Thursday, April 30, 2015

Not Where I Planned to Be, But Dealing With It

With collegiate road nationals around the corner, it’s safe to say this guy is not where he wanted to be.  Obviously, a lack of training, or just riding my bike for that matter, has played the key role in my current lack of fitness.  A lot of it has to do with time, and some limitations as of late, but with it all starting to come around, I hope May can turn it all around for me.

            Looking back, it all started last summer when I continuously got flat after flat until I was no longer motivated to ride.  It really sucks trying to fix a flat on a ride with a CO2 cartridge or hand pump.  This started carrying over into the fall where at one point, I had flatted 8 times in just 6 rides (those 6 rides were few and far between).  Then every time was another trip to the shop to get more tube.

            Then school started getting busy, and I’ve been in 5th gear since.  As a senior in mechanical engineering, the classes got hard and the projects piled in, specifically my capstone.  Fortunately, I learned how to manage my time quite quickly and was able to set aside a few hours a week to ride, getting base miles in less than 4 hours per week.  The weather this winter also really got in the way.  With 2 early season races cancelled because of weather, I was unable to acquire some much needed race-into-shape training. 

            Once the weather did get nice, I decided to take my bike outside.  When I got about 3 miles into my ride, I shifted and ripped the rear derailleur off, pulling the bolt that held my dropout to my frame out of my frame.  That’s a frame ruined.  So, I spent the next three weeks on a loner bike that was way different in geometry than my Evo, which I speculate began my knee issue from racing without my regular fit.

            Spring break rolled around, and I had scheduled surgery to get my wisdom teeth removed the Monday of spring break.  Let’s just say I ate a lot of pudding.  I did basically nothing then tried to race again at the end of that week.  Not yet fully recovered, I was in a lot of pain, feeling my pulse in my jaw and thought I could taste blood. 
6 lb shake with the fam.  You can notice how swollen my jaws were from the Navy race.

Also, my knee was still screwed up, so bad that it became physically impossible to pedal.  That’s when I decided to see Rob at Dynamic and get myself worked out.  I got dry needled, and it was….an experience.  After he was done, my hands were tingling because of how hard I was squeezing them. 

            The next week at Morgantown Road Race, it felt so much better.  We had two more needling sessions still, because of a few lingering issues.  I am still currently having some pain, but nothing like before the first session.  I also am keeping on my foam roller and electric stimulation to try to work out the knots in my thigh causing the inflammation in my knee. Also helping is my new, sweet looking Evo that Pathfinder and Cannondale hooked me up with.
Matte Black EVO!!

            Still during all this time, #seniorstatus began to be for real.  This semester was my capstone semester and it took a toll on me.  I had two all-nighters and several nights with limited sleep.  Amazingly, with my thirst for beverages, I haven’t been able to go out and consume one of my favorite past times.  However, this did cause a drop in my weight, losing about 5 lbs. in about 6 weeks.  I’m finally done with my capstone project, but it now becomes catch up time the week before finals to get 3 other projects done and turned in as well as study for finals, move out of my apartment, and prepare for #collnats.  There is now just becoming a point where I have to stay on track and set aside all distractions in order to stay on track with my goals for this year and in the future.

            Wish me luck as I embark on I’m not sure what with the mind set of what did I get in to?  Nonetheless, with all these issues passed me, hopefully this May I can turn it all around.  Knee rehabilitation and just riding my bike more (lower intensity until that gets worked out).  I can also look forward to riding all summer in Florida and racing next fall when I will be on a leave of absence from school.  Maybe this time next year will be a different story. 

2015 Cycling Season...Let the races begin...not sure if I'm ready yet.

"Training Camp" at Harbour Island, Bahamas
The 2015 cycling seasons have finally arrived, whether or not spring weather cared to join it.  Due to a harsh winter full of icy conditions on the mountain, we were forced to take off-season training to a much warmer climate.  So, like many other cyclists, I enrolled in a training camp on Harbour Island, Bahamas, to jumpstart my fitness for the year.  The eight-day camp involved daily cross-training sessions of snorkeling coral reefs for starfish, sand dollars and other sea creatures, and single-speed cycling from one end of the island to the other, and back.   Two-a-day workouts were surprisingly common, but unexpected, and usually involved treks when ‘energy drinks’ had become depleted.   The recovery sessions were perhaps the most grueling part of the camp—hours of holding down sand on the beach.

