Thursday, October 6, 2011

Back to Basics

Lack of Computer Gadgetry!!
Along the lines of questioning whether you are a real cyclist, I came across another cycling term, "Back to Basics". This translates to training/racing without any type of device that monitors speed, heart rate, power, whatever. Basically you have nothing on your handlebars. Pretty unheard of nowadays. I saw a few folks this year that I swear could have commanded the space shuttle from their handlebars. Believe me, I would have loved to have the command center staring at me but I was on a tight budget because I was just getting back into this sport I love and needed to update my ride.

During my real fit days (at least 15 years ago), I used a heart rate monitor pretty religiously and loved it but it sometimes became a crutch. Anytime the batteries went out or it just stopped working because of my overly corrosive sweat, I had a hard time getting motivated to go out training because I knew I wouldn't be able to geek out and see my data when I got home and downloaded it to my Intel 486 with math co-processor (yeah, remember those days). Well I decided this year, I wouldn't train with anything and it proved pretty effective.

This year, my training program was pretty much limited to two group rides during the week and racing during the weekend. So heart rate/power meter monitor or not I hit the group rides as hard as I could, for as long as I could. At first this meant me pulling once or twice and then hanging on for dear life in order to not get dropped. But after a month or so, I found myself starting to be the last guy standing on the paceline of death and was loving it. If nobody wanted to pull through, eff it, I would just stay on the front and continue punishing myself. This was old school Sobe training at its best.

I would get questioned prior to some of the group rides about my lack of computer gadgetry on the handlebars and I would just shrug my shoulders and say I just do group rides and go until I can't turn the pedals anymore.

I hope I can stay in the back to basics mode but I may cave after one of my teammates posts his power meter numbers and the geek in me wants to know what kind of watts I can deliver to the pedals.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Are you a "real cyclist"?

Wow, has it been a while since I last posted. Here's to trying to stay up to date with this blog. 

Do you know what it means to be a "real cyclist"?  Well I didn't know until recently and I am proud to say that I am now fully qualified at the ripe age of 36.

I found the definition from a very reputable source. The link is certainly worth a look, there are some pretty funny cycling terms defined there. Things like bug gulp, fridge magnet, yard-sale, etc...

"Real Cyclist - You are only a Real Cyclist when the net worth of your cycling equipment exceeds the net worth of your automobile(s) by a factor of >= 3!"

It isn't like I couldn't afford something from this decade, car -wise, I am just not much of a car guy.

Well a couple months ago I officially became a "real cyclist". Let's do some quick math to ensure proper qualifications are met. I paid $800 for my sweet civic baller ride a couple of years ago. Now the bikes, CAAD7 was $2000 (new), Trek STP - $1500, Cannondale Supersix - $3300 (retail). Adding things up we have $6800 on the bike side (not including my recent CAADx purchase ($1300 retail)) and $800 (not factoring depreciation) on the car side for a ratio of 8.5/1! Easily qualified as a "real cyclist" and very proud.

Well are you a real cyclist?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Bullets on Crystal Cup Cat 3/4 Race

Controlling the field with 2 to go.
Photo Credit: Daniel Meaurio
Little short on time for a full up post so here are some bullets on the category 3/4 Crystal Cup race.
  • Aggressive racing by Bike Doctor
  • Good counterattacks off teammates to take premes
  • First preme I nabbed with a counter on Rist after the second turn. Had to gas it for about 1.5km and held off the field
  • 7 crashes in 14 laps, ouch, even had to stop the race early on
  • I stayed in top 10 most of the whole race
  • Love courses with 180's for blocking. We were able to slow the pack down considerably when we had guys off the front

Sunday, June 12, 2011

5000 ft of climbing takes its toll - Tour of Mt. Nebo Report

Not really but it sure felt like it!
I had heard about the Tour of Mt. Nebo road race and how great the course was but hadn't checked on the date details until I stumbled upon it while in PA for a buddy's wedding. I was planning to leave on Saturday from the wedding and figured I would surf to see if any races were on the way home. Well low and behold I saw Tour of Mt. Nebo right in my path. Sign me up! I figured my new Cannondale Supersix would turn me back into the climber I used to be before I gained 10+ lbs from my old race weight.

The night before was the wedding and we partied pretty hard. So hard that my wife and I forgot our phones at the reception. Whoops! Luckily I did pass out around 11pm and got a good night's sleep at the foot of the bed on the floor. Not sure how I missed the bed but I snuggled up with my wife about midway through the night. Bare with me on the digression.

That morning I couldn't find my phone and it was getting close to the time I needed to leave. I checked a few places around the hotel with no luck. So I went to the business center, mapped directions from google maps and hit the print button. Man talk about old school. I was looking at close to thirty turns to get to the race with very little room to spare. I said goodbye to those that were awake and hit the road.

Luckily I didn't miss any turns and made it to the race with about 30 minutes to spare. Don't worry I wasn't planning to warm up because the race was longer than any training ride I had done this year.

Race time conditions were pretty good, sunny, high 80's with some wind. I was concerned not having someone to feed me and decided to stage my cooler at the top of the feed zone and if I got real desperate I would try to get ahead of the pack, stop and grab some bottles. Luckily I had also grabbed a couple of packets of Gatorade Prime and stuffed those in the jersey along with a Gu and two large water bottles (with three capsules of endurolytes in each). The Gatorade Prime came in very handy and allowed me to not have to stop for my cooler because they have a considerable amount of liquid calories.

