Saturday, May 30, 2009

das Tour de Frankenmuth Photos

Here are some pics from last weekend's race, das Tour de Frankenmuth -

Lap 1 - looking good...

The crash - notice the white bike, it sailed by my head...

Post crash - about 1 km to the finish.

Thanks to John Lachman of MVP Photography for capturing the action!

My Mini Training Camp

I took this week of work off. I was the only one in my family that had the time off so I was flying solo. With no daughter or wife, my time was all my own.

I put together a plan to do a bunch of riding with a main focus on hill work. After my humbling showing at the Tour of Kensington Valley, I decided I needed to focus a bit more on my climbing.

Living in Michigan, I feel like I should put quotes around "hills" and "climbing". You'd be hard pressed to find a "hill" in SE Michigan that takes longer than 3 minutes to climb... Basically, you can power up just about any hill you come to. Still, it was an area that I had neglected since moving here from Denver, Colorado over 7 years ago. Now that was some climbing out there... Miss those mountains!

Well, my mini training camp seemed to help. I went for a 40 mile ride this AM with some buddies and I could tell that I was climbing much more comfortably. And, after 30+ miles of rolling terrain, the last 7-8 miles were spent in time trial mode, just putting the hammer down to get home as fast as I could. My main motivation for this TT was not pissing off my wife. I was supposed to be home before 10 AM so she could get to kickboxing and I was about 8 miles from home. It was about 9:25 AM when my impromptu time trial started and it was 9:45 AM when I stepped up onto my front porch, winded and dripping in sweat. I made it, and I actually felt pretty good.

Today was the first day that I actually feel like all this training is paying off.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Happy Birthday Sean Kelly

Happy birthday to Sean Kelly, the Irish King of the Classics!

Here's his 1984 Paris-Roubaix victory to celebrate the occasion.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

das Tour de Frankenmuth

This morning was the Tour de Frankenmuth. The race took place in the quaint village of Frankenmuth, Michigan. It's a flat course through neighboring farmlands and the wind usually plays a critical factor in the race. Not today, but we did have temps in the 50s with rain. Felt like what I imagine racing in Belgium is like.

The race was about an hour and a 1/2 drive form my house, so with a race start at 8:00 AM, I had to get up pretty damn early. Got to the race pretty damn groggy, picked up my race packet and waited the prerequisite 15 - 20 minutes to take a crap... Damn coffee and waffles... I swear, bike racing must be some sort of laxative or something, cyclists shit more than any one I've seen. Is it nerves? Maybe it's a hyperactive digestive system....

Any way, checking the air pressure on my tires and, pssssstttttt.... Slow leak around my valve stem. I only had one tube with me so I swapped it out and filled up the new one very carefully. I've been buying these cheap tubes ("Q-Tubes") and they suck. The valves are the biggest pieces of shit ever, I blew through two tubes last night and the one this morning makes three, just from faulty valve stems.

My tire/tube issues a thing of the past, I warm up for about 20 minutes and then downed a power bar (I learned my lesson from last week when I bonked like I've never bonked before - I need to eat). I stuffed an Enervit gel and cheer pack in my jersey and loaded up my water bottles.

Embrocation time - I used some impermeable stuff by Born, it's pretty good for this type of weather, it's like Vaseline but with a slight warming effect.

Lining up I was amazed at the sheer amount of racers - the Cat 4 race was at capacity and the Cat 5 race they actually split into 2 groups! Is this some type of cycling resurgence we are witnessing??

47 miles for us, three laps. Just as we rolled away from the start/finish it really started to rain. It had been raining on and off all morning but it really came down hard for a period of 15 to 20 minutes.

The course was pretty flat and on narrow farm roads which made moving around in the pack pretty difficult. I was feeling a little nervous for some reason and it took me longer than usual to get comfortable in the pack. I stayed put for almost the entire first lap and just hung with Pete and Mark from my team. All in all, pretty uneventful first lap.

