Friday, May 31, 2013

Win and Lose: Mckeesport Criterium & Greene County Road Race

Mckeesport Criterium

A couple of weeks ago I had my first cycling win ever.  I raced the cat 4/5 criterium at Mckeesport, PA (ABRA race) first, and the cat 3/4 race later in the afternoon.

I had raced the Oval on Wednesday the week before in Pittsburgh with some guys from the team.  Because of the weather they decided to combine the 3/4 and 1/2/3 race together- 32 guys, and I got 10th.  I was very happy with that, since it was my first time there and the competition was pretty serious.

However, coming into the race, I was pretty tired.  My legs just felt flat and sore.

That, and we got there later than I probably should have, and felt off my routine.  I was running around doing stuff, and next thing I knew it was 45 minutes before race and I still had jeans on.  I scrambled to get my stuff together, ate a bagel, and went out to ride the course and warm-up.

I met team mate Devon on course and he showed me a hill to do some harder warm-up intervals on.  It worked perfectly for that, but I felt horrible.  I was actually a bit shaky and just felt "off".  I went back to the team area and took a Honey Stinger gel and got my bottles of Clif electrolyte drink.

If cyclocross has taught me anything, it is that sometimes feeling bad means nothing.  So I just kept my mindset positive, and told my team mates I wanted the win.  They said they'd help me best they could, and we all went out for a couple more laps of the course.

The course was a bit like a triangle, with 3 90 degree turns.  From start you rolled up to the first right hand 90 (corner 1), then slight down to a slow sweeping right that led into a sharp, short hill.  Then, false flat to a sweeping  right handed 90 (corner 2), then scream down a hill to a stop light, 90 right here (corner 3), and then about 200m to the finish on a slight up (false flat).  It was all around a park, and the course was very quiet and interesting- lots of little features that made it fun.

At the start, I just rolled to the front.  30 seconds into the race, team mate Jeff attacked, and there was a modest chase.  He stayed out for 2 laps, but we caught him.  I stayed pretty well on the front all the way until the first prime.  On this lap, I attacked from about 5th position up the hill and got a big gap going into corner 2.  I looked over my shoulder and saw no one so just sat up and took it easy down the hill.

Oops.  A racer was on my tail, and I missed him.  He blasted by me and I didn't even react.  I didn't want to waste any more energy, the attack was more to see how I felt anyways.  So he got the prize, and I just kept on moderately as I had been doing.

When I caught him, I asked if he wanted to keep working and try and stay away, but he said he didn't.  I stayed out front for almost another lap, and then that was that.

The next prime, I jumped out after the same rider as he went for it again.  This time, there were 4 of us that broke free.  But I didn't challenge for the prime, I just wanted to make sure these guys didn't get away.

The race then felt pretty slow.  Actually, it felt slow the whole time, which was good, because I didn't feel well at all.  I think if people had been trying to blow it up, I wouldn't have faired so well.

On the 3rd prime the same rider attacked and we let him go.  I think if he had just kept going he had the strength to stay away, but he didn't.  So we caught him.

At this point, we had no more than 4 laps left.  I stayed right at the front, in 1-4th position, even though I was probably wasting a little energy constantly jostling to get up there.

With 2 to go, team mate Jeff came up in front of me, and it was 1 rider, him, then me.  We stayed like that the whole 2nd to go lap, then on the last lap Jeff pulled around the 1 rider and we were 1-2.  I was getting pumped for the sprint, and focusing on sticking to his wheel.

But on the little climb on the last lap, a very strong rider (think, pro-mountain bike licence) jumped out for an attack.  When this happened, I knew I had to go with it.  I pounced on his wheel and we swung around Jeff.

He was going hard, but I definitely felt I could hang.  And as we approached corner 3, I took a chance and fired the afterburners and went by on the right side.  I came into corner 3 first, screamed down the hill, and took corner 4 hard.  My Kenda's stuck hard, and I launched my sprint from the front of the group, from the corner.

