Thursday, September 20, 2012

Is there such a thing as an 'easy' ride?

What was supposed to be an easy ride turned into a TT effort yesterday.  Problem was I had a hard feeling the trail yesterday.  I mean Maybury should be a no brainer for me as it's my home trail but I was riding it like it was my first time on the trail.  Bike was all over the place.  Four pedal strikes in 13 miles speaks for how bad I was riding.  Plus I ran off the trail wasn't pretty.

Anyway, Diesel and I planned to take the first lap easy and then maybe dial it up for lap 2 and 3.  Fast pace but not race pace as neither one of us were in that mood.  Diesel led out Lap 1 and we were tooling along talking about his wedding reception this past weekend.  For two miles all was calm and fun.  But then I noticed our pace was picking up and was going to say something when I saw what was going on.  Diesel had quietly reeled some one in.  Problem was, the guy wasn't about to let us pass.  No worries, I was in 'easy rider' mode.  But then the guy lit a match and took off.  Of course Diesel went after him.

Damn it!

I had started my day by driving my 35 minute route to work only to get there at 6:30am and realize I had left my bottles, dry mix and bars on the kitchen counter.  Ugh.  Oh well, looks like I will be going to the bike shop over lunch for supplies.  Sue was even nice enough to call me around 7:30am to tell me my cooler was on the counter.  She didn't have time in her day to bring it out to me and I would never ask her to as it's an hour round trip...although she would do it if she had time.  Good excuse to have lunch with me.  So at 11:30 I head out to the bike shop that is about 10 minutes down the road.  30 minutes later I finally get there......WTF, traffic sucked because of the construction.  Seth wasn't there but I ended up shooting the breeze with Ben for a bit before hoping back in the car with my new Sweet Bikes bottles, NUUN and Shot Blocks.  Drive back was fast but still the trip took an hour.  Could have made it home and back in that time.  The fuel I got from the shop would work but it wasn't my norm so I was a little upset at myself again for leaving it at home.

As I watched Diesel tear down the trail after this 'not passing me' guy (We'll call him Charlie), I did a mental coin flip in my head on whether to chase or not.  I wasn't really in the mood for this buuuuut Diesel had engaged and needed a Wingman.  So I opened up the throttle and went into the red to reel them in.  It took a good half mile or so to get a visual and I was surprised to see that Diesel was only in missel range of far for guns.  Interesting.  Is he matching Diesel's pace?  I yo yo-ed off Diesel's back wheel for a bit as he tried to keep this guy in sight.  I'll admit I was struggling to keep pace as my lines were messy and I was relying more on power than grace to stay in the dog fight.  Something felt different in my riding and it was a bad different.  I had a couple close calls with trees that I shouldn't have been anywhere near and one boulder that nearly ended my day.  I was brake checking waaay more that I should have been in corners and again had to rely on pure power to get back on Diesel's wing.

But the end was near and the three of us bolted up toward the end of the trail full tilt.  I was happy we were coming to the end as 99% of the riders we chase like this always stop after an effort like that instead of making the turn to start another lap.  We were supposed to be there for fun and I wanted to do continuous laps without stopping but as hard as this guy was pushing the pace I was eager to stop and talk to him a bit and find out who he was.  I was third in line as we crested to the trail head.  And then it happened, he made the right turn to start another lap.  "You've got to be kidding me" I said out loud.  Just then Diesel pulled left to let me by and said, "Your turn!"

Damn it!

On the way to the trail from work I got a call from my 6 year old daughter Abigail.  She wanted to inform me that I put Ashton's yogurt in her lunch instead of hers.  In a normal family this isn't a big deal but like me, Abi can't have dairy.  Luckily she knew she wasn't supposed to eat it and wanted to let me know she knew better. "Daddy, it wasn't my soy yogurt.  I was Ashton's cow milk yogurt."  I was proud of her but at the same time upset with myself as I don't mix up her foods with Ashton and Ciara's......ever.  With all my dietary issues I am in tune with what she needs to stay away from.  I have been making Ashton's lunches for 6 years now and Abi's for 2 and this was my first big mistake.  Ashton is hypoglycemic so he can't have to much sugar.  So I have had a good stretch but to make two mistakes in one morning is unlike me.

Because we were expecting to stop at the trail head, another rider had jumped in front of us but quickly realized we were on his six and let us by.  I didn't want to just yet as I wanted to wait another couple turns when the trail opened up a bit.  But he insisted.  So off we went in search of Charlie.  I am not sure if he backed off the throttle because he may have thought we stopped but it only took a minute or two until I had a visual again.  It was on a switchback that put me 150 meters behind him.  As the switchback met up I looked over at him and he looked at me (kind of felt slow motion like a movie) and there was a 2 second stare through each other's sun glasses.  The shared feeling was obvious.  He didn't want to be caught and we didn't want to be dropped.  Diesel was hanging off my back wheel, I couldn't see him but I could hear his bike and knew he would bridge back up once he recovered.  I knew better than to wait for him.  He would be upset if I did.

I was still riding 'dirty' as my lines were not crisp and I was still relying on power to catch Charlie.  I thought by now I would be in race mode but was having a hard time flipping the switch.  I even misjudged a rock garden and rode out the side of it and had to plow my way back to the trail.....very uncharacteristic of my at Maybury but Charlie was pushing a hard pace.  I had been in these situations before and have been able to respond.  I had the legs but where was my head?  And for crying out loud I was on my full suspension and not my hardtail.  I should be flowing like water down the trail.

I could now see why Diesel was having a hard time with this guy.  Not only was he fast, he was fast because he was smooth.  He was hitting all the right lines and his cadence was spot on.  He was very efficient.  Reminded me a lot of me, except I was doing a horrible job of being me even though I had me in front of me to follow.  Charlie could have been dragging a chalk like behind him and I still would have misread the trail.

As expected Diesel had bridged back up to us and we were back in formation right before the midway point of the trail, approaching the turn around by the damn.  Although I was a mess I was optimistic that I could hold this pace for the second half of the trail.  But if Charlie were to make that right turn again and go for round three I was not sure if I could keep this pace up.  I had skipped a few 'drink spots' and I was coming up on my feeding time.  I would need to find a way to get some shot blocks in me and more fluids before a possible lap 3 at this pace.  It didn't help that this was my first experience with NUUN and I likened it to drinking alka seltzer.

