Archive for June, 2011

menko

Burlingame Criterium 06.26.2011

Matty pedals for a great cause!

This weekend I took time off from racing and instead helped my club, Peninsula Velo put on the Burlingame Criterium, and Ryan’s Ride, a memorial ride to raise money for cancer programs through the Lance Armstrong Foundation. I was really looking forward to this as Matty has been really excited to ride his bike, and begs me to wear my jersey and ride bikes with him. I can only describe it as feeling like a Super Hero to my son, and I’ve watched him mature into an understanding of cycling and competition to know that Daddy almost never wins, but he always gives it everything he has. He saw me struggle by myself last weekend as I crawled in behind the leaders and he said “Daddy you were going fast up that hill!” So I was ready to return the favor as he pedaled a lap of the course.

It was a beautiful day and I was an escort for the kids to make sure the all made it safely around the course. There was an endless sea of kids on a variety of bikes just having a blast. Matty had several friends there, and as his race got under way, he quickly wove his way through the rather disorganized sea of riders. If you’ve ever felt unsafe in a criterium because riders aren’t holding their lines, you’ve only grasped the tip of the iceberg with a sea of 7 and 8 year olds all swerving around, some looking forward, backwards and sideways as crowd cheers them on. Its a miracle more of them don’t plow into each other.

But Matty, true to his character, slammed it into his hardest gear and pedaled his heart out. He motored around the course and was beaten by one other kid who he just couldn’t catch. Daddy of course was right behind him encouraging him to pedal not because I cared whether he won or lost, but because I wanted him to enjoy the sport of it, and give it everything he had. When we finished he was breathing hard, but not that hard and said “I’m ready to do more Daddy!” I smiled and hope this is just the start of a long career of competition in sport for him.

A great way to end the weekend. One proud Daddy!

Event: Pescadero RR E3
Date: 06.18.2011
Teammates: Jeromy, Mark C., Dave N., Tom, Ross
Place: 37/67
Weather: 75 Sunny
Power: 204/227 (AP/NP)
HR: 175/193 (Avg/Max)
Gearing: 50-34, 11-23

Strava Ride Data

It has taken me nearly a week to even put this race report together, as I am still trying to shake the fog off. I had targeted this as my most important race in the first half of the season, and spent a lot of time and energy tuning myself mental and physically for this race. My form has been continually improving all season long and while I wasn’t primed for some of the March/April/May races, I could tell I was getting stronger and felt like my lead in was on target.

Hamilton went well and I was strong, but the weekend after I really struggled in some road races and took some time off. I was worried I was going into over-training mode so I rested and reduced my time and intensity. Having not rested so completely in the past I wasn’t sure how my body would react and what it would do for me. But I was primed and ready to rock.

Thankfully, we arrived plenty early with Jeromy, Markus and I suiting up and going for a nice warmup. As we were rolling, I tried to shift my front derailleur and suddenly the lever wouldn’t spring back. Turns out a small little spring had broken, making it impossible to shift to my big ring. The mental letdown was huge but I tried not to panic and look for a way to make it work. Markus graciously offered to switch shifters with me and put the broken one on his bike, and the day was saved. We found some tools (ALWAYS BRING THE DAMN TOOLS!) and made it all happen with about 15 minutes to spare.

As we set off up Stage I felt pretty good, but I couldn’t let myself settle in and go easy enough. I stayed near the front and probably used too much energy despite my best efforts to the contrary. The descent felt incredibly good; my bike just went wherever I wanted it to and I felt supremely confident despite the lines others were taking. Haskins I started near the front, felt pretty good, but had to dig deep to stay with the front people. Again, I couldn’t let myself drift back even though we did the same thing as last year—hard up, slow down and regroup again. A break did get off the front and we quickly lost track of them, which started to make the field nervous.

I took a quick solo flyer to get up the road to lose some extra water, and that effort really hurt more than it should have. This was the first moment that I started getting some negative feedback from my body. I made sure I put even more calories and water into me as I waited for the field to catch back on.

As we regrouped, PV came to the front with Tom setting a hard pace into town. Ross and Dave also rolled to the front and it was strung out single file and I had trouble even sitting in. The teamwork was really strong and both Mark and Jeromy felt good still, so I just tried to conserve and see what my second lap up Stage felt like.

First half of Stage was ok, but the second time up my legs just cramped and wouldn’t respond. I wasn’t gasping but just felt like crap. I banished all negative thoughts and just focused on staying connected. I survived it, but the fatigue was building and the next trip up Haskins was my undoing.

I worked to keep myself in the top 1/3rd going up, but I was on borrowed time and slowly slipped back until there was 30+ people in front of me. Then the gaps and stragglers started losing contact and I dug in to stay on, but didn’t survive the last 1k and came over the top and couldn’t see the field anymore. I was by myself with a few in front and more behind, and just put my head down and dug a little deeper to try and close the gap.

I was doing great on the descent and passed several people until I came up behind a car that was having trouble negotiating the last few turns before the bottom. To be fair, they had a small group of 3 riders in front of them and were hanging back being safe instead of trying to pass them, but I had to get to them. The best part was the driver had their window down so I just asked him if I could pass him and he said “sure!” and moved over a little bit to pass on the left. Normally I never would do this, but I was desperate to get back on.

