Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Feeling The Heat

I've been catching a bit of heat lately for not keeping my blog up to date, and to those of you that have been giving the heat, you're right. There's nothing worse than a half or fully deceased blog, they're really just an eye-sore  Either write on it, or take it down. Otherwise, YOU'RE JUST HOGGING THE INTERNET.

I've got a few things that I had been feeling were worthy of a blog post, the least of which was my performance at Joe Martin... but don't worry, like any good cyclist, I've got excuses for you! I've even got visual aids for my excuses!

In my opinion, the most blog-worthy topic running around in my brain is about us cyclist and our predisposition to race-facing each other. If you've ever been on a ride with me when I've been race-faced, then I'm sure you've heard my rant on the topic. But now, I've got new information that makes the race-facing issue even more troubling.

As many of you know, I've recently become the partial owner of a motorcycle. I say partial, and actually I own no part of the machine, but my father bought one under the pretense that I'd ride it too. I think he just needed to convince himself that he wasn't just spending the money on himself alone. Regardless, I now have access to a two-wheeled rocket ship. And I've been accessing it regularly.

In extensive travels on said motorcycle, I've been on the receiving end of numerous "motorcycle waves". I would imagine that many of you have seen this before, and it looks similar to how a cyclist would point out a pothole to the group during a ride, only you throw out a couple of fingers in a really awesome, swag-filled manner.

I've received this wave from everyone from overweight scooter riders, to women on Harley's. I can probably count on one hand the number times I been the first to throw the motorcycle wave while passing another rider. And believe me, I'm a trigger-happy waver. I find it unbelievable that the average/ majority of motorcyclists are in fact cooler, nicer, more outgoing and less self conscious than the average cyclist.  I mean, these guys are running around with tattoo's, piercings, and black leather and we're wearing fruity, colored leotards, yet we're the ones acting tough and "bad ass"...

Seriously people, if Joe Motorcyclist can wave every time, surely we as cyclists can get our heads out of our asses and wave to someone who at least enjoys the same hobby as you do! Please don't race face me, as I'm obviously very sensitive about it.

OK, on to the Joe Martin Stage Race.

I'm not going to go to the trouble of giving you every detail from the week, but in short: I struggled. I'm not exactly surprised to have had a rough week, but it doesn't necessarily make it any easier to stomach.

The reason I'm not surprised to have had a rough time, is that I haven't been able to do any real training in almost 6 weeks. According to the doctor, I ran my immune system down a bit too much with my training and weakened it to the point that it couldn't keep the symptoms of mono at bay (the virus is always present once you've had mono, but your immune system develops the anti-bodies to keep the symptoms suppressed). So basically I was dealing with similar symptoms to the first time I had mono, but just a bit lighter this time around.

This was frustrating to say the least, but I do feel like I'm recovering well, I'm just not very fit because of the lack of training.

Here is a graph of my training load from January- April.

As you can see there are two distinct build periods, then the training just falls off the map. The only weeks where I've had over 10 or so hours are the ones where I've had a longer race or races. Like I said, the good news is that I'm getting closer to normal, but I've just still got to be careful for a bit longer.

Joe Martin was definitely a great block of training, I just ended up suffering quite a lot more than I had anticipated. Just ask anyone who was driving a car in the caravan last week, they saw lots of me, and I had the pain face on nearly full time. Supposedly suffering + rest = form.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Roughin' It at The Joe Martin Stage Race

Coming off of our host housing experience in New York a few weeks ago, we were feeling pretty spoiled. Fast forward to our situation here in Fayetteville for Joe Martin and it's getting downright ridiculous. For this week's race we're staying at the Hazel Valley Ranch on the outskirts of town because, luckily, the owner of the property is a friend of our guest rider and former Panther rider Kris French.

The 300 acre dude ranch has multiple buildings on the property, but our building can host the 7 of us comfortably, has a stocked bar, cold beer on tap, a handful of tv's, 2 kitchens, a game room, a Tourette tower lookout, skeet shooting area, and a few other decent amenities... And a bunch of buffalo.

I'll let the photos do the talking:

We took a "tour" of the ranch on the four-wheeler like vehicles. We ran out of seats, so I had to ride in the back...

Oh, yes, the bike racing...

