Thursday, July 29, 2010

H.N.T. and other shit

So I rode the tuesday night fights with BOB, on tuesday...of course. My power meter battery died about 2/3 of the way, but I got some interesting data from it. On one hill-climb town-line sprint I averaged 598 watts for 30 seconds. I took the sprint, but had a good head of speed entering the bottom of the climb coming from about 6th spot in line. I took the sprint easily and felt I had some left, but I also had not been working much to that point. Later in the ride I put in a hard effort on this small rise that seems to give a lot of people trouble. I didn't attack, I stayed in the saddle and maintained the pace since I serendipitously got dropped on the front in the paceline at the bottom of the rise. I sustained 490 watts for 50 seconds. I looked back and had a big gap. I looked back a few seconds later and didn't see any one. A third look and I realized the group had stopped en-masse. I turned around and rode back, sure enough, a flat. Ah well, I hadn't intended to break away, just keep the pace high since it usually fades pretty badly through that section unless someone pushes it. No, those numbers aren't spectacular, but I was happy with them.

Last night I rode the NEBC CBTT (time trial) I posted 5 seconds slower than my fastest time this year.


I was lined up in front of a tandem ridden by a husband/wife team, the Ruanes. Patrick is an exceptional sprinter, and his wife Debbie has been riding exceptionally well this year, actually making the top half of the field at the working mans stage race time trial in the masters field. Well, they caught me about one mile from the start, and blew by me like I wasn't even racing. They set a new course record, averaging over 29 MPH. To make matters worse, they are genuinely good and nice people. I'd like to loathe them, but I can't. They aren't asshole like me.

Anyways, Here she is, your H.N.T. I give you, "The Bike Rack":

Tuesday, July 27, 2010 ya doin'?

Me? I’m good. Could be better, could be worse….

Lot’s worse…..

After the Longso classic, I had a whole host of things lined up to do. First thing was minor surgery to have a cycst removed from my back. It turns out the day I thought was supposed to be the surgery was actually a second consult. Surgery was rescheduled for two weeks later, on day two of the Working Man’s Stage Race. It’s healing nicely. Before then I had a 4 day business trip to Long Island, and two outdoor music festivals on the bookend weekends. As a result, I rode about 3 times between july 5th and july 20th.

I had a family gathering this past Sunday in Pembroke MA, which is just north of Plymouth – where the pilgrims landed and began their genocide on the indigenous people. It’s about 65 miles so I decided to ride it. I couldn’t figure a way around boston, since all of the circumferential state/federal routes are either limited access or too sketchy to explore on a bike when I actually had a destination. There was always Rte28 – goes north/south through boston. But, I remember from my days as a field service engineer that the section of 28 from Boston to Milton gets a bit scary – bad roads, abandoned cars, gang activity. Something Solobreak can verify, I’m sure.

So I poured through Google maps for an hour on Saturday night (I’m sooooo hip!) and found a rather direct route, right through the Bostons financial district then due south to the Neponset river bridge, into Quincy center, then rte 53 the rest of the way. My destination is about one mile off rte 53 in Pembroke.

I thought I planned accordingly. The weather looked good and not to hot. I drank about 24 oz of liquid before I left, ate a good breakfast, and carried two large water bottles plus two Cliff bars. I was sure I wouldn’t even need half of that, but I brought extra to be sure. Usually, even on a hot day I can get away with one large water bottle.

Everything went well until I was in Somerville, the city just north of Boston proper. It was getting hot. Really hot. I was stopping at stop lights like a good responsible cyclist, and was building up heat rapidly. The strong northwest winds I had heading into the city – keeping my average speed very high with little effort – weren’t making it to the ground level. There was no shade as the sun approached high noon, and the pavement was absorbing billions of BTUs from the sun every second. By the time I made it to south boston (aka Southie) I was already hitting the second bottle. It wasn’t possible to get more than a few hundred yards without hitting another stoplight, so accelerating from a stop did little more than generate more heat.

I finally made it to Quincy center. My average speed had dropped from almost 21 mph before I hit the northern city limits to just over 18 in about ten miles because of all the stoplights. My second bottle was less than half full, and I still had 30 miles to ride. At about the two hour mark, when I was confident I was able to navigate the rest of rte 53, I pulled over into a Burger King. My second bottle was just about empty. I bought one of those large plastic drink vats, filled it with ice, then coke. I drank it so quickly the ice barely melted. The caffeine and sugar blast helped as much as the cold liquid. After I drank the coke I poured the remaining ice in my two bottles, just about filling them.

