Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Syracuse Race Weekend Race Report

Before I get started on the race report from this weekend, I want to put out a call for any information about possibly increasing the q-factor, the distance between the pedals, on a road bike. After the vacation-ending injuries to Sue in Asheville, she has stayed off the road bike and has been riding some on her mountain bike and has not had any hip/knee issues. In fact, she's been off the anti-inflammatories for several days now with no problems whatsoever. Sweet. Anyway, she hopped on the road bike Monday just to ride down to the village parade and back, and in that very short time, had the sensation that her feet were really close together. Rough measurements seem to indicate that the pedal-center-to-frame-center distance is about 1cm greater on the mountain bike. Most people tend to want advice on decreasing the q-factor, but as we've learned, Sue is definitely not "most people", and we want to try increasing the q-factor on her road steed to see if that eases some of her hip/knee problems while riding. We'd already moved the cleats inward a long time ago, so I'm looking for something different. I'm thinking replacing the bottom bracket spindle for a double with a spindle made for a triple but still using a double and then adjusting the front derailleur to match might work a little, but I'm not sure how that would turn out.

Moving on to the race report, the Syracuse Race was rather uneventful this year. The fog during the road race was probably the most interesting part of the weekend.

Most of my Colavita team lined up in the 3/4 field Saturday. The road race course is about a 30 mile loop with mostly flats except for a roughly two-mile climb in the middle. Most of the larger fields tend to race for the hill; that is to say, they ride piano until the hill, then make a selection.

The first time up the hill, I was selected to be dropped, along with about half the field. My wattage for the climb was about 20W higher then I'd done earlier in the week during the club ride, and I had thought that was hard. During the few rollers following the climb, a bunch of us regrouped into about a twelve-man chase group. We hit the gas for miles, and eventually did catch back on to the leading pack, which was spinning along a little less than tempo, content to just ride along until they hit the hill again for the next selection. As always, there were a few in the bunch who were driving the rest of nuts. They would surge ahead or take long pulls or otherwise disrupt the smooth progress of a nice tight double pace line. A few in the group had their tongues dragging on their front wheel and were obviously pretty blown from the hill climb, and there was one annoying guy who kept scolding them for not doing work. I've seen this guy in races earlier this year. I have no idea who he is, but he's always chatting about something, sharing his racing wisdom with the masses. I made it my mission to beat him up the final climb.

It was cool and wet with fog, and I had to make myself eat and drink. The many miles of flats and little rollers can sap the energy from your legs without you really recognizing it.

The second time up the hill, I was selected out again, and this time when I got to the top, I was with one other guy, a friend of mine on another local team. He was stronger than I was on the rollers and flats, so I said goodbye and let myself drop off as he caught another rider so I could ride my own pace home. A couple miles later, he cramped up so much, he had to get off the bike and stretch and waved me on. I caught up to one, then two more guys. We passed a few more who had cramped and blown up in the remaining miles to the finish line. One was the annoying guy from earlier in the race, and I was pleased to at least finish in front of him. A teammate, Jeremy, had finished third on the day, so he was best placed on GC points, so we'd work for him during the crit on Sunday.

The drag race street sprints downtown in the evening were, as usual, both fun and annoying at the same time. They do virtually nothing for showing your talent as a bike rider, and although it's interesting and fun, it's annoying to get suited up and warmed up for 10 to 30 seconds of racing depending on how many heats you win. I won my first easily with a peak power of 1208 watts, lost my second with 1222 watts, and then came in third in my last round, to get a handful of points added to my GC score.

It was a beautiful day in the park for the criterium on Sunday. The 3/4 field felt darn fast. We averaged just under 27 mph for the roughly 25 miles. There was one crash on the downhill; a single guy who did a superman onto a driveway that went down an embankment. He was seen standing afterwards, and I think he lost skin only and didn't do any major damage. The final turn was incredibly rough with pothole patches all over the place, and I'm surprised no one went down through there from the sideways float you got when spending half the time in the air over the bumps. The tree-lined road was echoing with the cracking, rapping sound of deep-dish carbon wheels. None came apart, but for sure there were a few microfibers that didn't survive the day.

When it came time late in the race to move our leader to the front, about two or three of us were up to the task. I joined the of the team in the middle of the pack, who's sole contribution to the leadout was yelling, "Go for it Jeremy! Good luck!" Later that evening, I would download the power meter to see an insane looking graph. Peaks and valleys all over the place. The average wattage for the crit was only something like 210W, but there was an awful lot of time spent in the 3, 4, and 500s.

All in all, it was good training, and I needed the intensity. The ESG qualifiers come up this Saturday, and I'm hoping to make the team again. It will depend mostly on the actions of others, whether or not they can go or want to go to the games in late July. Ten guys and three alternates are chosen, and if enough of the top guys would rather go to Altoona or do some other race, then I just might squeak onto the squad. I'm not holding much hope though. I feel like I was in better shape last year, and even then I still only scored 16th place and just made the team with seven guys above me decided not to go. With the games in Rochester this year, I think even more guys will want to go, so I'll probably be staying home in late July. But hey, you never know.

