06 November, 2012

What I Did (or Didn’t Do) on My Summer Vacation

Well, it is pretty obvious that I haven’t been updating my blog much this summer.  I guess ‘at all’ would be a better description.  I was practically begged by all of my fan (not a typo) to do an update, several times.
In light of the Iceman race last weekend, and the anticipated end of year race report, I figured I would throw together a brief montage of the events leading up to that day.

Way back in June I finished up the Tour de Mount Pleasant with a couple of acceptable finishes, Cat.5 at least.  Afterwards I applied for my Cat.4 upgrade and was approved.  Some stated I should have remained in 5, other said I should have applied sooner.  Either way it wouldn’t really matter.
So to backtrack just a bit, in early June I accepted a new job in Ann Arbor and was biding my time at my current position.  The writing was on the wall there, I had not been happy for some time, began looking for a new position the previous summer.  So my days were filled with apathy, and my “Give a shit” was reaching record lows.

On June 23 was the Festival of the Sun Criterium.  This would be my first (and currently only) Cat.4 road race.  I went in unprepared, beginning my downward slide in training.  I rode a meek race, just hanging around the back of the pack, not sure I belonged and not feeling like I could hang.  Finished 17 of 25.
The next day I got on a plane bound for Florida.  A week off just basking in the sun, except Tropical Storm Debbie was in town, so it was pretty much a week spent inside.

The first week of July was my last week at my old job.  Time was spent going through files, clearing off desks, taking long lunches, and of course, a day off in the middle.  I started my new job on the 9th.  I was now spending 10+ hours a week commuting to and from work.  Basically all the hours I was spending on the bike I was now spending in the car.

Also we put our house up for sale, so the weekends were full of cleaning, decluttering, garage sales, and some home shopping (That is looking for new homes, not buying ugly sweaters off the TV).  In an effort to maximize savings I cleared off my racing schedule.  I kept the remaining USAC races as I had already paid, but many CPS and other races hit the chopping block.  Some of my favorite end of season (is this still mid-season) races were removed.  This made my schedule 17 races instead of the ~25 or so it would have been.

The 7th was the Stony Marathon. In proper form it was a hot one.  I showed up flat.  Took off fast and crawled across the line.  I couldn’t hang with Aryn as he caught and dropped me on lap 3.  I was grateful just to finish.

The 28th was the Tree Farm Relay.  I tried to put in some bike time leading up to this.  Not because I wanted to, but because I didn’t want to let down the team.  Plus I really didn’t want to be the slowest guy out there.  We had a decent showing, but some unavoidable issues left us off the podium.
I was able to return to my apathetic ways of non-training.

In the midst of selling, then not selling, then selling our house, and buying, then not buying, then trying to buy, then buying, then not buying a house, August was a busy time. 
We hit the road to Brighton on the 4th.  The course there is decent, the Murray Lake Loop.  We hung yet again with the motor club.  Again this was not my day.  I started fast, and cracked just as fast.  Coming out of the woods on my first lap, I saw Osgood and Lako headed back in.  It was going to be a long day.  I think Pongo caught me on lap 2 and drifted away.  I hung back, jaggedly pedaling squares and wondering how much I could sell my bike for.  I think on the final lap (maybe #3) I regained sight of Pongo in the start/finish area, and tried to put in a last effort to close the gap.  Unfortunately, my lack of training meant that as my legs were pumping harder, by reflexes suffered.  I went down in a corner and basically gave up after that, eventually limping across the line.

To wrap up the season, it was back to Stony one last time.  I would have to say this could be the only place considered my home course, as this would be my third trip out, including one 12 hour race.  I went in not caring how I did.  What did it matter anymore?  The plan was just to try to hang on with Aryn as long as I could.  No rabbit starts!  As I lined up on his wheel, the Tailwind folks did a call-up.  I think I was currently 4th in the series (due to a good showing at the stage race).  SO I moved to the front, with no intention of staying there.  We took off and stretched out early.  The first climb I usually work hard to stay in the lead.  This year I sat on Simon’s wheel and let people blow by.  I moved around Simon sometime on the first lap, and just kept riding along.  I would catch a glimpse of Aryn on occasion, and it would be enough to keep me working to stay ahead, but not enough to force things.  Second lap (of 4 I believe) was pretty uneventful.  I was still riding, passing some people, getting passed.  Literally “just riding along” that day.  I was actually feeling decent and glad to be on a bike.  On lap three I started to see some yellow shoes ahead of me.  Was I reeling in Osgood?  He must be having an off day, it happens.  I caught up to him and I don’t recall how long I sat on his wheel.  I know there was a climb at the end, and I made an effort to get by and tried to gap him.  I may have gotten a bit of distance, but he never let me go.  It was a group of 4, slightly stung out; me, Osgood, and 2 other racers from 40+.  I came through the pit area the last time and saw Aryn handing out bottles, a mechanical brought him down.

