Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Images of Exeter Crit

It would be nice to be writing that I had an awesome performance at the Exeter Crit Pro123 last night but I can't.  My legs weren't near good enough.

Exeter is short, only 1 hour, so it's pretty fast and it surges more than it is steady; but even with this it isn't real difficult to stay in the front quarter of the race.  It's mentally taxing though because it's a technical course (in my view) and because there are a lot of young gunners that race it w/eager abandon, so you have to keep your wits about you at all times.  But at the end of the day Exeter is a good time and place for New England riders to have a blast racing together on a weekday after work in front of family and friends.

The collective rider makeup is pretty interesting too.  Kind of like a giant training crit with a lot more Pageantry and Adrenalin.  Most of the young guys are there in quest of their first or most notable 'breakout' ride, (yeah, I'm talking to you Jesse Keough 2nd & Manny Goguen 5th) which is palpable and cool to observe if you care to look for it.  There are also a boat load of strong experienced guys and Masters guys riding it too.  A few really good ones, like Adam Myerson and Mark McCormack, are there to try and scalp the win but most of the Mstrs just float in the middle battling it out and taking risks for other fun and bragging rights, I recon?  (*Race report/ Adam's win & Mark's 7th & 40+ win)

All of this makes for an interesting race.  The earmark for me this year was that I sensed there were a lot of guys wanting to a top result much more than I did.  Part of this is rationalization.  It's easy to tell yourself 'you don't want it', if you don't have it within you to take it. Truth hurts. Lol!

On the bell lap I was in good position (top two or three on the back stretch) but my legs weren't responding well as we barreled toward the puddled turn three.  This corner had been wet & super dicey all race long.  I figured there would be a crash there on the last lap and wanted to be top five beforehand.  But as we got closer I was passed by a dozen and a half guys which blew my hopes.  Now I was in twentieth(?) getting squeezed back in the converging spear tip several hundred feet before the corner.  At that point I didn't feel good about my chances or safety so I decide to back out and watch as everyone else dove into that turn.  10-15 seconds later there was a crash; as anticipated.  I shook my head in flurry of 'I told you so' self rhetoric & affirmation of my decision.  Then I wheeled a U-turn on the course and headed straight to my car without looking back.

In retrospect, I suppose I could have dug crazy deep, taken my chances and  just raced the thing out.  However, I've written about the high correlation between fatigue and crashing in the past.  I knew I was still too tired from the 124 mile Rapha Gentleman's Race on Sunday and the risk/reward ratio in this situation just wasn't there for me.  In truth, the risk/reward ratio in twisty short crits is there less and less for me these days but I reckon it's all just part of the life process and privilege of bike racing.

Peace and roll strong.

Monday, June 25, 2012

RAPHA North East Gentlemans Race

Wild Ones -Flo Rida

(probably not on Rapha tune list/but in my head much of race)
Rode the RAPHA North East Gentlemen Race on Saturday and I can't thank Team Upton Bass enough for the opportunity.  They lost one of their riders the day before the race and invited me to be the sixth man on their team.  It was a real honor to roll strong with those guys.   I'll start this entry from the end.  It was a wild one and we won.  It took us 8:15 hours to finish just 12 minutes ahead of Team STRAVA.  Here's how it went down. 

Our 'Upton Bass' Team
Derek Tredwell, Former Pro-Tri, 1st Mt Wash.Newton Revenge &1st Killington SR cat 2,
Keith Kelly, 1st 04 NCAA Div 1 & Irish Nat'l X-County Champ & 1st @Norwell cat 1-2
Ryan Serbel, Connecticut State Crit Champ 2010,cat 1
Alejandro Cifuentes, Fast rising up & comer, cat 2
Ricky Visinski, cat 1 all rounder
and myself. 