See you on the road.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Race Weekend

Tomorrow marks the start of the two day Syracuse Race Weekend. There's a road race on Saturday morning featuring a relatively long climb on Oak Hill which my 3/4 field will do twice. The street sprint drag races are downtown Saturday evening, a fun and non-taxing event. Sunday is crit in the park day. It'll be a tiring weekend, if not from the actual racing, then from volunteering when not on the bike. The Monday parades and picnics will be a welcome day of relaxation. I'm not looking for any personal high finishes, but several team members have the gas to do pretty well. I'll probably be OTB in the road race after the first lap, do fairly well in the drag races, then be a moderately good team worker in the crit.

Last year, about five flat miles into the road race on Saturday, sitting in the middle of the pack of about 60 guys, I hit a big pothole square on. I quickly realized something wasn't right. The aluminum around the top of the two bolts in the face of my stem had snapped. The bottom bolt had bent, leaving the face plate wide open and my handlebars flopping around, sitting loosely on top of the bent face plate.

My first thought was about the best way to do a shoulder roll onto the pavement without breaking any bones, and then how to curl up tightly in a ball as the remainder of the pack crashed over me. Then a little voice in my head said, "Maybe you don't have to crash."

I grabbed what was left of my stem with my left hand to get a little steering control, and then started feathering the rear brake while keeping the bars from falling into my front wheel with my right. Riders around me yelled, "Hey, hold your line!" as I wobbled a bit. "MY STEM BROKE! I CAN'T STEER! GET AWAY FROM ME!" came my rather urgent reply.

I did my best to keep it straight while slowing, then when everyone had passed, I picked a section of ditch that seemed grassier and softer than the rest and headed for it. I hit the rear brake and stepped out with my left foot. It took a few hops on the foot, but I finally stopped, upright and with skin and bones intact. My race was over, but I hadn't gone down. Not too bad, considering how bad it could have been.

With that in mind, I have a nice new stem, I checked to make sure the pothole had been filled in, and I'm all set to race. It should be fun.

See you on the hill!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Salted Ham

Spring is finally here in CNY, and is scheduled to last for the next couple days, to be immediately followed by summer heat. So goes the usual spring around here. Anyway, with the weather breaking, I'm back to riding. Two days in a row now. Whew.

Tuesday I took the TT bike out to the "Mucklands" north toward Oneida Lake. If you want flat around here, that's where you go. The roads are long, straight, and flat. A 25 foot climb out there feels like a monster. I went pretty hard for a bit over an hour and a half and had lots of fun. It's simply fun to go fast, and that bike feels fast. On the way home, I twice spotted a rider up the road. I eased off a little to rest the legs a bit and to time my passing them to occur on a grade where I could really get up a lot of speed. Then I ripped past them, smiling and nodding hello and trying to look cool and relaxed, but in reality with my legs burning from dropping 400W into the cranks until I was far enough past them that my dropping speed wouldn't be so noticeable. We've all done it before, right? As Drew has said, "The best races are the ones where the other person doesn't know they're racing."

Wednesday night brought a weekly club ride. The course followed this coming weekend's race course for a little preview. It was a tough ride. I love riding with the club. If you want to kill yourself, you can get to the front and push the pace. If you need a rest, you just sit in the pack. We made the sharp turn onto Oak Hill, the main climb on the course, and several people launched themselves up the road. I just shifted down to a gear I could spin and tried to stick the wattage at 325. After about a minute, all but one of those who had surged ahead were heading backwards. The main part of the hill took me nearly nine minutes at an average of 303 watts. Saturday, I'll get to do it twice during the race. Yup, it's going to hurt.

At the top, we regrouped a bit, but then a small group rolled away when I wasn't paying attention, then started turning up the speed. It took me about a minute of max effort to bridge up to them, and I just barely made it. I had that amazing sensation of deep ache way down in the body of the quads that you get when you push really far, dig really deep; when you can somehow push past the burn and still you can get your legs to put out the power even though they're cooked. Awesome feeling.

I chatted with the guy I'd chased all the way up the climb. He said it was his second group ride. "You mean, with this group?" I asked. "No, second group ride ever. I just started riding after an elbow injury sidelined my rock climbing."

Sigh. One more brand new guy who's going to be faster than I am in about a week. It's great to see people new to the sport, and fun to watch them as their excitement about it grows. It would be nice though, if for just one year, those fast beginners would stay out for the season and let me win a race or two.

Anyway, today my TT position training and the efforts last night have left my legs sore, especially my hammies which feel particularly assaulted. (Sorry about the title.) I was going to race at the training circuit tonight, but I have instead decided to go home and plant strawberries. Actually, to replant strawberries.

My lovely wife, who has taken to the homeownership thing with unparalleled enthusiasm, spent hours last night in the garden weeding, digging up about thirty healthy strawberry plants. Along with them came lots of dandelions and other actual weeds too. A little voice in the back of her head made her take a sample to work today to show a coworker who knows about such things. She took one look and said, "Oh, those are strawberries."

