Monday, March 31, 2008

Jeff Cup: Stuck behind the Cat4 Trolls (as Kyle would say)

So, if I ever see 125 Cat4s signed up for a race, I'm going to load by bike back in the car and go home. Or, maybe I won't even leave the house. I'll consider the entree fee a contribution to the organizers. This is pretty much my assessment of the Cat4 Jeff Cup race.

I guess I can sum the race up in two words "f'in scary".

I really hate big Cat4 fields because most of the time no one wants to work and everyone wants to just sit in for the sprint. There were maybe 15 different riders that did any work at the front. And as Kyle says a whole bunch of "Cat4 Trolls" just getting in the way.

Its like watching a bunch of little kids play soccer. The ball goes one direction and all the little f'ers go chasing it, the ball goes another direction and then they all chase it in the new direction. On and on this continues. This is what a Cat4 race is like. The pack rides along real slow, someone tries to break and everyone picks up speed to chase them. The breakers are soon caught and the chasers stop going hard. And everyone slows back up to a walking pace. Then someone tries to break again, and the pack picks the speed up to chase them down. Once again the breaker is caught and the chasers stop working. On and on it goes.

I don't know, but is this racing? If it is why don't we just make these races one lap?

Enough ranting: I suck and I'm taking my 41st place to the grave.

Here's my view of the Race:

I tried a couple times to make something happen but my legs never felt good. Too much stop and go throughout the race and I could never get into a rhythm. The only time my legs felt good was maybe the last 2 miles when the pace finally picked up to race speed and I had to do a sustained effort but I was too far back to make it to the front to contend.

You know it sucks when you have to break going up hill.
I think I need new brakes after wasting them on these sections. Who ever heard of having to brake on climbs? Every F'in climb the pack was spread from curb-curb and no room to get around riders. I tried to stay near the curb and away from the middle and a couple times I had aholes trying to squeek through the 2" I had on the curb-side.

The fast downhill sections were scary as shit. Too many riders just having no clue how to ride. And a couple riders seriously need to have their bikes checked out by a mechanic. I'd usually have a bunch of riders dive bomb past me on these sections only to have them get in my way on the uphill sections.

A very disappointing race.

So, with this being said, I'm quitting racing and going to train full time for the next Pilates competition. I think this might be a safer activity.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Ready to Fly

Had a great week of training with some strong efforts on Monday and Tuesday. In fact, Tuesday was pretty brutal since I was really trying to push the pace and force myself to have to actively recover after hard efforts.

Took Wednesday off completely. No easy spinning, no basement trainer ride. My body was telling me to get some rest.

Yesterday, I wound up doing x3 1omin L2/3 intervals on the trainer, some high cadence spinning (120+ RPMs) and some really easy tempo. Good a great sweat going.

Today, the Thrasher Ride was a pretty good tempo, nothing earth shattering, but we did pick up the pace towards the end of Clara Barton. Legs felt really good. Left calf strain is finally working itself out, but still feel it. Have no idea how I strained it, but its been nagging me for the past couple of weeks.

Tomorrow, I'll go for a solo, easy spin ride for maybe an hour or two. Nothing but spinning.

If my legs felt like they did at UMd PresCup, watch out on Sunday at JeffCup, I'll be flying.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Training the Day After UMPresCrit

After the elation of the UM Pres Cup race wore off, I realized it was Sunday and time to get back on the bike for an intense hill interval workout. So, I headed out for my normal weekend solo hammerfest: Mass, MacArthur, Anglers, GF Park and Mnt Gate.

Heading north on MacArthur was brutal. It was kinda depressing hammering into the 20-30MPH headwind and only doing 20-22 MPH.

I went hard up Anglers in my big ring and really tried to keep the pace high for the entire climb.

I rested heading down into GFPark and continued to do 5 repeats up and down GF Park in my big ring, probably in my 52x15 or 52x14. I really wanted to work on a very low cadence and a really heavy gear. My times weren't great but I got the strength training I was looking for. My last repeat was in my small ring and really light gear and I just spun as high as I could, about 110-125 until I got the the top.