The race was scheduled for 5 laps of a 9 mile circuit with a reported 1000+ feet of climbing per lap.

We started off in a rolling neutral for the first mile. The flag was dropped and the racing began. I tried to stay in the top 15 or so and occasionally institute the fat man fade. For those that don't know this is where you start at the front of the group and slowly fade back as you are climbing. It works great as long as the group is big enough. During the race there wasn't much attacking but just steady leg breaking tempo up the climbs. I knew the best way for me to survive was to spin like a mad man up the climbs and thankfully I had a 25 tooth cog to make this happen. I kept looking around and seeing guys that weighed a little over a plastic bag and thought to myself what the heck am I doing here.

By the completion of the 3rd lap I looked around and saw the group was reduced to about 20 riders from the original 55 and I was starting to think that I might be able to finish pretty well in this race. Of course, nothing in bike racing is ever that easy and on one of the big descents on the back side a guy mid pack decided it was a good time to invert his bicycle. I am not sure how it happened but all I saw was a guy endo with his legs flying up in the air and then lots of sliding on the ground at 40+ mph. Ouch!! The last part of his skin reduction treatment involved him sliding on his arse. I think he is going to need a butt donut for a little while. Unfortunately for me, I had to grab a handful of brakes to avoid a similar fate and this caused me to be unhitched from the group.

Once I got back up to speed, I buried my head and charged on to reconnect with the group. Thankfully I was able to latch back on after a mile. The only problem was that just after I came back we were starting the big climb on the backside of the course. I held on as long as possible but lost contact about midway up the climb. I kept going as best I could with the only hope being that I would be able to join other dropped riders to chase back on. Once I got to the top I looked back and saw two guys that were close and I waited for them. We chased for about 2 miles and were able to get back on.

Proof I was in this, me with head down.
Photo Credit: Julie Elliott

I was not looking forward to tackling the finishing climb to enter the last lap but the climbers of the group decided a moderate pace was sufficient for this lap. The rest of the last lap was pretty tame until 1k to go, when a guy took a flyer leading up to the finishing climb. I was a little too far back and a lead group of 6 separated from the rest of us. I managed to move my way up during the climb but suffered like a dog. I think people from three counties over could hear me breathing. I was closing on one guy with 100 meters to go and wasn't sure if I could find any more gas in the tank but managed to pass him with 20 meters to go. That was good for 8th place, last in the money! Sweet!! Thank you Cannondale Supersix for being so nice and light!

So not a bad race for me. The course was awesome. You could go wide open through most of the descents once familiar with them. I would definitely come back for more punishment in the future.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Sobe got a new Steed! (Training this week)

Training this week was productive but a little scattered with business travel and vacation time. I was able to do any group rides but I wasn't able to saddle up on a new steed (a.k.a. bike).

Rode to work and back on Monday, fairly uneventful. The usual pot hole dodging and leg shredding Cat 5 climb at the end. Made especially fun with the extra 12-15 lbs in my laptop bag. I have a love/hate relationship with that climb.

I had to do a day trip to Charleston on Tuesday and I brought along my spin bike compatible Nike shoes. After my meetings I had a little time to kill, so I swung over to Golds Gym with my travel pass.  I decided to do a couple rounds of deadlifts, incline presses, burpees and 15ft rope ascents because I haven't been doing crossfit lately and needed to remind my body of that stuff. They actually had climbing ropes hung at this Golds, which was sweet! I then hopped on the spin bike for quick warm up, 5 minute interval, 2 x 1 minute intervals and then 1.5 minute low rpm climbing interval.

Rode to work on Wednesday. Along the way, I had a nice boost from a Sysco semi for at least a mile. Spun out the 53x12! Yeehaw! During the day I got some great news from the Cannondale rep, my new bike had arrived at Bike Doctor Waldorf!! On the ride back I witnessed a drug deal go down. You know the old two handed hand shake. Some parts of my commute go through some shady parts of DC.

Once I got home I grabbed the kids and headed down to Bike Doctor Waldorf to piece my bike together and bring her home. When I pulled my new Cannondale Supersix out of the box I had to go into the bathroom and rub one out! That thing is sick light. I was able to get most of it together at the shop (Thanks Chris R for giving me some space). Luckily the shop has an additional mechanics area in the back because I had my two golden children with me. They did a pretty good job hanging out (relatively speaking) but did start a few fights that needed my mediation. I think I was able to provide the mechanics with some birth control incentive. Not sure if those guys will want any kids anytime soon. They were troopers. What I didn't get done at the shop, I finished at home that night.

Thursday afternoon I headed up to Bear Creek Resort to see my good buddy off to get hitched and I brought the bike so that I could take it out for a spin on Friday. I certainly wanted to make sure everything was race ready for Sunday at the Crystal Cup.

I took the new bike out Friday morning for a couple of loops around a route I scouted out on google maps. This was the first time I have been on carbon fiber and it was smooth. Very stiff and responsive but also dampened the bumps in the road nicely. It was hard to say how much faster I was able to go but the course had a couple of cat 4 and one cat 5 climbs and they felt pretty good.