"Single-Speed" Training on the salt flats

Fast forward to the start of the race season….  The ABRA road race season had begun without me this year.   Unfortunately, I was sidelined with a cold for the Morgantown Road Race.  Two weeks later, I tried to race the virus out of my system by entering two races on consecutive days that weekend—the Greene County Road Race and the Mountwood Challenge mountain bike race.   The road race began better than I had anticipated since I had difficulty breathing from two weeks of sinus and chest congestion.   But, I managed to latch on to a chase group in the Master’s field on the descent after the first climb.  The group, which included Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling Team p/b Pathfinder teammates Devin and Jim, held a fast pace during the first lap.   All went well until the second climb in which I fell a few bike lengths behind the groupHowever, I did manage to keep a steady pace to the finish with two other Master’s riders to finish 7th . 

After a night of rehydrating, I awoke better than expected for the Mountwood Challenge.   This was a fun race over single-track trails that had surprisingly dried well from the recent week of rain.  And, it was the first race I got to compete with another teammate, Billy Slutz.   However, this race did not start well.   At the start of the race, I fell from the second row to mid pack up the asphalt road.   But, I was able to slice through an opening to gain some ground at the bottleneck into the first trail.  Half-way up that climb I was chucked over a bank into a six-foot deep creek/ditch when my call out of  “passing on your left” must have been mistaken by another rider as “please turn to your left and send me into the ditch”.  Thankfully, Billy had seen the crash, stopped riding, and pulled me out of the ditch.  Now, both of us were near the back of the back.    Back on the trail, we picked off riders throughout the 14-mile course to finish 5th and 6th on the podium.  Thanks again for the help Billy!

Mountwood Challenge Podium w/Billy Slutz

One week later and a few repairs to my Cannondale Scalpel after the Mountwood crash, I was feeling like I was over my cold and ready to compete in the Big Bear Lake Classic mountain bike race.   A second-row position at the start should yield a good result at this venue, since I was more familiar with the racecourse.  Once again, however, my luck at the start would run out…in the first 10 feet of the race.  Apparently, someone was eager to get to the front of the pack that the locked handlebars and shoulders with me before I could get clipped in to the pedals just seconds after the race director said, “go”.  This move sent me straight to the ground onto my right hip with several racers riding and crashing on top of me. I found myself at the back of the pack…. again.   I nearly pack the Scalpel into the car because of the throbbing pain in my right leg.  But, I had paid to race.  So, I might as well get a ride for my money.  Once on the bike, the leg started feeling better and I was picking off a few racers in the expert class.  I managed to catch a couple of riding buddies from the past, JB Fornash and Steve Barbe, and hold on to their wheels for a 6th place finish, just one step off of the podium.

Photo credit:  Chris Phillips
Big Bear Classic

Next up, the Fort Classic Road Race. 

Thanks to all of our 2015 sponsors that allow us to relive our youth through bicycle racing:
---Dynamic Physical Therapy
---Kenda Tires
---Performance Coaching Services
---Red Rose Imports
---ProGold Lubricants
---Morgantown Brewing Co.
---Apothecary Ale House & Cafe
---Patti's Pasticceria


Throw back to the end of last season.
Spring is finally here, or so it seems - I’m skeptical of mother nature, she hasn't proven to be very trustworthy. But if spring does work the way it is supposed to, that means that I can retire the arm warmers, knee warmers and booties to the closet for the next 5 months or so. This means I can ride more and work on perfecting my tanlines in the wonderful new kits from Nalini!

The devil himself

The beginning of this spring in particular also marks the beginning of the end of my junior year of high school. As happy and thankful as I am that I’ve made it through the hardest year of high school with extraordinary success, I’m also upset that it has gone so fast. I never realize how much I take my time for granted until I look back and see that it’s gone. It honestly seems like just yesterday that I walked into North Allegheny Senior High School for the first time. SAT’s, AP’s, and finals, all tests that seemed eons away when I started, are literally standing right in front of me.

