Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I Am Very Fast

Distance: 38.7 miles
Avg Speed: 17.6 mph
Duration: 2 hours 12 minutes

Went into town to test a possible route to my work this summer, and then swung by Cycles de Oro for a recovery ride. I've been looking over my rides for the past couple of weeks and have seen a big jump in my distances and average speeds. My ride yesterday indicates that I'm in the best shape I've ever been - if I exclude the first couple of miles where I was warming up, I did a sub-2.5 hour 50 miles! That is certainly nothing to sneeze at. I just felt really good and comfortable the whole ride - my bike feels like it fits me perfectly. No sore spots or tight muscles when I was done, and getting on the bike today felt good, too. It's really encouraging to be able to get on the bike after a crazy hard day and be able to crank out 40 more miles without an issue. I feel like I could definitely ride tomorrow if I have the time - I'm not sore or stupidly tired. The key is just to get enough sleep!

I really wish I had a power meter to analyze my ride yesterday. There were a couple sections where I was motoring into a quartering headwind in the drops at 23-24 mph where I wonder what my wattage was. I haven't done a power test since November, so I have no idea what kind of power I'm developing.

Tomorrow I return to school to study for my last two exams, which are Monday and Tuesday. Then I will have a few days off before starting work around May 11th. Hopefully I can keep up my riding this summer, unlike last summer.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Back..... Back in the Saddle Again

After being off the bike for most of the week following my crash, I got in some very good miles this weekend.

CSH groupride - 63 miles, 20.9 mph, 3 hours. Got my ass kicked rather than doing the ass kicking for once.

CSH social ride - 34 miles, 19.3 mph, 1 hour 45 minutes.

Home for a couple days, did the Hagan Stone route - 51.5 miles, 20.0 mph, 2 hours 45 minutes.
This is by far the best solo ride I've ever had - amazing weather, and not a single idiot on the roads. I was really surprised to see my average speed so high.

For all three of these rides the weather was amazing - high 80s to low 90s for temps, and light wind except for Monday's ride.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Game Over

This weekend was the last race of the collegiate season: Conference Championships at Wake Forest University over in Winston Salem.

I was feeling very good going into the RR Saturday. We had a nice late start time, and my easy ride Friday had kept my legs feeling great. The race went well for the first two laps: the course was ludicrously flat and the group stayed bunched up, because no one was driving the pace and there were no geographically-mandated selection points. Our overall points leaders were content to sit in and let it end in a field sprint.

Up the first hill (which isn't really much of a hill) on lap 1 I got on the front and drilled the pace, hoping to spit a couple people off the back just from the acceleration, and string things out. I was moderately successful at doing this, but when I pulled off and signaled for second wheel to pull through, he didn't. Now not pulling through is a valid race tactic, but 5 miles into lap 1 it's just bad form not to - this early in the race no one is going to be close to blowing up, so it's just annoying. So I rolled my eyes, pulled for 30 more seconds, and repeated. Eventually they got the message.

The race was pretty uneventful. It was sketchy as hell because the course was flat and we were competing for 1.5 times the normal amount of points. There was a prime on the second lap, which I went waaaay too early for and ran out of gas about 100 feet short of the line and got passed by a bunch of Navy riders. Oh well, it felt good to have some open road for once to sprint on.

On lap 3, a rider from UMD (number 381 - Mathew Dantas, according to the race results) who had been all over the fucking road the entire race clipped the non-sketchy Duke rider's front wheel because he didn't know how to hold a line. I'm directly behind and to the right of Duke (we're all in the left line). Duke goes down amid a shower of profanity and I go down with him - no time to react at all and nowhere to go. We're doing about 25 mph as we come down, me slightly on top of him. Immediately I'm run over by about 5 or 6 additional riders. I'm curled up in a ball, trying to make a small target until the noise stops. When I stop feeling things fall on top of me, I uncurl and start to survey the damage. It was one hell of a pile of bodies and bikes.

The short version is that was the end of the race for me - my bike was FUBARed pretty good and I had some pretty spectacular road rash (and as I found out in the next few minutes, a severely sprained and possibly broken right wrist).