Today's first stage was a 2.5 mile uphill time trial. I had an early start time, which was nice because that meant I was able to get it over with quickly. I finished a little bit south of mid-pack, but certainly nothing to write home about. My time was 20-plus seconds faster than last time I did this TT and times were considerably slower than in previous years due to a headwind on a decent portion of the climb. Improvement is good, so I guess I'm fine with it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Battenkill Revival

Since I was already writing a blog post for the Panther website, I figured I could post it one here too. And you though this old thing was dead...

As the 6 of us sat together in the pre-race meeting, some of us in folding chairs, some leaning on the bumper of the car and the others resting on the top tubes of our trusty Orca's, we poured over the details of the course, the important climbs and different strategies for taking on feeds. After a few minutes, one common theme hit us all like a cobble-stone to the head: Be at the front. Be at the front to put someone in the break. Be at the front for the climbs. Be at the front for the gravel sections. Be at the front for the narrow covered bridges. Be. At. The. Front! We could practically hear the other 160 or so riders saying the same thing in their meetings. I knew that if we were going to be at the front, we were going to have to earn it. 

We rolled out for 1 mile of neutral, and then it was just 4 miles of wide open four lane road leading to the potential bottle necking covered bridge that took us onto the first dirt section and subsequent climbs. During these 4 miles, I was part of the most nervous pleloton I've ever seen. Legs raged and elbows flew as we nervously, but rapidly, hurdled towards the first decisive moments of the race. From this point on, things get got bit blurry, as trying to take care and position myself took all of my mental resources. Every inch was critical. 

My sweat dripped from my chin down onto my top tube where I had written the mileages of the important points of the race, turning the notes into useless ink swirls. Guess what, I guess you just have to "Be At The Front", I thought to myself. I didn't bother looking around to see what type of damage had been done to the peloton around me until we collectively, briefly exhaled as we exited the most difficult part of the course from miles 40-50 of the first lap. It seemed we'd already lost 100 or more riders, leaving roughly 40 of us. 

Back to business we went. A long exposed cross wind section lead us into the lap's final climb, Stage Road, at mile 55. I was hanging on for dear life and feeling the burn before we even hit the climb. I made it 2/3 of the way up the climb before coming off the back and promptly vomiting on my left arm, left leg, and left everything. Although it didn't feel like it at the time, this was probably the single moment that saved my race. Prior to Puke-Gate, I was having some serious issues getting any food down, but afterwards I felt like a new man. Someone had hit the reset button and I was ready to go. I fought my way over the rest of the climb and made my way through the caravan of cars and was able to reconnect with the dwindling front group by mile 62 at the Start/Finish line. At this point I took stock during a lull in the action and tried to smile for the cameras as we went through town. I found that Chris and I were the 2 Panther riders left in the front group, but then again, most of the pro teams only had 2 or 3 riders as well. 

As we headed back out onto the wide open 4 lane road that lead us to Bottle-Neck Bridge for the second time, the racing got spicey. Chris and I we're chewing on our stems as we tried to go with all the waves of attacks. Just before we turned onto the bridge, the decisive move of the race went up the road, never to be seen again. It's hard to see the move going like that and not be able to go with it, but we we're both pretty well red-lined at the time.

With the break established, the field took a little siesta and we took a moment to eat, drink and be as merry as one can be in the throes of a 200 kilometer dirt road race. I was taking on fluids and emptying my pockets of all their food, knowing that an unprecedented bonk was still very possible given the fact that I'd take all of my nutrients and ejected them to the roadside 30 miles earlier. The most selective section of the lap came around again at mile 100 and our siesta was a distant memory as we aggressively tackeld the last few dirt sections as if there were no tomorrow. Chris and I floated near the front and out of trouble, a much easier task with 35 or so riders, rather than 160. We both made it over Stage Road for the final time and tucked into the group for the fast, slightly downhill run into Cambridge for the finish. With so few teams with more than 2 riders, the sprint was very chaotic and uncontrolled. We did our best to milk our legs of their last watts and "sprinted" the last few hundred meters off the two hundred thousand meters we had done on the day. We both came across is the middle of our small group, finishing 34th and 40th on the day. 

It's tough to be satisfied with a result when it's a 34th place, but on such a difficult day I think Chris and I were both happy to have survived and learned something in the process about suffering and fighting.

And finally, a little video from pre-riding Stage Road on Saturday.