Monday, May 30, 2011

Centuries Passed

I felt sick about getting dropped two weekends in a row. So I decided to do two +century rides in a row. Saturday was about 104 miles and Sunday was about 102 miles. This Memorial Day weekend worked out to be the perfect way for me to ride them with the actual Memorial Day off for rest, recovery, and a little relaxation. A teammate told me to not let the setback get to me and I agree - to a degree.

I realized that I must live with the set-backs as much as I have to live with any successes.
My mom had food waiting after my 102.5mile ride, Sunday. Thanks, Mom!
I want the very best out of myself and I know that I need to be better. I know how I say that... "I need to be better." But it's how I feel. I really feel like I have potential that only my mind says I cannot achieve. I don't care about the level of competition I am up against. I don't care that there are cyclists that will always be better than me. I know that and I am a realist. I just cannot allow myself to find any satisfaction in losing so terribly. I need to be better. I demand it.

I purchased a new wheelset this past week and I am hoping they come in before next weekend so I can get them properly made up and try them out in a race situation.
Ritchey WCS Apex Carbon 50mm Tubulars
I'm not about to ride trying to look serious and not actually be serious. I can't stand the blokes who have all sorts of money to blow on the nicest gear, only to have those heavy wallets seemingly slide them off the back on any sort of climb. I will not be that man. Though, the econ minor in me is telling me to make note of the fact that in order for such a nice tubular wheelset to be available for a poor fellow like me, there needs to be consumers that can buy the more expensive stuff (good cyclists or not) to create that demand and perpetuate that trickle-down effect of quality products for cheaper (what I can afford).

I am serious about my commitment to cycling and it does not just mean I will buy better gear, equipment, or any junk expecting I will be any better. I am the engine. I am the driving force. I must make myself suffer and pull out of it to improve myself and go where I want to - nothing else will.

I am hoping to find a job for my post-summer life that will hopefully at least lead to somewhere I want to take my personal life. You all should know how I feel about moving back at home. There are pros and cons and I really need to watch myself in this adjustment/transitional period. I should really be a more appreciative tenant (note the free food up there... and the opportunity to even think about purchasing that wheelset).

Anyway, I am eager to get my resume updated and sent out to those potential employers. I am demanding just as much out of my personal/work life as I am my cycling. Only I can take me where I want to go.

Satisfaction is a fleeting companion. I know there will always be better cyclists and more for me to achieve - I cannot stop. I am inspired by other people on and off the bike. There is more I want to say, but I need sleep and you don't need to read about it now.

Thanks for reading, friends.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Where's The Podium? #8: Oxford Road Race - 35th

Firstly, I will allow myself to say that I don’t feel great about this one, but I guess I have to live with it just as much as I have to live with successes.. and the successes will come eventually, friends.
New helmet, new paint on glasses, same old sport.
Secondly, I will say that what they have posted as the "official" result as I've noted in the title of this post is wrong, but either way... at least I didn't DNF, and it really doesn't matter beyond top 20... 10... 5? Oh well. I am near happy to suffer for as long as they will let me. At least the drive to Chris's place in NW, Washington DC was really nice. I do need to visit DC more often (any pictures are from that drive through - to and from).
If you haven't already guessed, I was again dropped for the second weekend in a row. I was really hoping for a competitive showing at this race. Sure, I didn't know the course, but considering the fact that this is a Cat 3/4 race and thus more acute to my perceived skill level than a 1/2/3 race, I had a mind to make something of this race as far as a result. I was optimistic in the warm-up and first lap of the race.

The course that was described to us (Chris Gould, Jonathan Lyons, and me) was that of the rolling terrain type with no real decisive climbing and generally a fast, but fun loop. The 3/4 racers were to go around 8 times and then turn off that loop for the finish at the end of a 1.5 mile rolling portion that kicked the race off as the original neutral stretch.
This Oxford RR marked the first race I would participate in with new teammates on the road. From the nullified neutralization, WWVC's Chris Gould took off after an optimistic breakawayee for about a lap and a half. I did my best to mark any surges on the front and I even tried my hand at "taking a pull." I did know the break wouldn't work, but it was all a learning experience for me with a teammate up the road. I didn't much mind being reminded (as if I didn't already know) to cycle-through if I was to find myself on the front "trying" to give a pull. I wasn't too much of a pill on the front, but it would all be for naught anyway.

