Monday, June 26, 2006

Sacrifices and Spoils

A weekend of fast racing is behind me, and I'm looking forward to the next 26 days of training race-free.

The Rochester Criterium

Saturday evening I drove out to Rochester for the Twilight Criterium. Sue and our nephew Brian came with me to watch. Brian just got hit by a baseball pitch and broke his arm for, I think, the fourth summer in a row. We thought that watching a fast, national-level pro criterium under the lights would be a good distraction from the pain.

I realized a few miles from home that I'd forgotten to pack the trainer. I was running a bit tight on time to get there before registration closed, so there was no going back. Warming up would be tricky. I'd driven to the race last year when Sue raced and I watched, and the directions I'd downloaded from the Rochester web site seemed different. They said they led to a parking garage. I assumed that must be a mistake - after all, why would you lead a bunch of cyclists with bikes on the roof to a parking garage?

Sure enough, I followed them, winding around several blocks in the city and discovered that they did indeed terminate at the entrance to a parking garage. I could see the course so I could get my bearings, and I had an idea of where last year's parking lot might be. I drove on, fast, of course, because when you're lost, you want to get there fast.

I headed south, and took a left turn on intuition. It ended at a familiar intersection. There was a "road closed ahead" sign to the left, with just enough room to get around it. I sped past. Hey, it said "road closed ahead", not "road closed". Another block, another "road closed ahead" sign. There was no room to go around it and stay in my lane, but I could see the parking lot I wanted to get to. After a quick glance around for John Brown, I sped around the island in the middle of the road, into the oncoming lane, back over into my lane, and into the parking lot, safe and sound, and fifteen minutes before registration closed.

The Rochester Crit course has nine turns, including a sweeping hairpin into a downhill section. The uphill section past the finish line isn't steep, but it sure can eat at the legs. I found the course easy technically, despite what I originally thought from looking at the map of nine turns. The only high-speed corner is at the bottom of the long, straight downhill, and it's a gently sweeping turn, so even at high speed you can pedal through it. All the technical sections are either wide open or come at the top of gentle climbs so the speeds aren't very high.

I bummed time on a trainer from a friend who'd raced an earlier race, and got the heart rate up and the legs burning. The burn tells you it's working. Ninety-three of us lined up at the category 3/4 start line.

Past the finish line, the road narrows into a single lane with a curbed traffic island on the left. It then turns right, then sweeps left and back right again around a hairpin. Our field was already beginning to stretch out. Someone at the front was putting on the gas. In the back, you come around that hairpin doing under 20mph, and already the front of the pack is halfway down the hill doing over 30. Talk about your slinky! Ouch.

The pace stayed hot for several laps. The announcer kept remarking on how long the 93-man field was when it was stretched out single file. I noticed that my uphill wattage in the finishing straight was between 400 and 550 watts every lap around. I figured maybe it was best I not look.

I could hear Sue and Brian yelling at the hairpin turn where they'd set up to watch the race. I heard my name at other points along the course as well, and they kept me hanging on tight. After four laps, I glanced behind me. Nobody home. I'd started out near the middle of the pack, but I'd somehow drifted all the way to the back! Into the downhill turn, I pushed the pace and slingshot past several guys, took the left then right tight, and settled down as best I could with the cushion of quite a few guys behind me in the train.

Three or four more laps went by. A teammate of mine popped and disappeared. Another one suddenly sat up and pulled to the side after the hairpin, cracked. I jumped across the gap and got back on the pack. Up the hill again, and I looked behind me. Nobody home again! I realized I wasn't drifting back in the pack. The pack behind me was disappearing! For the entire race, I seemed to be mark the edge of a cliff. As soon as I got ahead of somebody, they'd drop off and get pulled by the officials.

