Although I've been feeling much stronger cycling this year my test today seemed to indicate, in terms of wattage, I'm about the same as I was end of last year. I did do better on a 5 minute test, about 5% improvement, but the same for 15. Which is disappointing, but there's some possibility I didn't test too accurately today. What you're trying to do in 15 minutes is really "lock in" at a constant rate, but I had stop and reduce my output bit by bit. So I feel if I just aimed a bit higher at the start, rather than be so ambitious I would have made a higher average. (I started off around 300+ watts but dropped to 260, and thus I ended up with an average of 269.) Anyway, that's how testing goes; you're off some days.
Last weekend I was in Vancouver for the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships. Hitomi and I took the train on Friday, which can be a maddeningly slow ride if you're in a hurry. On the way there I was trying to use an SSH connection over a VPN connection over a cell phone connection from my laptop and it would either be too slow or cut out inside tunnels or sporadically. So instead of feeling frustrated about Amtrak, I was frustrated at my connection.
Still, a scant 3-4 hours later, we arrived, went through customs, and had time for dim sum. We had a little time before the long program of women's figure skating.
There were about 24 skaters, and at 4-5 minutes apiece we were around until 10PM. Based on the scores of the short program the best skaters ("world class") were all at the end. Apparently, only a few skaters in the world can do (consistently) triple axel jumps. A good lot of them end up on their butts.
One difficult point was returning to the hotel. There mostly a lot of Asian (students?) who probably had no car waiting around with us at the bus stop for a ride downtown. Since it was late, of course very few buses were out and who ever heard of the city providing extra buses for events? So for all that waiting, it might have been faster to walk back.
Saturday was men's skating but we decided to arrive a bit later. We had a late breakfast which was really lunch, took the bus and saw a few hours of skating. Then we had time to walk along the water a bit and enjoy the sunset on English Bay. We ended up inside a not-so-great Korean restaurant on Robson Street, and after a bit more of wandering around we went into a Japanese cafe/dessert shop.
Vancouver is much, much busier than Seattle and much, much more Asian. Maybe 30%, if you're counting the people on the streets. I heard tons of Japanese, Korean, and Chinese chatter. As Hitomi puts it, it's not a great place to come for foreign exchange. (And I'd say the skating audience was about 30% Asian students as well. Lots of Korean and Japanese flags; maybe more than Canadian flags.)
Speaking of Asians, we went to see Grand Torino, staring Clint Eastwood and a bunch of Hmong refugees. I knew the ladies sold (dried) flowers at Pike Place Market, but I had no idea the boys were off joining gangs. A great movie, in several respects, but some of the characters were too sterotypical to take the movie very seriously.
Sunday was my favorite day of skating. It was a 2 hour exhibition program, with (more fun) music, lights, and happier skaters. The winners seemed elated, even the 3rd or 4th place finishers. And the routines weren't so jammed pack of jumps. A few jumps is interesting but after you see around 5-6 jumps and jump sequences (in just 4 minutes) it's not as cool, it's not artistic, but obviously done for racking up points.
The music and routines weren't schlocky like "Smucker's Star's on Ice" is, whose audience is frumpy, middle-aged women and their daughters with Wonder Bread taste. The nice thing about the exhibition is the skaters pick the music they like, which is at least a bit more contemporary, if not personal. (Side note: One skater picked music from "Mononoke Hime", but it wasn't one song, it was more like four or five tracks across different albums spliced together! I noticed this is quite typical, although maybe not that noticable with a longer classical number. I don't like hacked up music.)