Oxford Tune Up

So, this race has been rescheduled twice. The first time was because of snow and got cancelled because it was dangerous for everyone involved. the second was cancelled preemptively when snow was forecasted. Everyone has been hoping that this would go off today.

As I watched the weather for the week the conditions were going from good to questionable. When I woke Sunday morning it looked like we were on the edge of a big rainstorm and we would be getting wet for some portion of the day. After last week at Lynchburg I was questioning even going. No sense driving an hour each way to decide at the last minute not to race. But I got up, packed and went anyway.

This season has not been great for me so far and this is the last of the road races I am doing before crit season starts.  Getting to the race I was planning out my strategy.  There was a threat of rain and it was a little cooler than its been.  I decided on my attire and did what I hoped would be a quick drive of the course.  The roads were narrow and in poor repair.  There were some pretty significant potholes in the lane, mostly on the right side but some towards the middle.  Because of the narrow roads I spent about 25 minutes longer driving the course because I got stuck behind one of the groups finishing up.

Getting back to the staging area, I had time to change and get in a quick 15 minute warmup.  This was ok for me because I wanted my energy for the race, not the warmup.  We lined up and it started drizzling.  Not enough rain to make it bad but just enough to make the road a little wet and make you cold while standing there.  Nothing like last weekend.

We started off neutral as normal.  I had lined up so I would be on the yellow line right behind DeSoto.  I wanted to be towards the front because about 3 miles in there was a pretty good decent and then a matching hill on the other side of a creek valley.  This would give me a little buffer when I dropped back as I always do on a climb.  It wasn’t big but I figured I’d think ahead.

I was feeling pretty good at this point.  Nice and limber, well fed and ready to race.  I’m on second wheel behind Brian.  I was trying to channel my previous frustrations into motivation to do better this week.  We hit the decent and shit fell apart.  Coming down the hill I knew we’d be going fast so I was feathering my brakes to have a little bit of a dry surface incase there was a problem.  When I hit about 35mph I got a nasty shimmy in the rear wheel and then the bike got completely squirrelly. I kept it “under control” enough to get out of the peloton and crossed the centerline after checking for traffic.  I heard someone say something but I was trying to quiet the voice in my head screaming “this is going to hurt” and “make sure no one hits you”.  I managed to get the bike to a stop without hitting the pavement… a minor miracle.

The motoref stopped to make sure I was ok and see what happened.  There was a bit of celebrating that I kept the rubber on the road. He mentioned that I lost my bottles on the hill and he kicked them out of the way… I probably wouldn’t have noticed until I was up the road and thirsty.  The last thing he said was “you’re going to need to work like hell to catch up”.  It took me about 10 minutes to find my bottles and stop shaking.  There was enough time to watch the women’s field pass and decide whether I was going to continue or not.

I figured that I was out there and maybe someone else would drop off the back, so I continued on the lap.  Having anger and adrenaline, not to mention a tailwind, I was able to make pretty good time for the next 8 miles or so.  I was actually thinking that it might not be so bad.  Then I turned into the wind and it became very clear that this was going to be another miserable day.  8 more miles directly into the wind eliminated any hope I had of catching up to the stragglers.

I got back to my car, packed up and drove home.  I dropped my bike at Oakley to have it checked out to see if there is a mechanical issue causing the shake.  I noticed it a little earlier in the week coming down Salem, but I wrote it off to bad roads.  Then it was dry and I wasn’t braking.  Today the wet conditions were totally different and it was way worse.  I hope it’s something minor.

This has been a truly disappointing spring.  I’m hoping to get my head straight for crit season.

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OSRS 2013 – Lynchburg

So, after last week’s fiasco of a race, I was going into this week determined to do better.  I spent the week reflecting on what went wrong and how to approach it differently.  It was a busy week with both work and home so I spent most of it off the bike and fit things in when I could.

Most of the week I was confused about the course.  I kept confusing it with either Spring Valley or Germantown.  Rectangular circuits in farm country all start to look alike at some level :-).  When I reviewed my race report from 2011 (the last time I rode this course) I realized that this was a race where everything started to click for me.  That raised my hopes immensely.

I was worried about the weather, much like last time.  Going to the race it was cloudy and looked to be threatening to rain, but the roads were starting to dry out.  By the time I got to the course, checked in and got ready things were looking pretty good.  Roads were mostly dry and the wind wasn’t excessive.  All good signs.