The full list of casualties:
  • road rash on my right knee
  • road rash on my right hip
  • tire rash on my back x2
  • bump on my head
  • severely sprained wrist / possible hairline fracture
  • bruised right calf
  • torn up glove
  • blood and grease on abraded team kit
  • broken *left* pedal
  • bent derailleur hangar - time for a new one
  • possibly bent rear derailleur
  • wheels moderately out of true
  • scraped up saddle
So yeah, I don't recommend crashing - it gets expensive.

I plan to get my wrist x-rayed Monday, but in the meantime the pain is not bad, but it's swelled up pretty nicely.

I did not race the TTT, obviously. Half of the A teams (Wake, Navy, App) got lost and did the wrong course. Our A team won! Our b team posted a mean time and also did really well in the Crit Sunday morning. The dinner Saturday night was a blast, and I somehow slept through Hannah, Will, Nic, John, and Matt coming into the room at 2 am absolutely smashed and carrying on for an hour or so. Good times.

I am of course disappointed that I didn't finish the race, but I was feeling good and kept a good pack position through the whole race. I'm definitely becoming more skilled at this sport. I most likely be off the bike for a while for my wrist to heal, but I definitely want to do some racing this summer and keep getting faster. Next year, I want to be able to tear the B field up!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Now That's More Like It

Got in a little over 30 miles today in mid 60s temps and some serious wind: blowing 15-25 out of the Northeast. I averaged 19.8 mph, which is pretty respectable in the wind I had. I felt very good for the whole ride: spent a lot of time in my tempo zone, and a few high intensity sprints and hill climbs to round out the workout.

Tomorrow the plan is about an hour of easy spinning to keep my legs loose for the weekend. The RR course is dead flat, with maybe one or two short rises of less than 50 feet elevation gain. The TTT course is very difficult, as I remember well from last year! The Crit course, which I didn't race last year, is a large very technical / sketchy loop that has a couple nasty downhill sharp corners and an uphill finish. We had a lot of crashes in the crits last year.

Hopefully I can keep my head together and use all the little things I've learned in the past 4 or 5 weeks to finish well. I'm not holding out much hope for the TTT - we haven't practiced at all and we have a pretty weak team, but the RR and Crit are fair game!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

App State

An alternative title for this post was going to be "Slacking makes you Slow".

Didn't ride at all last week, rode my commuter to go food shopping Friday and just felt really weak - almost like I was riding with a flat tire.

Saturday was the RR - flat and windy, with a 3 mile climb in two parts, then a 1.5 mile descent or so, then flat again. I got blown out the back of the lead group with 300 meters to go before the summit of the climb on lap 1, which flat out should not have happened. I was close to getting back on on the descent, but couldn't get around two riders from Duke who clearly had never ridden down a mountain before: all over the road, taking unpredictable lines, etc. After that I was just done - I had no gas. The rider from GW who won VT's RR went by with a VT guy with him. I kept on for a few miles but eventually got blown off the back of that group too. That DEFINITELY should not have happened.

On the second lap a couple riders from VT and one from American caught up with me. I stuck with that group to the climb, when it splintered. Somehow I made it up the climb a second time and stayed away from the final chase group to secure 10th place.

As I rolled back by the finish line I pulled up next to Walker and Sam and the first thing Walker says to me is, "Dude, you look pale." I was feeling pretty terrible, so I skipped the TT later that day and went back to sleep in my car.

On Sunday I was determined to redeem myself in the Crit, but alas, it was not to be. The race was held in a shopping center parking lot laid out with lots and lots of cones. Almost dead flat with one techincal, really sharp and narrow chicane.

The pace stayed retardedly easy for most of the race - the riders in contention for overall points were content to just sit in and let it end in a field sprint. As a result the group stayed bunched up and people did a lot of stupid things (like cutting a corner and clipping a lightpost)

One lesson learned is the one time I got on the front and drilled the pace for a few minutes, the group got strung waaaay out, and it was clear some people were hurting. As soon as I pulled off the front, the pace slowed back down and the group bunched back up. BORRRRING! As predicted, the race ended in a massive field sprint. My positioning on the bell lap was horrible, so I didn't place.

