Archive for April, 2011

Date: April 30th
Category: E3
Teammates: Erik, Ross, Dave N, Mark C., Mark S., Tom
Placing: 18th/60 some odd
Stats: 3:09, 166bpm avg, 209 watts avg

Beaten, but happy to make it! Photo Copyright by martinez_velo

For those who havenít done this race, the course has a challenging combination of climbs, rollers, a fast descent and wind. And boy was there wind. Driving in at 6:30 we saw the trees were swaying heavily and there was grumbling in the car that perhaps we should just toss in the towel and head home. Personally, the wind and I are like oil and water, so I mentally was just preparing myself for it to feel like I was climbing the entire race, whether the road went uphill or not. I made a mental note to throw my invisible lasso and spurs into my rear pockets, to help ensure that no matter what happened, I would NOT let even the hint of a gap open up in those windy sections or I would be toast.

Course Map

Our team meeting set out some good guidelines and we all lined up with very little warmup in our legs. The first moments of headwind and my legs were already aching a bit, but I hoped that was just residual from my LT test the day before and that if I could keep from maxing out on the first time up the climb, Iíd be ok. The team did a good job of riding near the front. We had two riders take off after about 2k before the climb and so I parked myself near the front so that if anyone else decided to try and bridge, I would go with them even though I thought their chances of staying away were small with the winds.

As the field hit the feed zone, we had really started ratcheting up the intensity and I didnít look back, but I knew we were probably already shedding some of the 80+ riders that started the race. Dave and Mark C. made it look easy and we all floated over the top into the rollers in the top 30 riders. I could already see we would have a group of about 10-15 riders that were climbing better than the rest and figured weíd see that selection happen in the next two laps.

The rollers and descent were a blissful reprieve from the wind and I focused on taking in fluids and eating to keep my energy up for the pain still to come. The descent down was only made challenging by the double-yellow rules and it strung out single file so I took the opportunity to move up a few spots without spending any energy (its my racing mantra: move up whenever it costs the least). The windless section was not to last long, and as we made the right turn to head back into town strong cross winds forced the field onto the double yellow as debris from trees and rather large branches blew across the road. Of course nobody wanted to work together, so instead of echeloning, we just pacelined and I did my best to avoid being stuck on the front.

The last climb before the start line saw one or two guys blast up the road a little, but nothing came of it and we brought them back a few minutes later. Our two-man breakaway kept plodding on, but we still had them in sight and I counted less than 30 seconds from when they passed a power pole to when we did, so I wasnít worried. The temperature was rising and I had already peeled off my arm warmers and finished one bottle, so I was planning on taking a feed on laps 3 and possibly 4. We hammered up the climb and this time a true selection was made, and Mark C went with about 8 riders. Dave and I were situated at the front so I was more than happy to ease up just a bit and let them grow a gap. Unfortunately, we brought them back on the rollers as Mark drifted back to us and said nobody was really committed and it was too early still. The rest of the lap was pretty uneventful.

Our 3rd time up the climb, I was really starting to suffer. I ate more but could feel that I was starting to get dehydrated and unfortunately I ended up with a bottle of plain water instead of my superhero drink mix in the feed zone (but was I ever GLAD to get something as some poor guy sat there calling out for neutral water, in the sad hopes that someone would give him something). We caught the break on the climb and I entered that mental state in which one simply thinks about turning over the pedals and finding a rhythm of suffering. Before I knew it, Mark was next to Dave and I rolling on a soft rear tire and thatís when things got dicey. I slowed with him and looked back to see we only had about 45 riders left, and no PV jerseys were in the short line-of-sight we had. The problem was, I run Campy and Mark had Shimano, but we stopped and started to exchange wheels anyway when the follow car came up. Mark was able to get a wheel from them, so I started to fit my wheel back on when I saw Ken Gallardo from the M123 field come by off the front. The wheel car was taking its sweet time and then we had the chase group from the M123 field come by and in the confusion I missed Mark getting done with his wheel change and wasnít able to match his acceleration (the boy can sprint!) as he worked his ass off to get in front of the M123 field. This left me about 50 yards back on the tail end of their field fighting the headwind by myself. But on the back of that train was my best friend in all the world, PVís very own Murray Swanson, and he was kind enough to make room next to him so I wasnít working with them, but still could get some relief from the wind before we hit the downhill. This effort put me way into the red, and thoughts of abandoning the race at the start line started to creep in.

I pulled out all the stops and was gratified to catch two other 3s riders on the descent as I took some crazy chances because if I didnít have a wheel to sit on in the wind I was going to be blown to death before I ever got back to civilization. The 3 of us worked alongside of the m123 field and passed them just as we were going up the climb. I spotted Mark soloing about 25 yards ahead of us, so I started pushing the pace with my group so we could catch him as soon as possible to give him some relief. We caught him at the start area and motored on as a group of 4.