Hoping there is more of this in the future.

Even without school ending and cycling picking up, spring is one of the most beautiful and comfortable seasons of the year. There are temperatures warm enough to wear shorts but cool enough for hoodies; there is something about the air and the sun in the spring that is different from any other season of the year which creates a feeling of absolute delight.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Family Fun, Warm Weather, and Racing

This past weekend we were blessed with our first taste of summer sunshine thus far in 2015.  Both Saturday and Sunday gave was warm temperatures and sunshine which allowed us to get in some biking.  I started off my Saturday with a 20 mile urban bike ride with my favorite riding buddy.  Addie and I rode from our new home to downtown Canton to our favorite coffee shop.  After enjoying a Frappuccino and way too many peanut butter morsi from Muggswigz we set off on a new adventure.  In all the years that I have been riding bikes I never rode around a parking garage.  As we left the coffee shop and rolled by a parking garage with no security guard in sight I did what most fathers would do and suggested to my daughter how much fun it would be to have parking garage races.  We quickly learned that racing down is much for fun then racing to the top.  What made it even more interesting is when a pigeon would fly out of the rafters and only inches over your head.  After the parking garage we made our way back to Sippo Lake and did a couple miles of trails around the lake. 

The next day was the first race of the season for us and Sunday proved to be just as nice as Saturday was.  Early Sunday morning we piled 3 mountain bikes into the minivan and Arryn, Addie and I set off to ride / race at Mountwood park.  My family has become much more fond of the mountain bike races compared to the road races because when we go to mountain bike races the entire family brings their bikes and they mostly offer kids races along with beer and something to eat following the races.  This makes it fun for the whole family. 

Mountwood started off with a kid’s mountain bike clinic followed by the kid’s race.  Addie did great in her race getting 5th place.  She really enjoyed seeing all the friends she made last year at the OMBC mountain bike races.  It was my turn to get to race after Addie and I was really looking forward to it because I was going to get the chance to race with my teammate Chris Jones who also happens to work at Dynamic Physical Therapy.  I really enjoy racing and riding mountain bikes with Chris because my technical skills are not very good at all and Chris has great handling skills which helps me to feel more confident when I am following his wheel and riding the lines he takes.  On this day however the race did not start out that great because within the first 100 yards of the race I seen Chris get pushed into a ditch which happened to be about a 6 foot drop off the gravel road we were climbing.  This put him at almost the very back of a large field, but that changed very quickly when he got onto the single track and started picking other racers off left and right.  That is also when I lost sight of him myself.  He went on to have a great race going from nearly last place to finishing in 5th place.  Great job Chris!  Following the race we did a cool down with Addie and Arryn and then got changed and enjoyed some good food while they announced awards.   The best part of the day was that all of our Cannondale mountain bikes from Pathfinder worked flawlessly.  The worst part about the day was having to go home and clean bikes, but with ProGold products it makes the job much easier.
Thanks for reading and God bless!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Greene County Recap

There have been times in my life where I felt like I was a real beast on the hills.  Times when I felt like I could suffer with the leaders over the top of the hill, only to hammer it out on the backside and along the flats where I could use my power to my advantage and put all those skinny little runts on the rivet as the try to hold my wheel.  I am proud of these times and will take any opportunity to tell a willing listener how good I used to feel on the climbs.  Take for instance the 2012 Greene County Road Race where I was able to lead the field over the first climb and then somewhere between Kuhntown (pronounced CoonTown) and Brave I solo'd away from the Cat 4/5 field for about 15 miles.  I got caught on the next to last climb but stayed with the main group and hung on long enough to get over the last climb in a top 10 positon and sprinted to a 3rd place finish.  The plan going into the day was to have Jerry and I attack early and often to try to soften the legs of the other riders by chasing us so that our our other teammates like Shawn Geiger, James Braswell, Jonathan Suite, and Chris Jones could sit in and be fresh to attack on the final climb.  But things didn't quite work out the way we had hoped and a couple of mechanicals and a mistimed attack put the fork in our Big Plans.
2012 Greene County Road Race podium with Shawn Geiger

Photo Credits:  Anonymous
But I am not at the same fitness level I was back in 2012, and it is my goal to get back to the point where I am contending for podium finishes, even if I am racing in a much stronger field.  My coach had me well on track to be there very soon, but my promotion at work put me on a different time table, and the 3+ weeks of training I lost to the switch have definitely hurt.  But its back to the grindstone for me and I am refocusing my energies and I am confident that I will get back to that level once again.  And this past weekend was further proof that I am headed in the right direction.  Round #2 of the ABRA Road Race series was this past weekend and while it is ALWAYS a race I enjoy because I grew up riding these very roads, I wasn't just so sure it would be enough to make a difference if I had a bad day.

This year's course was a lolipop where most of the fields do a double loop.  The loop starts at the top of big, steep climb up to Warriror's Ridge and, and except for the descent a few miles later, remains relatively flat until the end of the lap where we would have to climb the backside of the ridge.  Between each of the 3 big climbs, was a relatively flat 18 mile stretch of road that was suited to my strengths and the focus of my training this past winter.  As expected, I was dropped by the leaders on the first climb (mile 5.5) and I was next to last to the top. But there were others around me, many of the same people I had worked so well with the past weekend in Morgantown, so I knew I still had an opportunity to work with some of these guys and improve my position.  In short order we were again a field of about 5 or 6 with lots of singles out in front to dangle as a carrot and chase down to hopefully build a formidable chase group. In short order, we were a strong group of 8, with 4 40+'s, 2 50+, 1 60+, and a Women's 1-2-3.  We rode well together around the first loop but got stretched out on the second climb.  I was last up it out of our octet, but soon got back on the wheels of the two in front of me.  I soon realized that the 3 of together were not gaining on the 5 in front, so I decided to give it a go and try to bridge back up to the bigger group.  I was happy to really feel my training pay off as I slowly but surely closed the gap over the next couple miles, and I finally latched back on their wheels just before we descended the second time down. Lap 2 was more of the same but we started picking up and dropping singles who had fallen off the pace of the 4/5 field in front of us.  
Right at the top of the first climb and already starting to catch a few of the people who I'd end up riding with the rest of the day

Photo Credits: Cassie Fetzer

I finished dead last out of our 6 that started the second lap together, but it was good enough for 10th overall in the Masters 40+ field. Its still a long way from the podium spot I want.  But on the good side, Devin Corboy managed to bring home a 3rd place and Jim Mock and Chris Jones were just off the podium in 6th and 7th, respectively. 
Last Time up... I worked hard to muster a duck face for the camera but Cassie missed it :-(

Photo Credits: Cassie Fetzer

You can look for me on the following dates at these races:

4/14/2015        ACA Masters
4/15/2015        ACA B's
4/21/2015        ACA Masters
4/22/2015        ACA B's
4/26/2015        ABRA McKeesport Crit
4/28/2015        ACA Masters
4/29/2015        ACA B's
5/2/2015          ABRA Fort Cherry Classic
5/5/2015          ACA Masters
5/6/2015          ACA B's
5/12/2015        ACA Masters
5/13/2015        ACA B's
5/17/2015        Easter Ohio Time Trial Series

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Slow Down to Go Fast!

This past weekend most of the Dynamic Physical Therapy powered by Pathfinder Cycling team participated in the Morgantown Road Race, myself included.  But I came into the race off form as I started a new job in early March and the longer hours I've been putting in to get acclimated at my new terminal have caused me to miss workouts in lieu of going to bed early for my 4AM wake up calls.  But I had worked hard earlier this winter thanks to the program that Rob at Performance Coaching Services had written for me, so I was hoping I was going to be in good shape from a "base" standpoint.
Thank you Cassie Fetzer for this photograph... of course you couldn't take one where I got to smile... 

