Sunday, September 30, 2012

An end to the 2012 Road Season

Today marked the end to my 2012 road season.  The West Virginia time trial championship was today in Rowlesburg - the home of the state road race championship as well.  I ended up being the only WV resident in the men's 1-2-3 race, so just finishing would mean I was the 3-time reining state champ!  I was the first rider off, which I really do not prefer in time trials.  I much rather prefer chasing riders - the proverbial carrot if you will.  I still put in a decent time, although it was slower than my time the past 2 years on the same course.  Next, JR, Derek, JSuite and I lined up for the first annual team time trial - we did well enough to win the inaugural WV Team Time Trial Championship!  Now it is on to cyclocross - something I am not as addicted to as road and TT racing, but we'll see how it goes!

The Buckwheat Mile: A Moderately Long Post about a Very Short Race

This year I decided to race in the inaugural (pet peeve: when people say 'first annual' [oxymoron]) Buckwheat Mile that was held during the annual Buckwheat Festival in Kingwood, WV. It's rare to get the opportunity to race such a short distance, and I've only been running consistently for less than three years, so I thought it would be a good measure of my progress.

The race takes place at the start of the Farmer's Parade on Saturday at noon. So when the fire whistle goes off, the race starts and follows the parade route. The race ends on the football field: you enter the football field, run around the outside, and then finish. They suggest that you only run the race if you can run a mile in 12 minutes or less, because otherwise you'll get run over by a goat. Derek told me he wouldn't talk to me if I didn't finish in under 7 minutes and he's amazingly good at assessing what I am capable of, so I hoped this wouldn't be an issue.
Swiftwick: Not just for cycling!

Once we got to Kingwood, we said hello to Derek's parents and niece and nephew, and went over to register. I got the cutest race T I've gotten in awhile:

I warmed up by jogging around the adjacent neighborhood for about 10 minutes. We lined up at the start about 12 minutes before the race actually started. I did some short sprints right when we got to the start, but then I just stood there for 10 minutes. 

I'm somewhere behind all those high schoolers in the center. 

So when the whistle blew, and we took off, my legs felt HEAVY and I was not as warm as I could have been. The race starts on an uphill, which sucked. For the first quarter mile, I was really regretting the whole thing. I got passed and then I passed back several times, and there were lots of small children who went out too hard and were scattering like shrapnel around me. By about halfway in, the race is on the main drag of the parade. I saw Derek's parents and his niece and nephew who had made adorable signs for me. That helped. I even smiled for a picture Derek's mom was taking, but I can usually drum up a smile even when I feel like total poop. With such a short distance like a mile, you are doing it correctly if you feel absolutely horrible the entire time. And I did!

[A picture of me running the race would go here, but Derek was asleep at the proverbial wheel].

By the time I got to the entrance of the football field, I saw Derek and (Dalek). Unfortunately, Derek was talking to his Aunt and Uncle and never noticed me. He usually yells at me to go as fast as I can and tells me to correct the horrible flailing motions that appear in my form in the final yards. So I just played a game of "What would Derek yell at me about right now?" in my head and I think it was a suitable substitute. 

I checked my watch when I past him and I don't remember what it said, but I remember doubting my sub-7 goal. I put my chin down, tried to minimize side-to-side arm movement, and just ran as fast as I could around the football field. I passed some 60+ men in the last few yards and looked down to see 6:50 on my watch! Let's celebrate!

But wait! Here comes the intense chest/throat pain! That lasts for 20 minutes! Apparently that can happen when you are breathing in cold air really fast. I don't do a lot of speed work, obviously. The pain mellowed and I was just left with some phlegmy goodness that has persisted into Sunday. It was totally worth it though, because I PR'd my mile time and I got to gorge myself on buckwheat cakes afterward. I didn't get any awards because I was in the 19-29 age group and there were a bunch of collegiate cross-country girls there. They are amazing and I am in awe of their running and their ability to pull off spandex booty shorts, but if I had been in the 30-39 group I would have gotten 1st. To getting older!
Pre-race, obviously. Because I'm not spitting in the grass and coughing in the picture.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Cyclocross Season

       On August 30th, I, and most of the team will compete in our last road race of the year; The Appalachian Time Trial Championships.  I am really excited about the race, I'm not going to be racing a standard time trial, but instead, the most awesome sort of time trial; the Team Time Trial!

Me Racing Last Year
       Not long after my road season concludes, on October 13th, is the first cyclocross race.  I raced cross last year in the Under 19 category, but this year, I'm going to race cat4.  Over the past few weeks, I've been going to cyclocross clinics hosted by Morgantown's own two time national champion; Gunnar Shogren.  There I've been developing the skills that will hopefully lead to flawless dismounts and remounts during cyclocross season, something I didn't quite have last season.

