Saturday, July 12, 2014

My newest hobby!

Hello blog! It's been a LONG time!

Last I left off, I was incredibly demoralized with bike racing. I had an awful race at Cherry Roubaix, battled injury after injury, and didn't feel good again until September or October. In October, my best ride was a solo 50 mile ride where I averaged 23 mph (ok, it was like 22.7mph but I round up)! Fittest I've ever been on the bike, too bad it was the wrong time of year to take advantage of my speed. Then, in November, I had to hang up the bike to have our first child. Behold:



My very objective opinion is that this little nugget is the greatest kid ever. And so, for 7 months after little nug was born, I tried to be the best father and husband I could be while transitioning to a new job at the same time.

The kid really is awesome. She usually sleeps well, happy most of the time, loves to eat, loves taking her bath, has gotten better about her naps, etc. So, as a result, my wife started encouraging me to work out and go riding again a couple months ago.

The problem, of course, was that I did not want to workout. See...after you've spent 7 months using any down time to catch up on rest, watch Netflix/HGTV (addicted to those house hunter type shows), and eat every Twinkie, Cheetos, and Burger King Whopper in site...well, you really don't want to give that up.

So I didn't. And I also didn't acknowledge my growing waistline. I didn't acknowledge how winded I got doing simple things such as going up a fight of stairs, shoveling snow, carrying the baby around, or rearranging the pillow underneath my head in bed. I conveniently failed to acknowledge how many calories I was taking in daily (3000) or the source of those calories (candy and fast food).

Things like that are easy to ignore until someone points it out to you.

"You're becoming a fatass..."

My wife. She may deny having said it, and I may be paraphrasing, and I may be fabricating. But the message was as clear as my growing muffin top. I was getting fat.

A few weeks ago, I started riding again. Not a lot. Twice a week. 20 miles per ride. First time really riding in 7+ months. And it was! It was!!!!!! Soul crushing. Truly depressing. I had lost every ounce of riding ability I ever may have had.

And I will tell the tale of my sorrowful riding soon. But before I get back to blogging about my riding, I'm going to share some posts about my most recent hobby.

For me, it's always something. For the past several years, it's been collecting and riding high end bikes. Before that, I went through a phase building and driving high end RC Cars, collecting vintage/analog cameras, buying Shinola watches for my wife and myself, etc. It's always something; something that's expensive and totally stupid.

So what's my latest hobby? Jeans. Yup. Jeans...the most ubiquitous type of pants in the universe. But not just any jeans. Nooooooooo. Too boring. Instead, I stumbled upon the world of raw denim jeans.

I've started wearing them exclusively. And I'll tell you about how it all started tomorrow! There's drama, suspense, action, or none of that! So tune in again! :)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Cherry-Roubaix Road Race: humbling

This morning, I got up at 3am. Showered. Drove up to Traverse City. Raced in the cat 5 (35+) road race. Drove back. Had a early dinner with my mom. Came home. Mowed the lawn. And showered.

I've had some time to think about what happened. You wanna know what happened? I got my ass kicked. I got my ass kicked as soon as the lady said, "Go!"

It's as simple as that.

I don't know exactly when I got dropped. But it was well before 20 miles into the race. Probably around 15 miles in the race, I was watching the peloton pull away in the distance. The pace was high from the beginning. And unlike West Branch, there was no letting up after getting to the summit of a hill. The group kept churning their legs. Most of the 15 miles before I got dropped, the field was single file. The pace was high. I got caught without a wheel to one side of the paceline for a while several times. And my timid corning had me sprinting to catch up to a wheel after every turn. But unlike Frankenmuth and West Branch, I just couldn't keep it up.

I don't have a very good recollection of exactly where I started struggling to keep up...or even the geographic features around that moment...because I was so gassed. It happened after a corner though. My legs just didn't have enough to catch a wheel yet again after one of those corners. And a big gap formed. I let myself catch my breath for just a bit,  and then I tried to bridge back up. For a second, I thought I had a chance because I was gaining ground! But then after a fast decent and another corner, they were way too far away.

So I let off the gas to let myself recover a bit. A couple riders caught up to me, and I latched on to their wheel. I pretty much rode with them at a semi-leisurely pace all the way in. I took two long pulls. But mostly sat behind them, probably too far away to even benefit from a draft. I was just demoralized and riding around feeling sorry for myself.

Riding with those two guys...I did learn a couple things though. I do fine when the terrain is flat or down hill. I do well when the road pitches up to a grade above 6%. But when the grade is like 3%-4% and long...those bigger, stronger riders really start to gap me without evening trying.

And I need to find some cornering confidence. Even in our group of three, riding at a non-race pace, I'd get gapped pretty good in the corners. But after watching all those guys wreck all over the place in Frankenmuth, I'm very timid.

Anyway...I squeaked by the other two guys with me at the finish. Meh.

This was my most disappointing race so far. Even more so than when I got lapped at my first crit, or when I got dropped at Cone-Azalia. On the heels of Frankenmuth (where I would probably have placed pretty well if not for a crash in front of me with less than 400 meters to go) and West Branch (where I was in it until the last few miles), I thought I would have fared better today.

The most frustrating part is I don't know if I was just having a bad day...or if I was just out classed today. A couple guys I handedly beat at West Branch and Frankenmuth dropped me. Did they have bad days at West Branch and Frankenmuth? Or did I have a bad day in Cherry-Roubaix?

I just don't know! Was yesterday's ride at Kensington a mistake (20 miles of hills, meant to be easy but probably went a hair hard)? Was running three times this past week instead of riding a mistake? Again...I don't know.

What I do know is that I need to get stronger. But that sounds like hard work! Blerg!

I'm signed up for Festival of the Sun criterium next weekend. Sounds terrible at the moment. Hopefully I'll be in better spirits soon! :)

Strava of my race:

Monday, June 10, 2013

Michigan Mountain Mayhem with friends!

All photos of us at 'The Wall' were taken by Hays Photograhy.