The Gentleman's is a non sanctioned, unsupported and unmarked race consisting of 27 x 6 man teams racing 124 miles over horrific terrain.  Rapha does 'Gentlemans' all around the globe.  There are just two in the United States.  One in the NorthWest and the other in the NorthEast.  This years' NE Gentlemans started in Hanover, NH next to Dartmouth College.  The majority of the course looped through Vermont; Sixty five percent of it over brutal dirt & gravel roads (in the rain Saturday) with 14,000 feet of grueling climbing.  Truely a wild one. The only thing Rapha gives you is a Garmin and a course Que Sheet.  The only other thing you see from them are film crews stealthily situated on various points along the route (usually particularly gnarly) documenting the whole thing.  On one open section they had a small remote control helicopter/camera flying and filming us from overhead, which I thought was pretty toiyght.

The Gentlemen's is a team time trial. The winning team has to finish with all six guys.  So you have to ride for each other, watch out for each other and ride like hell.  I didn't see the list of teams beforehand but a quick glance at the start revealed guys from all corners of the North East, including Quebec-Canada, New York City and Philadelphia to mention a few.  Truth be told I could barely contain my stoke when I saw all these guys.  The scene had all the makings for something special and I was totally amped, albeit, a little tired though, because I'd done hard hill repeats (to failure) that morning not knowing I'd be racing the hardest day of my life in less than 20 hours.

Yeah, so like I said, this was the hardest thing, day, race...whatever, I have ever done on a bike.  Hands down...Absolutely Epic!  Let me define 'Epic' by borrowing a definition from my friend Lucy Mossman.  

"It's not epic unless there is an authentic and a high probability of danger.  There has to be real risk.  Being hard, simply isn't enough to be epic.  Epic means you can get genuinely fucked...LOST lost, HURT hurt, Stuff breaking bad, equipment and bones, but you have to keep going cuz nobody is coming for you". 

The Gentleman's Race is these things.  Having said that, as gritty, brutal and grueling as it is, The Gentleman's also provides qualities of elegance that enhance, even change one's mind perceptions, imagery and colorings of cycling racing.  Did for me anyway and for my teammates as well.

I could write for hours on the blow by blow but you get the picture.  Here's the skinnie version.  The Gentleman's race used similar staging to last weekends 148 mile B2B, seating the teams from (estimated) slower to faster.  We were the last team to start, going off at 8:50am.  8:15 hours later we rolled into the finish area just before 5:00pm totally rung out. The gnarliest climb of the day was what we dubbed 'The swamp'.  The swamp was more of a busted up trail than a road.  It was a super steep extended section of mud, ruts, loose gravel and slippery rocks the size of basketballs.  It was raining hard so the rain drainage formed a vigorous little creek carving a nasty deep rut zigzagging through the trail like a strand of discarded spaghetti.  Speed through the swamp was maybe 2-3 mph and required maximum effort to keep things moving forward.  It was so tough in fact that a guy supporting the film crew on a decked out duel-sport on/off road motor bike crashed on one of the ruts and couldn't remount alone.  A couple of our guys (Keith & Derek) stopped to help the guy out.  It took all of three of them to get the bike up and going again.  Uh huh...see the picture was like that.  EPIC.....

Peace and roll strong!

PS; I didn't have time to plan equipment.  I swapped out wheels from my usual carbon Corima's to aluminum rims and put new 25mm gators on but that's about it. 

Bike, flax fiber Museeuw MC2 -Super comfortable
Wheels, aluminum Mavic Carbone -bullet proof clinchers
Tires, out of the box Conti-gaters 25mm -just one flat
Gear, 39x25 -needed a 28 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

B2B 148 miles

The last couple hours of seven hour ride at race tempo is an interesting space.  I know a lot of guys that train to excel in this area all the time and I admire them but I don't do it at all.  Competing at those distances has never been my thing; it seems too tiring and lonesome or something else foreboding like that.  However an opportunity to ride the 148 mile Harpoon B2B came up on Friday evening to fill in for a guy that couldn't make it at the last minute.   I was scheduled to race in Harlem NYC but I decided to do the B2B instead for no reason other than everyone saying that it was an epic ride and a lot of fun. The whole thing came down in serendipitous way too, so I didn't want to ignore that.  And I'm glad I didn't because the experience culminated for me in the last 2 hours with renewed stirrings of journey and drive.

