Monday, April 30, 2012

Getting Bank Into the Spin of Things

After a good road season, a great mountain bike season, and a decent rookie cyclocross season racing for Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling Team in 2011, I ended that year with a lot of enthusiasm and high expectations for the upcoming 2012 race season.  However, I hadn't planned for taking 4-5 months off after the 'cross season to finish getting my house move-in ready, as well as general commitments associated with such a life change that take priority over cycling (surely I didn't admit to cycling not being a top-priority...oh well).

Now into my second season with the Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling Team powered by Pathfinder, I am anxious to return to the level that I was riding when 'cross season ended.   So, here is a recap of racing in April.

Morgantown Road Race

I didn't have high expectations for myself in the first race of the ABRA road series.  But, I was pretty excited to be a domestique for a stacked team of Cat 4/5 cyclists that includes Jeff, Jerry, Jonathan, James (alot of 'J' names), Mike and Shawn.   So, with our race strategy set, we began a roll-out start that left me wondering where the fire was.

Caught up in the middle of the field for the first 20 miles or so, I tried moving toward the front.  However, the speed at which we were rolling  and the width of the peleton (4-riders wide) made things a little too sketchy.   Not a problem, I have alway felt that I was better at climbing.  And, with 4 steep climbs ahead, I was looking forward to making a contribution to the team effort.

Was I ever wrong in my abilities for the hills.  Once we got to the first hill, I was big-ringing the false flat and feeling good.  But, when the grade began to go vertical I found myself watching riders zip past like I was sitting still.   I had no excuses....except for the 5 months off, being old, no leg strength, no lung efficiency, a 3 hour group mountain bike ride with Cannondale rider Jeremiah Bishop at Big Bear Lake the day before, and the 2 hour mountain bike ride at Coopers Rock State Park the day before that---like I said, no excuses.  Ok, I've been in this situation before...I'll recover and catch the group.  

I'll take a moment to thank Fred Jordan for capturing my worst moment on a bike, next to the mountain bike crash that dislocated my shoulder 6 years ago and the mountain bike crash that put me in an ER with a doctor holding my ear in his hand.   He apparently has a knack for capturing the 'agony of defeat'.  
Zoom in because this is what giving up looks like.

I never caught any group and rode the next 25 miles by myself using my average speed as my motivation to avoid slipping below 20mph average.  I didn't ride my best that day, but I got in a good training ride.  

Challenge at Mountwood

After a solid season of mountain bike racing in 2011, I was determined to have a better weekend of racing.  Knowing that my training, or lack thereof, had in no way prepared me to move from a sport distance to the expert distance, I upgraded anyway to avoid any 'sandbagger' accusations.   I'll admit that I like the sport distances.  Mid-distance mountain bike races allow me to ride faster, finish sooner, hit the post-race food table sooner, and still have legs to go home and mow the lawn if I wish.  But, I made the upgrade.  Besides, how hard could it be?

My goal at the start was to hit the singletrack near the front of the expert field to avoid the bottle-neck that always happens.  A little advice from a friend to avoid the post in the center of the gravel double-track should help.  But, apparently the guy next to me didn't get that memo as he swerved to avoid the post and locked handlebars taking me off of my pedals.  'A minor setback, I'm not out of this' I thought.    So onward I cranked on the big ring of my Cannondale Caffeine 29er.  I love the 29er setups.  You can grind a few hard pedal strokes over a roller then enjoy the momentum on the other side.  My big ring strategy became a necessity as I realized my chain wouldn't drop to the small ring when the trails got steeper.

If you've never ridden at Mountwood, you should.  The trails that day were fantastic.  Tight and twisty, dry, and steep.   I would imagine whoever built those trails tied a sparkler to a goat's tail and lit it.  I had no clue of my location and orientation to the park after the first 3 miles.

Expert-class distances were longer than I thought.  I was doing fairly well when until we past the sport-expert split in the trail and the course marshall informed me of the 7 more miles to go.  The air left the balloon at that moment and riding any further would feel like survival.  But, with 4 miles to go I past my brother and nephew who live near by and came up to give me just enough motivating cheers to finish a well-deserved 11 place of the Expert Vet class.   Not too bad for a first ever expert mountain bike race.  

Post-race with Kyle

Now, I looked forward to hanging out with Steve and Kyle after the race.  The imaginations and stories that my nephew can create would surely let me forget the pain of 23 miles of mountain biking.

Greene County Road Race

Race #2 of the ABRA series would be a little shorter in distance than the first.  Thus, I was hopeful to have a better performance.   I'm always the kind of cyclist that finds a product and becomes unwilling to try something new, whether it is a set of tires, degreaser, etc.  Maybe I'm not a risk taker, or maybe it's the fact that I'm driven by frugalness with my purchases.  Either way, I didn't have the time earlier in the week and I needed to get the bike cleaned up after some Preston County pothole, road riding.  I decided to finally use the Prolink Carbon Bike Wash that was included in our team kits at our initial team meeting a month ago.   This stuff is great!  Dirt on the down tube, grease on the chainstays, and sport-drink spillage near the water bottle cages wiped off effortlessly after a few sprays on a towel.   I may never have to get the garden hose out again to wash a bike.   Just when I thought it couldn't get better, I found the Prolink Luber Pen in team kit bag....sweet.  Christmas on a rainy day in April.

Oh, back to the race.   So, the conditions were not the best for a road race on an unfamiliar-to-me course.   Steady rain and steady 50 degree temperatures were forecasted.  And, this time the meteorologists were correct.  None of the 20% stuff either.  It was full-on, 100% rain 10 minutes before the start and throughout the ride.  

However, the Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling Team powered by Pathfinder Cat 4/5 team had a plan again this race.  With one member, Mike V, upgrading to Cat 3/4, it was decided that Jeff and Jerry would provide a few attacks to break the field down and get someone onto the podium this week. 

After miles of riding through a valley and a couple of pre-planned attacks, Jeff burst away from the group for a 45 minute or so solo effort.   Out of sight from the main field of riders, I thought he would secure a spot at the top of the podium.  But the second and third climbs had allowed the group to close in on him...or so I was told.   Once again my lungs failed me on a steep climb, just to leave me with a solo time trial-like finish.

