Dear Sprint

When I call you to report that I can’t receive phone calls in my own home, and you decide to call me back, it probably isn’t a good idea to call me back on my Sprint phone, since, you know, I can’t receive phone calls when I’m in my own home. Is this a hard concept to grasp?

When I call Sprint support, the voice mail menu cautions me not to call with my Sprint phone because it might be needed in other ways to diagnose the problem. So why can’t you figure out that simple fact yourselves?

Update: It gets better! As well as leaving me a voice mail (which I got when I went out to run an errand), they also sent me a text message that says to reply to the text message to let them know when they can call me. When I attempt to reply to the text message, it tells me that it’s not a valid phone number to text. “Your MSG could not be DELIVERED because Invalid Destination Account”. Yes, with the StupidCaps(tm) and the fractured syntax and all.

The message they sent
The message they sent

What happens if you reply
What happens if you reply

More about the Long Lake Long Boat Regatta 2009

Long Lake raceYou can see how messed up my heart rate monitor was, but even when it was reading normally my heart rate was up in the zone above my lactate threshold for about the first 1:10 of the 1:27 of the race. In the last couple of miles, my heart rate dropped down to the 150-160 range, which is where I attempted to stay for the whole race the previous week, and my speed didn’t really drop. I think that indicates where Mike and I were helping each other.

The organizers managed to get the results posted before the awards ceremony. I think they were using the wifi from the hotel across the bay – considering we couldn’t even get the wifi from the hotel we were staying at in the room next to the office, that’s pretty impressive.

I uploaded Vicki’s pictures to my picture gallery. Check it out, there’s some pretty good pictures there. Remember that you can click on the thumbnail to see the picture bigger, or click on the thing that looks like a projector screen up at the upper left and see a slide show. Unfortunately the camera she used for the long shots, my Nikon Coolpix 8800, does an absolutely terrible job of focusing in that situation. I tossed most of the pictures of the action because they were too fuzzy. But I kept the ones that featured me, because I’m vain that way.

Long Lake Long Boat Regatta 2009

Today was the last race of the season, the Long Lake Long Boat Regatta. 10 miles on beautiful Long Lake in the Adirondaks. The wifi in my motel is really flakey so I’m posting this from my Pre, which seems better able to deal with drop outs than my laptop. So uploading pictures and gps tracks will have to wait until I get home. (Ok, turns out that the Pre couldn’t handle it, so I’m finishing it from home.)

The start was the usual confused mess. My heart rate monitor was wonking out, but even when it wasn’t showing impossible values like 240bpm, it was showing values that were higher than I planned. Early on, Mike was riding the left wake on a C4 and I was on his left wake, but moments later, I was on the right wash of the C4, Mike was on its stern, and Bill was on the right. I can’t remember exactly how that happened. Steve B was about 50 metres ahead of us. I risked a quick glance back and it looked like every kayak in the race was trying to ride my wake. I’m pretty sure Scott S, the guy who’d given me the Thunderbolt, was there.

The C4 guys were talking to each other, and they said they were going to do something with a Hawaiian sounding name after the next “Hup” (multi-person canoes switch sides when the stern paddler yells “Hup”), so I knew something was up. Sure enough, they put on a burst of speed. I hung with them, but by the time they slowed back down, we’d gapped everybody, including Mike and Bill. We got a bit closer to Steve B, but we were still 25 metres of so from him, and I don’t think we got any closer the whole way to the turning point. I stayed with them, getting some small ride from their wake, but mostly just keeping pace with them. I’d sort of figured out the rhythm, so every time they would “Hup” onto one side I’d turn my boat a little to the left, and then when they’d “Hup” to the other side, I’d turn the boat to the right. At one point, one of them thanked me for setting a good pace, and I told them that I thought they’d been setting the pace. My heart rate monitor was still showing me in the mid 160s, which is higher than I thought I could maintain, but I still felt strong.

As we got closer to the boat we were to turn around, the C4 was pushing me to the right. I said to them “You’re supposed to go to the left of that boat”, but they continued to push right, so I dropped behind them and came up the other side. I was surprised to see how much room they needed around the corner, and how much speed they lost – I think of my boat as being a lousy turner, but I got inside them on the turn again, and ended up back on their right side again. But we were now facing into the wind, and they were slowing down. I saw that Steve B and Mike were now hard up against the left shore with had some tiny bit of shelter from the wind, and we were just about level with Steve and maybe 10 or 20 metres in front of Mike. The C4 guys were doing a bit of talk to try to encourage each other, and included me in it, which was kind of fun. But as one of them said, we were half way done and I was only one third tired, so it was time to put on some speed. I passed the C4, and once I was clear of them I headed to the shore.