Fortunately, Sue had dug them up with roots still intact (man, is she ever serious about weeding!) and put everything into a big paper sack. So they've been out of the sun today and we're hoping that they're salvageable. Sue feels bad, I feel bad that she feels bad, but I have to say it's also pretty damn funny.

Needless to say, unless you're an easily identified dandelion in our flower garden, you're going to get a free ride this year. Sue's sworn off weeding until everything has had a chance to bloom, flower, fruit, or whatever it's going to do this summer.

See you on the road, if I'm not still in the garden.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Going Backwards

My cycling season is definitely going backwards, but hopefully will turn around soon. The weekend brought nearly endless rain and temperatures in the high 40s and low 50s. I kept thinking it would start snowing at any moment.

We've officially pulled out of Fitchburg, so there's a refund, minus processing fees, coming our way. The money we will save by not going to Fitchburg was spent promptly in two trips to Lowes on Saturday. Apparently if one has a back porch on one's house, one needs 2.5 gallons of cleaner, a pump sprayer, three gallons of stain/sealer, a barbeque, and an outdoor table/chairs/umbrella set. We threw in a weed whacker for good measure, some plywood and nails for a tool board and some hooks for wheels in the bike shop upstairs. By Saturday evening, we had a huge pile of new crap in the barn, and as we looked at it, like hunters back from a successful safari, I noted how that big pile plus a few hundred more bucks would buy a single pair of deep dish carbon wheels. Sorta put everything in perspective.

I was remounting light fixtures in the bike shop Sunday morning, as the previous owner had let them dangle when painting the ceiling and never put them back. I started cramming the wires back up into the ceiling when the rest of the lights went out. The radio I'd plugged in was still working, so there must be at least two circuits in the small room. Interesting. I kept wiggling wires until I found the one that was causing the problem. I wiggled it until the lights came back on and stayed on, then left it alone. So, a new task of figuring out which breaker that circuit is attached to, turning it off, and then recapping the loose wire is now on the "to do" list.

The bike shop is coming along, with most tools hung up and many wheels hanging up out of the way. I'll post some pics along the way sometime.

This time next week, I hope to have written a post about how the weather warmed up and dried up, how I've been training hard for a week, how the Syracuse Race Weekend went well, and how I was looking forward to a remote chance of making the ESG team at the qualifiers the next weekend. Basically, I need all the riders in shape to either stay home or decide they want to attend Altoona instead of the Games in August.

See you on the road!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Rocket Ship

Just as I arrived home last night, the rain tapered off and the wind died down. I'd resigned myself to an evening in the attic, but then decided that I really should get outside. I grabbed the TT bike and headed out. This would be my first ride on the latest position changes.

Yeehaw. Increasing the saddle height made a world of difference on the legs, and lowering the armrests felt good too. I put in several minutes of TT effort and felt pretty comfortable. There is still somewhat of a saddle comfort issue, but in years of time trialing, I've never done one in any position when I finished with my nether regions feeling like flowers and sunshine, so I think that might just be part of time trialing. I'll keep fiddling with it though to see if I can get it any better. The saddle I'm using on the TT bike is an old one that could probably use an update too. I'm a bit stretched out in the bars, but it's comfortable, and if I bring them back any more, my knees will hit if I stand on a climb so I think they are where they will stay. I'd like to be able to lower them a bit more, but without getting a smaller frame, I can't see how I'd do that.

The overall position feels quite good though, and I was pleased with my PE levels at relatively high wattage for me, and it simply "felt" fast, even with the standard spoked training wheels. I'm looking forward to taking the rig out onto the weekly course and giving her an official go with all the aero junk on her.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

No, not "Du-"

Observant readers may have noticed that an event called the "Syracuse Summer Biathlon" has appeared on my calendar in June. Yes, it's a BIathlon and not a DUathlon. I did not know before, but there is an active biathlon club in CNY. They ski and shoot during the winter, of course, but also have events like these during the summer.

One option is a run and shoot, the other is a mountain bike and shoot. Although I was never a hunter, growing up on a farm like I did, I had ample opportunities to fire a variety of pistols, shotguns, and rifles, and I wasn't the world's worst shot. I can't wait to attend this event exclusively for the fun of it, with no pressure whatsoever to actually do well. The club furnishes rifles to first-timers, and there's a quick tutorial before the race where one can get in some practice shots.

The "mountain bike" part of the race is depressingly short at 7K - whew! I don't know the trails but I do know there won't be any obstacles to ride over. I'm thinking the cross bike will be the way to go. I assume you ride to where you shoot, then ride to the finish. I also assume you don't carry the rifle like the skiing version. That would be interesting. "Yeah, I endoed with rifle on my back and I've never been the same..."