The season is looking up, as Jeff and Shawn both stepped onto the podium with 3rd and 5th place finishes.  As a clinician at Dynamic Physical Therapy, it is good to stand back, listen, and watch the teamwork that our team's Cat 4/5 cyclists have portrayed so far this season.  It makes me look forward to next month's schedule of racing.

Next up...the 9 Hours of Cranky Monkey mountain bike race, and the Tour of Tucker County road race.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Greene County Road Race Recap

My goals for the Greene County Road Race were simple. First, I didn't want to drop my chain in the first five miles, as had occurred in last year's competition. There's nothing more frustrating to me than having a mechanical problem profoundly effect an event's outcome. Second, I wanted to stay in the main field for at least the first lap. At 73 miles in length, I could potentially have a really good or a really bad event. Thirdly, I wanted to avoid freezing to the point of misery. My cold tolerance is essentially non-existent these days, particularly when things get wet. And wouldn't you know that it started raining about 30 minutes before the race began...

The men's category 1/2/3 and 3/4 fields were combined into one giant super-field that was really persistent with making short attacks. It was great to have so many teammates in my race simultaneously for a change. I particularly liked being able to race with Billy Slutz because we were both constantly freaked out by the wet roads. I don't mind time-trials, cyclocross and triathlons on wet surfaces but pack riding down wet, steep, curvy descents is not my forte'. I fell off the back of the main group a couple times on the largest descents and then I would have to work way too hard to catch back on at the bottom. I was thrilled with my performance up the climbs for this time of year as I would typically gravitate toward the top 10 over the crest. I'm proud to say that I did not have my chain come off any of the appropriate chainrings during the race despite the best wishes of my competitors, so that's one goal met. Maybe it's because I'm riding the Cannondale Super Six Evo Red this year and I wasn't last year. Either way, I was able to actually stay in the main field during the first loop of the course. Goal met!

Unfortunately, I was beginning to freeze miserably as the rain became heavier during the second loop around. Though I love the way they taste, I wasn't drinking much of my Camelbak Elixir or eating enough Honey Stinger Waffles that first lap because I was too worried about the wet roads. I've begun to figure out that I'm a little more nutritionally sensitive than the average person so this kind of mistake really does me in quickly, particularly when there a lot of brief attacks that suck out the muscle glycogen. With the larger combined group that was inevitable. At mile 50, as we ascended the first climb again, I sunk too far into the fatigue zone, mentally weakened and fell off the back of the group. That was pretty frustrating since I'd been climbing well during the prior miles. From that point onward I wanted nothing more than to be done. I couldn't feel my feet or hands at mile 40 so that certainly didn't improve. I would do harder bursts to keep my body temperature up but that still didn't work. I suffered it out and finally finished, simply glad to be done but extremely numb. It took at least 15 minutes in my car and a thermos of hot chocolate to even begin to feel warmish again. I'm wearing my Gore-Tex riding boots next year if it's that cold again. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Greene County Road Race 4/5 podium

One of our commitments when we accept our invitation to ride for the Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling Team powered by Pathfinder is to share our adventures once a month in the form of this blog.  If you've followed any of my previous additions, you've probably picked up on the fact that I LOVE to talk and can get pretty long winded (or whatever the digital equivalent is). But it just dawned on me that it has been a month since I last posted here and I was almost "that guy" who didn't hold up my end of the responsibility. I know I have started to recap numerous races in the past 4 weeks, but something almost always seems to get in my way of getting it done. So here is a real brief recap on my month of April....

4/7/2012      Morgantown Road Race                              4/5            24 out of 75
4/10/2012    ACA Tuesday Night Crit                              4/5              2 out of 23
4/11/2012    ACA Wednesday Night Crit                        3/4               6 out of 14
4/14/2012    Clarksburg Grand Prix                                 Masters        6 out of 9
                    Clarksburg Grand Prix                                 3/4             18 out of 30
4/17/2012     ACA Tuesday Night Crit                            4/5               2 out of 34
4/18/2012    ACA Wednesday Night Crit                        3/4               7 out of 39
4/21/2012    Greene County Road Race                          4/5               3 out of 26
4/24/2012    ACA Tuesday Night Crit                             4/5             17 out of 18 (broken spoke)
4/25/2012    ACA Wednesday Night Crit                        3/4               3 out of 33
4/27/2012    ABRA Oval Race #1                                   Masters       7 out of 9
                    ABRA Oval Race #1                                   4/5              5 out of ~15
                    ABRA Oval Race #1                                   3/4              DFL out of ~12
4/28/2012    Steel City Showdown                                  3/4              ?????

L to R: Anne Foreman, Gerry Audet, Chris Jones, James Braswell, Jeff Gernert
 While I am pleased with my early season form, what I have been extremely excited about is the TEAM. Being around these guys and gals has been more than I could have expected when I signed on last fall. We just get along and somehow find away to expoit eachother's strengths and hide our weaknesses. I can't wait until we can really gel and we are all on top form later this summer. I'm thinking the Tour of the Valley might be a perfect place for this team to shine.

Team Members Volunteer for a Great Cause!

On Thursday, April 19th, members of Dynamic Physical Therapy Powered By Pathfinder cycling team volunteered at Positive Spin, a local non-profit "Supporting citizens whose choose to walk, bike, bus, and carpool, for a more liveable Morgantown".  Founded in 2005, Positive Spin provides low or no-cost bicycles to both local individuals and to those in need overseas.  Positive spin also provides work-shops on cycling skills, etiquette, mechanics, and the other various aspects essential to owning and riding a bike for transportation and pleasure.  The shop also does basic maintenance and repairs for a minimal fee.  

 Bicycles provided by Positive Spin are donated by the citizens of Morgantown and the surrounding area.  A large part of the effort to providing bikes to those in need is rehabilitating donated bikes.  For this, Co-founder Nick Hein relies on his own master mechanic skills, and that of volunteers.

This is were the team came in.  Setting aside several hours from training, members of the team worked together to rehabilitate over a dozen bicycles for the up-coming "trade-up" day, where Positive Spin provides low costs bikes for sale and trade.