Was this smart?  Nope.  It's a risky move starting a sprint that far out, especially for me, and especially when you're in 1st position!

But it didn't matter- I pulled away from the group, and even though I let up a little because I thought I was alone, I won by a couple bike lengths.

So, a fairly boring race, but everything went right as we had planned.  My first win felt great, and I was very happy considering how I felt that I had secured it.

After much sitting around, helping with the race, I then raced the 3/4 race.  My job was simple: attack when you can, make sure no one got away, and help teammates Todd and Devon in the end (if I was there).

I won't go into the detail, but I attacked after a bunch of very fast laps, and stayed out front for 2 laps.  That felt great.  But when I got back into the group, I got dropped.  I dangled for several laps, and then finally got back on.  I fell off again, and worked hard to get back on for the final 5-6 laps.  I did, barely, and stayed in the group until the final lap.  Coming into the hill, I messed up, and slid back, and then I was popped off again.  I finished as the last man in the main group, just by the skin of my teeth.  But, Devon got 4th, and Todd 7th, so it was a good day for the team.

I might also add, that Stephanie had a great race, with a 2nd place finish in the womens cat 1/2/3 field.

So that was that.

The next weekend was the Greene County Road Race.  It's my favorite road race.  It was my first road race ever (2 years ago) and it was my best road result up until this year (9th in 2012).

The course this year was a bit different, but generally the same.  42 miles, with a very steep climb at 4 miles, then the next doesn't come until 24 miles, then 29, and then finally 38.  Nothing crazy, nothing exceedingly long (although the climb at 29 is certainly not short), and lots of flat and rolling terrain to keep me happy.

I drove the course morning of, just to make sure I knew what I was up against.  Race day routine was the same otherwise, bagel, cliff drink, honey stinger bars and chews and just milling around and trying to stay calm.  Lube everything up with progold, and check over the beautiful SuperSix

I did a really good warm-up riding the first and last hill with team mates EJ and Todd.  I didn't feel very good, but I hadn't for some time (more than a week) and figured it was just a little nerves and feeling flat from taking it easy before the race.

I really wanted to podium, and thought maybe I could win.  After all, I felt this was my course.

At the start, things started to go wrong immediately.  Jeff's wheel exploded only a mile into the race (and he had to go back to get another wheel), and not long after that, the whole field exploded.  When we hit the first climb, we went from a group of 40+ to a group of 9.  And we're only 5 miles into the race.

I was doing well, but feeling horrible.  I didn't get in the first group immediately, but fell off with 1 other rider and had to chase for a bit.  I told the other rider to hold off chasing hard as the course drops again and then levels off.  I knew on the descent we could catch back on.

And we did.  Team mate Jonathan was in it when I caught them, but after a few miles of seriously hard tempo riding, he got dropped (he was having back trouble).

So now I'm in a strong break away of 8.

But the folks at the front were being stupid.  Attacking, surging, not riding smart.

So naturally, I just started yelling at everyone.

I got it pretty organized, but there were a few guys in the group that were strong but either didn't have any experience, or just didn't care, or couldn't handle their bikes.  Which I think all were true.

After not much time, we dropped 1 rider, and then after not much longer after that I was also dropped.

It's funny how it happens, you look down, you're fine, you look up, and boom- you're off the back.

So for a while I dangled about 200 yards off the back...but soon it was 500 yards, and then they were out of sight.  I rode along for a while alone, but kept glancing back.  I knew I needed someone to ride with if I was to stand any chance.

After a few more miles, I could see a rider far back in the distance.  I immediately slowed up and let him catch me.

Upon catching me we exchanged pleasantries and immediately hatched a plan.  20 seconds on the front, no more than a minute at a time between rotations was the plan.  Keep the tempo high, but don't got crazy before the next climb.

It was working great.  We were both tired, and working hard, but we were sticking together.  I didn't feel too stellar, but it was working.

When we got to the next climb, I could tell the other rider- Rich- was going to ride away.  He tried to be encouraging- after all, he needed me too- we still had a ways to go and a solo break would be tough.  Who knew how many folks were behind us.

