With apologies to Carl Zeiss

[[ 2017 edit: WHO ART THOU? Why are you refreshing this post every three or four hours? Cues leading up to the solving of this repeated access pattern mystery to be rewarded in alcohol.  ]]

There's fresh snow outside. The roads, wet, are empty but for a lonely old man walking his dog.

You finish the second 20' interval on an upward slope. Your pulse, which has been wandering around 180 beats for the last several minutes, finally starts to drop as you begin the cool down.

As the endorphins hit you, you smile, realizing - almost half a year ahead of time - that it's going to be a good one.

This is the moment I work for.


For evil to prevail

As an once aspiring offspring of Academia realizes the pursuit of his long dreamed career to be a life-long rotten competition for positions and results of dubious relevance, and thus, making use of all his supposed brilliance, walks away, he commits the system even further into its downward spiral towards oblivious greed.

When an honest and hard-working amateur chooses not to pursue a career in professional cycling, justifiably avoiding risking his health and moral integrity in dubious practices of doping and sporting misconduct, he thus further sentences the sport to remain faded to a rancid condition where precisely those athletes, officials and doctors responsible for his leaving continue to deal the cards.
Every time an idealist forsakes his goals and settles for the bitter world imposed by those who fail to realize dreams and reality can in fact become synonyms - he pushes Utopia further and further away.

- - -

Suddenly he's sixteen again. Naively contemplating a life where he's capable of inducing the changes necessary to make a difference, he's unwilling to compromise, however immersed in a society used to expect such as he may be.

It matters not. He's obnoxiously cocky, and stubbornly willing to gamble entire careers for the sake of proving his point.

And, for good men should not abandon their hopes and forsake their struggle, lest evil prevails, fight he will.

Part-time only.


Another conspiracy-supporting data point

Last Saturday, I drove almost 300km west to take part in the "Great Prize of the Göllheim Community", a 28km time-trial in the state of Rheinland-Pfalz. While the gusting winds were, most likely, equally strong for all starters, I know my lack of confidence in my handling skills put me automatically in a disadvantageous position. I finished my run feeling it had been disastrous: my computer indicated almost 10% lower power than my ride in the Brazilian championships three weeks ago; I was unable to keep my aero tuck for significant stretches, as I fought to keep the bike upright against the strong side winds; and, finally, I was handed a time penalty for taking the wrong line in a turn, missing one cone and thus shortening my ride by a few meters. I went for a lacklustre cool-down and then left to shower ahead of the long drive back, convinced that I'd easily miss the top 10 and thus finish outside the money for the event.

But, coming out of the locker room, I was fairly surprised - so much, in fact, that I even missed the awards ceremony - to find myself ranked 3rd, just over a minute and twenty seconds behind former southwest German champion Kai Hliza (Möbel Ehrmann), and still ahead of many other names I had weighted as candidates for a podium placing, such as Rheinland's reigining state champion, Alexandre Boos (Bianchi-meinradshop.de).

Somewhat embarrassingly (?), the U23 lads which started after the Elites posted the fastest times of the day; if we were put together in the same classification, I would have finished exactly two minutes behind the Team Bergstrasse trio of Christopher Hatz, Harry Kraft and Hans Benning, the latter two, respectively, 2nd and 6th placed in the German U23 championships. The U23 vice-champion, furthermore, is (or was, at least) leading the Bundesliga, the prestigious national series. Definitively no slouch.

Doing the math: 3 seconds per kilometre behind Kai, 4.2s per kilometre behind Harry. On a bad day.

(At those speeds, the missing 10% power - which again suggests my run in Brazil was indeed not too shabby - would have yielded me speeds around 3 or 4% faster, translating into almost 90s time savings - enough to take home the Elite title, and probably only a handful of seconds behind the speedy U23s.)

My kingdom for some anti-doping tests.


Something rotten in Rio das Ostras

(An English translation of a post which originally appeared two weeks ago.)