This past Saturday, I completed Michigan Mountain Mayhem...the longest ride of my life.

Who's idea was Michigan Mountain Mayhem? Joe? Dan? I can't remember. But on Jan. 5th I made the choice to register for the 160 kilometer (about 100 miles) version of Michigan Mountain Mayhem! It seemed like a great idea at the time. I had begun working out again on December 31st after having been a sedentary lump since the Lowell 50 gravel road race in October. MMM would, in theory, motivate me to keep training. So...there you go. Jan. 5th was my registration date!

I have a poor history of rides that approach 50 miles or longer.  Kendal and I did a 50 mile ride last year in preparation for One Helluva Ride (100 miles). I almost died. The last 10 miles felt like absolute death. So I kept on training. By the time we did OHR, I was in better shape. But I still bonked at around the 40 mile mark. After the lunch stop at 50 miles, I was good again until around the 85 mile mark. Those last 15 miles were at a snails pace. I was in agony! And Kendal had to listen to me whine and complain for a solid hour and a half (yup, that's how slow I was going). And afterwards, my body was ruined for an entire week.

I was much more prepared this time! I'd been training very regularly since the end of April. I felt so confident, that with just a hairs breadth of prodding by Sarah, I switched my registration to the longer 200k version. But...none of the rides I did were anywhere near 130 miles. I felt like I needed to get one long ride in before MMM.  So, six days before MMM (Sunday the 2nd), I did a solo 100 mile ride.

See the Strava info here:

It went very well! I kept a slow, sustainable pace. I also learned that McDonald's cherry pies are simply amazing treats to eat while riding. Similarly, japanese red bean mochi were also an awesome source of calories that went down easy, stayed down, and tasted great! I decided to use these plus some Hammer Gel's as my MMM nutrition. For hydration, I'd use Hammer Fizz.

After my 100 mile test ride, I felt great! My muscles weren't sore at all that night or the next day. The only concern was a slightly sore left knee. I took some ibuprofen and iced it regularly. On Monday, I went riding with Dan and Sarah...probably a bit harder than I should have but Dan was having a great ride! I can't remember him riding so strong in a long time, so I couldn't take it too easy and waste Dan's great day! Downside was that it exacerbated my knee woes. Tuesday and Wednesday, I did a couple slower rides and continued with the ibuprofen and ice.

Rest on Thursday + packing for the weekend. On Friday, after getting home from work, I did some last second packing. Loaded all of our stuff in the car. Then went to pick up Kendal from work for the 4 hour drive to Boyne.

Dan found all of us (me, Kendal, Dan, Rebeka, Sarah, Joe, Charles, Laura) a great condo to stay at for the weekend! And even though we arrived late, everyone was nice enough to give us the amazing master bedroom! One of the perks of the wife being pregnant! :)

The next morning, us riders (me, Dan, Sarah, Joe, and Charles) all attempted to arrive at the start line a little before 6am so that we could start right at 6am (the earliest time they allowed riders to begin the ride). But the logistics of getting everyone up and ready, and transported the 6 miles to Boyne City High School, made for a bit of a late start. I blame most of it on Dan, who forgot his water bottles at the condo and had to go back for them. We all decided to wait for him. And we all began together at around 6:30am.

We never really talked about riding this ride together as a group. But none of us were in a position to 'race' this thing. As a result, we ended up riding as a social group!

Dan was signed up for the 100k...but his knee was really giving him problems. At the 20 mile mark, he made the decision to turn his ride into a 50k. And then it was me, Sarah, Charles and Joe. Joe was signed up for the 160k but was considering switching to the 200k during the ride, depending on how he felt by the 160k turn off at around the 75 mile mark.

The ride was going pretty well! Some of the hills were definitely hard! But, knowing that the ride is a long one, I took it easy up all the hills to conserve energy. We were all riding strong, making our way to the first truly difficult hill of the ride (the 'Super Hill'). It's only about a half mile long. And the average grade is only around 13%-14%. But sections of it reach well into the 20% grade range. And there is a sizable stretch that is over 25%, and hits a max of 32% grade!

My plan was to take it as easy as possible to save my strength for the rest of the ride. However, I'd never climbed anything even nearly that steep. And I didn't realize that there is no such thing as going easy when hills get that steep! You either mash like a mad man...or you fall over! Those are the only two options! The hill got so steep that if I wasn't careful, my rear tire would lose traction with each pedal stroke. But the most disturbing part was that the steepness caused me to inadvertently pop a wheelie! I had to make a concerted effort to maintain a smooth but strong pedal stroke, so that I didn't lose traction. And I had to deliberately put more weight over the front tire, to make sure I didn't flip the bike over backwards! And I just kept mashing...mashing...mashing. For brief periods, the hill would lower down to around a 4%-10% grade where you could "rest." But then it'd be back in the 20's. Mash, mash mash. Finally, I got to the top and started heading back down the hill!

Once I reached the bottom, I got off my bike, took a McDonald's cherry pie out of my bag and inhaled it while I waited for my crew! After the ride, upon uploading my data to Strava, I would find out that I placed the 3rd fastest time on the Super Hill!

And off we went for the rest of the ride! We still had around 93 miles to go. Fudge.

Again, we all rode together and we were all feeling pretty good! If I got to the top of a hill before anyone, I'd slow up to wait for everyone else. Or if I fell behind, everyone would wait at the next stop sign. And eventually, we'd be a group again!

Sometime before the 55-mile mark, I got up one of the hills and waited up for the rest of my peeps. All of a sudden, Charles comes flying by at the back of a group. I really wanted to latch on to that small group and benefit from the draft. Sarah and Joe were still making their way up. I was all by myself in between, with Charles getting farther away VERY RAPIDLY! I made the decision to time trial up to Charles and wait for Joe and Sarah at a future natural stopping point.

Let me tell is HARD catching up to a group when you're a solo rider. I had to kill myself to latch on. But once I did, the draft was GLORIOUS! I was averaging around 19 mph at the back of a group of 8-ish riders. And it was effortless!  We cruised along with them for a while. Then, we came to a rest stop and waited for Sarah and Joe. And we were a group once again!

