Saturday, October 31, 2009

Race #25: Victory Tastes as Sweet as Pumpkin Pie

First, I want to say a huge thanks to John at Biowheels and Lane at the Trek Store for getting my bike back in working order. I tore the derailleur hanger off my Redline and John speedily got me a new one, while Lane made sure my bike was race ready and the hanger I reinstalled wasn't going to fall off!

Okay, so sometimes I am a weight weenie. It just doesn't make sense to eat garbage then go out and spend $20 to $30 on a race if you have to lug around extra pounds — the same amount of weight Dentists would pay $3000 to drop off their bikes. But, Bridget has been baking pumpkin pies like they are going out of style. Who could resist? So I've been packing it in — gaining four or five pounds before this race.

Bridget and I drove up to Columbus to our beloved CapCity series where there was a Halloween race at Uncle Steve's (a wonderful host, birthday boy and great patron of the peloton). My first race in the CapCity series went well and I was able to score ninth. I was extremely happy with that result. But going into this race I was at least four pounds heavier than I should be with a lot of the course uphill! I just want to sneak inside the top ten and hopefully be in the top ten in points for the series at the end of the year.

All costumes wearers got a front line call up. I love this series because they keep the races fun. The guy in front of me was wearing a huge diaper — but I remember seeing him gaining spots in the gutter in a road race and from cross races last year — so hopefully he was a strong starter. Nada. The big baby couldn't clip in! I was boxed in and practically riding backwards.

Then I became the big baby and made a pissed off pouty face as I passed Bjet. But suddenly I channeled my distress into my racing. Instead of cautiously waiting to pass I bombed into turns on the inside like some sort of BMX/F1 racer out of control! I was having a blast.

Suddenly it appeared that there were only four riders ahead of me. But, maybe there were time gaps and ten more riders were ahead of them. So like any normal race I asked the giant mustard bottle what place I was in.

Coming around the other direction the giant mustard bottle, or Dan, let me know I was in fifth. WHOA! I can't believe I was in fifth! Gaps began to form. I bobbled a bit and my handlebars caught a tree in a muddy section.

The mustard bottle shouted at me to get busy, stop sitting on people's wheels.

So I attacked up to the second place rider or Aquaman's wheel and felt gassed. You make deals with your legs... "Stop riding so hard. Just sit here. You haven't been on a podium before. Third is all you need. Sleepy..." But the next lap I felt rejuvinated and made a move on an incline.

More encouragement from the mustard bottle.

I bridged the 20 second gap onto the first place rider's wheel. My tired legs wanted to make deals again but felt strong going up another hill (to be fair I didn't realize that he, Layne, has a single speed). I went to take a pull as to not suck wheel and opened a gap.

The mustard bottle told me he was a strong finisher and I better put him away. Remembering my foibles at the end of the Dark Horse UCI race and a random Sven Nys clip on YouTube I decided I better open a gap than try to sprint.

Here is where the mustard bottle became a sadist. He spurred me on, his words like a whip across a mule's back, never letting me rest. I would push myself like crazy upon seeing him and would have to cool myself down so I didn't get so exhausted that I would make a mistake and crash. I came across the line surrounded by friends (Andy Johnson as an enormous little girl in PJs!) and tried not to puke all over them!

The win was also pretty cool because I got to know so many more people in the CapCity series. People like Layne, Mark and Tim that I hope to see year round at road and mountain bike races.

I really want to thank Dan. I haven't been "coached" since I was a teen and it's amazing how a fresh mind helps push you when you are oxygen deprived.

Now maybe I'll be less of a weight weenie.

Monday, October 26, 2009

There is a mountain high enough

And it's just a hill... Alas, episode 3 in my quest to topple Bridget's supposed 7:15 up Kuglar Mill. It's not a steep hill, it just makes you try to ride it faster so that any changes in grade make you suffer.

I began to feel the only way to get stronger was to head off to some mountains. I noticed it was difficult to surpass the 7:31 time I set after returning from the climbs in Oregon. But a few weeks ago I felt great in cross practice, finding power I didn't know I had, and pulled off a 7:24.

So I borrowed Bridget's powertap again and had at it. I decided to take this weekend off from racing so I chose to do 4 ascents to mimic the effort required by a race. This time I analyzed some of the data (average wattage, i.e. ) from my last ride and applied it to this attempt.

I pushed myself to maintain a wattage of 320-350 and no less than 280 on any section of steeper grade. Any flatter section I spun out and pushed less watts in an effort to rest.

I was facing a rather cold and windy day, noticing also my rear tire was about 90psi and absentmindedly carried a bottle about one quarter up my first climb. But I squeeked out a 7:23 with the hopes of beating that 7:15 some day! I had to average over 16 mph up the climb to beat it. I remember a younger version happy to ride up there at 10 mph!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Race #24: Welcome to the 3s and Goodbye 4s

When I say Hello
Waking up early and staying all day at a race is fun but after 3 months of doing it once or twice a weekend it gets old. Bridget and I decided I should upgrade to Category 3 in Cross to shorten our days, wake up later and I am hoping the stiffer competition will make me a better rider.

I have to admit that I was nervous. I remembered my first cross race where I was frightened I would make a mistake that would wipe out a bunch of other riders. So I was stupid and did the reverse hole shot where I was the last one in and I had to fight my way up.

I still had a blast. I love cross, certain parts of the course are better for certain riders. My handling has gotten better, but I found myself stuck behind a guy that was a great climber but braked into every corner. I got ahead of him and he caught up on a massive hill! I got ahead of him and was riding with Jason Reser for awhile, that guy can really handle a bike!