       Wish Team Dynamic luck at the time trial this weekend!

Also, if anyone can guess the connection between all of my previous posts (not counting this one), I will give them a delicious Honey Stinger Waffle!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

ABRA Oval Series comes to an end on a beautiful fall day

The road cycling season is quickly coming to an end as the days shorten and the temperatures drop. I decided I better get in my final road race kicks today at the Bud Harris Oval cycling track in Pittsburgh. I had a great time competing there last month even though criterium events aren't really suited to my strengths, particularly when there's no significant climbing involved. Once again, though, I'm glad I gave it a shot. It was just as much fun this time around and I placed a little higher. The morning started off with the category 4/5 event followed by the category 3/4. Dark clouds loomed overhead and the track was initially wet with a smidgen of leaves, acorns and pine needles. Those concerned me a little but I managed to hang onto the corners pretty well. I was thrilled to win two of the primes in the 4/5 event and one of the prime laps in the 3/4 race. I nearly bit the pavement while sprinting hard in one of the 4/5 primes when my chain skipped off the cassette. There are only a couple other times when I have been so happy not to crash. All I can recall is rolling at full sprint speed of around 30 mph, only on my front wheel with the rear of the bike going sideways. When the rear wheel hit I broke a spoke in it but somehow managed to stay upright and uninjured, thank goodness. The guy immediately following me said that he was setting up to bunny hop over me because he fully expected me to go down onto the track. My mountain bike and cyclocross skills were fully tested on that maneuver. Quite scary. Winning that prime did set me up into a breakaway that would eventually result in my overall placing of second in the 4/5 race. A similar scenario developed in the 3/4 race when I pushed hard with about 14 laps to go. This allowed a breakaway of four of us to form and ultimately stay away from the main field. My legs were pretty dead by the final sprint but I'm still very happy with fifth in the 3/4 class.

Category 3/4 breakaway 
Category 4/5 prime win!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Savageman: Comeback

Sunday was the 7th annual Savageman Triathlon.  Don't know about this race?  Well that probably means you're not a triathlete, because it's nearly a legend at this point.  The reputation of the course, specifically the bike, is something that those who have raced it often have trouble describing.  Unless you've ridden it, or live in the Rockies perhaps, it's very hard to compare to anything else.

Last year, 2011, I was supposed to do the olympic (30.0) distance event.  I had signed up way in advance and was excited to partake in at least a small part of the festivities.  But I got very sick, and ended up having to bail.  Such a bummer, but things happen.

This year, I decided to just go for it: 70.0.  Starts off with a 1.25 mile swim (the only normal part), then 55.7 miles of brutal climbing, 6718ft of climbing to be exact, and finishes up with 13.1 miles of rolling hills, with a very rough section of fire road thrown in just to really make it super hard (1377 ft elevation gain).

When I signed up I figured it'd just be a fun way to end the triathlon season.  I figured, all the road cycling would be done for the year, and nationals would be over and I'd have plenty of time to recover in between.  Then, I'd still have 3 solid weeks to recover AGAIN before cyclocross season started.  It seemed like a good plan.

But as it turned out, I ended up doing lots of road cycling this year, with the team, including the The Tour of the Valley and the Hilly Billy Roubaix; and my training got slightly derailed.  My training since April has consisted of mostly recovery workouts, and racing on the weekends.  Which really means I swam easy and moderate two or three days a week, and cycled two or three days a week easy to moderate.  And ran very little.  Other than that...race...race...race (with a handful of speed workouts thrown in over the whole year).

Through June my average running mileage was about 1/2 what I typically do.  And as July snuck up, I realized that I needed to start lacing the running shoes up more if I was even going to survive Savageman injury free, let alone put up a respectable time.  And there was Nationals too.  Running more certainly wouldn't hurt.

So I squeezed in a couple longer runs in the last couple months (a couple 7's, an 8 and a 9 miler).  Too bad it didn't pay off at USAT nationals, as I ended up getting severe cramps and standing on the side of the road bent over double for the majority of that race.  But that's another blog post that I will get to eventually.  I'm not anxious to recount it.

Even with these runs, I was doubtful of how I'd do.  Especially after nationals went so poorly.  I was unsure if it was a 1 time thing (the cramping) or what.

But two weeks ago I did a couple of key workouts and they went really well (including the 9 miler), so I was hopeful.  I really just wanted to have fun at Savageman, and had no real goal for time (although some ball park figures), finish place, or anything like that.  The goal was to get my brick in the wall (video of people NOT making it here) and have a solid swim (try and get a PR) and that was that.

