Friday, February 17, 2012

chasing Cupid

This will be my first ever blog post ever, so ill try to do what I can to keep it interesting. Before I write about my first event, I'll write a little about myself. I'm Shawn, I am a cat. 4 racer and coming off my last year as a junior with the team Citius and winning the ABRA criterium Series. This year I am glad to be riding forDynamic Physical Therapy Cycling p/b Pathfinder and hope to have another successful year and do what I can to help the team be as successful as the past years. Outside of cycling I am a assistant scoutmaster with the troop I had earned my eagle with last year. I am also a fan of photography as I had documented some of the falls ABRA Cyclocross races. As some of you that know me I love to also cook and bake, and will probably end up putting a paragraph in once a month containing what I had made.

Well my first event of the year was The Cupid's Chase 5k in South Park. This event was rather expensive at $35 for pre-reg that goes to Community Options, Inc (COI) COI is a national nonprofit organization that develops housing and employment support for people with developmental disabilities. The price aside it was motivation to get me to get off the off-season rest and start working out in February instead of starting in March. All in all I took only 3 weeks to go from couch to 5k and only a total of 4 runs, which was not the way to get ready at all.

I had did this race last year it was snowy and a fun run but was in North Park last year and was a pretty flat course, with a PR of around 25 minutes. Yet this year it was similar conditions snowy and cold but since in South Park it was a different course which started with about a mile climb with about equal decent then the last mile or so was flat. Since it had snowed about 3” over night it was the perfect opportunity try out the new trail shoes, which have aggressive treads and a water proof gators. After using them on a muddy trail I was pretty confident in the traction they have and I was right, during the run I occasionally ran off the road and in the snow, surprisingly I had just about the same amount of traction as I did on the road. Those that have run in snow with road shoes will have an idea of how difficult it can be to get traction.

Now for the race, after a couple slips on the snowy/icy road I got there an hour early as I'm used to for most cycling event. For the entry I expected a good bit at registration, and there was had chip timing, plus all the extras you got for doing the race, a long sleeve shirt (red if you were available or white if you were not, I didn't realize this till after I was all pinned and ready to race), a bag of goodie, plus almost all the bananas and bagels you could eat. After awhile I had met up with a friend from cycling last year, Rick Plowman. After the the snow plow had gone up and down the road a couple times, we had all lined up. My goals for this events were to A). to not let Rick beat me and B). finish under 30 minutes.

We start pretty much on time and at this point I was fallowing Rick through the crowd of people it thinned out after a couple minutes and I was able to settle in to a rhythm, only about 8 minutes into the race I could already feel my shins start to sting from the impact and being under trained. After we toped the hill and started downhill I looked back expecting to have lost Rick already but he was sticking with me. On the downhill I decided to take the snow because t

he seemed as it may have been slick and didn't want to take the chance and the treads on the shoes felt great. Every once awhile during the race I would run in the snow to help reduce the impact on my shins and hold off on letting it slow me down much. Reaching the bottom of the hill I had heard Rick say his shoe was untied, so as he tied his shoes I shortened my gate and let him catch back up before the final mile which was on the walking path that didn't have the convenience to be plowed so it had a layer of snow on it. Being a walking path there was much room to pass but plenty of opportunity to, we run pass the finishing straight to a turn around about a few hundred yards down then your running back down some of the walking path leaving even less room to pass and this is the point I like to open my gate and pass who I can before the line. After the turn around was the last I had saw Rick as I was concentrating on when and how I was going to pass the people ahead, the final straight was a little bit slippy so I couldn't put the final kick in that I had wanted to but still managed to pass 3 or 4 people on the walk way and managed to put about 20 seconds into Rick in the last quarter mile. I crossed the line at 28:30 about 3:30 off my PR as it happened Rick crossed the line at 28:50 about 3:30 faster than his PR. After all was said or and done most gathered for the drawing for the door prizes and awards. Both me and Rick won a door prize of both a package of detour bars and a dozen heart shaped Smiley Cookies. As the awards were being presented we were joking about the winners time, as my age group came up I was surprised that I had gotten first in my age group since I was bout 10 minutes slower than the kids in my age group are usually finishing, this is a case where it pays to just show up. This is probably the first and last time ill place 1st in this age group.

