Sunday, December 19, 2010

Metamorphosis!

It was nice having a bike that looked like this...


...but I have much more use for a bike that looks like this:



Booyah! I've been rocking either a 42x15 or a 42x16 depending on how I feel and where I'm riding. Burke-Gilman? 15. Mercer Island? 16. The short hills on MI are loads of fun. 50 RPM tempo uphill, 140 RPM downhill, repeat 20x.

I've also been working at Cycle U, just like Sam, Adrian, and Dan before me. It's a 6'4" legacy that I'm proud to continue. Also, given the historical record, I should have a pro contract within 2 years guaranteed. I've mostly been teaching Cycle U's flagship program, InCycle, but I've also been turning wrenches when they need turning, which for some customers is pretty frequently. Just look at this pulley I took off a customer's bike.


It's a little blurry, probably because my camera refused to focus on such a thing. You can only actually see about 10% of the surface. That's because by volume, there was literally more grease than pulley wheel. And it wasn't just the pulleys. The chain looked like it had been dipped in black tempura batter, the frame was smeared and caked with a patina of grease and road grime, and even the water bottle cages were covered in a mysterious greenish skin. The owner had complained of "bad shifting." No wonder--there was petrified grease in the chain's path.

And what bike did this come off of, you might ask. A derelict 1980s Huffy? A ramshackle 10-speed fished out of someone's shed? Well, an astute viewer might recognize the trademark brake hoods in the upper right of the corner, or the distinctive taper of a 3T fork, or the patented triple spoke build of the wheel in the lower right. This pulley wheel belonged to a 2010 Cervelo R3 with an 11-speed Campy Super Record groupset. The nerve! Now granted, the owner of the bike is probably a much greater value to society than I am, and thus spends much more time than I do on non-bike fawning activities, so I understand that I can't be too critical. But I couldn't help but feel a sense of injustice at what I saw. It was like watching someone clean a well-seasoned cast iron skillet with soap and a steel scrubber.

This made me think about how much enjoyment I get out of listening to a well-built and well-tuned racing bike purr. Extra enjoyable if the bike is curated.

Lang Reynolds' bike is curated. As a sport, cycling involves an interplay between man and machine. When it comes to training, there is no shortage of things to work on in the 'man' department, and a fast rider will always beat a weaker rider with a nicer whip. But for me, working on and taking pride in my bike has few rivals in terms of generating excitement about riding. This goes for both equipment selection and maintenance. As for selection, the process of choosing each component based on its engineering and aesthetics for its intended purpose instills an awareness of my machine that I carry with me when I ride. As for maintenance, spending time looking at, thinking about, and working on it is therapeutic, in addition to obvious practical benefits. The combination of the two means that when I chamois up, look at my bike, and ask, "do I wanna ride this thing," the answer (hell yeah!) is based on a complete familiarity with the machine, respect for its construction, and confidence in its functionality. Thus, rather than taking away time from training, it actually removes impediments to training, so that I can mount up and giver skidoo in the big ring with confidence.

Man I like bikes.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fallout

My favorite part of crashing on polished Siberian Cedar is that instead of the surface abrading your skin, you just slide until the friction begins to burn you.

Last you heard from me, I had almost crashed at the LA 'drome during warmup. Man, would THAT have been embarrassing. Especially the day before racing started. Well, luckily I saved up all my crashing until 30 minutes before the pursuit, when I crashed during warmup. My foot came out of the pedal while I was accelerating up from the apron and I landed with a mighty 'thud.' There was a short period of serenity immediately after landing as I silently glided past the upturned faces of the racers on the infield, wondering what had just happened. The heat shortly interrupted the serenity, and I began to roll just as I felt the skin on my shoulder and hip begin to burn.

After collecting myself, I stopped to daub myself with antiseptic and donned a new skinsuit with fewer holes in it. My high impact adventure had cost me about 20 minutes of premium warmup time, and I had the post-crash shakes something awful. I was in a bad place mentally. There had been some rescheduling issues, equipment issues, the crash, and I also felt strangely alienated at the track, despite being surrounded by people I knew. Track cycling seems like it can be pretty clique-ish, and despite having people like Tela and Jen Triplett there, I felt out of place, which was unnerving.

So after dusting my shoulders off, I got my bike ready and started listening to Calvin Harris.



