Monday, March 30, 2009

Exploding Cake!


I think Ironclad's blog said it best, "The men’s 4 accidentally tripped the 4 tons of TNT someone had placed in the field.." Kaboom is right.  What started out as a controlled jaunt in the wind ended up in a all out echelon-or-die painfest.

The Cat4 PV crew had a whopping 3 guys in the field, which is sad considering its the largest group of racers we currently have.  However, I can't complain too much since much of the team is resting up for the big stage race this coming weekend.  Representing PV was myself, B-Rat, and Jeff B who was making his 2009 road race debut.  Our plan was pretty simple, stay with the pack, and if possible control the end of the last lap with Brian hopefully giving me a lead out at the end.  With only 3 people in a field of 40+ we had our work cut out for us.  That was compounded by Brian taking a "leg stretcher" during the south leg of Lap 1, and rolling off the front.  He sat out there for the next hour and 10 minutes all alone.

The fireworks really started in Lap2, with some of the Ironclad guys launching a attacks.  The gloves came off for good at that point and for the next 10 miles Jeff and I were covering attack after attack, trying to let Brian stay away.  Things worked well until a big attack came and a group of 7 guys got away.  Unfortunately, neither Jeff nor I had the legs to get into that break and the chasers couldn't / wouldn't get organized to bring them in.  The break eventually caught Brian and dropped him about 2 miles before the final lap.

The start of Lap 3 I was still in recovery mode and very grumpy about missing the break.  That compounded with people complaining about not pulling through while gesturing wildly with their hands off the bars in a 20mph cross-wind resulted in a few choice words exchanged between myself and another rider.  Heat of the moment exchanges in the middle of rides are never good, but the message was delivered and received and the group worked well together for the remainder of the lap even managing to pull back a few of the shelled riders from the break.

With a couple riders in Chase 1 obviously sitting in, I let Jeff know with a few miles left to do no more work.  I sat in the back marking the biggest wheel sucker and jumped on him as soon as he made a move about 3k from the finish.  He let up as soon as he realized I wasn't going anywhere and the group came together with 2k to go.  A bit of cat and mouse later and I attacked at 1.5k and gapped the field with the hope to hold off until the finish.  Unfortunately I came into the last corner poorly and lost a ton of speed right into the headwind on the final stretch.  I popped with about 300m to go and the charging group swallowed me up.  Jeff continued to race smart and was able to out kick most of the group for a top 10 finish.  I soft peddled in a few seconds behind for 15th. 

I know I missed out on a few opportunities (missing the winning break), and I didn't make the most of the ones that presented themselves (attacking too early at the finish).  But considering the destruction of the remainder of the Cat4 field, I feel fortunate for where I placed. 

Monday, March 16, 2009

Classic Spring Classic


Ah, the Ides of March.  A perfect time for a bike race!  I wasn't even planning on racing any of the Banana Belt series, as I really dislike all the going up, but for some mysterious reason my training plan last Monday went from "Sunday = Group Ride" to "Sunday = BB3".  I won't argue with the coach because he'll make me do more intervals.

So all week I watched the weather report slowly deteriorate down from chance of rain to chance of seriously crappy weather.  Sunday arrives and lo and behold, the weather report was right for once.  Driving rain, and 20-30 mph wind gusts.

They have social group rides in this shit in Belgium right?

So we pack up the car and I open the garage door and stare out into the rainstorm for a few seconds questioning my sanity.  The insane part of my brain justifies that there will be less folks out there in the race and no one will want to ride super hard.  The financial part of my brain says shut up, we've paid for the race so we are going.  The logical part of my brain tries to protest and is gang tackled by the other two parts and beaten into submission.

We drive to Hagg Lake and get the parking lot, finding the team fairly quickly.  For as much resources as we have as a group, we neglected to get a tent which means my warm-ups on this day will consist of sitting in the car with the heater on while slathering embrocation on my legs.  Compound this with the fact that I'm trying to do this in the drivers seat of a Mini Cooper and, well it was pretty funny.