One more good week of training in the bag. Can't wait for Tour of Washington County stage race!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Racing is the Best Training - Ride Sally Ride report

They say racing is the best training and I decided to make the most of this today. As someone who is 36 and a category 3 rider, it is possible to almost always race two races and on certain days you could even race as many as 4 races. Well today was one of those certain days. The Whole Wheel Velo Club Ride Sally Ride crit was on tap today for mid-Atlantic shaved legged bike pedaling crazies. It was a beautiful day (low 80's) and I was signed up for the later races (35+ open and 1/2/3). I was able to get to the course a little sooner than I expected and jumped into the category 3 race for the start of an insane day of racing/training. I was looking at 70 miles of racing, 112 laps and 336 right hand turns. Dizzy, dehydrated and depleted was on the menu.

I kept the warm up to a minimum and started the 3 race with 60+ other riders. Starting for Bike Doctor was Todd "Doc" Bickling, Robb "Wrob" Hampton, Mike Schneider, Sunny Gill, Cliff Chamberlain, Judd Walencikowski and myself. The plan was to have a few guys on the front and to keep some guys fresh for the finish in the pack and out of the wind. The course is very wide with 3 corners and a little uphill prior to the final corner. When you are in the field it is like riding behind a school bus, so lots of guys have fresh legs, the pace stays high and very little ever gets away. Cliff and Sunny covered most of the significant moves and the rest of us enjoyed the draft.

Around 5 to go Wrob, Doc and myself started moving up to join Sunny and Cliff. We were all sitting around the top 20. Sunny slotted in behind my wheel right about this time and said something. All I heard was "3 to go". I assumed he meant for me to go with 3 to go. I was all for this and had talked to some of the guys about going with 1.5-2 laps to go if it felt right. Because I hadn't heard Sunny clearly I needed to talk to him but just wasn't able to so I decided I would light it up with 1.5 laps to go and see what happens. Either Sunny could sit on and launch or he could let me go and create a good gap. We went with the latter and I gutted it out for a half lap and looked behind and saw that guys were breathing down my neck. I decided to keep the pace high and figured the rest of the team would benefit.

At the second to last corner I was caught and started getting passed, I sucked it up and tried to maintain some speed. I saw Sunny go flying by on my left just before the final corner and he looked like he was going to grab a nice placing. However racing bikes gives you that glimmer of hope and then snatches it from you in the blink of an eye. Just as the front of the pack rounded the last corner, a rider went down and nearly took Sunny with him. Sunny and about 10 other riders nearly came to a complete stop. I was able to slip under the crash and managed to grab 10th place.

I was surprised to not see some of the other fellas up there for the sprint. What I saw during the warm down lap, explained their absence. I saw Todd and Robb walking their bikes from the 2nd corner. Todd had gone down in the 2nd corner and Robb had to lock up the rear brake to keep from t-boning Doc. In the process Robb wore his tubular to the bone and flatted. Luck was not on our side this race.

The next race on the plate was the 35+ open and another 32 laps of fun. Bike Doctor fielded Brian Rist, Pete "Sit In, What's That?" Warner, Evan Ellicot, Cliff and myself. For this race I wanted to play a little more active role but still enjoy the school bus draft. The whistle blew for the start and Pete shot off like a cannonball and worked with a little group for a couple of laps. All of us stayed pretty active towards the front either covering moves (Cliff and Rist were all over the front) or instigating them through out the race. About midway Pete was off with another group of guys (Harley and XO) and I was up covering stuff when I heard the bell ring and the official yelled out pack preme. As we neared the 3rd corner I was behind two Harley guys and I decided to gun it before the turn and snag the preme. Sure enough I was able to grab it (cha-ching) and immediately sat back up to resume my blocking duties.

Pete's group eventually deteriorated and he flew solo for a couple laps until the pack finally consumed him with 8 or so to go. He was able to grab two premes while away. Things started winding up with 2 to go and I found Pete and got into pretty good position. Harley wound things up from about a lap to go and we hung on. Pete and I were able to pass a few guys in the final stretch and were able to get 8th and 7th respectively. Not bad for a couple of non-sprinters.

Race number 2 complete, burned a couple more matches and got another top 10. Not bad.

This last race, Category 1/2/3, for me was going to be pure training. No one from the team entering this race had fresh legs. We had Ellicot, Rist, Gill, Warner and myself ready to tackle another 48 laps. My goal was to try to help the team as much as possible by covering moves and try to hang on for at least half the race. I was definitely happy to see that my speed is coming back and I was able to follow moves and even instigate them. Now I just need to work on sustaining the speeds and recovery when in breakaways.

I saw the 24 lap to go card and I was happy to have met my goal. I continued to mix things up but was certainly wearing down. With 15 to go, I decided my time was up and made one last pull to bring back a breakaway that didn't have us in it. I managed to pull it back and then punched the eject button with 14 to go. I am not sure how the team fared in the finish because I left. I believe some more crashing occurred and some of the guys were caught up in them.

I was amazed at the sheer number of crashes that occurred throughout the day. This was a wide open course offering very little reason for crashing. I think guys just got squeezed from time to time when we went 4-5 guys wide into the corners.