Once I caught this group, I was spent and really struggled to take pulls. I looked down to see I was only putting out 200 watts, and I knew my race was over. The disappointment was almost overwhelming, but the next moment I was lifted up by the presence of a familiar blue station wagon rolling up behind me with an unmistakable voice cheering “GOOOOO DADDDDDDY!” A huge smile erupted on my face and my pain was put back in the proper place and I powered on.

We caught the field just before Pescadero, which gave me a very brief reprieve before hitting Stage for the final time. I moved myself to the front at the start of the climb and started drifting backwards like I was standing still. Once again my descending saved me, and I caught back on to the front. The second bump on Stage proved to be too much, and I sprinted a few times to try and stay on, but my legs were dead and I was screwed.

I was with a small group of 4 riding 300m behind the field. We were catching them, but I was spent and slowly drifted off the back of this group and lost the field for the rest of the race. Expletives followed and if I had been a sponsored pro, I would have gotten off my bike and tossed it for maximum distance into the weeds. But since I’m doing this for “fun” I just kept pedaling to get myself home.

The last ascent of Haskins was pure pain. Luckily, my wife and son were in the feedzone and they cheered me on and passed me on the climb to give me a few more ounces of resolve to get through. I put out everything I could, passed a few riders and sprinted for the line to salvage some sense of my pride. Now I have to look hard at the rest of the season and figure out where things have gone sideways and get it back on track. And find the fun!

Ride Data

Date: 06.04.2011, 06.05.2011
Event: Golden Empire Classic, M 35+ 1-4 & E3
Teammates: Jeromy
Place: 48/52
Weather: Cloudy, low 70s
Power: 215/235 (AP/NP)
HR: 176/193 (Avg/Max)
Gearing: 50-34, 11-23

Master 35+ 1-4 Road Race:
With the last minute cancellation of TopSport stage race, I was faced with a dilemma—where to race instead? The kid was taken care of, and I had a free weekend, and there was no way I would waste it! So Jeromy and I weighed our choices: Mt. Hood Classic (12 hour drive, take 2 vacation days) or drop into lovely Bakersfield for the SCNCA’s district RR championships. We could race Masters on Saturday and then do E3 on Sunday. It was perfect! So we loaded up the car and headed out of the Bay Area just before the rain hit.

The Golden Empire Classic RR is a 31-mile loop with a 700ft climb, a single lane descent begging to be ridden hard, a healthy dose of rollers, wind from all directions, and various course obstacles like carbon-craving potholes, cattle grates with wheel-grabbing slots in the middle, and very large heifer crossings. With no neutral feed, I was thankful for the unseasonably cool weather and loaded 3 water bottles and headed out. I had rested most of the week and felt pretty good after warmup, and found myself stuck on the front as 3 guys motored away right from the start. The field echeloned out behind me, and we just watched the break ride away. A few more guys launched eventually and I drifted back having had to work harder than I wanted to, but also itching to hop into the next effort that gets away as big teams were blocking for their guys up the road.

My lack of patience was my undoing. By the time we hit the climb about 19 miles in, I maintained position for the first half in the top-10. I had to work fairly hard, and then the surges started. This is about a 700ft vertical gain that takes a good 15 minutes or more. It was never steep enough to really help me, so the big powerful guys just started putting down a lot of power and I slowly drifted back. At some point I hit the wall and desperately tried to stay attached, but my legs just shutdown and I just cursed at myself for riding stupid. Not aggressive, just stupid.

I can’t even recall exactly what happened, but I found myself with a few guys over the top and we hammered like crazy to bring the field back, which was about 700m ahead of us. This chase took about 5 miles, and we finally caught back on up the final roller of a climb. Part of me was relieved, and the honest part knew I was in serious trouble if they accelerated again. I moved up as far as possible into the field for a little protection, and sure enough as we got close to the start/finish area, it strung out single file and I had to put out nearly 400 watts to stay connected. This only lasted for about 2 minutes until I blew yet again, and with blurry vision and spit flying I watched them leave me behind yet again, never to be seen again. I soloed 15 seconds off the back past the start line, where the announcer was kind enough to call it chasing instead of giving up, but I resolved to just push myself through the next lap as fast as I could.

I caught one more hapless soul, and we motored on and were caught from behind by 3 more ejectees, making us 5 strong at the bottom of the climb. I paced myself a bit better this time and ended up leaving 2 guys behind. We motored down the climb and hit yet more wind and the final 10k to the finish. I was losing more and more power on the flats and was trying to take short pulls and not blow up. One of the guys was a locomotive, and I had real trouble following him in our paceline, so I made a tactical decision and sat out a pull so I could re-insert myself behind the weaker guy.