Anyway, it's new, sounds a bit insane, and I can't wait. I've got to train hard. Much like the duathletes who ride hard then immediately run afterwards, I've laid out a program where every day I get on the bike, ride really hard for five minutes, then immediately stand very, very still. This plan has greatly reduced my time spent training, but you've got to train like you need to race, right? I'll let you know how that goes.

See you on the range.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Gettin' There

I visited the hardware store over the weekend and, in addition to two bags of forest brown cedar mulch, (one day you're living in a nice little apartment socking money away and buying bike parts made from the latest unobtainium, and the next day you've bought a house and find yourself dropping bucks on stuff you're going to throw on the ground outside, stuff that will eventually become dirt - what's up with that? I just spent good money on dirt), I picked up a couple of simple washers to work on my aerobar position. The Profile Carbon X bars are nice because they provide lots of positions for mounting the extensions, but you're left with these big honkin' brackets that pretty much do nothing except take up space. I got some washers of the same approximate surface area as the bracket mounts so that the load would be similarly distributed over the carbon fiber wing around the bolt hole. I then simply removed the top brackets and threaded the inner bolt through the hole in the armpad mounting arm. The effect was to lower my arm position a bit over 3cm, a nice drop.

I also raised my saddle almost 1cm. Just riding around, it was fine, but in an actual time trial at race cadence, I found myself forward on the saddle and pedaling more with toes down so my effective saddle height was quite low. With the saddle up, and the armpads down, my back is quite a bit more towards the horizontal than before, without me feeling cramped in the hips. I'm looking forward to some intervals this week to give me some more feedback.

We'll see how the power development is in this position. Opportunities for change I see immediately include shortening the aerobar extensions a bit to remove some of the possible pressure on the shoulders from being stretched out and to get the elbows closer to the knees for better air flow, and then I might start tweaking the saddle forward and up, trying to get the upper arms more vertical and getting the back flatter.

There's nothing much sexier in cycling than a decked-out time trial bike, in my opinion. Something about those wheels and the broad carbon frames, I guess. I have an opportunity to do the local club time trial on a brand new Trek Team Time Trial bike, and I can't wait to give it a try. Talk about sexy! It's not quite the level of eye candy of the Cervelo P3 carbon, but it's pretty close. I'm just hoping that it doesn't beat my personal best by a huge amount or else I'll be walking back into the bike shop with my credit card instead of the bike.

See you on the road!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Confessions from a Vigilante Motorist

It's true, folks. I just might be a douche bag.

I was on my way home from work Friday, taking an unusual route to run an errand. I found myself waiting in a left-turn only lane for several minutes. The protected left green signal is short, traffic heavy, and traffic always backs up there. It's frustrating to sit and watch the signal go through three or four cycles before you get a chance to go.

Anyway, I was within one cycle of getting my turn when suddenly on my right appears a dude in a silver Hyundai (I think) with his left turn signal on and the nose of his car virtually touching my right front bumper corner in an agressive, "I'm going to force my way in here" manner. As I tend towards the "vigilante" classification of road raging motorists, a switch clicked on in my head, and I wasn't about to let this guy get away with charging ahead of a long line of cars so he could cut in front of everyone.

As the light turned green, we both went and though I gave up a few inches by fading left, he eventually gave up and pulled in behind me, gesticulating madly. I saw one out of ten fingers prominently displayed. I pointed to my head in a "think next time" gesture as we all pulled to a stop for the next light cycle.

That was when he decided to get out of his car. I quickly figured I had enough room between me and the car in front to pull out and take some evasive action if I needed to, so I stayed put in the car. As he approached my door, I checked the door locks and focused on his suit jacket to see if there were any odd bulges I should be ready for.

This relatively thick-necked guy with short, curly blonde hair rapped on my window and I lowered it a couple inches. He proceeded to yell at me for not letting him in and I replied in kind telling him he should learn to wait in line like everyone else. He ended the conversation by calling me a "douche bag" and strode off in a huff back to his car. I haven't been called a douche bag since the football players in high school would occasionally blurt out with that one while sitting on top of me in the muddy field while playing outside at lunch time. Ah, good times, good times.

Anyway, I drove off and kept playing the incident over in my mind, and was very glad that there hadn't been any violence involved. Then it happened. I realized that if he had just exited from the local post office parking lot, he would've had no chance to wait in the line of cars, and I should have let him in. Technically, he should have gotten in line a few cars back near the exit, but it's extremely likely that I had, in fact, been a douche bag.

Then another thing occurred to me. I'm 99.9% sure that my car is the only one of its description in at least a 15 mile radius. I've seen only two other Audi S4 wagons in the area, and one is dolphin gray and the other imola yellow. And mine is certainly the only one with three bike rack trays on the top. So, I had just pissed in my own drinking water, so to speak, having wrongly ticked off a guy within 1.5 miles of my workplace. Every day that goes by that I arrive back at my car after work to find the tires not slashed nor a message keyed into my door will be a good one. I'm hoping that the dude was an out-of-town traveler or was too blinded by his rage to notice much about my car. For now, I'm on high alert for silver hyundais and I'm letting every huge truck and slow-driving little old lady get in front of me to try and get some karma back. If I run into the guy, I have an apology ready if he's willing to hear it.

