Sunday, September 25, 2011

Jeremiah Bishop's Alpine Loop Gran Fondo

This inaugural Alpine Loop Gran Fondo was brought to the public by Cannondale Factory Racing rider, Jeremiah Bishop. This route just so happens to be his favorite training ride and there is no doubt in my mind that it gives him the kind of tough, dependably difficult ride that a competitor of his caliber needs to stay on top of his overall training. Beyond the excitement Jeremiah must have felt at the opportunity to share his favorite ride with so many fellow cyclists, the real purpose and pride of Jeremiah Bishop's Alpine Loop Gran Fondo was, and will continue to be, a ride to raise awareness and support for prostate cancer. To learn more about his and the "Prostate Cancer Awareness Project" initiative, do visit
Proud of my accomplishment and my legs for that day!
Having finished the ride, I was all smiles. There was a lot about this ride that challenged me in ways I have not so acutely faced (9,300+ ft of climbing for one ride). Yet, I surprised myself in a way that I am proud to write about; suffering with 130 other riders in this challenging and rewarding event.

Overall, I finished 12th. In my age group (18-24) I finished 2nd. My legs found a rhythm on those climbs like I hadn't seen since the Morgantown Road Race and Penn State at the Nittany Cycling Classic. Those were climber's races and this was no different, except that people I was passing on the climbs gave me words of encouragement to keep pushing on and keep driving for strong finishes on each ascent. I either thanked people or tried to pop a joke to spring a smile while we ticked away to the finish.
Here's my Alpine Loop. (Missed turn much? Though, I wasn't the only one.)
The course was, of course, hilly. But what scared me the most were the descents. I am a poor descender to begin with, but at least this was not a race. Remembering this fact helped me not take any uncomfortable unnecessary risks. With hands cramping and the threat of running into the back of some cars let alone off the side of the road or smack into some oncoming cars through blind turns, I made it down those hills like everyone else, and at least I was warned before some sketchy sections. Large yellow "Danger" signs preceded those sections and though I ended up despising the sight of them, (in a "oh what could be coming next!?!" kind of way) they prove to be just an example of how well this event was thought out and supported. Through personal contributions of Jeremiah Bishop and, no doubt, many valuable volunteers, the route was well marked, the riders were well fed, and the suffering was well worth it.

My Strava profile from the ride (my first "epic") indicates how well I felt going up each of those climbs. I didn't know what to expect beyond suffering. The climbs seemed to keep going, and not knowing how far they went after the next turn or what it would feel like climb a dirt/gravel/mud ascent with a difficult average gradient could be construed as a significant disadvantage. Yet, my legs just didn't seem to mind as they slotted into a rhythm and pumped away. Even between the major ascents and descents, I was feeling strong and able. At different points I helped drive a high pace with other riders and even rode away from and passed groups out on the road driving to the finish. I was in a rhythm and did not want to wait any longer than I had to to get across that finish line.

I was careful to keep eating my Nutri-Grain and Cliff bars between rest stops as well as my bottles topped off with liquids throughout the ride. Those rest stops were great to have as fully-stocked, calorie and endurance specific refueling stations for everyone. Experience told me to make sure I left Bryan's car with enough in my pocket to fend for myself against the distance and grueling unknown. Bryan, of course was my ride, and I want to toss full props to him for lugging me back and forth with full participation in the loop; encouraging me to do it in the first place. We both really enjoyed the day and I will say we are looking forward to next year's event. Though neither of us paid too much attention to the "King Of the Mountains"(KOM) competition in preparation for the ride, we now are looking forward to putting our best legs forward in those two sections next year. I will also make sure I don't miss a turn mid-way through the ride either as Bryan and I both missed turns and added to our loop accordingly, though not at the same time.
Doing my best to finish strong after a long dirty climb. (soleport flickr)
Thanks to Jeremiah Bishop for putting on this encouraging event and all the volunteers and riders that back his part in the Prostate Cancer Awareness Project. I had the opportunity to share a few words with him during the ride as he slipped back through the field to chat and personally thank the riders that showed up for his event. After telling him how I could see this event growing from year to year, he shared the optimism in stating his hope that the ride double in size next year. His excitement throughout the event was infectious and I plan on being a part of this for years to come.

