Mike's Blog

Turning over the pedals

I was really looking forward to this race because it was flat and fast with ample sections to hit the gas and keep it down.  Last year it was the first of two races I did where I finished in the top 50%.  Of course, that was in the Cat4 race; the Masters Cat3/4 race, while not necessarily faster overall, has a much shallower slope on the curve from first place to last.  They also made some changes to this course this year, breaking up all of the good power sections with twists and turns and making us have to accelerate more frequently than last year.  Acceleration, like climbing, is not my thing.  I also built a new bike for this race: a BMC CX01 with an SRAM Red group and I only finished putting it together the night before.  I didn't get to do my leg openers on Saturday and only managed a quick test ride on the new bike, which seemed to be in good shape.

Race day morning was normal and I got to the race venue by 8am and did some recon laps of the new layout.  I had a disappointing start again and was passed by a bunch of guys out of the gate.  By the time we got to the barriers I was well down in the pack.  After about two laps I started to feel really stretched out on the bike and couldn't figure out why until I noticed that my bars had started to rotate forward.  I stopped in the pit on the second half of the second lap and swapped out the new bike for the old losing five to six spots in the process.  I managed to get back one or two of those spots by the time I crossed the finish line for the start of lap number three and felt like I was settling into a good pace, for me at least.  There were a couple of guys ahead of me who I caught and exchanged places with several times until the last lap when either they hit the gas or I blew up.  Just before the finish I was passed by the race leader who had a very nice gap on the rest of the field and so I finished a lap down (6 minutes and change) to the leader in 80th place of 92 starters.

No races this weekend as Karrie and I celebrate our fifth year anniversary.  Next race is DCCX at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in the District of Columbia on October 24th.

I can sum this race up in two words: I suck.  This is not a revelation to me, I've known that this was not going to be my year for 'cross because I just haven't put the time in on the bike.  In fact, even if I put the time in I'm never going to be a front runner and I'm okay with that.  For this year I've accepted that I will be a tail gunner and today I was living up to expectations.  What made today different from the other 10 'cross races I've done is that today I abandoned and posted a (legit*) DNF for the first time.

The day started off normal for a race day.  I got up at 6am tired as hell, rolled downstairs and had some breakfast, gathered my gear and hit the road for the 50 minute drive to Lilypons Water Gardens in Adamstown, Maryland.  It rained some on the way there so I figured my hopes for a dry race were done.  It had been relatively dry this week so I figured in any event there is no way it would be as muddy as last year.  I registered and then rode a couple of recon laps since I had never done this race before.  The venue is unique in that a good portion of the course traverses several ponds filled with lily plants which are sold at the gardens.  The first part of the course through the ponds contains a lot of turns and somewhat narrow areas which make it difficult to pass.  Once through there you enter a longish dual-track gravel area that is mostly flat and you are really able to motor along through this section.  The double-track ends slightly uphill and turns onto a slightly downhill grass section which leads up a run-up followed immediately by a steep drop-in.  The drop-in was a bit unnerving because you only had about 8 feet from the top of the run-up to get remounted and drop-in; I froze up here on both practice laps but was able to keep it moving during the race.  From there the next thing was the hill at the "back nine" (more on that later) followed by a slight downhill and another drop-in.  Following that was a couple of "woops" and then a leg grinder climb to a downhill section where, in theory, you could recover some.  After the downhill the course meandered back to the finish and then into the barriers before starting over where I started.

I was feeling decent after the practice laps but a little apprehensive about the drop-in after the run-up. Nothing like getting there, freezing up and having a bunch of guys stuck behind you pissed off.  Luckily, as you will read, this didn't materialize.  At the start I mostly help my position fairly well on the prologue lap.  As I was entering the 180-degree turn prior to the barriers someone tried to take the space on my inside that didn't exist.  The bump forced me to dismount and I mistakenly tried to remount for the very slow 180 directly preceding the barriers; as a result I fudged the dismount pretty bad and lost about 20 spots in the barrier section when it was all said and done.  I maintained my position through the ponds and when we hit the gravel section, which is where I should shine, people started coming by me again.  On one of the 90-degree turns in the gravel section I heard someone directly behind me go down and yell out in pain; he would lay there in the ditch for at least two more laps and was eventually carted away by an ambulance.  By the time I got to the run-up and drop-in I was pretty much by myself so there was no one to hold up and I managed to complete the combo without pausing.  By the end of the first lap I was pretty much racing by myself and darn near the end of the group if not the end of the group.  A couple of 55+ guys were near me so I raced with some of them for a bit, but it was not a stellar effort on my part.  Sometime during the second lap my back started to bother me slightly.  I wrecked on a gravel turn at pretty low speed, but the gravel had its way with my shin and hip.   By the middle of the third lap my back was really, really bothering me.  I managed to recover some and told myself that if there was one lap to go (or two with the possibility of being lapped making it only one) I would soldier on.  Unfortunately, when I got to the finish line the sign showed three laps remaining at which point I made the very difficult decision to abandon rather than suffer in pain the next 20 minutes or so.

Quitting sucks and it is not something I want to do again.  The course was tough and my fitness is horrible but those things alone are bearable; the pain I had in my back, not so much.

I went back to my truck, cleaned my wounds and changed to head to the "back nine".  A lot cyclocross courses loop back on themselves in multiple spots which makes for great spectating.  Lilypons does not lend itself to that and so the have the "back nine" which is a spectating area with its own announcer at the back of the course.  The real highlight of the "back nine" however, is the free beer and waffles.  I had two of the first and one of the latter before heading back to the truck to grab the camera to take some pictures of the Elite Masters race.  After taking some pictures and watching my team mate Mike Birner finish second I headed home.

So that's it for race #2; it didn't leave a warm fuzzy in my stomach for the rest of the races this season.  I will continue to the be a tail-gunner and strive to finish the remaining races at the very least.

* - I was scored a DNF at the championships in Taneytown last year but in reality I did not start.

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.

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.

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