I was working my way up, riding the wheel of 14th place when he snapped the tape! It wrapped around my eyes, neck and handle bars! I think I lost 15 or more seconds taking it off me (I prefer to roll it up and get it out of the way so other riders don't get wrapped up — karma I hope). The riders I had passed had caught up, and that 14th place looked a long way off. But I kept riding hard and nearly clawed it back.

Why do you say Goodbye?
On a side note I am happy with my results in the cat 4s. I consistently placed within the top 10 (the Erik Zabel green jersey). I looked up my results on US Cycling and I was ranked 9th in the country in Cat 4s! Thank you computer error! I am also happy that I was placed within the top 4 in points in the OVCX. If I continued perhaps I would have achieved my season goal of top 5 in points in the OVCX.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Race #21: A Sloppy Success

I have to admit having some serious butterflies in my stomach this morning. I overtrained on Tuesday night — doing a hill routine that I hope will develop my endurance and leg strength but ended up over cooking my quads. And Wednesday I caught a bug that left me feeling extremely weak. I pictured a day of wrecks and slogging through the back. But I wanted to keep at it for the points competition if I end up staying in Cat 4.

I actually felt okay in the warm up and I got a great place in the staging and field was way less than 100 people! And the climb leaving the start line was just the separation I needed. I got off to a good start just in the top five riders. The course wasn't that scary yet and I held on pretty well for awhile. I ended up overcooking a turn and my poor brakes weren't working as I flew through some tape.

During the course of the race I passed people as the slid out, I was passed as I slid out. At one point my front brakes worked as my rear wheel spun me out into 180˙ skid. My head was spinning. Who knows what place I was!

So I get to the end of the race and without realizing it this other racer was bearing down on me. We hit the final pavement uphill and start sprinting. Why is this guy sprinting with me for 20th place? Well, it turns out it was 5th place! I kind of gave up thinking it was stupid to be fighting for 20th! Oops. Well, I got 6th...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Race #20: The Chain Drop

Made a rookie mistake today and missed my call up while chatting in the staging area at the Tour de Louisville cross race... So I took a spot on the right side reminding myself to work left to avoid a big mud puddle before the start finish line. I gunned it and weaved around some wheels. I was lucky to escape a pile up that happened just behind me — unfortunately teammate Louie ran over some guy's neck and end-o'd.

Since it rained earlier in the week some of the off-camber sections were a little slick during the early race. My tubeless Vittorias seem to not do especially well in slicker conditions so I was riding conservatively. Louie caught back up to me and even passed me. I realized I was riding a little too easy and he spurred me on. I was hoping we could work together but he couldn't grab my wheel on a pull. I focused on riding cleanly and efficiently, using fitness to power after the barriers and to attack the several long climbs on the course.

Final lap things got dicey due to some stupid handing. I saw a couple riders trying to bridge up to me so I buried it through a few sections. In my haste I took a lame line through some gravel and wiped out. It was so lame and I lost momentum up to a steep climb.

I approached a first year rider entering a section of chicanes. He was being very cautious and ended up falling over. Somehow, three feet away my tire caught a rut and I was down as well! We kind of looked like Benny Hill without the Constables and Nurses.

I looked back and the next rider was fast approaching. I instantaneously realized I dropped my chain so I rain an uphill on the drive side putting my chain back on. It is weird to remount a bike on the opposite side but I did it and rode through some more chicanes. The next rider was on my wheel!

In a recent practice I overcooked a turn when I was in the lead and another rider was on my wheel. So I kept it cool. I hammered away from the chicanes so I could take it easy on some off-camber turns, where I rode high to catch some untreaded grass. I looked back and I had some space. I could take the next near 180 turn onto an uphill with a little caution.

I attacked the climb but only gave it 70 percent. I looked back and somehow the next rider was gaining! I licked my lips as I crested the top, lowered into my drops and began powering through the gears on my cassette anticipating a sprint finish. I looked back again and was delight to see he had exhausted himself on the climb.

I suppose the hills were to my advantage because somehow I got my first top-10 finish in the OVCX. I was content with my 8th place and I wish I could have rode a bit harder with more assurance from the tires.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Race #19: Surf 'n Turf

Bridget and I returned to the scene of my first ever Cross race, Alum Creek, where I had my best result of the previous year with a ninth in my first race. I chose to cat up in the CapCity series to make our race day shorter and hopefully the stiffer competition will make me a better cyclist.

To even the field they had a Le Mans-style running start were we grabbed our bikes, flipped them over and jumped on. I had a pretty good start and was feeling pretty good. Suddenly on a 50 foot long off-camber hill I found myself behind a rider that seemingly couldn't ride off-camber! He kept dabbing with one leg awkwardly so I decided to pass on the low side only to find myself trapped by an obstacle! I had to stop while 10 or so rides passed! That is painful.

I found myself behind James Turner who I have seen in the "advanced" group at the Harbin practices. I was on his wheel and we caught a small group of riders. Where perhaps sometimes I follow a wheel too long I saw James attack a surge around them. So I made him my white bunny and decided to chase. He really drove me to pass groups of two to three riders at a time and we worked our way up.

With three laps to go we were together with two riders trying to gain on us. I felt good and told him I would take a pull. But I think James was feeling puketastic and I ended up gapping him. I rode harder to gain more time fearing something might happen and all three riders might pass me.

I would relearn a lesson from last year: Don't just follow wheels! Chasing James reminded me I was in a race. And lesson #2: take your time! I was about to catch up to two more riders just before the finish, BUT, I caught my britches on my saddle as I remounted after the barriers.

Can't wait for next year!