Soon after, Joe made the decision to do his 160k as planned and not extend it to 200k with us. And then we were three.

At some point, we ended up at the back of a different group. Again, it was amazing! I ended up moving up near the front of this group because the hills broke the group up. I rode with this group until the next rest stop. Charles was starting to bonk and got spit out the back of the group. And Sarah was a bit behind Charles. I used the time waiting for them at this rest stop to eat a bag of Cheetos and an bag of Combo's!

Let me take moment to say that this ride was amazing! The route was gorgeous, marked well, 99% smooth roads that are not well traveled, just wonderful. And the food stops had the nicest volunteers who laid out all sorts of freshly cut fruit, various flavors of electrolyte sport drinks (HEED), snacks and candies, typical nutrition products, was just amazing!

Anyway...Charles arrived at the rest stop not long after me. And Sarah shortly after Charles. We all refueled. Sarah wanted to take off quickly, so as not to get too she took off before us. I decided to use the restroom. And I was ready to go! Charles decided to use the restroom as well. But then...there was a huge line that wasn't there one second ago! It seemed like it took a good 30 minutes! In reality, I think it took about 10 minutes, maybe a hair more.

We took off after Sarah. I thought that we'd probably not see Sarah on the course again. After Sarah left, the group I was drafting departed shortly after. Charles and I were still using the restroom. I thought Sarah would latch onto the back of that group when they went by. And there would be no way that Charles and I could catch that group by ourselves with such a large time gap.

But the two of us headed off and did what we could. I pulled since Charles was feeling fatigued (on a ride this long, you go through ups and downs with your strength). We rounded a corner and started climbing yet another hill. When I got to the top, I looked back and found out that I had gapped Charles by quite a bit.

We were at around mile 87-ish...something like that. I made a decision to see if I could time trial up to Sarah. If I found her before my odometer hit 100 miles, I'd try to slow us down for Charles to catch up eventually. If I didn't find her before the 100 mile mark, I'd just wait for Charles myself.

It ended up being a mountain time trial! I just buried my head and mashed like a mad man. Hill after hill. I'd see a rider in the distance. I'd use that rider as my carrot. Sarah? Nope. Is that rider Sarah? Nope. I picked off rider after rider. Then, in the distance, I saw a rider with a black jersey...and what I thought was long hair. I gritted my teeth and made a push to catch her sooner rather than later. At last! I caught her!

It was a long chase. According to my data, the moment I decided to catch her to the moment I actually reached her was approximately 10 miles...took around 40 minutes...and was over 1000 feet of climbing. Over 1000 feet in 10 miles?!?! We don't have anything like that near Ann Arbor! It didn't help that I was trying to go "fast" at around mile 90 to 100 of this journey!

But...I made it! I was pretty tired when I got to Sarah. I just tried to ride whatever pace she rode and regain my breath. I didn't really know how much that effort took out of me until around mile 105. I was really starting to suffer. I had 'bonked'. Which meant that Sarah had to hear me whine just like I whined to Kendal during OHR. I'm pretty sure I uttered, "My life sucks", and "I hate the world." As well, I probably uttered many other similar statements. I simply cannot properly convey how totally cooked I felt during this stretch.

We finally made it to the last rest stop at around the 120 mile mark. We quickly refueled and used the restroom. Charles got a second wind and arrived very soon after! Just 10 miles left and one big hill called, "The Wall." As we left the stop, I remember saying, "Just 10 more miles! And then I'm never going to ride bikes again!" A guy near us almost spit out his drink trying not to laugh at that moment. But I was serious.

I think all of us, including myself, felt our energy renewed with the knowledge that we were almost done. We just needed to get over The Wall! But the annoying part was that there were several pretty tough rollers before the The Wall! If The Wall had been right after the rest stop, it would have posed no issues. But instead, I felt like I was using up my last reserves of energy on these smaller but still challenging hills! Ugh!

Closer and closer. And finally, the The Wall was within site. There was a sign on the side of the road that told us there was no shame in walking The Wall. Sarah had pretty much made up her mind that she was going to walk up this last stupid hill. I had prepared myself for the possibility myself.

Funny thing though. I'm not saying it was easy. Because it was not easy. My legs were weary. My body was low on glucose for my muscles. It had been a long day. So the dumb hill was hard. was sorta easy at the same time. After the 'Super Hill' at mile 37-ish, all other hills were judged against that hill. And relative to the Super Hill? The Wall was barely a speed bump. Seriously. Not so bad!

Once I got to the top, I turned around to see Charles still riding, coming up to me. And then there was Sarah just behind! Still riding! I'm so glad she decided to give it a go! We all made it to the top without walking!

I like the picture of me climbing The Wall. It shows people walking it behind me! Oh yeah...I forgot to mention that I decided to be a dork and wear a small backpack. I wanted to be prepared for I had a spare tire (yes, tire), spare tube, tire iron, pump, CO2 cartridge (yes, both CO2 and pump), cell phone, drivers license, complete patch kit, arm warmers and gloves (it was cold in the morning), four McDonald's cherry pies, three packs of mochi, four Hammer gels, and a tube of Hammer Fizz. Did I over do it? Probably. I only saw three other people with backpacks...and at least one of them was using his solely for fluid, not a portable storage closet! lol

Anyway...after that, there were a couple more small hills and then...finally...we were back in town, turning in to the finish at Peninsula Beach!

We weren't fast at all. We averaged about 13.5 miles per hour if you include all our stops. And only 15.5 miles per hour if you take out all our bathroom stops and such. Our time put us in the bottom third of all those that did the 130 mile (200k) route. But you know...I think we did great!!!!! Charles was going on 6 hours of sleep total over the past two nights. And he hadn't gotten any really long rides in yet. Sarah also had not gotten in any rides over 60 miles this year, most rides being in the 30-ish mile variety. And I had only gotten in one slow century before this...and had really only been working out and exercising since late April. Plus...we rode most of this course either solo or only with the three of us (in the beginning it was five of us total).

