Mike's Blog

Blah, blah, blah.

Today was my first race of the 2010 cyclocross season.  This hasn't been a stellar year for me as far as training goes; with the new baby it has been challenging to find time to ride even though Karrie has been wonderful about letting me go when things are under control.  As a result, I have about 95 hours on the bike thus far this year whereas I would like to have ~40 hours per month so I am quite a bit short.  The consequences of that are that my fitness is lackluster, perhaps even worse than last year, which was pretty bad.  However, in the past two weeks I have set a couple personal bests on the bike for power as well as how far I have pushed myself into the pain cave and this gave me some hope going into the Charm City cross race today.

That hope was short-lived in what turned out to be a rather weird day in general.  I got to the race plenty early fighting butterflies the whole drive down, went to registration and got my number then did a few recon laps.  They modified the course a fair amount from last year, adding a gnarly off-camber turn around a tree which freaked me out every time I rode it.  After a couple of laps I wandered over to the start area for the Cat4 race to see a few friends.  Once they were off I returned to the truck to pin on my number, grab some water and last minute things, then rode around the outside of the course cheering people on.  Karrie called to say she was on her way with the boys but might not get there in time to see the start of my race.  Once the Cat4 leaders finished I took to doing a couple more laps to warm up before heading to the starting corral for the B-Masters race.  As I pulled into the starting area an official informed me that I had two problems: (1) I was not allowed to wear my helmet camera, and (2) my number was on upside down.  As I scrambled to fix my number I missed my call up and had to start two or three rows behind where I should have.

When the whistle blew I put out what I thought was a pretty good effort (one of my weaknesses from last year) but was still passed by 30 or more riders before the first turn.  In the first turn there was a pretty large pileup in front of me which brought the group to a near standstill.  Once through it was not long (about half a lap) before I was essentially racing myself, which made for a long race.  About that time I could hear my biggest fan screaming for me to get moving; Karrie and the boys had made it in time.  I love this woman who comes to my races and watches me suffer and be slow, all the time cheering for me on every lap as if I were in first place; they don't make them any more awesome than her.  The first two laps had me feeling nauseous and after that passed my back really started to bother me.  Mercifully I was lapped by the leader on his last lap which meant I had to do one less lap than I was anticipating.  Unofficial results had me 90th out of 125 registered...not sure how many actually started but I wasn't last.

After my race I met up with Karrie, Brady and Lucas who were sitting under a tree on a blanket relaxing; Brady was very excited about having watched me race and in anticipation of his own race in a few hours.  After changing clothes I bought a couple of glasses of fresh lemonade and then went to check out the food vendor.  The food looked awesome but was rather gourmet and they had just run out of chicken and pork, leaving lamb and shrimp which Brady was not going to eat.  We packed up and went to a Burger King a mile or so down the road.  While we were there, Karrie discovered that she left the innards of Luke's bottle at the house.  Attempts to feed him via a sippy cup did not go well and so Karrie decided that she needed to go home but that Brady and I would stay for his race.

After seeing them off, Brady and I walked to registration to sign him up for his race, then back to the truck to grab his bike and helmet before going to the course to do some practice.  Brady had never ridden his bike on the grass so it was something new to both of us.  Turns out his training wheels are a bit low resulting in copious amounts of wheel spin at times; consequently I had to push or pull him around the course.  He did really, really great in his race and is excited about doing more and practicing at our house.  I'll have to adjust his training wheels, but the hope is to get them off the bike as soon as possible.

With Brady's race over we decided we would stick around an watch a little bit more.  We got in line for lemonade but it was moving kind of slow so we got out almost immediately and went to the beer stand to get me something; unfortunately they were out.  Back in line at the lemonade stand, the failed quest for beer cost us two spots in line.  After waiting in line for about 20 minutes, and with one person in front of us, they ran out of ice and couldn't make any more lemonade; had we not gone for beer we would have gotten the last glass of lemonade.  After this debacle we decided it better to just go home.

The weirdness of the day was capped off with a trip to our favorite Mexican restaurant (after debating staying home because Brady was rather grumpy) about 15 miles away only to find that it is closed on Sunday, even though we both swear we've eaten there on Sunday before.  We ended up at the Green Turtle and everyone was satisfied.

So event number one is a wrap.  Ed Sanders Cross next Sunday is a new event for me as I did not do the race last year.  One final thing of note for race number one: I started the morning at 193.4 pounds, my lightest thus far and several people at the race mentioned my weight loss, most of them I haven't seen since last year.  The one exception was Karrie who said that I looked so much slimmer than last year, but compared to most of the other guys out there racing I was still rather plump.  Such is my life on the bike.