In the future I plan to try to keep the pace higher in crits and throw in some accelerations to thin down the field.

So why did my performance suck so hard this weekend? Most indicators point to sleep deprivation - I got to bed early Monday and Tuesday nights and feel much better already. Also, not riding all week really hurt my top end aerobic power, which I am now trying to desparately fix before Wake Forest this weekend.

Tuesday night I managed to get out for anout 45 minutes as the sun set. I intended to do hill repeats on Centennial Parkway, but my abdominal muscles cramped up hard both times I tried it. Even so, I could tell I'm still less than 100%. Even without hill repeats, I managed to keep the effort level pretty high during the workout. I'm desparately hoping that a hard workout Wed, and then a moderate taper will bring back the edge I want to have this weekend. We shall see.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Flat Tires and Laziness

So in the past two weeks I have developed no less than 4 flat tires. Yes, 4. Normally, I will see maybe one or two a YEAR. Luckily none have been while riding my bikes.

Flat 1 was a slow intermittent leak in the front tire on my commuter. I tracked it down to a faulty bond on the opposing side of the tube where the valve stem is. A large patch took care of it. Instead of immediately fixing this I pirated the front wheel off my race bike and just brought it into class with me everywhere - kind of a pain. Eventually I stole the front wheel from my fixie and put it on my commuter, since the fixie was not getting ridden due to me recovering from VT.

Flat 2 was a verrrry slow leak on my race bike front wheel. I noticed it AFTER finishing the VT RR. It was slow enough the wheel stayed rideable for a couple hours. I just threw this tube away since finding the leak would have been nearly impossible.

Flat 3 was the front tire of my fixed gear WHILE IT WAS ON MY COMMUTER. Pumping it up and the tube blows out around the valve stem. I kinda flipped out at this one, this is where it was getting ridiculous. I then stole my spare race front wheel and threw that on my commuter, and went back to the "bring the wheel into class" routine.

Today I went and bought a couple new tubes of a different brand and fixed all of the above flats.

After I did this and put my commuter front tire back on the bike, I noticed that the F*CKING REAR TIRE WAS FLAT!! I very nearly pitched the bike off our 3rd floor porch when I saw this.

I have a couple more tubes of the type that I think is giving me problems... I'm not sure what to do with them now. I don't trust them at all, obviously.


I have not ridden at all this week. It took me through Wednesday to really recover from VT, and then I just didn't really feel like riding. I did my mountain biking class today and rode back from that, so I got a few miles in. I rode the fixie to get the tubes, and I felt really good. Spun out on Gorman doing about 35+ mph approaching Wade Ave. That's the fastest I've ever been on that bike - normally I've got stuff in my pockets that prevents me from spinning up much above 120 rpm or so.

I should have ridden Wed and done hill repeats, but meh. It's only collegiate racing. I don't want to burn out or stop having fun. I'm going to focus on strategy this weekend. Like I said in my last post, I think I finally figured out how to win now.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Va Tech Race Weekend

First of all mad respect to Virginia Tech Cycling for putting on an amazing weekend - beautiful courses that were professionally run, and amazing weather to boot!

Saturday was the road race and the team time trial run on a 15.2 mile loop out in the middle of freaking nowhere. Half of the course was in a valley, so it was dead freaking flat and had a 20-30 mph tailwind. The back half was up the side of a mountain (or so it felt): it started with a nasty 2-part climb for a couple of miles, then somewhat leveled off into a series of rolling climbs for the next 5 or so miles. Just before turning into the staging area it headed down again. Despite the climbs, the course was extremely fast. The roads were 1.5 lanes wide, no center line marking (means no center line rule - hooray!) with surprisingly smooth pavement. The scenery was just gorgeous, and there was nearly zero traffic.

The RR was fun, but extremely painful. We started out with about 33 riders. Like most of our races, we took it easy out of the gate, just tooling along at mid 20s with a tailwind. The pace slowly ratcheted up as we approached the base of the climb, which was essentially right after the first turn: a hard left that was more than 90 degrees; this took everyone by surprise.