An Army of One: A UM Pres Crit Recap

Leading up to the U Md Pres Cup race, I was a bit nervous about the weather forecast. All week the stupid weather folks were saying how stormy and rainy Saturday was going to be. I had visions of racing in a complete downpour and I was dreading the fast right hand turn before the finish. I kept envisioning riders sliding on their sides through that turn.

I checked the forecast Friday night and our accurate forecasters were now calling for a beautiful sunny Saturday. No longer would I have to worry about sliding on my ass through that turn.

Let's cut to the chase: I WON the Cat4 race. I was totally psyched that all my hard winter training paid off. What a great way to start the 2008 season.

Before going on, I need to offer thanks to the following people:

  • All those that do the Thrasher Daily Race Ride (Ad, Paul, Randy, Jay, Bill, Steve, Simon, JamesW) for the hard rides that have gotten me into shape.
  • The entire 12 man Rt1 Velo squad for wearing ear plugs during the race and totally ignoring Mike Esmonde's frantic commands to get off the front and quick pulling everyone around.
  • My Mom and Dad for giving me the genetics to have an incredibly powerful sprint (sic) (insider note: my sprint really sucks, but don't tell anyone)
  • BJ Basham's words of wisdom for the race.
  • and to me for not listening to the little gremlins in my head that wanted me to attack on every lap and every time the pace slowed up.
In all honesty, this race was a lot of fun and I really hope the rest of the races this season are this much fun regardless of how I finish. Of course, I'd like to do as well for every race, but I'm realistic.

really love this course; its very challenging with the short steep climb, the technical chicane and the fast run up to the finish. I like the fact that the race usually breaks up within the first couple of laps and that only strong riders survive. There really is no place to hide. My only concern, as I believe is everyone's, is the first half of the first lap. For the past couple of years, the very first turn has been the scene of crashes and I didn't want to become part of that scene this year. My plan was to get a good starting position and gun it from the start, get through the first turn in the front quarter of the pack, and remain up front, ready to counter any jumps. I wanted to be in position to be able to stay with the front group and not get caught out of position like I did last year. I just remember suffering the entire race last year in the first chase group with BryanV, ShannonM and 3 others.

My plan worked well. I stayed on the tail end of the front group and bridged up when ever my spidey sense alerted me to someone about to drop off the pace. I jumped around a bunch of riders at different times in order to remain in contact. I sat on wheels and stayed out of the wind as best I could in order to conserve energy. I really didn't see a need to blast up to the front 5 positions since I really didn't want to do too much work in the early part of the race. This is a pretty long race, and I knew folks would start to suffer towards the end of the race. Plus, my legs were feeling really good and if I had to do a big bridge up, I had the power to do it.

For the first 20 minutes the pace was pretty fast and there were only 13 of us remaining after dropping 2/3 of the field. Our group consisted of 6 Rt1 riders, 2 from UMd, 2 from a team with black/ yellow/red, 2 from All American and ME. Sometime during the race, a UMd guy and an All American guy were off the front about 15 secs. I was tempted to bridge up to them but really didn't think they'd be able to stay up there for another 30 minutes, plus Rt1 had 6 riders and I certainly wasn't going to help them bring the attackers in. In all honesty, I wanted those two to ride solo for many laps so they'd have no energy for the finish. I'm not sure who did the work to pull them back in but we eventually did. Mostly like it was Rt 1, kudos to them.

The main thing I remember about mid point in the race, was the Rt1 guys sitting on the front, pulling everyone around at a constant tempo and Mike Esmonde frantically screaming at them to get off the front and stop pulling. On one lap I remember coming up the hill, seeing a bunch of lapped riders ahead, and hearing Mike instruct the two Rt1 guys on the front to gun it and the Rt 1 guys behind them to sit up. I thought this was a good tactic but very cheeky. Fortunately, none of the Rt1 guys listened to Mike.