As entirely expected, Chris and his person of doomed co-resistance to the inevitable were folded back into the peloton and I slipped back toward the middle of the pack. It was at this time that I realized my legs were beginning to feel quite fatigued and overall too heavy to keep me dancing with the peloton over the punchy, yet,  decisive enough climbing that was going on. As it happened, I was gapped by the field and left wondering a lot of things (more on that later).

I lost track of Jonathan and Chris at about that time as well, only hoping that they were up in the field or at least somewhere more comfortable than where I was. I ended up time working with 1 then 3 riders to actually latch back on to the field the following lap, (3rd lap maybe?) but the timing of that regrouping left little for recovery. I knew that within a minute of getting back together with the peloton there would be another climb and that I would most certainly lose the chance for remaining with them for the rest of the race.
That was the story as the suffering continued and the legs just pumped as best they could. Eventually, Chris and another cyclist caught up to my efforts and the three of us would work and talk together for the rest of our race as they pulled us a lap early.

Having to face getting dropped for the second weekend in a row had me wondering about my cycling quite a bit. Am I going to improve beyond this point? Well, of course I will. Okay, I am not as strong as I thought I was/would be/hoped to be for this race, but it's not the only thing I have had/will have going on this season. Mind you, I'm making an effort to not put myself in an overly confident, nor overwhelmingly discouraged cyclist. I don't want to think my moving up to a Category 3 racer was any sort of fluke or premature happening, but I still have a long way to go. These utter defeats remind me of my Cat 5 days where I didn't know how to train, race, or deal entirely well with such circumstances. Today, however, I know consistency and not giving up is key. I didn't DNF like so many this race. I didn't want to stop. At this level, I will not allow myself to do that. Whether I am first to the line or the official pulls me, I am not done with any race until I am officially done (barring injury or mechanical).

My race preparation needs work. Not just the morning of, (this race-day morning wasn't bad at all) but the week before. I need to dive back into that training bible and get my focus back. My diet needs focus as well. I will be back at it all soon.
I was happy to meet another teammate, race with the two there and I still look forward to racing with more teammates soon. Also, a Congrats to teammate Joe Harar for taking 2nd place in the Cat 5 race! I'm not sure when my next race might be at this point. Next weekend sure has options, but work might take priority so as I can grab some needed hours and overtime pay. We'll see.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Where's The Podium? #7: Poolesville Road Race - 43rd

There is not too much to say about this one other than I'm still learning - a lot. I got destroyed and I wouldn't have had it any other way... kinda. I mean sure I would have loved to be able to stick with that front group, but I couldn't. I suffered for as long as they would let me and that's all I could do.

The course was approximately a 10.4 mile loop with nothing too difficult. The unique aspect of this race came with the dirt/gravel/atv-track patch. Bottles were bounced, tires blew, legs were burning, and the pace was high through this section. On the second lap I got popped when the peloton revved up right after this dirt section and I could just not hold on. After getting popped I worked with riders as long as I could with them / as long as they could with me. I waved at and thanked the volunteers as I rode by and made the best of my situation. Although something happened that the initial breakaway was actually directed/undirected off course for over a mile that had them actually end their race early. What a bummer.
The replacements served me well!
I didn't know how I would fair in this race, but I was certainly hoping for a better showing. I was pulled after I believe 4 laps. I would have kept on going, but the race director warned us that he would be pulling us rather aggressively.

All in stride - I'm still learning this gig. The level of competition here is beyond anything I have raced yet. I will venture to say that this was an ambitious race for me to enter and I am glad I did. It hurt. It humbled me - sorta. It made me know what I have to still aspire to be. I am getting stronger and I have no fear for for any race I enter. I want to make the most of every race I go to and hopefully I will be able to work with/for teammates the rest of the season. I was glad to represent WWVC in the 1/2/3 field.

This all goes along with my stance on cycling: I have nothing to prove to anyone, but everything to prove to myself.

By the Numbers: I'm an idiot and didn't move my computer from my one bag to the other while packing for the race.... so you all will just have to take my word for the suffering.

Thanks for reading. I am aiming to get some real results shortly. My teammate are tearing things up in their races and I want a piece real bad. I'm getting hungry. I want to destroy everyone and I want to keep destroying myself. All in good time.