About two-thirds through the race, I almost ended my race in spectacular irony. The pace suddenly eased past the finish line. I moved up on the outside and found a nice little space to tuck in between the pack and the traffic island's curb. A guy behind me yelled, "Watch the curb, idiot!" I had plenty of space to move in, and did so, no problem. I glanced back and said, "Yeah, I got my eye on it." That was right about the time that the curb edged in another five inches or so, something I'd failed to notice on my previous laps. My left pedal came slamming down on top of it, vaulting my bike up into the air a few inches. My tires came safely back down to earth and I kept my mouth shut for the remainder of the race.

During the last lap, I managed a late surge to move up nine spots from dead last to 31st. We finished with only 40 of the original 93 left in the pack. During the race, I felt bad about being at the back, but after the finish, I felt pretty good about having held on and beaten 62 guys. What didn't feel good were my saddle bits, my nether regions, the creases between my legs and the "boys". I'd spent so long spinning on the rivet under high power, I'd chaffed off some skin down below.

Sue, Brian and I strolled off to the Golden Port restaurant with my friends from the area, Maria and Adam, for some dim sum. I sucked down rice, eel, chicken, vegetable dumplings, crab, wasabi, seaweed salad, and some kind of sweet red bean desert pocket. Good food! Brian was a real trooper. There's no way I would have tried eel at age 13, but he was in there swinging.

We headed back to the racecourse to watch the second half of the men's pro race. Their pace was obviously very fast this year, as their huge field suffered the same fate that mine did. By the finish, the announcer was noting that the pros had whittled off every last amateur cat 1 and 2 in the field. Friends of mine who I consider super strong were in this field and were cracked wide open. Amazing to watch.

The Owasco Lake Flyer

Sunday morning, I headed out to Auburn for the Owasco Lake Flyer. Around 200 people, I'd guess, of abilities ranging from fast tourist to decent cat 2 lined up. I spent the half-mile controlled start skimming up the shoulder of the road to get in the front. There was an early solo break. I knew the guy and I knew the horsepower in the pack could suck him back in with little difficulty when we decided to go. The first little hill loomed on the horizon, and someone up front lit a match. The field strung out and the solo break came back fast. A small group got a good gap on the climb as the rest of the pack slowed a bit. The major players sat in, waiting for the second half of the race where most of the climbing is, and the gap widened.

About halfway through the race, I heard the telltale, "Whoa, whoa, WHOA!" followed by metal and carbon hitting pavement coming from a ways behind me. No one was seriously injured, but the pileup would delay a couple of the major players who would catch up to the front only much later in the race,

I was able to hang onto the head of the peloton until about half way up the climbing sections when it got a bit steeper. I settled into a rhythm with a teammate of mine who's been climbing around my ability recently. After a few more minutes, I could feel my legs getting that feeling like I could push them beyond limits, and as I concentrated, my breathing began to relax a bit and opened up. I started pushing bigger gears, watched the watts on my PowerTap pop up a bit, and watched the group in front of me get bigger as the guys I'd been riding with got smaller and disappeared. I grabbed a wheel in a group of five other guys as they crested the climb, then sat in to rest briefly. Oddly enough, I then felt like I was one of the stronger guys in the group and we pulled hard to try to catch groups in front of us.

The last few miles of the course are an endless series of ups and downs, so any differences in ability became obvious as even small groups like ours split apart. I finished sprinting against an up-and-comer, one of the high school kids who attends the local Thursday night races. As his 17 year-old legs started to pull away from me on the finishing rise, my 35 year-old left calf threatened to cramp. It's done that before and I know that if I keep pushing, it'll cramp up and be sore for several days, so I sat up and brought home 20th place overall solo.

Everyone always seems so much friendlier at non-USCF races, and this was no exception. Everyone congratulated everyone else for doing their best, and everyone chatted over free food and drink and schwag for quite some time after the race. There were door prizes for the lucky, and awards deep into age categories for those who managed to be just a little bit speedy for their age.

Let the Healing and Suffering Begin

With some healthy doses of Bag Balm and Gold Bond, things down south are feeling better and I'm ready to embark on three solid weeks of some hard training. I felt some form beginning to come on over the weekend, and with some good training it'll keep coming along.