I was a bit behind Steve, but with the burst of speed I’d put on to leave the C4 I was catching him. I got into his wake, and recovered a bit and then surged ahead. Just as I got into position to pull Steve, I heard Steve say something to Mike. I didn’t realize it until afterwards, but Mike had buried himself to bridge up to us. And evidently Steve’s time alone there was starting to tell on him too. After a while, I looked back and it looked like Mike was riding my wake, but we’d gapped Steve. Mike made a couple of valiant efforts to come up along me and take a turn leading, but he just didn’t have it. I told him not to worry, I didn’t mind leading as long as I was feeling strong. With about 2 miles or so to go, he finally recovered enough to come up alongside, and I rode him for a few minutes to recover, but mostly we paddled together. There wasn’t anybody up ahead close enough to try to catch, and nobody behind who looked like they were going to catch us, so we set a good pace and enjoyed ten minutes of not worrying about our place. It was fun.

Mike pointed out a dock ahead, and said “after that dock, we’ll sort it out”, meaning that we were going to start our finish sprint at that point. But before we even got there, he raised our speed about 0.2 mph. And then we both realized that dock was further from the finish than we’d thought, and neither of us was going to be able to keep it up all the way to the finish. We both dropped our speed back down a bit, but not all the way. We were pretty much even until this float plane started his take-off run right beside us. The wake hit me hard and I had to stop paddling and brace like hell to avoid dumping, but Mike, who is a lot more comfortable in his EFT than I am in my Thunderbolt, kept paddling. Mike ended up beating me by 5 seconds. Steve was evidently a few metres behind us, and the wake from the float plane ended up dumping him.

Mike ended up winning the Touring class. I was 6th in Unlimited. I was really happy with my performance, and even happier that I could play a part in helping Mike get the win.

Remind me again why we switched to Sprint?

just got off the phone with Sprint. Needless to say, I had to phone them from the house line because once again I’m getting no signal in the house for the cell phone. I’m currently having two problems with the phones –

  1. We get signal in the house about 50% of the time, the rest of the time we get dropped calls and missed calls.
  2. Currently (as in ever since I was using it plugged into the car’s audio system on Saturday), I cannot hear anybody who calls me unless I remember to switch to speaker phone. It’s as if it still thinks there is something plugged into the headphone jack.

Sprint’s answer to the first was “we’ll send a network engineer to drive through your neighborhood to see what the signal strength is”, which means he’ll probably see it during the few minutes per hour where the strength registers as 3 or 4 bars, and declare it fine. I asked about one of those pico-cells, and they want you to pay for the device, then pay a monthly fee for the privilege of using your own cable modem network bandwidth to fix their network limitations. Their answer to the second problem is that I need to bring it in to a Sprint store, so somebody can try all the trouble shooting steps that I’ve already tried and say “yup, it’s dead all right”.

Right now the only thing that’s preventing me from driving to the Sprint store and saying “give us our money back, we’re going back to AT&T” and buying two iPhones is that Vicki isn’t home yet so I won’t be able to slam both of them down on the counter.

It’s a real shame, because I love WebOS, I kind of like the Pre itself (although the battery life sucks and when I’m using the GPS and music it suck down power faster than the car charger can replenish it unless I turn off the screen), but I hate, hate, hate, hate the Sprint Notwork.

So to everybody within the sound of my voice, hear my cry: “DON’T SWITCH TO SPRINT – THEY’RE CHEAPER FOR A REASON!”

Small Swells: Just call me “Mr. Leader of the Pack”

Ottawa River Canoe Club season
Ottawa River Canoe Club season
Remember how on the first race of the year, Tupper Lake, my blog headline was “Just call me Mr. Limpet”? Well, yesterday I had the race of my life, which is pretty awesome when you consider I’ve only been racing for a year.