I really wanted to stay ahead of Johnny, and was kept checking to see if he was still back there.  He was.  JUST GIVE UP DAMMIT!  I “allowed” the 40+ guys to get in front of my, and worked to stay with them.  It worked well until the 2 track right before the finish.  At the right hander going towards the parking lot I saw a KLM jersey ahead, it was Lako.  One of the 40+ guys yelled “Look out Brad, here he comes.  I hadn’t anticipated closing that gap, but the guy yelling pissed me off and I made my move.  I threw down all I had to catch, and then pass Brad.  I had figured he would be right behind me through the finish and pushed across the line.  I barely made it over to a picnic table to collapse upon, my heart pounding, my lungs burning.  Probably the most intense effort of the year.  I had no idea where I finished, but I beat Lako and Osgood, and that would be fantastic on any day.  They were already joking around and I was still breathing like a hyperventilating asthmatic breathing through a snorkel.  In the end I somehow managed a 2nd place finish.  My best MTB finish of the year.  Probably due to the other guys winding down their seasons.

Nothing much here, a couple of trips to poto after work is all.

At the end of the month was the Burchfield TT.  This would be my actual home course.  I lived about 7 miles away.  I helped layout the initial course the previous year, but did more volunteering than racing then.  Because I knew I was moving to Howell the next weekend, I wanted to do this race.

The Motor Club made the trip out, and I raced as an honorary member.  We left the gates as numbers 3 through 5; I was bringing up the rear.  Since I prerode the course that morning to fix markers, I knew what to expect.  Stage 1: Tight and Twisty, this will favor Diesel.  Stage 2: Flat and open, m only shot.  Stage 3: Flow, Aryn will make a move.  I just tried to manage my losses through the first section.  Twisty and rooty is not my forte.  Next I put it all down through the rough fields, trying to close on Aryn.  I caught him before the bridge and was working hard to stay ahead.  So hard I began a bit of dry-heaving.  I never puked from a bike, but this was certainly close.  Still trying to push the pace (and being pushed) I slid out in one section and my bike blocked the trail, effectively stopping both Aryn and myself.  He got by me as I remounted, and I spent the rest of the course working to catch back up.  We came ripping across the line together.  Before results were posted, I was back out on course riding sweep for the MiSCA kids, but it ended being a Motor sweep of the podium.  Diesel got first, me second and that other guy third.  I was just second from getting the fasted time trophy, and if I didn’t wreck (on my home field) I would have.

Some more Poto.  No official training.

We made it to our luxurious apartment in Howell.  Barely room to store the bikes, let alone ride.  Season essentially over.  Motivation practically nil.

I sold my Peak to Peak entry because I didn’t want to spend the money on the only available condo at Crystal.  I guess I lucked out as conditions seemed pretty awful.

And that takes us to November, Iceman, turkey, and perhaps a new start for 2013…

12 June, 2012

Forty-Seven Cats

This last weekend was the Tour de Mount Pleasant.  It was an omnium over three days, with three different road events race in, you guessed it, Mount Pleasant.

Day 1

I left work early on Friday to load up the truck and get to MP with plenty of time to spare prior to the first event, the time trial.

I checked into the dorm that my friends Kim and Dave had reserved.  Upon entering the room, I noticed 2 twin beds, for the for of us.  That seemed a bit too cozy.  But this was easily straightened out, and I headed over towards the TT start to check in.  It was a bit after 4 pm, the TT started at 5:30, and I was going out at 6:18.

I found the check-in area, although they weren't set-up yet.  So I decided to preview the course, pedaling around in my cargo shorts and Sanuk's elicited some looks from those already kitted up and riding the course.  It was just over 4 miles, and essentially flat.  There were a couple spots where you faced a decent headwind, including the finishing stretch.

Back at check in, the volunteer had a bit of trouble finding my info for the road race on Sunday, but once figured out I received my numbers, and a decent swag bag with t-shirt, water bottle and the assorted flyers.  A decent pack considering some races that cost $75 for 2 hours of riding with no swag.

Back to the room, I got changed for the race and headed out to warm up.  I grabbed a bottle to drink before the race, but some ill-informed folks though I was racing with it and advised otherwise.  I went back towards the start area and did some riding around.  It wasn't hard to work up a sweat, but I think I would have preferred to have a trainer instead of doing hot laps around the lot.  I thought about bringing mine along, but didn't think it would be worth the hassle.

Time to hit the ramp for my start. The two riders ahead of me were no-shows, so I didn't have a 30 second rabbit in front of me.  In fact I didn't end up seeing any rider ahead of me for the whole race.  I received my countdown and I was off.  I was hammering as soon as I hit the road, and instantly my quads were burning and my HR was up.  This was going to be a long 10 minutes.  Head down I charged through as hard as I could manage, just trying to keep around 24 MPH, which I felt was podium worthy.  Less than a mile in I turned into the wind and my mouth was parched.  Perhaps if I had been able to close it a bit I would have been better off.

Around the course, no issues and chugging along the final slow grade headwind to the finish and I was giving it all I had.  I finished in 10:20, for 3rd place, and an average heart rate of 193 BPM.  I circled around a bit to cool off, got something to drink and chatted with some riders.  I managed to completely forget my lil' sister was to meet me to borrow a helmet, so she ended up buying her own, which is probably better anyway.

It was then back to the dorm to change, and then some Lost Horse (roughly translated) for dinner.