The number 13 could imply that there was some kind of bad luck, but this would be an erroneous conclusion. I won't hold it as the best time trial of my life (a title shared between the 500 Millas prologue in 2008, or the Hirschbachtal time trial last year), but surely it was not the worst. I could say I was proud not only of my ability to keep the bike upright, but to do so while maintaining a relaxed, aerodynamic position. I couldn't keep my intended pace over one of the long stretches against the wind, however I was just a few watts below my target. At the same time, I think I managed to dose my effort pretty well between climbs and descents, overtaking four riders along the way. Upon finishing, I had the pleasant (?!) feeling of having completely emptied the tank - confirmed by the fact that, several hours after the race, the legs still felt the consequences of the effort.

It was then to my great astonishment that, when crossing the line, I found out I had not set the best time. Nor was I in a position to compete for the podium - I had but the seventh place, with just under half of the competitors still to complete the course. With the later arrivals including most of the most favourites, my name dropped a few more positions in the timetable. In the end, 13th. For someone who intended to fight for the podium, quite frustrating indeed.

Had I so severely miscalculated my own ability, or grossly underestimated my opponents? I still hold that, as I flew to Brazil, my form was certainly among the best I've ever attained. Unlike previous appearances, this year I had an enviable consistency - no colds, accidents or business trips that could have compromised my training, which was, since the first rides this year, directed specifically towards this time trial. I had at my disposal one of the best equipments available, and certainly the greatest attention to the smallest details - such as my positioning on the bike, or small changes we made in our uniforms to further reduce aerodynamic drag. In other races in Germany, I had the opportunity to compare my performance with other athletes who have shared their data - one of the advantages of a power meter installed on the bike is, precisely, the ability to objectively analyse these differences in performance - and we calculated that the sum of those small gains could provide me with almost 10% energy savings, when compared to other athletes who also have access to good equipment and reasonably well positioned in their bikes. Noting the position of other athletes in Rio das Ostras, as well as their equipment configurations, I was certain that alone in this regard I already had a small, but significant head start over my competitors.

Also part of the argument is a comparison of my race performances against those of two other friends: Fritz Meingast, a former teammate in Herpersdorf, and Giulio Focardi, my colleague in Magnesium Pur. In the German Time Trial Championships, held the same weekend as the Brazilian Championship I was taking part, Fritz was sixth, and Giulio, 9th. Leaving aside the winner - the phenomenal Tony Martin, reigning world champion and highly rated for Olympic gold - we can compare the times of my colleagues with second-placed Bert Grabsch - world champion in 2008, and together with his countryman Martin, considered one of the best in the discipline. Over a distance of 40.6km, Fritz and Giulio were, respectively, 2m11 and 3m07s behind the former world champion - or 3.2 and 4.6 seconds per kilometer. Giulio, whom I had managed to beat by 17s in a 22km simulated time-trial the week before my departure, said he had not delivered his absolute best. Making use of an extrapolation based on those races and training rides we did together, I could estimate that, had I had the opportunity to compete for the title of the Sauerkraut Republic, I would have lost between 4 and 5 seconds per kilometer. But, due to higher circumstances, I found myself racing, some six thousand miles southwest, in the Brazilian championships. There, at a distance of 29km, I was 2m28s behind the winner - or 5.1 seconds per kilometer. It would have been a perfectly appropriate deficit against some of the top European athletes - but, to my knowledge, none of the South-American medallists have ever figured significantly in any international competition.

I do not intend to exorcise any of my fellow competitors - particularly not without proper evidence. Still, there are facts - someone who has already returned a positive doping test was crowned champion, and at least three other athletes who made it to the top 15 have been cited, if not suspended, for violations related to controlled substances. It is a tremendous pity that no anti-doping controls took place in a race as important as a national championship - controls which could help our sport, unfortunately marred by so many negative occurrences, win back some credibility. If I am upset with this result, it is only because I didn't want my participation - which, as I put in previous posts, was only the celebration of a much larger process - to end up tainted by the sour taste of suspected widespread cheating. But for now, flying back home with most of the German season still to unfold, I am glad to leave behind my disagreements with Brazilian cycling. It's time to move on. Kette rechts!