Then the unexpected.  As we leaned into the turn around at the damn Charlie slowed down and eventually came to a stop.  I was surprised and we slowed down and rolled by him slowly to say awesome ride and great pace. He said the same to us and you could feel the mutual respect.  Looking back we should have stopped to chat with him but we were on the trail and I wanted to keep going.  It appeared Charlie parked at the other entrance and came onto the trail at the midway point so that was his full lap.  I was gassed but tried to keep a decent pace for the rest of the lap.  I did tell Diesel that I was stopping after that lap for a break to collect my head.  It was weird now to not be chasing anyone.

After a brief stop to change bottles from the jersey to the bike we took off down the trail for lap 3 with Diesel at point.  It was a pretty uneventful lap but we still pulled a low 29.  I felt more crisp, alert and one with the trail but don't know why.  Maybe I wasn't warmed up enough when we started chasing Charlie and my body needed a second to catch up and at the break it did.  Either way I was much happier with how I rode lap 3.

We decided a 4th lap wasn't needed as the sun was getting low and we would be running out of light.  Total trail time was close to 1:27:00 for the three laps.  Made me wonder if any of those were in the 28's.  Normally I will do 4-6 laps non stop and average just a hair under 30 minutes a lap so to see we averaged close to 29 minutes a laps was nice.  Maybe that had something to do with my sloppy riding, I was out of my comfort zone.  Hats off to Charlie for pushing us so hard out there.  Driving home I regretted not stopping to talk to him.  Diesel said we should have stopped to try and recruit him.

Hopefully we'll run into Charlie again soon.  However, I think I need to come up with a better nickname for him for our next meeting.

Monday, August 6, 2012

From the cheap seats

That's about sums up the past 3 races for me since my 3rd place at Bloomer.  To reacp:

July 28th - Tree Farm Relay - Team was sitting in podium position after 3 laps and I had a major tangle passing another rider which caused a crash and valuable mins doing trail repair to my bike to get it rolling again.  I lost close to 4 mins on that crash and we lost the race by 5 mins.  It's been a week and a half and it still bothers me.  I had a lot riding on that race and since last year have been bent on winning that race after coming in second in 2011.  We still finished 4th out of 17 teams but that's the first time since 2006 we have walked away from that race without a top 2 finish.

Aug 4th - Brighton XC - As always I am not a good starter and get bad field position in the hole shot.  Went into the woods in 11th place and spent my first lap of a 2:18:03 race looking for passing room where there wasn't much.  I had my first taste of racing against Simon Bailey as him and I spent the majority of the race switching at the point fighting for the last podium spot in our class.  With 6 miles to go I was able to tighten the screws and build a small gap between us but 3 miles later it backfired as I stated to cramp and could not hold my pace any longer.  He was able to pass me and build a lead I couldn't close after I recovered and I ended up finishing 4 seconds behind him.  Looking back I should have waited another couple miles to attack him.  Live, learn and move on to the next race with knowledge in your back jersey pocket.

Aug 5th - Ruby XC - This was an A race for me until I found out that Dub9, Lako-moto and Chunk all weren't going to be there in the geared class.  Still a fun course though and figured if nothing else it would be loads of fun to race there again.  Well, race day came and so did the rain and only one other person in my class.  By the time I got to the starting line I had lost a lot of motivation to be fast.  Less than 10 minutes into the race another rider from a different class crashed in front of me on a wet wooden bridge and even though I got past him okay I wasn't set up properly for the next bridge and since I wasn't fully upright with my weight centered I went down to mother earth with a large thud, shoulder first.  Ouch.  That one hurt but I was okay and so was the bike.  But I sat there on the ground for a second wondering what I was racing for that day.  I had a hard time taking glory in possibly winning a race against only one other person even though that person was a well know fast Jeff Cerget.  I kept thinking about my upcoming 'A' race at Maybury and how if I wrecked my bike or injured myself and had to miss that race I would be very upset.  I pedaled on for another mile trying to refocus but could not get a radar lock so I called it quits because low focus and slippery trail conditions could lead to a much worse crash.

But . . .

Through these three races didn't pan out for me like I wanted them to, I got to be part of some good results for some closer friends of mine.

First, my one and only teammate Brian killed it at all three of these races.  He redeemed himself from last years Relay and threw down some sick fast lap splits for the team.  Then at Brighton, even though he blew up toward the end he was still able to salvage a 3rd place in his class for a great podium finish.  At Ruby less then 24 hours later he not only won his class, he laid waste to the entire Sport Category and set the fastest time of the day...and he came through the finish chute like he could have went another 15 rounds.  It's been so fun to be there for "The Year of the Diesel."

Another person is my boy Brad Lako.  After a disappointing finish at Bloomer he bounced back 2 weeks later to finish 2nd place at Brighton and remind us all what he is really capable of.  Just when I thought I was making progress on catching  My money will be on him come the Stony XC in three weeks.  I now I can't match his power but I just hope that I will be able to do enough to stand up there on the podium with him that day.

And last, my dog John Osgood.  What a freight train this guy is.  After chasing his butt around Bloomer 2 weeks ago and coming up 8 seconds short, he put the hurtin' on me at Brighton and finished a solid 4th place  more than 2 mins ahead of Simon and I.  Then, like Brian, 24 hours later mounted his Single Speed and rode what may have been his most complete race of the year so far.  Starting his 3rd lap of a 3 lap race I had him clocked at being 4 MINUTES ahead of closest rival but didn't want to tell him then as I wanted to double check that I was correct.  So I waited for the next rider and sure enough, damn near 4 mins!  So I raced to the next road crossing and informed him of the gap he created.  Then was able to be there to see him finish.  Killer race.

So, even though I had a rough 2 weeks it was great to still be out there to see the people you went through the ranks with over the years have their days.  Very proud of them all as they earned their stripes without short cuts.  Anyone who stands on the podium at the end of the race, no matter what class, will tell you it wasn't an easy ride to get there.