Last year I decided to try a cycling discipline known as cyclocross; I can honestly say that it is the most fun I have ever had on a bike.  I wasn't in the best shape and I didn't have the best equipment (thanks Danny for the circa 1996 Jamis cross bike Jumping the barriersyou donated!) but man, what a blast it was.  My first race had 125 entrants in my class alone and over 600 at the one-day event and after purposefully starting at the very rear I finished 86th and was hooked.  It was hard and it involved running, which I hate, but overall, even with the copious amounts of suffering I had a gigantic smile on my face when it was over.  In all I entered 9 races in 2009, started 8 of them and finished all the ones I started including finishing in the top half in two of them.  The events are family friendly and Karrie and Brady came out to four or five races and cheered me on; Brady even competed in one race and is eager to do some more this year.  About the only thing I don't like about cyclocross is the short duration of the season which generally lasts from mid-September to early-December.

In anticipation of the coming season I disassembled the cross bike to clean and re-grease all the bits that may have been subjected to water, snow and mud last year.  I got the bike put back together a couple of weeks ago and then placed an order with my buddy Ben at Ben's Performance Bikes (my team sponsor) for some cyclocross supplies which came in last week.  Last year I raced all year without a flat (or mechanical of any kind,knock on wood) on Maxxis Raze tires.  I ran these at psi 40f/45r and was happy with their performance, although I had no other tires or experience to compare them with.  The tires are still in great shape, but this year I decided I would try out two others and compare them to the Razes.  So tonight I mounted up some Maxxis Mimos on my backup wheels and tomorrow I will make a short mock course with some off camber sections and compare them with the Razes.  I also have some Michelin Mud2s which will then square off against the winner of tomorrows test.  I plan on bringing two different sets of tires to the upcoming clinics to do some more testing before I decide which to mount up for the rest of the season.

So the time is near and it all starts with some clinics the next couple of Sundays which I'll use for a refresher and a reminder of how horrible my fitness is.  I've already registered for three races and anxiously await registration for more to open soon.  I'm ready for the pain, the fun and the beer.

Things have been moving along mostly with my implementation of the Time Crunched Cyclist Training Program.  I say my implementation because I have been unable to adhere to the exact program for a single week to date.

Week #4 was the scheduled "rest" week in the plan.  By rest, it means I didn't have intervals to do on Tuesday.  This was probably the closest I've come to matching the plan with my riding so far.  I got my power intervals in on Thursday, averaging ~115% of my field test power, which is a decent effort.  Saturday called for another round of power intervals, but rather than ride the trainer I decided to take it outside.  I found a stretch of road about a mile long that was mostly slightly uphill which I thought would be perfect, and the 10 mile ride out to it would serve as a good warm-up.  I managed to average about 125% of my field test power for the first three efforts, however I was having difficulty maintaining a constant power at that level during the slight downhill along this stretch of road dipping to ~70% during the downhill and peaking at about 175% on a few occasions.  This is not the ideal way to do these intervals and although I complete the workout I did not feel it was of the same quality as the same workout on the trainer, where I am able to better regulate my output.  Sunday I got together with the usual suspects for 2.5 hours of endurance riding on the 4th of July to round out the week.

Week #5 was a disaster, not only on the bike but just in general.  We had some issues this week with Lucas and his unwillingness to sleep.  As a result I did very little on the bike.  Tuesday I started out to do my power interval workout only to abort after the first set and 30 minutes.  My legs were dead; strange considering I had just come off a "rest" week.  Thursday's workout was OBE as was Saturday's.  I did manage to get out with the gang on Sunday for 2.5 miles for an "endurance" where I managed to set my best 30 and 60 minute normalized power numbers since I started riding with the power meter.  Normally this would be exciting, but the numbers weren't all that stellar.  After the ride I decided I would repeat week #5 rather than move on considering I hadn't completed a single workout that had been scheduled.

Week #5, part deux started out well as I got in decent efforts on my Tuesday and Thursday power interval workouts.  We were still struggling with Lucas and his sleep (and therefore our sleep) which was putting a lot of stress on everyone, so weekend workouts were scrapped all together.

Week #6 was pretty solid although I shifted the weekday workouts down a day to Wed/Thur instead of Tue/Wed.  Got good efforts in for my power interval workouts both days, but still finding that I had some left at the end so I'm probably not going as hard as I can/should.  The weather has been uber hot lately and Saturday was no exception hitting 100 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity pushing 70%.  I decided that I would do my workout indoors while watching a stage of Le Tour.  Let me tell you that 60 minutes on the trainer is pretty difficult; 90 minutes is downright mind numbing, but I did thanks to nearly 60 minutes of over/under intervals that kept it interesting.

Here are the numbers:

Week #4:

  • Weight: 208 lbs
  • Time ridden: 5 hours 34 minutes
  • Miles ridden: 83
  • Training Stress Score: 494

Week #5:

  • Weight: 208 lbs
  • Time ridden: 2 hours 59 minutes
  • Miles ridden: 46
  • Training Stress Score: 323

Week #5 do over:

  • Weight: 208 lbs
  • Time ridden: 2 hours 01 minute
  • Miles ridden: 30.41
  • Training Stress Score: 173

Week #6:

  • Weight: 203 lbs (go figure I lost 5lbs after 2 horrible training weeks and a rest week)
  • Time ridden: 5 hours 55 minutes
  • Miles ridden: 90
  • Training Stress Score: 504

This past weekend the family took a trip to Virginia for a couple of family events.  The first was Granny Williams' family weekend in the Roanoke (Copper Hill to be exact) area; the second was a stop of to visit Grandmother Shumake for her 90th birthday soiree.

