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: http://app.strava.com/activities/60820879

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: http://app.strava.com/activities/57771127

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 you...it 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, sandwiches...it 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 stiff...so 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. BUT...it 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 anything...so 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: http://app.strava.com/activities/59302606

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 clouds...it 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 like...my body wasn't my body, or a out of body experience type of thing. This lasted for pretty much the entire drive as well.

Anyway...my 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! Annnnddd...off 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 after...it 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.

Anyway...live 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:

http://app.strava.com/activities/57553037

Sarah completed the women's cat 4! She had a rough day as well. She finished 5th...not bad! But...it 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!

Well...next 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:

http://app.strava.com/activities/56194904

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 cleansing...so 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...

Now...to 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)...so 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!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Barry Roubaix, two weeks later...

So, two weeks ago I raced Barry Roubaix. I think I'm nearly recovered from my wounds. And I've also put back on every pound I may have lost training for it...awesome!

I should have written this sooner but I just didn't have the time. We'll see how good my memory is!

Race started with the first wave at 10am. Everyone except Dan and Charles decided to meet at our place around 6:15am and caravan over to Hastings, MI. Kendal was registered to race, but would not be racing for the following reasons:

  • Her All-City Macho Man was not ready to go (still needed to be built up, missing parts)
  • Her graveyard shift schedule put her at around 2 hours of sleep that night
  • She didn't want to race due to uncertain road conditions that could dump her
  • She didn't want to race because of the arctic temperatures 

But that just meant that we had a crew! Everyone got her phone number as the emergency contact in case they needed to get picked up and a SAG vehicle wasn't around. Just about everyone had arrived my 6:15, were packed, and ready to roll! Except...where's Joe? Joe got a bit lost on the way to our place! Not a good omen. But soon, we were on our way to Hastings!

We met Dan and Charles on the highway and they led us most of the way. I say 'most' because I had to stop with only a few miles left to go before we arrived at the local high school parking lot. I have never had to pee so bad in my life! I tried to wait it out. But it became pretty clear pretty quickly that there was no holding this one back. Did not want to drive the stinky pee car for the next several years. So we stopped at the first gas station in town. Yes! Single user, private bathroom? No! Occupied??? No!!! One person in front of me? OMG NO!!!! It took deep breathing and great concentration to keep things under control. My forehead was sweaty with the magnitude of will power being applied. I was actually scared for humanity. The images in my head were that of my bladder bursting, followed by images of the biblical flood!

But it was finally my turn. Relief! After finishing, I noticed something disturbing. In my hurry to undress and do my business, the strap for my bib tights had touched the bathroom floor! In a very wet spot! Awesome. I would be wearing pee bibs for the race. Bad omen.

In any case, we arrived at the parking lot and met up with Dan and Charles. After getting ready, we still had a bit of time before the race start. The girls were smart. They hopped in Geoff's car with the heat blasting and the seat warmers on. The boys stood around outside fidgeting with gear and freezing our butts off! I decided to run my tires at 40 psi, in anticipation of mud.


 Kendal (back seat), Danielle, and Mary

We did snap a team pic before heading off for the starting line!

No one knows why we look so happy!

Joe and I were in the same starting wave, wave 3. We found our way to the starting shoot just in time: wave 1 would be leaving in just a minute, and we were situated around the middle of our wave. It was pretty cold, mid to upper 20's.  I had to keep hopping up and down to keep warm. But soon enough, our wave was off and running!

I wasn't certain if I was going to 'race' this race or just ride it. I decided to just go with the flow. So at the beginning, I just went a pretty moderate pace over the pavement section heading out of town. And unlike my last race in Lowell, I decided to draft a bit if the opportunity presented itself!

The first section of dirt was a small downhill followed by a couple easy rollers. As we started off on the dirt, we all learned this would not be a muddy race as most anticipated (feared?). The ground was frozen solid with a fair bit of ice! Eek! I kept taking it easy since I usually take 20-40 minutes to really warm up (and I'm not one of those racers serious enough to get on a trainer or rollers prior to the race start to be in peak efficiency to start a race).

The first major hill started at around 10 minutes into the race. It only reaches a maximum grade of around 16%, and only briefly. Most of the hill is between 10% and 13%. But it's early enough and long enough to thin out the herd a tiny bit. So far, I was feeling pretty good! About 30-40 minutes into the race, I started to push a bit to see how my body would respond. And when I'd catch people, if I wasn't going way faster than them, I'd hop on their wheel and take a short breather. When faster riders passed me, I'd catch their wheel and let them pull me for a bit. It was working out pretty well!