Side note - I mentioned how my helmet broke and the super glue will just not hold. Well, I went ahead and bough myself a new Bell Volt helmet (Team BMC style). I am hoping it gets here before my race on Saturday (or ahead-jarring crash) at the Oxford Road Race. Who knows, but this bad boy is the prettiest helmet...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Move With Me

So this transition period I find myself in has taken me away from my computer for better or worse. For better - at least I'm making money with my time. For worse - less time to waste and put thought into words into blog posts. Nevertheless, here I am and things are going just as i would have hoped.
new job. This summer job is the bomb and you should all be jealous. I get to ride around all summer on this chunky piece tossing insecticide to kill mosquitos for the betterment of all of Fairfax county Virginia. You are welcome. I have just to finally take the registered technicians' exam sometime next week and these legs will be put to work. 0600 - 1430 Monday - Friday (30 min lunch).
Heading west on 66 to work, but I like what I see in the mirrors.
new team. These guys are a good group. They are fast, aggressive, and fun. The ones I have had the pleasure of meeting have all been welcoming and I am eager to show what I can do for them in some upcoming races! Speaking of racing, I will be doing my longest race to date tomorrow. I will be participating in the 1/2/3 2011 Poolseville Road Race - 74 miles. I have no idea how to prepare for that race other than thinking having more food/energy is better than less. My warm-up will be light but purposeful. I do not know how the race will unfold and I will be riding defensive/aggressively for as long as I can. This will be a learning experience above all, though I feel pretty strong. I just do not know how I will compare to anyone. This race also marks my first race with/for the new team, Whole Wheel Velo Club Racing. I am excited and ready to do them proud. As long as I can get to Poolesville and register to enter the 1/2/3 race, all will be well.
goodbye freedom (for now)
new home. Yeah, I've moved back home with the parentals. We all knew it was coming and we should all know it won't be permanent. I save money, start paying for things on my own, go to work, ride, race, enjoy life, and prepare to really strike out on my own after I get a job - after this summer job. Speaking of which, I need to update my resume and start applying for work in a few weeks. I have to start early for a chance at getting something - anything. One good thing about moving back home is that I will be drinking a whole lot less. That can equate to a different kind of balance in life (however you want to read that) and certainly more cash sticking in my wallet.

Anyway, I am looking forward to the 12:30pm start-time tomorrow. I will wake up early, shave all over, get an early breakfast in, maybe spin on the trainer for 30 min, load up and head to the races - aiming to get there around 8-9 am to register and hopefully see teammates racing!

Also I need a new helmet, but I will race with the one I've got - bandaged up as it will be - and maybe grab one next week. It doesn't seem to be anything life-threatening, but just so you all know, I will be in the market for a new one next week.

Thanks for reading and look for another post-race-post soon!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Where's The Podium? #6: Race At The Lake #2 - 16th

This is the kind of race I have been wanting to do for a long time. I've stepped up into the "big" leagues of this cycling area and had my grit worked in Ohio today. I learned a lot and I am so excited about what is in store from here on out. Today's race is officially my last as an IUP Cyclist. I have had an amazing experience here and would not be where I was today, had it not been for IUP and everyone that has been involved with my continuing development and growth as a cyclist.
Closing that gap (like I was doing all day).
This sport is a wild one. Things may seem tame on the outside of a race like today's, but when attacks are flying, one after the other, a lot is really going on and there is no way to know it unless you're in the mix. I was lucky enough to be in that mix and working hard to stay active and off the back. I really did not know what to expect going into today's race. Honestly, it was kind of one of those "expectations - low; hopes - high" kind of deals before I started.  I have a lot still to learn, but let's just get right to the race as I saw it, shall we?