Got out and did a warm up lap to review the course and get loosened up.  I was feeling pretty good about things.  Rolling back into the parking lot I started to feel some rain drops but it was pretty light.  I saw Bagel getting setup and said “Hi”.  Then it started to pour.  It was coming down in buckets.  Time to rethink my game approach.

I didn’t have time to repin my numbers to my rain jacket, so I decided to go with the arm warmers and jersey.  There was no way I was staying dry anyway so I don’t need the drag of the jacket that really wasn’t going to do anything.

Everyone was heading towards the start.  There was an awning for the school and it was pretty comical because there were 30 or more of us huddled there on our bikes waiting.  The 1/2/3 group was called up and while Ron was giving his normal safety lecture the rain picked up again.  It looked like they were floating in a cloud of mist with the rain spray.  It was ridiculously heavy.  They went off.

The 3s got called next.  Same routine.  The rain trailed off a little but not a lot.  They went.  Then a couple of guys from the awning went to catch up.  I guess staying dry for another couple of minutes was going to help 🙂

Now the 4s.  It was cold and miserable.  Ron was joking that we shouldn’t complain about being wet because he was even wetter.  I do appreciate that he has a sense of humor.

Then we were off.  It was a relatively light rain at this point but the roads were soaked.  Everyone was tentative around the corners, so that was alright.  Keep it reasonable, at least while we were neutral. The worst part was the rooster tails off the back of the wheel in front.  I must have drank a ton of spray and dirt in the first couple of miles.  Sight was getting a little sketchy as well.

We were neutral for about 2 miles until we got to the first turn.  Once we were racing the pace really picked up.  We were in the high 20s immediately.  The spray got worse and I could see how it was going to go.  After last week’s 44 mile ITT, I decided that if I wasn’t enjoying myself I wasn’t doing it.  I pulled out of the pack and turned around.

By the time I got back to my car, packed up, got dry and changed the rain had let off.  It was still soaking wet so it would have been miserable the entire race.  I feel like a quitter, but figure that losing a $35 entry fee is better than an ER visit to handle roadrash or worse.

Next week is the tune up race in Oxford.  Hopefully the weather is better.

OSRS 2013 – Vandervort’s corner

You never know what you are going to get in April in southwest Ohio.  I rode this race two years ago and it was over 90f with a strong wind from the West.  This year’s running was in the 50s with a moderate wind from the East.  It keeps it fresh in some ways.

I’ve been training since October for this race season. Last year was a tough one for me: I had knee surgery in November 2011 and lost most of the winter training time, plus I had just moved up to cat4.  My results in the races I did were less than stellar but I was ready for it.  My goal this year was to get more into my training and be ready for the season.

Getting to the course early to get a proper warm up in was important to me.  I had breakfast with the family and got going.  When I got there I drove the course to check on road conditions and it looked ok except for some areas where it was patched, and a couple of spots where it wasn’t.  One corner was particularly bad because it was narrow and the inside track was really rough.

I met up with Chris, Tim and Chuck who were racing early.  Saw them off and then started my pre-race prep.  I had my meals planned out for the day so I wasn’t going to run out of steam.  Had my snack while I was pinning my number on.  There was a lot of thought that went into what I was wearing.  The temperature range was hard to gauge because of the time of the race.  If you were standing still it was pretty cold.  It was about 10f cooler than when I’d be racing and I expected a change in temperature because it was the middle of the day.  Do I risk being too warm or not warm enough.  I opted for the windvest, and arm/knee warmers.

Got out on the course and did a lap to see if I missed anything on my drive recon.  I ran into the aftermath of one wreck from the 5s (I think).  One of the guys was pretty beatup but was ok.  They already had the sweep car coming for them so I kept going.  I made a mental note about the location to make sure to watch out for the group there.

I got back, switched my bottles and got ready to line up.  It was fun to be back in a race environment.  I got lined up and realized I still had my saddle bag on so I dropped that back at the car and got back to the group.  I was a little further back but it wasn’t too bad.  The field was 50.  With 6 laps that wouldn’t be a limiting factor.