Sorry man, my bad.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Small World

After the fun of racing last weekend, and a kick-butt workout with a couple of teammates on Tuesday when we scaled the biggest hill we could find nearby once, twice, and three times, I've found myself sitting on the couch eating cereal far too often after work. The nights have been too short and my after-work energy points that out. This weekend I'll be trying to put together some plans to keep the days more organized, cut back on a couple of time-wasters, and buckle down on training hard and sleeping adequately.

Because of all the couch-sitting, I have nothing to report, except that Netflix delivered the next disc in the Band of Brothers series and I burned through two episodes as soon as I got it out of the mailbox. I'm starting a run on ordering up the Battlestar Galactica series. I saw most of the first season but then missed a few episodes and it's so great, I haven't allowed myself to watch the new ones without catching up on the ones I missed. Joey V also says 24 is a great series too, so they're going in the Netflix queue soon as well.

Finally, I just had a "small world" experience today. I was browsing over at The Daily Grind (see blog links) when I saw a comment by Solobreak. I followed that link, then started reading his blog. I discovered he attended Jiminy Peak, and curiously mentioned Joe's name. Reading on, I saw were he described following Tim to the Hollenbeck race. Wait just a minute. That was me! Solobreak had stayed at my place between Jiminy and Hollenbeck with the ladies from Team Terry. The Blogosphere just got a little smaller. It's nice to meet bloggers in person, or at least happen upon their blogs accidentally after you meet them in person.

See you on the road. If I can get off the couch, that is!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

More than Groceries

I freely admit that, like many cyclists, I am a germophobe (or to use a real word, a verminophobe.) Last night was a recovery night, which also means that it was a night to get things done that get neglected while I'm on the bike. Grocery shopping was number one on the list.

I collected the cart full, headed to the emptiest checkout line, and started unloading. After it was way too late to pick another line, I realized the checkout girl was picking something else.

A tissue box sat near the register. She was sniffing with every other breath. The trash can under the counter was overflowing with used tissues. Warning bells started ringing in my head. "She has a cold!"

I watched in horror as she readied a stack of grocery bags. Nose wipe! Not the side-to-side wipe that deposits nastiness on the back of the hand, but the upward smoosh that leaves a trail on the palm that would be touching my groceries. Finger lick! The new grocery bags were apparently sticking together and her solution was to lick her thumb to get enough finger friction to separate them. Thumb pick! That quick movement to the nose, looking like it might be a relatively innocent scratch but at the last second becomes a thumb burried up the nostril with a quick flick on the way out just in case it made purchase and came out with something good.

I stood there in visceral anguish as I watched my groceries go by.

Cereal. Milk. Wipe. Turkey. Cheese. Pick. Yogurt. Crackers. Lick. Lick. Tomatoes. Pick. Yam. Lick. Grapes. Bananas. Wipe.

The experience climaxed with a big, wet blow into a tissue during the pause waiting for the receipt to print out. I could swear that when I took the slip of paper from her, it briefly stuck to her fingertips.

I unloaded the groceries at home and was sure I could see every bag, every box, every carton shiny with goo and crawling with little bugs.

I think I'll go shopping this weekend for gas masks, water, and canned food, pile it high within the walls of the old cistern in the basement, and wait for the next big flu strain to come through.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Jiminy Peak and Hollenbeck's Race Reports

I boosted the season's maximal power curve up a few notches this weekend. I went to the Jiminy Peak road race in Massachusettes on Saturday and then followed up with the Hollenbeck's road race around the Greek Peak ski area just a bit south of home in central NY.

I'm not a huge fan of the Jiminy Peak race. The course is pretty boring, doing laps on mostly flats with one 1.5K climb up to the finish followed immediately by a long fairly gentle descent. The weather has usually given me fits there. It always seems to be raining and cold. One year I decided to go only to support and cheer on Sue in her first road race, and left my bike at home. It was sunny and warm that year.

However, the New England riders always get a jump on us in central NY due to their better late winter weather, so the competition is always stiff and a good test. And this year, I was crashing at my good friend Joe's house near Albany the night before, and he'd be racing with me, so I was at least guaranteed some fun along the way.

We warmed up in fairly light rain, feeling okay on the uphills, but feeling pretty cold on the downhills. My PowerTap SL, which is supposed to be much more water-resistant than the old models, quit transmitting after about 45 minutes in the light rain. As long as it wasn't transmitting, I swapped the wheel out for the slightly lighter spare I had brought along. I was not impressed with the durability in the rain, but I've heard other people having much better luck with the PT SL.