And also big ups to JTP and David Moore as well on their accomplishments in the past two weeks.  Two guys who I have gotten to know a little better this year that have been pulling down some hardware as well.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Making Progress

I have been away from the race circut for a couple years.  I have done a few races here and there but not any USAC races to chase points.  In previous years I was able to pull down some podiums but it's been a long climb to get back to possibly being fast enough to do that again.  Along the way I have had a few friends tell me to keep focused, keep working and I'll be back.

I wish there were more race courses like last weekend.  Lots and lots of twisting single track at the Bloomer XC, stop number 6 of the 8 race circut..  This course suited my strengths but I knew it would still be over 2 hours of work to finish this race.  There were two sections on the course where you could stretch your road legs a little but this race would be won or lost in the single track.  Luckily for me I have spent thousands of miles riding behind Master McCabe for the past 7-8 yeas and over time have picked up his single track form.  Sure I have to take credit for being able to execute this style of riding but I do have to give credit to my Single Track Sensi.

The plan was to get a good position off the start and be in the top 5 or so going into the woods.  But I have never been a sprinter so I wasn't sure I'd be able to pull that off.  So when it was go time I hammered within my limits and it was good enough to land me 6th into the woods.  Good enough.  A train of 7 of us bobbed and weaved through the trees together for the first ~4 miles.  Then after the 'decent' the rider in front of me was a little brake happy and the top 4 guys created a small gap of about 5 seconds.  Once on the first open flat the 4 of them took off like a sqaudren of fighter jets in formation.  Once I made the left hand turn I called the pass and took off after the pack not wanting to lose much time to them.  Dubs was on my six like planned as I knew I would eventually need a pull from him on the next open flat.  The surprise to me though was the climb after the flat that I wasn't prepared for. I had went a little to hard across the flat and by the time I got to the top of the stair case climb I was really in the red.  So much that I made a stupid mistake and my front tire washed out causing me to go down.  I hopped up quick but let Dubs go by as to not slow his momentum.

On the next open section he was planing to pull but I couldn't match his power.  Crap.  So much for that.  But once back in the singe track I had caught him and we rode tire to tire for a good mile before I called the pass on the left.  He stayed with me for most of that lap but slipped back a few seconds in the tighter stuff.  I was bummed as I was hoping we would be able to work together most of the race.  I came around to lap and when I passed the team tent Brian called out, "30 seconds to Lako!"  Really?  Wow, only 30 seconds behind him?  I am waiting for the final results to post to see if that was true as I didn't belive I was only 30 seconds behind the race leader after 35 mins of racing.

Lap two I spent calculating and revising my race strategy.  I could see Dubs on some of the switch backs and he looked like he was holding his own.  Parts of me were hoping he'd regroup and close the gap on me so we could work together more but then other parts of me didn't want to try and out sprint him to the finish.  On the long flats I looked over my shoulder a couple times half expecting to see Dub's all black kit closing in on me or the bright orange kit of David Moore who can throw down some serious power on the flats.  But at the end, I rode lap #2 pretty much alone.

Entering the single track of lap three I could an RBS rider who started in the younger class in front of me.  He was holding his own well so I decided not to call the pass.  He was climbing a little better than me but I would quickly be back on his tire when it evened out and we had to weave the trees.  He asked me twice if I wanted to pass but I explained to him it might benefit him more if I stayed behind him.  Plus I was using lap three as a set up for the last lap.  I didn't want to do those long flats alone and judging by how well he did the exchange chute I knew I could draft him in those sections and save my legs a little.  Plan worked flawlessly as he clipped along faster than I would have been able to alone and he pulled me thru those sections well.  Going through the exchange chute to start lap 4 I grabbed a bottle from Brian as I passed and he told me 60 seconds to Lako.  What?  He must have him confused with some one else.

I told the RBS guy that I was going to attack hard on lap four and he had already agreed to let me go first into the woods.  He made a few comments once we entered but he dropped off the pace quickly as I was zoned in on catching who I was really after, my friend Osgood.  If Brad was only 60 seconds up Osgood must be closer!  He has been finishing on the podium race after race after race this year but I knew if I had any chance to beat him it would be on a course like this.  He kicks my butt at time trials and I seem to always beat him at the marathon but this was an even playing field, a pure XC.  I was doing 34-35 min laps and was confident I could close that 60 second gap in that amount of time.  I pushed hard and worked to get the most out of every corner.  But then something odd happened.  Before I hit the first open section on the back half of the course I heard, "Aryn's coming."  It was Osgood's voice but who was he talking to?  About two minutes later I found myself on Lako's back wheel.  I was surprised and concerned at the same time.  He was the last guy I expected to catch.  Unfortunately for him he popped and was just doing his best to make it to the finish.  Normally it feels good to pass such a respected racer but not under those conditions.  But it can happen to any of us so I pressed on knowing Osgood was still in front of me.

At this time I had no idea what place I was in.  My main focus was to catch Osgood.  I got some help from 'Tiny' (I just nick named him that) on the long flat section and told him to hug my wheel once we got back into the single track.  He tried but wasn't able to hang on.  I could see Osgood in front of me on the switch backs but I was running out of time to catch him.  He saw me to so I know he was digging deep to make sure I didn't catch him.  He passed a rider from another class and put some one between us but  my eyes were still focused on him.  But man was he riding well.  I watched and waited for him to slip a wheel, mis-shift  or make a small mistake some where and then I would make my last dig to close that gap.  But hats off to him for riding as smooth as butter and making sure not to leave me an opening.  I came out of the woods just as he crossed the finish line.  I laid off the gas and coasted in as the official time sheet says I finished 8 seconds behind him.

I can honestly say that I have not had that much fun on a bike since chasing my friend Jeremy around Maybury last year in the same type of cat and mouse game.  Although it hurt a little inside to be so close to catching him only to lose to him at the end, I will never complain about losing to such a classy racer.  He threw down a solid performance and once it was all over waited for me at the finish line to shake my hand and say, "Welcome back to the podium."

That's class. Thanks bro!

That's me, third rider back in the picture.  First rider is the man I chased after for two hours and eighteen minutes.  (guy between us was from anther class)

Second picture, if you were there you know why I was laughing.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Mentally Regular

I am good at long term suffering and have the track record to prove it.  Out of the 8 'endurance' type events I have done I have taken a top 5 in my class every time dating back to 2007.  40 miles, 60 miles, 6 hour solo, 2 man 12 Hour and a 12 hour solo.  Heat, rain, mud.....didn't matter.  I always went far enough to get a top 5.  But three years I have waited to get back to this race, the Stony Marathon.  Last time I did it, it was 60 miles for Experts but now it was 50.  Hell, I did 112 miles in 10 hours on roughly the same course back in May.  After that I knew I was on track to fight for a podium in July.  To be honest I had plans to finish in the top 3.