After my very easy warm-up in the morning (20min bike, 5 min run) we drove to Deep Creek, MD (race site) on Saturday afternoon.  We were staying with a friend whose in-laws were nice enough to let us stay in their lake side vacation home for free.  It was really nice!  That evening we dropped off my bike at transition, got my race packet, listened to the pre-race meeting, and I did a very short swim in the lake as a warm up.  The water was cold...

...but it was going to be a LOT colder the next morning.  At the start of the race temperature projections were in the mid-40's!  With the first 18 miles of the bike course being essentially all down hill, I was worried about what to wear and how I'd stay warm.  There was a clothes drop but I was not too psyched to use it; I'd have to carry a bag, and stop on the side of the road and take off my helmet and dis-robe and then set off again.  Seemed time consuming and annoying.  Over dinner with Carly and our friend Chris, I kept staring off into the distance, thinking about what I should do.  As I went to bed, I was still debating.

Not Bad!  Thanks Chris F!
Race morning I woke up (feeling pretty rested after a good nights sleep in a nice king size bed) and ate my bagel, and packed the car.  While I was packing the car I took notice of the temperature.  Didn't seem too bad.  Turns out the weather channel was wrong and it was 51 degrees already at 6am.  I was going to risk just wearing arm warmers, and no other layers on the bike.

We got to transition/race site at 7:00.  It was pretty quiet actually and we got a good parking place.  I was all set up (bottles in place, shoes on bike, gels taped on bike, etc.) by 7:30.  My swim heat started at 8:37.  So I had plenty of time to relax.  I did a nice warm-up (jog) and had plenty of time to go through my rituals.

  Honestly?  I didn't feel stellar.  Kinda flat.  Nothing like how I felt at Columbia (I felt great then), and better than Tour of Tucker County by a lot where I was fatigued just getting out of the car.  I was nervous about what would happen, but was hopeful.

Savageman is so different from any other triathlon I've ever done.  It's got a large race feel (500 racers + teams) but is SO laid back.  Everyone seems calm, and lots of people are just there to have a good time.  No PR's set on this course.  No qualifying for this or that or big prizes.

So at the swim start, there was no pushing for position.  There was a handful of racers "toeing" the line.  Everyone else was laughing and chatting.  I didn't try to get on the front line either; and every race, even nationals, I try and get in the front position (even if I'm not the fastest swimmer).  As the announcer yelled "15 seconds" I was smiling ear to ear.  I was so excited!

The swim went pretty well.  I decided on clear goggles because of the fog, but the sun was pretty bright too, and I had trouble sighting for the first portion of the course.  I just followed some feet, and tried to stay parallel with the shore.  The course follows the shore of the lake heading left from the beach at the state park, then loops back.  You continue past the beach to a giant Swan boat (no kidding) and loop back again to the beach.

I got kicked a little, and got elbowed once pretty hard, but with a small group it wasn't that bad.

On the back side of the rectangle (coming back past the beach) I started to fade a bit.  But as I sighted and was able to see the swan, the turn marker, I began thinking about the bike course that was coming, and I got pumped up.  Rounding the final corner, I turned it back on again.

As I approached the little rock jetty to the finish, my arm caught what I thought was a buoy line (I was pretty close to shore).  But it wouldn't release, and as the swimmer next to me hit it too, it pulled really hard on my wrist.  I realized with a shock, it was fishing line!

I stopped, popped up, and stood there pulling on it as the other guy tried to swim away.  I yelled to him and he stopped.  We untangled ourselves and then finished the final 50-100meters.  It could have been worse, but certainly cost me 30 seconds.  Bummer.

I still had a PR swim of 31:19.  Good enough for 82nd fastest swim.  I think if I had pushed through the fade on the far side and hadn't got caught in the fishing line I would have gone sub-30.  And that is just phenomenal.  I essentially swam a best case scenario.  I'm very happy with that!

I ran, not walked, to transition, and got my wetsuit off quick.  I had thought about the order of things, and so had a solid plan.  I put on my arm warmers first, then wrist GPS (gotta have the data for Strava duh!) and then helmet and race belt.  It was a long transition but I wanted to make sure I had everything.

I took off out of transition perfectly warm.

That wouldn't last.

Over the next 6 miles I tried to keep it very even.  No hammering and no storming up the rollers that come one after the other.  My race plan was to really pay attention to my power meter on every climb, and to not get out of control.  I wanted to stay in the saddle as much as possible.  AND I wanted to make sure that on flats and downhills I also tried to keep power UP and stay consistent.  I figured this would be a good plan for me.

After the first 6 miles you start to really descend.  It is steep and technical, and rough at times.  I lost my stupid aero water bottle.  $18 gone.  So irritating.  Good thing I have my other bottle in between my hands.