My racing is the best training day was complete. I had two top 10's and 98 laps (60+ miles) under my belt without a crash. I was also able to rock my new "You Got Dropped" t-shirt proudly, hopefully nobody got a picture of me dropping out of the 1/2/3 race. I am pretty sure Bruce Buckley had left the scene.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Guess What? My laptop bag is hail proof! (Training this week)

My training during the week started off with a bang. I hit the Murph WOD (see previous post) on Monday and my upper body was sore the entire week because of it. Love it. Following the Murph workout the family headed over to the single best community pool in the world, Crofton Swim and Tennis Club. They have an awesome opening weekend Memorial Day Kid/Adult fun day. They have lots of activities through out the day for both kids and adults. The kids have a watermelon relay and a juice dive. The adults have a splash contest (3 meter spring board, oh yeah!) and a beer dive (picture 50 grown adults diving into the deep end trying to grab as many beers as they can). Needless to say I did plenty of liquid carbo loading and was ready for the upcoming week of training.

Tuesday I rode to Hains point in the evening and it was surprisingly light on riders. I did get a chance to meet Chuck Hutcheson and a few others. I had heard that he sometimes motorpaces and I wanted to talk to him about tagging along at some point. Hopefully we will link up soon. He was on an easy spin night because he just got back from the Tour of Somerville, where he placed 10th, very impressive. So I parted ways with their group and started my intervals. I did 3 long intervals of about 4-5 minutes each. Then I did a 2 minute followed by a 1 minute interval. After that I called it a night and rode back to my car (about 8 miles away on the bike trails).

On Wednesday, I set my bike up for commuting, slapped the laptop onto the rack and headed into work. The ride was uneventful and I didn't push too much because the soreness from Murph was really starting to set in. I showered, changed and headed over to the Desperation Deli (coined term by some of the folks I work with) near our building for my post ride to work breakfast sammich and chocolate milk. Yummy!!

While the ride into work was uneventful, I can't say the same for the ride home. During the day, I was looking at the temperatures and they were creeping up to the mid 90's with a feel like temp of 104. Stttickyy. Knowing this, I was drinking heavily (not alcohol but water) throughout the day. Well as it got closer to head home time, the skies started looking a little ominous and sure enough as I walked across the street to change into my riding clothes, it started raining lightly. I usually love the rain while riding but something about the clouds told me that there was more than rain in store for me.

I headed out into a light drizzle with my laptop bag setup for inclement weather. As I got closer to DC the rain started to pick up. Nice heavy drops of rain that stung a bit when they hit your face. Well those heavy drops started turning into peanut M&M sized hail. Hmmm, what to do now? I kept trudging on and managed to avoid most of the hail but occasionally one smacked me pretty good. I will tell you, it did keep my mind off the pain in the my legs. The hail lasted for about 10 minutes and then I was in the clear after another 10 minutes of heavy rains. One thing I can say is that not only is my laptop bag rain proof but it is also HAIL PROOF. Nice work Topeak.

Scott "Meesile" Giles
Frank "the Tank" Ramos
Thursday I was working down at Pax River and planned to go for a ride at some point while I was down there. Earlier in the week, I had shot an email out to our team regarding rides in the area for Thursday. Most of them agreed that the ride formerly known as the "aero" ride was the one to do.  It basically goes out and back and covers about 40-45 miles. I met up with the group that was about 8-9 guys. Bike Doctor was well represented in this smallish group because we had Frank "the Tank" (aka "Framos") Ramos and Scott "Meesile" Giles.

We started out at a chatting pace and picked things up where Giles and I were riding tempo at the front until I finally decided to peel back and enjoy a little draft. The paceline got started from there and never really stopped. We had a nice tail/crosswind on the way out and we were flying. Each of us was taking our turn at the front for an extended period of time. We got to the turn around point and stopped for a water refuel and pee break. As we were sitting around you could tell that we were all thinking about the headwind we had in store for us on the way back and were hoping for a MAGICAL BUS to arrive and take us back home. After a few minutes we realized our bus wasn't coming and decided to head on back.

Thankfully the Meesile was with us because he pulled at least half of the way home at INHUMAN SPEEDS. Scott stands at least 6'4" and you would think he would produce a nice draft but that man can get arrow and cut through the wind like a knife. I didn't even try to match his pulls but did my fair share along with the rest of the group (Frank was certainly not slacking on his pulls either). A couple of guys broke off from the ride to head home (including Frank) and we continued our pulling ways. I could tell we were getting close and for fun I decided to throttle things up a little after one of Scott's monster pulls. This gapped Scott and his wife Katie (a bona fide bad ass in her own right) and forced Scott to chase back up to me with his wife in tow. I didn't realize that he had lost contact and just as he was catching on I looked down, saw a wheel and flicked my elbow. The boy didn't hesitate a second and made another monster pull after having pulled for a mile or so and chasing down the gap to me. Studddddly!!

Great week of training and looking forward to working with the team at Ride Sally Ride this weekend put on by Whole Wheel Velo Club!

Memorial Day Murph WOD and some soreness

First of all I just want to thank all of our service men and women who have sacrificed much to ensure the freedom of this great nation. We salute you. Happy Memorial Day!!