The race was pretty treacherous though. There were a lot of riders fixing or walking their bikes on the side of the road. And the course was littered with dropped or ejected water bottles. I'm sure I saw at least 100 bottles on the road. Not exaggerating!

I realized I hadn't take a drink in a bit. Due to the rough course, I decided to use my CamelBak! Brilliant, right? Well...

I tried to get some water from my CamelBak but nothing was coming through the tube! I reached back to feel the CamelBak. There was definitely water back there. I tried to look at the hose. It felt super stiff. I determined it was frozen. Disaster!!! What would I do?!?!?!

I started to reel myself in and ride slower to conserve energy and perspire less. I wanted to get through the race without feeling like I was going to die. Then I decided to try to thaw the hose. I unzipped my jacked and my jersey and tried to pull the hose against my skin. I messed with that stupid hose for miles and miles. Finally...resignation. I would have to ride conservatively.

About half way through the race, I did catch a guy that went a very good pace for me. So I latched onto his wheel. My plan was to follow him all the way in. His pace was just perfect. I wasn't taxing myself but I wasn't loafing along either!

So freaking thirsty!!!! I really thought I'd find another ejected bottle on the ground. I had made up my mind to pick up the next one I found and drink from it! But all the ejected bottles were at the beginning of the race. Sad. The thirst and dry mouth made it so that I could not eat my Honey Stinger Waffles either. No fluid or nutrition for this race. Sad.

Nothing to do but  trudge on behind the wheel of the guy in front of me. Then it happened.

*CRASH*

Happened so fast. One second, I was on this guys wheel. Next second I was on the ground cursing and grabbing for my calf. My bike had just slid out on the ice. I fell on my right side. I was in the middle of the road. After getting my senses, I realized my right calf had cramped so bad that I could not stand. So I crawled to the side of the road, then grabbed my bike and dragged it to myself. I can't remember the last time I cramped. It was quite painful! Eventually, I was able to stand and try to stretch it out just a bit. Looked over my bike real quick. And decided to keep going. Had to take it real easy at first so as to avoid cramping up again. Also noticed that my right hip and knee hurt like hell.

But...onward!!!

After a mile, everything loosened up and I was able to get going again at a moderate speed. Still had to be very careful of my pace and exertion since I was without food, water, and trying to avoid cramping again.

With around 14 minutes to go, Charles made up a 12 minute stagger and caught up with me! I was pretty dead by this point. So he took off and finished the race with a average speed of a hair over 18mph! Not bad at all!

I limped in a couple minutes after Charles finished, with just a tiny bit left in the tank for a "sprint" of 28 mph at the finish. I wasn't even going to sprint across the line until the guy next to me stood up and tried to mash. Had to beat him. I did. Sometimes, it's about the small victories! :)

Eventually found Kendal. I learned that Mary flatted 11 miles in and was enroute to the finish line via a SAG vehicle. And Joe's rear derailleur cable snapped, but he decided to soldier on with his chain stuck in the smallest (hardest to pedal) cog in the back. Kendal had relocated the car so I we walked back to the car to load my bike, Mary's bike, and I put some warmer clothes on. By the time we got to the finish, Geoff and Danielle had come in. We found Joe. And Dan followed soon after. Geoff had wrecked pretty bad and rode very carefully and gingerly the rest of the ride. Dan, who always is prone to cramping problems, suffered from bad calf cramps and had to stop several times to stretch.

Overall, though, it was a team success! Everyone but Mary finished. No one got lost. No one was seriously injured. AND! We did not come in last as a team! We came in 34 out of 38! Success is relative! And for us, I think this was great!

We all went to an Applebees afterwards (figuring all the downtown places would be packed with 3000+ people there). Had a meal and went home!

After getting home, I learned two annoying things:

1) My hip and knee were purple and bloody. My bibs had coagulated and stuck to my wounds. Not fun to take off! Stupid knee and hip hurt for several days!

2) My stupid CamelBak was NOT frozen. I went to clean it and noticed I couldn't get water out of the hose. That's when I realized the valve was locked!!! I have no idea how I locked the valve. So. Stupid. Am. I. *shame*

So now I know my CamelBak has a valve that can get turned on and off! Every race is a learning experience!

