09
Jul
08

Month of June training and racing updates

Wow – updating this is never easy, it’s just too easy to sort of replay the themes of cycling and training and racing in your head, and then let them sort themselves out, rather than put the words on e-paper. However, I’ll try to bring everything up to date with a long post.

Lessee, where to begin. Maybe go backwards in time? Oh, that’s right, June. More heat, more efforts on the bike, and more directions to turn to make this whole coaching gig actually work out.

I left everyone at the end of May, where I raced in three crits and had two DNF’s and a mid-pack finish to show for it. But it was definitely hot, and several conversations with promoters lead me to believe that late May and early June revealed some of the highest attrition rates in North Texas competitions. Usually you can assume that about 20-30% of the athletes competing in any one race will not finish the race. In this case, it was more like 50% to 60%, and the fields were effectively decimated. That doesn’t mean that the racing wasn’t still of a high caliber, it just means that we have GOT to prepare for the environment in which we compete. I didn’t, and I paid the price for it.

I had a weekend off from competition, and spent Saturday, May 31st sleeping about 10 hours straight, one of the longest rests I’ve had in quite some time. It felt WONDERFUL. Then, on the first of June, I met up with Darlene Jones out at the Texas Motor Speedway, and we practiced some 20-minute efforts, though she was late, and I did have Cindi Phillippi coming over to the location later in the morning. We set up Cindy’s computer software after doing some intervals, and decided on the best approach to helping her achieve her goals this summer and in to next year. I’m confident that I can help – just this past Wednesday she had her highest overall finish in the “C” race crit in Fort Worth. So things should be coming together for her.

COPPERAS COVE

Copperas Cove, in Central Texas, proved to be one of the most difficult weekends of competition I’ve ever faced on a road bike. The competition on Saturday was for the Age-based State RR championships, and I was looking forward to competing with a bunch of buddies from different categories, and trying to help Chris Kutach, the president of Mirage, as best as I could. The day dawned incredibly hot and windy, however, and once again I was completely unprepared for the elements. I think I hung on for about 90 minutes, maybe longer, before I cracked on a 3-minute hill, one of the longer ones in Texas. I did rally and tried like the dickens to catch back on, but for some reason, one of my teammates was more interested in having me drag his sorry butt up and over the hills than have us work together on anything. We were also dealing with the attrition rate yet again, and I literally soloed a whole bunch of the rest of the race back to the finish line, when I finally got popped with about 8 miles to go, suffered a heat stroke-like symptom (delusions and lost sight temporarily in one eye), and sort of had an out-of-body experience. I limped in, coming in in something like 29th place or so, immediately took a recovery drink, packed myself in my ice vest, and tried to cool down. Others were not so lucky. Cindy became ill out on the course, and came back to the finish line apparently looking like a rag doll. I was already back in the room by the time she came in. No one on the Mirage squad had great results, though several did survive the lead pack and made their mark on the event. However, most of them were disgusted with the event, the conditions, and themselves, and left for home that night. I had paid for two races, however, and I wanted to compete.

Sunday was more of the same, but in this case it was a race run by categories. However, due to the number of departures overnight, the 3’s were mixed with the 1’s and 2’s, and when the race started, there were several  attacks that sent the pack in to a tizzie. I wonder if it was the wind stirring up some bizarre set of passions, because people were really berzerk out there. The course was run in reverse, and when we made the left-hand turn on to what I’ll affectionately call “crap road”, the peloton guttered itself and rode like they had poured gas on a dog’s tail and lit it. I think I survived 12 minutes in the ensuing gutterfest, but it wasn’t more than 30 seconds after I got popped that I looked up and the ENTIRE peloton had completely blown itself up. There were 1’s, 2’s, and 3’s, in groups of 2 and 3, just rolling along at maybe 15 miles per hour, heads down, dripping. I sort of rallied and tried to get a group of 5 or 6 together, but ended up with just one other guy who rode with me for another 15 or 20 miles, before we decided to DNF and basically get the heck out of there. On that one stretch of road, I think I must have passed about 20 other riders, and then picked up and passed another half dozen or more.

This was a strange, strange, strange weekend of racing. Attrition on Sunday was over 70%. There were single digits of 3’s that stayed and finished, much less remained competitive. Cindy got sick out on the course again, another sign that maybe sometimes riding, racing, or even competing in high heat and humidity conditions aren’t the right thing to do for some of us. I got more chills on Sunday, but this time, I DID take my Camelback with me, and it WAS filled to the brim with ice and complex carbs. But even then, it wasn’t enough. The racing was hard, but the conditions conspired to create what could have been a dangerous sittuation.

So that makes what, 5 races in a row where I ended up getting some degree of heatstroke and dehydration? And four DNF’s? I won’t comment too much about my degree of fitness. It definitely could have been better, but man, the conditions were plain conspiratorial.

I spent the next 3 days sort of recovering, and actually flew out to Lubbock for the Jr. Development Camp from Monday through Wednesday. The kids were great, the testing had a few bobbles at first, but we got everything under control, and ended up with a great set of data. I came back home to work and earn some money, and then attended the Saturday version of the Matrix Crit, where once again, conditions were extremely hot and humid. This time, I DID finish on the lead lap, but I just lost it about 3 laps from the end, and fell off the pace a bit. Once again, there were a huge number of DNF’s, and I resolved to not attend the Sunday race, just to save my sanity a bit.

Tuesday night, the 17th, I learned that I am being furloughed from iBike for July and August. Huh. Well, nuts to that. I won’t comment on it any more, but it definitely puts me in a bind for my practice and my overall income. I’m still working on a book for John, but the deadline is July 1. So we’ll see.