Despite not wanting to, I tried to drink and even took a gel on the way down to Westernport.  I knew I had to stay ahead of the game.  I set a timer on my watch to go off every 30 minutes to remind me to eat.  This worked really well.

It was super fun flying down to westernport, and a couple times I laughed out loud from nerves, because my back end actually cut loose and the bike got squirrelly.  I was probably pushing a little hard!

Anyways, I survived the downhill and passed a lot of people.  A lot!

But I was pretty cold when I saw the smoke stack in Westernport (mile 17).  My toes were 100% numb and my hands were pretty cold.  My legs felt OK, but I had the wall coming and wanted to make sure I was ready.  So I picked up the pace here and did more work than I would have if I was warmed up.  Probably also a good decision.
The Killer Miller cheering squad
Here is where all the climbing begins.  And where you can make or break your race.

The Westernport Wall is something of a mythical beast to triathletes.  It's a legend.  At 31% grade, it really does look like a wall.  But it's not just steep, it's pot hole filled and rougher than an ill-kept dirt road.  And if you make it over the top without falling down?

They put a brick with your name on it, in the road.

And it's not until I was there, in the race, that it really hit me.  I've ridden it before once, and it's pretty brutal.  But when I turned that corner and could see all the way up to the top of the climb, people lining both sides of the road, music blasting, I got it.  Horns were blaring, and people were screaming.  For me.

The Westernport Wall
Credit:  Hooslisa blog 
I had no one around me at the bottom, and I was ready to earn my brick.  I took it easy as I crossed the timing mat at the bottom (they time your ascent to the top of Big Savage- and this is the beginning of that 8 mile climb).  I paused, almost coming to a standstill at the base of the climb.  All I could hear was cheering and deafening cowbell.  Someone went down hard about 3/4 the way up.

As I approached, almost stunned, a scrawny guy, older fellow, turned to me, fists knotted and just SCREAMED in my face.  It was like a bucket of ice water.

Go time.

With all the screaming people, and the blasting music, my adrenaline was PUMPING.  I flew up the wall, no problem, arriving on the other side unscathed.  In fact, with all the people screaming, it felt easy.  When I got to the top, huffing and puffing, the music fading in the distance, I thought...that wasn't so bad!  Thank you to all the spectators, you made it so much easier!

The feeling of accomplishment started to wear off pretty quick as I began to climb savage mountain.  I grabbed a bottle from the aid station at the top and threw my almost empty bottle on the side of the road.  I took another Honey Stinger gel.

After the wall, and the aid station, it's an 8 mile climb that just keeps going up!  There is one section of down hill (of about a 1/3 of a mile) in between that gives a little respite, but the road is all tar and chip type surface, and as you approach the final 3 miles of the climb (miles 22-25) it really pitches up again (5% average).

I stayed within my comfort zone, in part to my (wise) choice of running a 34t chain ring and a 11-28t cassette.  In my lowest gear I could still maintain somewhat of a normal cadence while not going over 250-275 watts.

I had a few folks catch me here from the age group behind me (30-34 year old men).  And one older gentleman (54) who was just standing up grinding away at the climb.  I also had a few folks catch me that I had passed.  They were all working very very hard.  Most were out of the saddle, and I vividly remember one guy with sweat dripping down his face.  Good luck people.  I'll see you on the run for sure.  No way you're going to ride THAT hard this early in the race and survive the run.  There's no such thing as a good ride if your run suffers (sucks). [disclaimer: the only guy who did?  The 54 year old!]
Coming in to transition; ready for the run.
So I stayed within myself, and stuck to my plan.  The last stretch of big savage mountain is super steep (20% grade) and I was happy to get up and over it.  I snagged a bottle of whatever electrolyte drink they had here at the aid station, and ditched my empty bottle. There's some downhill after that, one more stretch of short steep up, and then you go DOWN.  Very steep at times, for miles, with big switch backs.  It kept me on my toes, but I passed and dropped several people, including one person in my age group.  I love those downhills, and I love going fast.  Nothing like being way back over your saddle...on a tri bike!

But importantly, unlike 80% of the people out there, I continued to put out power on the downhill grades and flats.  Most people just hammer the hills and then coast.  This is a great way to smoke your legs.  And I saw the evidence on the run (will discuss more later).  I felt very confident in my plan, and so stuck with it.

After this bit of downhill, you enter a very hard portion of the race.  I think it's harder than big savage.  It's a long section of rough, tar chip road that is constantly climbing at a slow steady rate.  It's very deceiving and an area where it'd be very easy to go much too hard.  Sticking to my plan I was in the little ring and pretty far up the cassette, and was barely maintaining a 12-13mph average.  Slow enough I often sat up out of the aerobars because little aerodynamic advantage when going that slow.