We got off and left the school and took the right turn onto the first straight away.  Two years ago this was straight into a headwind.  That was the hardest stretch of the course.  This year it was really fast.  Everyone was jockeying for position pretty early on.  It seemed like everyone was going to force their way into a space that wasn’t nearly big enough for their bike.  I’m thinking, hey if you want it that bad I’ll let you in but don’t hit my wheel in the process.  We hit the first rise and the next corner which takes you into a wooded part of the course. The jockeying slowed down a little bit and I was hanging with the group.

There were two quick left then right turns and then a slight downhill straight stretch.  We hit the end of the wooded stretch, turned right onto the long straight away that takes you over I71 the first time.  This year it was straight into the wind.  The group actually accelerated into it.  At this point any gap caused a problem.  I held for a little over a mile and three of us dropped off the back.  The pack slowly pulled away and I knew I was in trouble when the motoref passed us.  That was definitely a confidence blow.

Next thing I know I’m all alone out on the course.  The other two guys stopped and turned around to go back; which  I thought was odd since it was the same distance or less back to the start going forward.  As normal, the race turned into an individual TT for me.  I considered stopping after the first lap but remembered what I have been telling my kids about there activities. “Its not important whether you win or you lose.  The important part is trying as hard as you can and giving your best.” I was seriously reconsidering that advice for the next 2 hours while I rode solo and got passed by the mens 1/2/3, mens 3, womens 1/2/3, mens 4 (my field) and the mens 1/2/3 again.  But you need to practice what you preach and I’m stubborn enough to do it.

In previous years, I would run into guys that had dropped off the pack and could start working with someone.  That never happened.  When the results were published I found out why.  Of the 50 starting racers, 37 finished and 13 dropped out.  I finished 37th.  I was a lap behind the pack finish.

Frankly, this was my disappointing race ever.  My finishes my first year were generally in the middle third.  My finishes the second year were bad but never last, and I could rationalize it because I hadn’t been working hard because of injury.  This year I was doing my training “right” as possible given the work and family commitments and my first race was my worst ever, by a lot.

Hyde Park Blast 2012

After Friday’s fiasco of a race, I needed to take the bike in to make sure that there wasn’t a safety issue.  The guys at Oakley did a quick once over and said it looked good but would need a tune up.  No immediate safety concerns.

I wasn’t going to count on the weather getting cooler like the night before, that would be too lucky.  Worked on getting the core cool in a swimming pool with the kids for a couple of hours and then got home to prep.  Ate the normal prerace lunch of easily digestible foods and got the Davis Slushie together.  Was feeling pretty good.

Got to registration at 3:15 and pinned on my number.  Susan and Mike had staked out a great spot on the course for the team tent and road side seating.  We started to warm up a little, just an easy spin.  I wasn’t going to make last year’s mistake and take too long warming up so I was tired starting.  I was feeling pretty good.  Watched the kids race and then the 5s.  We staged up and it was hot.  Big Dave did our call ups and we had great position (Thanks, Susan).  I love seeing the supportive team and family sitting on the side lines when we roll up.

Things started out.  I thought last year was fast, and this year was faster.  I wasn’t on the front again this year so I was feeling a little better. We hit the hill and I wasn’t steadily losing position so that was ok.  Unfortunately, I was a little further back than I wanted.  Friday’s tentative mental state definitely carried over.  Coming down Monteith on the first lap I was behind one of the juniors and he was taking one line, a bunch of other guys were taking another line and I chose poorly.  I was almost involved in what could have been a pretty nasty crash. Lost some momentum and got back into in on the Erie straight away.  Every lap I was losing ground because I couldn’t grab a wheel.

I didn’t make it as long as I did last year but over all I felt better.  It was hot but not as outrageous as I would have thought.  They were pretty aggressive about pulling riders.  I wasn’t the first pulled and was ok with how I finished given how this season has gone.

I looked at my data and compared with last year.  Last year my fastest lap on the course was around 26.5mph.  This year it was 28.5mph.  Not bad for an improvement.  Not enough to hang, but not bad.

This may be my last “race” for the year.  I’m sure I’m going to do a couple of fun, charity things but I’m not sure if I’m going to race again in 2012.

2012 Madeira Crit

So, this is the weekend that I waited for all year. And mother nature and work decided to frak with me.  So first, my training was interrupted by a 10 day trip to India, then I was knocked on my ass with a summer cold for over a week, and to top it all off the weather has been outrageously hot.  Now that the complaining is over, lets get to the race report.