At the start line, the rain broke and the sun started trying to peak through, so we tossed the rain jackets in the car and were off. The first lap was taken at a relatively firm pace, but quite manageable in the pack. My legs were cold and wooden to start, but loosened up with some efforts over the little rollers. The wide pack pinched through the narrow turn between curb and traffic island onto the main climb at the end of the first lap. I had to slow more than I wanted on the inside as the pack pushed right, but stood up and got back up to speed over the first pitch up. I tucked into the pack as best I could as the road flattened a bit, then pitched up again. The pack strung out with me near the tail end of the top 20 of 75 riders and it was starting to get pretty hard. I glanced over my shoulder to see that I had a couple riders behind me, but then a big gap had formed. I pushed hard to stay in contact over the top, but didn't have to dig too deeply into the fast twitch muscles. Right before popping near the top of a climb, sometimes you can just make it over the top by standing and sprinting 100% for about five seconds. It blows you, but if you can make it to the downgrade still in contact you'll be okay. I had just made it over without having to light those extra boosters.

Down the hill and around the flats again, the pack was completely unmotivated and we tooled along chatting at Sunday morning club pace. With about five miles left in the race, a chase group caught back on. Nobody cared too much. We'd dropped them once and they'd been chasing hard all this time. We'd surely drop them again.

We turned right onto the hill, up the first pitch, leveled out, then up again to the finish. I fairly quickly lost touch with the leading group of ten or so who had some good sprinting power, and I just sat and spun up with gaps behind and in front of me. One guy caught and passed me about 200 meters before the finish. He was completely redlined and I said, "Good finish!" But then he started to really crack with about 50 to go, and I felt a little bad as I spun by to take 16th place from him.

In the end, the day was perfect. It was dry and warm for most of the race, and I'd basically done a club ride with a couple brief, hard efforts. My legs felt good and I hadn't emptied them, so I could go into the more important and much harder Hollenbeck road race on Sunday.

Three members of Team Terry and one of their boyfriends crashed at our place Saturday night. They had all also raced at Jiminy, and were staying at our place, roughly on the way to Hollenbeck's. It was fun hosting a bunch of racers busy eating and resting and chatting about bike stuff.

Sunday morning, we all were up and heading south to Virgil, NY for the great Hollenbeck's road race, hosted by Hollenbeck's Fruit and Cookie Shop. That's probably not their official name, but there are free cookies and fruit at the finish of the race, so that's what makes an impression. The road course for the cat 3/4 field I did is two laps of a 22 mile circuit, with two steep climbs, one longer, one shorter, and then a single burst off the main loop up a tough finishing climb.

My Colavita team was out in force, with something like twelve of us in the field. On this climbers' course, our main goal was to protect our climbers so they could hit the second lap hard and reel in any breaks that tried to get away. At the gun, two guys took off like a shot and were up the road pretty quickly as we spun along. We kept them in sight for a few miles, and then they were gone around a couple of bends. It was far too early for a break to stick, and we knew the pack had some pretty big guns in it. Well, usually, it was far too early for a break to stick.

We pushed up and over the first climb. I was 99.5% redlined at the top, and a teammate of mine was on my wheel at 99.9%. Our climbers and some of the stronger cat 3 guys were doing fine, and we'd also popped two of our bigger flatlanders off the back. I told my partner in suffering that we should try to recover as much as possible, make it over the shorter, steeper "wall" to come after a few miles, then get to the front to bury ourselves to help catch the break before the start of the second lap.

As we approached the wall, I moved to near the front so I could fade back through the pack on the climb. I hit it hard, and glanced at the power meter to see numbers in the mid 500s for a while. I faded a bit, but maintained 400+ watts up and over the climb to stick pretty well in the pack. Unfortunately, we'd broken my closest teammate, and he was left behind.

On the downhills and flats and rollers that followed, I moved to the front to do what I could do. I'd bury myself for a minute or so, recover, then rejoin the chase. Three and sometimes four of us were working up there, and we maintained a pretty good pace, holding speeds nearing 30mph for much of it, the pack strung out behind us.

As we neared the beginning of the second lap, a bystander called out "two minutes!" Ack! Two minutes?! That's a big gap considering the way we were chasing and the course to come. Our only hope was that the break would crack on the second lap climbs. I stuck myself on the front and pushed to the first second lap climb, and then peeled off and wished everyone good luck. Considering my job done, I set a moderate tempo for myself up the climb, stopped to pee, then just rode out the course solo trying to maintain a pace just under LT.

At the finish, I discovered they'd never caught the break. We joked that the two guys up front were named "Lance" and "Floyd". They were college kids fresh off a tough collegiate season, and had beaten us with sheer fitness and power. One of our young guys, not necessarily picked as a climbing specialist, had out sprinted the remainder of the pack on the final climb for third, and we also grabbed fifth and some more places on down through.

I'd gotten an incredible workout with some maximal efforts on the climbs, some time trial intervals on the front of the pack chasing the break, and then a nice long, high tempo ride to finish it off. After a monster size chocolate chip cookie, a ginger ale, an apple, and a small thick tasty coffee from the Gimme guys, I was ready for a nice stretch, a spin down ride with the team, and the trip home.