As we approached the finish, I stopped Jeromy riding back to make sure I hadn’t been hauled off by vultures, and we chatted a bit as we headed into the start finish. With 1k to go, I was determined not to finish dead last, so I knew I had to outsprint one of these guys. The steam engine took up 3rd wheel and I took 2nd, and we slowly crawled in, with the lead out man looking over his shoulder constantly. With 500m to go, I started going faster and faster, and he matched my speed. We both expected the big guy to come around us, but he dropped off instead. So I “punched” it (for me atleast!) and outsprinted the other guy to the line by a few feet. They recorded him as beating me, but eyewitnesses to event would tell you otherwise. A small victory to an otherwise sub-par ride.

Strava Ride Data:

Elite 3 Road Race

Video of Jeromy and I (starting at about 2:10)

After Saturday’s crappy showing, I was determined to ride smarter. The weather was set to be in the 80s, which was a bit hot for me, so I hoped I could conserve and make it through on 3 water bottles. I sat in, and avoided the damaging road, and stay connected up the climb. We rode considerably slower the first lap (86 mins vs. 82 mins the day before) and I felt pretty good. Lap 2 was a different story however. We hit the climb, and like the day before, the 2nd half started killing me. I heard Jeromy breathing hard next to me as he slowly drifted back with about 1 mile left going up. I was bouncing back and forth off the back desperately trying to stay stuck on. I must have either fallen off myself or had the guy in front of me drop off 5 or 6 times. Finally, right before the last push, I just couldn’t do anything more. Now I was just plain angry.

I quickly gathered up a few other stragglers in front of me and tried to get them to work. One stupidly said “just a minute, let me catch my breath!” The field was less then 300m away and getting ready for a downhill, and we couldn’t wait. I just moved around him and told them to stay on. We worked a bit but were falling apart until I saw the sweetest sight in the world—the wavy stripes of a pair of Penvelo shorts. I thought for sure I was hallucinating but those shiny white Sidis were quite familiar to me, and Jeromy came roaring past us and pulled directly in front of me. I sprinted to catch his wheel and we were gone.

This was the best part of the entire race—not only did we close the gap on the short descent, we flew right past the rest of the field to end up at the front by the time we got down. The road is windy, but not super steep or technical, more like Hwy 84 than Kings or Old La Honda. The field strung out single file and we simply passed 8-10 guys per turn carrying atleast 5mph more speed. It was just sheer luck that nobody was going very fast, because there is no way that would have been possible the day before in the Masters field. But I wasn’t complaining!

We had mapped the course out and had our 10k and 5k to go landmarks all set. I still felt pretty reasonable and was ready for the run up to the finish. I drank all my water and found myself needing a little top off. Jeromy loves the heat and clearly needed very little fluid since he had 1.5 bottles left. I waited for a slower section and pulled up alongside and asked for a bottle. Just as he handed it to me and grabbed his own, a few riders ahead of us touched wheels drinking, eating or picking their noses, and I had that horrible moment of resignation when you see the rider in front of you crash to the ground and you are helpless to avoid them. At that particular moment, I had the water bottle in my right hand, and my left hand was on the tops, so I had no brakes at all. I simply did my best to dodge, managed a little bunnyhop over his carbon wheels (They were Reynolds, I got a very good look at them) and somehow stayed up, on the road and didn’t hit anyone else.

After realizing I had cashed in atleast one of my 9 lives, my next thought was “where’s Jeromy?” Of course he was not as lucky and had gone down. Cursing I kept looking around for him and pulled off to the side and drifted back. I couldn’t decided if I should drop off or stay on, as I doubted I would help him much on the rollers. The moto came back and said everyone had gotten up, but as a group of chasers caught on, I couldn’t see Jeromy. I went to the front and got everyone to slow down for a minute, but after a bit of that they were eager to motor on. Jeromy wasn’t able to catch back on due to a Boonen-esque chain malfunction, but he was luckily just scraped up, and most importantly his bike wasn’t broken.

The slow down let the entire field get back together, so 50+ of us were now riding slow/fast/slow/fast with nobody wanting to take pulls at the front this close to the finish. Add to it exhaustion, narrow lanes, and twitchy excitement, and you have the perfect recipe for more crashes. And crash we did. With about a mile to go, another guy went down and off the side of the pavement, and this really seemed to spook everyone. So we slowed down even more. At this point, we made the last turn onto the slight up hill and everything clogged up. We were 8 wide and packed in at slow speed as frustrated riders in the back tried to force their way up. At 300m to go one last rider fell right next to me and I narrowly avoided that one. I was already 25 guys back and figured this might be the wisdom before glory and I just let off. I wasn’t going to be able to hold the speed to the line anyway once the leaders had jumped, so I decided to cut my losses and stay up. So I finished 5 seconds behind the main field, glad to be upright but utterly disappointed that I could not do better at this damn race.

In retrospect, I can see two areas of weakness I need to improve on: longer hard efforts (10-20 minutes with surges) and building my 1-2 minute power. When they jump on the gas, I just can’t hold more than 350 watts on anything but an uphill, and its not enough to keep me connected on those high-speed run ins.

Jeromy rolled in shortly thereafter and to put a silver lining on it all, we got back to the hotel to shower before the 1pm checkout, which made that 4.5 hour drive home WAY more pleasant!

Strava Ride Data: