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!

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.


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.


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: