Sunday, August 28, 2011

Keeping Touch

Tonight is the night that Hurricane Irene is making herself felt along the east coast of the US. It's now just after 11pm and the news is telling us that, at least for the DC area, the worst of the storm is on our doorstep leaving only hours and hours of rain to fall. We lost power for maybe about an hour and I certainly expected it to remain out for longer, but I guess we hit some luck ad I know others have lost theirs and will not regain it for some time. Bummer.

I was expecting all of this to be worse, but that's what one will get when they pay too much attention to the fanatical new channels. Ratings are one thing they are after and as I surf the tv channels, I am entirely unamused by coverage from anchors risking it all reporting from boardwalks to a wedding that will understandably not fall victim to this tropical plague. Beyond taking time to reflect on this storm, I've had some time this weekend to tend to other things and have some time to think. Interested?
Been losing weight too.
This summer has put me in some perspective that I cannot complain about and refuse to drift to any "what-ifs." As an admitted realist, (whatever that means) I cannot accept much more than what is in front of me. I am a lucky kid able to live with my parents as the search for a job continues. I have a dog that love me unconditionally and a bike that refuses to give up on me through any personal obstacles or whatever else I put myself through. My summer have been full of bike riding, though with a few bumps on that road, and I am looking forward to next season and how my form will be improved. Similarly, I have met a lot of new people and friends through my bike this summer and am certainly looking forward to continuing and growing those relationships into next year. Though nothing substantial has materialized in the job search, I am optimistic about it all and will not allow myself to worry. Yet.

Wow. At this hour, there are more than 70,000 people without power in Virginia due to Irene. I am counting my blessings. Still.
Sweet Sally doesn't like storms.
Has anyone else been reading this summer? I've rad a few good books. Namely, I have gotten into author Stieg Larsson's trilogy series of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. I have just finished the second book and am reading Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho while I wait for the last of Larsson's trilogy to arrive from AbeBooks. I am falling in love with reading. It helps me keep away from the computer screen and occupy my time in that unique way books seem to do. You know.

I'm still channel surfing and though all the experts are weighing in and analysis of Irene's path continues, it seems DC is politely ushering our tropical guest northward. Pleasantly underwhelmed.
I got a call this week from a temp/temp-to-hire agency and will be meeting with a pleasant sounding employee of theirs to help me find some work in the next week or two. I'm excited at the prospect of the opportunity, and am thinking some temporary temp work could do me some good. I have  not worked in an office environment and the hook-ups I'm likely to get from this agency will give me that needed experience before I am tossed into it all at once. I can't imagine it being very difficult, (uhm... there are a lot of people in the office work life) but I'm just trying to make the best of this situation. Realistic?

I'm now being distracted by international track and field competitions on NBC's Universal Sports and am realizing that this rant should come to an end soon. I intend to ride with teammates and local riders tomorrow after the rain stops (at the latest) around noon (so predict those ever-vigilant meteorologists). I ended up riding on my trainer today and played xbox while I did for an hour and a half until the power cut out. I guess I could have kept going, but my bum hurt, (from sitting up and having more weight on it than usual for sure) and seeing my time on the bike was a minute past the hour and a half mark, I thought it fair to stop. Thinking about it, I probably should have kept going. My mom made chocolate chip cookies and my weakness for those was much worse than this Irene situation. Can't complain.

Thanks for reading this idiocy. Really.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Where's The Podium? #15: Tour de Millersburg

This August weekend of racing was one that I will be looking forward to coming back to for years. I will just start this all by mentioning how warm, welcoming, and fun the whole town and host families made this event for me and my teammates.
Part of the drive up to Millersberg, PA
Heading to this weekend Whole Wheel Velo brought GC contender, Andrew Shelby, GC alternate, Chris Gould, and a supporting cast of riders including Chris "Ladies-Man" Hall, Joe "Numbas" Mazza, and myself. The weekend of racing began with a 9.5 mile individual time trial.