Lt Michael Murphy
I got converted over to crossfit a couple of years ago and was recently doing sealfit until I started to put more time on the bike. I am a big believer in crossfit and love every aspect of it. For those that may not know, they have the "Girls" Workout of the Day (WOD) and "Hero" WODs. These are basically the metrics by which you can gauge improvement and you usually repeat them every couple of months. Either you try to beat your last time or try to do more reps in a fixed amount of time. One of the Hero WODs is Murph, after LT Micheal Murphy, who was killed in action during a fire fight in Afghanistan back in 2005.

Here are the details on the Murph WOD:
For time:
1 mile run
100 pull ups
200 push ups
300 squats
1 mile run

You can break up the pull ups, push ups and squats however you want. If you have a 20 lb weighted vest, wear it.

For a couple years now it has become a tradition to do this WOD on Memorial Day and I wasn't going to miss out honoring both Memorial Day and a fallen hero and decided to hit Murph after 2 months of very little upper body workouts. I got to Gold's, met a buddy of mine, slung on my vest, hit the timer and let the sweating begin. One thing I failed to mention is that everytime I have done Murph I modify the push up for a little more pain. I grab a 24" box and the push up handles. My feet go on the box and it puts more weight on the push up and gives a better incline push up motion.

I have made through my modified Murph in the past but 2 months of limited upper body work, took its tool as I completed 300 squats and nearly 100 pull ups. I had just past the 100th incline push up and I was dying, had to hold back a few times or I would have tossed yee old cookies. I was barely getting 3-4 push ups at a time. I decided to chuck the vest and finish off the pull ups and get whatever push ups more I could do while reaching 100 pull ups. I ended up getting 125 push ups. I threw the vest back on and finished the mile. My finishing time was something around 1 hour 15 minutes, not great but I got one heck of a workout. I was drenched.

Well over the last couple of days my soreness has set in and I can tell you that my chest is more sore than Pamela Anderson after a boob job!

I am going to continue to focus on cycling but I will definitely need to start hitting sealfit/crossfit WODs starting in September because a group of us are signed up to do the Tough Mudder in Virginia!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Is there a Doctor in the house? - Bike Jam race

BikeJam 2011 Cat 3 - 1 lap to go attack
Photo Credit - Jim Wilson Images

Today was Kelly Benefit Strategies BikeJam in Baltimore. I have great memories of this race back in 2002-2003 when the course was on the west side of Patterson Park and even though it was moved a few years later, I still like it. It has its fair share of craziness, one tight corner, a little uphill to burn the legs and the occasional couple of kids that think it is fun to throw rocks and sticks at the pack and BLAM you have BikeJam. The weather was in the high 80's with a pretty good headwind going down the backstretch. With it being a little warmer I wanted to make sure a cramp didn't limit me and drank a ton of water before and during the races. I was also hitting a couple of capsules of Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes every hour.

Well the last month has been great for Bike Doctor, we have been winning races everywhere and even though the team was light a few guys today we were still confident that we could bring home another victory. During the week I was starting to feel that the legs and lungs were responding to the training I have been knocking out lately and I thought I could play a decisive role in bringing home the top prize.

For the Category 3/4 race it was Todd "Doc" Bickling, Robb "Wrob" Hampton, Cliff Chamberlain and myself (a.k.a. "Sobe"). Prerace we decided to just sit near the front and stay out of trouble but not to put ourselves in the wind too much unless we saw a break that looked dangerous. We lined up with 80+ other guys and the gun fired and we were off. For the first half of the race things were going smoothly, we were near the front but not terribly active off the front. Nothing significant ever went up the rode.

Going into 1 corner after round about.
Photo Credit: Jim Wilson Images
At 10 to go the bell rung for a preme and I decided it was time to test the legs and as we came through the start/finish I moved up a little to see what was going on. Well a couple of guys were dangling off the front so I upped the pace down the left side after the downhill and shot up to those guys before the roundabout. I went around the last guy and continued on the gas through the chicane. I came out of the chicane with lots of speed (thanks to my Mavic Griplink tires), stood on it for a couple of strokes, looked back and saw I had a good 10 bike lengths. I continued up the hill and sailed through the start/finish with an easy preme.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Training this week - Huck Finnin' on a bike flashbacks

Had another good week of "quality" training. "Quality" meaning short and sweet training sessions. The days of LSD (Long Slow Distance) miles are behind me. My training consists of either short intervals or long intervals, that's it.

Tuesday I rode from work and did the Noon Hill ride out of Arlington Italian Store. During my ride there, I saw someone carrying three car tires on their mountain bike handlebars. I thought leaving my laptop mount (weighs 2 lbs) for commuting on would be good for training, this guy (didn't join us on the ride) took that to a new level.

I was excited to get a good ride in because last week was a disaster (flat in first 2 miles of ride). Things started off well, we were starting to crank up the pace and I was in the groove. About halfway through the ride, I started having some weird feeling in the chain that was prominent when I was cranking on it. I dialed back the power after realizing this. Still put in some good efforts and there were a few strong guys there that made it nice and fast. Well it turns out I had one link that was about to go. Thankfully the guys at Big Wheel Bikes, near where the ride meets, hooked me up with some pliers and a chain extractor and I was back on the road. I road back to work, no problems with the chain.