The first time up the climb I was (stupidly) one of the riders setting the pace. I pegged my heart rate at 199 bpm for about a mile or so, just absolutely at my redline... eyes going crossed, breathing out of control, the works. At some point I looked down at my HRM and had the thought, "You know, I could have a heart attack if I keep this up. I really would rather not die out here. Maybe I should back off.... Nah" This was absolutely the most pain I've ever been in on a bike. The upside is we whittled the lead group down to about 15 riders, and no one managed to make an attack stick.

Me and a couple of other riders managed to somehow keep the effort high through the rolling hills, so no one tried to attack. As the road turned down again we were all just chilling trying to recover and mentally prepare to do that again on the second lap. Nothing much happened besides some insane speeds on the flat section - it's too hard to get away with a tailwind.

The second time up the climb(s) the whole group went a lot slower - my HR was in the high 180s instead of 190s, but no one broke away - the whole group was content to climb together. The climb seemed a lot shorter on the second lap, too.

As we crested the last hill a couple of the riders realized they had blown their chance at getting away on the uphill, and put the hammer down trying to compensate for that. Of course it failed, because the whole group came with them, now doing 30+ mph down these little mountain roads. Since we were about 5 miles out, people started jockeying for position and I started mentally preparing for a field sprint, which I had been hoping to avoid because it was going to be an extremely fast finish.

The finish was just ludicrous. The pace just kept coming up as we neared the end - my first taste of what a full-blown lead-out would be like in a peloton. I nearly collided with a rider from App State who was riding the wrong way on the course - at this point, about 1.5 miles out, we were spread across the whole road and doing about 35 mph. The finish, as predicted, was crazy. My positioning going into about 200 m or so was around 10th, which was a little too far back. I gained spots like crazy as the sprint wound up - I was passing people all the way to the line, and ended up in 6th.

A couple of lessons learned. One is I probably should have attacked on climb on lap 2, since I knew I had reserve power based on my heart rate. At the very least I would have spit a couple of riders off the back and whittled the lead group down further. At best, I would have taken a couple of guys with me and we would have stayed away for the finish.

The second lesson is I need to start my sprint sooner and work on my positioning. My impression is my sprint is generally stronger than most other riders', so I should start further out.

The TTT was painful. Since we didn't have 4 riders, we recruited Harris to ride with us, who is a D but should be racing C. The team was me, Thomas Bradshaw (a mountain bike rider), Harris, and Kai. The plan was for Kai to take hard pulls until we got to the climb, where he would drop off. However, he only managed one hard pull before he bonked/pulled his hamstrings and went OTB at some ridiculous speed. Harris had never ridden in a group before, so had no clue how to pull through or ride in a paceline. In fairness, it only took one instruction and he got the hang of it. We looked pretty pitiful during this event - we weren't drafting close enough, I was the only one with aero bars, and everyone's legs were completely fried after the RR earlier. One notable moment was cresting the last hill and we come upon a woman with a stroller in the middle of the road. We were doing about 30 mph at this point, and I'm in the front on my aero bars. I see her eyes go wide as dinner plates, just a complete look of surprise and fear come over her face as she scurried across the road. Somehow, we managed to get second overall! I'm pretty stoked about this, because the point awarded for a TTT are pretty hefty.

The crit was a lot easier than I anticipated. The course was around a mile long, with a short steep climb just before the finish, and a long downhill on the other side. The course was amazing - not really technical, with good wide corners with multiple good lines around them.

Since half of the C field hadn't done the TTT the day before, I was anticipating getting my ass kicked, but the race turned out to be really low-key. In retrospect it was kind of funny - no one wanted to be on the front because they didn't know how much they had left after yesterday, so at times the field would slow waaay down and just kind of toodle along at 12 mph for a bit. The only really hard sections were the preem laps and the finish. I would gain lots of positions on the downhill by popping out of line and soft-pedalling to the front. I did this nearly every lap, and no one else caught on, it was weird. But good, because I could get to where I needed to be with minimal energy expenditure. I got two second-place preems and somewhere between 4th and 7th overall.

This was definitely a good weekend for the C team - we put a lot of points on the board and I got some fantastic racing in. I'm definitely looking forward to our last 2 weekends.