Andrew and Chris G. were the only from our team that aimed to make their mark on the time trial course, placing well above that aforementioned "supporting cast" of WWVC riders, Chris Hall, Joe, and me. With Andrew sitting 7th and Chris G. 12th, we looked to the criterium ahead of us that afternoon.

Shelby was strong again and able to continue his good showing in the criterium. With a last lap attack, Andrew was coursing through a corner with, as he described, "2mph too much speed," and almost wrecked over a high curb. This near wreck sapped a bit of the mayonnaise from his attack, though he finished the race with a strong mid-pack placement and enough points to have him tied for 8th or 9th going into the final day and road race.
Good morning, bikes of Whole Wheel.
I dearly wish I could have stayed in that  criterium race and been of some assistance to Andrew on that last lap. We all did... but for me, I had known this whole season that I have not been able to stick in these races with the Cat 3 fields, and I simply had to cut my losses again an focus up for the final stage.
Breakfast with Joe Mazza and a ghostly Chris Gould.
The road race was a 54 mile one with three laps of 18 miles to cover. Andrew had a mind to find an ally or two to somehow form a breakaway and possibly climb on the GC ladder with a strong finish and placement. Turns out, he did just that. Unbeknownst to me and Chris hall, the only two other WWVC racers left in the peloton at this point in the race, Andrew had actually broken away with another rider about 4 miles into the last lap. This caused some serious confusion for Chris Hall and I, but only after the race was over.
Me in the road race next to one of those juniors... they loved to throw attacks - I loved to crush their dreams.
As a teammate, I believe I worked well to monitor the front. I rode tempo, shut down breaks, recovered, rode more tempo, shut down more breaks, and recovered some more with a mind to Shelby sitting in the pack. I was doing my job as best I could and with pointers from experienced rider, Pete Custer, in mind. My work was all to be done in moderation and with Andrew, the protected rider, in mind. I really enjoyed this race and doing my best to read it, I kept in mind the riders on the front, the riders to watch, teammates, and myself and how I felt. This is turning into a lot of different aspects of the race on my mind, and I thought I was keeping up well enough.  In this case, however, ignorance was not entirely bliss, but disaster was certainly avoided, but more on that in a bit...

I'll note now that this 18 mile loop was not the most difficult, and it showed; I was in it at the end. The hills were not enough to shake me and though it rained during our race, (which I actually enjoy) having a rolling enclosure that allowed for the whole use of the road for most of the course made a huge difference for everyone to be able to move throughout the peloton. My intake of two gels, plenty of water with nuun tablets, and one cliff bar throughout the race proved to be enough for my efforts. Again, with all the activity that I was a part of on the front, I had fun and knew when I needed to recover and how to ride the different sections. I am happy knowing this and I was really hoping that my efforts last weekend at the Tour of Page County would slide over like they had here.

Andrew had indeed gone up the rode with another rider with most of the third lap to grind away. Chris informed me that, after talking to Andrew near the end of the second lap, Andrew was still feeling good for an attack off the front with a rider or two. At that point I was recovering and eating to keep my energy levels up for that fateful last lap and going into that final lap I let Andrew know I was there as I slipped to the front to continue my monitoring. Apparently I was not monitoring enough when Andrew and his compadre went up the rode, as I was probably slipping back down the field to recover. Either way, neither Chris Hall nor I saw this move. Knowing whether Andrew was up there or not, I kept all that stuff I mentioned before in mind as I shifted my focus from simply monitoring the front to marking strong riders like Brian Sjoberg and his teammates as they chased on the front to reel Andrew in. Their efforts were not enough and Chris Hall and I gave a big sigh of relief when we heard that Andrew was indeed successfully up the road after our finish.

I ended up 20th in the road race as I had nothing left for the finish, and I'm okay with that (job done). Andrew let his breakaway companion take the win (in a show of great class, though he was kicking himself for it a bit when he learned their gap had increased later in that final lap and later learning that the guy didn't even know where the finish line actually was) and he took a strong second in the road race and enough points to catapult himself to 5th on GC for the weekend!