The original plan was for me to take off Friday so we could head down early and drive the majority of Skyline Drive; I had also planned to sneak in a two hour ride in the morning before we left.  Thursday night I decided I would map out the trip as planned on Google maps.  It was then that it became apparent that Skyline drive was not doable as that route would take us the better part of 10 hours including a lunch stop.  Moreover, we were reminded of spending as little time in the car as necessary with two young children, so the skyline portion of the trip was scrapped until the boys are a bit older and we can dedicate a weekend to it, to include some hiking.  Based on Karrie's desired arrival time of 3pm, it was also impossible for me to get in my ride.  Our goal of leaving the house by 9am was not realized either and we got on the road at about 10am.

Brady feeds a crab apple to one of the horsesGranny's weekend is a (nearly) annual tradition wherein all of Karrie's mom's family get together for food and libations; okay, until there year I don't think there were libations, but I digress.  Coming from a small family I am always amazed at the number of family members at this gathering and that number seems to grow every year.  Karrie had booked a room for Friday and Saturday night at the Bent Mountain Lodge about half a mile up the road from Granny's house.  We stayed here a couple of years ago and it is a very nice house which the owners continue to add to every year.  There are several fruit trees on the property and this year Brady and I gathered some crab apples to feed to the owners' four horses.  Friday night we headed down to Granny's for a spaghetti dinner and some socializing, mostly with Karrie's parents and siblings and their families.  Here I got to meet the newest member of the family, Hayden, the daughter of Karrie's younger brother Jon and his wife Kathleen; this broke the streak of boys in Karrie's immediate family which was five over the past three  and a half years.

Saturday brought rain and fog (lots and lots of fog) to the mountain and the lodge was covered in it, dashing my hopes of getting some good pictures of the grounds.  We hung out at "the lodge until about 3pm before heading down to Granny's for the party.  The weather improved and the fog was non-existent, amazing considering it was still very thick just half a mile up the road at the lodge and would remain that way when we returned nearly four hours later.  The whole family made it this year, even those we weren't expecting.  New additions included Taegan Williams, the daughter of Karrie's cousin Isaac and his wife Kate; Benjamin Williams, the son of Karrie's cousin Aaron and his wife Jessica; and Hayden, the daughter of Jon and Kathleen.  I might be off by one or two, but I think this brings the total number of Granny's great-grandchildren to an astonishing 17!  It was a great time with good food and good company along with several games of cornhole.  Brady had a blast playing with all of his cousins and Granny seemed to be very happy just soaking in this great family that she started.

Sunday morning we awoke to a fair amount of sun and more importantly, no fog.  We had breakfast and packed up to make out way to Grandmother's birthday bash.  After checking out of the lodge we stopped at Granny's to feed Lucas and have one last goodbye.  Travel to Grandmother's was slow as traffic was heavy on I-81 and the rain seemed to have everyone spooked.  There was a pretty good turnout for Grandmother and the goodies were plentiful.  Grandmother seemed to be doing fine despite the maladies she's encountered recently.  90 years is quite an accomplishment and something I've never even considered for myself.  We hope to get down to visit her again soon.

We left Grandmother's a little after 4pm and were shooting for a 7pm arrival at home, but alas more rain slowed us along the way.  In total we were delayed about 90 minutes for the Peaches galorewhole return trip and saw exactly zero accidents which may have contributed to the congestion.  The boys traveled extremely well both ways considering they were basically sitting still for more than 11 hours total.  Towards the end Lucas did get a little fussy and we pulled off to let him stretch his legs in the exersaucer a bit.  The only issue on the way down was Brady's tiny bladder forcing us to stop four times in two hours.  Inevitably we always came upon a rest area within two miles after we got off at an exit for an inconvenient gas station or restaurant, but in the one instance where his needs and rest area coincided, he floored me with a doozy of a Brady moment.  The rest area bathroom was extremely loud with quite an echo.  To make matters worse, they had Accelerator brand hand dryers, which while incredibly effective, are also excessively noisy.  So we go to the handicapped stall to do our business and after Brady is done I  take my turn.  Meanwhile someone is drying their hands so Brady covers his ears with his hands.  As a result, when he starts to talk he is practically screaming: "Daddy, " (hand dryer stops), "you have a big penis!"  I was horrified, but I laughed out loud anyhow.

I think everyone had a really great time and we look forward to doing it all again next year!

Even if my day is absolutely horrible, hearing my boys laugh makes it the best day ever.  It is without a doubt, the best sound on Earth.


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