2009 I took the year off because Sue and I had our third child.  2010...well that was out of my control.  2011...same thing.  But in Nov of 2011, I had my eyes on July 7th 2012 and my break out race.  Any race before that was just a warm up to where I wanted to be.  Then in 8 weeks, 7 months of preparation was destroyed.

After the 112 miles in May I developed tendonitis.  I took 3 weeks off to heal up.  I told myself if I could ride again by June 4th I would be okay because I wouldn't lose much of my base.  June 4th came and I was able to spin again.  So I took a week to spin lightly to make sure I could still ride without pain during or after rides.  The week went well and so I went back, revised my training plan and went to work.  So I was able to train well again for a solid two weeks.

And then the bomb dropped.

June 23rd I couldn't talk. By June 25th I was at the doctor being told I had an ear and sinus infection.  I would need 10 days of antibiotics and rest.  Seriously?  I just started riding again!

Do the math and 10 days meant I would be taking meds until two days before the race . . . THE RACE!

One of the three races I had marked as A+ races.  One of the five I marked at A or above.

Another week was taken off the bike....doing nothing on the bike.  Seven weeks passed and I only been able to train during two of them.  One week was 3 light one hour spins.  That doesn't count.  The week leading into THE RACE, I rode once with Brain at ILRA for 2 hours but at a recovery pace for most of it.  I also did a 2.5 hour road ride but again with a race coming up and still on drugs and feeling 65-70% I knew I had to take it easy.

3 weeks rest + 1 week weak spins + 2 weeks hard efforts + 1 week sick + 1 week of drugged up weak efforts = 5 more pounds for me to carry around every where I go.

I almost canceled.  To hell with this.  No, I need to make an effort and get back out there.

I raced but spent my fist two laps seriously considering taking the DNF.  But as I came around to start lap three that inner fire that had seemed to burn out was bellowing smoke now.  And when there is smoke there is fire.  It was near 100 degrees out and I had only had one ride in decent heat to prepare for something like this.  But I was going to see it to the end.  I had never taken a DNF and I wasn't about to now.

4:06:33 the official card read.  8th out of 14.  22nd out of 50 in the entire Expert Category.  But more important to me, I finished.

But what meant even more to me was that three guys who I respect highly congratulated me in person at the results table on showing up, giving the effort and finishing the race despite the past 8 weeks.  You know who you are.

The lack of training, still being sick and the immense heat made this one of, if not, the most hardest races I have ever done.  Both physically and mentally.

Last, there is one person who helped me finish this race without even being there.  My wife, Sue, was smack in the middle of the virus I had and still wanted me to go and do this race even though I would be leaving her home sick with 3 kids.  She knew I was less than ready for this race but she knew how long I had been waiting to go back to do this one.  She sat home and worried about me the entire time because of the heat and my lack of health.  Most of all I wanted to finish the race for her as I feel the day would have been a failure after all she had sacrificed for me to be there.

So even though I wanted to be able to dedicate my long awaited return to the podium to her, all I can do is dedicate finishing of one of the hardest races I have done mentally in a long time.  And some times that's more important.  This one's for you baby.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Chain Slack

It's been 4 years since I raced a full schedule.  The last three years have each posed their own issues that kept me from racing again.  I was very excited  after talking with Sue and coming up with a plan that would allow me to race again this year and chase points.  The plan was formulated back in November of 2011 when my training for the 2012 season started.

Since then though, it's been a roller coaster ride to try and keep myself gaining and building to be stronger and faster than the races I did last year.  It seems for every solid block of training I have had this year I have had a block that has made me have to hit the reset button.  Since November I had been sick and in need of antibiotics three times.  The first time was a big hit over xmas when I had 10 days off of work and had planned to do an endurance block.  Well I was sick for 8 of those days and I never got on the bike.  The second time was the first week in April.  After having awesome weather in March and getting outside to ride quite a few times I came down with a horrible ear infection that side lines me for a week and a half leading into the first race of the year.  The third time, well I am in the middle of it right now.  After putting down over 400 miles in the last 3 weeks and on track to have well over a 500 shortened month.  I am on my fourth day off with no plans to ride again until Monday because I still feel like crap, coughing and blowing my nose every 60 seconds.

Yes, I have lost more than the last 4 days recently.  The second weekend of May I competed in a 12 hour race.  One thing led to another and I finished 112 miles on the trail in 10 hours but I picked up tendonitis along the way.  That injury kept me off my bikes for almost 3 weeks.  Three weeks that were supposed to be a huge build time for me.  Once off the injury I had to ride easy for a week and then was able to hit it hard for two weeks...until I got sick, again.

On top of that I remember taking a week off for the kids being sick.  That's something I know is going to happen now and again so it was no big deal.  But Sue also broke her ankle again in March and that had me take some time off to keep things running smooth at home.

So in the first 26 weeks of 2012 I have missed a total of 7 weeks of training time and 2 races.  You could say 8 weeks if you start the count from the last week of 2011.  Out of these 8 weeks missed, only 1 of them fell on a planned rest week.  On top of that I have 9 days until my next race which is a 50 miler and an 'A' race.  Needless to say I am not going to be in tip top shape for it so pulling down a podium may not be possible now as I have lost to much training time in the past two months.  Judging by last week's training numbers I am still hot for a 2 hour or less race but I am not sure if I still have the long haul legs I had 6 weeks ago to battle for a top 5 spot in the next race.  Lako, Osgood, Dubs, Moore and Bonnell are all podium threats for the next race and 8 months ago I had all intentions of placing top three at this race.  But to beat even 3 out of the 5 guys I just mentioned is a huge feat.  My log shows only one ride over 2 hours in the last 6 weeks and being sick I will not have the opportunity to ride this weekend to help develop a race strategy.