Yesterday, Dan, Mike, Paul D, Frank and I went together to a race in Ottawa called “Small Swells”. Steve B and Jim M met us there, having driven up the night before so Steve’s son Aaron could participate in the sprint races in the morning. Ok, first of all, a bit of background on the team if you haven’t been following along: Mike, Paul D (aka “Lefty”) and I often paddle together, not just at official team practices. Steve B almost never joins us, and sometimes doesn’t even do what the rest of the team does at team practices, but he’s at least a minute faster than me at the Baycreek Time Trials, so he’s obviously a better paddler in many ways, and he’s very focused and very driven. Frank also paddles with the team, but he’s over a decade older than the rest of us, and also not as focused on racing, so he’s just there for fun and isn’t going to be challenging the rest of us for the win. Jim is in a league of his own – he’s been a contender or medalist in the national marathon and sprint championships more than a few times. Mike, Lefty and I have been working a bit on riding each other’s wake and other race strategy.

Mike is sort of the unofficial race strategist of our sub-group, and his contention is that we should go out really hard for a half a mile or so at the start, and then figure out where we are, get arranged into flying V, and settle down into a good pace that we can hold, and help each other. Mike’s always been faster than me, and usually when we paddle together he does most of the pulling. At a recent club training 5 mile race, I tried to stay with him and the faster guys, and I blew up badly. Afterwards, Jim looked at my heart rate and GPS data and said that 160 beats per minute (bpm) was my lactate threshold, and when I’m up above that, I’m spending “poker chips” at a fast rate. So my strategy for this race was to follow Mike’s strategy, but keep my heart rate around 155-160 bpm and if my heart rate gets higher than that, I may have to ride Mike’s wash without taking my turn up front, or even saying good bye to them and just paddle my own pace.

So anyways, us old guys show up at the Ottawa River Canoe Club, and it’s mostly a bunch of teenagers, and they’re all really good. Dan’s friend Jodi shows up with a few others after paddling across the Ottawa River, which is about 2 km wide at this point. He’s older than the ORCC kids, but he still looks like the sort of people I used to see disappearing into the distance at cross country ski races – a perfect combination of strength and aerobic capacity. We all line up at the start, which is pretty crowded – there are about 25 boats in a space that’s barely 25 metres across -the dock where the starter stands is on one side, and there are buoys marking shoal water on the other. Just to make it worse, several of the boats are Outrigger Canoes (OC-1s and OC-2s), and to make it even worse, about 10-20 metres from the start, there are three buoys making a rock crib that you probably don’t want to paddle over, so everybody is going to want to squeeze over to one side or the other almost as soon as the start goes off.

At the start, they explained the course – 5 km up the river into the wind and waves to a buoy in a small bay, then back downwind and downstream and around an island that’s in the middle of the river, and then sort of across the wind and stream back to the dock. Obviously you’d want to keep in close to the shore on the way up to stay out of the waves, but it was apparent to me that after the turn you’d want to go out into the middle of the river to take advantage of the wind and waves at your back. After explaining the course, they started trying to line everybody up, and a few boats had to paddle backwards because they’d gone over the line. This OC-2 I’d been beside end up sort of sideways in front of me, and I yelled at them to straighten up. I don’t know if they were trying to line up to avoid the rock crib in front of us, but it was definitely pushing me back to the second row.

The starter said “start in 10 seconds GO” without any pause between the word “seconds” and “GO”, which kind of surprised the Baycreek group. Call us crazy, but we sort of expected about, I don’t know, TEN SECONDS pause there. The Canadians all took off really fast. I tried to hang on to the wake of the OC-2, but they were just too fast. There was a lot of messy waves and wakes, and I got slammed into Mike. But we got straightened out and I went chasing after the OC-2. My heart rate was 169 bpm, way too high, even taking in account Mike’s “go like hell for the first half mile” strategy. So I tried to not reduce the amount of power I put into each stroke, but to take a bit of a pause and glide at the portion of the stroke where the paddle is out of the water. It seems to be working well, and I looked over and saw Steve B on my immediate right. I didn’t see Mike and Lefty, so I paddled over and tried to ride Steve’s wake, but he was heading towards the middle of the river, far too much out into the wind and waves. Plus he’s pretty light, and his boat is narrow, so he doesn’t make much wake. After a few minutes, I saw Mike and Lefty over on the left, and they were keeping in the better line out of the wind, so I moved over to them. By now, my heart rate had settled down under 160 bpm, and I was feeling good. When I reached Mike, he was gasping a bit and said his heart rate was still 170 bpm, so I told him to drop back into my wake and recover, and that I’d take the first pull. But he didn’t seem to want to drop back enough to get any benefit from my wake, and he was level with me. I guess because he usually pulls when we paddle together, he just couldn’t shut off that habit when he needed to.