I didn't have any high expectations, so my goal was to ride well and find ways to enjoy the day. Because of the course rerouting that went on a week out, we no longer got to enjoy a mostly flat first half, instead we were hit with a familiar climb just 4 miles into the race.  And like I expected, the little jitterbugs on bikes, decided to lift the pace on the first hill and I was dropped off the back as they topped the climb.  But I hammered down the hill and was in sight of the leaders as we hit Kriby. I have no doubt that I could have put in a big effort and most likely closed the gap, but we were only at mile 6 and we still had 44 to go.  I looked over my shoulder and saw a group of 2 or 3 behind me and I forced myself to slow down and get caught so we could share the load and stay out of the strong headwinds we were dealing with. It literally went against everything I've ever done in a race situation.  I mean, the idea of a race is to go as fast as you can, right??  But in years past, I would always do big efforts and find myself fried for the next climb and I would just watch the leaders ride off, never to be seen again.  And while I wasn't riding with the lead group at this point, my group of 4 grew to 10 as many as we reeled in riders along the way. Each climb we would lose 1 or 2 but we kept moving forward and picking up stragglers along the way.  We even started catching a few singles from the Cat4-5 riders who had been dropped by their groups. They were forced to ride most of the day by themselves, battling the winds on their own. So when we rolled past and told them to jump on, they just didn't have the legs for it any longer and they were left behind.  I knew exactly what they were feeling at that moment, because it had happened to me so many times over the last couple years.  I always let my ego and my self confidence write and story with an ending that always left me getting caught and passed by the fields behind me. And with about 6 miles to go, I finally felt the cord starting to break and I knew my time with the now group of 5 was soon to be over. About that time, we closed in on Johnny Mac and Aaron Bovalino, two of the nicest guys in racing.  So instead of killing myself to try to stay with the other 4, I again sat up and decided to ride to the finish with these two.

As I crossed the finish line, I was extremely pleased with the way the race had gone.  My legs started to fade right around the 2 hour mark, which made sense, as that was just about the average "long" ride I had been fitting in over the winter. My legs just weren't used to the extra time in the saddle and it showed.  I was hoping for a finish time around 2:40 and I just missed my mark, but I felt like I had been competitive with a lot of people I would have just watched as the rode off from me the last few years.  By slowing down and riding with others at mile 6, I managed to race faster than I would have on my own. It may have been the best decision I've ever made... well that or helping myself to a second helping of everything at mom and dad's for Easter. :-)

I hope to see you all going "slower" at Greene County next week!!

Friday, April 3, 2015

finally back from injury

First off, I want to send a huge thank you to Pathfinder for helping me upgrade my bike a little bit. I was able to get a new cassette, rings, cables, tape, and chain. I also put on a new set of Kenda tires!  So far I have been able to travel to NC State and Navy with WVU Cycling before the ABRA series starts up.
Navy Crit
Womens B field

            Off the bike I have had three horse shows and qualified myself for regionals. I have officially reached eligibility for collegiate horse shows, but I am hoping to make a run at the Tournament of Champions as an alumni. I am also planning on competing at three public shows this summer.
2nd Place at Greir

            Last week, I was able to go back to New Jersey to visit my parents for a few days and then went down to DC to visit. The first day was spent visiting monuments and wandering around the city. The next day I was able to go to the zoo and was the happiest child there. I am pretty certain my dream job would be a zoo keeper, because animals are the greatest thing in the world.
Patrick and I with Abe

            I wish I could see you all tomorrow morning at the Morgantown Road Race, but I will be in Annapolis visiting family for the holiday. Next weekend, I will be receiving my white coat from the School of Medicine on Saturday and racing in the WVU home crit on Sunday. The crit will be held at the same location as the ABRA training race for anyone interested in coming out! Then, I will ride down to Appalachian State the following weekend for a road race and crit. Most importantly the McKeepsort Grand Prix is the following weekend and I better see you all there.

            Finally, I want to give another shout out to Rob over at Performance Coaching Services for helping me get back out there from my injury last season. I still have my work cut out for me to get back into shape, but I can see myself recovering and getting stronger.

Thierry and Monty tired after a long day of bike races

See you all soon!!