Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Should Post More

At least I feel like I should. Again, this blog is for me. Well, I don't mean to be too selfish, but that's the only way I can justify writing all this nonsense for people like me to read. Anything of interest is sort of on the "unnecessary" side of real life. Real life equalling stuff like:

  • Family,
  • Work,
  • Friends, (I need to work on this)
  • Money, (I still need a job lined up after the summer)
  • Apartment (after I get that job lined up...)
  • ... certainly some other things too.
Then cycling. But I'm not gonna lie to you. Right now, I really am hoping to keep cycling as close to the top as possible. I'll try to keep my head on straight, but if it could get a job that pays well that has to do with cycling, I might lose my mind.

I'm not about to complain about what I have now. That would be useless and who knows what is gonna happen in the future. I don't. You don't. Life is in the present.

I have realized that cycling is working its way into many aspects of my life. I mean first it started when I could see physical changed in my body physique after a few months of continuous riding when I first started... and if you know me, you'll know that that's all it took for me to be hooked. That's power. To change what I look like with something that I am enjoying more and more? Keep me on the list!

What I am meaning to get at is that cycling is a passion I have. I wouldn't say it's my only passion, but it's the most prominent right now. It is a driving force. I am trying desperately to have it stay that way. problem is... I have to live in this real world. I want to make a healthy living, I want to ride as much as I can, and I don't want either of those two things to clash. Maybe I'm being a tad short-sighted.

Let me step back. Okay. Uhm. This would be easier if I had some hindsight bais. My ignorance of the aforementioned future is a limiting factor here.

So I guess I will have to wing it. As long as I will try to apply for a job with some cycling company as some administrative support guy, I will also be applying to jobs in government agencies. I don't know where the fish will bite. I don't know how qualified I am or am not. I would hire me, but what do I know? My B.A. in international studies with that econ minor seems to perk people's ears for a gummint job, but I don't know where I fit. I don't feel like I fit.

Whoa whoa, John. Hold up. You did graduate. You are not an idiot. You can sort of write (at least for your own enjoyment). You know how to use the internet, share links, make videos, research, you know how to talk diplomatically and usually without bias. Okay. But they don't know that. My resume reflects the stuff on paper with a little out of ink, but again... they don't know me. 

Maybe what I need is an interview. They will get to see me, hear me talk, and hopefully find that I am able to learn and find interest in a lot of things. I hesitate to say "just about anything," because that would be a lie. There's a lot out there that I don't want to have anything to do with, but I guess I am in no position to be picky. On top of that, it's not like my phone is buzzing out of my pocket with potential employers anyway.

I really am wanting to get my life going, but as my dad has aptly put, "You're stuck." That I am, Dad. That. I. Am. So what's a 22 year old to do? Stop grumbling. Stop blogging. Stop dreaming. Start putting effort into that unknowable future. Four years at IUP was just a first step, John.

I mean, ideally I would like to have some work experience - preferably in a government agency that will pay will, give nice benefits, and allow me to still race and continually develop as a cyclist - and then go back to school for a masters - living the life as a hard(er) working student while still developing as a cyclist - to eventually make enough money to support others than myself and my cycling "development" (in quotes there as I don't know how many years I have left to be getting better and better at that point).

I have a sense of urgency and this is what is going through my head... The summer is waning and all I'm doing is whining... or ranting at least. Maybe I don't need to settle down into any career at this point, but I have to have a job after the summer. I need to make money and get an apartment for myself (if that job pays enough) or with some other kids. I am still young and I still want to meet other people my age. I need to get out. I need to enjoy my life. I need to get more fit. I need to harden up and get better at cycling. I need to destroy whatever is holding me back and work for what I want.

All those "needs." Sense of urgency.

You all should know I'm not trying to complain. It's my situation and I need to get through it. If anyone knows of any job opportunities for a multi-talented, quick learner, hard worker, diligent, likable, get-the-job-done type... I'm not all that picky. At least, I won't tell anyone I don't like the job. But I digress (about time, right?).

