Sunday, November 29, 2009

Twenty Opportunities in the Winter

What exactly is competitive cycling?  In the broad sense, the term refers to any event in which participants are riding a bicycle to win a prize.  The word "athlete" comes from the Greek word "athlos", which means prize.  Those who competed in the pan hellenic games, our modern Olympics, were athletes because they threw down to win something.  In road racing, I have seen grown men almost kill themselves, risking injury, to win beef jerkey.  I guess that makes us "athletes."

In the actual race, there is absolutely no ambiguity.  Otherwise sane men and women, gather behind an imaginary line on a road and roll out.  Within the pack, the goal is clear - win the race.  Often, at some point wheels touch and riders almost or do go down.  The goal then becomes to stay upright.  By the last third of the race, as your heart pounds out of your chest, your goal too often is to just survive.  A few lucky ones have the chance to contest the sprint.  

What is clear during the races season becomes ambiguous during the off season.  In the cold and rain, sometimes snow of winter, the first race in March seems a long way away.  Personally, I struggle.  I hate riding a stationary bike.  Lifting weights is as bad.  This year, I have tried power cranks to break it up a bit. 

For me, the salvation is the team ride.  Our team meets at a coffee shop.  I bet every team meets at a coffee shop.  If the weather is good, we roll out fifteen minutes late.  If it is bad, 30 minutes late.  

Let me say for the record, I believe in base training.  I believe in going slow in the Winter to go fast in the Spring. At the same time, I value team rides because it is one of the few times the team is together.  Unlike the pros, amateur bike racers are distracted by full time jobs, family and life.  Race season runs from March to August.  There is essentially no opportunity to train together then - just race together.  Most serious racers are burnt out in September and focus on fun rides for themselves.  That leaves October through February to train.  That is about 20 weekend rides.  20 opportunities to bring a bunch of guys together to learn and practice the skills required to be a good road team.  While I like base training, wasting 10 of those opportunities in zone 2 double pacelines hour after hour seems inefficient.  I would propose that base training is for each rider during the week.  Base training is also appropriate for the first half of the team ride. The other half should be dedicated to skills development. 

This brings me back to the original questions:  what is competitive cycling?   Put differently, what skills must a good road racer possess that is different than a good recreational rider?  Recreational and competitive cyclists both need to be fit.  They both train hour after hour in zone 2.  Hopefully, both categories of riders can paceline without taking out the line.  Double paceline work is nice but still pretty basic. 

In my limited view, one of the most important skills of a bike racer is what I call "extraction." Extraction is particular to racing and it is extremely difficult to pull off in an amateur bike race.  It is difficult, in part, because amateur teams rarely if ever practice extraction in the winter.  

Extraction is my slang for the need to pull team mates out of the pack and execute as a unit for a particular purpose.  For example, often a break will occur in a road race. If it is large enough, chances are riders will attempt to sit on at the front of the pack to slow it down to the benefit of the break.  Packs can be large, say 30-40 racers.  The trick is to know where all of your team mates are in the pack and to get them out of the cluster that is sometimes the amateur pack and out in the front to chase.  Once "extracted," the chase will need, of course, good base fitness and pacelining experience.  I would not characterize these basic skills as particular to racing because fitness and paceling are also characteristic of a recreational cyclists.

I have seen extraction in amateur bike races.  Almost always it is accidental.  Occasionally, it is irrational.  A break goes and some super fit dude thinks he can bridge up to it. He jumps and a team mate is near and tries to go with him.  Problem is, other racers go too and they are not on your team.  More often, the entire pack goes, including those who are sitting on to help the break.  As such, the train doesn't leave the station.  

I acknowledge that extraction may not be a necessary skill in my hypothetical because, even in amateur races, breaks rarely succeed.  But, what of the attack?  In 2005, a pod of 4 racers from Byrnes Specialty Glass Team dominated that Cat 4 Tuesday Night races at PIR in Kent.  Race after race, they schooled us on extraction.  A surge would occur, and the Byrnes pod would extract when the pack sputtered.  As we gasped, they attacked.  Four of them would catapult out of the pack but the last of them would fade.  This fourth man would allow himself to become absorbed by the front of the chase in order to slow it down.  They operated as one unit. They always knew where each other sat in the pack.  They were good enough that they always moved within the pack as one unit. 

