7 hills (+4) and 29 undulations of Kirkland, 2007 edition

May 29, 2007 at 12:08 am

Today I did my first hard ride of the year, the 11-hill version 58-mile “metric century” 7 hills ride. Last year I did CTS training, and while it did great for my aerobic endurance, I didn’t think it had enough strength work or interval work. This year I’ve been spending more time pushing bigger gears, and have been doing the majority of my rides on my middle chainring (rather than the tiny one). I’ve also done some core work, and am starting to do some specific climbing workouts.

Looking back at my HR data from last year, I averaged 13.8 MPH for 46 miles with 2900 feet of elevation gain (which included a quick ride to the start and a pretty slow ride home afterwards). This year, I averaged 15.3 MPH for 59 miles with 4125 feel of elevation gain.

That’s a pretty significant improvement, though some of it also came from climbing at a cadence of around 85 RPM vs the 100 RPM that I was targetting last year. The lower cadence seems to allow me to work out at a higher effort with less cardio load, which is good as long as your legs hold out, at which time you have to switch to spinning. Or you need to do it if your knees fall off.

The ride itself was very nice. A bit cold (49) in the morning, but overcast with a bit of sun and not too warm, with no wind. The ride was nicely run as usual, and it seems that it’s growing each year. Recommended if you like hills.

This too will come to pass…

May 14, 2007 at 9:20 pm

This year, I got into RAMROD (though it should more correctly be named “Ride on the Eastside of Mount Rainier in One Day because the roads are washed out” – I guess ROTEMROD isn’t terribly catchy…), which features (among other things) a climb up Sunrise. Sunrise being a small visitor center on the east flank of Mount Rainier, a great place to visit, so much nicer (and sometimes less crowded) than Paradise on the south side. If you look at the page on the climb, you’ll see that it’s about 3000 feet of climbing, which is something I haven’t done yet.

So, given that I’m off this week between jobs, I spent the night at my ski place in Skykomish, and rode up Stevens Pass, which is very similar to Sunrise. I started at the Skykomish city park on the north side of the river, headed across the tracks to ride old cascade road to where it met highway 2, and then up and up to the summit. The weather was bright sunny, and about 45 degree at the start.

The first 6 miles is a warmup. There are a few bridges where you need to look for a break in traffic, and a bit where there’s not a lot of shoulder. There are also some steep parts and some flat parts (and one pseudo-flat part…). Given how often I’ve driven this route (easily in the hundreds of times), I was struck by how different it is at 11 MPH. You’re near the river for the bulk of the time, and the sound of rushing water is never far away. It’s really pretty and the light traffic didn’t really detract from the experience.

Things start getting steep at Deception falls (a nice stop when you’re in the area), and once you get to Glacier, you leave the river and the railroad behind and just climb. The shoulders from there on all the way up are great, and the road is two lanes the whole way, so there are few traffic worries (though the large trucks laboring up the hill at 25 MPH do get your attention).

I settled in and did the remainder of the climb at around 7.5 MPH, with my HR somewhere in the 130s, which was fairly comfortable from a HR perspective but not really from a leg perspective. Though the temp was in the mid 40s, I had to take of my jacket off to stay cool enough, even in the shade. The last mile or so was enhanced with a nice 10 MPH headwind coming from the east.

At the top, I sat down on the 6-pack chair next to the granite peaks lodge (that Stevens bought someplace surplus, since they don’t have any 6-person lifts), and rested while looking around. If you were willing to do some hiking, you could still ski skyline top to bottom with only a couple of bare spots.


16.1 miles
Average speed: 9.3 MPH
Average HR: 137 BPM
Elevation Gain: 3175 feet

Steep part:

9.5 miles
Average speed: 7.7 MPH
Average HR: 142 BPM
Elevation Gain: 2680 feet

After 20 minutes of rest, I put on my jacket and headed down. I did the steep part in 19 minutes, at an average speed of 31 MPH (would have been faster, but I had to slow down for hairpin because the pavement is really torn up). The total descent took 36 minutes, averaging 26 MPH.

Overall it was a nice ride. I’d definitely recommend a weekday rather than a weekend.

The danger of surrogate metrics…

May 10, 2007 at 6:11 pm

I was reading a “Joel” post (I like Joel’s writing, but I wish that he allowed comments) entitled “The Econ 101 Management Method“, which I find myself mostly in agreement.

I’d like to expand a bit in the area of metrics – specifically what I call “surrogate metrics”.

Most software development teams are associated with what business guys call a “P&L center”, which in simple terms means that it’s part of the business that will either make or lose money. The measure of whether the group is making or losing money is an example of a metric, and it’s a good metric, in the sense that it measures exactly what it says it’s going to measure.

How important that particularly metric is to a company and what other metrics are also important is a different subject. As is the siren song of metrics in general.

The subject of this post is metrics don’t measure the thing that you want to measure, but are *believed to* correlate with the thing that you want to measure.

Say, for example, that you’re a software company, and you’ve heard through the grapevine that customers are unhappy with the service that they are getting through your support forums. A little research shows that some people aren’t getting prompt answers.

So, you spend some time writing a reporting layer on top of the forum software that tracks the time between when a post first shows up and it has a response from somebody in your company. You run it on some historical data, and see that the response time averages out at 36 hours, which makes you unhappy. You work with your group, tell them that they need to do better, and over the next month, the average response time goes down to 12 hours, and you’re happy that you’ve solved the problem.

Did you do a good job? Is the problem fixed? Discuss…

The answer to my questions is a rousing “who knows?” It’s possible that the problem is fixed, and it’s also possible that it’s still as bad as before. That’s because “response time” is a surrogate measure of the thing that you really care about, customer satisfaction.  You chose it because it was a *easily measurable*.

Which I guess does lead me towards discussing the siren song of metrics in general. There’s a real bias in some business cultures towards measuring a lot of metrics. As Joel points out, this leads to people gaming the system, which is an obvious issue. But even if people don’t game the system, surrogate metrics can, at best, suggest when something is bad, but they can never tell you when something is good enough.

Some people would argue that you should still collect the metrics you can, but I think you just shouldn’t bother with surrogate measures. Measure the things that you truly care about, and don’t mess up your culture and reward system by measuring the surrogates. And if you can’t measure the thing you really care about objectively, if it’s too hard or too expensive, you’ll just have to deal with the the uncertainty.

In my example, if you care about customer satisfaction in your support forums, then you need to ask customers whether their support experience was acceptable. There are lots of ways of doing this, and you can often use the same process to allow customers who had a bad experience to escalate it.

So, what is your favorite real measure and surrogate measure that you’ve seen?