Many of you may have heard of Mig33. For those who haven't, they're a mobile social networking community built primarily for emerging markets. My understanding is that a large part of their revenues comes from enabling cheap phone calls.
And they really are cheap, at least the rack rates.
What they don't make obvious, however, is that after a mere 90 days of buying credit, the company AUTOMATICALLY and without otherwise notifying you CANCELS THE CREDIT. Not so cheap now, is it?
Skype does something similar but they do they send a notification in advance of any such expiry. Moreover, all you need to do to keep the credit valid is to make a phone call, even for just one second, and this resets the clock for all your credits to a further 180 days. I last bought Skype credit in 2006!
Mig33's clock resets every 90 days and you HAVE to use it within those 90 days. No resets.
I just realised today that I'd lost a fair amount of credit I bought a few months ago. This was more than 5 and a half hours worth of credit if I were to call India and more than 7 and a half hours if I called the US, for example. Even more unusual for a mobile-based company, many of whose users don't use PCs, I could only find out I'd lost my credit by logging into my account with my PC browser.
There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.
(So you've noticed that my QOTDs really aren't updated everyday on this blog but if I did do it everyday, I think my readers, all two of you, would find it more irritating than anything else. So I don't. I update much more often on Facebook and other inconsequential places.)
It's been a while since my last cycling-related post but here goes.
It turns out it's also been a while since my last "proper" ride so doing a team time trial on the Sunday before last was quite an experience! What is a team time trial or "TTT" if you want to get with the lingo? It's a team racing against the clock instead of against other teams. Wikipedia has more and Google has pics of drool-worthy machines.
I had teamed up with fellow cyclists Suzanne, Nic and Peter, for a 36 kilometre mixed quad event. "Teamed up" is a bit of a misnomer though because we didn't do a single ride together as a team before the race. That's pretty unusual because this discipline requires a huge amount of trust, communication and skill to achieve that all-important blend of safety at high speed. Moreover, I'd been off the bike for four weeks, not including a relatively easy-paced ride the previous weekend. I knew I was letting myself in for some pain.
Race day dawned and I'd only had about three and a half hours of sleep, mostly because my sleep cycle was destroyed from work travel and I'd napped during the afternoon on the day prior. Not good.
Met the team at the race start area 20 minutes before our start time and Peter discovers a slow leak in one of his tyres! Yikety-yikes. A quick replacement job and we were set to start. Warm-up? Hey, we rode to the race, didn't we?
We'd agreed a few calls to keep things simple. When things are moving really quickly and you're concentrating on not crashing into the wheel of the person in front of you, it's hard to keep track of what others are saying. Or even to hear them. I proposed:
CHANGE: Lead rider to rotate to the back of the pace-line.
GAP: Gap forming between one rider and the rest of the pace-line, usually because of a mis-match in pace.
ON: Rider who's just come off the front has latched on to the back of the pace-line.
The most important things to note are that there are only three calls, they're easy to remember, they’re each one syllable only and they each have a different vowel sound so it's almost impossible to mis-hear what someone has just said.
Our strategy was to set off at 38 km/h with each rider pulling for about 30 seconds before rotating back. Peter was our biggest rider and also our fastest. We decided the optimum strategy would be for Suzanne to draft Peter. I didn’t feel at the top of my game so I took protection behind Nic. Nic was in the least protected position since he had to draft Suzanne, our smallest rider. So the order of cyclists would be Nic followed by me and then Peter and Suzanne.
This was the theory anyway. What actually ensued was that Nic, Suzanne and I were nicely matched pace-wise while Peter was considerably stronger. Each time I came off the front, he would accelerate quickly even before I had got back on the pace-line! I had to modify my strategy to have a little bit left in the tank whenever I came off the front so that I could smoothly accelerate back on to Nic’s wheel. Not the most efficient use of resources but since we hadn't practised and prepared for this contingency, it was the best one could do under the circs!
Our 36 km race (actually 35 km as it turned out) consisted of three 12 km laps with two u-turns per lap. The general idea is to not go too fast at the outset but rather to maintain a steady pace throughout. Our first and second lap followed the theory perfectly (except that Peter’s pulls were at about 41-42 km/h not 38 km/h, but that was fine). About two-thirds of the way into the third lap, I yelled to everyone to reduce their pulls down to about 20 seconds each. I’m not sure everyone heard and understood but I certainly wasn’t capable by then of pulling more than 20-25 seconds myself! The idea is to maintain the same pace as in the first couple of laps but take a rest sooner.
In theory, there should be no ending sprint as we should be at our utmost effort level throughout the race. In practice, it’s hard to achieve this nirvana. Inexperienced racers often start off too fast. Others sometimes overcompensate and leave too much in the tank for the ending sprint. I don’t know how the others in my team felt but when we finished, I felt like I had come very close to achieving the theoretical optimum. This means pain and lots and lots of it, especially considering the repeated accelerations I had to perform each time I came off the front.
Our official time was 18m39s, 18m35s and 18m20s for the three laps for a total time of 55m34s. Our average speed for the total race including u-turns was a stunning 37.8km/h. Not only did we get faster as we progressed through the race — a time triallist’s dream in itself! — we also achieved what to me at least was a personal best! One major factor contributing to this, now that I think about it, was that we were very good through the u-turns. Smooth turning and not much time wasted getting back into a pace-line. Bad u-turning can easily result in 20 seconds wasted per u-turn.
And finally, let me try to give the non-cyclist reader an idea of what a one-hour time trial feels like. I wasn’t wearing a heart-rate monitor for the race but I can estimate it pretty well. My resting heart rate, say when I’ve just woken up in the morning, is about 50-55 beats per minute. (Very fit athletes can go as low as 40 or below.) The maximum I’ve ever recorded (probably instantaneous) was well over 210 beats per minute and I’ve held 195-ish for a short duration on a few occasions. This is painful territory! For the time-trial, I probably averaged about 185 beats per minute. If you want to feel what I felt, get on a bicycle or go for a run and increase the pace gradually until the point where your breathing changes from the normal deep breathing to a particularly heavy pant. This is your lactate threshold. Now maintain this for an hour. Easy!
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