I don't know how much there is to say about the race itself. It feels like the pursuit just washes over me, although this time it felt a little corrupted by the bad vibes and the blown legs from racing the scratch earlier in the day. All that crap was "cut losses," and my dad was at the race, so there was nothing to do but lace up and give 'er. I wound up posting a 4:58.5, well short of my goal.



Despite my disappointment, I set a personal best by about 5 seconds, and went under 5 minutes for the first time. Additionally, it was good to go and see that even the best guys in the country are human. They all put their shorts on one leg at a time, and they all make sputtering noises during the last 1k of the pursuit. Watching Dan Harm is always impressive, and it made me want to get a lot better at this event.

So after the pursuit was the points race. I didn't qualify in the morning heat, and that was it for 2010.

After the race, I was overcome by a powerful anger, which I released outside of the velodrome. As I stood outside, breathing heavily, I looked at myself. I was covered in spit and sweat. The veins on my legs and arms looked like braided cable. I had brought my form to a peak, which had given me enough strength to barely hang onto the race for 20 minutes. There hadn't been any triumphant effort on my part, no perfectly-timed move to snatch victory from my more experienced competitors, just a frantic clinging to wheels until the final sprint played out 100 meters in front of me. My work, the consistent focus on training that I had maintained each day for a full 12 months leading to that race, hadn't been enough. As my clenched fists grew tighter, I cursed the slow passage of time that, if filled with unwavering attention to detail and hard work, could bring to fruition the sort of performance that I wanted now. I reared back and roared at the sky, lamenting my helplessness.

Then I began to plot how best to channel that emotion.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Gentle, Golden Promised Land

Boom! Racing update now!

Since I became one of the best Madison racers in the state, I've had a new perspective, looking down on all the little people, huddled in their masses, yearning for greatness. Well. I can tell you all: it is great, and it tastes so sweet.

The greatness continued with more track racing. First was some Friday night racing right in the midst of a hefty training block. I sucked bad in my first ever keirin, but got my sweet revenge in the 6x5 points race, taking off about 2 laps in, snatching the first points, and then grabbing them here and there with the four guys that bridged up to me. I wound up 3rd, but I was pleased. Jamie Stangeland is so fast.



The next day was the International Omnium. It consisted of a flying 200, scratch, pursuit, points, and kilo in that order. Despite awesome racing weather, the men's field wound up with a whole nine racers. Most were pretty beat from racing 12 hours earlier, and it only took a 12.2 for me to win the 200. The scratch and points races were raced pretty negatively. A move went in the scratch and I wound up on the wrong end, getting 5th. In the points race, it was clear that no one wanted to let me attack without them, so I just played sprinter, and won it, along with the kilo and pursuit, so I won the overall.

(my lil' steed ready for some HIGH OCTANE PURSUITING!!!!)

That was the last racing before Elite Track Nats this week in LA, so I just kept busy training and getting ready for the last race of the season. Benny came up from Portland to race Starcrossed last weekend and stayed with me for a few days. We managed to get out on a ride through the Snoqualmie Valley, my new favorite training grounds.

(Benny on Carnation Farm Rd)

(Heidi Biggs made us this custom huckleberry-vanilla cupcake at Cupcake Royal!!)

(A lady on the street handed me this fortune cookie with what might be the
most disappointing fortune I've ever received: a crummy commercial.)


Ben headed off to Las Vegas for Interbike, while I kept getting ready for LA. One day, it was raining a LOT during my ride. My Ridley comes with the cool design feature of not having a drain for water that finds its way into the frame, so this is how you get the water out.


video

Two days ago, I started the drive down, and now I'm in The Wasteland itself! Here are some photo/video highlights:

(Rainbow coalition of trucks outside of LA)

(California includes a little moral judgment with their legal reminders)

(The Baloona Creek Bike path. If it looks familiar, it's because it's where Keanu Reaves did this.)


(The cool thing to do was make Inukshuks along the creek.)



video

Sorry for the tiny video. I took it with my cell phone while riding on the track during a motor pacing session. The derny was scary and I kept looking back to see if it was going to run me down. Luckily it didn't, although I almost did it's work for it: apparently the fall-down speed at this track is 18mph, which is about what I was doing when I was spinning around the blue line. Oops. I got lucky though. That would have been a great way to kick of my Track Nats debut.

