Mike's Blog

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Memorial Day in the United States of America is a day set aside for us, as Americans, to commemorateU.S. Service Members who have died in military service.  A day to reflect on those who have perished defending the values each of us should hold near and dear to our hearts.  I often become emotional on this day thinking about the totality and finality of this selfless act.  If I had to venture a guess I'd say that well more than half of Americans today never consider this holiday for anything more than another day off, a time for barbecue, the beach or an extended weekend camping; never taking into consideration the sacrifices made by our service members which allow them to "celebrate" any way they see fit.

On this Memorial Day I offer these thoughts I wrote some 4 years ago.  I also ask that you remind your lawmakers of the consequences of their actions when it comes to our military and service members.  In addition, remind them that it is their duty to ensure that our military members are taken care of and provided with the best equipment available to ensure that when conflict is over, they are able to return safely to their families.  Contacting your lawmakers takes only minutes to do via email and contact information can be found here.  These things are very small sacrifices you can make today to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice defending our nation.

Today, consider these numbers: Nearly 1.4 million Americans have died while serving in our military service in various conflicts beginning with the American Revolutionary War, with another 38,000 missing.  In the past decade alone more than 10,000 service members have been killed, each of them escorted to their home in America with the utmost diginity and honor.  If you have never seen it, I highly recommend the movie Taking Chance, which details the journey home for a 19-year-old Marine, PFC Chance Phelps after he was killed in action in Iraq.

Lastly, if and when you encounter the men and women of our military during your daily routine, thank them for their service.  If you know someone who has served, thank them for their service.  All of them have at one point or another made the decision that they would fight to the death for you.

Happy Memorial Day.

In the last installment of "Tales From a Tail Gunner" I lamented on how I'd been viciously dropped at the Black Hill Circuit Race and that I had every intention of doing whatever it took to make sure I stayed in the pack in my next race, the Carl Dolan Memorial Circuit Race, which took place Sunday, April 17, 2011.  So Sunday morning I got up at 0530 to eat and get packed for the race, having planned to meet my teammate Tom at the site at 0700 for a course recon.  Once there, we suited up and headed out for a couple of laps before the Juniors' races started at 0800.  The first thing we noted was the wind: there was an abundance of it and it seemed to be in our face on every portion of the 2.1 mile course.

Let me describe the course which uses the main road through an industrial park in which most businesses are closed on the weekend, meaning very little traffic.  This allows the promoter to close the lanes for traffic in a clockwise direction for the race.  Leaving the start/finish line the course has a gradual right hand turn with slight undulating hills for about 1.25 miles; this entire section had either a direct headwind or nearly direct crosswind.  At about this point on the course begins a gradual downhill into the only real corner on the course, which opened up into three lanes and continued downhill until about 1.5 miles into the course; this downhill section after the turn was the only portion of the course where we had a tailwind.  At 1.5 miles in began the climb to the finish line.  This finish climb began more steeply before leveling off into a slight uphill, the whole thing totaling about half a mile before a gradual downhill to the finish line.

During out recon I noted where I needed to be in relation to the group on certain parts of the course in order to be shielded from the wind.  After two laps we returned to our vehicles, pinned on numbers and other various things to prepare for our race which started at 0845.  Once done we headed out for some warm-up laps in reverse on the course.  At 0845 the Cat 5s were amassing and waiting to be called to the line and I was there, ready to go, with three of my teammates.  When we got the call I positioned myself on the front row, left side, in preparation for the head/crosswind coming from the right that we would encounter first.  The whistle blew and we were off.

Immediately two lines formed with me on the head of the line on the left.  I felt like this was the perfect position to be in but once we encountered the wind it was almost full on in my face.  I slowed a little to bring myself even with the third wheel of the right line but the wind persisted.  Eventually I had to ease up or blow up, and when I did the former I fell the back of the line rapidly.  I had flashbacks of being popped and dropped on the first lap as I had been at Black Hills so when the end of the line came by I stood up and put in an effort to latch onto the back and get some shelter.  There I was able to recover to the corner.  This corner could easily be taken at full speed, but at the end of the line I was braking considerably to avoid colliding with riders in front of me who were also braking.  The result of that was having to sprint nearly full out on the exit of the corner to get back up to the main group to do the climb sheltered from the headwind; if you were on your own when you started the climb, you were in trouble.  With the exception last lap (and the details of the start) this was repeated eight times, requiring an 1100w peak sprint exiting the turn and a 50 second 350w climb of me each lap.  As much as I tried to move up towards the front of the group before the corner, I always found myself near the back of the line, sometimes dead last.