Life as I know it is all I know. I have hopes, fears, and really... not that many beers*. I really do enjoy this blog and writing for it needs to be more than about my racing (Where's The Podium?). I'm real with you all. I am really going to be in a pinch if I don't get a job lined up after the summer and all that I might have saved will go to paying meager bills and utter annoyance. Things might go sour for me and I really don't want that. But that's enough worrying. Worrying is for people with too much time to waste. That, I do not have. 

What I do have is a firm passion (among others), ambitions, drive, and as much common sense as I can muster. I thank you for reading this. I didn't think it would turn into me talking so much about job yearning, but it is what is largely on my mind. I would share some of the other stuff, but this is neither the time nor the place... and frankly, you're not the intended audience - sorry.

*no this was not some drunken rant - I have no time for that either... I'll let you know when I do.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Okay Kids...

Let's all look at how to not take a corner.
Taken immediately before my spill this is why I got what I will call a Cat-4-tat on my rear.

For the love of cycling agony, please do not ever take a corner like this. I know better and you all do too. My only possible explanation for this was a severe miscalculation on where I was in the turn and when I could start stamping on the pedals to drill back up that hill.

Thanks to Jor Taylor for snapping the pic for a lesson re-learned and her immediate concern for my well being rather than snapping any more photos of the actual spill. Though, I wouldn't have complained if she had taken more seeing how ridiculous I look here. How embarrassing.

Where's The Podium? #13: ToWC Day 2

The Tour of Washington County Day 2 took racers to an early morning individual time trial, criterium in the afternoon, and a Fathers Day with some all out efforts to round out the general classifications.

The worst of it for me was a bit two-fold. I did not end up being able to finish and end up on the "results" of the stage race because of a spill I took through 90 degree, right turn to the finishing hill of the afternoon criterium. I was not riding particularly strong at that point and was thus, popped off the back. I would have been pulled out of the race in a lap or two anyway. It is just a bummer that I had to go out the way I did.
paramedic's bandaging.
How it happened: Having been popped, again, I was not around anyone and I was really just riding within my limits to continue the race until the officials would have pulled me. Having already burned matches into the red trying to hold onto the the back of the group, I was, at the point of my spill, not taking risks or looking to make my day anymore painful. That is what made this spill entirely unexpected. I was not taking turns with any amount of aggression. Just before the spill, I wasn't avoiding any debris or anything unpredictable through the turn. My wheels slid out from under me and although my left shoe immediately unclipped, my right shoe did not and my right leg was consequently pinned down to the road and the sliding over the road commenced.
"raw meat"-like, but not that bad actually.
The positives are that I didn't take anyone else out and certainly that my bike sustained no damage save a few scratches on the brake lever, handlebar tape, and right pedal. My right shoe sustained some damage, but nothing to cause a replacement beyond the buckle* holding down my top strap.
and that's where that happened.
Beyond my woes, A big shout-out goes to my Whole Wheel Velo Club teammate and damn classy rider, Andrew Shelby, for taking 6th for the overall weekend (increasing his placement with every passing stage). Although I would have liked to have had a bigger impact in his success and possible higher placing, his class and smart racing earned him his very impressive placement and I have learned a lot watching his preparation, recovery, and tenacity throughout the stage race. I look forward to continue racing with him and other WWVC cyclists.

Speaking of which, teammate Chris Gould had a somewhat uncomfortable weekend battling some sickness on this second day. He raced in the criterium, but was pulled early due to throwing up a few times prior to the event and consequently losing a lot of his energy and water. I'm sure he will bounce back soon and anticipation for his Tour of Page County is growing as August draws nearer (bikereg here).

So, although I ht the pavement, the weekend was a success and being part of it is a blessing. I'm really pulling for my form to come around and allow me to be at least a dark-horse for some results in the upcoming races next month and beyond. Also note that I am again starting to think about cyclocross and my sights are set on acquiring a bike for such events. I'm sure I can either borrow an offered teammate's bike or find one for cheap. The first season I'm into it for the thrills, spills. beer, and fun suffering throughout.
crashes will be had here too.
The weekend also had me meeting a lot of people in this well knit group of cyclists, friends and families. A weekend stage race will give much more opportunities for cyclists, family members and fans tagging along for the event. I am still trying to meet more cyclists and work my way through these events.