More later. I race the Scratch on Thursday, the Pursuit on Friday, and the Points on Saturday.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Madison Racing!

New best thing: Madison racing.

For those who don't know what's up, a Madison can be any endurance race on the track (scratch, points, pursuit, etc.), raced tag-team with 2 people. When you're in, you're racing, and when you're out, you're waiting for your partner to come along to tag you in. The thing about the 'tag' is, it's not so much a tag as it is a throw:



I'd known about Madisons for some time, but even as far as bike racing is concerned, the Madison seems more difficult to approach because of the technical skills, need for a similarly-skilled partner, and the fact that there aren't that many Madisons to be raced around here. Luckily for me, on Monday, the prolific Bilko was kind enough to donate some of his time to teach me the rudimentary skills required to race a Madison. Part of the Monday night series at Marymoor is a Madison, but since it's not coupled with regular 1-2 racing (like Friday night), turnout is pretty low. Still, we got to practice some before the race, and then take on our competition (Hyun Lee + his partner) afterward. Peep the strategy (photos by Dennis Crane)!

(Bilko giving me the huck)

(I didn't know shoulders go this way)

So after that night of intense, tactically brain-melting racing, I figured I was pretty much ready for anything. So I begged Ian Crane to blow off Jennie Reed and race the State Champs Madison with me 4 days later. And he did!!! See?

(my Madison partner [and new best friend?], Ian Crane)

(there's Jennie Reed, probs crying because she had to find another partner)

(sling!)

They had us race three races, but I'll just skip to the 5x10 points race that finished the night off. There were five teams contesting the race, and our clearest competition was the team of Grant Boursaw and Jamie Stangeland. Ian and I decided to try and keep me in with Jamie, while Ian would go in with Grant. Timing exchanges for the sprint laps is like running at a soccer ball. 20 steps away, it's hard to tell if you're on your right footing, but when you get to 5 steps, you can tell if you're going to be on to hit it with some power. Likewise, for a points sprint, it's ideal to throw in your sprinter as late as possible so he can whip the sprint. At Marymoor, the rule is no exchanges within 200m of the sprint, so throwing between turns 1 and 2 on bell lap is the best option.

Coming into the first sprint, all the teams were together, and most made their exchange just after the bell. I threw Ian in, and he took 2nd just behind Grant. 2 or 3 laps later, we were exchanging staggered from Grant and Jamie. I think Jamie got a jump when Grant threw him in on the back straight, and he came over the top of me and Jennie Reed. She wasn't up to covering it, so I jumped around her and booked it for 250 meters until I threw Ian in. Unfortunately, the gap was there, and Jamie's attack pretty much blew up the field. It was G+J with a couple seconds to me and Ian, with the rest of the field rapidly falling behind us. I think that in a larger Madison with a lot of strong teams, this wouldn't have been as much of an issue, and other teams could have helped us bring them back, but as it stood, it was basically us chasing after G+J, and they were stronger, so they slowly pulled away.

Here's where the Madison rules started to play tricks on us. By about the 2nd sprint, G+J had lapped the remaining riders, while we were en route to doing so. The other three teams latched on to G+J, and suddenly, that 4-team group became the lead group that was sprinting for points, even though three of the teams were at -1 lap. Since we were in no man's land, despite being 2nd team on the road, we were getting zero points at the sprints. It was clear that G+J were going to lap us, and if they brought the field with them, then we would really be hosed, because we would have missed out on all those points, plus we wouldn't have a lap on the other teams. So we kept the pressure on and forced G+J to drop the group again to avoid us catching them. Eventually, G+J came around again, putting us at -1 and the rest of the field at -2.

So after that little fuck up, which lasted until the 4th sprint, we decided to nail the final sprint. I threw Ian in at corner 3 coming into 3 to go. Timing-wise, this meant I had to shoot up-track and cram on the brakes so that he could throw me back in 1 lap later (2 to go) so that I could throw him in at corner 1 on the bell lap. Our focus on timing paid off. I led Grant through the bell, sprinted into the exchange, and hucked Ian in with 350 to go. Jamie didn't get his exchange until almost the pursuit line on the back stretch, by which time Grant had lost a lot of momentum and Jamie was having to use his own power to get himself up to speed. So while G+J made their exchange, Ian was already opening up his sprint, which he managed to take by several bike lengths over Jamie.