Next up? The Ann Arbor Velo Club Spring Training Series and Willow Time Trial!

Take a look at a short video I made of Barry Roubaix:


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Zipp warranty: the conclusion

The first part of my Zipp warranty fiasco is documented here: Zipp hates me


Short story: Zipp SLC2 bars delaminated, discovered while removing bartape. Initiated warranty claim with local bike shop. Zipp approved warranty replacement but requested I send them original receipt before they send out the replacements. Sent them receipt. Once they received the receipt, they suspended the warranty replacement and determined that the bars were grey market based on nothing else besides the price I bought the bars for. However, the bars were purchased (obvious from the receipt) from a Zipp authorized dealer listed on their very own site.

So here's the aftermath. I attempted to email SRAM customer service. Didn't get anywhere. A friend referred me to a guy he knew that worked with Zipp. He was very helpful and forwarded my displeasure to their Zipp product manager.

At the same time, it was recommended to me to start a warranty claim through the original dealer and not just my local bike shop. So I got a hold of the original dealer. I told them what had happened so far, and how the bars were labeled as grey market. They were surprised and said they would get it taken care of.

The Zipp product manager had me tell him the back story of what had happened and how the damage occurred. He requested pics, another copy of the receipt, the fax with warranty denial from the original claim, etc. He wanted everything. After I sent and told him everything, he told me he would talk to their warranty manager.

In the meantime, the original dealer got back with me. The Zipp warranty inspector denied the warranty again. This time, they acknowledged that the bars are not grey market. But, they said the only way the damage could have occurred was due to abuse or crash. I swear, I have never crashed those bars, over torqued those bars, or even bumped those bars against my hand too hard! While delivering this news, the original dealer opined that Zipp was being absolutely ridiculous as he had seen their bars and other manufacturer bars delaminate right out of the box. I told my local bike shop what was going on because they were just curious as to what had happened the bars. I told them about the denial, and they were of the opinion that Zipp was full of themselves and were basically saying they never ever have quality control or manufacturing issues because they're just perfect...and that it was a very convenient way to easily deny almost any warranty claim.

The original dealer got back with me and told me that they are one of the larger Zipp dealers/accounts around. And that if he talked with his rep, he should be able to get Zipp to bend and offer me new bars. He was right. Zipp had agreed to send me new bars after a bit of convincing by the original dealer. However, Zipp wanted to make it very very clear that the bars they were sending me were NOT a warranty replacement; that the bars were being sent as a act of good will.

Whatever...I'll take them! But it did underscore to me that Zipp seems to have an attitude that they're products never fail. And that if something happens, it MUST be the users fault. On to top of that, the entire process was off putting. It took three months. And they just seemed like there were trying to do everything in their power to get out of replacing the bars. The only reason they sent bars was because the original dealer (a very large account) stepped up to the plate and pressured Zipp to cough up some new bars for a customer.

I'd like to point out how different my experience has been with other cycling companies customer service. I have had to do warrant claims on a Cervelo P2 frame, a Look 595 e-post, a Profile Designs Aerodrink bottle, and I exchanged some emails with Reynolds customer service regarding a set of MV32T UL rims that I didn't have to warranty. But those companies were customer focused and aimed for customer satisfaction. They didn't care where I bought the product, what store I was initiating the warranty with, they didn't ask for a receipt, and they didn't care how much I paid for their product. They had confidence in their product and stood by their product. They all immediately replaced the product.

I'd like to thank Wheel & Sprocket of Appleton, WI and Tree Fort Bikes of Ypsilanti, MI for being so helpful. They both did everything they could to help me out, were super friendly, and very prompt in communicating with me. As for Zipp...I've had Zipp 303's, 404's, Disc rear wheel, a couple stems, and four handlebars. I'm afraid that this may be my last Zipp product. Customer service goes a long way with me.

Buyer beware!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Barry Roubaix course reconnaissance

(all photos stolen from Joe)

This past Saturday, a few of us decided to ride the Barry Roubaix 36-mile race route. Seemed like a good idea since most of us have never raced Barry Roubaix. The plan was to have all my gear ready on Friday night, pack up most of my stuff, for Danielle to arrive at my place by 7:00am to fit her on my Soma, pack up the bikes and anything else we need, for Joe and Charles to arrive by 7:30, and to depart soon after.