After this there is a good climb again.  It's steep with a couple 180 degree switch backs.  By the time I got to the top of this portion, I was hurting.  I took a gel again, but my legs were starting to feel pretty shot, and I was starting to get nervous for the run portion of the race.  Hope my plan would work out!

After another fast decent and ANOTHER really steep pitch off of a main road, you descend a bit more gently (but still very fast) and as you come down along a farm pasture, there's a sign that says "don't look left" with an arrow pointing left.  And as I read it I heard cheering, and naturally looked to my left.
Getting ready for the run;
notice how empty the rack is! 
I'm doing great!

Holy sh$t.  I took another Honey stinger gel.

Killer Miller, I had forgot.  How did I forget!?!?!  Last time I rode this, one of my training partners nearly had a panic attack on this climb.   As you turn the corner, there's a sign that says "Awesome!  Only 22%".  22% grade, at mile 40.  It really is bad!

I started to climb, turning the first switch back and hitting the steepest part.  The sweat was pouring from my face, for the first time all day.  But then the spectators saw me coming, and I was pretty much all by myself.  They focused all their energy on me, and I felt it.  Superwoman was there, as was Chewbacca, and a fraggle rock character.  And lots of vuvuzelas.

It was awesome, and I was all smiles again.  A guy with a thick accent (German?) and a rainbow fro ran next to me for at least a minute, yelling in my face.  It was incredible.  I said "thank you!" and he yelled back, pumping his fist "THANK YOU, YOU'RE THE REASON WE ARE HERE!"

It was at that point that I realized not only was I having a good race, but I was having so much fun.  This race is like nothing I'd ever done before...

I grabbed another bottle at the aid station at the top, and some electrolyte tabs.  I took another gel for good measure, although I didn't feel I needed it.

Some guy was clapping for me and yelled, "You're nearly done now!  Only rolling hills now!"

Bull crap.  The next 15 miles may be rolling in comparison to what we'd done so far...but at any other race it'd be considered extremely hilly!  I glanced at my watch and saw I had about 45 minutes to meet my best case bike time (3:15).  It was going to be hard.

I kept the power as high as I could during this part and took two gels in this period  I tried to stay in a relative comfort zone (200 wattsish) and not get suckered into the hammer-and-coast mentality.

This last portion is just so hard, because you're so tired, and all the big climbs with all the mystique and cheering fans are behind you.  But it's very beautiful, so there's lots to look at.  I found myself looking around  more than I ever have before in a triathlon.  Smiling again, ear to ear!

As I turned onto the park road, I was really happy to see that my time was going to be very close to my best-case-everything-went-perfect-goal (3 hours, 15 minutes).  I rocked the last portion, and pulled into the parking lot towards the transition zone in 3:19.  I was excited!

Turns out I had averaged 196 watts (16.7mph), 16 watts higher than I had projected, and only about 10 watts less than I averaged in Columbia, which is only 25 miles and has only a 6 mile run after!  In fact, if you take out the first 18 miles of this bike course where it's a lot of downhill, I average 203 watts which is only 6 watts less.  Truly an awesome performance for me, and makes me wonder if I've been racing the wrong distance all along.  This split was good enough for 55th overall, including a 54th fastest big savage mountain split.

I got out of my shoes and cruz'ed into the transition zone, standing on 1 pedal barefoot.  Lots of people were waiting around and there was lots of cheering.  I ran through transition to my spot, racked my bike, and took a deep breath.

How do I feel?  Unknown; TBD.  I put on my Zoots, grabbed 4 gels that I had set out, my hat and my glasses.  Carly was standing just across the fence on the outside of the transition, and was cheering for me.  She said she hadn't seen anyone yet from my age group come through.  Interesting.  I knew there had to be a couple at least out there- but probably less than 5.  But how many exactly?  And how far ahead?

I took off my arm warmers and ran out of transition.  I was really worried, after the cramping episode at nationals, what would happen.

But as I ran on, I felt great.  Not good; great.  I couldn't believe how good I felt, considering how cooked my legs had felt coming off the bike.  I glanced down at mile 1 and was doing a 7:45 pace!  This was much faster than I thought I'd be able to run, but given how comfortable I felt, and how well I was doing in my age group, I decided to risk it.

Even though I didn't want to, at the first aid station (mile 1) I took whatever electrolyte drink they gave me.  I figured if I took electrolyte drink at every aid station, and stuck to my gel plan (1 every 20-30min) I would be good.

I continued on super steady trying to pay very close attention to how I felt.  On every up hill I backed off the pace just a bit, and I tried to use the down hills to build up my average mile time.  I knew that I had to make the first loop feel easy if I was going to survive.