This is winter.  Extraction should be practiced now.   Training rides should dedicate the first hour to the mob.  Free and easy. Everyone chatting and warming up.  The second part of the ride should have a particular purpose.  No missed training opportunities to build a strong road team.  

My call for extraction practice pre-supposes that the team knows itself.  On my team, I know that I can race in either the Masters C/D or Cat 4 category.  I am new to the team and do not know everyone yet.  In fact, I know about one third of the team.  Some of the guys I know will race in a different category.  It is not terribly productive to practice extraction with a guy who will not be in my races.  Assuming that you can dialogue about who is who and what categories will be filled, team rides should be organized around those categories.  On my team, I can think of 4-5 guys who are roughly my peers in terms of fitness and experience. Half of those guys can not race in Masters.  Assuming we all agreed to discuss this and agreed to race in Cat 4, then we should become extraction experts.  On group rides, we should move as a unit - always together.  We should tell the Cat 3s to attack and we should practice extracting from the pack.  Out from the others and, in our case, occasional recreational rider who have invited themselves along.  Then, we should go.  

This brings me to the other competitive cycling skill - "exclusion."  Recreational riding is about having fun.  Everyone pulls.  Hand and arm signals at every rock and twig.  On and on.  Exclusion is a skill particular to road racing.  When chasing, you often DO NOT want help.  The guy on your wheel has a team mate in the break.  If he gets into the rotation, he will break your momentum and sit on.  In other situations, exclusion comes into play when you come off the rotation and are gassed.  You look back and the rotation is 20 guys long.  Hangers on.  But, your team has the first five places.  Exclusion is the most common skill required for racing and it is about stopping someone from taking a wheel or forcing yourself onto a wheel.  It some cases, it takes nerves of steel.  In the chase scenario, it takes practice.

Back to the winter ride.  Practice this. A pod of guys attack.  The team lingers for a moment, and your pod extracts. A glance, a yelp, a scream.  Whatever it takes to get your pod motivated.  Route selection is key.  Unlike recreational rides, in races, you are often looking for a path upon which to extract that is shoulder to the right but imperfectly paved. To say the least.  Or, you might have to go up the middle between lines.  As you clear the front of the pack, your pod of extractors must surge to clear the pack without an unwanted guest latching on.   Then, go like you stole it. 

Practice communicating.  If you look back and see an adversary trying to hook, tell your pod.  If you hear it, repeat it so the guy at the front knows.  If you come off the rotation and feel gassed and notice a wheel sucker, it is a perfectly sound exclusion tactic for you, the last man, to detach from the pod so that the wheel sucker can not be a part of the attack.   

I also envision but have never seen a “reverse rotation.”  A reverse rotation benefits the team mate who has just rotated off but finds no opening because an aggressive wheel sucker is on the last friendly wheel.  He lingers out in the wind trying to rehook a friendly wheel.  One easy solution is to move up and your team mate pauses to let you in.  A better tactic is to yell “left” to your team mate (assuming you are to the left).  Your well trained team mate communicates that command up to all of the team mates.  Each moves to the left.  The end result is that your team mates have all moved so that they are in front of you and have re-formed a paceline.  Best of all, the wheel sucker suddenly finds himself in the wind wondering what just happened.  This clearly takes some practice.

Competitive cycling is a different and unique style of riding.  Many athletes can win a road race on individual fitness.  Many more can be dropped due to a lack of fitness.  For the rest of the pack, being part of a well organized and coordinated team can sometimes make the difference between just one team mate finishing well and most of the team finishing in the top twenty.  Or, in my wildest dreams, sweeping!

Monday, November 16, 2009

OK, ow!

I recently started using power cranks.  Power Cranks are simply bicycle cranks that are independent of one another.  When I pedal on power cranks, one leg can not rely on the other to finish the pedal stroke.  If you ever have ever pedalled a bike with just one leg, you know how hard it is.  Now, imagine pedalling with one leg for your entire ride but with both legs.  Voila! You have power cranks.  They are simply brutal.