And then like a desert mirage, I saw this glimmer in front of me that I was sure was a bonk-induced illusion: a neutralized 3s field BEFORE the base of the climb. I immediately told Mark to throttle back and sent Ken Gallardo a mental high five for catching our field and causing this (THANK YOU KEN!). I was being paid back for all those rescued kittens and counted myself fortunate. Dave was happy to see us and quickly escorted us to the front right after we went live again. Thus, I found myself in the top 20 on the climb again. Thatís when two guys decided to scratch each otherís backs or something and next thing you know, two or three guys are going down UP the climb. Dave and I were both right in the middle of it, but I skirted off the to side and prepared to stop if he was caught up, but we both made it through. With that the race was on, the climb was a blur and a final selection was made that was chasing a break of 6 guys that had gotten off the front someplace on the last lap. Mark made that selection and while I was close to the gap, I dug as deep as I could and just had nothing left to give to make it across. I watched frustrated as they opened it up, but looked down to see my HR at 192 and knew I was on the ropes. The rest of the lap was uneventful and at the start area there was some blocking and nobody really wanted to fight it. Then a solo guy launched off the front and I decided this was my chance, because I was so gassed I knew I wouldnít be able to out-accelerate anyone at the finish. We traded pulls and never got much more than 10 seconds, but I just kept going as hard as I could. The field caught us at the feedzone and then I jumped again in a desperate attempt to open a little gap. I was passed by two people who just motored away, and when I tried to catch them both calves seized up (not enough water) then traded pulls with one other rider who eventually out sprinted me. So I ended up 4th in my group, which I was really pleased with. I ended up 18th overall, which on the balance of it was a good reward for a hard day in the saddle.† As we watched others come through the finish line, every head was down with eyes glued to their front wheel.† It was suffering for all.

Lessons learned: get your shit together faster when youíre going to pace someone back so youíre not caught unaware.

Lessons re-learned: Never give up. Ever.† When cycling ceases to be physical, its all mental.† It is the crucial difference.† And still need more water than I think I do in these efforts.† Cramping is bad!



Progress: OLH time comes down

Cycling is a strange sport in that you sacrifice a great deal to spend countless hours and miles in the saddle, and yet how you spend that time changes week to week, month to month and year to year. How do you know if you’re improving? Athletes spend time measuring their power (watts), their weekly mileage, intensity intervals, and race against the clock on a course they have done before.

Locally, one of the legendary climbs in N. Cal is Old La Honda. Its a nice climb that’s not horribly difficult in terms of pitch, but its long enough to make you suffer. I use this climb as a measure of my fitness at any moment in time, but haven’t had much luck on it this last year, despite spending more quality and consistent time on the bike.† Last year was my first time really back on the bike in many years, and I have struggled to find my climbing legs and produce the speed and power I used to (I know all old farts were better in their memories, but really, I used to be a good climber!)

Last year I struggled to break 20 minutes, which really surprised me.† I knew I was capable of better.† Finally in March, I broke 20 minutes.† Here’s my history:

2010 Results

  • 3-8-2010: 24:10 (200w/178bpm) First real attempt of the season, pretty lackluster but high HR
  • 3-21-10:19:35 (232w/178bpm) Rode this with the PV club ride and was giving it an all out effort.† I was not able to repeat this for some time!
  • 6-9-2010: 19:12 (230w/183bpm) My best effort just before Pescadero.† I tested at 4.3 w/kg (244w) 2 weeks later after my best result of the year on the road at Pedscadero RR (still only 20th)

2011 Results


    Old La Honda Statistics:

    Max. grade: 15% (18% inside switchbacks)

    Main climb:

    Avg. grade: 7.3% (elev. gain/dist)

    Length: 3.35 miles (5.39 km)

    Elev. gain: 1290 feet (393 m)

    Entire profile:

    Avg. grade: 7.2%

    Length: 3.37 miles (5.42 km)

    Climb: 1290 feet (393 m)

    Old La Honda Profile from Stanford

    Yours truly takes a pull

    Short: Tons of teammates, good racing, redemption!

    After having a rather crappy day on the bike, I spent most of the night not sleeping and the 5:45am alarm went off and all I could think was “screw this!” Luckily Erik was picking me up, so I was com

    mitted or I would have just crawled back in bed and slept. Baring that, I put a little food in me and packed my stuff up and headed out. I’ve been trying hard to arrive early to races this year to get a good warmup in, and I felt much better than at Sea Otter, so I was optimistic and yet worried I’d struggle. Santa Cruz was my first race back last year, and it was pure suffering for me to even hang on. I had hoped I’d made better progress this year, but lacked confidence after my ass kicking on Saturday. I got a good warmup and was confident that Tom, Mark C. and Dave were in good shape to make something happen. My goal was to ride in support of them and not let the race get out of hand. I got a good start at the front and went into the hairpin in the top 5 someplace.