The B2B is organized, sponsored and incredibly well supported by The Harpoon Brewery Company.  B2B stands for Brewery to Brewery which is the ride's format, sending riders from their brewery in the Seaport district on Boston Harbor to their other brewery in Windsor Vermont located 148 miles away.  Yeah it's tough...mostly an uphill ride the whole way.  There are some flats and descents but the ride is earmarked by a copious extended uphill grinders that keep coming at you.

I don't know how many riders there were total but it was a large number.  Lets put it this way; driving into Boston 15 miles out, I already saw a steady stream riders from the early heats (wearing B2B jerseys) pedaling their way North along the route.  There were a ton of heats of about 50 riders each.  I think the first started at 5:30 am.  The heats were categorized according to ability and pace w/ less advanced riders going early and faster riders (Triathletes & Cyclists) going off in later heats.  The last heat was fastest scheduled to leave at 8:00am which was my grp.  I was also the very last guy to stage in the back but this gave me a good vantage to survey the riders and predict the ride dynamics likely to unfold and plan my ride accordingly.  There were guys I knew and a lot I didn't but everyone looked sturdy and game for the effort ahead so I paid close attention to everything.  I saw a couple pro/elite triguys and Mark (The Shark) McCormack (2003 US Pro Road Champ) and also Dean Phillips (World U23 Crew Champion, turned cyclist) to mention a few.  Dean won the State road race last week so I knew he was ready to rage.  In winning the championship he pushed a 'normalized' wattage of 377 for the last hour (holding off Mark & Frank McCormack, among others).  Dean also holds most of the regional TT records.  Dude goes 30+ mph in every TT using an Aero-bike and goes 28 mph cannibal.  Recognize.

Mark Mmack. has ridden B2B a few times & told me that the 100 mile mark; while only 2/3rds of the distance, is really more like the halfway point.  He said the course gets brutal and people start blowing apart from that point on.  I respect Mark's race experience, accomplishments and abilities so I paid attention to his insight and formulated it into my pace strategy accordingly.  Basically I decided to make it to the century mark with the least effort possible while remaining with the front guys and then assess my form for the last 50 miles.

This plan seemed to be working okay until the the second fuel station which was at about mile 60-70.  As I was fueling (along with the whole group) 4-5 guys rolled onto the course and started riding hard while the rest of us were still in the station.  I was a caught off guard and a little surprised but there wasn't any rule or agreement around the time riders need to hang around so I just rode as hard as I could (solo) for about 10-12 minutes before rejoining them.  A lot of other guys got 'caught out' as well.  The move fractured the group in half for good, so I a decided to ride in the top 5-7 guys from that point on but still not push too hard.  I took a couple pulls just keeping pace but that was about it.  Guys still kept attacking though but their kick was waning.

At around mile 90 I tested my legs and they felt strong so I was confident heading into the last 50 miles. Unbeknownst to me this was also a point on the course just before the longest climb (5 miles) of the day.  I watched two guys attack at the bottom and wondered what was ahead.  After about 5 minutes they were just about to float out of sight but my legs were good so I decided to try and bridge up to them.  After a couple minutes the two guys up front were coming back to me and the remnant riders behind were out of sight on the grade below.  As I rolled close to the two guys I noticed one (Dean Phillips) had split a pretty good gap the other guy.  As I passed the gapped rider,  he jumped on my wheel and I brought us both up to Dean and rode past him over the crest of the hill.  Over the top there were a series of shorter but sharp rollers across a false flat section heading up the 100 mile fuel station that we rode together.  I rode second wheel on one decent then punched it up into the rollers dropping the two guys in the process and rode solo for the remaining few miles into the station.

At this point, with 100 miles behind me and 50 ahead I didn't want to get caught out 'again' coming out of the fuel station.  I hung around for about 5 minutes, looked around for the other two guys but didn't see them.  There were hundreds of riders standing around, all wearing the exact same jersey and I could not find them,  So I rode onto the course and soft pedaled for a couple miles then settled into TT mode for the next 30 miles solo.