See you on the road!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Summer Weddings and Gold Mines

Alert readers might notice the disappearance of two events on my calendar. Another wedding has claimed two more races, in Windsor and Union Vale. The wedding will be my first time ever to Central Park, so that'll be interesting, but the schedule will likely keep me off the bike for three days straight, Saturday through Monday, the weekend before the big Owasco Stage Race. I will have to plan my training carefully.

With the wedding July 15-16, me having dropped out of Fitchburg June 29-July 2, and no interesting races on July 8-9, I'm left with 26 days of no races between the races this weekend and the Owasco SR. It's actually the perfect opportunity to test my mettle, to see how well I can stick to a hard training schedule leading up to the big event. It's also an opportunity to enjoy some peak summer weekends with friends and family and to take part in some activities that normal people do during the summer while I'm usually off racing. Who knows? Maybe I'll actually move forward with taking care of that bee infestation and the replacement window project. Oh, but wait, there will also be lots of Tour de France watching to be done...

Speaking of watching television, I watched the US soccer team lose to Ghana last night. The announcer said that the government of Ghana had declared a half-day national holiday so everyone could go home and watch or listen to the match, and they asked the country's gold mines to shutdown during the match so that there would be enough electricity to power all of the TV sets and radios. Okay, it would have been nice for the US to keep going in the World Cup, but hey, if we have to lose, I'm glad it was to a country where they're so poor that they need to shut down industries to save electricity and where it's so important for national pride that everyone goes home from work to watch the game.

See you in front of the television.

Thursday, June 22, 2006


As many cyclists do, I tend to have overly tight hamstrings, quads, and IT bands. Things go pretty well when I stretch thoroughly every day, and especially after rides.

I've been pretty lax in my stretching routine earlier this year and my right knee was letting me know. When the muscles get really tight, my kneecaps don't track very well and the back of my kneecap gets sore and swollen, and bending the knee gets "crunchy".

I'd applied myself a bit more to stretching and was going pretty well. During Saturday's mountain bike ride, I fell off and nailed the end of my right vastus medialis just above my kneecap, possibly with my elbow or handlebar or stem, I'm not sure which. The swelling that resulted tightened the structures around the knee, and low and behold, during the 130 miles that I've put in on the road bike since then, my kneecap is back to being sore and a little crunchy.

Most of my riding has been in the tempo range, with a few intervals of higher wattage, but I've always tried to keep the gears easy and the torque low. The club ride on Wednesday was to include Moon Hill, a local .7-mile climb with grades of 19%. Usually, I find climbing Moon Hill "fun", but I avoided it this time around and stayed on the gentler climbs to keep the knee from yelling at me.

The swelling from the mountain bike fall is almost gone now, a yellowish bruise in its place, and the knee is feeling pretty good. I'll take a relatively easy spin tonight to warm up, concentrate on stretching well while watching the US vs Ghana match on tape (shhhh, don't tell me what happened) and then take tomorrow evening off. There's an annual block party on our street Friday evening, and as the newest residents, we're pretty much obligated to go meet the locals. I can't wait to talk about other people's kids.

The weekend will bring some big-time intensity, if not duration, with the Rochester Twilight Criterium on Saturday where I'll be racing in the 3-4 field, and the Owasco Flier on Sunday. The crit has a bunch of turns and a swooping hairpin, so I'm looking forward to racing it for the first time. I've found with experience comes an enjoyment of technical crit courses. The Flier is only 36 miles long and it's a non-USCF race with one massive open category. There is prize money though, so the field is always peppered with local cat 2s. The pace is usually pretty hot from the beginning as all the veteran riders fight to stay ahead of the danger of the rest of the 150+ rider peloton filled with riders with less experience racing in a big pack. The climbs begin about halfway through the course, and then it's pretty much a hilly, balls-to-the-wall time trial from then on as the pack strings out, breaks apart, and everyone chases the usual small group of strong guys that rolls off the front. With a technical crit on Saturday and a huge citizen race on Sunday, my biggest goal for the weekend is not losing any skin or expensive bike parts. It'll be a fun one!