On the last lap the pace picked up but the herd didn't thin too much.  We hit the corner with around 40 riders I'd guess and again I came out near the back of the line.  Once around the corner I could see that the front of the group had definitely opened it up and the line was strung out quite a bit.  I hustled up to a group of five guys and recovered for a few seconds when I noticed people starting to fade bad.  I picked up my pace a little bit and got by about 20 riders before the end of the steepest part of the climb, at which point I backed of a hair and prepared for the next move.  At the top of the hill, just as it starts to go slightly downhill to the finish, approximately 200 meters away, I stood up briefly to sprint but only got in a few revolutions of the crank before I had to sit down and just go as hard as I could.  Riders were still slowing and I managed to get by several before lunging for the line neck-and-neck with one other rider.  All told, I think I was only a few bike lengths behind the winner and on the same time.  I was confident I had a top-15 and maybe a top-10 but not really sure.

About 90 minutes after the race, results were finally posted; my teammate Charles had taken 3rd and I finished 8th.  This result was far more than I expected or even thought myself capable of, but there were a lot of things, not the least of which was luck, that went my way.  For starters, the wind prevented any breakaways from sticking for more than a couple of minutes because people weren't willing to work together.  Secondly, the course was not that hilly, or at least it didn't seem to be; I can't get seem to get a similar number from any website or my GPS.  Lastly, aside from my stint on the front at the start, I was mostly able to sit in the pack and conserve most of the race (as did most of the riders in my race I'd guess) which allowed me to have a good spurt of energy for the finish.

Average pace for the race was 22.7mph with the last lap averaging 25mph exactly; race data is here.  No one hit the pavement, but there was one near accident I narrowly avoided about six laps in.

So that's it, my second race.  An overwhelming success in my opinion.  Next up is the Turkey Hill Country Classic Circuit Race in Lancaster, PA on May 7th.  Karrie and boys are heading up with me and I'll have five teammates in my race with me so it should be interesting.

 

So earlier this month I recapped my bike training and some race plans coming up.  Training has pretty much been the same, still going reasonably well but still not getting the volume I'd like.  I did my first criterium race in ~25 years on March 19th, the Black Hills Crit at Black Hills Park in Maryland.  The day started off decent; I woke up on time, ate a decent breakfast and got to the site early enough to do one lap to remember the course and register.  After pinning on my numbers I set up my trainer by my truck and warmed up while watching the juniors race.  The warm-up was not all that I wanted it to be, but it was something.  Packed up my trainer 20 minutes before my race was to start, went to the restroom and started heading towards the start...without my sunglasses.  So I rode back to my truck and quickly searched for them, in vain, before I had to bolt to the start to avoid missing it.  As a result, I was at the very back of the group of 50 racers, and this race started at the bottom of the main hill leading up to the finish; yay!

The whistle blew and I was off.  The back.  Really, really badly.  A group of four or five guys formed about 100 meters in front of me, one of which was a teammate.  I chased them for two laps and caught them in time for the group to shatter into pieces.  My teammate Tom and one other guy rode together for several laps before Tom dropped on the next to last lap of the race.  This was near the bottom of the finish climb and also about the time that the moto ref came by and informed is that the leaders were about 30 seconds behind us.  I picked it up a notch hoping not to get lapped but was caught and passed by the leader on the descent after the finish.  Soon after that the main front group came by, but I could not hang on to them for long.  In that main group was another teammate of mine who was doing his very first race ever; he wound up getting a podium spot in 3rd place.

No idea where I actually finished (scored me 23rd but that is wrong) since they had some scoring issued in our race.  During the race I set new personal bests for power in the five minute and 20-minute brackets which indicated that I needed to bump my FTP up some.  That means I'm making progress, which is good, but I still have a long way to go.  Looking at my data after the race and comparing it to the data of other teammates who were in my race, it was very evident that you gain a HUGE advantage by being in the pack.  Next race for me is April 17th, the Carl Dolan crit.  The course here is not as hilly and I have every intention of turning myself inside out to stay in the main pack as long as I can.

The start of daylight savings time at the end of March meant the start of the notorious Glenelg Gang training rides.  This is possibly the fastest, baddest ride in the area and I've never felt up to being able to do it, although I had tried once or twice in the past.  The first GG ride was to be March 15, but I elected to ride solo from the house due to questionable weather.  The following Tuesday I showed up to ride and feeling quite good.  After having been dropped off the back right at the gun at Black Hills I was determined not to suffer the same fate at the GG ride, so I rode on the front of the train for five of the first six miles.  I pulled off about a mile from the first climb of the route, the climb that splits the pack of between 20 and 40 riders into two or more groups.  I was feeling really good as the pace line rode by and was looking for a hole where I could fit in, but it never materialized and I wound up at the end of the 25 rider line.  As the front of the group hit the hill gaps started opening immediately so I got out of the saddle and tried to make it up to the lead group of 10 or 12 guys since my objective was to ride with the front group as long as possible. I almost made contact but was caught by traffic on one of the major roads the route took us on.  I tried working with some others but ended up getting a stitch in my side and riding the majority of the remainder of the ride alone.  Overall though, I was very happy with my effort and was looking forward to the following week.