As I was out of the city the wind had picked up significantly – still from the northwest. Now that the congestion had opened up I was able to keep moving, and with the tailwind I was moving fast. There were a number of times I was riding in the 28 mph range for extended periods, and times when I was rolling up little hills at almost 20 mph, feeling no headwind. I could have dialed it back, it was still _really_ hot, and I wasn’t keeping cool with my HR in zone 4, but how often do you get to keep your speed that fast for that long? I had plenty of water now, I knew where I was, I kept motoring. I had found that elusive “sweet spot”.

Finally pulling off of rte 53 onto the side road where my uncle lives, I checked some data. Riding time 3:20. Average speed 19.9. In the 25ish miles from Quincy, I had brought my average speed up from 18.7 to 19.9 thanks to that monster tailwind the whole way. I had managed to go through another bottle and a half in about an hour and 20 minutes. Here was the painful stat: average temp over the three hours and twenty minutes; 90 humid degrees…Max reading; ninety fucking eight. When I left my house at 9:15 it was 80.

My uncle had put a six-pack of 16 oz Gatorades on ice for me. I drank one right away. After I cooled down a bit I drank a 16 oz glass of milk (milk is a great recovery drink). I took a shower, and over the next hour I drank two 16 0z mugs of cranberry/orange juice, and another Gatorade. I still didn’t need to pee. I didn’t have to until several hours later, and then it wasn’t much. By then I had put away more than a gallon of fluid.

Well, I’m off to beat up on the BOB boys at the Tuesday night fights.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

At Least No One got Hurt - Part 4

So I got to work today, and a co-worker asked if I had a nice weekend.

I replied, "Well, no one got hurt".

Not _quite_ true...there were a few crashes, but no one got hauled away in an ambulance. This was a far cry from the typical 4th of july weekend I used to experience before I started bike racing, when the excitement consisted of a bag of weed, assorted alcohol, usually some blow, and the occasional psychotropic. Mix that with driving various models of early 70's GM sedans and living on the NH border where fireworks are sold legally can see how careening down the side of a mountain at near 60 mph on a bicycle wearing 20 oz of lycra and 10 oz of a polystyrene excuse for a helmet is inherently safer.

Monday was the criterium. The Longsjo classic started 51 years ago as a criterium, and has continued uninterrupted since then, turning into a 4 day stage race somewhere around 1990. The time trial, road race, and circuit race formats have changed over the years, but the one thing that has remained constant since the 4 day format was started has been the crit. Before about 1990, it was down one block from where it is now. They moved it up one block a few years before it became a stage race, and it's been there ever since. Except for about one guy in the masters field, this race is older than all of the competitors. It's older than a few of the juniors grandparents.

As far as crits go, it's pretty boring. It's classified as a 3 corner crit, but the two corners on the bottom of the course (turns 2 and 3) are less than 100 feet apart, both 90 degrees, and if you enter the corner in the first few riders you really can't even pedal before you exit turn 3. So what you _really_ have is a .9 mile circuit, on a slight hill, with two 90 degree corners.


Still, it's survived due to a combination of local support (The city and residents _love_ this race), Legacy (and by extension a pretty much reserved spot on the calendar), and a good prize list. Being a legit UCI and NRC race helps as well.

I wrote all that because, when you get right down to it, it's a basic boring crit, and has little outcome on the GC. Unless you have good teams racing, it's a promenade where everyone sits and waits for someone else to make a move.

I hate that shit.

Fortunately, Masters racing usually has some sort of team dynamic. While I wouldn't say the 2010 edition of the Longsjo Stage Race Criterium Masters category was a 'barn-burner', it was about as interesting as crits get from a racers perspective. Jonny Bold had the GC pretty much locked up barring a crash, so he was working to get his teammate Sam Morse clear enough to take at least 2nd spot. This isn't the kind of course a group can get away on without the support of a decent sized team. As a result, every attempt at breakaways was neutralized by the dozen-or-so opportunists in the field. The only thing that kept the race interesting at all was the points competition/primes.

I took two flyers off the front during the race, mostly because I was bored. My team mate also went for two forays off the front, but since he is _very_ well known locally as a strong and successful break away specialist, he wasn't allowed any slack. I lost steam during my first attempt since they rang the bell for a prime as I came through with only a small gap. My second flyer briefly sparked the interest of the former race leader Max Lippolis and current race leader Jonny Bold. However, as soon as Bold bridged up to us that raised enough warning bells in the field to evoke a chase and we were caught after one lap, Not a big deal really, if those two decided to keep it going, I'm pretty sure they would have dropped me. My team is also well-known locally for ripping up criteriums. Two of my more successful teammates are very aggressive, and my captain be polite. I'd _like_ to think the riders in the field saw a Cyclonauts jersey attacking and thought 'we can't let those guys go', but hey, who am I kidding. If it was my team captain attacking they'd know for sure it was time to hold on for dear life, but team captain outweighs me by 60 pounds (and my other teammate at the longso by at least 50 pounds) - something quite obvious when wearing a bright yellow skinsuit. Any rider that would mistake either one of us for him isn't really a threat.

