Saturday, February 25, 2012

Race Report: Fork Shoals Road Race

This week I traveled down to Traveler’s Rest South Carolina to get in a few days of serious climbing, like 21K by the week’s end.  Several of us decided to head over to the Greenville Spring Training Series and hop in the Fork Shoals Road Race.  So I through my hat into the CAT4 race with about 90 others, including Mike Gurtzweiler who traveled down from DC with me.

After doing a little research on Strava and Mapmyride, it looked as if the course was three 14.5 mile loops.  Two climbs per lap with one climb about .5 miles at 3.1%.  The weather was cool and clear but had a pretty solid cross wind.

The night before we set around and discussed possible race strategies, sit in, go off the front etc.  I had pretty much decided that I wanted to mix this race up a little and not be pack fodder.

The race started off fairly tame, I had just come off of climbing Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.  Basically had 15 hours and 18k of climbing under the legs and felt pretty taxed.  So I had little expectation for the race.  I was there for training purposes.

The field had LOTS of juniors so I moved forward fairly quickly; I did not want to get caught up with them.  I sat in for the first 10-15 minutes still deciding what to do.  Did I want to just sit there and be field fodder or do something more exciting?  I looked back at the race in Florida and decided that I should just go to the front, keep covering breaks until either I popped or the finish line appeared. 

I did not "attack" the field but I did pull a lot.  I talked to a few guys in the main field and they knew other US Military Cycling Members so, against all good judgment, felt that I should represent the kit, so I moved forward.  I even had one guy talk about the magazine article from a few weeks ago, so that sealed the deal, forward I went.  I sat on the front for close to 30 miles (pulled the entire second lap, no change of positioning).  The one section with the cross wind, I absolutely buried myself trying to split the pack.  Post race, I had SEVERAL riders come up and make statements like, 15 more seconds and the whole back end would have just shattered.

The last lap I knew that I was going to have trouble with the hill.  It was 3.1% over about .5 miles, should have been a minute and a half climb.  I went off the front to get down as fast as I could but being a poor descender I did not gain as much ground as I needed to.  In hindsight, I should have attacked before the descent to gain more ground to give myself time to crawl up the other side.  I did still average 340w on the climb but floated through the pace and out the back.  I chased for 10 miles, could see the group but could not get back on.  While part to the peloton and pulling my normalized power was 296w and average power 239w.  Post-pop, NP was 272 and average was 253w.  I worked harder alone for 43 minutes then I did earlier so I know my fitness was pretty good. I did have a little help in the last five miles, a rider for Krystal out of Tennessee, Larry Russell.  Mike did the right thing a set in finishing 20th.  I was happy to hear that Clayton Burke from the Junior Flyers that rotated though the front a few times with me ended up 2nd.  Last kudos goes out to Veloshine and RTO riders, they seemed to be the only ones that shared the work on the first two laps.  Possible that several others did on the third, but I wouldn’t know, Larry and I were doing a two man team time trial. 

Given that I planned on staying up front and not just being field fodder I am very happy with the race.  I was not looking to win nor gain points on this one.  As far as representing, I had a hellava a lot more people commenting and photo ops being up front then in the back.  Hopefully some of those will appear on the internet over the next couple of days.
Good decisions:  not just sitting in;
Bad decisions:  just not sitting in; trying to break apart the field

Overall finish:  65th.  Missed the field finish by 1 minute and 24 seconds.  If this was NASCAR the sponsors would have been happy, crossed finish line in front of the crowd, twice in 1st and one in 65th.

Overall fitness was not an issue, climbing and weight was!!!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Race Report: Race for Humanity Road Race, San Antonio Florida

First and foremost, I was a little apprehensive of the race on Saturday due to a couple of competing factors.  First, my knee had shown a great deal of weakness the week before and second, I was not confident of my fitness for an early season road race.  Lastly, I knew that my form would be in the cellar because of a solid week of long rides.

The race plan as a group was fairly simple.  I would cover as many of the early race attacks as I could and if by some chance was still in the pack toward the end, move forward and support Kurt and Sam with the final sprint.  Knowing that my fitness was not at the highest level possible, mainly due to 12 hours of training miles a week and not really being out on the road due to short days of sunlight and long work hours, I figured that I would just continue to counter attacks until I was shot off the back.

The course was 51 miles in length constructed over 3 laps of undulating hills.  None of the hills could be considered very steep or long, but with the possibility of a head wind would be tragic if one was stuck out time trialing off the back, a prophetic fear that I had from the beginning.