'might have known what you would find'
Along the way some funny things were going through my mind.  I was passing a constant stream of riders from the earlier heats and they were really supportive as I TT'd along. The Harpoon sponsor van w/ ride guru-organizer Skip Thomas, also pulled up to me a number of times to pass along hearty encouragement. All of this got me super motivated and I just committed to the effort 100%  but still knowing there was a long way to go.  This is a unique space, physically, mentally and dare I say, spiritually as well.  Sparing too many details, all of these were in balance for me as I tapped out a vigorous tempo and embraced a completely channeled, calm and assertive focus. 

A mile from the final fuel station (130 mi mark) a group of three, Mark Mac, Dean Phillips and  Elite/Pro Tri Pat Wheeler caught up to me and we rolled into the final station together but I was still feeling pretty sturdy and actually didn't want to stop.  However the ride requires that you stop at each station and ride over a 'tracking pad' to make sure they know where everyone is on the course.  It's a safety thing more than anything else.  Anyway, the final station was a sea of B2B jerseys just like all the others and I lost track of my guys again...or they lost track of me?  After a while I began thinking they had left (like station 2) so I rolled onto the course to look for them.  I didn't see them so I rolled back into the station and looked around some more.  After about 10 minutes a few remnant riders from our grp arrived, rolling in slowly & looking totally smashed.  One rider in particular looked so shelled that several onlookers/volunteers recommended he go to the medical tent.  After I knew these guys were going to be okay I decided to get riding again; all the while thinking Dean, Mark and Pat were already way down the road so I settled into TT mode again and quickly got back into the same mantra state as the previous 30 miles and continued this solo all the way to the end to learn I was the first guy to finish.  Turned out Dean, Mark and Pat and others were actually chasing me which I thought was pretty funny.  It was a really great day.  One in which I discovered some new dimensions within this beautiful sport I had not experienced in quite the same way before.

Peace and roll strong!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Distance Rides -Cerebrate

I surfed onto this song yesterday morning and thought the riff was decent.  I loaded it into the Droid for my ride and played it a bunch.  I was solo so interesting cool tunes always make smooth distance rides even better.  The title of the video 'Lucky' initially magg'd me but after riding and hearing it; like ten times, I was pretty curious about the lyrics so I tried a Google translation when I got home.

 Lucky - Шевели мозгами

I wasn't able to find much at all; perhaps my browser was buggy or something.  The only things I found were that these guys are Russian (or Serbian) and the song's title 'Шевели мозгами' translates to English as 'Cerebrate'- use or exercise the mind or one's power of reason in order to make inferences, decisions, or arrive at a solution or judgments.

Not for nothing, but I found this pretty cool because that's pretty much what a lot of us do on solo distance rides.  I guess the rest speaks for itself.

Peace and roll strong!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Whiter shade of pale

John Lennon was rumored to have listened to Procol Harum's 'Whiter Shade of Pale' nonstop for two weeks upon hearing it for the first time. That says a lot, no? Personally I love it too. It came out before I was really into music but my step mother often played this record in our house and so it was what you could call a childhood anthem for me.

I loved the the lonely organ riff, the kaleidoscope lyrics and it's intimacy, all, just lovely. But the coolest thing about this song to me was it's formation. Apparently the starting point, the inspiration, were simply the words 'Whiter Shade of Pale' which came to Lyricist Keith Reid at a party.  He had nothing else at first, not a story, not a mood or any lyric in mind but he had a seed and when he finished cultivating it he'd written an iconic anthem for an entire generation that wrapped all of this together masterfully. 

When Reid wrote it he said: "It's sort of a film, really, trying to conjure up mood and tell a story. It's about a relationship. There's characters and there's a location, and there's a journey. You get the sound of the room and the feel of the room and the smell of the room. But certainly there's a journey going on, it's not a collection of lines just stuck together. It's got a thread running through it." 

I think this is awesome because Reid had the guts and emotional dexterity to allow himself to back into a pure creative process, transparent and personified; which displays personal boldness that's really impressive.  And he created a masterpiece in the process.

Here's what else he said:  "I feel with songs that you're given a piece of the puzzle, the inspiration or whatever. In this case, I had that title, 'Whiter Shade of Pale,' and I thought, There's a song here. And it's making up the puzzle that fits the piece you've got. You fill out the picture, you find the rest of the picture that that piece fits into."   