Here's the Strava log for MMM:

All things considered, I feel we did an amazing job! And I'm proud of all of us! Plus, it was just a great time with a really great group of people!

"Wow, that moist hobo sure can squirt!" ;)

Next year, Kendal wants all of us to do the 60 mile version together as her post-pregnancy workout motivator! I can't wait! :)

Not long after the ride, Joe and Charles had to leave to get back to their families. And the rest of us went out for dinner. And you know what? My muscles weren't very tired or sore at all. But my knees were killing me! Once we got back to the condo, it was back to the ice and ibuprofen.

The next morning, my muscles still felt fine! Not tired at all going up and down stairs, no real soreness. So I decided to take the bike out for a solo 10 mile recovery ride before everyone got up. It felt great though I had to take it easy on account of my knees.

Next up? Cherry Roubaix!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

West Branch Classic - well, that sucked...

I raced the West Branch Classic road race earlier today. I finished. But overall, it went pretty badly.

Lets rewind to my last blog post. After Tour de Frankenmuth, I went on a fairly spirited 32 mile solo ride. Then on Monday, I went on a horrible 55 mile ride with my friends Dan and Sarah. The forecast called for clouds and 60 degree weather. Instead, it rained for 40 miles of the ride. And the temperature never got above 50 freaking degrees! With the rain, wind, and felt arctic! My buddy Dan was lucky enough to turn around and go home because of knee issues. Sarah and I continued on, assuming the rain would let up since there was no rain forecasted for that time of day. We assumed wrong.

After that, I didn't get on the bike again until the race this morning. I have been told that was a mistake. But in my defense, I felt fatigued. And non-cycling life kept me busy. Should I have made time for a moderate ride on Thursday? Would that have helped? No clue. I planned on a light spin on Friday. But instead, I mowed the lawn since my wife said we were starting to look like the Clampetts! lol

After mowing and doing a load of laundry, I cleaned up my bike and got all my gear ready. I made the same concoction I used for Tour de Frankenmuth: Hammer Endurolyte, Hammer Fizz, and a 5-Hour Energy. I also wanted to make sure I got some sleep so I took a diphenhydramine pill at around 9:00pm and set my alarm for 4:30am.

When my alarm rang, I was all sorts of messed up! That stupid diphenhydramine did a number on me. Aside from just being very very drowsy, I also just felt...weird! Sort of body wasn't my body, or a out of body experience type of thing. This lasted for pretty much the entire drive as well. buddy Charles showed up and my place at 5:30am, while I was having my breakfast (an apple and a bagel with cream cheese) and we took off. My friend Sarah was leaving from Flushing, MI. We came across her car on the highway with about 45 minutes driving left to do.

We arrived in White Branch at close to 7:30am! We made great time! Charles wanted to stop at the McDonalds right off the highway to use their facilites and to get breakfast. I probably should have done the same but I just wasn't feeling hungry at all. Sarah got a coffee, we all used the bathroom, and we headed for packet pickup. We mistakenly went to the Quality Inn at first, but apparently that was only packet pickup for the previous night. Today, packet pickup was at the race start.

We got there at 8:00am. Charles and my field started at 9:05am. I forced myself to eat a NutriGrain bar while in line because I knew I needed more calories. Then...we waited. For whatever reason, they didn't open up packet pick up and day-of registration until around 8:20am. By the time I got my race number, it was 8:30am. So little time left! We quickly pinned on our numbers, got our bikes ready, and ourselves ready. No time to warm up or even tool around really. It was time to get to the staging area!

That's the elevation profile of the race. Two laps. 44 miles. And a killer hill at the end of each lap, with rolling terrain throughout the rest of the course. I didn't get a chance to pre-ride this course, so despite the above profile I really did not know what to expect. My original plan was to ride near the front. But between the diphenhydramine and not being able to take in a lot of food, I was feeling like absolute garbage.

Result? 3, 2, 1...go! to the back I went. Luckily, the pace was very casual to start the race. That gave me some time to get my legs under me a bit and start perking up. Nothing really happened until the first short, punchy roller. Not very steep. Not very long. But some people started to fall off the back. I was riding in dead last place, so I sprinted around them to latch on to the back of the pack. This happened several times during the first lap and thinned the 30 man field a little bit.

At the end of the first lap was the long hill. It's not ultra steep. I think it reaches around 7%-8% grade at its maximum. But the entire ascent is a good 1.6 miles long...and the steep part is at the very end. It was pretty hard. By the time we got to the top of this hill, a few more riders had dropped off the back (though a couple actually caught back up!).

There were a couple short bursts of speed, but nothing major. I was still near the back. And everything was going fine. I felt like if I could find my way up in the group a little, I'd be in good postion to finish respectably! I knew I was a much better climber for that last hill than a lot of guys remaining!

Then the oddest thing started to happen. I started moving up the field without any effort. Before I knew it, I was in the third spot. There were about 10-ish miles left. I felt like I was in an ideal position! The two guys in front of me really started to slow down. I mean like 16 mph slow. So on the next little incline, I found myself leading the group. Not good. I'm not strong enough to lead and fight the air. I didn't know what to do. So I just spun along at a moderate pace. Then the winds started...and my moderate pace started feeling difficult. What I didn't know at the time was that I'd inadvertently put a appreciable gap between myself and the field. I had just assumed that they were on my wheel. But after the race, Charles told me I was up there way too long...and I also ended up putting a small gap between myself and the field. I did NOT mean to do that. But what resulted was a fairly violent counter attack. All of a sudden, the field swallowed me up at light speed and I was at the back. And I was thankful! I needed some protection from the wind!

Next thing you know, Charles was up at the front! I know he probably didn't want to be up there either! In retrospect, the reason Charles and I ended up pulling for a while near the end of the race was because the heavy hitters in our field wanted a bit of rest before the violence to come.