One of the coolest things happened at the beginning of the race.  The entire 3/4 US Military Cycling Team was given a call up.  As we moved forward, you could hear the claps of several of the 82 riders.  Not something that I had experienced before, so pretty cool.
Call-ups before the race

The first attack came within minutes of the gun.  Peggy had planned on taking either the first or second attack, so off the front she went.   Once the second attack occurred, Kurt went off with it, as I watched Peggy slowly move back into the pack.  Once that attack was reeled back in, other took off.  Sam and Kurt gently prodded by elevating their voices and telling me it was my turn.  The hope of finishing in the pack evaporated and out of the saddle I went.  Due to the hesitation, and desire to just sit in, I felt the first of many matches being lit.  I was able to get up to the group and latch on.  Slowly we got sucked back in and a pattern began to develop.  I would see Peggy go flying by; get reeled in; then my turn.  The last break that I got involved in started out with 10.  Once up the road, the group of 10 broke into two groups of 5, so off I went with the front group.  Finally, it was just me and a rider from USF.  Looking back at my power file, USF and I were out in the wind for 20 minutes.  My first hour of the race, my normalized power was over 355w.  

This time my passing back through the peloton was at the worst moment, on a climb.  I went from the front, to the middle, and shuttled off the back, destine for day of time trialing.  Fortunately for me, unfortunately for the team, two other USMil riders had met the same fate.  I hopped on with them and two other riders.  The five of us worked together until I could no longer keep a wheel.  My knee was on fire; backward I went again.  At this point I did not know if I was dead last, bottom third, nothing.

I did come across another group of riders, including USF from earlier, and began working with them, but it became evident that they all had popped and could not do much.  I connect with a rider and we began working together upping our speed.  After thirty minutes or so, I came upon the 2 USMil riders, but they were done for the day, and we just passed through them and continued.  About 17 miles left, the other rider looked at me and in Spanish said, “me acaban”, loosely “I am finished”.  I pulled away and time trialed to the finish line.

Overall, I am happy with my finish.  I wish that my fitness had been better so that I could have accomplished more for the team and my personally.  I think I was 27th in the 4s and 58th overall.  I found some solace in the comment of one of my teammates who post race said that I had “done exactly what I was suppose to”, well with the exception of being with the team on the finish line. 

Not the finish that I wanted but a great end to an incredible week of riding and racing with my new teammates.

Friday, February 10, 2012

US Military Cycling Team Camp: Day 5

As I stated last night, the time trial went pretty good for me, so I am happy with the results.  The one negative?  I now have to go into WKO+ and adjust my FTP and then do the same on the Computrainer, my tempo workouts in the BTC just got harder.

Friday morning we went for a leisure ride out the Suncoast Trail, the same one that we have each day, but found an spur to go out and look around Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park.  It was an absolute blast, just pedaling around, chatting and taking in the scenery.  We even came upon some wildlife and stopped for a petting and photo op with a snapping turtle.  As bad as that sounds, fortunately, no lost digits.  So basically it was 30ish mile ride over a couple of hours.  Very enjoyable pace.

Post ride consisted of the norm, back to the hotel, lunch, nap, get the bike ready for the next ride.  Today we were going to get to do something t special, we loaded up and went out to MacDill AFB to ride with the local “lunchtime” riders.  With our twenty and their twenty, we had a fairly sizable group to go riding around the base.  Between the 300 miles we had put in during the week and the race weekend coming up, we were all quit content with just doing another easy afternoon ride.  I will say, showing up on base, all kitted up and going for a ride with the ‘locals’ was really cool.  Doug from FRS was also on site and setup at tent, so upon return, we all hung out until time to roll back to the hotel.
Approach of "retreat," the instantaneous transition from cyclists to Soldiers. It's not what we do, it's who we are.

Once back to the hotel, another shower and it was time for dinner.  Spending a few years on different teams, I was use to the normal “team” meeting to talk race strategies and whatnot.  Bill started us out and then Sean took over.  I will admit I have never been in a meeting like that.  30 minutes and I learned more about racing then in the last 10 years for riding.  We then broke into our selective squads and talked specifically about our race.

Since there wasn’t a women’s race, Peggy a strong CAT 2, was going to drop in with us.  Thus giving us seven riders in the 3/4 race.  The plan was fairly basic, Peggy was going to either cover or initiate the first break.  I was going to cover the second, Don and Mark to follow suit.  Kurt was going to be the lead-out for Sam, and if the opportunity arose, Brad was going to try to get in break and make it stick.

I came back to the room nervous.  I am suppose to cover the attacks, hmmm… will my fitness allow for such early race match burning???  Will I be relegated to time trialing by the end of the race????