Seems to me that beauty is bold, and so art, to be authentic, must be as such, bold; in one form or another, subtle or acute. If life is an art and joy its reward, there's a lot to learn here. Peace & roll strong.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Whatever gets you there

COOL, its pouring out and I get to ride in the rain again!  I use to hate riding in the rain and lived by the motto 'if there's a drop, I stop!'   That was, however, before, let's call it -epiphany, when I use to love indoor training.   Like stink on a monkey, I could hammer away for hours and hours, day after day for weeks and months at a time (alone) and never lose one drop of enthusiasm and I didn't burn out on it either.  For over 15 years 90% of my training was indoors.  It could have been a perfect day to ride outside; 80 degrees and sunny, but you'd find my over regimented butt inside on the trainer slogging out various tempos on the Cateye cs1000.

Get off this -Cracker

It was extreme.  When my kids were young it wasn't uncommon for me to climb on the The Chair of Torture at 10 or 11pm.  I'd slid down into the musty dimly lit basement after a weekend of kid ski racing and play mind games with myself in order to thunder out a couple vigorous hours of training.
I'd humorously tell myself  'To be strrrong like bull?  Must trrrrain like bull,' and seriously picture some poor slob son of a coal miner in war torn Croatia training harder than me in a bullet ridden abandoned tannery factory.  God forbid, my candy ass would miss a workout...and sleep, that was for pussy's.

I played all kinds of other mind games with myself too to keep the fire in my belly.  And this definitely worked too but now I laugh because after several meaningful life changes over the last several years the best motivational indoor imagery I can wamp up these days is suffering my way through Klondike Bars...Not for nothing; eaten too rapidly, these may cause a serious ice cream coma.   And rain?  It ain't nuthin at all...nuthin more than an extra layer of gear and it cleans my bike while I'm training at the same time.

New motto?   'What-ever gets you there!'    Peace and roll strong

Monday, June 4, 2012

Tour of Somerville race report

A couple of friends read my post last week (Like it was your last) describing the happenings around the Tour of Somerville on May 28 and asked me to describe how the race itself played out.  So, here's the skinny from my perspective.

As I mentioned last week, I was registered for the Masters race before deciding, at the last minute, to enter the Pro1.   Because the Masters race was 4 hours before the Pro1, I was at registration really early for a 'day of' sign in.  There were 128 guys per-registered so I was given number 129.  It's likely a fair number of guys to registered after me.  At the start it looked like maybe 135-140 guys lined up.  The results showed 98 finishers.

The Pro-1 crit is 50 miles long.  The course is a four corner circuit about 1.5 miles long.  It has one rolling hill coming out of a speedy downhill turn two.  Turn three is the only technical corner.  It's a sharp, less than 90 degree, corner where the road goes from four lanes heading into it to two lanes coming out. 

I've raced  Somerville twice before, the last time was15 years ago but I remember turn three because it is legendary for bell lap crashes.  On the last lap everyone wants to get to turn three in good position because it's very difficult to make up a whole lot of  places after this turn.  There is a  short stretch after it leading into a sweeping turn four that opens up to a four lane drag race about 700 meters to the finish line.  I told myself to be mindful of this at the starting line.  The last thing I need is an ugly wipe-out in Somerville, NJ just 4 days before my 50th birthday and blow up my hip rebuild.

It was close to 100 degrees when the race started at around 2:30.  I was there alone without team mates or alliances so my strategy was simple: stay hydrated, stay in the top 30 the whole race and set up well for turn 3 on the bell lap.  And that's pretty much what I did, but it wasn't all that easy.

To stay in the top 30 I had to surf in the wind more than I wanted to but I had no choice.  A free agent has to do this as team domestique riders and other free agents are constantly swarming the front end of the race from the flanks to maintain front position as well.  This racing strategy is not ideal for getting a good finish result because it is so tiring, but riding alone there is no other choice.  The key is to be vigilant at all times and make these efforts as conservative as possible and yet still be forceful and directed enough to get you up into the position you need.