ELKHORN CLASSIC

The goal for the entire year was to try and get as prepared as possible so that I could peak for the 4-stage Elkhorn Classic, held in Baker City, Oregon, from the 20th through the 22nd of June. For those who haven’t ridden out there, Oregon has a vibrant cycling and competitive community, and is host to some of the most competitive and most scenic events in the country. Baker City is just 2 hours West of Boise, so I took advantage of the opportunity, flew out with both the road bike and the TT bike, and decided to make the best of it.

The goal for Stage 1 was to HIDE. I had no teammates, just one friend, and had every intention of simply trying like heck to HOLD ON and finish with the pack as much as possible. Well, a break went up the road early, and we did NOTHING. I got a flat, got a wheel change, got back IN to the pack, and again, the pack did NOTHING. There were no attacks, no efforts to bridge, nothing for about 3 hours. FINALLY, on the long climb to the big summit in the woods, there were some serious efforts to break up the pack. And while I lasted longer this year than I did two years ago, I did still get popped about 1 mile from the summit. However, a group of us made it back together, roughly 12 riders, and about 10 of us (some red and white jerseyed guys simply would NOT do any work, I hope they get thorns in their tires) pulled and pulled and pulled until it finally broke apart. About 5 miles from the finish, I was done, and I lost a lot of ground, finishing several minutes down. The 2-4 minute hills, one after the other, were what did it, and I kicked myself, knowing that I should have been better prepared. Still, I did come in a little faster than Spencer, and I completely blew up on the ride home.
NUTS.

Stage 2 was the TT, and though I was using my Ergomo, I do believe I had a better time trial than in the previous years. In 2006, I managed an awful 80th position. This year, I got 35th. The disc and Nimble Tri worked pretty well, but my aero bars DID slip, and there’s no telling whether the Ergomo was accurate or not. I went out at a 235NP, and came back averaging a 238NP, so something went well in terms of power output – I just don’t know how much… ergomo’s perpetually perplex me. The result of the effort? I moved up ONE STINKING PLACE IN THE GC, from 66th to 65th. NUTS NUTS NUTS NUTS NUTS.

Now, after the TT, Spencer, my buddy and ex-client from Medford/Central Point, went out and decided to shoot some images of the Stage 1 course, so that in the future, I could come out and have some better memory pegs and mental markers for the dread that lay ahead. We returned to town in what can only be described as a summer storm in the mountains. Cold, first misty, then heavy horizontal rain, accompanied by a driven wind and sort of a sand storm picked up and changed the whole atmosphere of the valley. Spencer and I got back in to town about 3pm, just in time to get ready for the crit that afternoon. But the rain stayed off and on throughout the afternoon and evening, and while we actually started the crit between storms, there were so many crashes in previous races that had all been either cancelled or shortened or delayed, that we were certain the race itself would either not start or would end prematurely. And we were right. After no more than 15 minutes, the officials called the race when a big storm jumped in and turned the course in to slick blacktop and concrete. We were done for the night. We went back to the hotel, changed up real quick, ate some Mexican food, and called it a night.

Stage 4 – Dooley Mountain.

The final stage of the race was supposed to be the stage where I was going to ‘shine’. My numbers were good, my body was relaxed, I had gotten 8 hours of sleep most every night I’d been up there, and there were no expectations being placed on me. So, we get up, get dressed, eat a good meal, show up at the race start, and we go off at a leisurely pace through town for a 103 mile journey that covered 4 climbs. Oh, and I dorked out by riding with a Camelback full of cold complex carbs, and two bottles. Maybe 3. I can’t remember. I had some bars, but they were pretty soft, and soft bars are realllly hard to eat.

IT. WAS. SO. BORING.

The first 30 minutes went by, and one guy was off the front, maybe a pair of guys in between, and one other that I could see from the pack. Then there were the rest of us. We’re averaging about 15 mph. The road is narrow. The pack still joined tightly. I couldn’t really move up or back. I just pedaled and coasted.

Another 10 minutes go by. I’m bored. Then another 5, and I finally see a small break go up the road. I’m about 30 riders back from the start, and I roll up and say “I’ll take a pull and bring ’em back”, as if to say, “We’re going to lollygag for 4 hours or more, so we might as well do it like a family.”

Well, it didn’t quite turn out that way.

I bridged to the four, and we ended up pulling up what was the first major climb, up to a reservoir. I looked back, saw NO ONE, and figured, Oh heck, let’s see where this goes….

One or two guys went back, but about four or five of us merged with some of the solo artists and formed a decent-powered breakaway. On the second major climb, one turkey decided he was going to protect his GC man (WHAT???), and wouldn’t work with us at all, but this guy that I’d made friends with on Stage 1, George from Nike in Portland, he and I hit it off, ended up working together, and we basically forged a group of 3 and then 2 that stayed away for over 80 freakin’ miles! One kid, 4th in the GC, pulled away early with another kid, and those two went on to win the entire freakin’ race, stage and GC. But George and No-Pull and I also got up to 10 minutes away from the pack, and continued to ride like we’d stolen the race for the entire stinkin’ day. Finally, finally, finally, no more than a 1/2 mile from the final climb up Dooley Mountain, the pack caught us. We’d been out for 3 and a half hours, and while I fought like heck to stay on, I was cooked.

I limped home in 80th place, completely wasted, but actually really satisfied in the results of my effort. People came up to us later and told us we’d done a great job, and the Nike guy said that if that bozo had actually done some work, we probably would have stayed away. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

This race continues to challenge me, and I want so badly to do well in it. I want to return next year, and try it again, but we’ll have to see how everything goes at home.

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