At 9:00 the team makes its final checks of numbers and equipment, and rolls up towards the starting area.  The squad today consists of myself, Cuz, B-Rat, Ron, Paul, and Alex.  We've all ridden together for a few seasons and know our roles well.  As this is my first road race of the season and first road race post surgery, my goal for today is to stay with the pack as long as possible and try to soften folks up in the final lap if I'm still around.  We'll see how it goes.  I've only raced BB once before, as a 5, and I made it to the last lap at Lee hill before I was spit out the back.  As a 4, we'll be doing one more lap.  One more climb up Lee in anger.  Joy.

The race begins and we roll out.  The road around Hagg is grimy, wet, and has rivers of water running along it.  Bodies are cold and stiff and people are having issues holding their lines.  The general pack feel is tense, but the pace is fairly relaxed.  Folks are racing conservatively early on and are just trying to get used to the road spray.  I've learned my lessons from previous years and stay near the center line on the first major descent, out of the way of the major potholes that dot the pavement fault where I flatted out .8 of a mile into the race last year.  The equipment that decides to fail on my this time is my glasses.  They quickly fog up and become useless, so I'm forced to tuck them into my vest. 

The PV crew tosses the first attack of the day on the very first lap, with BRat and Ron going off the front.  Truth be told I think they were both just opening up their legs a bit and quickly sat up once they saw no one wanted to go with them.  It's early, and both of them know there is plenty of racing left.

I try to race smart, always trying to move towards the front.  My coaches words constantly echo in my head.  "If you aren't moving up, you are being passed."  I'm not the strongest of climbers, so I have to pay attention to course and where I sit in the pack.  I move towards the front on the descents, letting my mass work its magic past the lighter climbers who then pass me on the uphills as I drift slowly back at my own tempo.  Descents are painful due to the road spray in the eyes.  People weave in and out of drafts.

Lap 2 things heat up a bit and my body still hasn't completely warmed up.  The climb up Lee taxes me a bit and I'm worried that I might not hold out to finish my task.  I make sure to hydrate and chomp down some shot blocks.  Lemon-Lime and Grime.  Sounds cool, doesn't taste that good.  Paul mixes it up a few times with a couple attacks.

Lap 3 the pack seems to slow a bit, and in a few places the tempo seems like a casual team ride.  The rain calms down and the sun actually peaks out at us a few times.  Up Lee for the third time I find myself near the front on the descent.  I pass by Ron and tell him I'm going to string it out a bit.  On the final downhill into the finish I attack and open a gap quickly.  I hear the bell for our final lap as someone cheers for me by name.  I stay off the front until the top of the steep punchy climb after the starting park where the pack catches up to me.  I'm breathing hard from the effort, but I notice some of those on the front are as well.  Ducking into the pack once again, I hydrate up and cram down a few more shot blocks and try to recover for the last bit of racing.  The pace has heated up a bit, but I hang in there, trying to calculate the best time to send off another flyer.

That time comes on the big descent before the damn.  We crest the last hill and 3 guys go off the front hard, Cuz moves over for me and I bridge quickly and go straight over the top of them and hammer down hill.  This was a risky attack as this corner is bad in dry conditions, and we are navigating over this rain / oil / dirt mix.  Pumping my brakes a few times to get the crud off the wheels I finally brake hard while sitting up as far as I can in the drops.  My windvest turns into a small  air brake and I can smell my brake pads.  I decide I've scrubbed enough speed and hit the apex of the corner as straight as I could, powering out of it out of the saddle and on to the damn.  Down in the drops and into the full howling headwind, I glance back over my shoulder and see a sizable gap, the pack strung out in a very long line.

I know I'm running on borrowed time.  I'm roughly 4 miles from the finish and I know from my training I can only hold this pace for roughly 4 minutes.  I have oxygen deprived delusions of soloing to the finish, a brilliant tactical escape.  I glance back again and see no organization on the front, but I'm now across the damn and the road is slowly starting to pitch up.  I drop back down to threshold and take on some water, the pack eats up the distance quickly and I soon find myself trying to integrate back in.  The final charge up Lee looms in my mind, less than a minute away.

I'm on the right side of the pack, and I know that if I'm close enough to the front I can probably get a good run on the down hill and maybe drift through the pack to stay in contact this one last time, but as the descent starts those in front of me start breaking and my plan goes all to hell.  An attack comes from the left and the pace picks up.  I climb out of the saddle as people shoot past me, the race accelerating with me out of matches.  I crest the top about 5 seconds after the tail end of the pack with nothing left.  For the second year, BB ends for me on the last assault of Lee.  I did what I set out to do, and must now leave it in the hands of my teammates. 