On my very first power cranks ride, I lasted an hour.  This was pretty good since I thought I'd only make it thirty minutes.  The next ride I rode for two, easy hours.  The third ride I could only do fifteen minutes.  I could barely walk the following day.

Power cranks make you feel like a duck out of water.  For the first time in a long time, I had the fear of falling when I started or stopped.  This is simply because the cranks does not come up when you start to roll - it just hangs there, looking for some attention.  You have to try to clip in while the other leg stokes the engine.  A bizarre sensation.

This unusual sensation has one beneficial side affect.  When I roll from a stop sign or light, motorist seem to pause.  Too often, the rednecks throw beer cans.  The hilarity of a cyclist with an apparently broken pedal causes a certain cease fire from the revving machines of steel.  That is nice.

I was also amazed to discover that my pedal strokes were lame.  About every eighth stroke, my kick over the top just sort of petered out.  Power cranks are unforgiving.  If your stroke falters, the bike will sputter.  You realize that each stroke is part of the engine and if one of two pistons stops, the machine backfires. 

This, of course, is the point.  I have heard the experts talk about "pedal efficiency."  It is hard to understand that concept with normal cranks because one leg can so easily depend on the down stroke of the other to help it over.  With power cranks, one learns immediately what is meant by pedal efficiency. 

There is also a balance thing going on. I have not quite figured it out.  I will report back but I noticed that the power required to stroke with power cranks sometimes causes my knees to go in a weird direction.  Not every stroke but when I am fatigued. 

The best thing of all is that power cranks is time efficient.  Training is the cold and rainy weather sucks.  A two hour ride feels like a three hour ride or more.  Makes sense.  Candidly, I would much rather suffer like an animal on cranks in the rain for two hours than spend fifteen seconds on the trainer indoors.  Just me.

In any event, check out power cranks.  Here is the site.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

To Acknowledge or Not to Acknowledge

I received a settlement demand today from an attorney who argued that the disputed lease was unenforceable because it was not acknowledged pursuant to RCW 64.04.020. This statute provides that “[e]very deed shall be in writing, signed by the party bound thereby, and acknowledged by the party before some person authorized by this act to take acknowledgments of deeds.”

Yet, courts in Washington have generally held that an unacknowledged deed or mortgage is valid between the parties. Skagit State Bank v. Rasmussen, 109 Wn. 2d 377 (1987). It is true that a county recorder is under no duty to record an unacknowledged deed. Eggert v. Ford, 21 Wn. 3d 152, 154 (1944). However, if it is recorded, an unacknowledged deed will impart the same notice to third persons, from the date of recording, as if the instrument has been executed and acknowledged as required by law. RCW 65.080.030.

This makes sense. In conveyances of real property, legal title passes from Seller to Buyer for consideration, i.e., money. There is often a mortgage and old liens are paid off. A lot of moving parts. Suppose a parcel of real estate is sold through financing but somehow the lender's Deed of Trust was not notarized. (See note on acknowledgement). Recording the Deed of Trust gives notice to the world that the property is mortgaged and that, upon default, the proceeds from a foreclosure will be paid in the order that the liens were filed. It would be an injustice to disallow a valid claim because the Deed was not notarized. It has long been established that partial performance takes the parties out of the statute of frauds.

What does that mean? the Washington State Supreme Court has long held that an agreement to convey an estate in real property, though required by RCW 64.04.010 and 64.04.020 to be in writing with the formal requisites specified for a deed, may be proved without a writing, given sufficient part performance; and that specific performance will be granted where the acts allegedly constituting the part performance point unmistakably and exclusively to the existence of the claimed agreement. See, e.g., Mobley v. Harkins, 14 Wn.2d 276, 128 P.2d 289, 143 A.L.R. 88 (1942); Richardson v. Taylor Land & Livestock Co., 25 Wn.2d 518, 171 P.2d 703 (1946); Granquist v. McKean, 29 Wn.2d 440, 187 P.2d 623 (1947); Ormiston v. Boast, 68 Wn.2d 548, 413 P.2d 969 (1966); Ferguson v. McBride, 69 Wn.2d 35, 416 P.2d 464 (1966); Beckendorf v. Beckendorf, 76 Wn.2d 457, 457 P.2d 603 (1969). This, the doctrine of partial performance, exists as a means of removing an oral contract for the lease or sale of real property from the statute of frauds. The doctrine requires at least two of the following elements:

(1) delivery and assumption of actual and exclusive possession;

(2) payment or tender of consideration; and

(3) the making of permanent, substantial and valuable improvements, referable to the contract. Powers v. Hastings, 93 Wn.2d 709, 717, 612 P.2d 371 (1980).