Charles wasn't up there super long...but I'm sure it still took its toll. He started drifting back, smartly. We had about 6-ish miles left to go. And not long happened. VROOM! The field took off like it was shot out of a cannon! The group of riders I was near, at the back of this field, started to get gapped! Oh no! I quickly dodged around them and tried to catch on with the swiftly departing field. I was mashing the best I could. I found myself in no mans land: behind the lead group, but in front of a few people that got spit out the back. I tried to mash a little longer by myself in no mans land. I could tell I wasn't catching up very quickly and I was burning matches trying. I was tired. Both my calves started to cramp a bit and I had some side stitches happening. I slowed down to ride with the riders behind me. It was now me, Charles, and two other riders. I noticed that the group up ahead was slowing. I started entertaining the idea of catching them so I could be a part of the final uphill sprint. I wanted to bridge all four of us back to the group. Closer. Closer. Closer.  Soooo tantalizingly close to grabbing someones wheel! The main group made the final turn. But before our group got to the turn, a stupid police van pulled out in front of us and came to a complete stop before the turn!!!!!!!! Couldn't see oncoming traffic around the van....and the van was so wide and to the right side of the road, so you couldn't easily pass on the right. @#$%!!!! Finally, there was room on the right to squeeze through! We four squirted through. The main group was still within range! I start to go again. I'm burning matches. I need some help! So I turn to Charles, "You got anything left, buddy?" Charles was gassed. I looked to the two other guys. Heads shaking. And that's when I knew. Game over, about 1.5 miles from the finish line. I shut it down and cruised with Charles. The two other guys passed us and went on their way. At the steepest part of the hill, I decide to give a little bit of gas and scoot past Charles. Then I caught one of the guys that left us. I thought about catching the second guy, but didn't have the motivation to bring myself into the red to do so.

Not sure where I placed. Didn't see where the results were posted. So, I'll have to wait until the results are posted online.

Lots of mistakes for this race. But which ones mattered? And how much did they matter?

1) I should probably have gotten on my bike at least once in the 5 days before the race

2) Diphenhydramine might have been a bad idea. Maybe. Still undecided.

3) I should have eaten more prior to the race

4) I should have warmed up. I'll have to break my rule of not warming up. I need to be ready to go at the beginning of the race...not 20-30 minutes into the race.

5) I had some GI discomfort during the race. And GI distress on the drive back home. Plus, even though I felt like I drank a lot of fluid, it did not satiate my thirst. My mouth was parched and I was dying of thirst after the race! Maybe that concoction I made is not so great. Must try different fluids and calorie source.

6) Why on earth did both my calves start to cramp? I rarely cramp. And I thought my fluids had more than enough sodium and potassium. I have no answers here...I just don't get it.

7) I'm not strong enough to take pulls. I should not have gotten caught out front leading the group, and for so long. And I should certainly not create a gap to illicit a counter, which required me to get on the gas to keep up with them after they blasted past me.

8) Do NOT get caught so far at the back at the end of the race! I'm still not getting that! When the pack made their violent move, I couldn't get around the riders unable to respond...and when I finally circumnavigated around them, the gap was too big for me to close up. and learn. Charles is normally a much strong rider than me. He was having a bad day...and he was over geared for these hills. I'm sure next time, if we're ever in a similar situation, we could bridge up to the group!

Here's my Strava of the race:

Sarah completed the women's cat 4! She had a rough day as well. She finished 5th...not bad! breaks her podium streak. And she ended up working way too hard for the group of five women out front. Plus, the girl that won refused to take any pulls which rubbed some of the girls the wrong way. Sarah and another rider, Kari, are on different teams but willing to work with each other. I told Sarah that next time, they should box her in out front: pin that rider against the side of the road, with Sarah behind and Kari on her left. Make her fight some wind! up is a KILLER ride. Michigan Mountain Mayhem! 130 miles...with 10,000 feet of climbing. I will not be racing this thing. I just want to survive it. I'm thinking 14 mph average. Tops. No joke. This will be tough for me! We have a whole crew going up to Boyne! Me, Kendal, Rebeka, Sarah, Joe, Dan, Charles, and Laura! Should be fun!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Tour de Frankenmuth: these cats is cRaZy! Carnage! Destruction!

A while back, I decided to sign up for Tour de Frankenmuth. Two laps of a 16 mile course in Frankenmuth, MI. It would be my second ever bike road race! I didn't really train this winter or most of this spring. According to my workout log (aka Strava), I started working out more than once a week starting on April 27th.

So...4 weeks. I trained 4 weeks for this race. Not enough time to gain a great deal of fitness or strength. But, my goals were humble. I didn't want to get dropped, I wanted to finish with the lead pack. And I didn't want to crash.

I had no idea how difficult this race would make that second goal of mine!

Lets do a quick recap leading up to this race.

Starting on April 27th, I rode about six time per week through May 19th (three weeks). This past week, partly by design and partly because of laziness, I didn't ride much. On Monday, I did a 10 mile ride on a bike path at 10 mph average. And on Tuesday, I did a 32 mile solo ride at 17 mph. Then I did absolutely nothing but sit on my butt and watch Netflix on Wednesday and Thursday. Tapering, right?

I planned on going for a short, light ride on Friday...just to loosen up the legs and make sure my bike was shifting and otherwise functioning well. But instead, Kendal and I went to dinner with Dan. We went to Sushi Dabu and I had a big ole bowl of sundubu jjigae (순두부찌개)!

Fantastic! Good pre-race dinner? I have no friggin clue. Don't care! And at the time, I wasn't worried about the fact that I hadn't ridden since Tuesday and I that I hadn't gotten all of my gear in order.

We got home from dinner around 8:30pm. Packet pickup was at 6:30am in Frankenmuth. That meant we had to depart our home around 5:00am. I figured I should probably start getting all my gear ready. Spent some time adjusting the front derailleur. Then I laid out my race clothes in the bathroom, put all my race essentials in my gym bag, and put my bike and pump by the door. Then I mixed up one bottle of Hammer Perpetuem, mixed with Hammer Endurolyte Fizz, with a shot of 5-Hour Energy. I'd never had this combination of stuff before. But, I have a tendency of trying new things on race day despite everyone saying you should never do anything new on race day. I made up my mind what I wanted to eat in the car, and turned in for the night. It was 10:15pm. Probably fell asleep around 10:40pm.