I will put here next time of what I had baked but I haven't bake recently, so ill have to leave this empty for now. Thanks for reading, be sure to check back at the end of march for a recap on the training series.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

And Away we Go!

Hello! My name is Brian DeCann and I'm excited to be a part of the Dynamic Physical Therepy Cycling team for the 2012 Race Season. While most people have the luxury of taking the winter months off and relaxing a little bit, I have been in training mode since CX season was winding down. As a student at West Virginia University, I'm able to participate in the collegiate race season, which starts in the middle of winter and runs through April. Since I earned my Cat 3 upgrade after the end of last season, and a corresponding B/A collegiate upgrade there was no time to slack off! To be sure I would be ready, I started working with Rob Acciavatti of Performance Coaching Services to better maximize my training time. No doubt my time on the trainer this winter has never hurt more, yet been more efficient.

February 11th-12th marked the kickoff to the collegiate season in the Atlantic Collegiate Cycling Conference (ACCC). North Carolina State University was the host, putting on a pair of road races in Sanford, NC. West Virginia brought a team of 10 racers, a vast increase since my first season two years ago.

After discussing with Rob how to best maximize the collegiate season for the summer, we decided that it would be worth a shot for me to start in the A's and "see how it goes". For those unfamiliar with colleigate racing, the A category is equivalent to a 1/2/3, which means two things: fast and pain.

On Saturday, the race consisted of an 11 mile loop on mostly flat roads. I think the elevation change was maybe 150-200 feet per lap (a bit tame compared for what we're all used to by ABRA standards!) and the A distance was 6 laps / 68 miles. The A field consisted of about 35 racers, many of whom I recognized from previous years by virtue of being fast. I lined up extremely nervous. I don't think my nerves were on such alert since the first race I ever did in the D field at NC State 2 years ago. Thoughts of "oh my god what am I doing here" were repeatedly running through my head. Not only would this be my first A race, but also the longest distance race I have done.

Right from the start, a group of 10 or so launched an attack to establish a break and the field pretty much just let it go. The break was represented by most teams, so it wasn't a surprise to see nobody chase it down. The first lap was rather timid. It reminded me of a Cat 4 race where nobody wants to work. But, deep down, I knew this was only the calm before the storm.

The second lap picked up some steam, as the field got word that the break was 5 minutes ahead. In an effort to not let it get completely out of reach the pace picked up. Not unreasonably, but it got a lot faster. In the third lap, the pace picked up once again. Attacks were occurring periodically, including through the feed zone and the pace out of each turn was close to a full sprint. I was sitting in the middle / rear of the field, and could overhear App State discussing tactics for the remainder of the race. As former DPT member Todd Latocha will tell you, App State has a train of national caliber riders. Something was about to change.

The fourth lap was incredibly hot. Every opportunity there was to attack, one was made. Anytime there was a slight incline, decline, exposure, feed zone, anything - there was an attack. At the speeds we were going, it was unbelievable how much effort was needed just to stay on a wheel. Even though I was drinking and eating, I could feel it wearing on me. I was still pretty sure I could hang on the rest of the way, but it would take everything to do so. By this point the gap on the break was down to about a minute, and some of its riders were slowly popping off.

At the start of the 5th lap there was once again an attack through the feed zone. Anticipating this, I didn't take a feed. Unfortunately, this attack was sandwiched between at least two others, and the latter of which popped me off. It was tough watching the field ride away as I was giving it everything just to catch back on. While not a new feeling, it had been a long time since that happened to me. I decided to cool down and ride out the 5th lap by myself. I looked at my computer to see that although the sensor got bumped off at one point, it still read an average of 28mph. Until then, I knew A's and 1/2/3's were fast, but I don't think I really got a sense of how fast that really was until being in one. As a sidenote, not hearing the phrase "slowing" at all in the A field, awesome.