Thank you to all those team members who came and helped out a great organization provide bicycles to those in need!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sprinting to Great Finishes

Hi everyone!! Great to be back this year and riding for Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling powered by Pathfinder. I am happy to say that I am no longer a true newbie since this is my second year of bike racing. Last season, I was happy with my results as a first time racer and knew that this year I wanted to improve even more. I am excited to be a part of such a dynamic group of racers.  Currently, I am deep into my intern year of emergency medicine residency and, for me, cycling is the greatest form of stress release. Fortunately, this winter and spring have been mild, so I was able to get in some good rides for my sanity.
I was excited to test my legs in the ABRA opener Morgantown Road Race. Going into the race, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew that people were fast this year because of nice weather and good training over the winter. I was able to pre-ride the course with the team, which proved to be a great help.  Unlike last year, the weather could not have been better. The race started out in a big group and remained that way most of the first 20 or so miles. We made it to the first climb and the group split. There were about 5 or 6 of us in the lead group taking turns pulling. At about the second or third big climb, the leader pulled away. A group of us put in efforts to chase her down, but came up short. During the race, I felt pretty strong on the climbs and was happy with how the race was turning out. By the last climb, I knew that I could finish strong if I just remained patient and did not try to do anything crazy. Stephanie, Betsy and I came down the final miles to the finish, and I was able to sprint across the line for a third place finish. Needless to say, I was happy with my performance compared to last year (about 30 minutes faster). Everyone did an awesome job in the race; that is one tough course for an opening race. Big thanks to all of the volunteers and JR.

 Sprint to the Finish

After a great vacation in sunny Key West (like teammate Justine, I too missed riding the mountains of WV), I was back on the bike for a week of training before the Green County Road Race. 40’s and rain was in the weather forecast. Good day for sleeping in! But a small group of do-or-die die cyclists, decided to go and do a bike race. This race last year was one of my favorites; the weather was awesome and the course was beautiful. This year, I don’t remember any beauty in the course, except when I crossed the finish line. My legs were cold and we were all drenched. Half-way through the race, I caught myself wishing I was back in Key West. The course itself was great, a couple of good climbs near the finish. The group I was riding with put in impressive efforts.  At 200m to go, I put on my race face and was able to cross the line in second place! The Swiftwick arm warmers definitely helped my arms stay warm! All in all, it was a fun race and I’m looking forward to nicer weather to come! I want to thank the volunteers who helped in the wet cold weather. Their job was probably much more miserable standing wet for hours. Without them, this race would not have gone so smoothly.

Sprint to the finish again, I am really going to work hard to improve on my sprints:

Again, thanks to all of our sponsors. You guys seriously rock! And everyone on the team is so positive. It is really great to be around people that appreciate the sport and want to ride and have fun.

Monday, April 23, 2012

April on the Road

We're already in the final week of April, and the bicycle racing is in full swing. The Spring Classics of the European ProTour are over, and the first long stage race of the year, Giro d'Italia, will start the first week of May. The racing has been ramping-up here in the Appalachian Mountains of North America, too, as I'm sure you've noticed with the numerous race reports being posted to our team blog. The team has had a great Spring season so far, with many podiums and several wins scattered throughout the categories. The team has really come together since our training camp, and I am proud to be part of such an amazing and talented group of bike enthusiasts!

The past month or so has been a roller coaster of a ride for me off the bike, but I'm happy to say that things are headed in a positive direction. Also, I've managed to ride and race a bit, which has been therapeutic at the very least. The results don't ever tell the whole story (and coincidentally, I have none worth revisiting):

  • Southern Cross: MEDIOCRE
  • ABRA Training Race: BAD
  • Morgantown Road Race: TERRIBLE
  • Greene County Road Race: NOT GOOD

Bike Riding Tip: Eat when you are feeling good, not when you are feeling bad. When you are feeling good, it's easy to eat, get a drink, etc. When you are feeling bad, eating is tough - if you remember to eat at all.

Grrr...attack with a smile! (Fred Jordan photo)

Example: Morgantown Road Race - felt okay, if not pretty darn good. Attacked hard on the first major climb, got a gap, eased up as others bridged, and went over the top with a small group. Worked in the top 10 until the end of the penultimate climb, where it became clear that I had forgotten to eat for a long, long, oh-it-felt-like-such-a-long-time, time. I ended up bonking harder than I ever had before. I love how I try to give it one last (ALL OUT = ZONE 3) effort in the finale before completely blowing up and coasting home - LOL - (see graph below).

Notice how the red line just refuses to do any real work after the 4th climb...WEIRD!

Moving on - we've had great weather, but just as I was getting back into riding the bike regularly last week, the rain started. I was in central Pennsylvania, and after two days of arriving home, post-ride - looking like a drowned rat - I managed to stealthily bag a glorious 100k sunny day in Michaux State Forest on my way back to Morgantown. 

Stealth tip: Michaux hosts the American Ultracross Championship Series Finale!

I'm glad that I stopped in Michaux, because at the Greene County Road Race the next day, the skies opened once again, and I decided to do the 3/4 race for the first time...which meant two laps in the weather. I managed to flat a very good Kenda tubular (not the tyres fault - tore a sidewall on 2" crusher run/pothole fill), chase back on just before the second climb on the first lap, and then get gapped before the top. 

On the first climb of the day and already soaked.. (Fred Jordan photo)

On the second lap, I broke a spoke on the spare (which was also my wheel) descending after the first climb on Oak Forest Road to catch on with my teammate Brian. I eventually stopped to pull out the broken spoke, chased back to Brian, tried to help him as much as possible (descending cautiously on a very wobbly front wheel), and then finally caught back on and attacked the now two-man group in an effort to set him up for the best of those off-the-back. 

It worked, so that was good. 

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Part of a TEAM Again

Hi! Let me introduce myself to the blog, my name is Justine Pagenhardt, but JR Petsko has lovingly dubbed me “JPeg.” I started cycling 2 summers ago and have pedaled away with my love for the bike. As a retired college basketball player, I am so excited to be a part of a team again. I feel fortunate to have been asked to be a member on Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling powered by Pathfinder!
I started out racing this year at the ABRA Morgantown Road Race. I was nervous before the race because I had much higher expectations of myself compared to my debut in racing last year at the same event. The first part of the race was fun. Since we started with the Women 1,2,3, we got to ride in a large pack until the first climb. After that, I settled in with teammate Anne Foreman and several other riders to form a nice paceline. I can’t tell you how fun it was to have a teammate to ride with and support one another up the many climbs along the course. At the last climb, I knew I had to the legs to get up and gain a little on the other women. I went up the last climb and a fun downhill then pedaled all the way to the end. Most fun I have ever had in a road race.