All in all, not a bad run for my first Madison. We even made a little cash, got tiny silver medals, and a kid racer was doling out cupcakes after the races. Nice!

Then the next day, I went riding and saw a BLIMP!!!


Can't see the blimp? Let me enhance the picture:

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Carnation and Seward: Getting it Wrong, Getting it Right

HB brought a nice big squad to both of the weekend's local races: Carnation Farm CR on Saturday, and the Seward Season Ender on Sunday.

Carnation Farms Circuit Race

Carnation was the third and final installment of the Lake Washington Velo series that HB puts on. Steve Fisher was killing it in the series and had the lead going into the third race. Relevant standings were

Steve -- 22
James Stangeland -- 20
Galen Erickson -- 16
Dave Richter -- 11
Me, Todd Herriott and Dave Flash -- 10

HB soldiers were myself, Steve, Ian Crane, Logan Owen, Lang Reynolds, Joe Holmes, Tiny Alan, Tall Alan, Chris Wingfield, and AJ. With points 10-deep (15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1) and a 4,2,1 intermediate sprint, we had our work cut out for us: cover moves with danger men in them, keep the danger men from getting the point sprint, and make sure Steve finished next to or ahead of his competition.

On count one, we did alright. With a virtually dead-flat circuit (10 laps, ~4 mile lap), the racing was extremely aggressive since there were always like 20 guys tucked in and ready to swing dick when the moment arose. With our numbers, we were able to put at least one rider in every dangerous break. With the weird points game going on, the tactics were not like a normal one-day race, and a lot of those moves were destined for non-cooperation. Nothing got more than 10 or 15 seconds.

On count two, we screwed up. We got the prime bell with 6 to go. Coming into corner 2, a downhill right-hander, HB alum Adrian Hegyvary put in a dig, bringing Joe Holmes with him. Those who followed Adrian's killer 2009 season might remember that at this race last year, Adrian attacked through a corner, and that was all she wrote. So with the sultan swinging hard, the bunch got lined out good and quick. Luckily, I found David Fleischhauer's wheel, which gave me a nice draft and a free ride to the front of the race since HSP was doing the bulk of the chasing. Adrian's move came back as we reached the curvy shadowed section of the course, and since I was fresh and everyone else was looking at each other, I jumped and got a pretty quick gap.

(photo by Dennis Crane)

I got into pursuit mode, staying nice and low through the headwind section toward corner 4. I knew my gap was going to come down in the 500-meter finishing straight with everyone gunning for the points, and I also knew that winning the sprint would take a lot of pressure off of Steve (not to mention getting me more points), so I dug real deep. Here's where the team went wrong: we tried to have our cake and eat it, too, putting a couple riders on the front to (ostensibly) keep Steve and Ian from getting swarmed. Unfortunately, the pace they chose wasn't fast enough to line things out for Steve and Ian, but it was fast enough to bring the rest of the field within striking range for the sprint, and as a result, I was caught less than 10 meters from the line--no exaggeration. It was like this (FFWD to 3:00, unless you are enjoying the music):



Dave Richter took the 4, Stangeland took the 2, and I came up empty-handed. This moved DR up to 15 points, and brought Stangeland even with Steve on points. Now Steve had to beat Stangeland to win the series. Not as good as before.

We also botched count 3. Partially because our guys were gassed from working the hell out of the first half of the race (for better or for worse) and partially because we couldn't get our shit together, Steve was pretty much on his own for the sprint, and ended up finishing in the top-10, one position behind Stangeland, losing the series by a point. It stung extra good since he would have won on a tiebreaker had I won the intermediate sprint. Womp womp.

(photo from Rob Whitacre's sweet camera)

As Joe put it, "the winner is usually the person with the clearest vision when everyone is seeing triple." That said, I think we should have been able to piece together a better race than we did.

On to the C-word Season Ender.

Same crew minus Tall Alan and AJ. Weird format, with 4 $20 cash primes, and $5 to the leader of each lap after the first prime. This time, we were smarter about what we chased, what we worked in, and what we sat on. With Steve and Logan looking good in sprints recently, we wanted to set it up for them. Coming into the last 10 laps, Lang was off the front with Stangeland, but got popped when Stangeland attacked him for a prime. At that point, the two were within about 5 seconds of the pack, but after Lang came back, Stangeland found some reserves and pushed his advantage back out to about 15 seconds with 5 to go. Pretty cashed from the first half of the race (theme?), I put my chips into the chase effort, which was pretty unmotivated for a few laps. With about 2 to go, things finally picked up when people realized that Stangeland is real strong. The gap was coming down, but not fast enough. Coming up the hill into the turn on the last lap, Logan was well positioned right behind Richter. Stangeland's advantage had come down to about 5 seconds, but went to about zero seconds when he crashed himself out in the corner, a la Jake MacArthur. Logan came around Richter to win. Booyah!