This week is going to be a tough one, with a good hill workout, some work on the TT bike, and the intense and fun weekly training race. I've decided to skip the Bristol RR next weekend in favor of staying home for some nice longer rides, some chores around the house, some rest and relaxation, and a trip to Mom's and Grandma's for Mother's Day. I'm not on the climbing form I'd need to hang on to the lead pack on the long hills at Bristol, and it's too far to drive to do a simple high-tempo ride by myself or with other stragglers.

Sigh. A cup of that thick Gimme brew would taste awfully good right now.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


There's nothing much to say about cycling today so I thought I'd prattle on about the house. I got some active rest on the sore knees last night by doing some yard work. Our property line extends only a few inches east of our wooden fence around the backyard, but the previous owners planted a nice yellow bush and a circle of some sort of thorny thing a few feet into the neighbor's big yard. (How about my detailed knowledge of horticulture, eh? I think the thorny thing might be a rose bush but "yellow" is the best I can do with the other bush.) The neighbor is currently renting the big old house next door, and left a big section of long grass between us and them when they last mowed. I can only guess they have no idea where the property line is and didn't want to go too far.

The old house next door sits on 3.8 acres of what used to be industrial property. The rumor is that it is being sold to a "developer" who will be putting in sixteen condo units, to be sold around $350-400K each. If we were looking to sell our house in the next five years, I'd say "whoopee" as I'm sure that will raise our property value, but we're not, so all that means is that we'll have to absorb a hefty increase in the already oppressive tax burden. If you don't like taxes, don't come to good old New York State.

Anyway, in a likely vain attempt to encourage the developer to not build right up to the property line, and to keep in place the nice row of pine trees on their side of our fence, I raked and mowed about three swaths past our yard to give the appearance that we're responsible for the trees. I imagine the first thing they'll do is come in and level the old house and cut down everything living before remaking the area it into what condo type people like. There goes our nice backyard shade.

Oh well, if you can't stand neighbors doing their thing, then you've got to buy a hundred acres in the country and live in the middle of it.

There's a huge project I need to dig into with the house. I desperately want to replace, refurbish, and or fortify the windows. We have storm windows on the first two floors, but on cold days in the winter, we still get ice built up on the inside of the inside pane, which then melts and over the decades, has damaged the wood in the sills. Damage aside, it's darn cold around the windows, and being a lightweight, I typically freeze all winter even with the furnace cranking. The attic is especially annoying because it has new windows, but they opted for super cheap ones, and there are no storms, so it'll get down to near 40 up there on the coldest days, with the wind whistling right through and that's just no fun for working out.

So, I need to do some major research about how to put in more efficient glass and tighter window frames, while maintaining the old, wide wood molding and the look of a classic victorian. Suggestions, anyone? With over 25 windows in the house, I'm looking to get nailed big time in the wallet.

For your daily cycling fix, here's something I ran into again on the 'net a few days back. The retirement of Lance means at least one big thing: Nike won't be pouring money into making any more awesome cycling commercials for a while. So, you've seen it before, but it's worth another viewing. Watch Magnet for some good music and some quick inspiration for training.

See you on the road.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Minutes and Millimeters

I completed my first official club time trial of the year last night. There was a stiff, cool breeze, providing a nasty headwind and sidewind on the way out to the turnaround, and a sidewind and tailwind on the way back. I had left the disc wheel at home and instead rode the PowerTap wheel. I wanted a measurement of my time trial power under race conditions.

Time trials are terrible, terrible things. You have to ride on the razor's edge, ever vigilant about putting power to the pedals and suffering like a dog. The air was dry last night too, which meant I was in for a big case of hacking and coughing after the finish line.

By the end of the ten miles, the clock read 24:16, a little over a minute worse than my best-ever time. That's not terrible for this time of the year, especially considering I was lacking my disc wheel and it was quite windy, but it's not great either.

The race was good, though, at providing some education about power and position. I had been trying to get my position right on the trainer at home and on the road a bit a couple weeks ago. It's not until you go through the stress of a live time trial, dropping the hammer for over 20 minutes, that problems with position show their true colors.

From about mile two on, I had the sensation that my saddle was too low, and I found myself frequently trying to push myself rearward on the saddle. At the finish, my knees were aching a bit and my average power for the effort had been only 278 watts. I managed an average of 282 watts in an hour on my road bike on the rollers in dark, cold February, and my power analysis software tells me that my best 20 minutes so far this season was an average of 298 watts (on a climb in Asheville three weeks ago), so I must say that 278 in 24 minutes was a bit disappointing, but I'm taking it as a challenge to improve my position and train more on the TT bike.

I will be getting out the measuring tape, plumb bobs, and protractors and doing full measurements studying my road bike and comparing it with my TT bike. I'll probably be moving the saddle up and a bit back to start. When riding easily on the TT bike, the saddle appears to be at a good height. When doing a real TT though, I tend to inch forward on the saddle and spin faster on top of the gear without as much heel-drop for power as I use on the road bike. In the end, I think it all works to give me an effectively lower saddle when time trialing, and I felt it in my aching knees and drop in power.