The part performance doctrine also applies to written agreements failing to satisfy the statute of frauds. 2 A. Corbin, Contracts § 420, at 452-53 (1950) ("Being sufficient to enable the plaintiff to prove all the terms of an oral contract, it is necessarily sufficient to allow the use of oral testimony to supplement an existing memorandum that is deficient in some material respect."). Kruse v. Hemp, 121 Wn.2d 715, 724-25, 853 P.2d 1373 (1993).

Thus, even though a lease is technically a conveyance and the Statute of Frauds applies, that the lease was not notarized means nothing. As a common practice, business leases are never recorded. They are not recorded because they do not involve mortgages subject to foreclosures. There are rarely competing security interests. Thus, why record them? Even if they were recorded, case law is clear that a breaching party can not escape liability just because of a simple notary defect. Further, the court can look to the performance of the parties to determine whether a conveyance or a contract existed, in this case a lease.

I guess opposing counsel thought I just fell off a turnip truck. Bizarre expression.

Note on acknowledgments:

RCW 64.08.010
Who may take acknowledgments.

Acknowledgments of deeds, mortgages and other instruments in writing, required to be acknowledged may be taken in this state before a justice of the supreme court, or the clerk thereof, or the deputy of such clerk, before a judge of the court of appeals, or the clerk thereof, before a judge of the superior court, or qualified court commissioner thereof, or the clerk thereof, or the deputy of such clerk, or a county auditor, or the deputy of such auditor, or a qualified notary public, or a qualified United States commissioner appointed by any district court of the United States for this state, and all said instruments heretofore executed and acknowledged according to the provisions of this section are hereby declared legal and valid.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fee Simple Absolute

I read a case today that stands for the proposition that a court will construe a deed of conveyance as a fee simple absolute and not a lesser estate unless there is language in the deed that clearly states otherwise. King County v. Hanson Inv. Co, 34 Wn. 2d 114 (1949).

It had been since law school that I had thought about fee simples. But, in law school, a great deal of time was wasted on it. The great legal authority of modern times, Wikipedia, had this to say: "If previous grantors of a fee simple estate do not create any conditions for subsequent grantees to own the conveyed property in fee simple title, which is commonly the case these days, then the title is called fee simple absolute. Other fee simple estates in real property include fee simple defeasible (or fee simple determinable) estates. A defeasible estate is created when a grantor places a condition on a fee simple estate. Upon the happening of a specified event, the estate may become void or subject to annulment. Two types of defeasible estates are the fee simple determinable and the fee simple subject to a condition subsequent. If the grantor uses durational language in the condition such as "to A as long as the land is used for a park" then upon the happening of the specified event, the estate will automatically terminate and revert to the grantor or the grantor's estate; this is called a fee simple determinable. If the grantor uses language such as "but if alcohol is served" then the grantor or the heirs have a right of entry, but the estate does not automatically revert to the grantor; this is a fee simple subject to a condition subsequent. In the United States many of these concepts have been modified by statute in some states."

That last sentence encapsulates the difference between the practice of law and the study of law in most American law schools. We spent hours parsing different types of estate interests. I suppose the point was made but I recall those sessions as being agonizing. As between listening to my property professor quizzing us about future interests or eating glass, I'd just ask that the glass be ground fine and served with a martini. In Washington, the rules are laid out in the Revised Code of Washington, most notably Chapters 64 and 65. In my practice, I have never seen a "fee simple determinable." We spent hours on the rules against perpetuities, yet the Revised Code of Washington abolished the rule. One little tidbit my trusts and estates professor omitteed. Same with the Rule in Shelley's case.