2:20am. I'm awake. Blerg. I think I was able to get about another hour of sleep from 3am to 4am. I really wanted to sleep more. Oh well. Quick shower. Woke up Kendal. Packed up the car. We were on the road by 5:10am!

We arrived at Zehnder's (the start and finish line) at pretty much exactly 6:30am. The parking lot was already starting to feel busy. I went to pickup my race number and packet. The guy at the table started looking through a stack of registrations. Went through them again. Asked another guy next to him to go through his stack in case I was in the wrong stack. Nothin'. He then says to yet another guy,

    "Remember how we lost him and then found him? Where is he?"
    "I don't know. Should be there."

Awesome! This has to be a good sign! Eventually, they found me in the original stack. Then I did my usual pre-race porta potty routine and went back to the car to pin my race number on my jersey.

I feel like something has to be said about affixing race numbers to jerseys. You see...there are many barriers to bike racing. The cost of the equipment, the cost of entry fees, traveling to race destination, fitness, fear of humiliation, lycra phobia, crash aversion, etc. But for whatever reason, one of the most off-putting elements of bike racing for me is pinning that stupid race number to the jersey correctly! It's...impossible! I always have it pinned loosely and out of sorts, so that it billows about like a kite catching wind. I just don't understand why in 2013 we're still using safety pins to affix these numbers. No buttons, clasps, snaps, velcro, adhesive, or other more convenient system? Unreal. Luckily, Kendal was able to get my numbers pinned reasonably well even though she claims it took her 20 full minutes to get it right (might be an accurate estimate).

Still had close to an hour before the my wave started. So...I sat there in the car doing nothing. They say you're supposed to warm up before races, that it'll loosen up your muscles, get your circulation going, or something like that. But I refuse. I don't really know why. I just never feel like it, I think because I'm so nervous. And I was more nervous for this race than any other race in recent memory.

Kendal convinced me that I should warm up. I decided I'd at least make a show of it. So I got all prepared, unloaded the bike and tooled around at 7 mph on a street near by. I went back and forth a couple times until I noticed my friend Sarah in the parking lot.

Unlike me, she was actually warming up. I stopped warming up to chat! As it turned out, Sarah forgot to bring her water bottles! So I went back to my car to fetch one small water bottle I had as a spare. My race started at 8:18. It was 8:03. I decided to head over to the start line. While walking my bike towards the start with Kendal, I spotted the porta potties again. That was all the catalyst needed for my body to require using them one more time. By the time I got out, it was 8:10. My original plan was to start at the front of our group (lesson learned from Cone-Azalia). But I had to scrap that plan. I was at the very back of the field of 50 because everyone got there before me. Blerg.

And...we were off!

It was a pretty easy rollout at first. After the first turn, the guys up front pushed the pace for a second. And then let off the gas. This happened pretty often. After every turn, I'd have to sprint to catch back up with the wheel in front of me. Now, I'm not a very experienced racer. But I have heard from experienced racers that being in the back is awful because of the "rubber band effect": small gaps in the front that are easily closed become big gaps by the time they reach the back and take greater effort to close. I wasn't sure if that's what I was experiencing or if the front was actually pushing the pace in sudden bursts.

In any case, being stuck at the back, my race became a one of steady efforts on the straights and sprints to catch up after every turn.

The other tough part about being at the back is that I found it hard to move up to improve my position. The roads were narrow, with narrow lanes (center line rule was in effect). And there were too many riders. I just didn't seen any gaps to move up. I tried passing several riders once when the field strung out in a single file, but I found myself without any draft. After a few minutes of that, my energy level started to wane so I slowed down until I could find a wheel to follow.

The funny thing was...I really was not expending a lot of energy overall. Even with those sprint efforts after every turn, this entire race felt easier than some Ann Arbor Velo Club recovery rides. But that makes no sense. I averaged over 23 mph in this race while the AAVC recovery rides are usually more like 17-18 mph average. But I can tell you with all honestly that I hardly had any sweat on me and my legs were fresh by the end of this race. Just bizarre.

Now, what I haven't mentioned yet were the crashes. Yup, plural. It. Was. Crazy.

The first wreck happened just six miles into the race, just a few bikes in front of me. A local rider I've become acquainted with, Joe G, was involved in that one. Total bummer! Super nice guy and just a shame his day ended early. Luckily, I've learned he's fine and his bike is mostly fine as well. I didn't see what happened...but a few riders just hit the deck, and those of us behind them had to scramble to avoid it.

The next two crashes have sorta blurred together in my mind. Both were very nearly disasters for me. Again, they happened just a few bike lengths in front. Again, I don't know exactly what happened. The second one took out a bunch of people. They were sprawled all across the road, and I had to take a quick emergency detour on the grass to avoid the carnage.

The next crash still has me spooked! This third one also happened just a few riders in front of me. We were moving too fast, and it happened too close to me. There was no detour for me to take on either side at that speed and proximity. The only thing I could do was grab brake, and grab brake hard!!!! Both my wheels locked up and I was skidding. My front tire was pointing forward. But the rear of the bike angled right, and started skidding me to the rightward edge of the wreck. I was pretty sure I was going to avoid the downed riders, but as I was skidding, I was certain that I'd tip my bike and take a tumble. The rear fishtailed a little from side to side and at the same time I started to pedal instead of holding on the brakes. By divine intervention, I stayed upright and was able to keep moving forward. Heart was in my throat and I was cussing like a sailor out of frustration.

I cussed a lot after every wreck because they were so near me. I'm pretty sure the riders around me thought I had Tourette syndrome.

This third wreck was unusual. I'm not sure if it was intentional or not. But the riders up front gassed it pretty hard right after the wreck. If intentional, it's not very sportsmanly. Anyway, I had to go into time trial mode for a bit to catch up.