On Wednesday I slapped the laptop bag onto the bike, threw a leg over the bike at the crack of dawn and set off for work. The first 20 miles felt great, I was cruising pretty good into a slight head wind until a familiar feeling started coming from my bike. The damn chain. I thought it was fixed for good! Well what I did yesterday used to work with chains made for 8-speed bikes but not for the new ones. You are supposed to replace the pin. Oh well, I dialed it back again and made it into work.

Well as the work day went on I started having flash backs of my POOR RACING DAYS when I had to ride every bike part into the ground and only when it broke, it would get replaced. Rewind 20 years and my best friend, Wes Hamilton, and I are doing the old Windemere death ride on Sunday. It was a typical Florida, hot as cat in heat, day. We were about 10 miles from the finish of the ride and we were puttin' the hammer down when I slipped a chain, or so I thought. I didn't think anything of it until I pulled over and looked down and saw that I no longer had a chain. I looked back and it was lying on the road, D'OH! I tried to piece it together, MacGyver-style but nothing worked. So I said eff it and decided to Flintstone it, that is climb on the bike and just start walking/running. The only problem is your toes just barely touch the ground. Well I could only take this for about 2 miles, my boys down stairs were DYYYYING. 

A little brainstorming later and I decided that I needed to find a decent sized stick to use HUCK FINN-style on a bike. This worked pretty good until my hands started bleeding from being worn to the bone. I still had 5 miles to go. I gave up on trying anything else and just took off the bike shoes and started the long hot walk to the van. Just when I was starting to have oasis visions, I saw a beautiful sight, good ole Wes Hamilton. Wes had come back to save my butt!! I hopped back on the bike and he pushed me the rest of the way to the van. Lesson sort of learned (that is, fix chain before it breaks).

After recalling this incident I decided I didn't want a repeat and rode over to the local REI and fixed the link. They used a part called Missing Link to fix it. I may be the only one that doesn't know these parts exist nowadays but it rocks. I grabbed an extra one just in case a broken chain is in my future. I had 30+ miles in front of me and was starting to feel rushed because I only had 2 hours of sunlight left, so I paid my bill, grabbed my bike and hit the road. I started hitting the tempo pretty quick and started sweating quickly, it was in the high 80's. I reached down to grab a bottle and came up empty, damn it. I had taken them out when I gave the bike to the mechanic and forgot them at REI. Oh crap, I knew I needed water on a day like today. Luckily once I hit DC I realized there is a street vendor about every 5 feet and I was able to grab a bottle of ice cold water. Whew!!

One thing that sped my ride up on the way home was that I was able to draft a PT cruiser for a couple of miles as I was heading out of DC. Felt good to go that fast for a little while but you have to be uber aware of the road ahead. DC tends to have some significant manhole cover tire busters.

Thursday I did the Wakefield ride. I was going to meet the "pain train" at Bailey's cross roads but none of them were going to the ride today. I grabbed my Nite Rider MiNewt head light and decided to ride from work. It was a nice night and we had about 30 folks head out of the parking lot. This week I stuck with the group and we steadily picked the pace up after about 2-3 miles.

After a couple of hard turns on the front a couple of us pulled away from the group. Turns out our little group wasn't very familiar with the course. We managed to do a decent job negotiating the turns for a couple of miles until we started second guessing our selves and decided to slow our pace. We kept making turns and saw the group was closing on us. We made a bunch of quick turns that we thought were the right ones until we noticed the group wasn't behind us anymore. One of the guys that knew the course the best (relatively speaking), thought we had missed a turn and sure enough we did and turned around and got back on track. We decided to drill it and after a tough effort we caught the group after 2-3 miles of chasing. Sweet effort but that spent one or two of my matches.

Finished up the rest of the ride with some decent pulls and hill efforts. As we got close to the parking lot, I put on the headlight, waved to the crew and headed back to work. I got in 45 good intense miles today and I can certainly feel it in my legs right now. Time to rest.

Hitting BikeJam in Baltimore this weekend. The Bike Doctor team has been dialed in the last month or so and has been winning lots of races. If we can avoid the craziness of the BikeJam course we should be able to continue these winning ways this weekend.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Warrior Dash Fun

Some friends of ours told us about the Warrior Dash a couple of months ago and we signed up almost immediately. Well today was the day to see just how much warrior we had in us. This was held in the middle of nowhere Mechanicsville, MD.

We consolidated babysitting at our place and Larry and Kathleen Wan's brought over their kids and we bolted for the race in their very clean Honda CR-V. As we were getting close all we saw was lots of pastures and trees until finally we rolled up to a large pasture with about 1000 cars and couple of signs indicating that we had found our destination.

We grabbed our stuff and headed for the check in. As we were walking we noticed that most of the folks were fairly clean and were thinking maybe we won't get that muddy. Just then we looked over and saw the "Warrior Wash" zone. This consisted of two huge water tanker trucks with warrior staff on top, armed with fire hoses, dousing mud caked warrior finishers. Ah ha, we are in the right place after all.

We got checked in, chugged a free Monster drink, warmed up and were ready to rock and roll.