Alas, if only I knew then what I know now.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Legal Messenger

Today, I felt like a legal messenger.  I had twittered yesterday that I thought e-file systems were great. I had noted that one could file court documents with the clerk's office via a web browser and even serve the other parties in the case.  This gives smaller firms the ability to reduce costs. 

I also indicated that Pierce County was light years ahead of King County on this.  I have orgal argument tomorrow on a case and was able to look up and read the briefs in opposition a day before I received the copies.  I was also able to file my responses after the clerk's office closed.  (That is ok, they were not due until today and they are logged as having been received on the next business day, i..e, today.)

Here is the glitch.  The system does not allow filing of Judge's working copies.  You have to deliver those the old fashioned way.  My office is 2 blocks from the court house so I decided to deliver the working copies in person.  

A beautiful day, I could not resist the urge to ride my bike from home to work.  With my prepared working copies tucked in my backpack, I rode gleefully downtown.  Bike messengers have go to be in great shape.  The only thing I was missing was a single speed bike and those jaunty, cycling caps they wear. 

I pulled up to work and the walked over to the courthouse in my shorts.  I passed a lawyer I have not seen in quite a few years but he did not recognize me.  To him, I was just a bike messenger.  To me, he was just a lawyer.  Which one of us has it figured out?  

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Racing in the Heat

Last night, Tuesday, June 2nd, I rode from Tacoma to Pacific International Raceway out of Auburn, to compete in the weekly Tuesday night race.  For awhile now, the weather has been glorious in the Pacific Northwest but the thermometer has edged up over 75 degrees.  Of course, I acknowledge that if a Californian read that, he would bust a gut.  But, seriously, I don't know what that big round thing is up in the sky but it is too bright - and hot. 

Another thing I don't like about the heat is it causes wind.  Someone said that it was caused by the air warming and, apparently, warm air rises.  This creats a vacuum.  Whatever the cause, my two hour ride to PIR started to feel like those long days of suffering in July when you are trying to make it to Portland from Seattle or down from Crystal to Enumclaw after RAMROD. This is fine but a little unsettling when you are just trying to make it to Tuesday night race.  

In any event, the heat gave me a nice tail wind to Summer but a head wind when I turned North.  I was drained by the time I hit Lea Hill, which is actually three climbs.  Needless to say, I was tired by the time I got to the race. 

My whining aside, PIR races are awesome.  They are the single best way I know to start racing. The course is closed to traffic.  The lanes are wide and safe.  Not to say that there are not mishaps.  (Case in point this video depicting a crash.  PIR Video.  My buddy took that video with cameras both front and rear.)

It is never fun seeing a crash but the video shows the so called flat course really well and gives you and idea of what racing at PIR involves.  The video does not show the speeds very well.  Perhaps we really don't go that fast but it sure feels fast.  When I used to track such things, it was not uncommon to see speeds near 30 mph on portions of the flat course. 

Racing at PIR offers variety in the sense that the race directors will change the routes.  One possible course includes a fast descent followed by a gradual uphill that connects again with the flat course.  The cruel option is the reverse, a gradual but quick descent that culminates in a shorter but steeper uphill.  

As luck would have it, this, the steeper uphill course, was the designated course for racing when I finally made it to the course.  

When the race got underway, it was apparent that the heat was a factor immediately as the entire pack was far more lethargic than it was the last time we raced this course.  Everyone knew the uphill was the killer.  Sure enough, as we hit the hill, I felt it in my legs.  I have always heard the expression "didn't have the legs today" but it wasn't until I started racing that I truly got it.  Some days, for no reason, you just feel horrible.  The muscles literally don't want to work.  That was it.  My body was at impulse power only. 

I stayed with my peers for three laps but abandoned thereafter.  Too much for me. This is a lesson I have learned as I have aged as a rider.  Sometimes your training objectives should be limited and it you meet those objectives, it is often best to stop.  I have reached the point where I just enjoy the process rather than the results.  I have met great friends and enjoy seeing the same faces even if I don't really know everyone.  

I stayed to watch the finish of the races.    After the race, those who made it all had the same sentiment: "Gosh, its hot."