. She's making pancakes and bacon. This requires exquisite coordination, because we're driving down a twisty 6% gradient road at 80 mph. She's looking up from the frying pan to look through the front window because Dave's shouted that there's a left turn coming up...

En Route to a Slog Fest?

I write this as Tasha and I hurtle west on I70 from Boulder toward Moab. The Subaru Outback is packed with Google swag and bike gear. We are using this race as an excuse to eat as much a possible, including my personal favorite: beef jerky. Hey, an athlete has to prepare, right?

We decided to stop at the Pearl Izumi store in Silverthorn to pick up some extra layers, as the race forecast is for wet, cold weather :-( I am hoping that this does not turn into a cold miserable experience, but who knows.

Right now we are at Parachute, CO (yes there *is* a town named Parachute in CO). We hope to pre-ride the race course as soon as we arrive in Moab.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Blur: A Love Story

It is important to me that you, our loyal readership, are absolutely clear that in Dave's post below where he references an image of two mud-caked bikes stacked side-by-side, that the one on the left is his, and the one on the right is mine.

I have a Nabokov-like obsession with my bike, and do not want anyone thinking I ride anything other than my dearest citrus-green Lolita.