Mid Atlantic Timing results show the overall times and where the results lie (missed turns not factored).

I only wish I could train like this all the time (or for races of this nature)... I really could get used to it. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Gator(skin) Wrestling

This is pretty self-explanatory. You've all been here. Now, I don't know if it's my weak, end of season arms or that these are the toughest tires I've ever put on my wheels, but I hope you at least enjoy the music... and my boredom.
The reason I got these continental gatorskin tires is that Alpine loop Gran Fondo I'm doing this Saturday.

Song: Little Joy - No One's Better Sake

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Off Season Plans

What might I be able to do now that my races have died down? I have had two offseasons in my young cycling career and each one has been has monotonous, yet rewarding as they could be. This offseason, however, may prove to be a more challenging endeavor. At IUP I had a gym, and consequently a rowing machine, at my disposal. Here, I have to figure out how I am going to get myself to a rowing machine.

If you haven't guessed, I swear by the rowing machine for my cross-training. As much as I would enjoy cyclocross... and not enjoy running or swimming, I really believe that rowing gives me the best low-impact, full-body workout that simply cannot be matched. My legs are engaged in a full range of motion work with arms, abs, back, lung and heart work that I really find painfully addictive. At IUP, I would work on that machine for up to 4 hours to build my base and keep my effort in lengthy check as I would dream of hitting the finish lines first.

That's the goal, of course. Payoff for the less than glamorous offseason work off the bike is what I'm after. I already know, pending some unforeseen disaster, that I will be stronger next season. I just need to put in the time like I have before. It's all up to me.

This bad boy glides at over $1000

That's the kind of pressure I want to put on myself. I need it. But... do I need a rowing machine?
I kind of feel like I might. Does this make me a "creature of habit," a "superstitious person," or a "real big idiot"? I'm not sure, but I think I will go with my gut on this one. Then again, I also have to go with my budget. You all should know that my summer job of riding around Fairfax County roads and neighborhoods tossing larvicide ends by mid-October and I will be needing a job to continue after that. My budget my be pressuring me to look for something more like this...
I guess I wouldn't be sinking if I had that contraption under me, but I'm going to try and make this purchase as an investment not only for my cycling, but future offseasons as well.

I'll figure something out. In the meantime, I have some cycling to keep my legs moving. As I think about it, I believe I will have 3 events for the next 3 months that will have me challenging myself.

  1. September: Jeremiah Bishop's Alpine Loop Gran Fondo. This ride is famed to be the toughest Gran Fondo in the United States as it will cover 95 miles and about 11,000 ft of climbing. It really didn't take much for me to be convinced to do this by local rider Bryan Esposito today. I am looking forward to it and I know I will feel the pain of some serious climbing September 24th.
  2. October: The Florida State Road Race Championships October 30th is a real possibility for me to try and do. Reason being, I have family living in Florida that I haven't visited in a long time (not without my bike, mind you) and since my summer job will be over by then; I figure why not? I don't know what to expect other than some fast, flat road riding, but I could find good legs there too.
  3. November: Pittsburgh's Dirty Dozen is something that I have wanted to do for a few years now. If you don't know about this unique race, do yourself a favor. 13 of Pittsburgh's steepest, toughest climbs will leave a mark and I want it.
I must highlight a common thread amongst each of these events. I really do not expect anything as far as results go. Sure, I would be elated if I do well at them, but that isn't the goal. The goal, as ever, is to have fun with other cyclists and to challenge myself doing events that I haven't been able to before now. I've got nothing to lose and I'm as young as I'll ever be. We'll see what happens with a lot of things that may or may not happen in the nest few months. I can do nothing but do my best and not worry about what I cannot control while enjoying and making the best of the opportunities that I am given.
Watched the ascent of this, the Alto de L'Angliru today at the Vuelta.

Clearly, I am already looking forward to next season as I plan my offseason. I've been losing weight too.

Thanks for reading.