We weren't the only ones from Crofton either, we were part of a much larger contingency. In our heat was Mike and Trisch Usher, Porter and Christine Hinton, Mark and Christy Stuart, James and Tammy (just met them and didn't get their last name) the Wans' and us. We joined another 500 more very clean similar minded crazy people wondering what the next 30-45 minutes had in store for them. Just before the start the MC got us pumped up by doing some Warrior Dash chants and a couple of crowd waves. He began his count down from 10, the gun went off and flames shot out just above the start banner. The flames were big enough to instantly warm the area by 20+ degrees.

We are off! Started with a good trail run that quickly turned from nicely packed dirt to shoe swallowing shin high mud. The obstacles were entertaining and one of the first ones had us get down on our hands and knees in the mud and crawling through a blacked out 50 foot long tunnel of sorts. We did a little more mud running and then leaped over a bunch of five foot high walls. My wife and I were doing this as a team building activity and so I did my part and gave her a boost up some of the walls. One time in fact I boosted a little to hard and she slipped and fell face first into the mud. Yummy!! She wiped off her face, maintained her warrior spirit and plowed on. What a trooper, she rocked!

We continued on through some more obstacles and a little more running until we got to the very large slip and slide. This thing was a good 100 feet long with a good drop. Kathleen, Lyra and I were told to go. I decided to go super speed style lying straight out but after 50 feet or so I was traveling a little fast to be able to stop where they wanted us to. I sat up and immediately began doing uncontrollable 360's until I slammed into the side wall and slowed down rather quickly. Yeehaw, I was smiling most of the time but I think I will have some mild bruising manana.

Only a few more hills and we were close to finishing. The last part had us jumping over fire. We chose this time to pose for the cameras and Lyra and I went hand and hand jumping over, hopefully putting on a decent smile. We could see the finish line but one more obstacle stood in our way. Knee deep mud and low hanging barbed wire, sweet! We got down on all fours and slithered our way through without any puncture wounds but added another 10 lbs of mud. We slugged our way to the finish line, hands connected and thrown in the air for the victory salute across the finish line.

What a blast!

The rest of the Crofton contingency rolled in shortly after us. All with a smile on their muddy faces and a look of determination to find the beer tent. We grabbed our beers and hung out while watching other folks trudge their way through the course.

I certainly feel like we got our money's worth. Along with the T-shirt, we received a finishers medal, cool viking hat, one free beer and most importantly a full body mud treatment that you would easily pay a spa $100. If you are able to make it to one of these, I would highly recommend it. Know that you will be finding mud in places on your body that you didn't know existed for hours after the race. I want to thank the Wans' for driving and allowing a little dirt to creep into their car.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Successful Bike to Work Week

Ready for the rain
This was a good week for me on the bike and saving gas money. I decided since I have been riding to work once a week now for the last month that I would add an extra day since it was bike to work week. Both rides were good, the threat of rain was always there but I never got hit by more than a couple of drops. I was certainly prepared for it as you can see in the picture.

Today was a little interesting, I got started just after 6 am and there was a nice chill in the air. About 4 miles into my ride I was cruising down a little hill and just starting to feel good when an ever familiar sound of psst, psst, psst, psst, psst, ding, ding, ding followed a loud metal on metal bang. This was caused by a screw going straight through my tire, outer and inner walls of the tube and poking a hole into the rim of my wheel (see picture). Needless to say this caused another insta-flat for me this week and my rim suffered enough damage that it will be joining my other trashed rim (see Tuesday blog post) in the garbage can. The tire gods are very angry at me for some reason. Must be something to do with the end of the world tomorrow.
Screwed by a screw

The last part of my ride into work is all paved trails for 5 or 6 miles. I don't really mind traffic but I do like it when I finally hit the trails. Today however everyone was riding into work (last day of bike to work week) and while I think this is awesome to see, I think it can make the trails more dangerous then the roads. Here is a familiar scenario, the trail is about 6 feet wide with a line in the middle to separate the different directions, road rules apply, always stay to the right except when passing. Well when you have multiple people riding at different speeds and people need to pass they sometimes have to cross the middle line and those on the opposing side can also be in a situation where they need to pass. I just get a little nervous sometimes when I always expect people on the opposing side to move to the right after passing but sometimes you see them twitch to the left and then commit to the right.

One other cool thing about the ride is that my final hill is actually categorized, at least by standards, as a 5. A category 5 is the lowest categorization and it goes up to 1 and then there are also above category climbs but DC surely doesn't have any of those. My route is pictured below without the elevation chart. 

Anyway on the way back home I was able to enjoy the tail wind that was the head wind I faced on the way in this morning. I was also able to latch onto a Honda CR-V for some motorpacing for about a mile or so.

Today I was a little tired after riding 4 days in a row but I am hoping my body will respond by resurrecting the lungs and legs that used to be able to move a bike pretty fast.

My route to work, click on the route link to see it in more detail

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Watch Out for the Cops - Wakefield Thursday Group Ride

I knew about a Wakefield Park Tuesday/Thursday group ride that met at 6pm but hadn't made it out there until I met Nicholas Taylor (Team North Tek-Aria) this weekend at the Leonardtown race and he said that it was worth giving it a shot. First saw this ride listed on the NCVC site, I can't thank the NCVC ride section of their site enough for listing some/most of the rides in the DC area. I was a little worried when I took my new job with Mav6 in Alexandria regarding where I could find some group rides, I now know there are plenty.