See you on the road.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Riding for the Fun of It (Training in Disguise)

Summer is finally here in Central NY, and it's playtime. After a week off the bike with a cold, I'm back in the saddle. I planned a string of tempo rides, just to get the legs back into riding and to just get in some miles. My rides have generally been quite short and intense, and it doesn't really build the kind of fitness that I'm going to need for the long road races coming up.

On Saturday, we attended a wedding of friends in the woods at a local hot spot for mountain biking. After the ceremony, some refreshments, and a little canoeing and swimming, there was a short introductory ride for everyone. Many brought extra bikes and helmets, and the couple put every able-bodied person on a bike and we took a spin on some of the less technical trails. There was one hairy trail that was off-camber and right next to a pond. Two people, one experienced and one novice, went for an inadvertent dip. Following that ride, the novices went back for more refreshments and the rest of us took off into the woods. I hadn't been on a mountain bike over technical stuff since last fall, and I balked at almost every wet log and rock, and took a couple good falls. Recognizing my head wasn't in the game, I dabbed just about every obstacle and just tried to get through the ride without impacting my road riding by hurting myself too much. It was still fun, but it'll be more fun after the road season is winding down for the year.

We got home late from the wedding, but we still sat down to check out the World Cup Italy vs US game we'd taped. I figured we could go to bed after Italy scored a couple, but was surprised by an exciting game. At midnight, we were still up yelling at the television.

That impacted my planned early morning ride. Sunday was my birthday (I'm now able to enter the Masters' fields) and I'd planned on getting up nice and early and treating myself with three or four hours of tempo solo, contemplating life and recharging my mental batteries like I can do only when by myself. With the late night of soccer watching, I slept in and didn't get on the bike until about ten. With my ride window shrunk to about 2.5 hours, I decided to try to hop in with the local club ride for some good efforts rather than do a long solo ride. I planned on riding the course backwards until I saw someone, but my timing was perfect and I ran into the group at an intersection on their way out. I put in some small efforts on some of the climbs, but didn't kill myself. I got in only about 32 miles, but I had a pleasant ride and a nice chat with some friends.

Monday evening, I took off by myself and hammered out a great ride. I ran into some friends, got chased by a beagle mix that had a serious set of wheels, and generally had a fantastic ride. I rode tempo on the flats, put in some good power on the climbs, but nothing too serious, and just had a fun forty miles on the bike. I got in a good workout, had tired legs afterwards, but I never dug so deeply that I couldn't recover overnight and hopefully do another such ride this evening. It was a great reminder of the pleasure of simply riding a bike, pushing oneself and enjoying the speed, but riding within your limits, free of the pressure of competition or obligatory intervals.

See you on the road!

(P.S. 32 more training days before the Owasco Stage Race)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Breathing Again

I spent the weekend and Monday lounging at home, concentrating mostly on breathing. Head colds always turn into chest congestion for me, and they usually knock me out of the saddle for about a week. I'm keeping the local pharmacy in business with my myriad medications. Inhale this, squirt that, swallow the other... I'm feeling much more human today, and should be back on the bike in some form tomorrow, although a big project at work might keep me too late for that.

I took the opportunity while inside the entire weekend to apply some silicone caulk to the upstairs shower stall. Either the former owners never used the stall or else they finished it right before we moved in. They had sealed the plastic basin to the wall tile with a caulk that was almost as hard as the tile grout. The flex of the plastic basin from daily use popped the caulk away from the wall within a few weeks and mold set into the spaces where the water collected. I sprayed some nasty cleaning chemicals in there until the mold was gone, cleaned the surfaces well, then applied a big bead of silicone.

Let me tell you, this silicone is great stuff. It's flexible and waterproof, and adheres really well. Let me also tell you, be prepared when you go to apply it.

I read the instructions and ignored the part where they say to apply masking tape on either side of the joint. Bah. I would be applying just a little bead and I wouldn't need any masking tape. Sissies.