I continued on passing a lot of people.  And when I would get to turn arounds I would notice there was a small group of younger looking guys (my age) chasing me.  But every time I saw them, they would be further back, and more spread apart.  I was feeling very confident, and it was helping me power through all the little aches and pains, and the general fatigue that was overcoming me.

You run along the lake for a while on rolling hills before you hit the fire road.  I think it is a little over dramatized.  Yes, it's very steep and it is rocky, but most reports I've read people have to walk it.  I never felt like I needed to walk, and I actually maintained a nice shuffle the whole time.  At the top you get more aid, and then on the way down, while it's rough, you can run at a good clip if you have any agility at all.

However, as I was going up, there was a guy in front of me just SCREAMING in pain.  He was cramping so so badly.  He couldn't even stand up.  All I could think was; I've been there.  And it made me have butterflies in my stomach- I didn't want to experience that again!

I continued on, and at the 6 mile mark I was still averaging under an 8 minute mile.  I was still feeling good...although no longer great.  My knees were starting to ache a bit, and I actually had a slight headache.  My throat felt hoarse and I was getting slight intermittent side stitches.  I tried to focus on being smooth and relaxed.

As I ran by Carly on my way back out for the second loop, I said "I'm having a great race".  And she just screamed back at me "GO GO GO!!!"

On loop 2 I did start to slow.  I would just stare at the ground most of the time and force myself to try and hold pace.  But any pitch up I would slow considerably.  My hamstrings and quads were roasted.  My ankles were chaffing and so were my underarms.

But I was so happy.  I was so happy that I was going to make it; and while it certainly didn't feel easy, I wasn't miserable.  I was having FUN!

Going up the fire road again, for the last time, all I could think was: 2 miles.  You have TWO MILES and you'll be done.  You'll have done it!  Savageman!

Not only that, but somewhere in the last 2 miles I saw, and passed, a guy in my age group.  This was a huge boost- I blew by him like he was standing still.

In fact, the last mile I was able to step it up big time.  I ended up finishing on a 7:10 mile.
Chatting it up with a 
54 year old guy that
kicked my butt

Running through the shoot, Carly screaming for me, and the crowd cheering, I was beaming.  Every inch of my body ached, and I was chaffed in many places, of which many I will not mention here.  But I was done.  I  had done it.

I have never felt so great about a finish.  I crossed the line, arms up, big smile on my face, in 5:41:37.  A run time of 1:45:49, or an 8:04 mile average.  Good enough for 39th fastest run split.

5:41:37.  I figured a really solid goal was 6:15.  6:00 hours would have been a great race.  5:45 was my "best case" scenario.  Somehow I blew that away.  I'm still not sure exactly how I did it.  Sometimes everything just comes together.  I feel like I had a good plan, both before the race and during, and by sticking to it I taught myself that I am capable of more than I originally thought.

I ended up 35th overall, beating several "elites" and all but 1 "pro" woman (sold out 500 people signed up; 303 finishers).  While my result at Columbia might be technically better (89th of sold out 2400, 1900 finishers, 7/80 something in age group) this feels more significant.  While not everyone is fast at Savageman, no one is really a beginner.  There's lots of beginners at Columbia and many other triathlons I do.  No one does Savageman as their first triathlon.

I also got 2nd in my age group, of 15 athletes that finished.  That is good enough to qualify me for 2013 USAT Age Group Nationals (top 10% in AG, rounded up).  A little bonus!

So with that my Triathlon season comes to an end, with a BANG.  It was the most fun triathlon I've ever done, and it was probably one of my most surprising performances.  I mean, if I trained solely for this event, would I have done better?  Sure.  If I had run more, done some speed work, did some longer swim sets, and some bike hill repeats, would I have moved up some places?  Yeah.  Certainly.

But that wasn't the point.  The point was to have fun.  The result?  Well that is just another brick in my wall.


Monday, September 17, 2012

My #1 Fan!

I finished up my 2012 cycling season yesterday at the Colavita Eastern OH TT series in Deerfield, OH.  It was a special day for me because my #1 fan was there to cheer me on and she told me that she cheered extra loud since it was her daddy's birthday and he is getting old and cannot hear that well anymore. 

The weather was perfect for riding a fast time, but my legs seemed to disagree for some reason.  However, we still managed to win some hardware.

And since it was daddy's birthday we decided to celebrate by sharing the world's largest pancake at our favorite greasy spoon.  I only wish I would have taken some yummy Honey Stinger Organic Energy Gels to spread all over that gigantic pancake instead of maple syrup.

And at the end of the day both my lil partna and me both felt like champions.

And I must say that I do believe we also looked like champions in our fancy Dynamic Physical Therapy powered by Pathfinder kits made by Nalini.