I am going to go still and race.  I paid for this stupid Cat 1 license so I may as well use it.  Like my man Osgood stated in his blog, "Can't plan viruses."  I preach race strategy to everyone who asks me for advise but for me on this one, my only plan will be racer's instinct.  Just start pedaling when the gun goes off and make decisions as the race unfolds.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Not my typical Sunday morning ride

Sunday up at 7am after staying up until 1am with Sue to watch a movie. Was moving a little slow but the plan was to be out the door at 7:30. Checked the weather, looked like it might rain but I had what looked like a 1 hour window. Plenty of time since I was only supposed to be doing an hour coming off this injury. So I got my stuff together and went out to the garage to get the road bike. It's that time of year where I leave it in the garage instead of in the basement hooked to the trainer 24/7. Once out to the garage I found the rear tire on the Felt to be flat. For real?

So I went back in the house to the basement to get my pump. Aired the tube up only to hear the air pissing out. Took the tube out and saw the hole was at the base of the valve stem. Crap. So I checked the rim and tire for the culprit and found nothing. Grabbed the spare tube out of my saddle bag and put the bike back together. As I went to air up the tube all I heard was air coming out and the pressure gauge still reading zero psi. For real?

Back to the basement to find another tube. I was going to give it one last try. As I walked in Sue was up and so was Ciara. She gave me that look like 'thought you were gone already.' I said to her, "Something doesn't want me to ride today. I had flatted twice already and haven't even made it out of the garage." Looked all over the basement in 'the bike shop' as the kids call it, and found no extra tubes. Had two new tires sitting there. Even have a second set of wheels but no tubes or tires on them. How do I not have any more tubes? Damn it. Had my face buried in my hands with frustration when through my fingers I see the Salsa Mamasita I spent 2 hours building up yesterday. Only problem is I don't have a seat post or saddle for it yet. Other than that though the bike is ready to ride. The Titus uses a bigger diameter post. The Felt post would fit.....oh but so would the post and saddle off the Redline! So I threw the Mamasita on my shoulder and hiked it upstairs and through the kitchen on my way out the door. Sue gave me another look...."I got a seat post and saddle in the garage! Love you! Be back in an hour or so. I don't have any house keys....." I said as I ran out the door.

It's been 6 years since I went for a morning ride on the road with a mountain bike. It took a couple neighborhood blocks of riding to get the seat post and saddle position right but I managed. Wanted to make sure it was spot on this time so I wouldn't have a repeat of last month. Figured I would start my 20 mile loop and it would take me a little over an hour to finish. Well my 20 mile loop turned into my 25 mile loop because I was having so much fun. As I rolled down Mack and was 3 streets from my block I see a car that looks an awful lot like mine make a right turn and head down the street in the opposite direction. Luckily it was heading into the direction of The Pancake House. What are the odds Sue ordered breakfast and threw the kids in the car and went to go pick it up? Very slim since that's my job.

Once closer to home I see my car is not in the driveway where I left it. Little late in the morning for people to be stealing cars but I wasn't worried. But Sue knew I'd be home close to 9am. She'll be back from the Pancake House with breakfast soon. I better go in and shower up, I told myself, so I can eat my food while it's still hot. Got to the back door and crossed my fingers she left it unlocked. Had been out riding for about 75 minutes and breakfast was sounding good. Walked in the house with the Salsa on my shoulder and as I walked to go through the kitchen I saw a piece of paper on the counter that read, "Went to church with the kids. Luv Ya!" It was dead on 9am. I had an hour and fifteen minutes on my hands. What to do? Well, I did the only sensible thing of course. Slammed a gel, grabbed a rice bar, refilled the bottle and went out on the bike for another 45 minutes. Knee was feeling good and the Salsa was running great, why not?

I forgot to start my computer so I have no readout from the ride but I didn't care because after taking two weeks off to heal up and spending last week only doing a 30 min and 45 min spin, I was finally able to do something that resembled an actual ride. I was able to put in some good efforts against the wind with the left leg doing it's share of the work load. So after all the commotion before the ride I ended the morning with almost 120 minutes of saddle time and to my pleasure the knee went on through the day without any repercussions. I still think racing this weekend would be a bad idea but I will see how the week goes and consult Sue on Saturday. She is mostly worried about me re-injuring and it would be in my best interest to listen to her if I want to try and salvage the second half of the season.

And no blog is complete without any pictures. So here is some for your viewing pleasure:


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Ticket to Ride?

Sunday's ride went a little different that planned.  First, it took me forever to get out the door.  I was 50/50 on going out for a ride and the fact that I would have to start with full tights on didn't make it any easier.  But I got everything together and out the door I went at 8:15am....and if you know me that is a late start time for a weekend ride.  I decided to head south on Mack, hang a Louie at Morross and b-line it to the water's edge.  Surprisingly my 10 min ride to the water felt really well and I was ready to go.

Wind was blowing in from the north at a good clip, a steady 10mph.  So I made a right and headed south.  It was hard to keep my speed in check with the tailwind but I tried knowing I would have to eventually turn around and take the wind head on.  Plan was a 2-3 hour ride.  I had packed for 3 hours and with the 12 Hours of Stony coming up I figured I should just do an endurance type ride.  Nothing to straining on the lungs or legs.  As I approached the Grosse Pointe/Detroit border on Jefferson I thought to myself it had been a while since I have been downtown.  So instead of making a left and taking Barrington to Windmill Pointe, I proceeded due South in route to Cobo where Jefferson ends.....technically where the sidewalk ends to.

At 9am on a Sunday morning the roads are pretty clear as there are not many people out yet...mostly church goers.  So the ride down to the heart of The D was pretty uneventful.  I did pass another person out for a morning ride but she was clipping along below 15mph so I just waved as I passed.  Sun came out from the clouds by the time I got down to Cobo so I leaned the bike up against a pillar and slipped off the tights showing off the new Twin 6 Team Bibs...although no one was around to see them.  Rolled up the pants and put them in the jersey pocket and off I went again.  I was 43 mins into the ride now and downed some calories before I stopped to derobe so I was good to go.