"The best laid schemes of mice and men oft go awry"

On Friday night, I went out to dinner with Dan at The Last Word (a sort of gastropub). The food was amazing! And their scotch selection was great. Problem is, I consume alcohol about 3 times per year. So after I had 2.5 glasses of scotch (plus all the food we ate), I was very sleepy when I got home. But my Motobecane Fantom Cross Ti was in pieces...and the Soma Double Cross needed a bit of adjusting as well. Luckily, I thought to set my alarm for 2am.

2am alarm. I wake up. Wash and dry all my cycling clothes (they were dirty from my last outdoor ride and never washed). Chang out wheelset, tires, tubes, and cassette for the Motobecane. Adjust brakes and brake pads for alternative wheelset. Adjust rear derailleur for alternative cassette. Change wheelset, tires, tubes, and cassette for Soma. Adjust front and rear derailleurs for Soma. Shower. Get dressed. Put rack on car, pack up bag with all needed gear/equipment/food/water, put Motobecane in car. Eat a quick breakfast.

Done! Awesome! 6:50am! 7:15am. Problem: no Danielle. Just as I was considering sending her a text, I get a message from Danielle. She stayed up late writing a paper for a grad school class and just woke up. Doh! She offers up the idea of meeting in Hastings and adjust the Soma there. I tell her that should work, or if she has stuff to do for class we can figure it out later.

Joe and Charles arrive. I pack up both the Soma and Motobecane in case Danielle can meet us up there. Soon after we leave, she decides it might be better to figure out the Soma for her another day. So...it's a trio! Other members of our humble team could not make it due to work (Kendal and Dan) and a 5k Shamrock run (Geoff and Mary).

After arriving in Hastings, we prepare to ride. I decide to ride the Soma since Danielle wasn't able to make it. And this turns out to be a fantastic idea.


I normally have a lot to say about a course or race because usually there are a lot of distinct impressions that a course leaves on me. But not this one as much! This was because my focus was more on staying upright and concentrating on the terrain I was riding on, less on the course in a more general sense.

There were very few portions of dirt that reminded me of the dirt roads in Ann Arbor, very little hard packed surfaces. Everything was either sheets of ice, snow, or mud of various depth and viscosity. The worst 'feature' were the ruts left in the road by cars. Once your bike enters a rut, it is difficult to exit. If you're lucky, the rut levels back up to the same height as the surrounding road surface...and you can change your line. Otherwise, you fall. Seriously, those are your only two options. And it's hard to avoid ruts on some of the roads because there are so many of them. And in many cases, you can't even follow the line/path of the rut because they meander as if the car was swerving around.






(Above is the easiest mud we encountered, a pasty consistency that really sapped energy and speed.)

I fell twice. I THINK it was on Hubble Rd...but don't quote me on that. I made it up the sloppy hill. But on the way down, I got into one of those ruts and couldn't find a way out as the rut was leading me off the road. And when I tried to stay on the road, I crashed. After picking myself up and getting on the bike, I crashed again 10 ft further down the road. Same situation: couldn't avoid the rut, couldn't get out of the rut. I was on my Soma Double Cross cyclocross with Michelin Mud2's running around 50psi. I saw two guys with much fatter tires on mountain bikes also bite the dust coming down the same hill as me.

This happened within the first 10 miles...and I was on pins and needles for pretty much the duration of our ride! I rode careful, not hard/fast. And even then, I almost wiped out a dozen times but was able to avoid actually falling. As a result of my skittishness, I trailed both Joe and Charles for much of the course. I think with around 10-ish miles to go, I started feeling SLIGHTLY better and was SLIGHTLY less afraid to ride a bit faster.



(I think this is the infamous Sager Rd two track section. All snow and ice, with fallen branches.)

The course was very hilly. My Garmin recorded 2500 feet of climbing over 36 miles. The actual course is probably less though, because we got lost...went down a wrong road...and had to climb hills to get back to where we should have been.

The hills, combined with the mud, made for a grueling course. Joe started to bonk. And there was another guy we ran into that asked us if anyone had food for him! Poor guy looked like a zombie. lol Joe was kind enough to lend him a bar. I, on the other hand, despite trying my best to be ultra prepared, forgot to bring any nutrition (left it in the car)! Luckily, I didn't bonk!

Speaking of getting lost, we were on the course like three and a half hours! We only got really lost twice (missed a turn and accidentally took a short cut once, went down a wrong road once)...but we probably stopped at every other intersection trying to figure out if we were lost yet and which way to turn!