 “Happy Campers” with teammate Nicole Dorinzi: 

The race felt good and was made even better knowing I was off to the Florida Keys the next day for  a week vacation. Biking in the Keys really made me miss the mountains, but I could not complain about the 80 degree weather and sunshine!
In the Keys:

Back to Morgantown to get ready for the second race in the ABRA Road Series, the Green County Road Race. I pre-rode the race on Tuesday and was glad since it was much different than last year.
Pre-ride Adventures in Green County:

I was looking forward to race day and was prepared for one of the “flatter” (for WV standards) races all year. I felt slick in my new team kit and matching helmet (Thanks Pathfinder of WV!) Starting with the Cat 5 Men, Anne and I again soon found a group of women to work with. I knew that I would have 2 longer climbs towards the end of the race, so my focus was to keep my legs loose in the cold, wet weather. My new team fleece knickers and Swiftwick socks did a great job of keeping me warm. WOOO, down a steep decent, with 2 very sharp turns, we went! Then I heard a yell from behind me. One of the other women we were riding with must have been going a little fast. I stopped and ran up the hill to help her out,  but she was up and trying to get back on her bike with a little added road rash. Quickly, I was back on my bike to continue my descent. Later, I laughed when Anne stated, “I feel safe riding with you.” Good to know my 4 years of medical school made me feel prepared to act in situations like these. The last climb included a very steep “wall” as the final obstacle to a great 2nd and 3rd place finish for Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling powered by Pathfinder. All in all, it was a very rewarding day, and I think the weather made us all a bit tougher. Can’t wait for Tour of Tucker County! Thanks again to all our sponsors! I feel honored to be a part of such a great team!

Riding The Storm Out

My first race of the season, the Morgantown Road Race, went so poorly, I hoped that I'd be able to redeem myself in the second one, the Green County Road Race. I learned from my mistakes over the past few races, so I decided that I would make an effort to stay towards the front of the pack, and maybe even take a few pulls at the front (imagine that)! I also hoped that the opportunity to launch a few attacks since I've never tried that before. Before we rolled to the starting line, Jeff mused that this would be a race to remember, I hoped that it would.

The sky looked gray all morning, and not long before the race started, it began to rain, I was really stressed out. Since I don't have the best bike handling skills, I was worried that I would crash, but I made it to the finish just fine. As we rolled out, I made my way towards the front of the pack, and I managed to stay near the front for most of the race. The pack flowed very smoothly (unlike in the Morgantown Road Race) and I had no problem maintaining my position.

During the second climb I decided it was time for me to attack, I sprinted up the remainder of the climb and after turning a corner, I looked behind me to see if the pack was gaining, and to my surprise, nobody else had rounded the corner! I got excited and really started digging deep, I made it past the end of the descent following the climb before the pack caught back up with me, but it seemed as if we had lost a few cyclists.

The race continued rather uneventfully until mile 34, I rode past the side of the pace line, and signaled to Jerry that we should attack; there was only a mile left, or so I thought. We did pretty well, but the race was slightly longer that I had accounted for, and by the time we passed the 'one mile to go' sign, I was out of energy. I dropped off the back of the pack and finished just seconds behind the winner for 11th place.

Looking back, I think if I had saved my energy and not attacked towards the end, I would have had a solid pack finish, well, at least I'll know what to do next time. After the race we all gathered in the team tent and ate Shawn's delicious home baked cookies. It was a race to remember after all.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Rumpass in Bumpass: Combat, Hornets, and Rubble

Rumpass in Bumpass 2012

Myself and fellow team mate Derek Clark are sort of the Black Sheep of the team, for one very specific reason.  This weekend, while my team mates were at the State Championship Criterium, I traveled south-east to Bumpass, Virginia for the annual Rumpass in Bumpass triathlon.  It's about the only early season triathlon in the area, owing mostly to it's very warm water temperatures of the shallow Lake Anna.  For those unfamiliar with it, the race is an Olympic distance (or international distance) triathlon consisting of a 1.5k swim (0.93 miles), 40k bike (24.8 miles), and a 10k run (6.2 miles).  Well, that's what it is supposed to be.  In this case, the bike was shortened due to a last minute change in venue (5 days before the race!) to 23.2 miles.  This may sound like a good thing, but I was a little frustrated as I really want a "true" Olympic distance race to get a sense of my time so that I can have that as a base line for future races.  But I digress...this is going to be long enough without me getting off on a tangent!
Representing The Team!

Bumpass is about 4 hours from Morgantown (well, google maps said 4.5 but I did it in less than 4), and I had to travel alone.  Carly could not take the day off on Friday, and I couldn't travel the morning of the race because there's no way I could make it in time.  So, I headed off by myself after working a half day in the lab.

There's 1 portion of the tip that I've driven before on the way to the outer banks in North Carolina that is just a blast to drive- I believe it's Route 29.  It's super twisty and there's very little traffic- and with a 5 speed and AWD, I really enjoy it.

After this, the trip was pretty uneventful, except at the tail end when I sat in traffic for approximately 20 minutes for what appeared to be about 30 police cruisers trying to prevent a woman from jumping off a very high bridge.  I can't find a news story but that's certainly what it looked like.

I drove directly to the course and picked up my race number, t-shirt...and socks!  Cool.

I then changed into my running gear and did a survey of the run loop.  In the details for the race a couple of days earlier they had said that the course would be "on grass and gravel" and that "there would be only 1 main hill".  I was suspicious.  I followed a group of guys that looked about my age through the- very lumpy- field and through a gate in a fence to what appeared to be a gravel road.  There was a PRIVATE PROPERTY sign on this burly looking gate blocking our way.  But this had to be the course judging from the maps they gave us.  So, naturally, we jumped the gate and jogged down the road.  I gave them a minute to get in front of me, as they were all chatting up a storm, and I wanted to focus on the course.