Second lap - moved up a in the group a bit. got first hand experience of the benefits of a sports drink. I also discovered a new gel flavor that I like - it's "Cola" flavored gel by Enervit - it tastes like gummy cokes, which just so happens to be my favorite candy of all time. Yum.

Last lap - moved up to the front third of the pack. HUGE crash just to my left as we hit the second to final straight-away. I avoided it (thank god) it looked nasty. The funny thing with crashes is, you hear them before you see them. This one sounded horrible - tires popping, carbon snapping, the sound of grunts as bodies hit the pavement. I hate seeing crashes, it always freaks me out. This was no exception and it took a lot of the wind out of my sails. I left the final sprint to the braver souls as I took the final turn at a respectable speed.

Finish - 22nd

Kudos to fellow Flying Rhino, Rodney who won the Cat 4 race by a bike length!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tour of Kensington Valley - Photos

Here's some pics of the race, a couple of them capturing the extent of my suffering rather well. I'm in the purple and yellow. And that's not a smile, that's a grimace...

The peloton - I was still hanging on and feeling good at this point...

This is where the fun starts...

Last lap - the misery is almost over. Notice the grimace. Or is that a smile..?

This is most certainly a Grimace

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Welcome to Cat 4...

I recently upgraded to a Category 4 road racing license. This equals longer races and bigger fields. I decided to upgrade, not because I was cleaning up in Cat 5, (of the two races I did last year and the year before, I didn't even finish in the top ten) but because I wanted to do longer races. For me, racing isn't only about winning, it's about the challenge and I just wanted more challenge than the 30 mile races that Cat 5 could provide.

Well, I guess I should have been careful what I wished for.

Saturday was the Tour of Kensington Valley. It's a hilly (by Michigan standards) 13 km loop that has a nasty little gravel section, complete with "Michigan Pave" (potholes). As a newly knighted Cat 4, my race was 7 laps, roughly 92 km. Far and away the longest race I've done in 7 years... I figured I've been doing some 100+ km rides the last couple of months so this wouldn't be that big of a deal.

To say this was an error in judgment would probably be a gross understatement...

For starters, it was rainy, windy and cool. Not that I mind, I don't have a problem with riding in crappy conditions. Actually, I was glad it was raining. Any additional liquid being absorbed into my body was something I welcomed gladly. More on that later...

The race started off great - I was feeling really good, my 8 year old bike wasn't protesting at all and I was feeling at home in the peloton despite my extended absence. There was a pretty serious crash on lap 1 on a bumpy descent and I managed to avoid it. I even was taking some good pulls upfront to reel in a group of three that managed to go clear on lap 3. That's when things started to go awry.

I noticed I was starting to get some slight cramping in my left quad. It was especially prevalent while climbing but nothing too serious. I just figured I need to drink more. That's when I noticed that my big water bottle was almost empty. My second water bottle was gone soon after as I tried in vain drink my way back into a hydrated state.

And that's why the rain was a welcome sight. If the sun had been out, I would have overheated and probably had to stop riding. Maybe I should have stopped, but with a $45 entry fee, I figured I might as well get my money's worth and finish.

I became so dehydrated that any pressure applied to the pedals resulted in vice-grip seizures in my quads. I had to put it into a small gear and spin with as little pressure as possible. This made climbing extremely difficult, and on some of the steeper climbs, I almost came to a complete stand-still.

In addition to being dehydrated, I only had one gel packet with me, and apparently, this was no where near enough. I bonked harder than I ever have in my life. I would have eaten the foil packaging that the gel came in if I thought it had some caloric content. At one point, on the last lap, I was starting to see stars and even took a wrong turn because I was disoriented... I seriously thought about quiting but 1) at this point I was determined to see this through, and 2) I still had to get back to my car, which was parked just past the finish.