After a mile and a half or so, he said he needed a drink, and we should both pause to grab our drink tubes at the same time. I agreed, and we did. I tried to drink fast and get paddling faster than him so he’d be better positioned to ride my wake. But unfortunately his paddle hit his GPS when he started paddling again, so unbeknownst to me, he’d paused again to restart his GPS. I wasn’t looking over my shoulder, and so I don’t know if he dropped off at this point or got back on my wake. A little while after that, I got hit by a wake from behind that was actually overpowering the effect of the waves from the front – when the second one lifted my stern, I gave three or four hard paddle strokes in order to ride it. At this point I looked around a bit and noticed that I seemed to have gapped the others. The Canadians and Jim M were a rapidly diminishing cluster of dots on the horizon, and we’d given up all hope of catching them. Dan had apparently dropped out because of the stomach problems he’d mentioned before the race. But I had this gap on my team-mates and I didn’t really know about it. My heart rate was still at my goal rate 155 and I was making 6.1 mph, and I still figured it was only a matter of time before Mike or Steve went steaming past and I’d just have to try to hang on.

At the turn, I got a look back and saw that I still had a gap over Mike, Paul and Steve. The vast pack of Canadians (and probably Jim) were doing something I couldn’t understand, though. They were heading back up the shore of the river, instead of going out into the middle towards the island. I could only see one boat, possibly an OC-2, heading towards the island, and it was at last 1000 metres ahead of me. But that’s what I knew was the right thing to do, so that’s the direction I was heading. But I couldn’t help wondering why all these people who were at the same start line as me, and heard the same description of the course as I did, so why were they over there? Maybe there was a smaller island I hadn’t noticed that was closer to shore, and that’s what the starter had meant? I kept heading to this island. I had two thoughts going through my head: Either I’d win because I was the only person who went the right way, or I’d get some sort of booby prize for doing this huge extra distance. But I felt kind of lonely out there in the middle of the river. The wind and current were helping my speed up to about 6.8 mph, but I’m still not 100% comfortable in the boat, so I felt exposed, and there was no way I felt steady enough to try looking behind me to see where my team-mates were. One of the safety boats came by, so I yelled at him to ask about the course, and he didn’t know – he said he thought they usually use the island, but “maybe they put a buoy out this year or something”. Big help.

Dan came paddling out from the shore, and started yelling at me. I had to pause paddling to hear him, but what he was telling me was that I should be heading to the island, not up the shore. Well, it’s good to have it confirmed, anyway.

When the black specks of the Canadians up ahead got to approximately where I thought the ORCC should be, they suddenly swung out across the waves to the island. I gained huge amounts of time on them, but still not enough to get competitive with them, but at least now I could tell the kayaks from the outrigger canoes. On the way back from the island, there was one guy about 50 metres ahead of me, and I pushed hard to try to close distance on him but he pulled away. Evidently about this time, Mike had closed to about 50 metres behind me, and he thought for sure he’d close that distance on the me but he didn’t. As well as being across the waves and wind, there were a lot of boat wakes, and the water got pretty shallow, so it was dicey going and I had to brace a few times.

Anyway, I don’t think a single local person finished behind us. Jim won the event, which surprised the hosts quite a bit. He’d held on the wake of a K-2 paddled by ORCC’s two best young men, and they’d tried to shake him a few times but he’d held on, and then passed them in the last bit.

But I am still having trouble believing that not only did I beat Mike and Lefty, but I even beat Steve. It feels like a fluke. But I also wonder if I wasn’t doing the wrong thing by just going alone – maybe if I’d waited for some of the others, I could have given them a chance to recover a bit, and then they could have taken pulls and raised all of our speeds. But I felt so “on”, and the boat felt like the set-up was perfect, and I just went with it. Next weekend is another day, and who knows what will happen then?

Update: Official results are available. BayCreek team results:

1 Jim M 1:13:42
7 Paul Tomblin 1:22:15
8 Mike F 1:23:13
9 Steve B 1:25:13
10 Paul D 1:25:47
11 Frank C 1:34:49