 Day 2

This was an early morning race.  The crash5 riders were to go at 8 am, so I was up early for a quick bite before heading downtown to the race area.  Come to find out, starting early was a blessing, as our 72 degree temps gave way to 85+ temperatures for the riders later in the day.

This was my first criterium, and my main goal was to stay in the front, and not crash.  I ran in to Mitch and he and I warmed up by circling the short, .84 mile course numerous times.  I had to pause briefly to move my number from the right to left side. [Side note: do not wrinkle your number, regardless of what Todd Wells says!]

It was time to line up for the race.  I moved to the front row, and while we were waiting, I commented to another rider how it was my first time riding with "clippy shoes" and all of the sudden I had a little more room around me.

Once we were off, I was expecting a more frantic pace.  I stayed towards the front and just looked for clean lines.  I was getting a bit nervous as I heard pedal strikes coming from behind me on nearly every turn.  On lap 3 or 4, Matt took off on the back straight to "stretch his legs" and the group accelerated after him.  One of the riders giving chase directly behind him went into the corner too hot and skidded straight across the road in front of me, crashing over the curb.  I remained upright, but there was some carnage behind.  A couple other riders went down, and the first guy tacoed his wheel.

The rest of the race was just more group sitting together, with an occasional attack by myself, Matt, or another rider to string the group out.  On the last lap we were again coming onto the back straight and for once somebody else made a move and I jumped on his wheel.  Unfortunately that was the wrong move and 2 other riders came flying by.  I came out to chase, but they had the jump and I could not close the gap in the 2 remaining turns.  Ended up in third again (beaten by the same two that got first and second at the TT).

Day 3

The road race was the third ball of worms to top off a trying weekend of racing.  The two previous intense workouts were starting to make my legs tired, and I was looking forward to a nice relaxing day on the saddle.  Well, as relaxing as 85+ degree temps and open fields with WSW winds could be.

I was racing the 35+ group, so I wasn't competing against those whipper-snappers that beat me on the two previous days. I knew the strategy necessary to win the race: sit in for 53.9 miles and sprint at the end.  This strategy bored me.  From the start I took the pack out of town, pulling a decent pace and keeping things lined out.  Ryan came around and did the same, but when he pulled off, the group compacted into a slow moving blob and was satisfied staying that way for the duration of the race.  There were some times when somebody would come up and work, but it never lasted long.

Not to say that the ride was completely boring.  There was one rider that kept everybody on their toes.  It was interesting to see the other riders point him out to teammates with the words "watch out."  I have to admit that he must have had decent bike handling skills, because I have never seen anybody jerk their bike across the road so much and yet stay upright.  It was like he was being tased every 13 seconds (or is it tazed, or tasered perhaps?).

At about mile 15 Ryan went on a planned attack, and I jumped across the gap and we were out front working when about 5 other guys came across.  This could be thr group that got away.  We got into a rotation, but after about the third guy took a turn, the next was satisfied soft-pedaling again until it was gruppo-compacto.

There were various taunts and teases for the remainder of the course, but nothing serious.  When I got to the front I would turn the screws a bit just to try and string out the pack a bit.  This wasn't the winning strategy as outlined at the beginning of this section, but it wasn't like I was risking money.

Our group managed to (mostly) hold together as the pace and heat took its toll.  We passed a handful of stopped/injured riders alongside the road receiving assistance and many more riders that were fractured from their respective groups ahead of us.  Eventually we came to the 5k to go turn, and the pace picked up ever so slightly as the riders that have been waiting for the last 51 miles were getting antsy.

We reached the tunnel of trees, and entered around an ambulance blocking half the road.  From my earlier recon, I recalled that after the trees there was only a downhill, a road crossing, past the cemetery, left turn, bridge, railroad tracks, uphill and finish.  So, as the group exited the "tunnel" I was expecting the pace to pick up but it actually slowed, so I went for it.  I figured get the jump, see what happens and the worst case Ryan could come around in the sprint.

I made it down the hill, across the road, and by the time I was at the cemetery, I had a decent gap and was giving it all I had.  Man, that stretch in the cemetery got a lot longer since the recon ride.  Unfortunately, after the left turn all I had was no more.  I popped entering the final straight.  I kept moving as the pack whizzed by.  Just before the tracks, a rider in front of me came across from the right, leaned on another rider, pushing him into a third and they went down directly in front of me just before the crossing.  At that point, I was defeated, spent, and satisfied with making it across the line upright.

I crossed the line in 16th out of 49 starters and 43 (eventual) finishers.  Still in the top half, as if that is any consolation.  I headed over to "Race Central" and got a bottle of water, half to drink and half over my head as I cooled down for a bit.

I am in a weird spot regarding right now.  I don't enjoy sitting around for 2+ hours waiting until the end, but I don't typically race with enough team or horsepower to blow the race up and make it "exciting".  I compared the race to a game of cat and mouse, with 47 cats and 2 mice.  The good news is that I am back on dirt for the foreseeable future.

I applied for my upgrade and if it doesn't go I will have to decide how to do my one or 2 remaining races.  do I try to make it "hard" and have a challenge, or just sit around and see what happens at the end.  If it is approved, I guess the strategy will become "try to hang on'!

