Archive for the 'Race Review' Category

12
Oct
12

2012 Texas Time Trials – 12 Hour review.

ImageOh kay. Where to begin?

I know it’s been a while, and I know I have a lot to write up and discuss, but the three or four main events in my life this year have left me sort of scrambling around, trying to work, live, love, train, coach, and race. I think I’m doing okay now, but it was a serious summer, nonetheless.

I’m going to start at the end, because while there’s a lot to fill in, and my memory will hopefully remain sharp, a complete writeup that  I did on a significant race in Wisconsin, was erased when it wouldn’t save, and I didn’t have the energy to re-write it. I will, hopefully this weekend, but right now, I’ll focus on an event that was so fun, so challenging, and so rewarding, that it merits my attention.

Two weekends ago, now I guess three, I participated in the 12-Hour Texas Time Trial Challenge, run by veteran Randonneurs Dan Driscoll and Pam Wright. Earlier in the year, I had coached Michelle Beckley on a crazy 384-mile effort through the Hill Country, and she convinced me to try a 12 hour myself way out in Amarillo. Unfortunately, we were literally rained out right before it started, when a flash flood destroyed the State Park where the event was going to be held. This time, though, we weren’t going to let a little rain get in our way.

Michelle and her boyfriend convinced me to sign up for the State 12-hour Championships, held down in Glen Rose. Now, I need to tell you – I am NOT in prime shape right now. I won that race in late June, rode in July a few times, did maybe one rally (the Goatneck), and basically rode and mountain biked while I figured out how best to handle my midlife crisis, my divorce, and my new relationship. But here it was, September already, and  I am about 5 to 7 lbs overweight, I’m maybe riding about 3 to 5 hours a week, and I’m going to compete in the 12-hour Time Trials. Good Lord!!!

I prepped my bike and car with all the wheelsets I could find, brought cold weather and wet weather gear so that I wouldn’t be unprepared, carried lights and reflective vests, etc., brought along my TT bike and aero helmets just in case, and bought a  box of Bonk Breakers and Stinger Waffles so that I could try and stay on top of my calories. Oh, and I brought 16 ounces of Fish Oil concoction, which I’ll explain about later. I arrived late in the day, got my bag and numbers and instructions, and went to the hotel. Dinner was Sonic – 800 Kcals of crap. I went to bed, slept a few hours, and woke up to a steady drizzle. This was NOT the ideal way to break myself in to Ultra-Marathon Racing!!

So, the alarm goes off at 4am, I eat more bad hotel food, along with some egg concoctions left over from last night’s dinner, and get to the parking area, which is wet, muddy, and about 60 degrees. I have no flashlight other than the lights on the bike, which I put in my mouth, which then subsequently heat up and burn my mouth, so I’m stuck using the reflected light from the hotel parking lot. In the process, my numbers get soaked, I don’t drink enough coffee, and I lose track of Michelle and Martin, who is providing us with SAG support. I basically run in to them about 10 minutes before the start, and we agree that every lap, I’ll stop at the tent for 2 minutes, where I’ll drop off my water bottles, take on two new ones, and get three Bonk Breakers or four Waffle Stingers. Then the horn goes off, and we’re off!

Michelle and I ride together for about seven miles before we somehow get split up. My lights are a Dinotte 400L up front, and I’m using some CRAPPY Serfas 30lumen  lights in the rear. I think they may have lasted about 4 hours, while the Dinotte lasted the entire freaking race. But in the dark, it’s impossible to see who has a blue ribbon on their helmet, denoting the 12 hour racers, and I quickly realize that my own blue ribbon has flown off in the rain that just won’t stop falling. We have to squeegee our brakes a lot earlier because of the weather, and while I know the roads out there pretty well, it’s a completely different feeling to ride, in the rain, with limited visibility, in the pitch dark, with about 100 yards of visibility ahead. Seeing the red blinkies ahead of me is helpful, but at about mile 6 I do miss the only left hand turn, and that happens to be the one turn that is most poorly marked and manned by volunteers direction traffic.

When I was a kid, maybe 10, we got our first real PC, an Apple 2 with a cassette tape for a drive. There was one game that we played over and over, and it was a night driving simulation, where you had to keep your ‘car’ between the advancing white dots. The course would twist and turn and as you got faster, you would outrun your ability to predict which direction the event horizon would slide in from , left, right, or straight. At the end, you were given a score and a title based on your time and number of crashes, and I was always called “Parnelli Jones” after a historical race character I knew nothing about. Racing in the dark, in the rain, on a bicycle, on empty roads, was similar. The light would show the county road reflectors in the center and left edge, and the white fog line on the right edge, with some periodic reflectors on the right, along with road signs that stood out rather well. That, and the odd blinkies ahead, were my only companions. It was sort of like racing in space. It was surreal. There was just the sound of the rain hitting my aero helmet, my own breathing,  the tires making their way along the chip-seal, and the odd rider passing me or me passing them. There were minutes and even hours when I spoke or saw no one.

Finally, on lap two or three, the sunrise behind the clouds ended up making roads more distinguishable, and sight lines better, and I ended up picking up some steam, and getting in to a good, solid rhythm. I had a great conversation with one of my earliest coaching mentors, and Ultra-Cycling enthusiast, Paul Skilbeck, about a week before the race, and he made some recommendations on my caloric intake per hour, and my estimated power output intensity. Now, here’s where things get pretty interesting.