We are all proud of his work and strong performance. I should say, that we are all proud of his hard work and performances throughout the season. He now has enough points to cat-up and cannot wait to submit for his upgrade. I am proud to have done what I could (however small or sometimes confused my help was) to be a part of his upgrading and I am also proud that he is upgrading as fast as he can. He is a confident, realistic, and aggressive rider that knows class and will be a strong racer with the big boys.
Whole Wheel Velo team of Millersburg with the Special Olympians that were on hand all day handing out water through the feed zone. 
I hope to be in that upgradeable position at some point in the next year or two. It will take me a lot of focus and hard work to get there, but I am as eager as I always am. I might even have to get in a TT position once or twice to get there as well.
Dirty legs after the road race waiting for their tun in the shower.
As I've mentioned, the town of Millersberg really did an amazing job supporting, embracing, and sacrificing a lot for us racers. From kids to an 82 year old man, that rides a segway around town (and cooked us spaghetti Friday night), the racers were treated like royalty. Our host family, Mark and Debbie, went the extra mile! They actually slept in their front room on couches and allowed us racers to take over their bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen, driveway, yard, front porch, and anything else they had to offer. Our team was humbled at their hospitality and cannot wait to visit and race with them again next year. The town of Millersberg was so sweet and genuinely friendly to us all and it means a lot.

By the Numbers: Road Race

  • 53.8 miles
  • Time racing - 2:09:05
  • Average speed - 25.0 mph
  • Average HR - 164 bpm
  • Strava (note: power output and calories there cannot be trusted as I don't have a power meter and Strava somehow places numbers for that stuff after I upload)

Thanks for reading and I hope to have more teammates joining us there next year!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Where's The Podium? #14: ToPC Road Race/Criterium

Back to racing at the Tour of Page County. This is a race for the hardmen. The strongest made their presence known and the weaker were picked off by these two grueling days. Everyone was challenged and I, for one, had a great weekend with friends and bikes.

This race was promoted by teammate Chris Gould. His tireless efforts to put on a memorable and challenging weekend should not go without mention. Everyone that put in efforts to have this weekend of racing (not unlike many others, but not all) to run as smoothly as possible did a great job. It was a new experience for me to help out with corner marshaling, but I learned a lot and still raced as best I could, and to be honest, better than I expected, though there aren't any good results to show for it.

If I was not racing, I was to be on a corner. This made for an added challenge to the efforts out there, but I am glad I could do my part in the whole that made this all work.

Anyway, Saturday was the road race. I went in with minimal expectations and a mind to just ride with the group for as long as I could. I also rode with the mindset that I was back to racing after a lot of unexpected time off, and form was what I as personally after. Yes, I did expect to get dropped. I could go into why I thought that, but there's not much use beyond me knowing that I would. No selling myself short here, though. Remember, I did better than expected.

The pace wasn't blistering from the start and for the most part, it was tame throughout the first half of my race. In the race I was described as somewhat "aggressive" by my teammate. I'll take that. I thought, as long as the pace isn't that I'm being shelled off the back, I might as well be active on the front with a teammate in mind and fall off when I fall off. So that's just how it went. I didn't know the course, but our race was to ride it for 5 laps and approximately 60 miles. I made it 4 with 3 in the group and the last on solo off the back.

While I was with the group, I think I rode well. I was in the mix near the front as often as I could be. I drove pace a bit, wasn't afraid to hit the front leading into climbs, and did my part to ride tempo and recover when I could. Again, after the 3rd lap I fell off to ride a lap solo and I knew my race was over. I still have a lot to learn about this distance and these efforts for so long on my body. I am still figuring out what I need, how I can rely on a feed for my bottles, and what I must do to prepare for such rides.

With what I knew and how I had been feeling leading up to this race, I had a good race Saturday. I should now know that feeds are expected at this distance and with a bigger team, I might be more likely to have someone help me out and hand me a bottle. Thus, I need feed bottles at the ready. This road race marked the first time I have ever had a bottle handed to me and it was perfectly done so by teammate Ed Patrick's wife, Kristin. A big thank you goes to her for helping me surviving as long as I did and to Andrew, while in the race, for keeping my head straight about getting a bottle when I needed to.