05 June, 2012

Surf and Turf

This report will be somewhat short, as I did not have my photographer with me this weekend, so without pictures, I will try to limit the length

Saturday: West Branch Classic Road Race

This race was added to my schedule last minute.  I was always planning on heading North for the Hanson Hills XC race, but was looking for something to fill in that Saturday, making the trip a two-for-one.  I was mostly looking into the Boyne Grind, but I could not find a partner, and I was not feeling like riding up the mountain for 6 hours, I can do that in July.  So, that left the West Branch Race.

5:30 in the morning was the departure time.  Weekends like this make me thankful for the work work, where I can sleep in a little bit.  It was misting a little bit, and cold, but I was hoping for the best.  This was one of those mornings where the only reason I was heading out was due to the fact I had per-registered.

As I drove the 3 hours north towards West Branch (figure that one out), the weather only got rainier and colder.  We arrived at the parking area with plenty of time to spare.  My initial concern was to NOT have to park 2 miles away at the soccer complex.  I went to registrations and they were still unloading, but I was able to get my number and head back to the warmth of the truck.  Huddling in your car seemed to be the norm, as riders were trying to avoid the wind and the rain.

I did wander a bit, and chatted up some folks.  That was when I spoke with a grizzled old veteran  Cat.4 that told me to try something else that day.  I had already won the previous week, so work on some other techniques.  Who was I to argue with my elders?

Shortly before 10 am, I decided it was no longer worth delaying the inevitable, and exited the truck to begin to warm up.  Really, there was no warming involved.  It was more like "slowly pedal around to delay the convulsive shivering"

10:30, and it was out time to go.  50 cat.5 riders, standing in the cold waiting to ride in the mist.  There were 3 Einstein Racing members in the pack, counting myself.  We too off, and I could say the pace was anything but frantic.  Riders were fanning out, trying to avoid the tire spray to no avail.  The wind was blowing pretty good from the west, and we were headed north.

We made the first right turn and the pace picked up a little bit.  That is picked up until we reached a downhill section then it was time to ride the brakes.  I got into a slight tuck position and shot to the front.  I figured it wasn't wasted energy if I lead the group simply by coasting without riding the brakes.

First turn South and our groups first encounter with some climbing.  The first little rollers we slowly ground over, but at the first larger uphill, I broke off the front and put some space between myself and the group.  I made it over the next two climbs before being reeled in.  But once back together, the pace slowed again, basically eliminating any thinning of the group I may have caused.

About this time, Einstein Ben pulled off to the side, I thought it was a shifting issue, but later found out it was a flat.  I wasn't sure whether to stay back with him and help him regroup, or stay with the pack.  I chose the latter.

Headed west, and into the wind, we slowly ground through this stretch before turning right yet again and hitting "the climb" for the first time.  The group strung out, and I spun up the right side making my way through the pack.  At the top there again was a slowing of the pace, allowing a regroup.  Maybe I should have gone here, but I didn't have the legs.

Right turn, headed East, I pulled alongside Ryan and asked how he was feeling.  "Pretty good" was the response, so we quickly devised that I would apply some pressure where I could, and he would come around on the last climb to win.  Seemed easy enough.

On the trip south, towards the second half, I once again went to the front.  I wasn't trying to start anything, but pick up the pace a bit.  I spun a good cadence up the final climb and made the right turn around the corner.  I sat up to let the next guy pull through, but nothing.  I looked back and had a ~20 second gap on the group.  Now, running through my head was "7 miles left, 20 MPH headwind, and a ~1 mile climb" and I knew staying off the front was futile.  Instead I pedaled along with a purpose, but not excessively hard.  This made 3 Hagerty riders come to the front and chase me down.  Once back in the group I rode in 5th position, with Ryan right behind me, and let Hagerty work into the wind.

We made the last turn and were on the flat to the finish.  2 of the Hagerty riders had popped, so I again went to the front and lifted the pace.  Part of that reason was I though I saw Ben ahead, but it was actually a CFT rider.  But this strung out the group again.  When we hit the bottom of the climb, I tried to give it all, but was spent.

A Bissell guy game around me with Ryan on his tail.  A few pedal strokes later and Ryan was around and in the lead.  He charged up that hill fresh as a daisy, and I was working to just keep the pedals turning.  I ended up finishing 7th, but was happy that Ryan got the win, his first, and another for Einstein.  He definitely was the strongest rider that day.

After chatting a bit, I loaded up, and headed to Grayling for some lunch, a hot shower and dry clothes.

EDITED TO ADD: I don't mean to make it sound like Ryan couldn't have won without me.he was awesome out there and could have won that race with one crank tied behind his back.

Sunday: Hanson Hills XC

Sunday was the annual Hanson race.  This would be my first year using gears here, and my first time riding multiple laps.  The funny thing about that is the 2 guys who I battled with at Addison (Lako and Bonnell) were there to ride SS, and not gears.  In addition, Bonnell stated after the West Branch race that he wasn't feeling like racing today, so there was a fair chance I could do well.