(booking it through the sweeper)

(James Stangeland during his solo effort; photos from Dustin van Wyk)

This may have been the last weekend of road racing for the year, unless I go to Eugene for the stage race next weekend. We'll see!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Racing Redux

Hey Global Audience,

I don't know whether it's been the hours spent inhaling fiberglass and paint dust from the canoe, or the equal hours spent inhaling exhaust fumes while driving to pick up fiberglass and paint products from the Olde Asbestos Manufatory down on Shilshole, but my lungs have been feeling excellent recently! I'm lucky that carcinogens aren't on the USADA list, otherwise my superb training strategies might be illegal. Really I'm doing this to prepare for racing Elite Track Nationals, which are in Carson, CA. It's similar to altitude training. Soon my body will learn to metabolize particles of gasoline into ATP, meaning that Los Angeles will be a buffet for my lungs come race time.

My particulate-enhanced lungs have taken me to some very impressive results over the last few weeks. Let's start with the Portland Twilight Crit. I'll begin with the only photographic evidence that I even participated in this race:

(photo from BikePortland.org)

You can see that I had an excellent starting position, courtesy of the 20-or-so call-ups, along with the large team that cut the whole line because they showed up late. Classy. I wound up near the back, which was a bad place to be on such a tight course. So while this was happening at the front...

(photo by Jim Long)

...this is what I got to deal with:


I was out after about 15 minutes.

Next day was much better, up at the HB-sponsored Lake Washington Velo Circuit Race Series in Gig Harbor. I finally fulfilled one of my dreams by getting in a break with Sammy J. Sam has been a huge mentor since I started racing; he was with me when I raced my first road race and he's always given good advice when I've needed it. Check it!

(Me and Sam are very similar shapes)

The circuit race series is a lot of fun. 40-45 mile races 0n 4-6 mile circuits. The three-race series gives points for each race, and with Steve Fisher winning the first race and taking 3rd the intermediate sprint, he was tied for the lead on points with James Stangeland from KR. So we had us a situation. Establish a break that didn't threaten Steve's lead, while Steve played it cool in the field and marked his men. CHECK! The move was established by the end of lap 2 when I jumped in a 5-man group that bridged up to a solo Sam. No one in the break (me, Sam, TH, Galen, Doug Davis from Lenovo, and a UFO [unidentified flying IJM.com Rider]) had series points, so as long as me and Sam went Pacman on the intermediate sprint, there was no threat to Steve. Here's how it went down. By half way, we had dropped Doug and the UFO and had about 1:30 on the field. Sam and I went 1-2 in the sprint, with Galen taking the remaining point. 2nd to last lap, I got popped on the stair stepper courtesy of a nice move by TH. Luckily, I crested within 10 seconds of the trio, and by continuing to chase as hard as I could, Sam got a free ride. I had to TT the last lap, with the official occasionally chiming in about my ever-decreasing gap to the bunch. It sounds like Sam hesitated in the sprint when Galen jumped, and wound up second. I held on for 4th with the bunch coming in about 30 seconds behind me. And by the bunch I mean a totally h-core Steve Fisher PWNing his competish for 5th place! He put points into all his rivals, and now we have our work cut out for us this weekend at the finale in Carnation. Serious cash monies on this caper--scope it!

(Sam sprint good)

(either Amara ran to the other side of the road to catch this sweet shot of me sprinting, or this is a shot
of me getting dropped from the break. note my long sleeve skinsuit--a must-have on a 90 degree day.)


(BOO yah)

Thanks to Amara at WheelsinFocus.com for the pix. After the circuit race, it was a bit more "down" than "up." My headset was completely jacked so I couldn't race the super-cool Ronde Ohop, a 30-mile race on a 2-mile half-gravel circuit, and the next weekend, despite my hill-climb specific bicycle that made even John O'Donnell drool, I climbed like a fat kid, barely avoiding last place. Yesssss!!!