Andrew took 7th for the road race. I could tell he would have gotten a better spot, but he got boxed in on that climb and could not move around to edge out a better spot. With that race over I was back to my car for a quick change, fluid and food gathering, and back out to a corner for some second half marshaling. I am happy with how the race went for me and it helped to build some measure of confidence in myself for the races to come.

Saturday night was another pleasant surprise. I'm having trouble adequately summing up all that happened. Not because I was drunky, but just because there was so much going on. All the people, conversations, jokes, food, beer selections, and smiles made me so excited to be there. I don't know how people found much comfortable sleep with the rowdiness some of us "last standing" caused, but it made for a memorable time.

Sunday was ahead and more racing with it. The downtown Luray Criterium is something everyone who has raced will not soon forget. That climb. Ouch. Each race had lapped riders, breakaways, and strong finishers. I was not one of those finishers, but I'll live. Marshaling was tough, but it didn't have it as bad as some and I knew I wouldn't last the whole race.

Again, this race weekend was all about getting back some form and having some momentum to carry into the next weekend; which will be in the Millersberg Stage Race. I lost weight and am happy with how my bike performed. Ahead to Millersberg, we're going to have a larger than usual Cat 3 squad and a rider or two that we want to have in contention for that general classification (one in particular, mind you). Awesome! I will be doing my absolute best to help out when and where I can and am not afraid to sacrifice myself for that possibility of a teammate winning. At this point, I am happy to play the teammate role and I know it doesn't go unappreciated. I just hope my efforts are used to the best of their ability and that I can make a positive difference for the team!

By the Numbers:

  • Time - 2 hours 32min.
  • Distance - 51.7 mi.
  • Speed - Max: 48.5 mph. Average: 20.3 mph.
  • Elevation gain - 3,957 ft.
... not a lot to talk about, so I'll leave it at that.

Thanks for reading and I hope to race this again next year. Results should be better by then, though the race will be just as hard.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


I hesitate to say that these next two weekends are to be my last two pushes of this road season, but at least for this team, they will probably be the last, most important ones. The Tour of Page County and Tour of Millersberg will prove to be tough races for me. I can tell. I'm over racing weight and I am just not having the greatest half to the racing season I would have hoped to. Not gonna lie and say it hasn't gotten my spirits down a bit, but that's all what it is. Nothing is gonna keep me off the bike and I'm still gonna race and ride my hardest. There is always next year and I intend to continue improvement.

But let's keep things in the moment for now. I rode the Arlington "hills ride" for the first time last week and though it was not entirely the hills ride in its entirety, I got a damn good taste and will hopefully have some fresher legs to work with tonight. Turns out my bike fits well in my Tiburon's trunk. As long as the seats are down, D2 is a happy bike.
I had everything I needed, last Wednesday, other than clean legs. They cramped on me, as I knew they would, half-way through the somewhat altered ride teammate Ed took me on. I was bummed, but with 31 miles logged on the work bike earlier in the day and a backyard mowed in between the rides, I didn't stand much of a chance to stay fresh the whole ride. Such is life, readers... at least, such is mine.
New shoes, helmet and glasses patiently waiting in traffic with me on our way to the ride.
Aforementioned contents patiently dealing with my exhausted toss of them to my car's floor.
With crampy legs and nearly being hit by a car ignoring the fact that she had just passed Ed and I while we were in the bike lane to her right as she was beginning to make a right turn, I had a good time and will be back to suffer a bit more. This isn't the only "hill" work that I've been up to though. If you must know. (I know you are) I have a Strava account and here is a link to one ride I did over the weekend. I found this little hill a few weeks ago. It was the one I was riding when my shifter broke. Anyway, this ride was a leg tester and I liked how they felt when I needed to push them.
Tonight should be fun and I hope to get another sunset to drive back home to. It's a bit cloudy and I might have to ride some other way if it's too bad/ annoying to drive and ride in.

thanks for reading. It's been a while, but there have been no races and nothing else to really report on as far as cycling goes. Gotta get right.