Staying in a nearby hotel, I was able to sleep in until about 7, and the drive to the trail was about 8 minutes.  The weather was cool and cloudy, but at least no rain.  It had stopped a couple hours before, and things were shaping up to be a decent day.

I rode a bit of the beginning trail during my warm-up, and felt like I had no power in my legs.  Thank goodness for gears, as it would be a spinning day.  Our start time was 10 am, and there were 17 riders in our group.  This is a pretty decent size compared to previous years (last year there were 4 in my group).
As we shuffled forward to the line, I was in the second row at the start.  We took off and a bunch of riders hammered to the front, and I was probably in 8 - 10th place going into the singletrack.  There wasn't much shuffling going on, but our line of riders began to string out.  I knew there were 2 Cross Country Cycle and one other rider off the front.

I made a couple of passes, and by halfway through the first lap I was at the back of the first chase group, but they had no sense of urgency, and passing was tight.  The 40-49 leaders caught up to us, and as they were making their aggressive passes, I would jump on their wheel and go.  The course was in fantastic shape after the rain, and there were areas that could be called "too fast" where you could easily get into trouble if you weren't paying attention.

I stayed amongst them for the remainder of the first lap.  The next two laps were almost like time trials.  I had no idea what position I was in, who was in front of me, or who was closing in.  At this point, it was a race of attrition.  I just kept whatever pace I could hold (read: decreasing) and reeled in riders when I could.

The third lap I was actually starting to feel better, but looking at the race data it was most likely do to my slowing pace and decreasing heart rate.  I crossed the line tired, but not suffering.  I raced with what I had, and finished.

When I crossed the line, the announcer stated I was in 4th place.  That was better than I expected, and by other accounts was correct.  I was sore, tired, and playing catch-up for a long time.  After changing, I went to look at the posted results, which again showed me in 4th.  The odd thing was that the times were off, like showing my total as 1h13m and 3rd as 1h8m, but I just assumed they were off by an hour for some reason.

I stayed around to cheer on the sport (and Expert SS riders) after their first lap, but intended on making the trip home as early as possible after a long weekend.  The began awards and when they got to opur group, I heard my name called as 3rd.  Totally surprised I sprinted (the best I could) across the parking area to the podium.  Brent handed me $30 and asked for my autograph on some form.  That was better than any medal.

In all it was a good weekend.  I am looking forward to a good rest before Mount Pleasant this weekend, after which I intent to apply for my Cat.4 upgrade.  I am not looking forward to tonight's TNR, as my legs still feel pretty dead.  Hopefully I can just hang at the back.

29 May, 2012

The Not so Gran Fondo

Just as a follow-up to the Tour de Frankemuth report, a short recap of Sundays Gran Fondo.

There were several options for distances when I signed up, something like 25, 65 and 130 miles.  I chose the 65, as a metric century would be a good recovery ride, and get some hours in for training.

When I awoke Sunday, it had just started raining, with the faint rumble of thunder in the distance.  I slowly ate breakfast, and kept waiting for the rain to break.

8 O'clock came, the time for the mass start, and the rain was coming down harder yet.  I went back to the hotel room to check Facebook to see what the people were doing.  Apparently the result was "wait".
Around 9 the rain stopped, although there was another storm entering the state from the NW.  It was pretty much over Travers city when we took off.

From the 120 preregistered riders, and the anticipated 150 day-of registrants, we had about 30 riders at the start.  A group of around 7 of us took off together, working at around a 22 MPH pace.  There was some sprinkles, but it was OK for the most part.  One rider rode off the front, and so did the guy in the enclosed recumbent thing.

About 6 of us hit the first rest stop, about 20 miles in.  One guy had a loose crank so we stopped in order to stay together.  After talking with the volunteers we found out that with the lack of numbers, each rider could get something like 2 apples, 4 bananas, a dozen cookies and over 2' of sub.  I wasn't that hungry.

In the distance behind us, you could see the dark clouds rolling in.  Three of us thought we could stay ahead of the storm for the 8 miles to the next station, which would also be the turn around point.  As we headed out, a fierce wind came from the north, and the storm flanked us.  The group of three were leaning hard to the left to stay upright, as the cloudy light turned night black.  We continued to ride when the heavens opened up and began dumping rain in buckets.

Just then a van stopped, it was the organizer who informed us he was "calling it" and we should head back.  His van was full, but he would come back for us shortly and we should head back to the previous station.   We got around a half mile down the road when the sleet/hail started.  At first I thought it was hard rain, then I felt the welts begin to form on my lips and face.  We pulled off and to shelter in a ditch.  We could barely see the road through the downpour.  As we sat shivering in the ditch, the lightning began, and we all reconsidered the decisions we made.  A state trooper drove by and slowed, but never stopped, never asked if we were OK or needed help.  We figured he didn't want to get wet, and he would come back later, as it would be the same amount of paperwork.

Finally the storm let up a bit, and we got back on the bikes and went another 1/2 mile to a self-storage place and stood under an awning waiting for sag to pick us up.  I think it was another 10 minutes or so.  The lot had a couple cars parked there waiting out the rain.  One guy in a truck notified us of a sever storm warning in effect.  Thanks.