The Greatest Fight

There comes a time one has to face a life-defining battle. And this struggle may come right in the maelstrom of a perfect storm: I've recently failed to accomplish one of the highest sporting goals I had set for myself, and find myself having to redefine what my next objectives will be, and how will they fit with my long(er) term plans. I'm rushing through the end of my Ph.D. , trying desperately to set my results straight and iron out deficiencies in the formalism I've been excruciatingly working on for the past three and a half years. Concomitantly, I'm sketching the early draft of what may be my second venture into Academia, perhaps a second Ph.D., attempting to combine my Physics knowledge with my passion for cycling. And also contemplating an investment here or a side business there, looking for other ways to make ends meet once my scholarship runs out by the end of the year. All while still trying to be a good friend, son, and lover, even if time seems often to run extremely short.

But right now, I have to face a much greater challenge - this very evening, and the next one, and the one following it. I have to ... sleep.

Last week, in an evening I went to bed expecting to sleep like a log, I was somehow caught off-guard and spent the whole night looking at the ceiling, painfully conscious of my own vigilant state, as I forgot how to do the one thing I've been doing effortlessly since my very first day in this planet. I did manage to catch some ZzZz's in the days afterwards, but only after bringing myself to the edge of exhaustion - and only to find myself, the following night, again unable to disconnect, as I was too aware of not being asleep. Flying back home with a five-hour time difference in the midst of this surely didn't help. With my terminal refusal to consider any sort of medication - I can't fathom the idea of having exogenous chemicals of the synthetic kind affecting how my brain reacts - I sought refuge in chamomile tea and the odd herbal medicine. It was perhaps only in the past evening that I could feel like I've fallen asleep in a somehow more regular fashion - still, not without a few interminable moments turning in bed.

I eagerly await the day - hopefully, not too distant - when I'll wake up and realize I've slept eight or nine hours straight. If anyone cares to join me in celebrating - there'll be mugs of strong, black coffee for everyone :)


Algo de podre no reino de Rio das Ostras

Décimo-terceiro, treze, minha colocação. O número poderia sugerir que houve algum tipo de azar, mas esta conclusão seria bastante equivocada. Não foi o melhor contra-relógio da minha vida (o prólogo das 500 Millas em 2008, ou Hirschbachtal no ano passado, dividem esse título), mas com certeza não foi o pior. Fiquei, poderia dizer, orgulhoso da minha capacidade em não apenas manter a bicicleta em pé, mas fazê-lo mantendo uma posição relaxada e aerodinâmica. Não consegui manter o ritmo que planejava ao longo de um dos longos trechos contra o vento, mas se fiquei aquém, foi por uma pequena fração da potência que almejava. Ao mesmo tempo, acho que consegui dosar bem os esforços nas subidas e descidas, ultrapassando quatro atletas no percurso, e, chegando ao final, tinha a agradável (?!) sensação de ter esvaziado completamente o tanque - o que era comprovado pelo fato de, várias horas após a prova, ainda sentir nas pernas as consequências do esforço.

Tamanha foi então a minha surpresa ao descobrir que, ao cruzar a linha, não havia feito o melhor tempo. Tampouco estava em posição de disputar o pódium - tinha apenas a 7a colocação, com pouco menos da metade dos competidores ainda por completar o percurso. Com a chegada destes, que incluiam alguns dos nomes mais cotados para a vitória, meu nome caiu mais algumas posições na tabela. Ao final, o 13. Para quem pretendia disputar o pódium, deveras frustrante.

Teria eu me enganado tamanhamente ao estimar minha capacidade, ou subestimado de forma grosseira meus adversários? Fui para a competição com uma forma física certamente entre as melhores que já alcancei e, ao contrário de participações anteriores, desta vez tive uma consistência invejável - sem gripes, acidentes ou viagens capazes de comprometer os treinos que, desde o início do ano, foram direcionados pare este contra-relógio. Tenho a minha disposição um dos melhores equipamentos disponíveis, e seguramente a maior atenção a pequenos detalhes - como o posicionamento na bicicleta, ou pequenas modificações que fizemos em nossos uniformes para reduzir ainda mais o arrasto aerodinâmico. Em outras competições na Alemanha, já tive a oportunidade de comparar meu desempenho com outros atletas que compartilharam os dados de suas provas - uma das vantagens de um medidor de potência instalado na bike é, justamente, a possibilidade de analisar objetivamente estas diferenças de performance - e evidenciei que a soma destes pequenos ganhos me economiza quase 10% do custo energético, se comparado com outros atletas que, igualmente, tem acesso a bons equipamentos e razoavelmente bem posicionados em suas bikes. Observando a posição dos demais atletas em Rio das Ostras, bem como suas configurações de equipamentos, tinha certeza de que apenas neste aspecto eu já contabilizava uma vantagem inicial sobre os demais competidores.

