Sunday, March 31, 2013

Where's The Podium? #17: Salisbury Road Race - 6*th

I am trying up up my fitness. With the work days and all that fills my weeks between the wars that I am slotted to wage come Saturday and/or Sunday, they call my kind the "weekend warrior." Each day can be a battle to do what I feel I need to do so that I can succeed and rise to each weekend's challenge. Yet, yesterday's road race war was not quite the type of race war I have been training for. As you read this please understand that my complaints here are not without reason. I felt unnecessarily unsafe in nearly every moment of the race and I will not sit idly by when a cheater tries to cheat me. I would have moved up if I could have, but this is the nature of these lower category races sometimes.

Despite my placing 6*th out of +/- 65 riders, yesterday's race was a poor road racing experience. The only "race" happened in the last kilometer. Before that, my brakes got more work than my legs.

Reason being, the tactical wariness and timidity of the category 4/5 race field. Two weeks ago I complained about the unnerving manner of the U-19 racer combined with the poor weather conditions. Yesterday's race had neither, but was the sketchiest race I have ever had to ride. On the first of four laps alone, there were 2 crashes. Because no one is willing to ride hard enough to make the peloton, nor least of all, themselves hurt a little to make the race an actual race, the riders were subject to suffer far worse consequences. I would be willing to wager nearly a quarter of the riders were affected by the 5-6 crashes yesterday. Disgusting.

But okay, Let me put some of this into context.

There is a center-line rule in place. That rule is there because the race organizers, despite the amazing work they do to make these events happen, could not get all of the roads closed to traffic. Thus, cars, trucks, horse-buggies, and anything else is allowed to drive through the course on the left side of the yellow line of the road while the races carry on. Simple. Understood by all. De jure. De facto... riders hate the yellow line rule for a number of reasons that I won't go into here, but they cheat it whenever they can and think the will win the race by doing so. It's next to impossible to move up when the peloton is tight and slow, but some can't seem to understand that the race will not be won cheating up a few places by going over the yellow line. 

I had one guy try do it to me after a turn (where the yellow line disappeared through the intersection) and when I wouldn't budge over into another rider or slam on my brakes so that he could slot himself in front of me. I pleaded with him "Yellow line dude. Come on..." as if to say, "why would you try that? I'm not letting you in. I hate you right now." He protested back at me with, "It disappeared through the turn!" Readers... this is an example of the morons that I had to wage war against yesterday. It took an oncoming horse-buggie for him to pull his brakes and go back to where he was behind me. Pathetic. Dangerous. Cheater. Waste of a race entry.

 One guy I called an explicative for cutting me at the beginning of the last lap so that he could be behind his teammate. As if that was going to make him win the race. As if that move was going to have him beat me. Nay, rider. Nay.

Yesterday, because no one wanted to ride at a decent pace on the front, because of the yellow line rule, and because these riders are novice, I and everyone else, was on my brakes way too many times. I was scared that one wrong move in the compact, stuck peloton would send my bike and me straight to the pavement. 

My friend's race was ruined on the last lap when some rider on a climb decided to swing and swerve his bike over and accidentally into my friend's rear derailleur. This move caused the following to happen:
  1. Broke the cable to my friend's rear derailleur - no more shifting for him - meaning he had to finish the race in that easier gear he was using to ride over the rolling hill where/when this event happened.
  2. Rider that hit rear derailleur hits pavement next.
  3. Rider hitting pavement hits other riders on the way down causing them to hit pavement too
  4. The race is over for many riders and the lucky survive.
My strategy for this race became clear to me on the first lap. If I am to stay safe and out of the path of falling riders, I have to either be at the front or on the yellow line so at least I can swerve outside and not into someone next to me should something happen. That strategy paid off and I was able to go into the final turn down and up the finishing hills with decent positioning, perfectly un-fatigued legs, and enough clarity in my mind to want to end this race as soon as possible. Taking 6th was not a great or terrible result for me with a lot considered. But don't get me wrong... I'm content enough* with my placing.

No matter how much I complain about the terrible racing that my friend and I were subjected to yesrerday, nothing will change until we cat-up for stronger fields where race tactics, stronger legs, fearless riders, and everything else changes. I've been through these races before. I just hope my bike and I make it out safe again.

Easter colors for you from my morning drive up to PA

I would like to say thank you again to the support I have and the race organizers that put on these events for us. I am by no means complaining about their hard work, sacrifices, and commitment to us all. They do a wonderful job and I cannot thank them enough.

The sun was a welcome friend during the warm-up ride, race war, and drive home. It was incredible how I could feel the intense cold when someone's shadow passed over the lyrca on my legs.

Thanks for reading.

*Originally, results posted said I took 5th. USA Cycling official results put me in 6th. I need to train harder and drop these races with better results.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Where's The Podium? #16: Strasburg

You could say this race had a lot not going for me. You could also say I couldn't care less.

I'm just happy to be racing again.

And that is how I am choosing to look at this early morning's experience. Leaving my house at 5:15 am to drive 2.5 hours for a 1.25 hour race may sound daunting to most, but I leave for work every day only an hour later to face 8-10 hours of retail onslaught. This morning's cycling onslaught is a trade I'm happy to make.

Strasburg, Pennsylvania is part of the great county of Lancaster. From iconic PA sights interwoven with its rich, unique Amish culture, bike races are allowed to flourish here and I hope to make my way up many more times. As you can see from these first two pictures, the morning was beautiful in sight. Yet the cold winds were leading the charge of a bitter spitting of hail turned snow for the 9:00am race start.

The race course had its rollers, twists, and Lancaster character. From the ripe smell of cow presence to the horse manure patching the roads... if you can't tell by now, this race was sketchy. Instead of me going into a long-winded explanation of all the forces against a more positive result for me, I will simply list them out for you to see.

Beginning with factors effecting the race overall...

  1. First race of the season for many
  2. Poor, cold weather
  3. Snow making the roads wet and slick
  4. U-19 riders not heeding warnings, yellow lines, or their positioning on the bike, within the peloton, nor anyone else around them
  5. 2 crashes - caused by the aforementioned factors, yet they still play a part  (unnerving for some - tho one was right near the end near the back where the strong and capable of winning wouldn't be found)

And for me personally...
  1. My first race in two years
  2. Sketchy riders all around me causing me to be unnerved for much of the race
  3. Legs weren't fluid - for a number of reasons on their own...
    1. Poor training - SO MUCH WORK all on my feet for those 8-10 hour shifts (not a complaint- just a fact) My legs can only handle so much before fatigue cripples any gains I would hope to get from all the training I wish I could be doing
    2. Asthma - this only comes up in extreme cold with high exertion and in extreme heat with extreme exertion - it flared up for the last 4 of the 5 laps sapping my needed oxygen for that ATP energy production, muscle recovery, and sustainable strength in the legs. 
  4. At the end - I was caught behind a crash that took our 5-6 riders in front of me and almost claimed me with it. Glamourless onslaught.
  5. Legs didn't have it.
  6. Legs didn't have it.
  7. Legs didn't have it.
If my legs did have it, I wouldn't have been caught in the back behind that crash at the end that nearly took me out with it. I would have been up front with my friend going for the top step. But you know what... I got 22nd and I can only hope to improve with hard work, more dedication, and trusting myself.
I'm not done here yet.
I've done what training I could so far, and I will continue to do what I can as I dive into this upcoming season. It's a balancing act I feel most have to contend with. As much as I may feel mine is the worst, I cannot help but simply retract any negativity and replace it with appreciation for my ability to race, all the support I have around me, and what I hope to still accomplish. I have a lot of work to still do, but no one is in my way*.

Leaving Lancaster, PA and the Strasburg road race was not accompanied by disappointment. Seeing people going about their daily lives of work in this weather I hated to race my bike in certainly reminded me of the perspective I carry. I'm finally racing again and I couldn't care less about the placing I got today... I'm lucky to be able to do this. I will be back to race in Lancaster two weeks from now and I look forward to it. I am happy that my friend's hard work in training time and efforts payed off with a 3rd place and I hope I can help him out a bit more next time and slot myself up a few places in doing so.
100% Colombian + me = 200% Colombian
Thanks for reading.
instagram: @johnnybrison
*except me