Finally, we got a ride back to town.  I shivered my way back to the hotel and immediately into the hot tub.   Once warm, I called it a weekend and loaded up the truck to head home.  As I lifted my bike, I heard a slosh.  I removed my seat post and drained ~20 oz. of water out of my seat tube.  That can't be good.  We'll see how it works tonight.

A Road Untravelled

Last winter, I bought a road bike.  The reason was two fold.  First, the CX bike that I was using was a touch too large, so it had to go.  Second was I was planing on upping my basement training hours, and a new bike is good motivation for that.

So, after some time on the bike, I began to consider partaking in the local Tuesday Night Ride.  I had heard about this group a year or two before.  In fact, I attended their Thursday TT spinoff a couple of times in 2010.  That was a good introduction to how fast these guys are, without the fear of being dropped.  I had been warned that TNR is a hammer fest.

I went to a  few Tuesdays this spring, and this whole new aspect of riding added some much needed variation to my riding.  I found I was able to hang with the group (most days) and even mix it up on the sprints once or twice (without winning).  It is a great group, and taught me a lot about riding on the road.

So, after some successful outings on Tuesday, I considered trying out a road race.  I had my Cat.5 license for just such an occasion.  My first road race ever was chosen to be Das Tour de Frankemuth.  It is a relatively flat jaunt around the countryside.  Plus there was chicken dinner, and some shopping for the wife.

We headed up on Friday, as the race started at 8 am Saturday.  Friday night I picked up my registration, we looked for a place to eat (Tiffany's was packed!) and then watched the balloon glow.  I was disappointed there were no "elephant ear" vendors down there.

I had a decent week of training leading in, but stayed of the MTB.  Saturday morning came, and I wandered down to breakfast.  At 6 am on a random Saturday, there people at breakfast were all there to race.  The weather outside was cool (~60 F) and wet.  It had been raining on and off.  I wasn't excited to have my first road race on slick roads, but oh well.

After a warm-up, and a bit of course preview with the CTF crew, I left the hotel parking area, my back in the room wife still warm in bed, and headed to the starting area as the rain began anew.  I queued up amongst the other Cat.5 Men under 36, and looked around.  There were quite a few shivering, defeated riders before the race even started.

Finally at the line, I lined up in the second row.  I knew I didn't want to be at the front, but not too far back in case there is some commotion clipping in.  We took off down the road at a casual pace, heading into the first turn of off main street.  At the point, one rider began his surge for a solo break away.  He got up the road a little ways, but the group followed intently, not to let him get too far. 

Unfortunately, in the commotion, the whole pack of 50 went straight through the right turn by the golf course.   Nobody realized it until the chase vehicle pulled in front and told us to turn around.  Breakaway nullified.  As we got back to the (now) left turn, the next group (Cat.5 37+) approached the intersection from the correct direction.  We made the turn in front, but the 2 groups essentially merged into one.  This was unfortunate, as the was to be "No mixing of fields".

The group plodded along, and to follow the rules, the back group tried to come around ours.  Of course as one group tried to surge ahead and create a gap, the next group would chase, closing back up.  There was no way, without official intervention, that these groups would separate.  No rider is going to slow down to allow a gap to form.

So not this pack of Cat.5 riders is 70+ and surging down the road like a giant rubber band.  Pedal pedal pedal, brake, pedal, pedal...  At every intersection, we would slow for no apparent reason.  I tried to remain near the front, and rotated through to pull for a bit.

The pace wasn't bad at all, it was kind of like riding in the most frustrating group ride ever.  We came around for lap one, and I had slipped towards the back of the group as we headed back down Main St. towards the line.  There was a decent crowd lining the street considering the weather.

I am at the far side, underneath the American flag.

Back out for lap 2, and I managed my way back towards the front.  While some riders were fanning out a bit in a vain attempt to stay dry, I hugged that wheel in front of me.  I was conserving energy, and could dry off later.  This lap had a couple more attempts from riders trying to go off the front, but gaps never formed.  The average speed was up a bit, but still the group was surging.  There were some slower riders getting caught, and it seemed each time the pack would approach one of them, pull along side and slow.

Once back to Block Rd, we were on the final stretch to the finish.  This road was probably in the worst shape of any on the route.  It was narrow, and unpainted.  The group spread to cover nearly the entire width, with riders shooing up the left.  I moved to the right side, it was a bit rougher but more open.  I was pretty far back in the pack, and trying again to move up.

Once we hit the smooth pavement on the final approach, everything went to hell.  The pack was in a frenzy, riders passing across the yellow line to go to the front, rapid braking before the slight downhill, and I was caught in the middle.  This was my first race, and I was not looking to make and risky moves in oder to move up.

As we approached the final left turn back onto Main St, the section inf front of the silos, the entire group moved over to the left to hug the line.  This left the entire right side open, and I had a expressway to the front.  I accelerated up the side and took the final turn on the outside.  Dropped into my 11T and accelerated down the hill.  Now there were only 2 riders ahead of me, and just a straight away with some brick crosswalks between me and the finish.

Are we there yet?