 (Figuring out where to go next!)

But we were able to navigate our way back to Hastings and drag our tired selves to a place for a bite to eat before heading back home.

After getting home, I read some other peoples reports about their pre-ride of the course. One guy cut the course off to 20 miles to save himself from too much misery. Others reported feeling like it was taking twice as long as usual to do the course. There's some speculation as to whether the roads will be graded or not prior to the race. Some say yes, some say they don't do that. And some say grading will make riding even more difficult, others saying it'll make it easier. And no one knows if the next 12 days of weather will make it better or worse.

This race is quite the adventure. Who knows what the course will be like on the 23rd!

I also have a equipment decision to make. This course was very rough on the Soma, leaving it with many many new battle scars. Do I want to subject my Motobecane with SRAM Red to such a harsh environment? If not, then what bike do I use? If Danielle races, my Soma will not be available to me. If Kendal races, she'll be on her new All-City. And if she doesn't race, she still doesn't want me to ride her brand new bike. So that would leave me with...Kendal's Trek 7500FX hybrid. I would have to get mud worthy tires on it...and get it to shift and brake reliably. It's heavy as lead...but should actually be a good off-road bike.



Hmmm....what to do?

Stay tuned!

BTW...everything was covered in mud! Had to shower the Soma!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Disappointed in SRAM and Zipp customer service...

I was just denied a warranty by SRAM/Zipp on my Zipp SLC2 carbon handlebars. :(

What happened was that while unwrapping old Cinelli cork bartape from them, the outside layer of carbon finish ripped right off with the bartape! Never, ever crashed or dropped or hit these bars on anything. So I wasn't sure if it was just cosmetic or if it was structural, but it sorta looked like delamination. And tapping it with a penny produced that dull sound which I read is supposed to indicate structurally unsafe carbon.

I bought the bars from a authorized Zipp dealer in Wisconsin through the internet (the shop was and still is listed on Zipp's site as a authorized dealer). But since the shop is in a far away state, I decided to do the warranty through a local dealer. My local bike shop sent the bars to Zipp. Zipp responded by saying I needed to provide a proof of purchase. I supplied a screen pic of the PayPal receipt. And I was then initially told by the bike shop that Zipp has decided to warranty the bars as soon as they have one to send. After a week or two and no bars, I asked my LBS to find out what the hold up was.

It turns out, Zipp decided to suspend the warranty work order and just sent the delaminated bars back to my local bike shop. The accompanying fax basically said that based on the price paid ($104.50) that the bars must be grey market, and it said grey market items are not covered under warranty.

My feeling is that the bars left their warehouse as a Zipp product free of defect. They were sent to one of their authorized dealers. And I purchased them. Why am I being punished because I bought them for a cheap price? Maybe they were mispriced...maybe the store was liquidating...maybe it was a sale...or maybe the shop was just going against Zipp's dealer pricing structure. I honestly have no clue. But I still feel like they should honor their warranty if they care about their customers and believe in their product. I mean...it's not like their warranty has a stipulation that if a Zipp product is sold below a certain price that it is not eligible for warranty even if it's purchased as new from a authorized dealer with proof of purchase.

Just venting. I sent SRAM an email asking them to reconsider their warranty denial. We'll see what happens.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

I don't know how to work out!

It is now just 23 days until my first race of 2013. And I am panicking!!!! I feel so incredibly weak, overweight, and just slow as all get-out! Plus, I have no idea what tires to use.

The fitness is the worst part. I like working out. But I have no real knowledge of how to work out effectively. So what to do? Well, I did what anyone in 2013 does when they don't know the answer to something. SIRI!!!! Joking. Google, of course.

After doing enough research to be able to tell people I did some research but not nearly enough to actually be informed about anything, I decided to do Tabata intervals. The Tabata protocol goes like this:

20 seconds as hard as you can (170% VO2max)
10 seconds of passive rest
Repeat 8 times
Do 4 times per week
On 5th day, do 30 minutes at 70% VO2max followed by 4 Tabata intervals

In Izumi Tabata's study, doing this for sixweeks yielded 14%-15% increase in VO2max among his subjects (Olympic speed skaters). This is the same benefit seen by his control (also Olympic speed skaters) that did 1 hour of steady state (70% VO2max) five times per week for four weeks. Except that the control group did not reap the benefits of anaerobic capacity gains!