Based on  conversation with Paul, I was prepared to hold about 60% of my estimated Threshold Wattage, which I’m still calculating to be about 290w/60min, even though I haven’t been training much at all. Call it empirical assumptions, but my FTP really only changes when I either take time off completely, or train at high volumes. I know where it could go, but the status quo is about 290w, plus or minus 2%. So, to be conservative, and focus on lower Kcal consumption and hold off while ingesting as many Kcals as possible, I looked for a Pnorm of about 175w.

Boy, was I wrong….

The first lap showed a PNorm of 209, or about 70% of FTP. Skiba’s xPower score, which I can’t see on a Garmin, was a 196. I burned about 884 Kilojoules, and the lap time was a 1hr26min effort.  I’ll put all of this in the chart below, along with the Kcals I consumed each lap. It’s pretty revealing!

Lap Time Normalized Power Kilojoules Expended Kilocalories Consumed Bottles of Osmo consumed (120Kcals/bottle)
1:26:11 209w 884 750 (3 PB&J Bonk Breakers) 2
1:23:43 208w 932 750 (3 PB&J Bonk Breakers) 2
1:20:43 218w 927 750 (3 PB&J Bonk Breakers) 1.5
1:22:43 212w 911 640 (4 Waffle Stingers) 1.5
1:28:41 199w 889 500 (2 PB&J Bonk Breakers) 1.5
1:26:21 198w 887 480 (3 Waffle  Stingers) 1
1:28:18 204w 912 8oz Fish Oil and a 5hr Energy. 1
1:42:00 148w 743 8oz Fish Oil and one Waffle Stinger 1

The result???? Well, I won. I won by over an hour, and I did it averaging .702 IF!!!! Had that last lap been a consistent lap with the other seven, I would have set the record on the course! 211 miles, averaging 18.1 miles per hour, burning 7089 KiloJoules. I think if I had trained somewhat, and done a few 12 hour efforts prior to this, I might have been able to hold that 200w Pnorm or better for that last lap, and maybe kicked it up a bit. But it was the fueling and hydration strategy that really worked to my advantage. For five laps, I was able to eat 750 Kcals per 80 minutes, and drink Osmo at the rate that Osmo inventor Stacy Sims recommends in her chart on their website. I followed her mantra of “Food in the pocket (in this case, it was tucked inside my skinsuit, against my leg, to stay warm and soft), sports drink in the bottle. I was surprised at my higher wattage, but it had to be some combination of the temperature and my own determination to make this as scientific an expedition as I possibly could. It wasn’t until lap five that my food consumption, which I had previously timed at about 3 minutes per bar, began to slow down, and I was eating more slowly, reacting more slowly, and breathing through my nose more. The last bar I ate on Lap 6 ended up taking me about 15 minutes to finish, and I was yo-yoing with a recumbent 12 hour rider who kept me on my toes, feeding the competitor in me.

ImageSome other notes: I think this is the PERFECT race to study aerodynamics. I rode as aero as I dared, while trying to hold on to some safety. Every lap, almost, I ended up switching wheels out, before finally settling on a rear HED disc lenticular wheel in the rear, and an Aeolus D3 50mm up front. I tried my 90mm wheel, but it was too twitchy in the light but gusty winds, and on the areas that were not chip-sealed. In fact, the chip-seal road was the safest part of the course. The area that was not chip-sealed, maybe four miles total out of a 26.2 mile route, was not safe, and I ended up losing time to the recumbent rider on that section, only to gain on him during the ensuing climb. The wheel setup, plus the KED track-style solid helmet, my skinsuit, and the S5, probably made me about 2-4% more efficient, which I’m calculating probably saved me about, oh, idunno, 50-100Kcals per lap? I think it was enough to make a difference, though, because that’s one less Waffle Stinger you need to eat.

Here’s a shocker – I learned to relieve myself, multiple times, while riding. The rain washed it away, but I’m afraid my shoes may never be the same. I intentionally used old shoes for this reason.

I had no cramps whatsoever. I credit this to a ton of magnesium, and the hydration strategy, which I think kept me out of the red zone for cramps. I also, of course, ended up avoiding Vo2 and Anaerobic  Capacity zones, climbing with force and then cruising in the 180’s and 200’s. A snapshot of my wattage chart shows about 9-10 hours of good wattage, followed by a steady drop. Eventually, Paul was correct – I lost my ability to eat. Drinking the fish oil DID work on the seventh lap, but on that last lap, I ended up dealing with a sour stomach and wretching, while not quite puking.

It turns out, I missed the record (set in fair weather), by maybe 5 minutes. Rest assured that had I been able to pull out the TT bike, it would’ve fallen. But those who rode their TT bikes almost inevitably ended riding up on their aero pads, thus negating any benefits. I also know how to eat and what to eat, and I think I’ll actually work and train for this better next year, and will focus on those last three critical hours.

ImageMichelle won her overall 3 race GC, and I need to send a special shout out to her boyfriend, Martin, who was simply awesome. He was prepared every lap, he measured my splits, and counted my food intake precisely. He had wheels ready, and ruined a pair of shoes in the process of standing out in that awful weather for the whole day. I am really grateful for his contribution, and though he’s a non-meat eater, I’m going to buy him some EXPENSIVE wine soon!