I learned my lesson at Barry-Roubaix about going too soon and just sat in.  The lead rider popped way early and got passed.  As we hit the final stretch I stood and kicked several strokes and overtook the new lead rider.  I was pushing with all I had.  This is the point where every Tuesday, I would be passed by a pack of riders.  Not this time as I stood again, not knowing what kind of gap I had.  Where in the hell is that finish line?

Finally across, your winner, number 548, from Einstein Racing, Jon Whatchamacallit.  I didn't hear the last part, and couldn't really remember what my number was, so as I decelerated across the bridge I got congratulated by a couple of riders.  I cooled down a bit and regrouped with 3 of the CTS riders in our pack (2 from the chase group).  One of the riders (sorry, I don't recall your name) was the second to finish behind me, 1st place in the 37+ group, but later got relegated off of the podium due to the mixing of the groups.  That was unfortunate, but I am not familiar enough with road cycling to know how common that is.

Photo courtesy of The Timing Guys, Inc.

At the award ceremony, I received the standard medal, and a growler of beer from Midland Brewing Company.  I think that, along with a celebratory chicken dinner was a good reward.  No I just need to figure out where I should race next...

The Stages of Retreat: Day 2

I thought I started this post last week, but it must not have come back from the extended weekend.

Day 2 (Day 1 report here and here) of the Addision Retreat Stage Race would be my first chance to race XC with my bike "complete" as intended.  Since we spent the night near Auburn Hills, the ride in was short, so I got a few extra minutes of needed sleep.

The day was shaping up to be a warm one.  The course was set up to be the "normal" route, and there were no surprises.  4 laps, each about 7 miles.

Front row (L to R): Dub9, Gonzalez, Lako, Osgood

The group lined up to start, and the top 5 (overall) from the previous day were called up to the front.  I was pretty happy to receive my first call to the front, and chose the inside spot.  I did not intend on going for the hole shot, but just sit in and see how things panned out.

Headed out for lap 1

Right from the start, the 5 from the day before went out front.  Lako was pushing a good pace, with Bonnell second, followed by Osgood, myself and Gonzalez.  Shortly after we hit the single track, Bonnell was gone and Lako lead our group, with Osgood and I settling into a rhythm for the rest of the lap.

Lako still pulling

Coming around the grassy area, heading out for lap 2, Osgood made a move around Lako and put in a bit of a gap.  A short bit onto the trail, I went around Lako and closed the gap to Ozzy's wheel, and stayed there.  Big John continued to pull.  On the first 2-track/road section I put in an effort to come around him and tried to put in a gap myself.  He and Lako stayed right on me for the remainder of the lap.  I came in a bit fast on one of the grassy corners and the back tire slid out.  It was a somewhat fortunate mistake, as I moved back a place or 2 and wasn't doing the hard work any more.

Getting going again after untangling from the tape (you can see my handiwork in the background).

Lap 3 was mostly Osgood and myself.  That guy is a machine and just kept chugging away at the miles, and I was working just to hang on.  The best part of this lap was that my wife was there to do an unplanned bottle hand off.  I didn't need the additional fluids, but since the bottle she had was ice cold, I quickly jettisoned what I had in preparation for the last lap.

It was a good thing too, because unbeknownst to me, Osgood planned on turning the screws on this final lap.  Shortly after we got back onto the trail, Osgood got a gap on me.  My only recourse was to keep my pace, and try not to blow up.  I wanted to negotiate with him, let him know I wasn't trying to pass, and I would be happy with third if he would lighten up a bit.  But this wasn't for a 2 day overall, and I was a bit of a threat, plus in the back of my mind, a second place would be nice.

A couple of times this lap (several perhaps), he got out of sight, put a rider between us.  I seemed to be able to slowly reel him back in.  Unfortunately, as soon as I did, he would look back at me, then take off.  I had no recovery, and he played the strategy fantastically.  All I wanted was a clean finish at that point.

I put in what effort I had remaining after the paved section, just to not get passed and pushed off the podium.  I ended up third place, my first "expert" podium, and only 4 seconds behind Osgood (and ~3 minutes behind Bonnell!).  My lap times were pretty consistent, although still losing 30 seconds each  lap.

Tailwind had the results a bit speedier that day, and I was able to get me medal and make the trip back home at a decent hour.  It was a full weekend of racing, and I learned a lot.  I was still yearning for that entirely clean race, but I was getting an idea of what my abilities are/were.  There is still plenty of time left in the year.

(Unofficial) 2-day Overall Results:

Day 1 Day 2 Total
1 BONNELL, JIM ACF OF PONTIAC 00:51:02 01:53:26 02:44:29
2 OSGOOD, JOHN TEAM SANDBAG 00:51:26 01:56:17 02:47:43
3 WLODARCZAK, JON EINSTEIN RACING 00:53:41 01:56:21 02:50:02
4 GONZALEZ, ALEX TEAM SANDBAG 00:53:43 01:56:52 02:50:36
5 LAKO, BRAD KLM/COLD STONE 00:53:29 01:59:20 02:52:49
7 MCINALLY, TODD WATERFORD MI 00:55:54 02:08:22 03:04:16
8 GOERLICH, JIM TEAM SANDBAG/ MACOMB BIKE 00:56:28 02:14:46 03:11:14
9 LUCIA, ROBERT RBS CYCLING TEAM/RBS CYCLING 01:01:36 02:22:11 03:23:47

24 May, 2012

The Stages of Retreat: Day 1.2

Continued from here.