The course
Well, it didn't take much focus to figure out that it was horrible.  First, there wasn't just 1 hill.  Indeed, I had skipped what they called the 1 major hill, and was now climbing what felt to me to be a substantial grade...and it wasn't the only one.  And you had to do the loop twice.  Secondly, and more importantly, it was loose, large, high-way size gravel/rocks.  They hurt my feet, made me feel like I was running on ball bearings, and I was slipping constantly.  It was not good.

I jogged back to the car, a little frustrated.  But I could hear my team mate Jeff's words in my mind "everyone else is going to have to do it, so might as well make the best of it".  I locked into that mentality, and I didn't give it another negative thought after that.

I grabbed my wetsuit from the car and headed down to the swim exit, suited up, and went for my first, quick, open water swim of the year in the- very surprisingly- warm water.  I felt pretty good, seriously flat, but not too fatigued.  My spirits lifted a lot as I got out- the sun was shinning, it was a nice venue, and I didn't feel too bad!

The Rubble-Trouble on the run (see what I did there?)
I drove the bike course, and then stopped at a local Italian place- Angela's Italian.  They have a great menu, but I was getting take out and was pretty hungry (it was 7:30 at this point) and just wanted to get to the hotel.  So I got a pizza, some garlic knots, and a salad.  All were excellent, but the garlic knots were some of the best I've ever had.  I recommend the place highly.

After eating, watching the last third of Gladiator, doing some reading (a great book, The snoring bird by Bernd Heinrich), and talking to Carly for a few minutes I was asleep by about 10:45.  The bed was aweful, but I did manage to stay asleep until 3:45.  Then it was fitful until 6am when I decided it was just time to get up.

I ate 2 pieces of bread with peanut butter, had 2 cups of decaff coffee with some chocolate milk, 1/3 a bar of 90% dark chocolate (secret weapon), and hit the road.

I drank a 1/2 bottle of Camelbak Elixir on the way over, love it, and I got to the site at 7:55.  Race time was 10:00 for me, I was in the first heat.  Plenty of time to get things in order.  I brought my new helmet provided by one of our title sponsors Pathfinder of WV and used it as I did a little last minute bike check and warm up.  The temperature was only 44 at this point, and I was glad I had thought to pack fleece pants and my wool vest.

I then racked my bike, went back to the car and grabbed my number, transition bag, and wallet.  I headed to the registration tent, got my timing chip, then headed down to the transition area.  Got all my stuff in order, and was back to the car by 8:40.

I again did a little running recon again as a warm up.  By now, there was a constant stream of cars.  The race was sold out- 800 people- and it was starting to feel like a festival.  There was music playing and people laughing and kids running around everywhere.  Exciting.

Hit the port-a-potties, again, and got back to my car, drank some water, ate half a Honey Stinger energy bar (my favorite, even better than the waffles) and took a moment to go through my plan.

I decided that the swim was going to be on the conservative side, and    then I would see what happened on the bike during the first loop and this would determine the rest of my race.  But above all I really wanted to make sure that I didn't over do it on any stage, as this early in the season I didn't need a de-moralizing experience, and I could care less what my finish place was for this race.  It was all about getting things executed correctly and building experience and fitness.  This wasn't a risk taking sort of race.  There was nothing on the line.

I grabbed my wicked new wetsuit, goggle, my required red swim cap, a Podium bottle filled with H2O, the rest of the Honey Stinger bar, and a package of Honey Stinger chews and headed for the water.  Once down there, it was a 5 minute walk, I took a swig of the bottle, ate half the package of chews, and suited up.

Did a brief 7-min warm up- in the now MUCH colder water (63 degrees over night dropped nearly 5 degrees!!!)- and got back to the start as the National Anthem was finishing.  The field was confused about the swim, but with my recon (and slight obsessive nature) I was already swimming out to the first buoy to get good position.  I actually had to yell to the field to come over!  It was an in water start, and we were a fair distance (50 yards) from shore.  I couldn't hear what the announcer was saying but just lined myself up about 20 ft from the best line, and put my game face on.  Kill, kill, kill.

The gun sounded, a little to our surprise, and we took off.  There was a lot of bumping, kicking, and jostling at first as usual.  I got swamped once, slammed my elbow into an unknown, but very hard, body part, and kicked some guy square in the face (I could feel his goggles).  This isn't uncommon, especially with my age group, in the first thirty seconds to maybe a minute...

...but after five minutes of constant struggle- ramming my hand into a guys foot, swimming OVER the top of a cris-crossing swimmer, etc. I was starting to get really irritated.  Screw this!  So I channeled my inner dolphin, and tried to get away.  It didn't work.  In fact, it back fired.  I went too hard, got a little too anaerobic, missed a breath, got swamped (someone takes a stroke next to you as you're about to breath and you swallow water), and actually panicked a little.  It didn't last, but it was enough to get me so out of rhythm, slipping back into my old bad habits.  I wasn't sighting well, and I was wasting a lot of energy.  I had a lot of thoughts during this time, usually I'm thinking very little during swimming in training or racing because it's so technical.  This is how I actually realized that I was doing something wrong.  Stop thinking about what a weakling you feel like, and get to it!  I focused on my technique and things started to turn around.

After another couple of minutes, I was around the final corner and it was a straight shot all the way back to the exit.  I FINALLY settled into a pace that felt comfortable, got away from some guy in a red-shouldered wetsuit whose single purpose was to drive me off course, and got a glance at my watch.  13 minutes.  THIRTEEN MINUTES!  Usually all of what I just described last for three!

The rest of the swim was typical- if not a little slow, but I picked it up again in the final couple minutes.  I hit the steps they built coming out of the water glad that it was over and I could get away from all these guys determined to drown me.  As I exited and crossed the mat my watch said 25:45.  That was 107th fastest- not bad, top 20%, but I had hoped to do better.  I always want to do better in the swim.  Everyone was grumbling about the course being long, I have no way of knowing, and if so I'm ok with the time, I guess, given my swimming this year- not great, but I'm getting better.

I just don't get it though.  I can swim 10+ 100m repeats in the pool (yes, different) in 1:20 or less, with 20 seconds rest.  I also did a 1000 yards several weeks ago in 15:XX minutes.  But in a race, with a wetsuit, I can't manage to average better than 1:40?  It makes no sense.  I should be doing 1:30/100 pace: and I need to get to the bottom of why I'm not.  Maybe it was just the race course being long, but maybe not.  I'm going to assume the latter and just work harder.