This road rash won't keep me from competing in a race next weekend. Thanks for reading.

*Then again, I have been searching online for replacement buckles and I am coming up at a loss. I will try emailing the company, though I know Vittoria is not known for making shoes and as my former team's sponsoring shop owner thought, they may have just put their name on some factory-made shoes and might not have much as far as company interest in these shoes. They still prove to be uncomfortable at times, though that has largely subsided this season.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Where's The Podium? #12: ToWC Day 1

I can say that I have not been happier to have been dropped in a road race than today. There are a few reasons why, my friends.
1. It was on my own terms - I dropped myself.
2. It was to help out a teammate - like a good teammate should (hopes to).
3. I didn't drop the hammer until the end - sacrificive effort. (yes, I just made up that word)

Let me be frank, however. The prologue that opened up the legs this morning five-before-10:00 for me was a somewhat race-shattering effort for me. Finishing in 50th and well over a minute back on GC had me a bit wary as to how I might attempt to stack up against the rest of the field in a 37 mile race.

The course was a roller-fanatic's dream. Six laps of kicks and recovery repeats just about summed up this race for me.

Having the yellow/center line rule is surely a necessary race rule. However, allowing for no advancement or even bobbing over that opposing traffic barrier kept the road race peloton fairly stable and me stuck in the back 50% of the pack for the entire race until the finish.

That being said, with six laps of this course to be had, everyone could find where ground could be made up one side of the other and where risks could be taken and consequent places to the front.

Each lap ticking away had not only my confidence trickling upward for my ability in the race, but also my sense of urgency to be up at or at least near the front for my teammate, Andrew Shelby.

The bell lap is wring and my calves are beginning to cramp. I had felt their them tensing up with each preceding lap. Fighting those cramps was that aforementioned increasing sense of urgency to now be at the front for my teammate. I found a pair of racers surging to the front through turns and downhills as the group slowed and swelled during uphill efforts. Latching onto the wheel of that surge had me take risks and gain valuable positions with minimized effort. Though I had been no closer than here wheels behind Andrew's mid-pack positioning throughout the race, with some purposeful positioning I was finally on his wheel and able to let him know I was moving around him right before the final steep rollers. It was exactly then that I was able to finally use my "protected," yet ever-cramping legs on the front.

I drilled it as best I could. I lead over the 4th to last climb and into the 3rd. It was there that I popped and thought I would be quickly overtaken. The pace simply slowed with me and others on the front and it was not until the 2nd to last kicker that I was quickly overtaken. My legs were in full cramp and I simply wanted them to survive. Upon my purposeful droppage, I saw Andrew well positioned near the front. This told me that my effort was not in vain and that it was now in Andrew's hand to make an effort to the finish line.  I was able to catch the uphill finish though the racers sprinting the uphill looked rather like spots of vibrating color from my vantage point.
Spike in heart rate is where I drilled the front at the end. Boom.
I finished the road race 37th, moving up 13 spots to 37th place on GC. I'll take it. My job was to work as a teammate and I did that as best I could.

My work isn't done, however. Tomorrow is day 2 of this omnium Tour of Washington County. There is a time trial in the morning and a criterium in the afternoon. I know my efforts as a teammate will be better served in the criterium, but anything can happen and the times could be tight for Andrew and his GC contention.

Thanks for reading. I will update in more depth when I have my computer in front of me.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Where's The Podium? # 11: Crystal Cup - Pulled

As far a results go for another race I was pulled from, they don't much matter. I am upset to say the least, but I know it wasn't necessarily my fault this time. Luck ran out for our team and and I that's just how it goes.

Today's race was different than any others I have raced for one simple reason: teamwork. I had a role today and I was doing my best to hold up my end.