After sitting around a bit to recover, and some mild whining and complaining to my wife about the TT, it was time to get ready to race again.  This time on the short track, or STXC.  Basically this is a CX race without barriers or sand.  It is a curvy course through the grass, taking advantage of the minimal elevation changes around [Note: My Garmin recorded a total elevation gain of 7 feet].  As a matter of fact, a number of racers opted to race on their CX bikes.  I locked out my fork and called it good enough.


I recalled from last year that this race seriously stresses your anaerobic system.  The plan was initially to race "20 minutes + 2 laps" but was changed at the start to "follow the laps remaining sign" which eventually led to some confusion with the Elites and Experts on course at the same time.  The sport racers later began with the instructions of "Count your own laps"!

I think I lined up in the second row, and at the start all Expert racers hit the course at the same time.  Chaos ensued as this pack approached the first bend.  Two riders became interwoven with each other and some stakes with ribbon.  It was a crunch of plastic, metal, and man.  I believe they got up and finished, but it was enough to put a bit of hesitation in your mind.

My goal for this race was to push hard, and finish without wrecking.  I knew trying to keep up with the front guys (or in this case "catch up") would cause me to pop.  I rode at a good consistent pace, picking off riders when I could, and looking for the leaders of my group, who were way out there.

Here you can see the "Jet intake" method of breathing control being used.

At about lap 3, a rider on a CX bike in front of me slid out on a turn, and I had to pause and get around.  There wasn't much of an associated adrenaline rush there, as I was already redlining.

Around lap 5 (of 6) I caught up to the KLM rider from the earlier race, and pushed hard to try to put some space between us.  I knew 30 seconds was a lot to manage in 1.5 laps, but every little bit would help.

I finished this race in about 24 minutes, 5 minutes less than the TT, but it sure felt much harder.  I ended up in 3rd place in this race.  I made back 18 seconds of the ~30 I lost crashing in the TT, but still lost another minute to the top 2 in the group.

My HR profile from the race.

After the second race, I was hot, tired an hungry.  So I loaded up camp and headed to the pavilion for some complimentary Cold Stone ice cream while waiting for the results, which would be ready shortly.  The ice cream was finished long before the results were.  This was also the time when we found out, via the rumor mill, that there was not going to be an overall winner for the weekend, just "Day 1" and "Day 2" awards. After about 2 hours of waiting, we headed out for some (by that time) dinner and figured we could find out more tomorrow.

Day 1 results

The Stages of Retreat: Day 1.1

Last year I participated in my first stage race in Brighton.  It was two of the most dreary, miserable days I have spent on a bike.

This year, the race was moved to Addison Oaks.  There were a couple of new twists, beyond the location.  The temperature was turned way up from the previous year, and for some reason, there was NOT to be an overall winner declared.  There was an overall day 1 classification, and a day 2 (XC) award, but nothing for the three combined events.  Odd for sure.  It really isn't a stage race any more, but I guess naming it the "A Couple of Races at Addison Oaks on the Same Weekend" doesn't have the same ring to it.

We arrived Saturday with only about an hour to spare.  A little tighter than usual, but I had enough time to set up "camp" and get a brief warm up in before the first event, the TT.  I wasn't sure how I would perform this weekend, with the 12 Hour race still a bit in my legs from the previous week.

We lined up for the start, which was an out-and-back loop through the grass before hitting the trails.  Just enough to put some work into your legs before the dirt.

Two at a time start, and I was lined up next to a KLM rider.  He took off from the gate, and I tried to hold his wheel across the lawn as he took off like a shot.  We entered the trail in the same fashion and he was pulling strong.  There was a bit of a misstep in the loose, twisty stuff at the top of the first climb, and I was able to get around him.  I tried to make a gap, but was soon caught by the time we reached the end of the first rock piles, and passed soon after.

I again closed on his wheel and let him pick the pace, which was sufficiently hard for me, but the rider up knew the course well and was working good.  Then the problems came (for me).

I heard there were some reroutes added "after the RC field" to make the course different than the next day's XC race.  What that meant was that instead of making a normal turn on the singletrack, we stayed straight onto  some hiking paths with more grass and worn grooves.  I believe the second time we did this, I hit a rut and my front tire got crossed up, pitching me from my bike and tossing me a ways.  Not only was I annoyed by the wreck, my bar spun around and scratched my frame, and I got a grass stain on my new Einstein Racing kit!

Back on the bike, I fought to close the gap on the rider I started with, and a Cycletherapy rider that passed me when I was down.  I was able to get the KLM rider back into sight, but never catch back on. We ended up finished 3rd and 5th respectively, with about 30 seconds between us.

I was still hoping for that elusive "clean race" I have yet to have this year (not counting Stony), but it did not come here.  It was time to hit the shade, eat a banana and wait 3 hours for the short track race.