Brilliant, right? I only do 4 minutes of exercise per day! And I benefit more than doing an hour of exercise! Except...go and try this set of intervals. Just once. Get on your trainer or stationary bike. Go as hard as you possibly can for 20 seconds. Rest 10. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

By the third one, your legs are on fire. By the fifth rep, your lungs and heart feel like they want to explode. By the seventh rep, you start making all sorts of involuntary grunting and whimpering noises, and can barely support yourself on the bike. And the last one, there's just nothing left in the tank. After you're done, you really do feel like you have to vomit. When you get off the bike, your legs are wobbly and you simply cannot stand up. It takes quite some time before you're not gasping for breath.

This stupid protocol is BRUTAL!!!!!!

Oh, and also, it was tested on Olympic level athletes. They recover faster, push harder, and are mentally stronger. What does that mean for me? Well...I'm almost done with the four weeks (two more days to go), and I think I've done more damage than anything else! I feel like it has ravaged my leg muscles beyond repair. And I am mentally beaten down. When I first started, I could push hard and bring myself all the way to 205 bpm heart rate. But now? My legs aren't strong enough to push that hard. And my mind can't endure the suffering. I'm nowhere near 170% VO2max on the 20 second efforts. I'm reaching a heart rate of 188-195 on most days. I will not see the gains reported in the study. I am defeated to the core.

So why have I continued to do this? Because I'm stubborn. Plain and simple. I started it, so I'm going to finish it even if it's ultimately detrimental!!!! I am a dumb man. Really. Ask my wife.

After today and tomorrow, I'll be done with the Tabata Protocol. Then I'll still have three weeks until race day. I think next week, I'll do one, two, and three hour workouts of various intensity. The following week, I'll try to do the same. And I'll try to get enough rest days to start healing up from the past four weeks of hell. The week of the race? I think I'll do 2-3 light workouts. The nothing on 21st and 22nd. Race on the 23rd.

That's my plan! I'm pretty sure I'll have poor results in this race. But...that will give me incentive to "research" better workout regimens!

Related to fitness, I'm finding dieting to be a big problem. Right now, I'm about 10+ lbs over my ideal race weight. And I'm probably heavier than I have ever been.When I was single and/or a hermit, eating healthy was simple! But being married and social, eating healthy is impossible. For me, I'm not one of those people that can watch others eat a burger while I nibble at a salad. No, if other people around me are ordering burgers...then I'm ordering a burger, another burger, and a plate of ribs.

I don't know how to fix this. It may be impossible to fix.

My other problem is equipment related. I hear Barry Roubaix is a very hilly, challenging course. I have a compact 50/34 chainring on the front. And my cassette is at present a 11-26. I think that will be ok. It was fine for Lowell. I plan on pre-riding the course with Joe and Danielle on the 9th. If it's more challenging than I thought, I might use a 12-28 cassette.

The bigger problem is tire choice. When I go road riding, I don't even think about it. I grab my road wheels, almost always mounted with Vittoria Corsa CX 23c road tires, and I'm set. But cyclocross and this off-road, gravel stuff...it's a pain! There are so many different tread patterns for so many different conditions. Knobby tires? File tread tires? A in-between tire? Or almost slicks? 28? 30? 32? 34? And what wheels? I think I'm going to leave my Reynolds MV32T UL carbon tubulars at home since this course is sandy and potentially muddy. I don't want to ruin the carbon braking surface prematurely. But then, I have many clinchers to choose from. Very light ones that are less robust? Medium weight ones? Or heavy bomb proof ones? Too many choices to make...

Accuweather is showing some pretty fair weather in Hastings for the next three weeks. Most, if not all of the snow should be melted. But how wet will it be? Damp? Muddy? Swamp? What to do!!!!

I'm leaning towards a 32c file tread pattern tire, which should give me good grip but low rolling resistance on dry or hard packed surfaces. And I guess I'll deal with mud and really wet sections the best I can.

Ugh! Three more weeks to fret about stupid things. Fun!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Barry Roubaix is looming on the horizon...

I'm sure I mentioned several times that I am registered for the 36 mile bike Barry Roubaix race. It's on March 23rd in Hastings, MI. But I'm not sure if I mentioned that I am part of a team! I know what you're all thinking...but no, I did not sign with Team Bissell or Team Jelly Belly. Instead, I have joined the equally prestigious ranks of Team Speedy Chubs!