So he gapped me up the climb- I just was not feeling it.  I couldn't get it going.

But coming down the other side I put it into pro-descend mode, and caught him in no time at all.  I told him to give me just a minute or so recovery and I'd start rotating.  I drank some water, and took a gel.  After only a minute or so, I was ready to do some work again.

And so we rotated back and forth for quite a few miles.  Through the flats we tried to keep short pulls, as the wind was really starting to wear on us.  However, we were also catching Cat 3/4 racers, and this was motivating to both of us.

Going up the big climb at mile 38 (???) my fellow rider broke away from me again.  But this time, the climb was long and my tempo/TT abilities paid off, and I caught him well before the top.  We rode side by side the rest of the way, and then dove hard down the other side.  I lead as we screamed along, and I thought, very confidently, that there was no way anyone would catch us now.

I was wrong.

Not much longer after that, a group of 4 or 5 caught us.  They were strong, and had been working well together and had been part of a larger group.  They were fresher than we were, definitely more than I.

We all rotated through until the final climb (5 miles from the finish).  At the bottom, I was dropped by the group, but worked into the climb, and ended up cresting right behind the little group and in front of another rider.  Screaming down the other side (at 50mph!) I tried hard to catch the little group.

On the flat at the bottom, one of the riders in the group of 4 or 5 caught me and I grabbed his wheel.  I held on best I could, but was absolutely dying.  I was falling apart- no power, and no energy.

And then I made a fatal mistake.  He surged to latch onto the back of the small group- only 100 yards ahead of us- and I was looking down at my water bottle.


I tried to counter, but I couldn't.

And so for the final 3 miles, I watched them slowly pull away, with any hope I had for a top 10 finish.

I rolled across the line alone except for a Cat 3/4 rider who had just been riding with me, as he'd been dropped off his category (they had started 10 minutes in front of us).


I was disappointed, but I knew it wasn't my day.  I could tell from the start.

Still, all things considered, it was one of my better road races (in fact my 2nd best) and in retrospect, I did well when you take all the factors into play.

I'll just have to do better next time.

(and I did- blogs coming on my 1st place finish at WISP Mountain Bike Race and 7th place finish at Tour of Tucker County)

mountain biking in may.