The last wreck happened soon before the finish. With around 8-ish miles to go, the pace really picked up. Finally! I was still at the back of the main group, unable to move up due either to lack of opportunities or lack of recognition of said opportunities. But, I felt reasonably fresh and figured I'd do the best I can in the sprint to pass as many people as possible.

Right before the final straight away, there's a very very sharp turn. Well, wouldn't you know it, a rider a bit in front of me goes into that corner too hot and wipes out, taking down at least one other rider. This wreck held up myself and a few others...which eliminated us from the sprint finish with the rest of the guys up front. I managed to out sprint all but one of the guys around me in a half hearted seated sprint effort.

After finishing, we learned about other wrecks in some of the other categories. And then we witnessed an awful wreck taking out a lot of riders in one of the higher cats right in front of us. There was a strong smell of burned rubber in the air from people skidding their tires while going down. It was horrible. Bike wrecks are fascinating and sometimes even funny on YouTube. But in real life, it's just awful. I felt so bad for those guys. Took out a bunch of AAVC riders too.

This race was just too crowded...roads too narrow...speeds high in sections....and probably in our category, a lack of enough collective experience.

I ended up finishing 19th. But I considered it a resounding success since I didn't crash. And I finished with the main group, just 14-ish seconds behind the winner! I'm pretty sure with better positioning before the sprint, I could have finished in the top 10.

My friend Sarah came racing past as I was in spectator mode. It looked like she was in 2nd place while going by. But she thinks she got 4th by the time they reached the line. Very very close finish for 2nd and 3rd place among the cat 4 women! Either way, she had a great race among some pretty strong riders!

I signed up for a bunch of bike races in my first season bike racing. I hope other races aren't this crazy. We shall see! I have concluded that it is CRITICAL to be up front. All the wrecks happened in the middle or back of the pack. And the back has to deal with extra effort imparted by the rubber band effect.

Here's my Strava stats for the race:

Next up? West Branch Classic road race!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Cone-Azalia Road Race

Have you seen that movie, 'American History X'? Do you remember that scene where Edward Norton's character curb stomps that other thug? Well...that's what the field did to me today. The field curb stomped me.

Following on the heels of fairly good recent crit results, what went wrong?

1) First and foremost, I'm just not strong enough. At this moment, the fastest I can do a solo 30 mile ride is at about 19 mph average. The lead pack, over a 30 mile course for cat 5, average around 23 mph. I estimate that I need to be able to average around 21 mph to have the general fitness to be competitive at the cat 5 level, to hang with the pack.

2) Dead legs. Over the past couple months, I've been averaging around 10 miles or less saddle time per week. This past week, the weather finally got warm. And I put in around 180 miles prior to race day.

  • Saturday: 13.2 mile Willow Time Trial and 5.9 mile leisurely ride with my wife Kendal
  • Sunday: 9.5 mile Ann Arbor Velo Club Spring Training Criterium
  • Monday: 30.1 mile "recovery" ride with AAVC/UofM (recovery my ass!!!!!!)
  • Tuesday: 50 mile solo ride
  • Wednesday: 16.1 mile moderate ride with Kendal
  • Thursday: off
  • Friday: 26.5 mile to pre-ride Cone-Azalia course
  • Saturday: 19.6 mile not-slow-enough ride with Sarah
  • Sunday morning: 8.6 mile ride to Milan to Cone-Azalia starting line
Someone check my math. 180-ish leading up to Cone-Azalia? Probably too much considering I'd been averaging 10 miles a week while the weather sucked.

3) After hearing about all the horror stories about this race from my friend Geoff, about how the course destroyed forks, bars, seatposts, wheelsets, and frames, I decided to go with indestructible gear. So I rode my 23 lbs all steel Some Double Cross with 1700g handbuilt Velcity A23 box section wheels. I had a set of 25c Continental Grand Prix 4-Seasons pumped up to 90psi. I think the tires were fine for this rough course. The pressure was fine. But my bike and wheel weight? I think they hurt me. Especially since I'm a small rider (135 lbs).

4) I started the field near the back. The rollout was pretty leisurely. But not long after we made that first turn, people in the front took off. I was in no position to latch on. And by the time I got around the people in my way, the group was far ahead. I didn't have the strength to catch up. So I rode a lonely solo ride, with minimal help.

5) The course was tough. Plenty of wind. And lots of gravel to pavement transitions. I'm not a strong enough rider to fight the winds myself. And I didn't feel great about the turns, so I'd take them at sub-10 mph. Lots of potholes too. Even if I had managed to be with the group...I'm not sure how comfortable I would have felt latching onto someones wheel, not being able to see the obstacles in front of me.

I still believe the biggest factor was just fitness. I think I need to figure out how to train, instead of just going on rides. I have three weeks until my next race. Hopefully I can at least finish with the pack!

On to better news regarding this race though! My friend Charles entered this race at the last second (day of registration). He's been sick for 2 weeks and hasn't been able to train at all. And, he hadn't slept in way too many hours (he came straight from his graveyard shift at work to the race). He stayed right up there with the pack, and was leading the group for large a large portion of the last lap. But after the group turned onto the straight before the finish, they thanked him and left him. He managed to hang on for 11th place!!! Well done, tired man!!!!

And my friend Sarah, racing in her first road race, finished 2nd among the cat 4 women!!!! She almost texted me this morning to tell me she'd be skipping because she felt so uneasy about the race...but decided to show up anyway. Good decision! One of the other girls, a pretty strong local rider, attempted a solo breakaway with 5 miles to go. Sarah and another rider decided to work together and reeled in the breakaway rider with probably no more than 1 km left to go! Good job!!!!

As a side note, after I got back home, I mowed my lawn. I mean this: mowing the lawn was WAY harder than Cone-Azalia!!!!!!! I really need a propelled mower or a riding mower or one of those Husqvarna robot mowers. I also need to not let it get so long. And I need a smaller lawn.