Things were going well for the first 60 seconds until I passed the Christ's Church of Detroit and the wind hit me head on.......holy crap it was coming down Jefferson at a faster clip than I had realized.  So there I was, to deal with a 15+ mph head wind for return trip home.  So much for taking it easy.  What was a 23mph pace was quickly reduced to 18 mph against the wind and at times dipping into the 17's when the wind would gust.  I pushed on for the next 25 minutes to get me back to Grosse Pointe.  I wanted to do some laps around Belle Isle but that would only have stalled the inevitable head wind battle.  So instead of heading for the safety of the island I kept charging north against the wind.  I made it to Grosse Pointe and looked down Barrington as I passed thinking how nice it would be to go down there and get out of the wind.  That would have been the smart thing to do.

As I kept due north I eventually passed the War Memorial and then made the small decent to where Jefferson turned into Lakeshore.....all of a sudden it seemed as if the head wind increased another 10 mph.  I knew this was going to happen though and was ready for it.  I got lower and more aero and kept on against the wind not wanting to give up.  As I passed Morross I thought about making the turn and going home but that would have cut my ride under 2 hours.  No dice.  So as I rolled north it wasn't long before my side of the boulevard was separated by little orange cones.  Instinctively I went inside the cones where the cars weren't allowed.  After all the so called bike lane was over there and the cars were in the left lane.  Well about a mile later a Grosse Pointe Farms officer on a motorcycle tells me as I pass that I can't be in that lane because there is a running race going on.  I slow down and ask if I can ride in it until I see runners.  He says no and demands I ride in the left lane with the cars.  I look and say, "There's no room!"  He glares at me and says, "Son, you need to stay out of the right lane or else you'll find yourself with a ticket."  The conversation went fast and I had a goal of getting to 16 mile road and didn't want to break pace so I agreed and pedaled along.

I was hugging those cones as the cars past and some were very close.  WTF I thought to myself.  I had gne another mile without seeing anyone in that 'running lane.'  The next set of cars made it interesting.  First car, no issue.  Next car was a Grand Cherokee and as it passed a Boxer leaned his head out the window and nearly bite me...for real!  I had his spit on my face to prove it.  Scared the crap out of me but I had to hold my line next to the cones to not get run over.  Next car was close but the fourth car was a GMC Yukon.  As I saw the hood I did an, "Oh sh!t."  I brought my elbows in and I swear the mirror was 3 inches from my shoulder as the truck passed.  The driver was cool and slowed down but I said f**k this and went inside the cones.  Next vehicle to come up....a motorcycle, with the cop on it.

I looked over at him and he stared back at me.  I was riding the left side of the right lane about 12 inches from the cones.  I looked at him, pissed and gassed from dealing with the cars and headwind and said, "I'll take the cost of a ticket over the cost of my copay for a trip to the emergency room.  I am sorry but that Yukon was to close for my comfort and there is no room for me in that lane.  I had a friend out in Pinckney get hit by a truck towing a landscaping trailer last year and I don't need that trouble."  He looked at me for a second and said,  "You can ride where you are until you see runners.  When you do I need you out of that lane or else I will have to give you a ticket."  I asked how much further until the cones ended and said at the Edsel Ford mansion.  I said okay since it was only another mile up the road.

After that he took off and I decided to go into the red for a bit to get this over with.  I saw some runners shortly after and hammered the pedals in the left lane to clear the cones before the next set of cars.  Next I clicked down and recovered for a bit before finishing my ride to 16 mile.  I made the turn around at 16 mile and headed home with the wind to my back again.  In the end I rode for 2.5 hours and spent roughly 80 straight minutes against that headwind.

As I pulled up to the house Sue was coming out the front door with the kids and I was gassed but happy to see them all.  I thought for a second whether I should tell her what happened.  In the end I did and although she doesn't like hearing those things she feels better knowing than not knowing.

(Sorry, no pictures but this was long enough without them)

Monday, April 30, 2012

Pontiac TT wrap up

Pontiac came and went in a flash. Maybe because my round trip in the car was only 1.5 hours instead of 4.5 hours. Met up with Dub 9 in the early morning again but also got to chat with more guys and gals I haven't seen in a while. Most noticeably Todd "the Hitman" Powers. I was lucky enough to catch up with him at the registration table and then hitched on his wheel for the warm up ride before the race. Was great to catch up with him and get some pointers from a seasoned veteran who knows a thing or two about racing.
I was a bit nervous again before the race but found myself as calm as could be at the starting line. It had warmed up with the sun shining it final broke into the 40's before my start time. Last weekend at Yankee it was in the 30's and when I arrived at Pontiac it was still in the 30's. I lined up Dave Z from Cycletharapy. Cool guy but he wasn't in my class so I planned to work with him as a team the first few miles. We were to go off together and he seemed to know more about the trail than me so my plan was to let him take the hole shot and lead us out over the first 2 miles. Well right before the first set of climbs he let me by and I think it worked out well for me as I had a clear look at the all the lines to the top. Again, he was not in my class but he pulled me thru the first couple miles which was part of the trail I didn't remember. Thanks Dave! (Dave leading us out from the start and into the singletrack)
The rest of the trail came to me in flashes as I would come up on certain sections. It was like deja vu. So I was able to set up for certain corners, descents and also pick my gearing accordingly as well as manage my heart rate. The first lap went by faster and with much less suffering than the first lap at Yankee the week prior. I was feeling good but was still wondering if I could keep it up for another lap. I came around to lap though and accidentally missed the sharp right to start my second lap and had to lock the brakes up. I was in track stand mode for a split second and then turned the wheel right and just made it back to the loop chute without putting a foot down. But I was in a big gear so I was standing up pulling on the pedals to get my speed back up. Dumb dumb dumb mistake that would later cost me precious seconds. (My face reacting early to what was about to happen 60 seconds later as I over shot the lap)
I had already switched bottles and downed some calories before the lap split so I was off and ready to tackle lap #2. I had cleared most of the slower traffic my first loop and after the 2 mile climb my legs were still feeling pretty good. Felt way stronger than last week and more along the pace of where I thought I should be. Due to less traffic I was able to get into a rhythm and focus more on the trail rather than trying to find room to pass people. I still passed 3 riders on the second lap but I passed at least 10 on the first. The second lap felt much smoother than the first and I felt more controlled over myself and the bike. All the metal notes I had taken the first lap had paid off and I came into the finish chute strong going on 9 seconds slower than my first lap. First lap was a 43:18 and second was 43:27. I knew the top guys would be pulling 42's so I would probably not crack the top 5 but I would be close. As the results were posted I saw that Lako and Osgood both ran a ~41:30 first loop and ~42:00 second loop to net them a 2nd and 3rd place. Damn that's fast. I saw that I took 7th and considering how my off season went I was okay with that. Top 5 would have been nice but I felt I managed my race well and rode a clean race with minimal mistakes. That was until Brian pointed out that I finished less than 4 seconds behind the guy in 6th and less than 10 seconds behind the guy in 5th. Remember me earlier mentioning I overshot the loop cost me 6th place for sure. Not sure I lost 10 seconds there but I know it was at least 5. But that's Time Trialing. It's you against the clock and you have no idea how anyone else did until the results are posted. Kudos to the two guys who finished right in front of me. I am sure they felt pretty good about their finishes and went home happy. Congrats to my guys Lako and Osgood for such a great race. Always good to see them off the course and on the podium. Hopefully I will be back up with them soon. Also thanks to Todd Powers for the pre race pep talk and also the on course inspiration to push on and get that second lap time I needed to try for that podium. If I were to ever have a coach he'd be the guy I would call. But last, congratulations to my main training partner Brian "The Diesel" McCabe. He cleaned house on his single lap in the Sport category to capture his first solo win in his 6 years of racing. He has come close a handful of times in the past but this day he left them all in the dust with the closest guy finishing 2 minutes behind him. Don't remember his time but I wish I could have seen him on the podium. I tried to stick around for it but Taiwind was running slow and I had to get home. (Check out The Diesel bringing it down the hill to the home stretch....drifting his front tire and all!!!)
I have this weekend off of racing but May 12th Brian and I will be going to Stony to either do the 6 or 12 hour solo races. Still on the fence of which one to do but will have to make a decision soon.