I donned rubber gloves and assembled the tube in the caulking gun. As I started pumping this stuff out, I realized I'd need a rather large amount to cover the joint between the wall and the edge of the basin. As I squeezed it in, it began to look like a rather poor welding job, a long bead with a series of large bumps. I looked around for something to smooth out the bead. I didn't want to use my fingers and make a mess. My hairbrush was nearby, and the end of the handle was curved perfectly to squeegee the bead into the joint and make a nice smooth concave surface. It went a little like this:

Pump, pump, pump. Hmmm, lumps in the bead. Grab hairbrush. Draw handle across bead. Oops. Not enough in one spot, too much in the other. A bit of spillage over the edge of the basin and up the wall. I'll just wipe the excess with my one finger tip, then not touch anything. Quite a bit stuck to the brush handle. Wipe that off. Oops, got some on the caulking gun from my fingers. Pump some more. Squeegee. Squeegee. Now there's some farther up on the brush and on my other hand...

Well, this went on for some time, and at some point I'd pretty much given up on being neat about it and was smearing this stuff all over everything. I felt a bit like I was back in kindergarten and was fingerpainting with pudding. My hairbrush, the caulking gun, my hands, the wall, basin, and well, at least the joint was covered adequately. By the time I finished, I was getting pretty good at laying down a nice, neat, smooth bead, but it was too late. My inexperience at the beginning had taken its toll.

It was then that I learned how tenacious silicone really is. It's waterproof, and it's not petroleum based, so soap, water, and any cleaners or solvents I could think of wouldn't touch it. I resorted to grabbing a box of tissues and mechanically wiping everything off as best I could. Once the silicone cured for a few hours, it was very easy to scrape off the extra from any places where it shouldn't have been.

One more house project down, and it's back to thinking about cycling. My two big races of the year, the Owasco Stage Race and the Empire State Games both come at the end of July, so I have approximately 38 days to try to get in the best shape of my life.

Here we go.

Friday, June 09, 2006


It's June.

It has been raining and cold for over a week.

It's 58 and raining today.

Tomorrow it will be in the high 50s with rain forecast.

I have been on the bike four times in the past week, for a grand total of only about 80 miles. I got wet and cold three of those times.

I am now getting sick, just in time for the weekend.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Near Miss

A few weeks ago, I stopped by Bicycle Alley, the bike shop down the road from me. Hanging in the window was a fine looking Trek "Team Time Trial" bike. Full carbon, sweet Bontrager stem and bars, wing-like frame, saddle with a gel nose, and ten-speed Dura-Ace. "That's a nice rig in the window," I said to the shop owner.

"You should take it out to the local club time trial sometime and show it off to everyone. Maybe someone will want to buy it."

Well, you don't have to twist my arm. Although it was intimidating having custody of a $4600 rocket, I picked it up Monday night, spent a couple hours in the attic tweaking my position on it, then took it out to the Tuesday night ten-miler.

Even with my relatively heavy HED tri-spoke and disc on the bike, it's still pretty light. The new Dura-Ace is very nice. I'd never ridden it before. It's smooth and shifted like butter. The bike itself was very comfortable to ride, yet felt stiff and responsive when I stood up and put on some power. With the light weight and stiffness, it only took a couple pedal strokes to get it flying. I also noticed the sound. Or rather, the lack of sound. I could hear the swoosh, swoosh, swoosh of the wheels and tires as I pushed along, but that's about it. Very cool. Finally, about the gel Selle san Marco saddle: with its "triathlon" labeling, I expected it might not be my style. But, ahhhh... all that gel in the nose was welcome to the nether regions when perched on the tip during the time trial. When I got done, I realized that the only pain I'd felt during the ride was from my legs. My saddle bits were feeling just fine.