I'll be trying to get the TT bike very close to the road position and probably raising the saddle a hair to try and get as much power as I can get on the road bike. Then I'll start inching towards a more aerodynamic position while trying not to sacrifice comfort and power.

If only I had a wind-tunnel and smoke tracers in my basement... Do you suppose a box fan and some incense sticks would do the trick?

See you on the road.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Monday Morning Fuzz

Warm, dry, reddened face from forgetting sunscreen for a couple hours. Eyesight slightly bleary. Stuffy nose and chest tightness from inhaling lots of air filled with lots of spring pollen. Eyelids of sand. Slightly chapped lips. Tight, worked quads. Yup, it was a good, hard race yesterday, and I have a bad case of Monday Morning Fuzz.

In fact, it was *two* good, hard races yesterday. The Binghamton Circuit Race is held on a 1.6 mile loop, with big sweeping corners and a sprinters' uphill and a gently flowing downhill. It's a real power rider course. Which means I suffered.

The first race of the day was the 4/5 race, and I'd guess there were about 60 guys or so. The field felt fairly safe, but everybody was jumpy. Any breaks that got 100 meters on the pack were jumped on right away. Each time up the climb, I noticed the watt meter settling into the 500s, and I wondered how many of those matches I'd have to burn. I spun the pedals fast to try and lighten the load on the muscles to save it for the final sprint.

I had three teammates with me. One was hanging on pretty well, but then popped off the back a few laps before the finish. The other two are pretty strong guys right now, and we were working for a nice leadout into the sprint up the final hill to the finish. Fine plan, but we started way too early, and in the wrong order. On the back stretch, we found ourselves on the front of the itchy pack. I was second in line, and my first teammate started cranking up the speed. My other teammate behind me was yelling, "Here they come! Go now!" I glanced over my shoulder to see not a charging line of riders I expected, but just everyone gathering on our wheels, waiting for the base of the climb to start their sprints.

"Easy! Ease up! Not yet!" I yelled back. My legs were beginning to burn and we were still half a K from the finish.

"Here they come! Go now!" from behind me. Arrrgh!

So our first leadout man cranked it up a notch, then another. As we hit the bottom of the climb, he was gapping me and I was shot. "Go! Go!" I yelled to my teammates, then simply tried to ride as fast and as straight as I could to avoid a pileup on my rear wheel as the charging pack came flowing around me like a damn broke.

Our first guy popped half way up, and our third guy in effect became the leadout for the entire peloton. Needless to say, we didn't place well.

After the race, I sat on the tailgate of the station wagon by myself munching some of Saturday night's leftover cornbread, sucking down my Endurox R4 mix, and thinking that this sport of cycling is one damn hard sport, I wasn't in the shape I'd hoped to be in, and that maybe I'd rather be home putting together our new lawn mower and cutting some grass or painting a bathroom or something. The average speed for the 4/5 race had been just over 25 mph, and the multiple spikes of high wattage had toasted me. The matches in my current book are pretty short.

After a spin down and a good stretch, I reluctantly signed up for the last race of the day, a 3/4/5 combined field. I'm glad I did. In that field of about 35 racers, we had five teammates, picking up a couple of our cat 3 guys. The pace was fairly sedate for a few laps, with a couple of ill-fated breaks trying their luck. Another solo break went up the road, and it was one of our cat 4s, the leadout guy from the first race. The rest of us played policeman and diligently covered everyone who turned the pace up. For eight or nine laps, our guy sat out front with a decent lead, and we just worked behind, sitting in and breaking the rythym and morale of any riders thinking of bridging up. It's amazing that one can slow the pace so much just by not contributing. We didn't physically try to block anyone of course, but just having three guys continually sucking wheels really wears on the mind.

With very few laps to go, our solo break broke, and came back into the folds of the peloton. Short any true sprinters, we didn't organize any real leadout for the sprint, but we all picked our own positions. Funilly enough, we all did far better than we did in the first race, with a 4th, 5th, 9th, and I was in an unofficial 13th. Not all that bad for a bunch of non-sprinters, I figure.

The fun of teamwork and reasonable sprint for this time of the season for me helped to renew my racing desire, and my mind turned to recovering today and then the hard training days to come.

After downloading the PT info at home in the evening, I was amazed by the peaks and valleys in wattage during the race. I expected to see extended peaks on the climb, troughs on the downhill, etc. Instead, there are spikes all over the place, and until I looked at speed, it was hard to tell where the effort on the hill came each lap. What an interesting sport it is that requires lots of endurance, but punctuates events with frequent bursts of high power output. No wonder it's so hard. (And fun, I suppose.)

At the end of the day, I was home and joined Sue in the flower garden where she'd been all day yanking weeds. I put together the new mower and fired it up and took a recovery spin around and around and around the lawn, thankful that we'd opted for one that was self-propelled.

See you on the road.