Coming past the start/finish line I saw that we had about 13 or 14 laps to go, and the pace was starting to slow up. I really wanted to go hard but kept myself in check. With 10 to go, the pace was still slow and riders in the front were really getting edging looking over their shoulders waiting for attacks. I really wanted to go but kept myself in check. So it went for the next couple of laps: slow pace, everyone waiting for attacks. I finally couldn't take it anymore and with about 8 laps to go, I went as hard as I could down the start/finish stretch and continued pulling hard for about two laps. Not wanting to completely kill myself and have nothing for the finish, I started looking over my shoulder for the next guy to pull through. He never did, so I just sat up, pulled to the far side and let everyone go through. I jumped back in line for the next couple of laps and got ready for the finish.

On the bell lap, one of the Rt1 guys (Charles) went hard through the tricky turns after the start/finish and I got on his wheel. We got up to the front and I sat on his wheel through the gradual right hand bend before the hill. Just before the base of the climb I attacked and went as hard as I could. I continued to accelerate through the climb and even harder through the chicane and the downhill section. For once I took the right hand turn real tight and exploded on the exit. I sprinted with all I had towards the finish. I kept hearing gremlins in my head saying "ride like you stole it". About midway to the finish line, I couldn't get into the right gear and thought I'd blown it, but I kept going. My head was down and my legs were pumping with everything I had left. I looked up and saw the finish line. I crossed it about a wheel length ahead of a Rt1 guy (Bringham). Since I wasn't sure if I'd won, and I was so tired, I didn't even raise my arms in the triumphant winners pose. I just coasted down the street trying to catch my breath.

Even if I'd not won, this was a really fun race. Not the usually bullshit so typical of Cat 4 races. All the riders, respected each other, and no one did anything stupid.

Again, kudos to the Rt1 team for having 6 guys in the final selection. I look forward to many more races with you guys this season.

Photos courtesy of the Kyle Jones Collection.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

First Race of Season: U Md President's Crit

Really looking forward to the U Md President Crit this Saturday because it's a great course, extremely selective and only the strong survive. So what have I been doing to get ready for the efforts required to stay up front?

Of course, everyday is race day when you do the Thrasher Ride, especially the Wed Hill Ride.

I've also been doing a lot of hill intervals on the weekends during the past month: Mass, Anglers, GF Park and Mnt Gate. This past weekend I rode on Saturday for an hour in the rain and then another hour freezing my skinny ass riding up and down GF Park. I wound up only doing 7 hill repeats up GF Park before packing it in for the day. Going up was good since I was able to warm up, but I froze my ass off coming down every time.

(Weight Note: just to piss off a few of my readers such as Jesse, Brian and Kyle: I'm down to a consistent 130lbs without dieting).

I headed back to GF Park this past Sunday for the last major workout before tapering for the race. I wound up doing Mass, Anglers, 11 interval up/down GF Park and finally MntGate. Some of the GF Park intervals were all out efforts the entire length, some were all out efforts for just the lower steep section, some were one leg drills, some were high cadence/easy gear, some were low cadence/big gear, and some were a serious of 15 sec full on/15 sec easy spin the whole way up.

I'm really liking these hill interval workouts, but here's something weird: I generate much higher average wattage using my left leg one-leg-only drills for the entire way up GF Park then I do using both legs. However, wattage shouldn't be the only measurement to consider. Time and speed are more important, and fortunately, my times/speeds are much faster using both legs.

So this week, I've been tapering, and taking it easy on Thrasher Race Days.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Learning to take Recovery Days

After Monday's ride I was pretty tired and my legs really felt the effort. Not sure if I really planned going hard on Monday, but maybe subconsciously I did since I knew I wasn't going to be able to ride on Tuesday. Not riding Tuesday was actually a very good learning experience, because it allowed me to get a good recovery for the weekly Thrasher Sufferfest known as the Wed Hill Ride.

I was well rested heading into the Hill Ride and was planning on testing my legs out to see what kind of sustained climbing efforts I could do. I didn't want to hold back, I was planning on going all out.