This past month seemed to be about mountain biking as much as it as road racing. I first started mountain bike racing 2010 with a 7 mile time trial at Bavington i finished in just over an hour for the course, about 10-15 minutes behind the winners of my category. In 2011 i did my first real mountain bike race with a mass start, at wisp resort in deep creek, MD. Now as a road rider I have the engine for mountain biking, but in the woods im a neanderthal and just lack any finesse, most obstacles and technical stuff I'm slow through and pick the worst lines but still somehow manage to power through them. At wisp my first time, we started and had a fast and smooth start to the trail head. I hit the woods in second place or since this was my first mass start I didn't want to lead since I had no idea what I was doing. Well wisp is a straight down and back up course, especially this first year. By the time I had reached the base of the descent and started climbing I had lost a lot of time and was sitting in 6th or 7th place in the beginner field. The final ascent was about 3 miles of fire trails perfect for the roadie in me and I managed to pull back all my competitors and win my first ever mountain bike race by a couple of minutes. in 2012 I had intended to do more races since it was so fun and I could use the technical experience when it came to cross. Last years season started in may with 9 hours of cranky monkey, that I did with scott house and mike janeiro in 105+ trio. My time were in the middle of scott and mike and I didn't think they were too bad. By the end of the day we had managed to pick up 5th place in or category and lost 4th place by 4 minutes, coincidently I had stopped on my second lap to help someone with a broken chain for about 4 minutes. After a podium at cranky monkey I felt good about mountain biking and raced wisp again. This time I wouldn't enjoy wisp as much. Jr had changed the course this and added more single track to the start and on the finally climb but still had a long climb. since I win the beginner class the year before I didn't feel right about racing it again, and moved up to the sport class. Now instead of pushing hard on the climb I opted to take it easy because I now had a second lap to do, I crossed the line and started my second lap in just under a hour, about 10 mins faster than the beginners leaders actually did and I realized I made the right choice in not sandbagging. My second lap I had bonked and the base of the descent and once I started climbing I flatted and my spare tube had a slow leak in it, meaning I had to stop and refill it often. This made the final climb very grueling. I finished the day in dead last. In july I had injured myself and took a month off of riding and missed the last 2 abra races. This year started off with wisp. with a lot more single track than past years. It had been rain the days leading up and the entire race which lead to a very muddy course. I found out I really enjoy racing in the mud for cross, how about for mountain. A few weeks earlier I set up my wheels and tires tubeless and this was their first race experience. I had gotten the kenda navagals, my ideal tire because I like a tire that also looks like it will have awesome grip. Now on the descent this year with it being muddy some people were being a bit hesitant, I was just following wheels until I thought I could easily get around them and I was sitting in the top 10 before I lost my rear brake, I stopped on the tail side to try and fix it, but couldn't open my bag to get my multi tool, oh well it's just a rear I still have the front just have to be careful and not go over the bars. A mile later or so my rear derailleur quit shifting up the cassette but would shift down and could do it manually, I lost a few more places. A bit later going through some switch backs I realized I was going in too hot and grabbed the front brake and nothing, no brake and blew through the turn. At this point I called it I just wanted to get to the finish there was no way I was going to safely finish the race. I did a mixture of riding the climbs and running the descents and got to the finish. Though I will say that I truly enjoyed the mud and that the navagals made it even more fun had a couple people comment how much faster through the slop than they were, now if only my bike enjoyed the mud like I did.

nothing to brag about...

I keep holding off writing my blog, hoping something strange will happen and I will have a result to share that I am proud of. But once again, the month of May was a bust for me, results wise. On the flip side, I can emphatically say I had an absolute blast riding a few of the races.  One such race that was so much fun was the 9 Hours of Cranky Monkey at Rocky  Gap State Park.

The weekend started for me on Friday, May 17, when I got to talk about bike safety to all of the 2nd graders at Waynesburg Central Elementary School.  This was the 5th year in a row that I've been invited to talk to the school as part of the Safety Days, but the first year that I didn't have either a niece, nephew, or other semi-related child that I had to look forward to seeing. It wasn't until the 8th, and final session of the day that I actually recognized any of the kids, and that was only a kid I had coached in soccer U6, several years ago. It was fun, but I also felt a little disappointed that I hadn't had that special connection with a kid or two like I have always enjoyed in years past. Oh well, if I get invited back for year #6, I know I get to look forward to seeing a special little girl.

Following Safety Day, I made a bee line for Rocky Gap, where I planned to camp the rest of the weekend. The trip was uneventful but I arrived to find out that the course had already taken its toll on equipment. Stephanie had somehow managed to snakebite her tubeless tire and we were forced to replace her old tubeless set up with a new Kenda. Easy if you have the luxury of a compressor in a bike shop, but when you have a limited number of CO2 cartridges, each time you tap into one, you have to hold your breath that it works. Finally, after a couple of feeble attempts with my (apparently worthless) CO2 mini pump, Sean Hilty, mechanic from Pathfinder of WV stepped in with the right tool for the job and she was back in business. But that rocky descent had done even bigger damage to the team fleet of Cannondales. JR's Scapel had sustained a direct hit to the down tube and had cracked the frame at the bottom bracket. Nothing in anyones toolbox was going to fix that in camp.