Sometimes closing a chapter in someone’s life can be a moment of great excitement. And other times it can be a moment of great remorse. And as I’ve recently experienced, the moment can be filled with all kinds of bittersweet feelings. For those of you who aren’t in the know… my girlfriend of 4 years and I are in the process of heading in different directions. It had been slowly going down hill for the last year and several times I was ready to pull the plug but just couldn’t do it because of her two beautiful girls. Everyone said it was wrong to stay just for that reason, but I couldn’t help it, I just couldn’t call it quits on account of them. Fast forward to the end of June and Amy got to that point herself and pulled the plug on things. It would be simple to walk away if not for the house we own together and neither of us wanting to lose what we had.  So, all the plans that had been dreamed up for our 112 year old Victorian House were snubbed and I am now in the “finish what is started” mode so we can put it on the market after Christmas.

3 Bedroom, 1.5 bath, lots of new paint
But with the closing of one chapter creates the opportunity to start a new chapter in life. And while you have to remember the story you started in the previous chapters, there is something very refreshing about looking at life with a clean slate.  So after several weeks of weighing my options and testing out the waters as a bachelor, I finally found Molly who I could count on as my new best girl. While my old girl isn’t all that old, (even if you aged her in dog years) Molly is definitely a lot fresher, beautiful to look at, and has one fine chassis. We hung out all day Saturday, and I couldn’t help but smile when I would see her across the room leaning against the couch. We even engaged in some light caressing which lead to some heavy petting but we kept things on the downlow because Amy and the girls were around most of the day. Sunday came and I could contain my passion no longer and finally got to ride her.  With the girls headed to church on Sunday morning, Molly and I quietly slipped out of sight and got to know each other the way we both wanted.  I was amazed at just how beautiful she was as Molly’s bare frame lurched with each thrust and soon my sweat was glistening on her back as we became one. An hour and forty minutes later, we were no longer wondering what it was going to be like. The deed was done and a smile adorned my face the rest of the day… And now I want to introduce the world to Molly:

Molly, my 2011 Cannondale Caad X cross bike (Kenda Small Block 8's on order)

I want to thank the fine folks at Pathfinder of WV for pairing us up. She’s a sweetheart!

Friday, September 14, 2012

the leaves are turning

With the summer drawing to a close, and the changing of the leaves and seasons soon upon us.  I reflect on the road season so far and realize I have made so strides as a rider, learn more about me, and what a great season with my teammate on the roads.  I've learn that though I enjoy climbing I'm not particularly fast enough to hold with the group yet.

My best race came early in the year with Greene County Road Race with 50 degree weather and a steady rain, these particular elements I for some reason enjoy even being a smaller guy without much bulk to keep me warm.  This was shown again with my last race at the oval.  Where I had taken 3rd in the 4/5 race and 5th in the 3/4 race with 50-60 degree temperature's and a steady rain.

Now that the season is starting to roll over in to 'cross season.  I am reminded how much I enjoy this torture session we call cyclocross.  With my cross season starting at Baltimore for the Charm City Cyclocross Race, were I had started last year.  With a some what pleasant finish at 40 something out of a field 100+ and started within the last 10 to 20 riders(due to a late registration), I was really pleased to be able to move up through more than half of the field.  This year though I got registered early slotting within the top 35, with a better starting place this year i am hoping for a much better result this time around.

As I stated before I enjoy the chilly and wet race which is why I particularly enjoy cyclocross.  This season should be a blast racing with and against some of my stronger teammate that had pretty much dominated me last year.   This has been a great year of racing, even without to many great results from me, my teammates defiantly made it a blast.  Best of luck to the entire team this up coming cyclocross season

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Labor Day weekend in pictures

'til next time...keep the rubber side down.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Crash Motivation

Hi!! Its been awhile since I have posted, but not for lack of training and working. This summer has been trying as I am in my second year of residency, which has required more responsibility and time. I have still been able to get in some pretty good training rides. One of the low points of the month was a crash I suffered the Wednesday before the Appalachian Revised ABRA series finale. It was high speed crash and the worse part was that I cracked the frame of my beloved Cannondale EVO, Pathfinder of WV really does have the best selection of bikes!! I was definitely rattled. I had 48 hours to fix up my Cannondale SuperX for the big race. Thanks to Pathfinder again for all their support throughout the process. The bike was riding great and I was excited to compete for the series title This year I did not get to preview the course, but I was excited to ride on such a pretty course. At the beginning of the race I was feeling ok, then I started to feel stronger. I stayed with my main competitors til the last climb but could not hold on. Those ladies rode strong!! Congrats to all my competitors. Overall, after adapting to a new bike and not having 1 training ride over 50 miles during the month of August, I was happy with my result- second in the series! 
I am ready for cross season and even more motivated to get stronger for next season! I cannot say thanks enough to Pathfinder of WV and all my teammates and sponsors for making this a great season!