The course was an interesting one. With a few quick, off-camber, pot-hole and man-hole cover ridden turns, the course had a decent 180 degree turn leading to the finishing stretch of 600-800 meters in a headwind. It was a pure crit course, though somewhere on the left-hand turn just before the 180 my front wheel went over something that poked an unwelcome hole through that tire and tube.
Yes, I do need new socks.
I have never had a flat in a race, let alone ridden a far as I had to to get to that pit. It is not fun to try and maneuver a bike around corners with a flat front. Next to actually going down, the last thing I wanted to do was have to run my bike and I to "the pit." As a newbie to "the pit," all the guy could tell me was to keep calm, keep breathing, and to hop on my bike to wait for my relaunch into the field. I can't say I was on the front of the peloton, but I surely wasn't as far back as I was released. No complaints though. It happens, and being off the back trying to regain my developing rhythm after a second restart to my race was just a bit too much to ask.

The first restart came after 6 and a half minutes due to a rough crash in the second turn. I do not know how many went down but I heard the cyclist behind me touch the barrier. Though that rider didn't go down, he took a lot of the field out and unfortunately caused what felt like at least a 10 minute wait for medical and some course clean-up. I haven't ever had a stoppage like that before and in a 45 minute race, it was a tough thing to deal with. I topped off my water with the bottled water they were passing out and was as eager as everyone else to get the race hustling again.

Thus, the race was out as it had begun with a junior rider off the front and chasers looking to possibly establish a break from the peloton. This is where I was to fit in team tactics. With riders on the team looking to be there for a possible field sprint, strong rider, Andrew Shelby and I were to be the yo-yos off the front making our presence felt in moves and counter-moves that would possibly put other teams into difficulty chasing. My short stints off the front were just that. They weren't all that impressive, but I was doing the best I could to put myself into moves and where my team hoped I could be.

Before my flat, I was in one move with two other riders and though it did not last long, I was back in the pack trying to recover as the aforementioned flat front hit me and there I would lose my position, developing rhythm, and connection to the race. I was pulled two laps later having gone into the red trying to grab teammate Jason Acuna's (who did well to stick it to the end) wheel and I was back to that all too familiar feeling of being dropped. I gave my handle bars a good smack or two out of pathetic frustration, but the end was inevitable and I'm not about to beat myself up for things out of my control.

I know this was some unfortunate luck that I hit rather than my own poor legs, but it is for that reason and a few others that I am, at this moment a bit bummed about. Firstly, sure, it wasn't my fault, but I was feeling relatively good. I was ready to stick with my given job for the race as best I could. Therein lies another reason for a bit of frustration. I have never been given the opportunity to have a role in a race with team goals in mind. I wanted to keep up my part and the cards would fall as they may. I would rather be a sprinter for the end, but my time for that will come. You all know how I am about learning as much as I can and patience in this all. I really am kicking myself a bit (I know I may sound too hard on myself here) that I have not had any results for this great team and being dropped in every race for the past month does not sit with me well. Yes, not my fault today, but it makes me feel sick - just how it is.

Another reason for a touch of disappointment though overall happiness can be found in that my family actually watched me race for the first time ever today. Until now, they have simply seen pictures, heard me talk about it all, and read through this blog a bit to understand this sport I've gotten myself into. I very much appreciate their support of my pursuits here and I am glad they saw a bit of my efforts. I, of course wish I could have been there longer, but it happens. I am honored they came out to watch me and I hope to have them see me race again.

That's that. Bad luck and I live to fight another weekend. I am lucky that I was not caught in the wreck and our team is hoping for a quick recovery for our rider, Chris "Derf" Doerfler who unfortunately hit the pavement in that early wreck. A few of our other riders faced the same fate I did off the back and those who were able to stick in did their best to finish strong.
What is eating at me is simply that i felt I had more in the tank. Though I went into the red when I was dropped off the back, the "rest" that you might think I would have gained from waiting in the pit for my launch back into the field worked against my legs. That rhythm I keep talking about is something I have never had so severely interrupted. In a 45 minute race, I knew things would happen fast and e last place I wanted to be was on the back (no pun intended). You all should know that it is often easier and more safe to be near the front. A criterium in a downtown setting will have sketchy corners, road ornaments, and enough unpredictability that will behoove riders to keep their nose to the front. Of course, not everyone can be there and the fast pace set by those on the front will aim to string things out and slim down the numbers of riders able to be there. It's a survival of the fittest type of environment. My role to be on and off the front was a welcomed by me and I was eager to give it all a try as I am usually one to work my self through the pack and into a good position for the sprint finish.