So, as could have been predicted, the field pretty much finished together save a few stragglers, for a Same Time finish. I moved up one spot on GC since one dude ahead of me was a no show.

I won't be on the bike much for the next couple of weeks. I have surgery scheduled to removed a benign cyst from my back this week, and a business trip next week. I'm sure by the time the Clamfest Road Race comes around I'll be a basket case (all work and no play makes Zen a fucking nut case ([Smashing the door to bits with an axe] Jack Torrance: Wendy, I'm home!)). The Clamfest is another race that's older than most of the competitors. Fun Race. A racer died there a few years ago. Killed when a 70 year old driver drove into the pack after ignoring the cops. Really. I'm not kidding. Between that and the carnival workers from the back woods of Maine, how could you _not_ have fun?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Well...._THAT_ sucked......part 3

It started out so well. I ate a good breakfast, left the house in plenty of time, made it to the start venue early, actually. _wasn't_ the start venue. The time trial presented by the Fitchburg Marriot Courtyard wasn't actually _at_ the Fitchburg Marriot Courtyard. The last time I did this race....I dunno...6 -7 years ago, the Time Trial presented by the Fitchburg Marriot Courtyard was actually _at_ the Fitchburg Marriot Courtyard. Not this year, and evidently not last year either. I didn't do the race last year.

No, it was actually about 5 miles away in the town of westminister. So the Fitchburg Longso Classic Stage Race South Street Time Trial Presented by The Fitchburg Marriot Courtyard was actually in westminister, the next town over from Fitchburg and no where near the marriot. By the time I got my self straightened away, after several highly stressed cell phone conversations with people who were checking the website for directions, I got to the venue less than 30 minutes before my start. My warm up consisted of two jumps in the parking lot to make sure nothing was going to fall off the bike, and actually doing a cyclocross dismount up the start ramp. I made it with 15 seconds to spare.

I've never seen the course. I had no idea what turns were in store, or what hills I would have to manage. The profile looked flat on the web, but since I thought it was the old course that actually started and stopped at the marriot, I had no idea how long that little innocuous grind at the start was going to take.

Sure enough, just before I crested the top, after _trying_ to keep a steady pace with no warm up....ass cramps.

Glutes tightening like Vertical banded gastroplasty on my ass muscles.

Just pace it, Zen.....Check your breathing, your HR readout...shit I had forgotten to put my HR strap on.....

That's ok, I still had speed and cadence. I've been racing along time, I know what feels right. I know how hard I can push.

Just before the turn around my minute man came by, and just after I came around I saw my 1:30 man. Well, that ain't good.

Just pace it, had a headwind out you'll have a tailwind back. Except that the wind was swirling, I never actually felt the anticipated headwind. My 1:30 man passed me when I was wondering what happened to the tailwind.

I passed the 5K to go marker, and thought I remembered the course was pretty flat from here, so I pushed it a bit more. I felt I was gaining a bit more time on my 1:30 man.

1K togo, I checked my time. Already over 20 minutes...not good. 500 M to go and I'm on a little downhill. My speed read 32 mph.....good.

200 meters to go....and I hit this little rise. I didn't even notice it as a downhill, but this hit me like a wall. My 200 meter sprint turned into a 200 meter drag. I had nothing to put into it. I probably lost another ten seconds between 200 and 100 meters to go.

The damage? 22:11, for 32nd out of 43....fucking pathetic. In the end it only cost me 2 places on GC so now I'm 19th out of 43 instead of 17th, but shit...I _hate_ time trials....I hate it even more that I wasn't conscientious enough to actually _READ_ the course descriptions.

So, yeah...that sucked.

What The Hell Was I thinkin' ? Part 2

The Mt. Wachusett Road Race is considered the Queen Stage of the Longso Stage race. It's an 11 mile circuit with about 750 feet of climbing per lap. That isn't really much, except when you consider that all the climbing is done in a 4 mile stretch, and about 500 of that is done in a one mile stretch. In years past, they used to finish at the top of mount watchusett, which added another 1000 feet of climbing in a little over a mile. The finish climb then was 1 KM at an average of about 15%. In categorization terms, the hill would come in at a solid cat 3.

But the roads in the state park are in such bad shape, they simply added another lap to the circuit.

This race isn't exactly a climbers course. Climbers will do well here, but any rider capable of sustaining good power for more than 5 minutes can stay in contention, especially considering that this course has one of the longer/faster downhills in new england. I hit 57 MPH yesterday.