That’s it – let me get back to the blog for a recount of June’s race in Wisconsin, and I’ll try to do that this weekend, while I’m away. Lots to report. I’m living the Chinese curse – “May you live in interesting times.”

04
Mar
12

Mineral Wells Crit 2012

Honestly, there isn’t much to report here. Several years ago, when the Team Points Race out at Mineral Wells had just begun, I ended up riding over 2-3 days in constant, constant, constant rain, almost 9 inches of rain, and I ended up with all sorts of rusty bike parts, a cold, and exhaustion that lasted over a week. I was just young enough to enjoy it, and I did have two or three or four good teammates who made it fun. We won a lot of money, and had a great time relating the experience. Heck, it may be in this blog somewhere.

But this time, well, it rained all the way down to Mineral Wells, I had the dog with me, the course was flooded, it was dangerous in places, and to cap it all off, as I was racing, I was gaining about 8-12lbs in water down in the ‘socks’ I had decided to wear. It totally threw off my balance, it messed up my cadence, like riding with filled galoshes, and with one lap to go I actually pulled myself out of the race.

I keep swearing to myself that I’ll never be so dumb as to race in the rain again, especially now that I’m older, heavier, and my insurance is in question. But I did start, and I was hoping maybe I could get some upgrade points. Instead I just threw away my money. Oh, and they canceled the TT I was going to do later in the day. I went home soaked, though home was about to become a temporary, fast-ending, thing.

28
Feb
12

Walburg 2012

Well, nothing like a little hubris to tame your ego, eh?

The 2012 version of the Walburg race was as anticlimactic as the event itself was a year earlier, when I scored in a final breakaway and just missed winning the damned thing by nine feet and two places! This year, flush with confidence from my previous successes in January and February, a first, a second, and a third, I figured racing Masters was my ticket to success in this event.

Boy was I wrong.

It started out with me not having any real teammates to speak of, a stacked field, complete with about 50 extra riders from Austin, and a lack of wind in the first lap, to really crack the field. I drove down the morning of the event, since my start was later in the day, got there plenty early, and made friends while I warmed up. The start itself had me near the front, and I sort of tried to make friends, but the McKinney Velo guys had ALL hands on deck, as did most of the other teams, so I was sort of odd-man out. I ended up basically trying in complete vain to set up a breakaway, got in to maybe one or two small efforts that were doomed, and essentially rode myself out of energy and in to some damned calf and quad cramps (which was weird, given that I felt I was adequately hydrated and rested, but there were other things going on that I’ll reveal in a later post), and after 70 minutes, I basically removed myself from the race so I wouldn’t hurt anyone in the pack if my legs cramped up. I set ALL SORTS of season highs for Normalized power, but in the end, it was completely for naught, as I burned through over 1000 KJ’s, was above my previous IF high for 70 minutes, and then completely blew up.

There isn’t much to tell here. I rode like a moron, and really should’ve waited at or near the front, until the wind began to pick up, and then made friends out on the road. But I didn’t, and honestly, next time, I’ll either make sure I have allies with me, or I’ll wait and try to be more patient.

I’ll try to add a photo to this, but honestly, the only photo I saw from back then had me leading out the pack,like a silver locomotive, with everyone else just eating hot dogs and drinking milk shakes.

21
Feb
12

Cedar Hill Road Race Reviews –

Wow – has it been a while, or what? I can’t believe that 2012 has progressed so rapidly, and that so much has happened. I know I need to update everything, but I’ll try to do it in progressive order, so that the thoughts follow the line of time. Please bear with me. There’s a lot to tell.

February 11th and 12th were two days that I’ll never forget. Coming off the success of the event in late January, I looked forward to this circuit race, a 1.9 mile effort that had about 90′ of climbing on a 6-8% wall. The first day the race went counter-clockwise, while the second day’s effort went clockwise. Temps were pretty cold both days, in the 40’s, and the breeze coming off the lake didn’t help much with wind chill. It was my second race as a Master for the season, but I was surprised to see some top talent lining up for the event. By the top of the first hill, however, it was pretty much me, Bret Crosby, and a McKinney Velo rider. We got separation by the top of Lap 2, and with a pro rider from Elbowz (an Australian whose name I can’t remember) giving us our gaps, Bret and I took turns pulling (the MV rider did NOTHING, but it was understood that his presence was necessary, because his teammates were obviously doing a great job blocking for us), me pulling strongly the first hour, he finishing it off the last 30-45 minutes, that we ended up freaking LAPPING THE FIELD by the end of the race!!!

Now I need to give a sidebar note on this. There’s something really incredible about lapping the field in a race, something I’ve never done before. First – I witnessed Bret do this once before in a race up in Denton, and it was incredible. Then, to actually be a contributor to this – WOW, just…. WOW!!!!! The only problem with the lapping was that we ended up in the pack for their sprint, though by gentlemen’s agreement we did not challenge the results – we went Elbowz/Mirage/McKinney Velo, and I later rolled up to Bret, thanking him for the ride, the race, and the privilege of knowing what I’d just done, with one of my absolute heroes. He’s VERY humble, but he needs to know that he’s a model athlete and contributor to the sport.