Closing Out the Race Season

The past few weeks denoted the respective series finales for both the ABRA Criterium and Road series. For me, I was targeting a series win in the criterium series, as I was sitting 4 points from the lead in the 3/4 category heading into the final race. Although I hadn't planned on targeting the criterium series at the start of the year, it was exciting to once again be in contention for a series championship jersey. To prepare for the California Grand Prix, the final criterium, adjustments were made in my training plan to become more focused on the high-intensity efforts of such a race. This meant weeks of jumps, sprints, and even intervals on the trainer! in August! As brutal as they were (especially the trainer intervals), I could tell all the work was paying off.

Heading into race-day, there was a lot of chatter and support within the team on how to help me win the title / race. For this - I can't say enough how awesome it is to be a part of a team that is dedicated to help out. Our pre-race plans were pretty simple, to cover any breaks that look threatening and kick up the pace on the bell lap, in attempt to lead me out. The race was a standard, four corner criterium held in downtown California, PA. As we lined up, Jeff Koontz (the series leader) and I wished each other luck and soon enough the race was underway.

Right away, the race got interesting. I literally mean right away, as one of the riders to my left completely screwed up clipping in and almost fell into Jeff Gernert and I. Although I didn't have to put a foot down, I got stuck in a serious delay and was forced to start the race towards the back of the field. I spent the next few laps slowly working my way back into the upper third of the field, where I wanted to be. While doing this, an early breakaway of two formed, containing arguably two of the strongest riders in the race. Both with teams smart enough to block. Certainly, had I been in better position early, I would have had a chance to make it a break of three.

The break stayed away for a few laps. Eventually, it started to become clear that the field was not closing the gap down, as it had opened to 15+ seconds. Feeling strong, knowing that the past months training had prepared me for bridge efforts. I made a hard move in an effort to jump to the break. It started off really well. I opened up a huge gap on the field on the backstretch and was slowly closing in on the break. Coming through the finish I got a little extra jolt of energy listening to the commentary from J.R. encouraging me to dig deeper. I got about 30 feet from the break before my legs started to fatigue. So close. Not risking anything, I sat up, and let the field catch me. Although, the bridge failed, the field started to up the pace once I attacked and it wasn't long before the break gave up as well.

The rest of the race was pretty un-eventful. There were prize primes, which I wasn't interested in going for. At some point, the field had caught up to Shawn and Jeff, who had been caught up in a crash that occurred earlier in the race, which was unfortunate as both were primed to be ready to provide lead-out assistance when needed. As the number of laps ticked downwards, the pace started to pick up. With 5 to go, the points prime was called. The prime was for 2, crucial points in the series standings, which I expected the field not to contest. I assumed my competition was going to make a move at it, but, having gapped the field once earlier in the race, I was pretty confident I could do it again and take the prime.

I made my move about halfway through the back stretch, coming in hot into turn three. Nearing it, I yelled out to the guy up front that I'm taking the inside. For some reason, this really pissed off the guy 2nd in line, and he proceeded to block me into the turn and further, tried to run me off the road in between turn 3 and 4. Really annoyed, but too focused to argue or vent back, I kicked through turn 4 and made an effort to go for the prime. Unfortunately, coming into the sprint, I saw my competition come off my wheel and pass ahead. I tried to push harder, but after doing all that work I couldn't make up the gap and lost 2 more points. Couldn't say I was surprised, but disappointing nonetheless. Although I can't say for certain, its very possible if I don't lose speed having to deal with someone trying to ride me off the road, then I could have had better odds of making the sprint.

Immediately after, I came back into turn 1 really fast. It was here where things continued to go downhill. I hit a small pothole really hard with my rear wheel while going through the turn. In doing so, my tire did not seem to be rolling properly. Worried I had flatted, I slowed, looking back to see if indeed, a flat had occurred. It didn't look like it, but something wasn't feeling right. At this point the field had come through and I needed to re-focus on the race. I fell into the back half trying to get up to speed again, but I was hurting badly from the sprint effort on the previous lap. Being stuck near the back only made things worse, as I had to fight the slinky effect through each turn. That is, slowing, followed by a light sprint outwards, to which, I was quickly losing the ability to do.

With 3 to go, I couldn't hang on any more and I fell off the back. This was pretty disappointing, as at that point I knew I had pretty much lost my chance at the series win. It was here I also could hear the sound of my rear brake was rubbing into the wheel, which no doubt was caused by hitting that pothole.

In the end, I finished second in the series, an accomplishment I'm still proud of, even with how the finale played out.