The race was slow. According to BikeReg, we averaged under 22 mph. Indeed, there were long sections on the flat part of the course where we were only going 15 mph. This gave ample opportunity for the slower climbers to get back on every lap. We were going so slow, that the juniors-who started 5 minutes after us - caught us at the end of the first lap. They neutralized our race to allow them to pass. This gave even more time for the slower riders to get back on. I felt good on almost every lap on on the big climb. I wasn't exactly cresting the top in at the front of the field, but I was firmly tacked onto the back of the lead group on every lap except one. Even on that painful 3rd lap, I was not more than 5 seconds behind the leaders over the top, and true to formula, they backed off and I was able to get back on.

Nearing the end of the 4th lap but well before the finish climb, the pace car once again neutralized our race. We thought the cat 4 field -who started ten minutes later- was catching us.


We were getting lapped by the lead juniors.

You read that correct, we actually got lapped on an 11 mile circuit after 4 laps by the lead juniors. That means they lapped the cat 4s, and would also have lapped the cat 3s if it weren't for the fact that the juniors were only doing 4 laps and this was their finish.

As our field was neutralized, the Indomitable Jonny Bold yelled out "PEE BREAK"

Pretty near the entire master field pulled over to whiz. I had needed to go since the half way though the first lap.

Things pretty much stayed together until the beginning of the last lap. I managed to once again latch onto the back of the leaders over the big climb, and this time they kept up the pace. As I'm no sprinter, and the finish climb is a power hill, I gave it everything I had for the finish and rolled across in 17th with a group of about 5 others. The winner had bolted away and put 22 seconds on my group in the last 500 meters. In fact he actually won by 7 seconds, and was right with us at the 500 meter mark. He's fast. Even Jonny Bold said he was impressed.

Before the race as I was getting dressed, I happened to notice the sole of my right shoe was detaching from the upper. By the end of the ride, it had separated halfway down the sole. Luckily, I have a new pair of shoes I hadn't put cleats on, so That's what I did last night.

Sunday is the TT. My worst discipline as a bike racer. I've borrowed a tri-spoke and a disk from El Presidente. I'll post a picture, with the dismal results later.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Will I _Never_ Learn? - part 1

Well, I did something really stupid, I decided to race the Longsjo Classic. I swore several years ago I would _never_ do this race again, but here I am.

We need to back up a bit here. I raced the Purgatory Road Race two weekends ago and felt great. I had a teammate that was literally jumping up the killer 500 meter long 100 meter high climb on each of the 5 laps. I was sure he could win, so I worked on the last lap to keep the race together, including driving the group single file up the one-mile-long 3% grade about two miles from the finish. There was one guy off the front by several minutes, but my teammate won the 'field' sprint for second overall. I rolled up the hill without urgency. The following tuesday I did the BOB tuesday night fights and was instrumental in keeping the pace the fastest it's been all year, then the next day I rode the local TT, and set a season PR. Feeling good about myself, I pulled (sorry eric, 'squeezed') the trigger on fitchburg.

Fast forward to the Exeter Criterium this past tuesday. I felt horrible. I went off the front with a couple guys at one point about 1/2 way through and promptly went into oxygen debt. I finished in the pack. This was particularly disheartening because I felt really good at purgatory. Granted, according to bike reg we averaged 29.7 mph, but I still felt like shit. Really stinky runny green and brown breast-fed baby shit.

So I wasn't sure about myself today. The plan was to just go with the flow. This stage is a 3.1 mile circuit with one stair step climb (about 200 yards long and 100 feet tall) and a long downhill leading into it. I felt good, good enough to race the way I like to race: at the front and trying to get into a break. The steep hill was cooperating and I was at the front on every lap. With two to go, my teammate rolled off the front (I have no idea how he did it, I just remember seeing him with a 100 meter gap all of a sudden). He was caught at the line with one to go, and jonny bold attacked with another dude named Max. About 5 guys tried to go with it, including me. We actually had a good gap, but couldn't close on the JonnyMax duo, and the chase pretty much burned anything I had for the finish. The field swarmed around us well before the hairpin turn. Since the speed usually ramps up to 35 mph on that downhill, I hoped some of the bigger dudes would chase them down. Even though we hit our top speed for the entire day on the downhill on the last lap (38 mph), they stayed away, but were just caught at the finish line so 2nd through about 6th got officially same time. Max actually put 5 seconds on Bold on the finish climb. I hadn't recovered from the effort less than a lap earlier, and even though I entered the finish hill about 5th in line, I was resoundingly passed by over 20 people, and unfortunately was the second rider after a small gap, getting assessed 19 seconds down from the winner. Toss in the 10 second time bonus for the winner and I'm 29 seconds down. Tomorrow is more my element, the mount watchusett road race with big hills.

In other news, last saturday I finally got my t-shirt from The Grille Next Door for successfully having a beer from every one of their 36 taps. That might have had something to do with my performance at exeter.