The next day, with similar temps and a slightly smaller field, I ended up in the break with another friend and mentor, Mikey Brown, also of McKinney Velo, and an OKC Velo rider. We didn’t quite lap the field, but we did get about 4/5 of the lap in. The break took a bit longer to get started, and the course was slightly easier – the clockwise hill at least SEEMED easier – but in the end, Mikey pulled another signature move, backing off and losing contact in the last corner, about 800 meters from the finish, and then ROCKETING off the left hand side of the road, to get a sustainable gap. I was left battling with the OKC rider, who happened to be a National Duathlon Champ or something like that, and since his pulls at the front were negligible, he ended up attacking in the last 150 meters and getting a 3 second gap on me. I’m no fan of OKC Velo, and this didn’t raise my opinion of them much, but all’s fair in love and racing, and he did contribute somewhat. I’m kind of a hard-liner, taking solid pulls and doing a lot of work early to establish a break, hoping that my work will be recognized and rewarded. Saturday, it was, but Sunday, less so. Still, I’ve earned the respect of those around me, and this was an absolute blast of a weekend.

One other interesting note. This was the first time I rode with someone using Di2. Mikey Brown had it on his bike, and it was awesome hearing the motor shift him from 39 to 53 at the top of the hill. I was using my new SRAM red, and, well, my hands kept going numb. Sheesh.

15
Feb
12

Success…. And Victory.

The Whareagle wins his first road race – ever.

***Well, it’s been over two four five! weeks now, and I’m sure everyone wanted a fast response, but honestly, I was solo for two weeks at home, and there were other things going on in my life, and I went to Fredericksburg with a friend for the next weekend, and, well, I kind of fell in to a depression, and the high from this race didn’t last nearly long enough. SO, that said, I’ll resume and hopefully finish this today. Thanks for your patience.

I’m going to open this with a monster caveat – this is going to be a LOONG post, so make sure your coffee is hot, your mouse scrolling wheel has fresh batteries, and you have the phone set to ‘airplane mode’, because this may take a while. I have a lot to say.

This last weekend, January 21st, to be exact, I raced the first event of 2012, the annual Copperas Cove Classic, this year, renamed the “Megan Baab Memorial”. Megan was a young, effervescent 19-year old racer who grew up  in the Texas Cup Series, but tragically lost her life in mid-December of 2011. The whole state mourned her loss, and a scholarship fund was set up by Andy Hollinger, the race promoter, with a portion of the proceeds from the race going to the fund. I drove down with long-time client Janna Doss, who was entering her first race. We discussed the usual pre-race nervous talk, with tactics, strategies, nutrition, hydration, offense, defense, etc. Well, I never knew that my own version of the race, separate from hers, would ever succeed so spectacularly.

Saturday dawned cold and breezy, and despite my planning, I did fail to bring an extra undershirt, and was about to wear my Mirage jacket, when teammate and Mirage President, Gary Dutschman, offered me a Helly Hansen undershirt that was perfect. Janna and I pinned each others’ numbers on, and we rolled out for the 7:30 start. I decided a while ago that I would start acting my age, and would race the 40+ category, seeing as to how I’d been beating my head against the Cat 3 ceiling for 6 years, and an upgrade was probably out of my range, especially given my inability to race on weekday evenings, which is where most North Texans get their upgrade points. Trying to do it on weekends only is just really difficult, and there’s always the nagging doubt about whether you’re good enough to stick it with kids half your age, with a lot more vigor under their legs.

I had a number of teammates from Mirage, known and unknown, in the group, and we really didn’t have a strategy, but they were all experienced enough to know to at least block or screw up pacelines if a teammate got away, and, well, as it turned out, that’s exactly what happened!

It was still about 41 degrees when we rolled out in a neutral start, and we were averaging about 11 mph. When the car let us go, everyone just stuck next to each other and kept this slow speed. By this point, I was truly shivering, from a combination of nerves and cold, and I ended up telling myself – “Screw this – I’m going to warm up!” So, about mile 2, I literally just rolled off the front –

and that pretty much turned out to be the whole freaking race!!!!!

At 3 miles, I wasn’t really racing, but I was definitely riding at about 90% of FTP, and when I looked over my shoulder, I had about a 30 second gap. By mile 6, it was about a minute, and there was one brave rider trying to bridge. By the time I turned off on to the loop, at about mile 8, the rider was about 30 seconds behind me, and the pack was at 90 seconds. I then thought about how much riding I had ahead of me, and how it might be fun to have a rider to paceline with, so I backed off, waited a few seconds, and when the rider caught up to me, we made introductions, guesstimated the gap, and started taking turns.

The rider, Jim Slausson, was a 47 year old from San Antonio, riding for Bicycle Heaven, and had about 5 years of experience as a racer. I mentioned that I knew Jimmy Vaughan, one of the owners, and we instantly established a good rapport. Now, here’s the interesting thing – we were both riding Cervelo Soloist/S3’s, we both had tubular deep-rim wheels, and we both had power meters, and knew how to use them. The only difference, physically, was that he weighed probably 25 more pounds than I did. On that course, which is one of my absolute favorites, due to the rolling terrain and the ever-present wind, plus extremes in the cold or the heat, we were set up perfectly. My pulls ended up being longer, his shorter, but together we stitched and weaved our way over the whole course.

At roughly mile 35, just before the right turn on to the worst part of the course – a 12 mile segment of caliche and pea gravel with divots and potholes galore – Jamie, one of my absolute most favorite officials, pulled up beside us and rolled down his window.