Late Yankee TT recap

It's still hard to believe I made it to the beginning of this race season. I have been trying to make it back the past two years with zero luck. I did a couple races last year but nothing like I wanted to. This off season went okay but I got sick twice for over a week each time. then of course the kids were sick off and on but I expect that to happen. Sue getting an avulsion fracture in her right ankle wasn't planned but we made it through that and are on the tail end of it. And then there's the extra hours at work.....well this is life and I do my best to train around it all. Sue has been super supportive of what I am trying to do this year and she has given a lot as well to help me get to where I am now. Enter the Yankee Springs TT. The official season opener. Hadn't raced there in 6 years and had only ridden there once since then. Last time I raced there I was in the Sport class and finished 24th out of 27 with a time of 1:00:55. Figured I couldn't do any worse than that. Really didn't remember much of the trail but got a run down from my friend Dub 9 before the race. I was feeling pretty positive that morning and had a game plan set. I needed an early start to make it home asap so I signed up in Elite, under Max Rockatansky, two classes higher than last time I raced here. I am not chasing points in the CPS series, I was just there to see what the legs had and to get a good training race in. Like my man Osgood says, the best training is racing. Well I went off early and got dropped early. I was feeling okay the first half of my first loop but then it can time to climb and I seemed to have left my climbing legs in the car. What the hell??? I thought I was in better shape than this. As I was completing the last mile of my first lap I seriously considered quitting the race and going home. Yes, I was that out of it mentally. But I came around 3+ minutes faster than I thought I was going so I sucked it up and made the turn for my second lap. 10 miles down, 10 to go. About 5 minutes later I hit a good spot to switch bottles and down some calories. I swapped the bottles from my jersey to the bike and when I reached back to grab my gel flask all I found was an empty pocket. Oh sh!t. I had left it in the car...along with my climbing legs. "This isn't good." I said to myself out loud. I was already struggling and without proper fuel the last 5 miles were going to hurt. So I took a chance and kept going hoping I wouldn't bonk. Well when the climbing started again my legs didn't want anything to do with it. I was losing time and power. Crap. I had to stay seated on all my climbs because if I stood up my legs would start to lock up. So I decided to let loose a bit on the descents to try and regain some of the time I was losing on the ascents. Problem is it takes a lot longer to go up the hills than to come back down them. I was probably losing at a 10:1 ratio in terms of seconds. But I finished the race, shaking a little and in need of food. My times were not that impressive but I gave myself a pat on the back for fighting thru the race and not giving up. I finished with a 1:44:17 which was fast enough to put me 17th out of 36 in my actual race class which is Expert 30-39. But I was in Elite and finished 29th out of 31. Yeah, I had no business being in that class. But I got to go race and get all the do's and don'ts and pros and cons out of the way before the Pontiac TT.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Going another round

Sunday night at about 2am I gave up. The fire inside me went out. I was giving up racing. I was ready to sell everything mountain bike related and get that new carbon road bike I have been wanting. No more races. No more stupid training schedule. I could go back to living like a normal person...sleeping at night and not worrying about when I was going to get in my next ride. I was knocked down to the canvas again but this time I just wanted to lay there and rest for a while. Wait for the 10 count from the ref and be carried out of the ring by my trainer and coach. I had been battling in the same ring for 7 years now and every time I got hit I would just bounce back up, get the gloves checked by the ref and get the okay to continue. But not this time. I was comfortable laying there on the canvas. I said to myself it was over. Lay there and relax. If you don't get up the count goes all the way to 10 and you don't ever have to worry about getting knocked down again over this.

Ciara had stopped throwing up and I eventually got a couple hours of sleep and woke Monday to take on the day. One sick daughter turned into two sick daughters and I still had the wife with a broken ankle. Didn't help either that my son had a sprained wrist as well from basketball. But I am dad. The hero. I pressed on thru the morning and eventually the girls felt better. Ash was off at Sue's parents for a few hours to hang with grandma and grandpa and Coach Austin. 4pm rolls around and I laid down on the couch to rest the aching body. It had been 4 days since I laid in bed for more than 3 hours without getting up. Everything hurt and I had taken some Advil to help.

Throughout the day Sue would asking me what I was thinking and I would just say something I had been thinking that didn't have any relation to bikes. She knew I was avoiding the subject. She doesn't want me to quit. Yes she gets her nights out with the girls from her volleyball leagues to the theater...dinner with the girls. But she has put a lot of time and effort into taking care of the kids while I am out doing my things as well. She goes out for enjoyment and volleyball is her therapy but she knows my times out and those god awful early morning weekend rides on the weekends are training. Plus she knows I have been trying for 3 years to return to racing but have had some set backs due to our extended families which were out of our control. She has done more behind the scenes things for me than any training partner or riding friend I have. From her expertise in the health and fitness field to give me advise to her being a wife and mother to my kids, she has given a lot.