In other news, check out what came in the mail today:


Time to do some reading!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Canoe

I'm restoring a canoe! Since graduating from Whitman in May, I've been living mostly like a monk--racing, training, and taking long road trips in my beloved Volvo. My parents have been kind enough to help me by letting me live back at home, and in lieu of rent money, I'm working on cool projects that have some tangible or sentimental value to them....like this canoe!


(the canoe after about 25 years spent biding its time)

As you can see, it's hard to fit in one shot. This is a photo of the hull. Brief history of this canoe: 70 years ago, this canoe is born. 35 years ago, it comes into my dad's possession. 34 years ago, it receives a new yellow paint job to cover the aging maroon gel coat. Some time in the 1980s, the canoe is involved in a crash involving my dad and my grandpa, accounting for the various patches of busted and patched fiberglass you see in the photo. Since being patched, the canoe has slowly fallen into disrepair: the patches aren't sturdy, the hull leaks, the fiberglass is coming un-laminated from the cedar planks to which it once adhered, the gunwales are dry-rotted. So, what is one to do about this? Fix it!

I bought some paint thinner, fiberglass fabric, epoxy, an orbital sander, a respirator, and have been going to work. The process (as far as I can see) will involve tearing off the aging fiberglass patches, taking the paint down to the original fiberglass, redoing the patches, injecting epoxy into certain parts of the hull, pulling off and replacing the gunwales with new hardwood strips, and repainting the whole thing.

It's a stereotypical relationship, but my mom and dad are always butting heads over what to keep and what to dispose of. My dad always errs on the side of conservation and reconstitution, while my mom likes to get rid of anything that doesn't have an apparent use. While there's usually a middle path that's more reasonable than either extreme, I've got to go with my dad on the contentious issue of the canoe. Despite the disrepair of the boat, when I look at the old planks, laid over the cedar skeleton, and think about throwing the boat away because it is going to take so many hours of work, I feel like it would be profoundly wrong. Imagine the guy who put the thing together. He'd be rolling over in his grave.

More on that later. Now, here's what the canoe looks like. I've stripped the top layer of paint off and am preparing to sand down to the fiberglass. For areas that are structurally sound, I'll leave just a bit of paint so that I don't damage the FG by sanding it. For areas that need to be repaired, I'll take all the paint off since they're getting patched anyway.


The spots you can see straight through to the wood are the parts that were punctured by knots in a fallen log that my dad and grandpa couldn't avoid while paddling a few decades ago. Time to FIX EM!!

When I'm not working on the canoe or blogging about working on the canoe, I'm usually riding my bike or playing with Lucy, my 9-year-old Golden Retriever. See?

(my track bike trying its hardest to be a road bike)

With Elite Track Nationals coming up at the end of September, I've been putting more and more time into track-specific training. I'm planning on racing the Omnium, Individual Pursuit, Scratch and Points Races, and maybe the Team Pursuit (if I can find a team), and I've been lucky enough to hook up with a local training group of cyclists who are also going to Nats, thanks to Jen Triplett. First session is tomorrow, coached by Jennie Reed, so we'll see how that goes.

Riding the track bike on the road is a lot of fun. I haven't got a lot of gear combinations, so for now, I'm forced to roll a 52x16, which means I ride on mostly flat terrain if possible. That bike, while incredibly heavy, is also very stiff, and can go quite fast in a straight flat line. Since my TT bike is disassembled (mined for track bike parts), as is my road bike (still in hill climb mode), I'm doing most of my riding on this bad boy.

And look at this awesome dog! The golden retriever, not the ugly giant dog that didn't want to do anything except follow her around Lake Washington.




Big stupid gray dog just harangued Lucy the whole time she was trying to get the ball!! What the heck??

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Flat-Lander

I've been pretty enamored with the pursuit recently. This always tends to happen in the summer months. In 2008, I was transfixed by the state TT. Last year, it was the U23 nats TT, and now I'm getting all fuzzy feeling about the pursuit. Maybe I like to focus on races where there are fewer variables. Maybe I'm always disoriented, form-wise, after collegiate road nationals, which I've always aimed for pretty heavily, and I want to have a finite goal that I can wrap my head around. The last few summers, I get all detail oriented, making my equipment all nice, doing my homework about the course, and generally being pretty single-minded about the event I picked.