Ainda como parte da argumentação, posso comparar minhas performances àquelas de dois amigos em outras provas: Fritz, ex-colega da equipe de Herpersdorf, e Giulio, meu colega na Magnesium Pur. No Campeonato Alemão de Contra-Relógio, disputado no mesmo final de semana que a prova do Campeonato Brasileiro, Fritz foi 6o, e Giulio, 9o. Deixando de lado o vencedor da prova, o fenomenoso Tony Martin - atual campeão mundial da modalidade e um dos mais cotados para o ouro olímpico - comparo os tempos de meus colegas com o 2o colocado, Bert Grabsch - campeão mundial em 2008, e, juntamente com seu conterrâneo Martin, tido como um dos maiores especialistas em atividade na modalidade. Na distância de 40.6km, Fritz e Giulio ficaram, respectivamente, 2m11 e 3m07s atrás do ex-campeão mundial - ou 3.2 e 4.6 segundos por kilômetro. Giulio, a quem eu havia batido por 17s em um 'ensaio' de 22km na semana anterior ao meu embarque, afirmou que também não havia feito sua melhor prova. Fazendo uso de uma extrapolação, baseado nas provas e treinos que fizemos juntos, poderia estimar que, caso eu tivesse a oportunidade de disputar o título nacional do país do chucrute, teria perdido de 4 a 5 segundos por kilômetro. Mas, por motivos de força maior, me via disputando a prova tupiniquim, e neste, na distância de 29km, fiquei 2m28s atrás do vencedor - ou 5.1 segundos por kilômetro. Seria um déficit perfeitamente cabível para com atletas do gabarito europeu - mas, até onde sei, nenhum dos medalhistas da prova figurou de forma expressiva em qualquer competição internacional.

Não intenciono exorcizar nenhum dos participantes, especialmente sem provas. Ainda assim, são fatos - foi coroado um campeão que já retornou positivo em um exame anti-doping; e pelo menos outros três atletas que figuravam no top 15 já foram citados por violações relacionadas a substâncias controladas. Lamento tremendamente o fato de uma prova da importância de um campeonato nacional não contar com controles anti-dopagem - controles estes que ajudariam a dar alguma credibilidade ao nosso esporte, infelizmente manchado por todas estas ocorrências. Se fico chateado com o resultado, é apenas pois esperava que a participação nesta prova - que, como coloquei nos posts anteriores, servia apenas como coroação de um processo muito maior - não ficasse marcada pelo sabor azedo da suspeita de uma trapaça generalizada. Mas, voltando para casa com a temporada alemã inteira ainda por se desenrolar, me alegro em deixar para trás as desavenças com o ciclismo brasileiro. É hora de seguir em frente. Kette rechts!



I'm nervous like in only few occasions in my life. The preparation over the whole year, the sacrifices, the small victories along the way, the many doubts - can I handle the wind and that descent? will I manage to keep it together and not break down? just how strong is everyone else? - everything goes to the line in just a few hours.

Yesterday, a German team including a friend and fellow racer Lasse Ibert won the epic Race Across America (RAAM). A few hours later, Giulio reached a fine 9th place in the German championships, with three other former teammates also in the top 9. Now it's my turn, and I have a weird mix of anticipation, excitement, and fear, rushing through me as I watch the first blue-skied sunrise since arriving in Brazil a few days ago.

Agi, I'm sorry I'm not there for your birthday. To all my friends and family, both here and back in Germany - I hope we can catch up for the time I've disappeared due to all those crazy training commitments. And yet, this all was only possible because all of you somehow understood and supported me along the way - in all forms possible. I have a debt of gratitude that no performance I'll be capable of delivering today will every pay off.