Thursday, February 9, 2012

US Military Cycling Team Camp: Day 4

Thursday morning came and after a night of thinking about Jeff Cup and my knee, I had a decision to make.  Should I or should I not do the individual time trial this morning?  I decided that I would go out, do a warm-up and then hit the line.  My start time was 9:17, the course was 9.5 miles out, turn around and return.  All of us headed over to the course and did some warm-up loops.  I hopped on with Jim Weinstein and road for about thirty minutes.  The knee felt okay, simply, just didn't hurt too bad.  So I figured that I would give it a go, still trying to recover from the embarrassment of the day before.

I noticed that there was a head wind all the way out and then a killed tail wind for the return.  After some LT testing a few weeks before, I knew my LT was around 280.  So I figured with the head wind, I could head out at about 305 watts, turn around and ride the tailwind back at around 285.

TT Results
I lined up and waited, 5-4-3-2-1, and I was off, well sort of, could not get the left foot clipped into the pedal and lost a few seconds, but got the bike up to speed with a 1200 watt kick.  I settled in, got my cadence up and looked in at 305 watts and maintained that for the next 27 minutes.  Little slower than I wanted but it was a strong head wind.  I hit the mid-way point and headed back.  instantly i could tell my power was dropping off, so I got it back to 285 and held it there.  Figuring 50 minutes a little over threshold would work out.  The knee was killing me, I kept repeating my mantra, and watched the miles go by.  I crossed the finish line at 51:08, I cut nearly 4 minutes off of the second half.  I am really happy about my performance.  How did I compare to the others?  Well 16th of 19.  Wouldn't score a lot of points on Road Results but for me it was a good day.

After coming back from the ride, most of us kicked around for the day and got ready to head over to Plantation Palms Gold Club to have dinner with American Classic, one of our sponsors.

Other exciting news of the day, Lance Armstrong, Jeremy Powers, Lazer Helmets, and Van Dessel Sports were tweeting about the US Military Cycling Team.  VERY COOL!!!

Tomorrow should be a pretty packed day.  Getting up in the morning, breakfast, kit up, and head out for a 40 miles ride.  Then comeback, lunch, kit up again and head over to Macdill AFB.  We are going to ride with some of the military members and their families tomorrow evening for another 40 miles.  After that, we will have  a few team meetings to talk about Saturday's race strategy.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

US Military Cycling Team Camp: Day 3

Wednesday morning was a beautiful Florida morning.  Temperature was hovering just below 60 with promises of climbing to the mid-70s.  Unlike the rest of week in which there was a possibility of rain, today would not bear such predictions, the sky was perfectly calm. 

After the morning meeting we headed out for what was to be around a century. The pace was pretty calm.  The groups was slit into two again, the elites off in on and Masters / devo in the other.  I got to do a couple of things that I had not done before.  First time I have ever dropped out of a pace line, floated back to a chase vehicle, grabbed food and water and pedaled back up to the group.  Pretty neat experience if you haven’t had the chance to try.

But the bad news for the ride.  Several times last year I got a reoccurring dull pain on the back of my knee.  I have gone in to get a fit several times, but each time, all the measurements look correct.  So the idea of the saddle to far back, cleat positioning, float, etc had been checked out and seemed ok. Typically, I would have the pain for a day or two and go away.  Then the 1st of January came around.  I went on a fairly lengthy ride with Team Sticky Fingers, nothing like the distance here, but for winter in DC, it was a good ride.  After going out MacArthur, we headed up Anglers.  By the time that I got to the top, the knee started to ache.  So I settled in and just rode for the next 50 miles, thinking that it was the same type of pain as I had last year.  Knowing that I was coming to Tampa in about a month, I backed off for a few weeks.  Unfortunately, Monday, the pain returned. By Tuesday afternoon, it was really bad.  So on Wednesday, I had to bail at the 40-mile marker and ride the chase vehicle back to the hotel.  So embarrassing!!!!

Wednesday night, we all got together, had dinner then another great lecture.  We talked some training and racing psychology.  It helped me refocus and think again about the big picture and not the individual days.  My mantra??  I will win Jeff Cup.  Something that I was going to have to repeat to myself several times the next day.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

US Military Cycling Team Camp: Day 2

Each day I find this team more and more interesting.  As always, on a 4-hour ride, you have to make the time pass by talking to those around you.  So as I was struggling to keep a close to 26 MPH pace along side Jim Elliott, I decided to inquire about a few things that were said during the introductions.  So on Monday night, when everyone was telling thee story, Jim was a little laissez faire about his background. I caught the idea that he was a former Marine, now Hartford Connecticut Police Officer, but not much more.  As I have remarked before, Bill had started naming off a few accomplishments of some of the riders.  He brought up Jim. Apparently Jim’s passion for cycling has carried him great distances. I mean like from Boston to New York, 220 miles in 11 hours to bring awareness for Livestrong   (video:   Funny thing is the 220 was probably easy due to the fact the he has also ridden 343 miles around the perimeter of the state, yes in one continuous ride.