Saturday morning came and my 2 other teammates for the Powered by Pathfinder team were Sean Hilty (Pathfinder of WV) and Shawn Geiger (fellow DPT cruiser) started talking race strategy. I wasn't sure just what was going to happen, but I knew 1 thing.... as the senior rider on the team, I was NOT taking the first leg that involved running almost a half mile from the start to the bicycle staging area.  In fact, I called 3rd of 3 legs, just so that if we didn't make the anticipated 12 laps, I would only have to ride 3 (and that strategy paid off, thanks to Geiger having a couple of laps involving lengthy mechanicals.) The thing that really surprised me was that each lap that I did do, I got faster. The first lap was almost 40 seconds slower than my second, which was almost a minute slower than the third. I kind of wish I had been able to do a 4th lap, just to see if I could finally break the 45 minute barrier I had been chasing the last 2 years.  I guess that means I will just have to come back next season.

Thankfully the weather held off, aside from some cold temperatures, and the after party was so worth the drive and the pain we'd just endured. If nothing else, the ABRA crew knows how to have a good time.  And lets hope that holds true going forward as June looks to be a very busy month again.  Next up is the ABRA Short Track Race on 6/1 followed by the Fort Cherry Road Race on 6/2. Maybe I will finally get a result to be proud of.

Finally able to represent Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling powered by Pathfinder on the podium!

Finally able to represent Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling powered by Pathfinder on the podium!

So it took my first TT of the season to be able to represent Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling powered by Pathfinder on the podium.  On Sunday, May 19th I participated in the Eastern Ohio Time Trial series race #1.  I was a little discouraged with my time hoping to go a handful of seconds faster.  I completed the 12.7 mile out and back course in 29:01.  The time was good enough to place me 1st in the Male 30-39 category and get me the 3rd fastest time overall on the day.  However, what was so disappointing is the tailwind I had going out gave me a 27.8 average mph at the turn around leaving me to think I had a sub 29 minute TT in the bag.  That was not the case, however, because the headwind coming back slowed me down to a 24.8 average mile per hour.  Even with the headwind coming back I crossed the line asking myself “Really Billy, you couldn’t have pushed yourself a little harder to at least go a couple seconds faster?”  Needless to say I was not happy with myself and my time.  However, this did fuel the fire for me to get on my road bike and ride home from the TT to hit every climb around my house as hard as I could to prepare for Tour of Tucker County.  I can definitely say I was riding angry!
It was very nice to represent Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling powered by Pathfinder on the podium though.  I ride for a team that has amazing sponsors, a manager that is the nicest guy one could ever meet, and teammates who work together and have a lot of fun together.





Thank you to all of our great team sponsors. 

Thanks for reading and God Bless,




Memorial Weekend Racing in the Midwest

Memorial weekend I traveled to Iowa and Illinois to do three criteriums. They were a lot of fun but it rained almost all weekend. The weekend started with Snake Alley Criterium. The rain poured for my entire race so riding up the brick/cobble stone winding road was a little slick but still fun. The corners on the way down the hill around the block were a little concerning since some parts of the road looked like there was a little river running down the street. The rain let up just after my dad's race started but everything was still wet for the rest of the day. 

The second day was the Melon City Criterium, it rained on and off during my race. The course had a big speed bump at the bottom of the hill so every lap we got a little bit of air when we hit the speed bump at about 30 mph. I got 7th out of 17 in this race which was a little disappointing since payout went  to 6 places but overall I felt great during the race. The entire weekend was part of the junior development series. I've never seen that many people in the junior fields as well as a fair amount of junior women.

The third day was the Quad Cities Criterium. Finally no rain during my race! This was a really good thing since this course has 8 corners which all have cobble stone cross walks which would have probably caused a few people to slide out around the corners if it was raining. Also this course was totally flat which was weird to be able to ride about 15 miles without climbing at all. My field had 30 women start the race, there were a few attacks throughout the race but most of the field stayed together since the pack finished with 24 people. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Food for Thought

You train and race hard but do you Fuel your Body Right?

Keep this in mind when fueling your Body!

Before you ride...

Low Fat Dairy like yogurt and cheese is a great source of calcium, vitamin D and helps preserve fat-burning muscle. You will be able to ride faster and longer!

Go Bananas-this healthy carb helps keep the cells hydrated and boosts potassium levels. Win the war against cramping!