In the end, I came in at 23:20 and missed my personal best by 12 seconds. However, I usually don't approach 23 minutes until August fitness, and other measurements seem to indicate I'm not particularly fit right now. I figure the bike was good for at least an extra 30 seconds or so. I'll be taking the bike back to the shop, as it's not in my budget right now. But, oh man, if I had the money to burn, that ride might have found a new home.

I'm hoping that my position changes are responsible for some of the time gains, and that it wasn't all due to the bike. I have yet to take my own TT bike, the venerable GT Edge Aero, out with the full aero setup (disc instead of the PowerTap wheel) for an official time trial with my new position. I will continue working on the TT intervals in training, and will keep aiming at that sub-23 time. I declare, it WILL HAPPEN this year.

See you on the road.

Monday, June 05, 2006

...With a Little Help From My Friends

The weekend's activities conjured up so many titles for this blog entry in my head, it was hard to decide. In the end, the biggest effects were produced by a friend's ideas and decisions, so I went with the title above. It was a long weekend, and this is a long post. Grab a cup of Joe and read on.

The Empire State Games ( is a great event. In 1978, New York State held the first ESGs, bringing together athletes from around the state to compete. The annual games are basically like the Olympics, yet at a single state level, rather than on the world scene. There are levels for scholastic, open, masters, and senior games. Teams and individuals in many, many sports attend from each region of the state (Western, Central, Adirondack, Hudson Valley, New York City, and Long Island). The site for the games moves around the state, and it's a fantastic experience to spend several days competing in your chosen sport, all the while being around athletes competing in so many other sports.

For cycling, the ESGs run an individual time trial, a road race, a criterium, and finally a team time trial. Ten men and three women are chosen from each region at the region's qualifiers, and they go on to represent their region in late July. I attended the games last year and had a blast, especially in the team time trial. I'd hoped to make the team again this year since it might be my last shot at it for a while. The qualifiers would consist of a 2.8-mile uphill time trial, followed by a 20-lap circuit race. The circuit has a little hill up to the finish in it, and is about 2 miles long. Points would be awarded to the top four finishers of every fourth lap, and then double, deeper points would be awarded on the final lap finish. My friend Ano suggested earlier in the week that we should try a break early in the race when everyone is still tired from the time trial to try and get ourselves the points on the first points lap. I'm not confident in my ability to stay away, so I thought the plan was a fine idea in theory, but in practice would probably be fruitless.

I awoke Saturday to the sound of steady rain on the roof. The forecast had been for 54 degrees and raining at race time, and it was spot on. I rushed through breakfast, a big mug of coffee, and loaded up the car with my gear.

As I headed south on the highway, the rain increased and the temperature dropped. I hate racing in the rain. I hate racing in the cold. Combine the two, and I might as well stay home. My legs lock up, I freeze, my toes and feet go numb, and a DNF almost always results.

I had Dave Matthews playing on the stereo, and one of my favorite up-tempo songs came on. I started jamming out, singing at the top of my lungs, tapping my feet, and wagging my head. My thoughts somehow turned away from the cold and wet misery that awaited me and towards using the conditions to help myself. I really don't know what happened; it's never happened before. I forced myself to ignore the rain. When I arrived at the race site, I saw people huddled under tents. One guy walked past with a blanket over his head. I put the amber lenses in my glasses, which always help a rainy day look sunny. I hopped out of the car, putting on my cap but leaving my hood down, ignoring the rain and cold. I approached Ano and said, "It's a good day to ride off the front, eh?"

"What a stupid sport!" came his reply. I said something about the plan to break away, and he indicated it wasn't very likely in this weather.

I registered and suited up. My only nod to the pouring rain was getting my base layer on inside the car with the heater running. After that, I got out the trainer and started spinning away. In my mind, it was sunny and warm, and the rivers dripping from my nose were all made of sweat. Whenever anyone made a comment about the cold or rain, I ignored them or lied to them and myself and said how much I was looking forward to the race.

I got soaked almost immediately on the way to the time trial course with road spray. I rode partway up the climb to continue the warmup. A couple teammates were talking about how their muscles seized up in the cold and wet. I ignored them and ignored similar signals from my own legs. A little piece of my consciousness realized that fooling myself into enjoying the weather was actually working.