It's a long run up to transition through a brush-cut field.  I had a little bit of dizziness that comes from being horizontal and having all your blood in the upper half of your body, and then instantly transitioning to vertical and asking your body to do all it's work with your lower half.  But it passed quickly.  In transition, I counted the racks to my bike.  1...2...3...all the way to 16.  Cut into the rack, my wetsuit was already half off, ripped it off the rest of the way, and threw down my goggles.  I grabbed my race belt, snapped it on, then my helmet.  No one else on my rack had left yet.  Sweet.

The Causeway.  The flattest and most beautiful portion of the course.

Snatched my bike and was off running towards the exit.  The exit was a little rocky, but I hardly remember anything else about it.  When my feet hit the pavement, I tried a running cyclocross mount.  Fail.  Almost castrated myself.  As I did this, another racer went by me.  I took a few more running steps and nailed the mount on the 2nd attempt.  I'll have to practice that again I guess.  T1 time was 1:26, good enough for 17th fastest overall.

Had a little (typical) trouble getting my feet in my shoes (they're already on my bike, rubber-banded in place) but was quickly in pursuit of those ahead of me.

I had gone no more than a couple miles when, crossing a small bridge, I could see a big swarm of insects in front of me.  As I passed my first competitor, we went through the flying bugs.  They pinged off my aero helmet and my arms- with surprising force!  Gross!  No matter, just keep going.

About ten or twenty seconds after that- OUCH! WHAT THE..?!?!?  I was being stung!

I guess it was a swarm of wasps, because there were two of them still on my left quad and they were stinging the crap out of me!  I squashed them and had some choice words before settling back into the aerobars.

I was surprised how many guys I was catching, but even more surprised how few were catching me.  I was only passed by 1 guy by mile 7.  Cycling is not my strong suit, or I should say it's a weakness, and I have worked hard to remedy this.  At mile 10 I realized I hadn't reset my torque on my power meter since I rode it on the trainer, and then mid race, attempted to reset it.  I'm not sure it worked, and I think I might have messed up my numbers even worse. GRRR!!!  Lesson for next time.

The course is nice, with a really awesome section where you cross a causeway.  After this there is a couple of corners, one that is probably a 120 degree turn, promptly followed by the worst hill on course.  It wasn't bad at all- last no more than a minute or two- but in combination with the corner I had to grind a little harder than I like to in a TT.  Still, the entire race I never came out of the 53t big ring.  At 15minutes I took my first Honey Stinger gel.

After the first loop, I was sitting in a positive place compared with my place upon exiting the swim- I had passed more than I had been passed.

Amazing little river and bridge I crossed while driving back to the hotel

Things then got interesting.  The second loop was the same...but now had probably 300 or 400 people on it.  It was a constant stream of people to pass.  A double edged sword- great motivation, but they tend to swerve around, get in my way, and do silly things to slow me down.  Especially those guys/gals who think that they need to pass a person that is a solid 30 feet in front of them so pull out to the left...and I'm flying up behind them, screaming "LEFT, LEFT!" and they don't move.  I didn't break the yellow line rule...but it came close a couple times.

The course was really nice.  Constantly rolling, except for the causeway, it's not boring, and there was 0 traffic.  The only notable hill I already discussed, although there were a couple longer grades that I had to fight with myself to hold back on and not let my watts go flying up into the 300's and 400's.

Interesting note, I did struggle with my power.  Still trying to get used to this.  The hardest thing for me was not maintaining power going up hills or into headwinds (which there was substantial out there on the course), but on slight downs or flat.  My force would slack off and drop into the high 100's, not low to mid 200's where I wanted.  I'm learning.

50 minutes in I took my second gel, this time with caffeine, and was almost through my (only) Podium bottle filled with electrolyte drink.  Things were looking good.  I was nearly done!

Coming into the finish of the bike (same as the start), I slipped out of my shoes and dismounted on one side of my bike, riding it down the grade like a scooter for probably 100 yards.  This got me a lot of unnecessary cheering, and some laughs.  I had not intended it to be funny, but I bet I looked ridiculous standing on one pedal going 23mph in my hideous 1 piece triathlon suit, and vulgar looking aero helmet.  If I hadn't been racing, I probably would have been embarrassed.  But at the time I didn't have time to think about it.

1:03 total bike time, 23.12 miles, for about a 22mph average.  Not stellar, but nothing to scoff at.  87th fastest- top 6%!

Finishers Medal.  Triathletes are whiny, so they give us
medals just for finishing.
This part of the transition area I do remember.  There's a steep little ditch you had to run down to the mats, and it was nearly impossible on my bike legs.  My bike bounced along next to me and I nearly dropped it at one point due to the roughness of the field.

Racked my bike and in an instant, had my shoes on in less than 5 seconds, grabbed my Garmin 305, a quick swig of another bottle I had sitting there, and took off.  No hat, no glasses.  Simplicity is the key to being fast.

Ran down and out the transition and around the outside across the mat.  After no more than 30 seconds I knew something was wrong.  I felt like I had a water balloon in my stomach/digest tract.  I was sloshing but it was more than that.  It was aweful- I usually don't suffer from digestive distress and I get it now.  So for the first mile I suffered with classic digest problems- cramps that almost bent me over being the worst of it.  I don't know the cause, but I think I probably didn't have to drink as much as I did since the temperature was low.  Maybe the dark chocolate?  Everything else I'm used to eating...still analyzing what it could have been.

I hardly noticed the first hill, gravel, or grass.  I was focused solely on my digestive problems, my foot turn over, and how much my glutes, hams, and quads were hurting.  By 2 miles I was at 13:33.  Hell yes.  I'm crushing it.  After the 2nd 180 degree turn, and the 2nd turn around stop-go, it became clear to me, again, that no PR was being set today...

By mile 3 the digest problems had passed, I had done an entire loop, and I was able to see all the guys in front of me.  And it didn't seem like that many (there were others that started in heats behind me, but I figured the majority would be those guys in front of me as the next fastest age group had started right behind me, only 4 minutes, so they would have caught me by then).  I counted 37.  Wow.  I could be top 5%!