After getting popped on Saturday, I wasn't sure how Sunday would go. The course on Sunday was about an 8 mile loop, which the A's needed to do eight times for 65 miles. It was also really cold. It was about 20 degrees (not including windchill) for the C and D races that started at 9:00am. By 11:30 (the start of the A's and B's), it was up to 30 degrees, but it didn't feel any warmer. It was a struggle to figure out what and how much to wear. I was hoping that the field would at least take it a little easy, at least for a little bit.

Well, that was wishful thinking. As soon as the race went out of neutral, the attacks started flying, one after the other. For whatever reason, likely a combination of not getting a good warm-up in, wearing too much and being exhausted from Saturday, I didn't have much in the tank to survive these initial attacks. I was dropped 2 miles in, which was pretty disappointing. I spent the next 2 hours or so riding the course in reverse to at least make use of the time. Turns out one of the App State guys who attacked early broke off and stayed away for the remaining 63 miles. Ridiculous.

Next up is a road race and criterium hosted by Duke University on February 25th-26th. While it was worth giving A's a shot, I think I'll be catting down to B's (3/4 equivalent) where I expect to be more competitive. Unfortunate, but these early season flat hammerfest courses do not play to my strengths. Lots of season to go, with the big climbs yet to come.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The January Century

So it isn't every year that you get to bag the elusive mid-winter century, but the last week in January was unseasonably nice. The very last day of the month fell on a Tuesday, but I was able to take the afternoon off and the day (and night) proved to be perfect for a tour of the rail trail system surrounding Morgantown. The 50 miles of car-free trail provide for two relatively flat rides along the Monongahela River south to the Meredith Tunnel just outside Fairmont, WV and also north to Pt. Marion, PA, while a third route climbs a fairly consistent grade 1000 feet up along Deckers Creek to Morgan Mine Road outside Reedsville, WV. Each direction is enough for a great ride, but combining all three out-and-back gives up the century.   

Riding south along the Monongahela River towards Pricketts Fort State Park

It started out innocently enough. A 1:00 pm start for 100 miles chasing a 5:40 pm January sunset. You can do the math...I brought a light, halfway charged. I took the cyclocross bike to provide a nice smooth ride on the mostly-cindered trail. Apparently, bottle cages aren't in style any longer, so I filled up two bottles with tea, grabbed a can of coke, and deposited them in the pockets of my vest. Food? Well all I had were three small Raw Revolution bars, two HoneyStinger gels, and a banana. That should do it - it's flat, right?

Still riding south towards the Meredith Tunnel

Down to Fairmont and back gets you about 45 miles or so. I was feeling fine, and upped the pace on the way back to Morgantown and then northward to Pt. Marion. On the way back from Pt. Marion the sun was setting and I was glad I brought a jacket, gloves, and a wool hat. I had just finished the Coke and had 1 gel left with about half a bottle of tea. 75 miles in on the Deckers Creek Trail, I was beginning to feel a bit tired and finished the gel and half of what was left in my last bottle. As I had suspected at the beginning of the ride, things were shaping up to potentially be interesting in the bonk department...

The sun behind the ridge and fog settling for a cold night on Deckers Creek

Made it to the end of the trail at Morgan Mine Road and headed for home. A few miles of flat before things start to gently tip down hill again...

Those last few miles were soft-pedaled and the bonk was staved off, but next time a little more food and water would be a good idea, even though what I brought was just enough in the end (this time).

So it is done. The elusive (for me) mid-winter century. I'm not complaining, but I am thankful for having the best on-the-bike nutrition available :)

Next stop - Southern Cross, the first race in the 2012 American Ultracross Championship Series. Come on down to northern Georgia for a what promises to be a great race. Thanks for reading!