This year I think my understanding of training is a lot different, and it's changing the way I approach my event of choice. For instance, in 2008, I did hardly any racing in July because I was "preparing" for the state TT (I really wanted to win the Cat3 race). I rode my TT bike all the time, but when I look back, I was kind of a pussy about training hard. Same goes for last year. I never really got into the rhythm of hard training in the months before the event. I noticed these things at the end of last year, so after collegiate road nats this year, I really wanted to focus on getting back to a feeling of homeostasis in training. It took until the beginning of July, but it came around. And so this year, I've been focusing on getting race miles in the legs, since that's what "fills the right." It also means racing pursuits. Like I said, they remind me of swimming, and like swimming events, you get a little more familiar and comfortable with them each time.

I've got two little training mantras that might seem incompatible, but that I think actually go perfectly well together. The first is "I'm always training." This one's pretty simple; I just mean that preparing for training rides and for races is a constant process that involves rest, nutrition, stress, and a million other variables. So if training is a 24-hour thing, then you're always somewhere on the thread of training you've strung. There's a trajectory associated with your point on the string, and your training 'status' changes gradually and (usually) without discontinuity. Now when you look at the 2 minutes immediately prior to the start of a pursuit, there's very little that you can do in your training to prepare yourself for the event any further. Everything is already "in the bank," so to speak. So before setting off, I clear my head by telling myself that I've got "money in the bank" and that my legs are about to "buy me a drink." I think this is pretty liberating, since all the consideration that goes into training is unnecessary during a pursuit. Instead, I can just focus on accepting more pain.

With that in mind, I went to the Elite Nats qualifier on Saturday, where it started raining 5 minutes before my heat against Dan Harm. It was okay though, because I had been meaning to get in some 40-minute roller rides on a Saturday. Instead, I raced it on Monday. It was a 5:03.8, down from 5:12.3 three weeks ago. I tried some different pacing:

AVC:
Nats Qualifier:

Lastly, this is the best warm-up song ever.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Running around Racing



The last couple weeks, I've been on the road in my beautiful brown 1984 Volvo GL station wagon crammed full of bikes and racing paraphernalia racing in Portland and Bend. Take a look at this trapper-keeper of a car!


I've got three bikes, six wheels, and a grip of bags stuffed in that thing, and look at all the extra space! The future was 26 years ago.

Now I'm starting to hear about an ingenious and increasingly popular invention called "bike racks." Apparently they make the practice of disassembling and tenderly wrapping your bikes in soft cashmere towels a thing of the past. The first problem is that you have to buy them. The second problem is that the first time I ever attended a road race, I traveled with Sam Johnson in his race-mobile. So my perception of what constitute luxurious accommodations is skewed. Luxury to me isn't having air conditioning. Luxury is having a cooler filled with ice packs so that, when driving in the 90+ degree heat of Central Oregon with the windows rolled up (gas mileage lol!), I can slip one behind my back and experience a sensation similar to eating a York Peppermint Patty.*

So I schlepped 90% of my material possessions with me to Portland, where I was looking to race the pursuit at the Alpenrose Velodrome Challenge. I like the pursuit because it reminds me of swimming. When I compare an 80-mile road race to an event like the 200 backstroke, there isn't a lot of overlap. An event like the backstroke takes the amount of preparation, physical exertion, and mental focus of a road race, and compacts it into about 2 minutes. I have done swim meets where the 200 backstroke was all I had to do that day. I know when my heat is, I know how to swim it, and I know how to prep. Despite feeling in control, the times I've swam it fastest, it felt like I was observing the race from within myself. The swim happened, and I was a passenger who saw the technical maneuvers and felt the accumulation of fatigue throughout the event. The fastest race I did left me feeling melancholy, because I felt like I hadn't really participated in it. I had grown used to a feeling of agency in the pool. I could push myself, think consciously about my stroke, and see improvement over time that encouraged a faith in control. But during my best swim, I felt like all my calculation and conscious effort were superseded by a subconscious force that was more effective at enacting a successful swim than I was.

I could meditate on that all day, but suffice it to say that I feel the same sensations in the pursuit that I used to in swimming. For each pursuit, there is the same certain schedule, same distance, same equipment, same conditions. And while I think that after a while, I will be able to ride a pursuit in the same way I used to swim the 200 back, I'm not there yet. I still have to calculate, which makes my performance clunky.