March 29th came and again I headed to the GG ride, this time hoping to be a little bit smarter.  I wasn't feeling quite as good as I had the previous week, but was feeling good none-the-less.  I sat mid-pack for the first five miles at which point I was sitting 3rd wheel, which I thought was just about perfect as I would be near the front when we hit the hill, allowing me to fade back a bit during the climb and still be with the leaders.  Then something happened and I wasn't sure what to do, but I think I chose poorly.  The guy on the front of the line took off and was chased by the 2nd wheel leaving a gap in front of me of more than 30 feet.  I chased, feeling it was my responsibility to close the gap I had let open and this proved to be a mistake.  About a quarter mile before the hill both guys sat up to regroup, and while I was at the front, I was also spent.  I pulled off and drifted back to the back of the line...again.  I worked with one other guy for the next 12 miles or so, each taking turns pulling, and we kept a pretty good pace.  At mile 19, the front group, having added an extra 1.5 miles to the cuesheet, caught us at a stop sign.  I rode with them for a while before being dropped and riding back with a couple of other guys.  Another very good effort in comparison to almost every ride I've ever done in the past, solo or with a group.

That's about it I guess.  Our team kits came in today and we are all getting together on Sunday (Brady's birthday!!!) to pick them up and do a team photo.  I ordered a jersey for Brady as well and he's excited to be a part of the team.  Looking forward to more training and more improvements!

Here is an edited video of the Black Hills race.  Since I was shot out the back from the start it doesn't make for very exciting stuff, but it's what I have.  Enjoy!

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbobOeF1gYA

Brady turns four years old today.  Hard to believe how fast time has gone by.  We have been blessed with a healthy, beautiful, smart and caring son and we count ourselves very lucky.  Brady really is a terrific kid and a real sweetheart.  Happy Birthday, son.

It has been a long cold winter but it seems like we are finally emerging from it.  Lots of changes for my cycling endeavors in 2011: new team, new goals, new training focus, and more volume.

For 2011 my teammate Mike Birner from my 2009/2010 team, Ben's Performance Bicycles, took over the primary sponsorship of the team with his company Sportif Coaching Group and the new team is now known as Sportif Coaching Group supplied by Ben's Performance Bicycles (SCG s/b BPB).  All of our great associate sponsors from last year have returned: Daisy Import Auto Care, OptimizeYourGame.com (Blue Mountain Apothecary), and Air Flow Services, Inc.  In addition, JetBlue has also jumped on board to support us for 2011.  The team has also grown for 2011 with around 20 members this year, up from six in 2010.  I'm pretty excited about this new venture.  There are a lot of great people on the new team and that provides a great source of support and motivation.  We plan on promoting a cyclocross race this year as well; more on that as it develops.

On the training front, I've really ramped up my efforts this year in comparison to years past in which I mostly just rode more so than actually trained with a purpose.  With the help of Mike Birner from Sportif Coaching Group, I've been working on efforts to help me build a solid base from which to work from in the coming months.  Since my focus will again be on cyclocross this year I have plenty of time to get into what I hope will be the best shape I've been in since I started cycling again.  To that end I will do some road races and criteriums this spring and summer, but only as training tools.  The first of these will be the Black Hills Criterium on March 19th.  A few teammates and I went out to recon the course last weekend and after riding several easy laps and one lap at the level of effort I expect will be needed to stay in the pack, I fully expect to get dropped after I explode around lap 4/8 or 5/8.  My goals going into cyclocross season are to finish in the top half of all my races; I'm not sure how attainable that actually is, but I'm going to try my best.

As for volume, I'm off to a good start, although I have not been able to reach my original goal of eight hours per week.  Hopefully that will be more attainable when the days get longer and the weather better so I can do more outdoor riding, which is much more bearable than the trainer for rides over an hour.  For January and February of this year I put in 46 hours on the bike for 733 miles.  Compared with my statistics from all of 2010 (133 hours for 2016 miles) I am not disappointed with my effort.  Moreover I feel stronger than I ever have on the bike, despite my ongoing back issue which I am currently trying to remedy with the help of a chiropractor.

I guess that is a pretty good summary of my cycling endeavors thus far in 2011.  As usual, my wonderful wife has been an awesome supporter and enabler of this new found addiction of mine.  Thanks Karrie; I love you.

Subcategories

My attempt at talking politics.

Thoughts on being a dad

Cycling

Random Rant

Autocross

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