    While not strong enough to pull the field, I positioned myself to keep an eye on everyone at the front and not let people surge around us. There we some nice independents

    digging deep to put some pressure on

    who were perfectly happy to pull us around, so I just sat about 3rd wheel and kept the pace high. This allowed me to take the hairpin at full speed, which saved me tons of energy as I didn’t need to kill it sprinting full speed to catch/pass people. I also did a much better job of defending my position in the field by not allowing people to overtake me or push me off wheels, and by using the sides of the course in the gutter (Thanks Larry Nolan!). I felt confident and controlled, and only was out-classed when people really gunned it on the hill and came around me.

    PV train at the front

    With 2 to go, Mark C and Tom got to the front and totally drilled it. I got caught in a traffic jam at the start/finish on the last lap as someone on the left sat up and the lucky guys blew by on the right. I took all sorts of chances riding the gutter on the descent into the hairpin and on the backside, but just couldn’t make up enough spots to stay competitive in the sprint. I watched Mark and Tom put themselves into the top 10 and Dave went for a strong finish as well. I felt like I redeemed myself from the crappy road race and I never really felt like I was on the ropes during the whole race. I look forward to the next one!

    Here’s a youtube video from a teammate’s camera:


    Date(s): April 16/17
    Races: E3 Sea Otter RR
    Teammates: Jeromy, Markus, Erik, Ross, Dave N

    This will be a short report. I signed up for the Sea Otter RR because it was supposed to be a course that suited my strengths well–lots of elevation gain, little wind, and a long, uphill finish. Having tested my legs a few weeks ago at San Dimas and found them rather lacking. I was hoping this weekend would work out a little better. I should have known by our pre-race antics (imagine: 2 hour drive, hydration, and an unexpectedly long line of cars getting into Laguna Seca, and one not-so-clean Clean Bottle). You get the picture…

    Sea Otter was great opportunity because I knew Jeromy and Ross were feeling strong and my goal was to work as best I could to get them into position. The course starts out with a long neutral start which saw me doing over 340 watts on the climb which gave me pause…but I stayed at the front and just rode it out. The course is short is a short initial climb (2-3 mins) followed by a fun full-speed downhill, a few more bumps and then a steeper short climb at the feed zone. Then you do a few rollers, hit a fast downhill, and make a sharp left back onto the initial climb. Repeat 6 or 7 times (I can’t recall) and then head to the finish which is a good 3k climb to the finish line.

    The field rolled around the course the first time and I felt pretty good–but that feeling was soon to end. We motored through the neutral zone and I saw I was doing 350 watts up the hill just to hold my position in the front. But having never done the race, I wanted to stay very close to the front and not risk getting gapped or dropped on any of the quick uphill jaunts. A solo flyer rolled off the front and we were content to let them roll–there were 5 PV guys in the field so people were looking to us to do some work and chase. We let him hang out a good lap or so, and then a second rider peeled away up the main climb. Now we had two riders off, and Jeromy and I were sitting at the front keeping an eye on them. About half way through the lap I decided we needed to catch these fools, so I went to the front and drilled it until the feed zone. This turned out to be the end of my race as the field streamed past me up the bump past the feedzone. I had told myself I wouldn’t let gaps open, so I worked hard, stayed top 15, and motored on. Sadly, my body started to rebel and I just didn’t feel myself. When we hit the initial climb, I went backwards and just watched everyone go by. I wasn’t even 1/3 of the way through the race and was off the back. I found some friends and we motored through the rest of the race just surviving. I continued to feel like a someone had sent me through the 1200 rpm spin cycle and felt worse as time went on. Finally, on the last lap, I recovered from the ugliness and put in one more good lap. End result: somewhat demoralized and frustrated that my body let me down. I think I ended up about in 20th or so about 15 mins down on the leader. The good news was that Jeromy pulled out a 4th place and Ross did 10th. That felt good even if I wasn’t there to do much to help out.

    Lessons learned: don’t eat Clif Bars and ride a bike. Time from arrival to actual parking may cause in excess of 28 ounces. Always look behind you to make sure there isn’t a cop two cars behind you before taking care of the previous issue


    Why I did SDSR 2011

    There was no illusion of preparedness
    There was no fitness
    There would be nothing less than maximal effort

    But family, friends and cycling go so well together. Being able to race side by side with Esteban again reminded me of the good times when we were 19, not 39. Friends are like that. And now we have little copies of ourselves sharing those good times with us, so what could be more fun?

    The races themselves pushed me way beyond my limits, and started my season in earnest. I plan on it again next year.