Here we go. Let's burn.


The Loneliness of the Middle-Ranking Cyclist

The journey is the destination is surely one of the most widely explored clichés in this blog. But that is only because, true enough, it holds for the greater part of my endeavours. There are a few lofty goals looming ahead on the horizon, and I was considering holding this post back until past those milestones, but alas!, getting there is what makes it for a compelling story. So there. After over two months of racing, I can confidently say I never took a season so seriously. A six-pack of good German beer wouldn't usually last for a week in my fridge. Now, as I began drafting this piece, I drank the last survivor from a pack bought somewhere early last month. On the other hand, I now know, almost by heart, every option of alcohol-free beer there is in the local Getränkemarkt. Not that I believe a beer or a glass of wine would spoil the whole preparation, but, befitting the "marginal gains" approach, it seems somehow the right thing - together with slightly less sugar here, a bit more attention to the vitamins and minerals there, besides, of course, every little watt that can be saved in our set-up. But, as usual, I digress.

Some weeks ago, racing in a windy, wet, and hilly race close to Stuttgart, I got dropped after not many kilometres. I spent some time fruitlessly chasing the decimated field, then joined the gruppetto, which didn't seem much interested in working to make the time cut - an abandon ensued. I drove the odd 300km back home in a contemplative mood, wondering, as usual, what made one leave the warmth of a cosy bed so early in a holiday for such a punishing experience. The answer came less than a week later, as I put in a good performance in my first criterium of the season and, surprisingly, took the win by a slim margin over a fairly strong field. Yay! My victory upgraded me to an Elite 'A' license, the highest amateur category, and as such, I am now terminally precluded from starting any race which doesn't have on its starting line a wealth of current, aspiring, or former, professionals. Small fish in the big pond, one more time.

The springtime march continued. In spite of having spent most of the preceding weeks without a time-trial machine, and only having assembled my new Speed Concept a few days before the event, I still managed a fine 6th place in the open Bavarian championships in early May, less than a minute off the mark set by winner Felix Spensberger; teammate Giulio came in 3rd place, missing the top spot for just over 15s - tight indeed. Performances the following weeks were hampered by mechanicals and plain bad luck - I dropped my chain just before the deciding breakaway went in one race, and ripped a derailleur cable in another, being forced to finish using nothing but my 12 gear. Still, the experience with the team was always most enjoyable, and I wrapped the first racing block feeling confident of my form curve trending upwards. Followed by ten days training at altitude (with blood tests afterwards indicating I've hit an all-time hematocrit high), I've entered my taper phase in what I believe is the best condition I've ever attained. While I wouldn't pose a danger to Tony or Fabian were I fortunate enough to face them, the numbers from the last simulated time-trials assure me that, if I don't screw up catastrophically, I could be up for something...

I'll be flying to Brazil for the National Championships tomorrow, excited by the perspective of what lies ahead. But, looking back - all the way to the first training rides in Brazil over the New Year, through the long base kilometres around Lake Starnberg or lonely trainer rides over the winter, the Toscana training camp, the assembling of a new bike, the races, numerous discussions on equipment choices, physiology, aerodynamics and tactics, the week in the mountains, and now the final finishing touches leading up to my trip - I can already be certain that this - the whole process of getting me there - was the most important part of all. Thank you, folks, for the incredible ride!


Easter Troll

It's Easter Friday, a holiday as usual, and I wondered why, contrary to many other holidays, there were no races today. (I am indeed racing a circuit race tomorrow in Saxony, and a road race on Monday close to Stuttgart). I found out that, in particular here in Bavaria, but also throughout Germany, certain organized events are prohibited on particular "silent holidays", which include Easter and All Saint's day. O-K... That'd be medievally bizarre enough, but it gets worse. A few years ago, a petition took place against this moratorium, only to be denied by a court, which cited the "great importance deserved by the required constitutional protection of Sundays and public holidays" when announcing its verdict. Wait, what?