This put a quicker pace in my run...for about a half mile.  THEN I noticed the hill on the second lap.  Gravel and about 2-3 minutes long, I was sucking the black hole when I got to the top.  I still had had nothing to eat or drink yet.  I couldn't risk the digestive distress again.  But I was starting to slow down.  I glanced at my GPS and it said I was only doing a 7:37 pace.  I have to eat!

Scenery on the Run Course (This is the morning of)

So I took a gel, and as always, it's amazing how fast my body (or anyones) re-acts.  Within another minute or two I was back in it.  I was not thirsty, and so didn't drink anything but a sip at the aid station just to get the Gel down better.  I pushed on but it was no longer my will or energy systems that were failing, my legs were just starting to burn BAD at every knoll or hill.  With 1 mile to go I was passed for the final time.  I tried to hang tough but was hurting.

As I rounded the bend and saw the big clock I realized that I HAD slowed down pretty substantially there in the middle at some point.  I didn't even realize it.  But I could break 42 minutes!  I picked it up and crossed with a run time of 41:59.  This was the 42nd fastest run, almost top 5%.  Very happy with that given all the other factors, but mainly the essentially off-road rough trail run!

Total time was 2:13:13.  Finish place was 56th.  I would learn later that this was good enough to be almost top 10% of men.

As I crossed the line, the announcer pronouncing my name wrong, happy with the day, and happy with the day being over, the race director was passing and stopped to shake some hands.  I stopped and talked to him.  I was honest- the run was bad.  But I was glad that they figured out a way to have the race since they had to move the venue (out of their control).  And I told him how nice the bike course was.  I forgot to mention the bees!

The finish line

I wandered over to my car, being all alone I was ready to just get out of there.  But I changed by the car, went and got my bike and other junk, and loaded the car as people were still coming in off the bike.  I then jogged/walked back down to the water to get my shoes and bottle I had stashed in the woods before the swim.  I stood in the water for a little while to let my legs get some healing cold-water treatment.  I reflected on the day.

Although initially I thought, given the 209 watt average, thought I'd maybe be able to do between 220-225, that I probably didn't push hard enough on the bike, in retrospect, I think I did.  Not to claim it's wrong like is so typical of so many others, but I tried to reset the torque mid-race after realizing I hadn't, and who knows what I did to skew it negatively.  Right or wrong, 22mph isn't a PR, but it's not at all shabby for April!  IT'S ONLY APRIL!  And no way my legs were 100% from the road race last week.

Next the swim was...what it was.  That's it.  Next time I'll take what I learned and use it.  Enough dwelling on the what could have been.  Time to work on it.

The run was tough.  The topography wasn't extremely tough, but the terrain was.  Probably a 9/10 in terms of difficulty in that regard.  I've done multiple trail runs that were much easier on my feet.  2 years ago I did the Coopers Rock stump jump in 42, almost 43 minutes.  It was a brutal course in terms of hills, but this was much much worse terrain.  Much.

I marched back to the car, dropped off my stuff, waited in line at the food tent for about 20minutes, got an average turkey wrap, some really good black bean and corn salad, and a chocolate cookie (all free for racers) and sat by myself for 20 minutes.  I started to miss Carly at this point, and honestly my team mates too.  It's not nearly as much fun racing alone.

I waited for the results, debated staying for the award, but left.  I saw that I had finished 8th in my age group and there was "no reason to stay" (even though I counted 5x that I was 6th on the overall results- not sure what happened, either way I'm ok with top ten in an age category of 48).  I was super tired and not at all excited for the 4 hour drive home.

Before leaving, however, I also learned that, for the first time since I can remember at a big race, I beat the first place woman.  Usually I get beat by the first couple top women/elites.  It was close- only 1:20 difference.  Man those woman are fast!  Make me feel bad about does the couple guys in their late 40's that beat me.  Monsters.

Overall a pretty stacked field really.  I was surprised how fast my age group was; more surprised how fast everyone was- nearly 200 people within the 2:30 mark (although the bike was short).  I guess because it's early in the season and close to some big cities, it attracts a lot of "big timers".  But that's what I want.

Closing thoughts.  I had fun.  I had enough fun to go back.  If they change the run course.  If not, I'm not sure.  It was pretty bad- risk injury bad.  The drive is relatively easy (except for the 15 miles of 95 where on the way back it took 45 minutes) and the bike course is beautiful.  I need to work on a couple things.  Swimming.  I need to get faster; which means improving my SKILL more than my fitness.  And for this I'm going to need outside help, and I know people who can help.  Also, I need to work on pacing- which I don't work on at all, so even a little work (maybe 2 workouts between now and Columbia Triathlon in May) will help a lot I think.  All in all, a good early season experience.

And I am SO SO SO tired today.  And getting more and more sore by the hour.  Monday work day is going to be rough.  6 days from now, on Saturday: Next ABRA pain fest: Greene County Road race.

Here's the numbers:


Swim:  Distance: 1500m (unofficial- racers claim long?) Time: 25:52  100m pace: 1:43

Bike: Distance: 23.12 (unofficial measured, powertap CPU)  Time: 1:03:12  Avg. Power: 209 watts  Avg. Speed: 22.1mph  Elevation Gain: Unknown (unofficial, map my ride user 381, another says 840- guessing it's close to 840 than 381)

Run:  Distance: 6.1 (unofficial measured- Garmin 305) Time: 41:59  Pace: 6:57  Elevation gain: 1037(!)

Age Group Information:
8th of 49, 25-29 year old men.  13th best swim (27%); 5th best T1 (10%); 13th best bike (27%); 3rd best T2 (6%); 9th best run (18%)

If I extrapolate out the bike course to make it regulation length I would have done 2:18:08, which is faster than my goal time of last year, and closing in on my goal time (2:15) for this year (which I may not have a chance to try and break given all the rest of the courses are either long or hilly).  Putting it in that light, I guess it really was a good race.

See? I've already forgot about how miserable I was.

Friday, April 13, 2012

So the 2012 cycling season is now underway and the first ABRA Road Race is in the books. I did absolutely horrible at the Morgantown Road Race, but had much fun with my new Dynamic Physical Therapy teammates. Upon finishing the race I was feeling very unhappy about how bad I did, but after eating many Raw Revolution bars and crying to my teammates about my pour performance I suddenly felt much better. About 30 minutes after the race I jumped back on the bike and rode 3 miles down the road to the Mason-Dixon Park for the Easter egg hunt where my daughter Addie did much better at chasing down eggs then I did racing my bike.