“Jamie – what’s our gap?” I asked.

He looked at me, gave me his huge, awesome, most genuine smile, full of white shiny teeth, and said, “SUBSTANTIAL!”

Jim and I then knew this really was going to be a special day.

We hit the gravel section with a semi-quartering tailwind, and lit up the speed to over 28 miles an hour. We passed a few of the 1,2,3’s who had been dropped, but we saw no one after the second feed zone. However, the section that closes the loop, between the entry on to FM roads, and the left hand turn that heads back to the Start/Finish, had some challenges of its’ own to throw at us. Specifically, there’s this one section that consists of two rollers over short bridges, then a climb/flat/climb/flat/climb/flat, to the crest. It’s maybe just over a mile, but usually, if there’s wind, it’s an area where riders get popped. Today, however, I worked pretty hard with Jim, and took him up about 2/3 of the way, before I heard a faint “EZ!” and I backed off. Fortunately, at the crest, Lee McDaniel, the event photographer, was there, and he captured Jim and I in perfect sunlight and image. It’s probably one of the best images I think I’ve ever had taken of me in situ.

Cresting FM580 before Topsey

We continued trading pulls and made the left turn home, knowing that the event was ours, but also knowing that we couldn’t back off too much, for fear that someone might be bridging. It was there, in the area before the final three hills, where Jim said to me “Just get me to the finish – I won’t challenge you.” I thought about it, thought about the ride up to that point, thought about the weather and how it had gone from completely cold to fairly warm-ish, how the wind had never really been too much trouble… and a story came to mind.

“Jim – what was that tennis player’s name who married Steffi Graf?”

“Andre Agassi?”

“Yeah – that’s him. Well, a couple of years ago, maybe 15, he was playing in a charity match somewhere, and was just beating this poor nobody up and down the court. The guy finally came up to the net and said, ‘Hey, man, I’m not feeling it – I think I need to forfeit.’ Agassi, who was really in the zone that day, told him – ‘No man, don’t forfeit… let me spot you a point, and LET’S JUST PLAY.’ So, they agree to that, tell the judge, and keep playing, and Agassi keeps beating him, so the guy says, ‘Dude – you’re killing me!’, and Agassi says ‘I’ll spot you a game. LET’S JUST PLAY.’ Meanwhile, since this was a charity match, and people were paying to observe, well, more people started showing up, and cheering both players on. This went on and on and on until no one was keeping score, Agassi was lowering his game to make sure that his opponent was having a good time, and THEY JUST PLAYED.”

“That’s what I’m feeling like right now.

We’ve won the race, it’s a beautiful day, I’ve made a friend and enjoyed a great ride at the start of the New Year.

LET’S JUST RIDE.”

“Dude – that’s the best philosophy I’ve heard since my own tale.”

“Oh yeah? What’s that story?”

“Well, I was riding with my friend Jason Sager, and I’d just completed a six week ride across America, when he said, ‘I can’t wait to do that ride with my son some day!‘ And I replied ‘Dude, I can’t wait to do that ride with you AND your son some day!”

It was at that moment that I realized the difference between Success, and Victory. I’ve been trying so hard to win, to be victorious, to be the first across the line, all these years, in two aspects of the sport (MTB and Road), that I forgot to open my eyes and realize that the GREATER Victory comes from being successful. Success is intrinsic. Success is knowing that you’ve given it all, left nothing behind, seized the moment, and pursued your goals. Success doesn’t depend on victory. Success is its’ own victory. Success is knowing that a sound mind, body, and attitude are better tools than a ranking on a sheet of paper. Success is…. Success.

We rode the final five miles in pretty much together. I gapped him on the hills, he caught up with me on the descents. I couldn’t and wouldn’t really shake him, we just opened small gaps and closed them. In the final 500 meters, I raised my left hand, grabbed his right, and we crossed the finish line together, sharing the win. It was the culmination of 2+ hours of some of the absolute best cycling I’ve ever experienced, and in the end, there was no cutthroat push or throw-your-bike-across-the-line. It was almost anticlimactic, but it was the absolute best way I could think to end it. I finished by making the cross sign and kissing my fingers  up to the sky, though most of you know I’m more of a Deist than a labeled Christian. I guess it was just a way to give thanks – for the blessing of the day, the achievement of this level of success in my competitive career, and the taste of victory, which may never come again. I certainly FELT like I had a guiding hand on my back….

Afterward, we gave each other pats on the back, circled back to the start/finish, gave interviews to the local paper, and watched the rest of the riders roll in. We got a few photos, and I looked around for Janna, who was finishing her first official race. Unfortunately, her day was not as good as mine, as she suffered a flat roughly 2/3 of the way through the race, but up to that point, she’d been in the mix with the Open Women’s division, which impresses me mightily! High-Fives and fist bumps and hugs were abundant, and I got a little emotional, remembering all the times that this course has vexed me, that I’ve sworn to quit, that I couldn’t share this with my wife and family… But it did feel good to finally WIN something! BOO YAH!!!

Always good to have teammates at the start – and the finish!