So the morning started off with the normal 0630 wake up and grab breakfast.  I deviated a little and headed out to grab a Starbucks.  Twenty minute walk to and from to have a cappuccino. Probably will not do that one again, but figured I would give it a shot.  Made it back to hotel for a photo op, then out on the road.

The plan was to head out for about a 80-90 mile ride.  The weather was a little crappy, but we were all styling with the new kits. I will say, the Primal Wear kits look great.   I also tried the Chamois BUTT'r Eurostyle, pretty impressive.  In the past, I have seldom used anything, but…  this is one that I am going to keep using.

The ride left and we immediately went into pace lining.  Bill split us into two groups of five, from there we took turns simulating the front group rotating and the back group just sitting in.  We did this for almost four and a half hours.  The last 20 miles, my group was sent off the front while the other group was held back, then released to catch us.  So for 47 minutes, five of us went as hard as would could, while maintaining the integrity of the group. We tried to keep it at about 27 MPH, but ended up averaging 25 MPH.  My Normalized Power was 253 over the 47 minutes.  We held off the other group, but only by a mere 30 seconds or so. 

After getting back to the hotel, we showered up, talked some long term strategies, had a fantastic nutrition discussion with Jim Weinstein and now calling it a night.  Tomorrow’s schedule…  80-100 miles ride, I am sure that Jim and Bill will have plenty of pace lining and learning to feed from a vehicle.

If you are on Facebook click here and 'like' the team.  

Monday, February 6, 2012

US Military Cycling Team Camp: Day 1

Not much to report about the flight down to Tampa, except that Air Trans did not charge me for the bike box, which was completely awesome.

So I checked into the Residence Inn in Lutz Florida to get my room and roommate assignment.  After checking in, everyone was scrambling around getting bikes reassembled, unpacking luggage, the normal things that go on if you are staying for a week.   I meet my roommate Donald Davis, then a few of us went off to dinner.  Conversation had more to do about figuring out the professional, non-cycling, attributes and the standard small talk that is required when thrown together with a bunch of strangers.  Being Super Bowl Sunday and the military aspect, it didn't take long for everyone to get acquainted.  That was Sunday, day 0, for us, Monday was truly day 1.

Morning came early, especially after a restless night of Christmas like jitters and excitement.  We all headed down for breakfast around 6:30, then headed over to the team meeting at 7:30.  The next hour was spent talking about expectations, conduct on and off the bike, and signing of the 2012 rider contract.  The interesting part was listening to each of the riders talk about their accomplishments, but once again, it seems to fall back to our military profession. After a few minutes, the race director, Bill, stopped the intros and then started to point out the cycling accomplishments of a very humble crowd.  I sat there for a few minutes and listened, very quickly questioning, then why the heck am I here??  These are legit racers, I think I am the only one running around sporting Cat 4 on their license.  After that we were off to change kits for a leisurely meet and greet ride.

I felt like it was the first day of school, trying to make sure that I had everything together and functioning correctly.  With our rainbow of colors for kits, we all paired up and started out.  We stayed in a double pace line for 80 miles and 4 hours.  First time that I have ever stayed that long, in the saddle and in a pace line.  Sure I have tons of rides over 4 hours and much longer than 80, but never that smooth and consistent.  I remember pulling for a little while then dropping off to the right, watching 12 pairs of riders go by, pretty cool train.  The only skill for today, move back and forth in the pace line, doing introductions.  We were told that we do not stop for mechanicals.  So if someone flats, they just go off the back, fix the flat and work yourself back to the group.  If you are too far off, then in the SAG wagon and get dropped off in front of the group to hop back on.  I guess there is one other skill I am going to have to learn this week, is how to answer nature's call while riding, apparently we will no longer stop for that one either, now that will be interesting.

Post ride, back to the hotel, lunch, showers, kit and soft equipment issue, another team meeting and dinner.  The Primal kits are great looking, so I stoked about that in the morning.  There will be 26 of us rolling out of the Residence Inn, all kitted up.  Hopefully a photo for tomorrows night blog.  Now it is 9:30 at night, I am feeling a little bit of the fatigue from the day, and cannot wait till tomorrow's ride.  Oh yeah, we doing 90 tomorrow.  Gonna be fun.