Reading updates from teammates in the race tell me that Andrew Shelby finished 10th and in the money with Ed Patrick slipping in 16th (after an apparent touch with the pavement of his own). I am proud of those guys and their hard work. I really wish I could have been there grinning with Tony Barsi with a mind to have a go at the final sprint. Well done to those guys and a heartfelt "we'll get'em next time" to the others that dropped some significant water-weight on today's course. Bad luck here and there won't keep us from coming back for more.

I will be updating this as I see fit (pictures, garmin details etc.) and as always... thanks for reading. I need sleep.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Where's The Podium #10: Clarendon Cup - Pulled

Pulled and pulled early. I rode the metro there and race without any time for a warm-up. This was a 1/2/3 race and I wasn't the only one yanked from the race. It was unfortunate in the general sense of the word, but not entirely unexpected or heart-braking. Tomorrow's Crystal City Cup 3/4 race is one I am much more interested in. I will be racing with strong teammates... and a number of them as well. We have discussed strategy and hope to put some of that to work. This race isn't worth much of a post, but it counts as far as I can see.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Where's The Podium #9: Ride Sally Ride - Dead Last

As if I asked for it, this performance was terrible, embarrassing, and not without reasons. I'm not saying excuses, but reasons. I knew I would not be at full form for this race, but I surely didn't expect to do this poorly. I was lapped 8 times. Sure, that means I was going terribly slow, but it also means I didn't quit - whatever that's worth.

The course was wide, open, fast, clean, and the type where I could tell I would normally be able to stick with the peloton, and if I was smart, aggressive, clever, and strong enough, I might be able to come out with a top 10 finish and some points toward my license.

I was none of those things. Honestly, I am embarrassed at my performance in my team's host race and I feel I did them a disservice by it. I was not put on this team to pull a last place performance. I do not ride my bike to be lapped. I race to win and I intend to prove that to myself next weekend.
At least this proves I was actually in the race.
Mentally, this was a tough, tough race for me to ride through. I started off right where I wanted to be. I was attentive to breaks forming with efforts at the front to bridge gaps follow attacks, and generally stay at the front. I felt fresh. I felt strong... even a little confident. I was race how I wanted to knowing where I could get my recovery and advancements. The laps were going by fast and I was loving it. Then, just as I was sitting mid-pack trying to regain lost positions, I kept losing positions. I could not see how my legs were in so much pain. I turned to look back and found that I was second to last in the peloton. I made another effort to move at least to mid-pack for more appropriate recovery, but the legs would just not do it. I didn't get why and I was mad. Losing that peloton gave me a mind full of doubts and questions of why I am even riding my bike anymore. I was angry ay my legs (though ultimately, me) for hurting and dropping me so I didn't at all let up the pain. If they were going to hurt, I would give them reason for it for as long as the race organizers would let me. Criterium style lets to continue to ride the course even after being lapped, so I just kept stabbing my legs and brooding my anger at myself. I was pulled with one lap to go, and I quickly peeled off and right to my car. I felt so ashamed (albeit selfish looking back at it now) that I didn't even want to show my face to my teammates.

The night before this (after a 4:45 am wake-up for work) I visited Philadelphia to see some amazing friends (then to have a 3 hour drive back, morning of the race, after 4 hours of sleep and some drinking for sure). I would not trade the opportunity to see them and connect with them for much of anything. I knew my legs would be at a disadvantage, but I really didn't expect to do so poorly. My biggest concern as I was being lapped was that I didn't interfere or impede anyone through the turns. I sat up whenever necessary to allow an escapee or the peloton through the turns at speed. My average 23.1 mph is nothing compared to the 28 mph the peloton was racing at.

Enough of this. Lessons learned, and regrets are useless - I live to fight another day... another weekend. Thanks for reading.