The trip back was full of recounted tales, texts and Facebook postings, and Janna was as stoked as I was about everything. I donated the winnings to Megan’s Memorial, clearing it with the other Mirage guys first (I ALWAYS pay out to teammates when they block. ALWAYS). The celebration at home was more muted, and that’s another story for another day, but I’m grateful for the way this ride came together, how it ended, and what it achieved. Success –

15
Jul
11

2011 Tyler Cat 3/4 Road Race

Richard Taking a Pull to start Lap 4 of the Tyler RR

WOW, it’s HOT!

It’s beginning to look like this summer will be the second-hottest on record in North Texas. I remember moving to Dallas in June of 1980, from Jackson, MS. We were 21 days in to what would become 90 or more days above 100 degrees. It was a RUDE awakening to the Texas Heat. That, combined with some pre-adolescent homesickness, a dearth of friends, and the inability to actually play outside, made me pretty miserable. Heck, we didn’t even enjoy riding our bikes, since there weren’t too many places to go…. I was glad when school started!

The Tyler Road Race, held on July 9th, was actually hosted by the town of Whitehouse, just south of Tyler. The course was a beautiful 17+ mile loop around Lake Tyler, and the East Texas ecology of actual trees, dense pine woods, and much more rolling terrain, combined with  THAT HEAT, made for a great morning of racing. I just felt sorry for my friends who STARTED the event at 11:30!!!

After dithering about actually attending, I decided at the last moment to go ahead and drive out there, and I arrived in time to go over the course twice in my car, and find a hotel. Tyler is usually famous for its’ barbecue, but it’s actually a really nice place to ride your bike as well. The roads are wide, traffic is a fraction of that found in larger cities, and the folks are generally all getalong types. I won’t remark on the quality of the food or service at the hotel, but it was fine for a Friday night. I woke up early, per my usual strategy, found an open IHOP, and had a good breakfast of pancakes & eggs, with a shot of coffee and glass of milk. I just like having a full stomach, y’know? Two coolers that I had filled the night before with ice were drained and re-filled with close to 20lbs of ice, and I headed out to Whitehouse thinking about strategy and how I felt after a solid 8 hours of sleep.

When I got to the parking lot, it was already hot. Just walking to registration made me sweaty. I looked around as I unloaded the bike and prepped my jersey with numbers, and found two local Tyler teammates, Andy Kutach and Darwin Darr, parked not far away. Client Will Jaudes was also there, and I later learned that Mirage President Gary Dutschman and two John’s were also attending. Finally, my friend from rallying, Curt Palmer, also showed up and signed up to ride in my category. The officials were amazed – we had well over 60 racers, and the Cat 1,2,3 race was also pretty full! I think the expected tally was about 150, and over 250 actually showed up. I think that says something about the desire to race new and challenging venues, and the health of the sport in general.

Just prior to the start, I loaded up a 72oz Camelbak, with hose this time, and two 25oz bottles of “Secretdrinkmix”. I am really loving this stuff, and I think the sodium concentration and light taste have helped me survive the insufferable heat. It is low on calories, but for a 3 hour ride, I’m starting to learn that they’re either in you already, or you should eat a clif bar during the ride, to satiate hunger. As one of the inventors said… “Food in the pocket, hydration in the bottle.” That said, I was loaded with about 125oz of fluids. In the end, I ended up drinking about 110.

The race was set at four laps, and early on, it looks like, from my power meter files, that my plan to lay low for at least 90 minutes sort of worked. In fact, the whole race was really low-paced. Average Relative Intensity for the ENTIRE 3 hours was just about 65-70%. The whole peloton was sluggish. What I thought might reduce the number of viable contenders, just didn’t happen. Right at the 50 minute mark, I worked up the one longest hill, but it really didn’t shatter anyone. Then, when there was a break, it only got about 30 seconds up the road. My attacks throughout lap 3 and 4 were intentionally shorter, so that I could try and get people to go with me, while my teammates blocked, but instead they just pulled the pack back up to me. I think I lasted maybe 3 minutes on my longest solo effort. Will once again showed some true guts as he launched a good two or three attacks, but by the end of lap 3, it was slowly becoming obvious that no one was going to let me go. Frustrated, as I went through the S/F, where the photo was taken, I yelled out to anyone that would listen “Just don’t let this be another FREAKING TEXAS FINISH!” When someone said, ‘What?”, I replied, “You know, 40 Heroes Wide and a Crash!” The sporadic nervous laughter basically confirmed to me that my words were prescient.

15 minutes later, THE MOVE was made, and fortunately, it was made by teammate Andy Kutach. I had gone to the front again, to try and snap the elastic on the pack, but as soon as I was reeled in, (or never let go), Kutach launched a very powerful, yet not overly aggressive, move to my left, and two other contenders went with him. I immediately backed off, and began playing defense. It was a BEAUTIFUL move. In one fell swoop, Andy got 15 seconds, with two other good, strong riders, and they hit it at a point in the course where the sight lines prevented people from knowing where the break really was, in terms of position. When the gap hit 30 seconds, the chase car passed, and by the time we made it through the last neutral water hand up, they were out of sight. Knowing that first-third was wrapped up, I went back and talked with a couple of other Mirage mates to see if we couldn’t get them a Top 10 finish.