Oranges-continue the fight against cramping and dehydration using healthy carbs and vitamin C. Studies suggest oranges boost fat burning potential too!

Oatmeal-Whole grains like oatmeal are packed with healthy fiber and prevent blood sugar spikes! Do your part to prevent the dreaded BONK!

After your Ride...

Go Nuts-Walnuts are loaded in Omega 3's and will curb your post workout eating. 

Eggs-Just like your brain after a workout-SCRAMBLED! Eggs are a quick and easy source of fats and protein to fuel muscle recovery!

Go Fish-Oily fishes like Salmon are loaded in Omega 3's and will help rebuild damaged muscle and speed recovery. 

Just food for Thought

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

remember it's just Cross Training

Will Rogers State Park, Santa Monica CA

Something happens where the pavement gives way to grass, dirt, and GRAVEL.  It’s an escape from the predictable urban landscape that I spend the majority of my pedal time navigating.  In peak road race training cycles my cross bike keeps me sane.  I am a competitor no matter the discipline so I find that I’m constantly reminding myself that although I want some decent road results I’m actually doing all of this work with Performance Coaching Services as training for cyclocross season.  I can't praise Rob and his coaching enough.  I'm new to riding and racing and it's the best investment I've made thus far.  A coach will make you faster than any carbon tubular or ultralight bike.  He's patient even when I have one thousand questions about a workout and his weekly schedules have helped me prioritize around family and work.   I didn’t think I’d have much in the way of technical skills or handling required to navigate a mud ridden cross course.  I originally intended to race cross in an effort to maintain fitness year round and prep for road racing.  The pedal stroke that propelled bike and body off pavement and onto some dirt and grass changed that very quickly.  On the pavement my bike felt sluggish and inefficient.  Off the pavement and winding through a cross course was like being a 12 year old hooligan on a BMX bike tearing up the neighbors grass.  Some of the suffering gave way to ear to ear grins and space between myself and the field started to appear naturally.  What makes this sport even more awesome is the accessibility.  My gang of 2 devoted fans (Emily and our Daughter) will certainly be waiting patiently at a handful of road race finish lines but they can’t really experience road racing, not like being lined up against the Kenda Tire course tape with a whiskey spiked winter warmer in one hand and cowbell in the other.  It was an amazing feeling for me.  They could finally have some point of reference for the passion, pain, and fun of racing bicycles.  I swear I even noticed Emily thinking “I could try this…if it wasn’t always so cold”.  It was an incredible first season of cross with lots of highs and very few lows.  I even managed to fly my bike out to Southern California and race two events in the So-Cal Cross series.  I knew my cross season was wrapping up early so I planned to kick off 2013 with a grueling gravel grinder of 50 Miles and 7,000ft of climbing known as Southern Cross in Georgia.  I’ve decided I will not go into detail regarding my Southern Cross race.  In short, my effort was mediocre, my result is evident of that, but by the end of the race I had improved my descending skills (no choice in the matter, it was descend well die).  However, it was the most beautiful and unique bicycle ride I have ever done and it leaves me aching for another road trip into the mountains in search of fire roads and loose gravel.  Now I must get my head out of the woods and mentally prepare for the most grueling ride of the year, Tour of Tucker County.
Emily Palmer and I at Black Water Falls during Tour Of Tucker County
After a sketchy descent that almost left me alone in a ditch last year I swore I wouldn’t race Tucker ever again.  Now I’m actually looking forward to it.  I’m sure I’m going to be eating my words when I hit the wall that is the final climb.  I hope to be able to load my body with enough Honey Stinger fuel that I can keep a slow but steady cadence to the top. 
Tour of Tucker 2012.  Not Stoked. 

I’ve decided to forgo the 4/5 1st place road race finish that I’ve been chasing in an effort to become a stronger all around racer by rolling in the 3/4 road races.  It also provides an opportunity to help out some teammates which are better suited for ridiculous climbs like Tucker.  I look forward to doing my part.  Laugh Now Cry Later.