The pace leading to MntGate was not too bad and I was able to keep my HR at a low level. As I rounded the turn in first position, I stayed in my big ring and picked the pace up a bit as we started the climb. Shortly after, I stood up to keep the tempo high but not so high that I would blow up. No one came around and I decided to go harder. As we neared the top, I sat up a bit and spun the rest of the way. I stayed out solo for the next roller, but started to feel like if I stayed at the front pushing the pace, I'd pop later in the ride, so I slowed up and let the others come through. I sat in through the rest of the Potomac neighborhood, although, I think I might have taken one more hard pull up one of the rollers.

I sat in along MacA allowing my HR to fall back down. As we started the climb, I moved to the front and led group up. I again kept the pace high and stayed in my big ring. I stood and increased the tempo. I lead through the first roller, and then let Randy pull through so I could sit on his wheel. Towards the top, I pushed the tempo again and led over the top and down into the GFPark.

Coming up out of the Park, I accelerated up through the steep section and then jumped back onto the train as they pulled through. I sat in the rest of the way out of GFPark.

I was able to get a good recovery coming down Anglers, and we kept the pace high along MacA as we sped towards Brickyard.

I sat in leading up to Brickyard, but went hard in my big ring as we entered the steep section. My legs felt good, but man, I die when I crest and it takes about 5 secs to just let my legs cool off and I can catch my breath again. This is usually the spot that I sometimes allow too much gap cresting the top and then get dropped. Today, I felt really good as Randy and I kept going.

The rest of the ride, I tried to conserve energy and push the pace when I needed.

This was a really good ride, and I'm really happy with my conditioning at this point in time.

Monday, March 3, 2008

EZ Monday Thrasher Ride

For those that are brave enough to do the daily lunchtime Thrasher Ride, and there are only a handful of you brave ones out there, today was the typical EPIC EZ ride. It's a Monday and usually an EZ day, but hey, we're all old school, which means "what's an EZ day?".

Here's the email I sent to Randy earlier in the day.

Not sure I can make it out today. It's a bit too warm, and sunny. Not sure I can handle riding in weather that's not in the 30F range.
only joking. I'm looking for an EZ recovery ride. Went pretty hard this weekend.
Sat: did 15 intervals of 4-7min in length (Mass, MacA, Anglers, GFPark). 10 of these were up GFPark.
Sun: BP shop ride
Legs are fried.

Well, here's a compilation of emails I sent out after the ride.

Great ride today. My early morning intentions were to go EZ today, but with the lack of winter wear, temps in the low 60's and with the warm wind in my face, my legs felt good and EZ was no longer in my vocabulary. I took some long hard pulls along Bradley and through Potomac.I felt good and my legs felt great.
That was until we got onto Clara Barton and our efforts dramatically increased. Each pull started hurting more each time. And then as Joe popped up one of the inclines......Jay took off and developed a good gap that wasn't shrinking.

Randy, Ad, Paul and I slowly got organized and started pulling him back but we really weren't gaining any ground. On the last downhill section before the flat run to the turn off Clara Barton, I was sitting second wheel behind Ad and we were probably a good 400 meters behind Jay.
I was thinking about all the times I sat on Ad's wheel and let him pull me around and I said "I think I need to pull my weight today and pull us back to Jay". As I passed Ad, I said "I'm going to pull as hard as I can for as long as I can". And, I put in a major effort to pull us back to Jay. Although it felt like a 2 minute effort at 30+MPH, in realty it was only about 20 secs at L11 (yes, like Spinal Tap, I have an L11). I think we got to a hundred feet of Jay before I popped. I really wanted to pull all the way, but I was at my limit, and there was an ever so slight rise in the road, and my mind said "time to shut down". I went for as long as I could and as hard as I could. I pulled over and with a flick of the elbow, Randy, Ad and Paul went past me. I had nothing left and I didn't even think about trying to jump back on their line. So I watched them catch Jay and pass him like he was standing still.

As they say, I left it all out on the road.

As I was noodling along, Joe caught up to me and then we merged with Brian, who had skipped CB thinking it would take too long, just as we turned onto Goldsboro. Brian was pretty surprised that we had done Clara Barton and caught up to him. I pulled really hard after the Mass light, and we were just coming up the last rise before River when the light turned green. I just didn't have a lot left to try and jump to make the light. Plus, my legs were fried.