I need to give a side note here. I’ve commented in past posts about communication between teammates. I mean, God knows I’m not the smartest or strongest racer out there, but every once in a while, especially when you’ve got teammates, you have the POTENTIAL to shake up the race and DICTATE THE TERMS. But the whole plan goes sideways when one of your own teammates either has their own agenda, or doesn’t know how to adequately share information. One rider, whom will remain nameless, is VERY strong, and VERY savvy, but he can’t seem to communicate. I don’t know if it’s because I’m an ass, or maybe I’m too much of a Field Marshall, but seriously – just tell me what you want to do, and I’ll work with you or for you to do it. Instead, I got silence from one or two of the guys, and ended up having no idea about how or what they were thinking. One even went to the front to put some power in, and I had to tell him, ‘Dude, we’ve got a guy in the break….” They seem to have no situational awareness, or what I call “whipadilling”. I think it sucks, and it’s not sporting. But the real sporting screwup happened at the end, which I’ll discuss next.

So, with one guy successfully off the front, and me hoping that we can take a few more spots, we made the final turn for home. The pack settled down even more, and Will Jaudes launched a couple of attacks to try and get off the front, which I LOVED. I also tried maybe one, but I was waiting for the final Kilometer, so I could try and escape that dreaded “Texas Finish”. I HATE sprint finishes, especially after three hours of fruitless breakup attempts. I mean, in a race like that, with PACC riders and Party Time Riders and other teams all represented and all over the place, ONE WOULD THINK that they could organize something and blow up the peloton. But I guess there were too many Cat 4’s, or everyone was worried about the heat, or whatever, but I just didn’t want this to end up with a sprint.

Well, guess what. :/

The finish line was at the top of a gentle rise. The final mile or so was on the shoulder and right lane of what ends up becoming a FIVE LANE WIDE ROAD. Now, if you know me, you know HOW ANGRY I GET WHEN PEOPLE CHEAT IN RACES! Even if it’s unintentional, CHEATING is CHEATING. You’re denying people the chance to advance, get points for upgrades, get TXBRA points, and get cash. Some people have family who have waited for HOURS in the HEAT to watch you come across the line, and you want to impress them. But this event, which I mentioned before was expecting maybe 150 riders, had underfunded their officials budget, and was not working with adequate equipment to score a pack finish, OR, conversely, CONTROL THE YELLOW LINE RULE AT THE FINISH. You see, the YELLOW LINE RULE means that when racing, you can’t pass, advance, or cross, the line on the left, real or imaginary, that dictates the center of the road, or another lane. Cyclists in races are guests of the county and city where the event is held. Other traffic has to be allowed to pass, and God knows you don’t want a head-on accident. BUT, at 200 meters, the course is small enough that it can and should be controlled by officials and local authorities, so that the course can open up wider, and let the sprint spread itself out. I think in the past the 200m value was arbitrarily set, and I’ve argued for a decade now that a 400,500, or even kilometer sprint should be made available, especially since pack sizes have grown so much, but I haven’t had much luck. As a result, you get a jet hose effect, where 50 riders are usually bottled up in an 11’ wide lane, and when the 200m section opens up, they spray out and go in all directions. Those in front usually fatigue out, and in the lower category races, there’s just zero organization, bad sprint form, and general hectic mayhem as faster riders try to find open spots to get to. Some riders try and then quit early, further making trouble as they sit up. It’s sort of like a scene from a zoo escape or one of the “Naked Gun” films.

BUT YOU DO NOT EVER, EVER, EVER cross the yellow line until you’re allowed to. GOT IT, you PRICKS?!!!

Ha! Holding the left side at 500, then 400, then 300 meters, as the road gently curved left and up toward the finish, which was clear as day, I sensed something on my left. It was not a car. It was a rider. Then another. And another. And as the complaints began to spew from my own mouth and from the mouths of others, the “Texas Finish” mayhem ensued. The sprint came out WAYYYYYYYYY too early, and numerous people quit with 50m to go, and I gave it everything I had, but by that point I had been passed by AT LEAST A DOZEN FREAKING PEOPLE, INCLUDING SOME OF MY OWN FREAKING TEAMMATES!!!!! I finished in the middle of the sprint pack, dejected, but resigned to the fact that, ONCE AGAIN, I had ridden 99,999% of a great race, only to have it come down to ZERO, NADA, NOTHING at the finish. No points, no cash, no primes, no glory, no satisfaction in the extrinsic result…. NOTHING.

I HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE!!!!! CHEATERS. You are THIEVES. YOU DISRESPECT THE JERSEY FOR WHICH I RIDE, AND THE SPONSORS. You earned cash. You earned points.

You Cheated.

It makes me sick. It makes me ill. It makes me angry and upset. It makes me want to quit. It’s wrong, and you know it.

Instead of bitching and moaning about it on-site, and honestly, being too exhausted at that point to put up much of a fight, and knowing that there was no way the actions could or would ever be corrected, due to lack of oversight, I said nothing and instead congratulated Andy on his race, and my teammates to some degree on a good race. Will especially stuck in my mind, since he wasn’t one of the cheaters, and he’s developing in to a fine competitor. But when a member of PACC approached me and asked if I would join the protest of the results, I agreed. I know these officials. Heck, I am one. I called it out in that moment when it happened, but the racer didn’t care. They were in it for the cashola or some skewed sense of progress. I knew the protest would go nowhere, however, and I focused on my own recovery, and then going over to the Cat 4 racers, who were just getting started, to offer strategy on the course and see them off. I wasn’t going to stick around to watch their finish. It was already 100 degrees, and I really did feel sorry for them.

