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.