Nicholas did mention the Wakefield ride had about 30 turns and he wasn't kidding. I talked to some of the guys on the ride and they said it took them about a year of doing the ride before they had all the turns down. Well my one year clock has started.

Again we had the threat of rain but at 5pm the skies were nearly clear and I headed on over. Nicholas had said the ride has some heavy hitters showing up but I figured most of them would be resting today because Wilmington GP prologue is tomorrow. Even with these two conditions we had about 20 guys head out of the parking lot.

One other thing of note was that the cops were starting to stake out some areas on the ride to try to catch riders blowing through stop signs because some of the neighbor's had filed complaints. Sure enough one the guys (huge diesel engine looking guy that stood about 6'4 and must have been 200+ lbs with very little fat) who had been out riding and met up with us in the parking lot had been ticketed because he blew through a stop sign at 25+ mph. He was accepting of his punishment and he gave us the low down on what the cop told him he needed to do in order to not get cited again. Basically we needed to show that we make an effort to slow down. This means all of us need to yell out slowing/stopping, wave our hands feverishly in the air and bring our speed down to around 5 mph. I told everyone that it would be good for our sprinting when we had to jump back up to speed. I got a few head nods.

As we rolled out the guy (let's just call him Diesel Engine, his real name is Brian (and not me)) who had been ticketed started off a little quick, so I followed and looked back and saw no one else wanting to meet his tempo. This guy probably had some steam to blow off. So I shrugged the shoulders and figured I could roll with this for a while.

We were up to speed in no time and when I made may first pull that was apparently the signal to the Diesel Engine that he could start ramping it up as well. Believe me this guy could motor, thankfully he had a nice drafting section behind his rear wheel that I could benefit from. As he rolled along on the flats and my heart rate started to creep up, I looked ahead and saw a hill coming up and I told myself this guy is going to have a harder time then me getting 200+ lbs up inclines. Well that just wasn't the case, his speed while pulling up the hill didn't change much and as he crested the hill I knew what was coming. The good ole standard flick of the elbow, signaling to the rider benefiting from all the draft that it was his/her time to slice through the wind for a while. I obliged and managed to give a decent pull.

We went like this for a while and I was pulling my weight until my legs and lungs reminded me that I haven't been doing this kind of stuff until just recently and they weren't ready for it. So I said bye to the diesel and waited until the group caught up with me. Once they caught I had a much easier time because at least 4-5 guys were taking some decent pulls and I could rest between my pulls a little more.

All in all it was a great ride and it was a nice break from the Hains Point tour bus dodging sessions that I have been going to on Thursday. In the future I will be meeting up with Nicholas and his buddy Andrew Shelby to ride out to the ride and ride back. Should turn out to be a nice 2.5 hour ride to get in once a week.

One other thing that I pieced together later was that in the parking lot while Diesel Engine was talking about his ticketing by the cops, another guy made a comment about his new cranks. Diesel said that he really likes them and hopes they will last because he had already broken three other cranks. Note to self, don't get into a pulling duke out session with somebody who regularly breaks cranks unless you are glutton for punishment.

One final note: I am feeling a bit inadequate in the wheel department. Just about everyone on the ride had $1k+ wheelsets on their bikes. I will have some soon but I will only break those out for races.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

HELLOOO pothole! Meet my rear wheel!

My training is finally getting a little more consistent and I have been able to make it out to the Tuesday Noon Hill Ride organized by NCVC the last couple of weeks. This is a great ride that usually has 20 or so people showing up and a few heavy hitters to make the ride nice and hard.

The weather guessers were calling for rain so a few folks stayed home but we still had a good group of 10 to start out. We cruised out of the parking lot and begin chatting about the last weekend of racing fun for a few minutes. The speed was lifted shortly after and the talking ceased and we got to the task at hand, which for me means pull as much and as hard as possible until I can no longer see straight. This used to mean a whole bunch of other people would be in a similar condition but I am just getting back into this racing/training thing.

Anyway I decide to do my part and take a nice long pull up one of the hills and continue over the top and as I am cruising down the hill, slightly oxygen deprived, I forget which way the ride goes and quickly look back to ask, when all of the sudden, KA-BLAMO, I nail a dumpster sized pothole at 35+. Water bottles are instantly ejected and my rear tire deflates in no less than 1.2 nanoseconds. I pull over, grab my bottles and fix the flat, while waving bye to the group. Even my old school bullet proof 32-spoke Mavic open pro-CD single butted 14 gauge rear wheel didn't make it through that incident without any trauma. I managed to create a nice little dip and bubble out the brake side of the rim that caused a interesting rear braking sensation.

I decided to do a few hill repeats while I waited for the group to return. Once the front group of 5 was in sight, I u-eed and latched on. Since I had somewhat fresh legs I decided to take a couple of good pulls and tried to salvage this training day. I did have the benefit of a 10 or so mile trail ride back to work solo into a decent head wind, so I tucked my head down, imagined I was Fabian Cancellera and put the "hammer" down for most of the way back.