After the egg hunt I put my bike in the truck and Arryn, Addie and I drove back over to the Mount Morris Gospel Tabernacle Church where the race finished so I could say goodbye to my teammates. Much thanks goes out to the Gospel Tabernacle Church for the use of their parking lot for the race. We then set out for the 3 hour drive back to Ohio. After arriving back home I had just enough energy left in the tank to do a short recovery ride with my favorite cycling buddy.

Next up is the first ABRA Criterium race of the 2012 season. I am not a fan of criteriums by any means, but I am looking forward to helping my teammates in the race and then hanging out in Clarksburg.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Virginia Tech Recap

While most of my Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling powered by Pathfinder teammates were getting their seasons started at the first set of ABRA Training races, I was away continuing the collegiate season for WVU Cycling. March 24-25th marked the 6th weekend of racing (5th week for me), and the races that week were hosted by Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg VA. Of all the cities and schools the WVU Cycling team travels to in the Atlantic Collegiate Cycling Conference, Virginia Tech, and Blacksburg is without a doubt my favorite place to go. Blacksburg is a great college town, and the riding, both mountain and road don't disappoint. Great rural roads, little to no traffic and plenty of climbing. Needless to say, I was very excited for this weekend.

Saturday, March 24th, consisted of a road race and individual time trial, located in extremely rural roads within the Jefferson National Forest. The road race was a 15 mile loop within a valley in the Jefferson National Forest, consisting of some rollers for the first 8 or so miles, followed by a 2-3 miles of climbing and a fast descent back to the start. The time trial followed the road race, and would separate the strong from the weak, as it was an uphill time trial, with an average gradient of 6.5% over 2.5 miles. Certainly not equal to the pain of the sugarlands climb at Tour of Tucker County, but enough to put a good hurt in.

The team arrived early, only to be greeted by fog, cloudy skies, and rain approaching. As we started unpacking, the rain started, and held steady for the early Men's D, C and Women's C, and B races. The forecast had called for a break around noon, when my race was to start, but as I started to warm up, and proceed to the start line, no such break came.

It was a wet, wet, morning.

As my race started it felt as if the rain was pouring down. It wasn't long before the jersey and shoes were completely soaked, and sitting behind a wheel meant getting water spit right into your eyes. It made the first few miles of rolling and twisting roads interesting as it was extremely difficult to see. I put myself in the upper third of the field, in order to be in good position for any attacks, but also to stay ahead of the slinky which would be no fun in the rain. As we approached the climbs in the first lap, I felt ready to jump in any break that might form. Although the pace was quick, it wasn't too rough. I found it interesting that the same climbs that ate me alive the last time I did this race in 2010 now seemed so easy, while the field seemed to be hurting. This gave me a lot of confidence for the next time around, as talk was made in the field to make the break on lap two. When we hit the descent, all of a sudden I noticed the rain had stopped and the skies turned blue. It was fantastic to be able to see the road ahead, and even dry out some. At the start of the second lap, the attacks started coming. I focused on keeping good position for the climb. As we approached the turn leading to the climbs, someone two bike lengths up halfwheeled, and lost control of their bike, turning sideways and crashed hard. The rider in front of me then colliding into him.

Unfortunately for me, I was not able to navigate a bail line quickly enough and I ran into one of the down riders, initiating a full on endo. Somehow, I managed to land on top of somebody, avoiding direct contact with the pavement. Getting up, I tried to remain calm, and made sure to collect myself and begin the process of inspecting the bike for damage. With the frame still in one piece, chain unbroken, and wheels in true, I was relieved and set forth to try and chase. After hopping on the bike however, I noticed the connection holding my right brake lever in place had broken, and I was down a rear brake. Since it was a SRAM shifter, there wasn't total shifting loss, but any shifting I could get out of it was pretty inconsistent. I wasn't ready to quit, so I decided to ride at least to the finish and decide from there. With the time trial later in the day, I didn't want to waste energy, but I didn't want to put off the miles I should be doing either. When I approached the fi nish, I decided to do another lap and finish the race, not wanting to waste the day. As it turns out, I'm glad I did, since soon after the race was over, thunderstorms were moving into the area and the time trial was canceled.

With the race over, I turned my attention to trying to fix my bike. With some help from Sean Hilty from Pathfinder, we were able to jury-rig my shifter back into place with some electrical tape, which we hoped would hold together long enough to function for the crit the next day.

Nothing to see here. Only electrical tape holding the shifter in place.

The crit on Sunday was a fast, 0.75 mile loop with three 90 degree turns, a steep little riser into the finish, followed by a steady descent into one of the turns. A very fun course. However, like Saturday, Sunday was again a rain filled day. Only this time, it was a much less tolerable 50 degrees, meaning with the rain, it felt very cold.

Sore from the crash, and unmotivated from the rain, I wasn't really sure how I would do in the race, but once it got going I started feeling great. The pace was pretty quick from the start, but some of the other racers were taking the corners slow in fear of the rain. Feeling confident in my bike handling, I launched an attack trying to drive the pace up through some of these corners to really get things going. As I was sliding back into the field to take a breather, another hard attack went, which didn't get immediately countered. Thinking nothing was going to get away, and/or presuming another school would chase, I recovered while a small gap started to open up. Upon hearing the gap had opened up to 10 seconds, I made a hard effort to get up front and start chasing. After pulling hard for a lap, and bringing the gap down, I slowed up anticipating someone else would help chase. Instead, the riders who came around were VT and NC State, the teams represented in the break, and they proceeded to slow the pace down. From there on, the field couldn't cooperate well enough to prevent VT and NC State from blocking and we had to settle for a field sprint for 3rd. Field sprints aren't my strong point, but I was able to get myself in decent position for it. I ended up 10th / 25. Would have liked to have done better, but I was just happy to warm up and leave with a still functional bike.

Yep. It was a little wet for the crit.

Next up is the Morgantown Road Race, which is the opener to the ABRA road series. This season I'll be moving up into the 3/4 field, which will no doubt be a challenge, but I'm looking forward to it. It will be the first time I get to race with my Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling powered by Pathfinder teammates! Very excited for that!