How did this happen? Originally, just a bunch of us we're going to race in Barry Roubaix as individuals. It was me, Joe, Dan, Geoff, and Charles. But someone mentioned that we should enter as a team. It may have been Geoff? I can't remember. And for whatever reason, that just seemed like the greatest idea ever! So I read about what was required to enter as a team for Barry Roubaix. According to the registration information, teams must consist of a minimum of five people racing the same distance. A minimum of one team member must be a female. And your team must be a recognized amateur team.

Well, there were five of us. But...we didn't have a female member. And what to do about the team? I contacted the race director to ask what it took to be considered a recognized amateur team. He replied that if our team had a website or facebook page and team jersey's, that was good enough for him! Ok...so we need a team name, logo, and site. Geoff, Dan and I brainstormed some team name ideas. Geoff even mocked up a logo for one of his ideas! Then I had the thought it would be easier if we just used Joe's team he created for himself, Speedy Chubs. It had a facebook page, a blog/website, name, logo, and jersey's already! No objections from the group. No objections from Joe!

We just had one more hurdle: female team member. My wife, Kendal, didn't particularly want to do this race but probably would have if we couldn't find anyone else. Geoff's wife Mary similarly offered to do it if we couldn't find anyone else. We all reached out to everyone we knew. No bites. In desperation, I reached out the University of Michigan Cycling group. I got a couple nibbles. But then, we finally got our brave volunteer! Danielle, a grad student, told me she hadn't trained in a while but wanted to this spring. Like many of the guys, Barry Roubaix was to serve as a motivator.

And, as it turns out, Kendal had a change of heart and has registered to race with us as well! Though she has told me she reserves the right to withdraw if it's too cold, because Kendal does not run or ride or do anything very well in the cold (I think exercising and breathing in cold weather triggers some sort of asthma for her).

And thus, after a few more emails to the race director, we are a team! Our jersey's have arrived, even! Except Kendal's because she joined after we placed the order. We may just make a jersey for her using magic markers!



We had our first team trainer session this past Saturday. Though, it was actually just Dan, Danielle, and I. Joe dropped by for a sec to drop off the jersey's but didn't have time to spin with us. Charles lives semi-far away. And Geoff is with his family in Cancun. Kendal worked the previous night and was exhausted. Dan and Danielle's company was welcome though. The 1 hour trainer session went by much faster than any of my other solo trainer sessions. Hopefully we can figure out some sort of regular schedule for us to get together as a group.

We don't have a lot of training time left though...so my plan is to focus on heavy interval training with less frequent longer, steady state efforts. I don't really know where this will get me because I know nothing about how to workout to get stronger, go faster, or lose weight. Basically, I know nothing. Which is shocking, because I've read quite a bit and even have a few books! But I have absorbed nothing! So...I just get on my bike and do whatever I feel like doing. It hasn't worked very well to this point in my cycling life so why change? (I sense a failure of logic.)

There are also some equipment decisions to be made...

After doing a bit of research about past Barry Roubaix races, I know that it is very hilly. And I know it's potentially very sandy or muddy, depending on conditions. Some years, many people find that they have to dismount and push or carry their bikes on portions. Sager Rd was the big spot last year and other years as well...I think  Shaw. It is very sandy, unless weather conditions are just right.

The general school of thought seems to be that you must run tires at least 28c wide. However, wider is better (to a point, as there is a non-trivial amount of riding on pavement). That means that most people will be on mountain and cyclocross bikes. Some people will be on fatbikes. And some people will throw caution to the wind and race their road bike.

I'll be on my Motobecane Fantom Cross Team Titanium. I have a couple different sets of wheels and tires. I have all purpose 28's and all purpose 32's. Unless it's very muddy, I won't need mud specific tires. But if it's dry, a file tread pattern would work much better. So we'll have to wait until the week of the race to make any decisions on tires. As for width...that's where I'm stumped. I feel like I should use 32's at minimum. But should I go wider? If anyone has any insight, leave a comment or message me!

Here's some footage of the more treacherous portions for last years race:


It's was well into the 50's, almost 60 degrees, last year. Plus, they'd gotten a lot of rain prior to the race. So I'm not sure if it'll be this wet and muddy for our race. We shall see. I think it'd be perfect if it was very cold prior to race day to freeze up the ground...but in the low 30's on race day. That would be just right for me!

Here's another stretch of awfulness!



Welp...I think it's time for me to hop on the trainer. Farewell!