For the sake of trolling, let's suppose that an arbitrary new religion - remember, freedom of religion is guaranteed by article 4 of the Constitution ("Fundamental Law") - also has a holiday that, by virtue of an equally arbitrary calculation based on moon phases and what not, happens to fall on the same day of this Christian Easter thing. Furthermore, for the sake of this argument, this religion enjoys having its major events celebrated by, oh, having its followers get drunk and dance naked around bonfires. Or, simply, by holding a bike race (the Gods were cyclists in previous lives, who knows for sure?), with the ensuing awards ceremony providing enough music, food and drinks to guarantee the physical and spiritual well-being of all its participants. Given that those are perfectly fine activities any other day of the year, wouldn't the Constitution, as it stands, be inhibiting the exercise of such a religious freedom?
- - -
At any rate, the Easter Bunny brought me chocolates. Nham :)


March Marches

Ever since my first year in Germany, back in 2004, the month of March has had a little tradition of being particularly hectic. The winter/springtime transition marks a shift from training to racing regimes; the longer days typically motivate a change in the daily schedules; and most importantly, it's somehow the time when all sorts of different trips, conferences and visits take place.

I already noted this phenomenon back in 2009, with "Quase uma tradição" ("Almost a tradition"), which was reinforced in 2010 with "Packing - or the Whiskas Lifestyle, yet again". In 2011 I had Agnes over for her first visit to Erlangen, followed immediately by my trip to Brazil for Benjamin and Ana's wedding, followed straight out of the plane in Frankfurt to Dresden for yet another presentation in the Spring Meeting of the German Physical Society.

And it being 2012, and this being March, another round was indeed on order. The month began in Tuscany, where Team Magnesium Pur was holding its pre-season training camp. A week of long rides with Ivo, Giulio, Maxi and Lorenz served to solidify the necessary endurance base for the first part of the season. Back in Erlangen, my dad, who was in Hannover for CeBit, came to visit the following weekend, before I took off, with Nadja and my bike in the trunk, for my umpf-th time in that dreaded conference. We were hosted in Stuttgart by a friendly Brazilian couple, who somehow tolerated a complete stranger bringing in a bike and home trainer for three days away from home. Barely had I came back, and Agnes found out there was a window for her to get away from Waterloo; two days later I was picking her up in the airport in Nürnberg. Between work, training rides and lazy evenings, it seemed as if she had never left. Springtime bliss, updated for 2012.
- - -
March wouldn't be complete without the season opener in Zusmarshausen, to where I drove with Agnes this past Saturday. Woke up on Sunday feeling tip-top, the team being in high spirits, the equipment and training condition all dialed in - and yet, we plain simply just missed the boat, watching (or better yet, not watching!) Eric Hoffmann and Helmut Trettwer ride away for a Baier 1-2. Duh. Still, out of the pursuit led by Giulio, Philipp managed to score a fine 10th place, which led me to conclude that if, when we screw up, we still manage to put a man inside the top 10, then things can only get better.
- - -
Brought Agnes to the airport earlier this morning, and drove straight to the office, to find, in my desk, the latest version of my paper draft dripping red with Peter's corrections - including correcting the mistakes I made when (supposedly) addressing the previously noted issues (i.e., correcting the correction of the correction). That addressed, I left campus noting that it was over 7pm, and the sun still shone; but, arriving home to an empty apartment, realized it's not Summer just yet.


Unspeakable: legibility, the sum of all fears, and the Yay! philosophy

Or, "On a (not-entirely) self-balancing mechanism towards the implementation of an always-Yay! lifestyle"

My postings seem to follow in bursts. Minus the retrospective entry, it's been almost two months since the last one. And while I'd like to find myself writing more, I think it's rightly so: First, the blog is a hobby, a therapy of sorts, and as such, adding any sort of pressure to post regularly would defeat the idea. Second, coming up with a post I'm happy with can take time; sometimes I'll start a sketch, and let the idea mature over the course of many a month - until something happens which provides the necessary spark to go ahead. Besides this one now reaching the press, there are three other drafts sitting in the "unpublished" folder waiting for completion.