The uphill time trial was hard as always, but I rode conservatively to avoid blowing up near the top like I did last year. My time was actually better this year, despite my worse fitness and the horrid weather. I scored 13th. I would absolutely have to get at least a few points in the circuit race to have any hope of being near the top ten places.

We gathered around the start line of the circuit race. We'd had long enough to wait for results from the time trial that we were getting cold. Again, I forced myself to ignore it. I literally kept telling myself that I was comfortable, and the chill in my hands, feet, and legs melted away. I could see others shivering. My thoughts turned to Ano's idea of an early breakaway. Theoretically, it should work even better in this weather, since the peloton would have even less desire to ride hard early in the race. With several teammates in the pack who would likely not chase, even though strictly speaking the qualifiers should not be a team event, my chances might be better yet.

We completed one lap, taking the finishing hill at a fairly easy pace. There is another short rise after the finishing hill, then a downhill. "Okay," I told myself, "Nothing to lose." I rolled off the front. Not wanting to trigger a reflex chase from the group, I didn't sprint hard. I just rolled off. Over the crest, I got as aero as I could and started pushing hard, but not too hard. I would have to complete nearly three full laps by myself to make this stick, and then I still needed enough gas in the tank to stick with the group if they caught me.

The gap grew a little at first. Up over the hill on the next lap, the gap was longer. Downhill around the bend, they were out of sight. I still could not see them as I climbed the hill again to complete the third lap. I heard the bell ringing. One more lap and I'd have some points. I upped the tempo a bit. Over the hill, down the hill, around the bend. I looked back. One rider was coming pretty fast, with the peloton a bit of a ways behind him. It was Dan, a cat 2. He grabbed my wheel and sat there briefly, then pulled through on my waggle of the elbow. The pack continued to approach, and it felt to me like we'd slowed down. I pulled around and pulled again for a while. He pulled again as we approached the hill, then took off. I glanced back to see the pack lining up for the sprint. Geez, this would be close. I upped my tempo as best I could after being off the front by myself and sighed in relief as my front wheel crossed the line in second. About one second later, a few riders came flying past. I'd made it in for three points.

The rest of the race was peppered with attacks from various people, and the whole while I sat near the back of the pack just trying to hold on. I would get gapped on the sprint laps, then catch back on as the pace lessened between them. In the end, I had saved enough for a reasonable sprint, and along with my three points from early in the race, placed ninth.

With some shuffling of places among other riders, I ended up back in 13th place overall. Two finishers ahead of me withdrew their positions - why you'd come out and race in this weather if you didn't plan on attending the Games, I'll never know. Then Ano asked to be signed up as an "alternate", to be called upon if anyone else withdrew before the Games. He cited family time that the training would require as the reason. Whatever the reason, it put me in the 10th and last qualifying spot. With his help from his breakaway plans and his forfeiting of a spot on the team, Ano had given me the last spot on the team and a chance to have one more year of ESG experience. Thank you, Ano.

Sunday brought more rain to Central New York, and also the Syracuse Biathalon club's summer event. It would be five 1.4K laps via mountain bike around a very muddy, hilly trail. After each lap, competitors would stop and shoot five rounds at five targets. Ten shots prone, ten shots standing. For every target you miss, you get 30 seconds added to your race time. I'd never done anything like this before.

My nephew, my friend Bill, and I were the only true beginners for the afternoon mountain bike division, so we took the mandatory training class and ten practice shots. The sights on the rifles were concentric circles, unlike the square open sights I've always used before, and they took some getting used to. (I'm not meaning to imply I'm used to them now - I am most definitely not.) In practice I hit 4 of 5 targets prone, and felt pretty confident. Standing, I was lucky to hit the hillside behind the targets. I hit 1 of 5 standing. This would not be an easy thing after a hard lap in the mud.