And finish I did. 36th place... Out a field of 65. I was pretty disappointed. I was shooting for a top 20 but I guess I over-estimated my fitness. Or, maybe it was just a complete oversight on the amount of food/drink needed for a 90+ km road race. Either way, I will make sure I'm prepared with ample food and drink for my next road race.

My Dad and my Uncle decided to come and watch my race. And thank God they did... They had some dough nuts and a couple water bottles in the car and I scarfed down two glazed and downed both bottles as fast as I could. This surge of sugar brought me back to coherence and gave me enough energy to cruise back to the car.

Lessons learned:
  • Hydration is important in longer races
  • So is food...
Well, some lessons are best learned the hard way -

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pre-Race Rituals

As one of my first "big" races draws near, my mind starts reeling with all the things I need to prepare. Bike in good working condition? What are the weather conditions supposed to be like for the big day? Clothing/kit selections? Is my kit clean? So much stuff to worry about... Maybe that's why we have certain routines and rituals, so all those little tasks just become automatic.

Here's my pre-race ritual - welcome to the inner sanctum!

(assumes race on Saturday):
  • Make sure cycling team kit is clean, layout on duffel.
  • Throw race wheels on the bike and go for a minimum of 1.5 hour ride. Make sure everything is in good working order. Pay special attention to shifting and breaking and any weird noises. Fix as necessary.
  • Clean the bike thoroughly and lube.
  • Shave the legs - this is probably my only superstitious thing. I always shave my legs the day before a race.
  • Go for a short ride just to make sure shifting is still good.
  • Check air pressure on spare wheels. Top off as necessary.
  • Pack:
    • Helmet and shoes - these always go in first, since you can still technically race without the other stuff.
    • Water bottles - another important one
    • Glasses - tinted for sun and yellow for rain
    • Undershirt(s) - one long sleeved, one short sleeved, and one sleeveless
    • Arm and knee warmers
    • socks (two pair)
    • Gloves - fingerless and cool weather gloves
    • Cycling cap
    • Gillet
    • Assos Chamois Cream
    • Mad Alchemy Embrocation
    • Tool box
    • Chain lube & rags
    • Spare tube
    • Spare wheels
    • 2 Towel
    • Post race change of clothes and running shoes
    • A couple granola bars - one for on the way to the race and one for after
    • During-race food (gels, fig newtons, sports drink)
    • Water jug
    • Stationary trainer
    • iPod
    • Race License - it's in my wallet, just so I don't forget
    • directions to race
  • Load up the car (except for my clothes and the bike.)
  • Up and at 'em...
  • Breakfast: typically waffles or oatmeal, nothing too heavy. Oh, and coffee, lots of coffee...
  • Get dressed: I just suit up in my race gear and drive to the race in it. That way, if I'm running really late, I'm already dressed.
  • Fill up the water bottles and jug and load into car
  • Load up the bike
  • I'm off...
  • At the race: register and pin on numbers - warm up
  • Put on embrocation if race conditions dictate
  • Line up!
Pre-race ritual can be driven by necessity, obligation or superstition. For cyclists, everybody's ritual is a little different. They all share the same end goal, to create consistency in a sport where anything can happen...

Off to the races!

Monday, May 4, 2009

On the Way to Recovery

On my way to resolving my hamstring issues. After almost a week off the bike and lowering my saddle height by about 2 cm, my right leg is finally feeling better. Went for a easy 2.5 hours on Saturday and a very brisk paced 5 hours on Sunday and no hamstring issues!! I was beginning to worry that it might be touch and go all season.

Sunday's ride was a great one. Went out with Jan and Steve. It was one of those rides where it's freezing in the early AM, but warmed up nicely for the return trip home. I think the time off the bike refreshed me a bit because I was feeling so good that on the last 5 miles back to my house, I was actually doing some form sprints... I felt so fresh I probably could have ridden for another 2-3 hours and not over-extended myself. It was the kind of feeling I always hope for during a race but, alas, it always eludes me. If I could feel like that in a race, I'm sure I could win.

Who knows, maybe this is my year...