This observation serves as the connecting point for me to discuss consistency, continuity, or the absence thereof. Those familiar with this blog will find this subject somewhat recurring - indeed, from 2009, "The First Year of the rest of my life" and last year's "Euphoria, Delusion, and sudden rushes of perspective" discussed some of these oscillations, but I think there's more. I hinted this in the previous post: "those far more abstract things", "the subtle lacks of coherence": the journey without apparent legibility. While I firmly believe the alignment of one's lifestyle to his or her beliefs, goals and purposes to be a major key in reaching fulfilment - in all levels -, still, there is something to those departures we - willingly or not - take from our intended path. I now hold that embracing and accepting these deviations is an even more fundamental component that we must acquiesce to. Life will throw opportunities, temptations, misfortunes and force change of plans that must all somehow be worked into the script. Having a clearly defined view of one's goals should help one steer a fairly steady course, but still, a willingness to come to terms with the unexpected seems required if one is to truly find peace in him- or herself.

David Wong worded the above slightly differently in "How 'The Karate Kid' Ruined The Modern World". I may debate some of his conclusions, but the fact is that our lives don't follow a Hollywoodian storytelling narrative. We'll start from the bottom, failing most of the time, learn, do a little better, fail again, improve, trip over ourselves, and maybe, just maybe, eventually reach somewhere - perhaps only to fall again, or discover it was not where we originally intended to go, etc. As always, it's about journey - however tortuous it can be.

(Besides the Karate Kid piece, I was partly inspired by "A Big Little Idea Called Legibility", which you may find worth a read.)

A number of examples can illustrate this - the absolutely anti-climatic developments in doctoral research and the slips in my training regimen being two I'm most familiar with, but I could also mention the erratic ebb and flow of people, interests and commitments, all of which would make any movie or literature critic wonder why exactly that particular scene or chapter was included, if our narrative was to be filmed or published. Fortunately for the audience, or maybe not, most likely it won't. But this begs the question central to this post - how many biographies, in an attempt to make the story legible, ended up missing those seemingly irrelevant side stories which were, actually, fundamental in shaping the character's outcome?

At any rate, and onto those far more abstract things I've encountered throughout the last year - I figured how important technique was, and found out I had very little of it. I formulated a theory on how our strengths cause some of our weaknesses, my aerobic engine relating to my poor handling skills, and my supposed ease to learn abstract physical theories responsible for my complete disregard for proper schooling in more elaborate methods. I contemplated aiming higher than ever before, and found myself, more often than not, bitterly brought down to earth by my own limitations. I had to deal with some of the skeletons in my closet, and let some of them go, as I ventured into the hitherto unsailed waters of living with someone. I had to face, for the first time, the idea of losing one of my parents, as a tumour diagnostic emerged, and felt the joyful relief of being shared successively more positive test results. I realized that - still a child, student, son - I'm somehow a "grown-up", and, facing the end of my Ph.D., have to find a way to figure what comes next.

There were not few nights when one, or all, of these thoughts attempted to creep in. And yet, just as we know that the sun will rise again, I established that, all come and go as it may, still and nevertheless, the future will be awesome - and it just takes getting there. The conclusion, obviously enough, has been here for ages. By now, most of you know my status line by heart.

Yay!, always.


Singular. And prime.

"Odd" ("ímpar"), in Portuguese, not only describes "odd" as in "uneven", but also - the translation I choose to title this post - "singular" - which to me has a much more appealing sound. Plain "odd" reminds me of "strange", typically in less-than-complimentary ways - absolutely not what I want to use here.

Exactly as I said just over a year ago, 2011 kept true to the crescendo all past years have been building upon. Not only all the new destinations, friendships, adventures and results - both in Cycling as in Physics - brought novel and superlative experiences: the year was a fantastic one precisely for those far more abstract things which didn't make the list below. 2011 taught me to appreciate the subtle lacks of coherence, and made me understand what self-confidence really means. It showed me I could truly embrace Yay! as a lifestyle.

While those more impalpable concepts will be subject of future posts, I leave you now with 100 of those moments which could be grasped, in one way or another, through a photograph or image of some sort, in my Picasa gallery of the year:

Two-thousand, eleven.

By the way, the 305th prime number.