There was one other really bright spot. Michael Brown, a teammate, client, a neighbor, a friend, and a Pirate of the Peloton, is married to the cutest and most creative gal on the planet. Brandy also rides, and if she’d let me enter her in some races, I just know she’d win, place, or show, but if it’s not her thing, I won’t hold it against her – she’s still a great athlete. Well, in honor of the Tour de France, she showed up wearing THIS:

Mirage takes the Polka Dot Jersey in the 2011 Tyler Road Race!

So, despite what could have been a grumpy ending to the day, I got to race at a new venue, challenge myself and others, support teammates who did voice their appreciation, and watch clients compete in the sun and hills of East Texas. It really was a great day, and I just hope that one of these days, my number will come up, and my aggressive strategy will pay off.

I may or may not post about Paris, TX tomorrow. I’m still undecided as to whether I’ll go or not. The Heat Advisories are just not going away.

13
Jul
11

Being a Strong cyclist doesn’t mean being a Winning Racer….

Accepting the prime award from official Mark Nelson - 2011 Fair Park Crit

After 3 or 4 weeks of fantastic riding in the rallies, and being able to hold my own against strong cyclists with superior palmares, reality hit home on the weekend of July 2nd and 3rd.

The heat has been relentless, with temperatures routinely hitting the century mark, and the Heat Indext creeping towards 105 and 110. I’d been using my hydration strategy to good effect in the rallies, and planned on it making a difference in the competitions. I also got it in my head that I was good enough and could recover well enough between events to do BOTH the 40+ AND the 3/4 races that were being held, roughly 90 minutes apart. But pride certainly goeth before a humbling fall, and I was definitely humbled out there.

The crits at Fair Park have become a little jumbled in my memory, but in the first one, the 40+, I remember attempting a couple of attacks, and trying aggressive tactics, only to be played by some teams, and actually causing the split that eventually formed and gained almost half a lap on me. All efforts to get the remaining riders to rally and paceline it back went for nil. In the second race, I attempted more aggressive tactics, and even won a nice pair of sunglasses in a prime, shocking the announcer, Mark Nelson, who’d never seen me sprint for anything before. But all breakaways were reeled in, and honestly, the heat damped just about everyone’s ability to create sustained attacks or power. It was hot, the air was pretty still, and the pace pretty even, all things considered. At the finish, there were still about 40 riders, and with everyone deciding to be their own hero, I became a viewer and not a performer, and missed my chance to sprint at about 700m, before the final turn. I finished up in 20th place or further back.

My ‘team’, Mirage, had zero riders in the 40+, and several in the 3/4. We did take several primes, but no-showed at the finish, which was disappointing. I’m having some trouble communicating with a few of my teammates. Some of them are inexperienced, but others just plain don’t talk at all, and since I’m not a mind-reader, it’s hard to tell whether they’re ready to work or not. We don’t train together, though, and I’m pretty much the odd man out in the club, since I can’t/don’t attend meetings any longer, and don’t make the group rides, either. My role becomes that of ‘get lucky guy’, and with 4-6 riders in a race, we don’t really work together all that much. I’m willing to change it, but I don’t think they are. Besides, only one of them is a client, and he rode REALLY well all weekend!

Sunday’s event was at a new location, out in Cedar Hill area of Dallas. The out & back course climbed a fantastic piece of viaduct, and King Racing strategically placed the S/F at the crest. Once again, the day started off hot, and only got worse as the sun rose. I got chastised by Dallas Racing’s Jimmy Vaughn after the 40+ race for supposedly “Chasing Down” his teammate Farang, but I don’t remember it that way. I do remember once again being the only real challenger for Mirage in the 40+ race, attempting several break-aways, and getting REALLY close in the final lap with a breakaway that got me swallowed in the last 150m. Once again – I finished maybe 14th. No points, no primes, though I did challenge for one, just losing it by a wheel at the line. 90 minutes later, the 3/4 race was a lower-key affair, with less overall power needed. I maybe tried one or two breaks, but they were quickly reeled in. A teammate and client tried one, but it, too, failed. In the end, sitting just right in 5th position, I climbed as hard and as fast as I possibly could, but got swallowed by legs that were more fresh and younger than mine, and took another anonymous finish.

I don’t know whether to be pissed about these results or not. I mean, in one way, I’m trying like hell to make the race. As Lance said in 1998, “Somebody has to make the race. I’d rather be the guy who opens the race up and is aggressive, attacks and gets fourth, than the guy that sits in the whole day and wins. That’s not my style.” So you could argue that I’m trying to do that as well – open up the race. Make it such that races like this DO NOT end in sprints or crashes. Something that takes more tactics and thought than just ‘Oh, let’s sit back here and have a cake and ice cream ride until the last 400m. Sound good to you? Okay. Cool.’ I hate that. We need something akin to a points-per-lap race on the velodrome. Bring out the speed. Break up the race. Make people WORK for something!

They say that insanity is the prospect of doing something repeatedly with the expectation of a different outcome. I guess that makes me more insane than ever.

The good news is that I think I raised my FTP to over 300 for the first time this season, and broke several 1-to-2 minute MMP records as well. The bad news is that immediately after the races, I came down with either a cold or allergies. Either way, I didn’t ride again until the next weekend, at the Tyler Road Race, which I’ll write up next.

 

 




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