The race! I got paired against the guy who CAUGHT my ass last year at FSA. I said eff that noise! Luckily, I had Tela giving me lap splits, so I dropped 10 seconds off my time and got 3rd in an incredibly deep 8-man field.


After hanging out with John Klein in Portland (which I recommend), I rocketed over to Walla Walla for a few days, where I got to play board games, drink dumb amounts of coffee, and then catch a ride down to Bend with a dude named Kaler. Kaler has air conditioning.

In Bend, I met up with the HB Cat 2s for Cascade. I went and warmed up on Thursday with Ian Crane and Steve Fisher. I'll admit that I took one breath out of my mouth while we were riding, but that's because Ian Crane has ceramic pulleys and Steve Fisher is real little. I had been resting all week, so I wasn't expecting the legs to be too stoked. That, in addition to the fact that we have one of the world's fastest 15-year olds on our team meant that I got to be a worker bee for the weekend, which I took to mean I should spend as much time swinging dick off the front of the race as possible. Biggest lesson I learned this weekend was to try and attack when other people also feel like attacking. On Friday, I attacked into a little corner about 15 miles in, and since no one could match my supreme corner-attacking skills, I got to spend the next 30 minutes banging my head while the pack ate chocolates. And by ate chocolates I mean race like collegiate racers. I came back and then resigned myself to help chase the break for our young climbers. On the last hill I saw this:

The illegal feed zone! Well, I wasn't feeling so good, and the illegal feeders' jolly attitude rubbed me the wrong way. I flipped him the bird, which he took to mean "Water." Just kidding. I think it was my index finger. On Saturday I soft-pedaled the TT, but Steve Fisher STILL couldn't catch me. That's because I am a premium descender and was wearing this new skinsuit that the Russian Cycling Federation 'asked' me to test for them:


It must have worked well because I got 96th place. Then I pegged it for a few laps near the end of the crit. Vroom!

On Sunday, I spent a similar amount of time and energy swinging D off the front of the race, similarly alone. This time, I got a minute on the field and started imagining how many FB friend requests I would get if I won, but it was not to be and I got brought back after a lap of the Awbrey Butte CR. I felt alright about it, because it let the team ghost-ride their bikes and discuss the merits of 3G iPads. I understand that Chris Wingfield was not involved in the conversation.

Now my legs are all warm and I'm getting ready for another pursuit next weekend at the Marymoor nats qualifier.

Hey NW Racing: Why is there a weekend in July with zero racing other than a long TT in Ellensburg?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

omg i'm blogging!

Hello global audience! This is a blog about bike racing. I really only want a blog to keep track of what I'm thinking about so I don't forget about it. Nostalgia is so awesome! That said, I'm more Puget Power than Pineapple, at least I think I am.

Bubblewrap bartape is an homage to my cycling roots. My first bike race was a time trial in 2007. I read about a magic invention called aero bars that make you tons better at riding your bike, so I bought a blown-out old pair from Recycled Cycles, arm pads not included. I fashioned arm pads out of bubblewrap. One useful design feature I came up with was to make the bars release an encouraging pop whenever your position was extra good. Well, by the end of the race, there were no more bubbles, just a thin skin of sweaty plastic, meaning that I had ridden a very efficient time trial. Proof? I was only one step from the third step of the prestigious Cat 4/5 podium of this early-season local race. From then on out, I knew that I was destined for cycling greatness.

Since then, I have won exactly five road bike races. The first one was a road race a year after that fateful time trial. I rode up the one 'hill' faster than the other novices I was with, and had to restrain myself from victory saluting using the double-pistol technique. The next one was the time trial at my adopted home's baby, the Tour of Walla Walla. After that, I spent some time as a sucky 3 racer until bursting out of my moist cat3 womb at Enumclaw in 2009, winning the TT and barfing after it. The barf was mostly water and raspberry hammer gel, and consequently, I have ingested neither of these things since. Later that day, I totally beat Ben Rathkamp in the crit. Then I barfed all over him!! Just kidding. The last one was the incredibly windy collegiate road race in Pullman this year. This one was particularly gratifying, since Bill Wykoff gently placed a gold medallion around my neck for my services.

Now, I am out of school and hoping to develop a sustainable lifestyle of working and bike racing. These are the only details I really have nailed down.