The race was animated but I was betting that in the end the whole thing would come together for a big pack gallop to the line.  Throughout the race there were various attempts to split up the field but I expected this and just stayed on plan.   A couple times I found myself in a split dangling off the front simply because I was following wheels, but once I noticed this I'd eased off the throttle and float back into the top 30 of the pack.

There was a three man move late in the race that included 2008 Olympian Bobby Lea (two others?).  They had a one minute lead with 4 laps to go.  I wasn't concerned at all though because I wasn't going to get a top three no matter how the race played out.  Racing solo my goal was to be safe and just ride to a respectable finish.  In fact I liked the idea of  Bobby Lea winning the race.  He's a good guy and I use to race on World TEAM in the mid 90's.  Bobby's mother was the team founder and director and there are still connections so it would have been a really cool thing.  This was not to be though.  They were caught with 2 laps to go and it became clear this thing was coming down to a classic big ass Somerville field sprint.

At this point I was still in decent position in the top 30 with one lap to go but things got really 'exciting' on the backstretch with guys diving in hard from the flanks; everyone fighting for good position heading into critical turn three and while I expected this I still lost a bunch of spots about 250 meter before the turn.  As such, I made a decision to quickly back out of the arrowhead (loosing more spots) and make my way the to exposed left inside lane and gun it into the wind up the left side and hope for an open slot in the top 15 heading into the turn.  This move cost me a lot of energy but worked perfectly.  My surge got me up there in time to neatly fold into sixth wheel position just before the corner.

As we came out of the corner I was in perfect position but also a little gassed.  I remember telling myself to just be patient it's still a long gallop to the finished and I could flush my legs for a few strokes before the final sprint and be okay but just as we came out of the turn and started stomping my outside foot came out of my speed play pedal(?)

Fortunately I didn't lose control and I was able to quickly clipped back in but this opened up a 3 or 4 bike length gap to the top five guys in front of me.  This was a problem!  They were accelerating up to about 36 mph and I had to make up the gap.  It took me about 200 meters to do it but I was able catch them without anyone else passing me.  At this point we were about 500 meters to the line and time for the full war cry effort but I was already feeling the heavy acid of my critical red-line and couldn't punch it hard again.  I stayed seated and drafted off the five guys in front of me and powered everything left in me to keep it moving forward but was fading.   About 16 other guys rolled past me in the last 150 meters so I ended up finishing 22nd.

All things considered I was happy with this.  I had a safe race and a respectable finish.  Save one technical in the last kilometer I may have even have a great finish but that's racing.  Having said that, I am going to switch pedal systems from Speedplay to TIME.

Peace and roll strong

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Breaking through

Most people can count on one hand all the times in their life they've had a real breakthrough.  Breakthrough's are rare but are the threshold to all life's goals, be they centered around work, our sport or our relationships.

As elusive as breakthroughs may be, we all know instinctively when they happen to us because things open up and seem effortless on the other side of them.  Everyone's experience is a little different but in general breakthroughs feel like coming through a mud bog or lifting your head out from beneath layers of thick blankets.  Oxygen and light come pouring in.

Having a breakthrough is difficult and everyone struggles getting there because nothing about it is easy.  It requires great sacrifice and determination.  This sounds simple enough, but sacrifice is easier to understand than determination, which is more of a mystery.  What is determination exactly, and how do we actualize it? 

I've been thinking about this and was going to research it for more insight, but then thought about my own breakthrough's and realized that determination was a combine of two things, trust and consistency: Meaning, I trusted in my abilities at all times and I was steadfast and consistent in my process.

Of the two components, trust is more difficult to define than consistency because it's an emotional condition, our internal belief that we can do it.  But you can't see your own trust, or track it in the same way you can record the consistency of your actions because it has no operational constructs.

So for me at least, cultivating and training self belief /trust is the most important thing. Consistency is the pathway to the breakthrough, but trust is its foundation and drive.

Perhaps the best strategy in attaining breakthroughs should be focused on protecting belief in self and our consistency, rather than the goal itself.  It seems like if we endure and make it to the doorstep, stepping through the threshold is practically automatic. And what of everything else on the other side? Well, that becomes a downhill gallop.

 Peace and roll strong!