We lined up to start, three people at a time. My friend and clubmate, Kate lined up to my left. She's also a speed skater and apparently at the start line on the ice, they often give the person next to them a friendly push on the shoulder to claim their space. As the timer called out "fifteen seconds", Kate reached out and gave me a little push on the shoulder. It was just enough. My surprise immediately turned to a little panic as I tipped right. My right foot was securely clipped in, and it wasn't coming out. I went crashing over into the mud. Howls of laughter filled the air, my own adding to it. I scrambled up with Kate apologizing, and then we were off, leaving the laughing behind us. Kate caught plenty of ribbing throughout the remainder of the day for being one ruthless racer, pushing her competition over at the start line.

The course was plenty tough, and got worse throughout the race as the mud got deeper and deeper. The shooting stops were very hard. The end of the barrel wandered around and around as I tried to control my breathing. Try racing as hard as you can for a few minutes, then try holding your breath long enough to get a good sight on an itty bitty target half a football field away.

In the end, I had seven minutes of penalty time, having missed five of ten targets prone, and nine of ten targets standing. I left with a silver medal among the six of us in the beginner category, and a very healthy respect for those athletes who ski or run or bike or whatever, then succeed at putting a little .22 slug onto a quarter-sized circle from so far away. What an odd and tough combination of strength and skill!

The weather finally broke as the sun went down Sunday, and I spent about five minutes in the yard playing with our new battery-powered weed whacker. I hope to report on some more house projects soon. We're looking at replacement windows, paint for the master bath and bedroom, plus a bunch of other little things. The replanted strawberries are doing pretty nicely, but we just found out we have a family of five (count 'em, five) woodchucks living underneath our barn so those strawberries, and just about everything else in the garden, will likely disappear in short order. The honeybees in the attic wall are doing well. You can hear the buzzing from the hive. It's a bit intimidating.

There is a lot to be done, both on the house and on the bike. I will be spending quite a bit of time training in the next couple months leading up to the Owasco Stage Race and the Empire State Games, and we can talk about it all here in the Attic.

See you on the road.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Whew! CNY was baking over the past two days with a blast of hot air. I'm not sure where it came from, but I'll take 95 degrees and sunny over the cold wet stuff we had just last week. Yesterday afternoon, the temps had cooled off to about 92, and it was a perfect day for some hill repeats. Ha!

There's a ridge near my house that has some kick-butt roads up and over the top. The hills take several minutes to climb each, and provide a great variety from a long climb at 6% to shorter steeps in excess of 15%. A circuit around and up and over the ridge hitting each road provides several good, long leg-breaking climbing intervals with fifteen to twenty minutes of spinning between.

Near the top of each climb, from the first to the last, as the sweat poured down, heart thumped, legs ached, and lungs gasped, I told myself, "This heat is too much! I feel terrible! I shouldn't be doing this! I'm going home right after I get to the top and take a cold shower." Then I'd spin for a few minutes, cool down slightly in the breeze, and decide to have a go at the next climb.

I tried to average a little over 300W on each climb. On the steepest one, I had to turn about 340W just to keep from falling over. Owie.

It always takes a while for the body to acclimatize to hot weather, and yesterday was a good day to start the process. As the summer progresses, one will lose less and less essential minerals in the sweat. When I finished yesterday, there was a big white line of salts around my shorts. I refueled with cytomax, a banana, and plenty of water. I love riding in the heat, but sweat practically squirts out of me, so I have to keep on top of my hydration.

Tonight I'm taking the TT bike out for some longer cruise intervals, hanging around the lower part of my LT range. I'm basically trying to get the legs ready for some effort on Saturday without digging too deep and burning them out. Saturday's ESG qualifiers features a two-mile climb time trial followed by a points race on a two-mile circuit with a little climb. I blew up hard on the TT last year and crawled over the finish line. I'll try to avoid that this year by watching the power meter and not overdoing it on the steeper steps. My fitness is off a bit this year, so placing well will require more skill, strategy, and a bit of luck.

See you on the road.