With the girls watching a movie and Sue icing her ankle I fell asleep for 10 minutes on the couch awoken by Abi grabbing for the doll that was on my chest. The doll, Bath Baby as Ciara calls it, smells of baby powder and it put knocked me out cold for that 10 mins. Well that was just enough time for the Advil to kick in. I laid there for another 10 minutes with my mind wandering. What about Diesel I thought to myself. I can't give up on him. After all he said I was his motivation to train like he is. He has put in more time than any off season in the past to get where he is. he i set up and primed for a great year. And then there is Tank Evans. All the preaching I have done to him to keep fighting. I'd be a punk to drop out now. And if I stop now then I could rob Diesel of his chance at doing well at the Farm Relay. Sure I am replaceable but I know he'd rather have me there. And damn it if we are going for the win this year it's only right we are both there. And this whole 12 hour thing in May was my idea. If I stop now and he finishes that race.....this isn't just about me anymore. I am now riding for those who have helped get me this far.

That fire had never went out before. It had been put on simmer a few times but never went out completely. I thought it was gone, 14 hours without smoke. But there must have been a single coal still warm in there that needed a little air blown on it. I popped up from the couch and went to make dinner. I was still tired but felt that drive again. That burning inside to keep moving forward.

By 9:30pm the girls were feeling better and asleep. Me, I was on the trainer starting a 2 hour ride.

"Uno mas" I said to myself.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Late to the party again

With the race season starting already in 5 days I again will find myself late to the party. I had signed up for the Barry Roubiax nearly 3 months ago but had to sell my entry. There are multiple reasons why I had to do it but it worked out in the end as I am still fighting off something I caught two weeks ago. I am still riding and training but I battle congestion daily along with a dry cough that tends to start around the time I go to bed. It sucks. Two weeks prior me becoming sick my kids were sick and I missed a week of training. No big deal because I had been going solid for some time, with the exception of being sick over the Holidays. But after only a week of being on the bike again I fell ill and had to take another week off. This blow came during a major transition in my training block and I had to step back and reorganize.

Now some would say go do the race anyway, it's not an A race so just go and ride. But I am not one to race unless I am fit to do so. If it was later in the season and I had more quality miles under me I would but all the travel time (this race is 2+ hours from my house) money involved and time spent away from the family is not worth it if I am not 100% ready. If it was a trail race and on this side of the state I would strongly consider it but it's a 35 mile mostly gravel road race and although fun, I'd rather spend my time at the trails. Plus my kid's have an important school function that is falling on the same day and now I don't have to worry about what time I will be back on my side of town...and that had been in the back on my mind for some time. Being a husband, father, employee and part time racer you have to keep the balance. Speaking of balance, the weather here in Michigan has been off balance for some time but has really tipped lately. It's been in the high 60's to low 70's for over a week and we still have 4 more days before it goes back down. Last week I went trail training with Bran and we did 30 miles at Island to stretch the Trainer legs out. Felt great. Then Friday I did my morning training ride outside before work. On Sunday my wife took the kids with her to her parents to get the garden ready for the season and I went out for a 50 mile road ride. Even got a slight sun burn. If all goes well I will be doing hill repeats outside tomorrow morning before work.

Riding outside this early in the season has really given me a chance to see where I stand in terms of where I want to be. My endurance seems to be spot on but I can tell I am lacking in the power department. The hills I have come across have me working a little more than I'd be liking to. Yes I have trainer data showing where I am exactly but that only gets me so far. Being on the trail and the open road tells the complete story of where you really are. However, I do have to remember it is only March and in March I am supposed to be doing intervals on the trainer. It isn't until after those intervals in mid April that I go outside and start climbing real hills on the road bike at Island and Kensington. And my form doesn't seem to come around until mid May which is about the time I find myself at my first A race of the season. But although I feel behind in my training maybe I am right where I am supposed to be. I know I just have to keep plugging away and . . .

Time will tell and come April 22nd I will know for sure where I stand as I plan to return to Yankee Springs where this all began 6 years ago. Back in 2006 Yankee Springs would be my first ever race and I haven't raced there since and i will be there for sure this year. Nback then I was told by fellow club riders to skip Beginner and go straight to Sport, given my abilities at the time. My hope was to finish mid pack and walk away with some experience. Well I finished 24th out of 27 riders in my class and walked away with loads of knowledge of what not to do before, during and after a race. But I still caught the bug and the rest has been history.

Good luck to all my friends racing this weekend. I can't wait to read all the blog updates and hear all the stories. In the mean time, I'll be chasing my carrot getting ready to start the trail season.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Stoking the Fire

Although there always seems to be something to complain about I should not complain how my 2011 riding/racing season went. After all I think I rode more miles in 2011 than I did in 2009 and 2010 combined. I fell 500 miles short of my goal but I did tell myself early in the year I wasn't going to over stress about forcing rides. I did miss a couple races I wanted to do but the races I made it to went very well. Can't complain about 3 races and 3 trips to the podium.

I had planned to use my 10 day winter break off of work to do an endurance block but I got pretty sick so I spent 10 days off the bike. Oh well. The main reasons I am not upset is becuase I am still way ahead of where I was last year at this time and more importantly still on track with where I was in the beginning of 2008. Plus, I didn't have to be at work so I got tons of down time with Sue and the kids even though I wasn't feeling all that great.

2012 is shaping up to be the most promising riding/racing season I have had in 4 years. Although I have loftly goals for myself this year I would still be very happy if at this time next year I am writing and stating that I didn't accomplish anything more than I did in 2011. But Brian and I have had a few talks already and are both very excited to be back in the mix of a race series. Along with chasing points we also have a few races we'd like to attend to put some old demons to rest....unfinished business.

What's most exciting is the idea of being back in the mix with my old foes who are also geat friends. Over the past few years they have helped me keep focus on some day returning back to the starting line and 2011 scratched the surface of what the old days were like. Now it's possible that all four of us maybe back at the line togther and man what a site that will be.