Now...get on your bikes and ride!!!! :)

Monday, April 29, 2013

AAVC Spring Training Series + Willow Time Trial

Before I begin my tales of bike racing glory, I have a public service announcement:

This is a bottle of prune juice. It may appear innocuous. Do not be fooled! This is only for the sick. It should be sold in the pharmaceutical aisles, not the juice aisle! This bottle of juice can render a healthy person debilitated for a day or more!

We ended up with a bottle in our fridge because my wife thought it would help her regularity. She tried a tiny bit, but decided against drinking any more because it didn't suit her palate. Several days later, I found myself preparing dinner for one because my wife was at work. While warming up a frozen organic veggie pizza (real man's food, right?), I wanted something else besides water to drink with my meal. The prune juice beckoned. A simple three step mental process assured me this would be okay:
  1. I don't dislike the taste of prune juice.
  2. A small cup didn't affect my wife at all.
  3. Therefore, drinking the entire bottle will not affect me and it will be delicious.
Sound, right? Wrong. One and a half hours after dinner, I started experiencing great gastrointestinal distress. And it didn't stop for a good 18 hours. It was AWFUL! So much colon much pain...

Afterwards, I was curious about the the laxative compounds in prune juice and their pharmacodynamics. Naturally, I went to wikipedia. Shockingly, wikipedia describes prunes as a "mild" laxative! I have edited the entry, but I fear that the powerful prune lobby will change it back even before this blog post is up.

Consider yourself educated. If there is enough interest, I may start a 'Prune Truth' organization to combat the prune lobby... the bike racing!

After Barry Roubaix back on March 23rd, I tweaked my 2013 race calendar. It had me doing the Ann Arbor Velo Club Spring Training Series criteriums. These would be my first crit races ever! But, the AAVC STS Category 5 races (the lowest category for those new the racing) are designed to be a organized, safe, and informative way to try out crit racing. It did not disappoint! Lucas, from Develo Coaching, and other experienced racers held a one hour clinic before each of the four races, as well as a short post-race clinic. And the coaches sat in on the races (for tips, coaching, safety, and to pull riders that fall too far behind). Here's a brief synopsis of each race:

#1) So cold!!! Windy! My first crit! I was a bit nervous. There were around 30-35 riders. Only a small handful had previous crit racing experience. Brutal introduction to crit racing! The field broke up into a absolute mess pretty quickly. I never found a good wheel to follow and ended up on my own for most of the race. This wore me out! With three laps to go, I got lapped by the leaders. I didn't realized I was getting lapped so I was riding around the middle of the road. I got yelled at to "get the hell out of the way!!!!" Oops. But I still had a lot of fun! It was very exhilarating whipping around corners with riders on both sides of you!

#2) The second week went MUCH better! This time, I decided I'd ALWAYS follow someones wheel. And I would try to make sure no groups got away from me. It worked well. I was almost always drafting...and I followed every break that was more than one or two riders. When the bell rung for three laps to go, a group of 10-ish riders separated from the main group. I followed on the very back. Then the last lap, the 10 riders became around 6 or 7 half way around the course. I made my "move" late and couldn't catch the guys up front. But I finished 4th!

#3) Pretty much did the same thing as the second race. Hung on to backs of groups. If I detected a group of riders trying to get away, I'd move up and hang on the back of that group. This time, no groups really got away until the very last lap. 8 riders separated. I was the last. Once again, I made my move with half a lap to go. What I didn't realize because I was drafting behind a big guy was that three guys had made their move early. I was able to catch the 3rd guy in the last 30 meters during a uphill finish but couldn't catch the other two. But...3rd place!!! I was happy!

#4) A little misting rain but warm. The wet roads made me a little nervous. However, I really wanted to win this one. I decided to try some different things. First off, I started in the front row. When the whistle blew, I charged ahead to make sure we started out at a good pace. I quickly allowed myself to drift back until I could find a spot to squeeze in behind a wheel. Almost the entire field stuck together until the end this time...which was unusual compared to previous races. Two riders tried to get a way around the middle of the race, but they didn't get far. With three laps to go, I decided I needed to move way up for the sprint finish because I was way too far back. This is when I realized something. I have no idea how to move up!!!! There were no gaps, so no place to squeeze back in and follow a wheel! I didn't know what to do, which resulted in me doing nothing. With two laps to go, I decided I'd just move on up from where I was. I moved up to around 7th place, but there was no place for me to draft. I was fighting the wind by myself while other riders held the wheel in front of them. I'd just have to hope I had enough reserves relative to my competitors. I held my position until around a quarter lap to go. I made my move! I whipped around the last corner for the small uphill finish, passing the last couple riders! And I was able to hold off a hard charger right at the line! 1st place! Neat!!!!

But with success, there is failure. The day before that 1st place finish, I did the Willow Time Trial. It was a disaster! I was using my cyclocross bike. I didn't think it'd be a big deal. But when I arrived at the parking lot, I felt very very out of place!!! Lots of team tents, skin suits, trainers, time trial bikes, disc wheels, deep dish carbon, aero helmets, and aero shoe covers! I was clearly in over my head. I went to pump up my tires, but realized I left my pump at home. Doh. I've been riding this bike at around 85psi for the crits (for better cornering traction) I'd guess I was at maybe 80psi for the Willow Time Trial. I did the best I could, which was only good for 39 out of 46 riders in my group. This is where I learned that I need to improve my engine. Drafting to hide my lack of fitness is not going to work consistently. I need to start working out!

Oh yeah...that's the other thing. I stopped working out after Barry Roubaix. The five races listed above? Yup...those have been my only rides since Barry. BUT! That changes...TODAY! The weather is finally getting better. No more excuses!

My next two races are Cone-Azalia (May 5) and Tour de Frankenmuth (May 25). I will get destroyed in both. Hoping to be in better shape by the Festival of the Sun Criterium (June 22). In between, I'll be doing Michigan Mountain Mayhem (June 8)!

Fun summer of cycling!