The start time was at about 12:30 and everything seemed like new to me - or at least it felt like I was in some unfamiliar territory. This course was a 1.2 mile (closed to traffic) circuit that we were to complete 30 times. It was rolling and plenty fast with this field. I have gotten used to seeing these Cat 1/2/3 fellas race while on the sidelines. Today, I was there lining up next to people I have watched with some awe at their abilities and style. I won't say I was nervous, but excited and anxious will probably suffice to describe my pre-race mindset like every other race I've had this season. I refuse to get nervous.
Friday afternoon's preparation.
The pace and intensity picked right up after the neutral roll out and I worked to stay off the back and try to handle the turns with confidence and predictable form. The last thing I wanted to do was cause a crash, let alone be in one. I am one to lose positions in cornering and bike handling is something I really intend to work on, though today's race certainly helped. I kept reminding myself that I was surrounded by riders much more accomplished than I with many more miles in their legs. It is still yet to settle in me that I have just raced against category 1s and 2s (and yes, some darn good 3s).
Fitting shirts to get the day before my most intense race yet.
With me being able to hold my own through the first laps, it was time for me to get off the back. I looked around and saw my efforts stacking up in a similar fashion to everyone else's. If you ride hard to catch wheels, close gaps, or chase breaks, you're gonna hurt and need some recovery after folding into the peloton as the pace slackens. Once you'v recovered a bit, you are ready for another bout or two on the front making your presence known - giving scares to everyone looking to mark attacks and counter attacks swinging throughout the race.
Attacks were flying the whole time. I went with what I could - really just testing my legs and knowing that I was in position to stay up there and not let every gap open up in front of me. I had nothing to prove - and everything to prove. I followed people's wheels as constantly as I could and finally a break of six went off the front. Apparently, that break turned into four as two drifted back to the peloton. No one seemed to know exactly who was in the break, but those who figured out that their team wasn't represented did what they could to bring it back - to no avail.

I believe this guy won, but the peloton was way back.
 Once one or two would pull hard on the front from this chasing peloton, everyone would quickly slow as teammates of those in the breakaway group, having followed the chaser's wheel to the front of our group, made sure no one could continue a fighting workload to reel the breakaway back in, and riders would continue to jockey positions and wait for the next surge while trying to take in drinks and leg recovery. It was all for nought and the group ahead would take to top four spots. The finishing laps brought an initial slowing for our group as riders were readying themselves for a speedy final circuit. I knew I wasn't about to have the final kick some of these guys had, but I also knew that my legs weren't spent and I did have something left for a dig. On the second to last left-hand bend toward the finish someone 3 feet to my left had a wobble with his bike - whether he was about to go into the grass or just lost focus, I'm not sure. either way he made a bunch of people behind him and I touch their brakes and lose positioning as I continued to find my line. The last, right-hand turn to the uphill finish was mixed with riders in full sprint and riders slipping back having done their jobs and not caring for their position on the line. I tried to take advantage of every rider dropping back to finish 16th overall.
By The Numbers. (FINALLY FOUND MY COMPUTER!) I rolled beyond the finish for over a lap, so my numbers are taking that into effect - keep that in mind. This was a 36 mile race, but what I recorded is as follows: Distance - 39.75 miles. Elapsed Time - 1:33:58. Av Pace - 2:21/mi. Av Speed - 25.4 mph. Max Speed - 39.3 mph. Calories - 3047. Av HeartRate - 170 bpm. Max HR - 190 bpm. Total ascent -1654 ft.

I held my own in the race and didn't get dropped. Sweet. I look forward to racing these and other elite level racers. I know it's not the biggest deal in the world to be racing at this level, but to me it's just another stepping stone and I will keep up as best I can. I don't suppose I will be able to hold on to every race that I encounter with this kind of talent, but I'm not ever giving up. The talent was HUGE by the way... former national champion Paul Martin was in the mix and apparently Steven Brewer got a few pictures of me leading him in the peloton. I haven't seen any photos Steve took, but I'm excited. I don't know if I'll ever have a race at this level where a camera is focussed on me again. Thanks to him and David for taking photos and everyone there watching and supporting me race. I had a blast.
Doing some work in front of former national champion, Paul Martin.
Again thank you all for reading and thanks to Duane for hosting David and me Friday night, and showing us what a Kent State frat party is all about (nothing special, folks). Chipotle after the race was unbelievably good. Almost as unbelievable as a helicopter crashing a few blocks between my apartment and IUP's campus in the middle of me writing this (everyone was relatively okay).
I snapped this and a few other quick ones before police shooed us away.
I'm not sure when my next race will be, but I think I will take a bit of a rest as this next week is my final undergraduate Finals Week and graduation on Saturday will keep me out of racing. I have some good stuff to look forward to with my new team and I will be talking with them to see where they will be testing their legs. I'll add more pictures (of the race) as I see fit.