As I roll down hill, my good friend Joel comes up from behind.  Joel had a rough day and was working for his teammates as well.  Cramping and tired, the two of us soft pedal into the finish a minute or so behind the pack.  I find out a short bit later that Ron got a great lead out from Paul and BRat, and was able to take it to the line.  The team set out with a plan and was able to pull it off.  I'll call that a successful day.

All in all, I'm happy with my performance.  Under better conditions the race would have been faster, but I might have felt better.  The lack of warm-up definitely hurt, but most of the field was in the same boat as I.  The two flyers hurt, and I didn't leave myself enough time to recover before the last charge, but I think that without those attacks I could have stayed in the mix to the end.  For not planning or expecting to do this race, I'll call it a success.

Monday, March 2, 2009

A Tale of Two Weekends


I'm glad this is a rest week coming up, not because training is kicking my ass like it was just before my last rest week, but because I think I need about a week to recover from this weekend.  This weekend can be broken into two different time frames.  The daytime, and ironically enough, the night.

The weekend kicked off a bit early on Friday, as I was able to leave a bit early from work.  Ron was kind enough to come by with his dremel-o-matic and assist me with the cutting of the steer tube on fork for the new Velo Vie.  After a few quick minutes of math and conversions, we got the tube cut and the headset installed.  Ron then said the magic words "Well, I've got a bit of time if you want to start hanging stuff on the bike?"  Music to my ears.  About an hour and a half later the bike was mostly done.  Big thanks to Ron for the extra sets of hands and some nice tips on cable running.

I ate a late dinner and Traci and I got on our bikes for a evening recovery ride.  Was the first spin on the VV, albeit on the trainer, but it gave me the opportunity to get the brifters setup where I wanted them, and check saddle position.  A few minor tweaks and a couple double-check measurements vs. my Felt and it was time to get the bars wrapped.  Traci has some awesome skills when it comes to wrapping bars.  I think people who wrap bars well can also wrap presents well, and since I can't do either very well I leave this to the household expert and assist by holding the tape while the master works away.  After the bars were wrapped, I spent a few very cold hours in the garage putting the final touches on the new bike, mainly inhaling GooGone fumes while working the sticker glue off my rear wheel.  By the time I was done it was after midnight, 39 degree's in the garage and I had a very sore throat and hands from working with the stuff.  But it was worth it!  The bike was done and ready for its maiden road voyage the next day

Saturday I woke up with a low blood sugar.  This is getting a bit more common as my training load has increased and my body gets used to having amilyn back in its system.  I fuel up and fight off the sluggish feeling in time to head to team ride.  The ride ended up being the hardest of the year so far and I was able to put in some very solid efforts.  Was the first major climbing I've done this year, and I held my own on the climbs.  The wind however was horrid.  At one point the team was climbing Thompson Road and a gust blew down hill and literally sat everyone upright in their saddles.

I will also point out that Amit sent us up Logie Trail from the RT30 side, but decided not to climb due to a "lack of time."  We hate you.

Saturday night we hit the PACE open house and it was a great time.  Big thanks to Dave, Jeff, and Russell for hosting a great evening.  By about 9:30 I was ready for bed, exhausted from the days ride.   I actually had a few folks tell me the next day I looked exhausted. 

Unfortunately sleep decided not to visit for very long.  3am both Traci and I got up and decided we needed to go downstairs to get water / snack.  I woke up again at 6am with a cratering bloodsugar and had to get another snack.  I finally got out of bed at 8am and I felt like, well basically I got no sleep.  Our Sunday endurance ride was quiet and sluggish, and it wasn't until 75% of the way through the ride that I actually felt a bit away.  We spent Sunday afternoon with our good friends and by 6:00 I was on the verge of falling asleep at their house.  Once again, sleep didn't come to me last night either.  I was up at 11:30, 2am, and 5.  What the crap?

I think a lot of the sleep issues will be resolved with a bit of tinkering to my basal insulin levels, which I did this morning.  Hopefully it will result in less late night lows which have been the norm for me on days were I have big workout efforts.

For now, I'll enjoy the rest week. :)