I took a half day from work.  Had it planned for months.  Got home and prepped myself.  The race started at 5:00.  I got registered at 3:00 and tried the sports drink slushie that Davis suggested. It was actually pretty good and felt awesome when standing at my car in the 100f heat.  The course was due to open at 4:00 for warmups and the 5s raced at 4:30.  During the warm up I was feeling pretty good.  Ali, Davis, Doug, Jeremy, Trevor and Shawn were all there.

The 5s got off and several of our guys were looking pretty good.  2 laps to go the weather got awful.  The clouds rolled in, which was nice, and then the wind kicked up.  It was blowing the sawhorses, cones and barriers all over the course.  The officials tent blew over and took the camera with it and then Jeffery jumped in to make sure the finish line didn’t go over as well.  Their race got called early because of conditions.

Then the skies opened up and it poured.  They told us to take cover in the basement of the municipal building but we ended up under the cover of the Fifth-Third drive through.  We hung out for over an hour while waiting for things to clear up.  Over that hour we got a ton of rain, the power went out and the temperature dropped 30 degrees. It felt awesome for racing.  We got word that it was clear enough that they were going to target a 6:30 start.  At this point it was 6:15 and they said we could get on the course.

We started warming back up and it was wet and slick.  On my second warm up lap I was going into the corner from Miami onto Laurel and a guy went down.  I quickly followed.  He hit a slick utility cover and I hit something slick on the pavement.  Sucked wrecking before things even started.  Got up, brushed myself off and assessed damage to myself and the bike.  I was fine, the bike was a bit askew.  The bars and stem swiveled on the fork about 20-30degrees.  Bagel helped me straighten it out and I went back to warming up.

The wreck didn’t help my mental state.  We lined up and started going. I was tentative into all of the corners and ended up falling way back.  Every lap there was at least one rider down in the same corner I wiped out in earlier.  Bagel grabbed a broom and worked the corner the entire race to try to clean it up.  Honestly, I think it was too dangerous to race.  I saw riders pulling themselves out and I hung on long enough to get pulled.  Figured I could improve my position through pack attrition. Wasn’t really worth it since only those that finished or got pulled got results due to the number of people dropping or leaving before stopping.

Overall, not a great start to the weekend.

OSRS 3 – Harrison’s Tomb

So, leading up to the race everyone knew that the hill was going to be a deciding factor.  I’ve been working on my climbing this year, but I know that I’m not a strong climber.  I can get up the hills and I’m getting faster but race speed is a different matter.  I went into the race knowing this and planned on treating it largely as a training ride.

The turn out from 7 Hills was great.  There were 7 of us in the 4/5 group, I think 4 in the 3/4, 1 in the 1/2/3 and 2 in the 5s.  Its always good to see your teammates at a race and it works out better when everyone stays upright and/or finishes well.

I chatted with a couple of the new team members, did a little recon on the course and got ready for the race.  The weather was making it difficult to decide how to dress. Because it was threatening to rain and was in the low 50s when we started I decided to go with the arm and leg warmers. Tired, wet and cold sucks.

We lined up and I think there was a wreck coming out of the parking lot… at least thats what it sounded like with the crunching noise.  That did not bode well for the day, but heck if it puts more people behind me and no one is hurt, I’ll take any advantage 🙂

Big Dave decided to be evil this week and we came out of the neutral start immediately into the first ascent.  Warming up before hand was really important because hitting the hill cold would have been awful. I wasn’t doing awful on the climb.  I could see the group stringing out pretty bad but I wasn’t the slowest up the hill by any stretch, but I was clearly back in the pack.  The hill went on forever…. I thought it would never end.  We hit the top of the hill it flattened out and it was almost immediately into the descent. And to top it off it started raining; I was glad I was dressed warmly.

The descent was fast and into the wind.  Winding roads that are slightly slick meant needing to watch the speed.  The 3/4 group had a huge wreck on the descent on the second lap.  When I hit the bottom of the hill the first time it was time to find a group to work with.  I grabbed the wheel of a bunch of the team dayton guys but they were moving faster than I could manage.  I fell off and went into time trial mode, which seems appropriate since it was a TT course.  At this point my only goal was to not get lapped by my field.  I knew that I could maintain a pretty decent pace so I found a pace I was comfortable with.

The second time up the hill wasn’t bad and I was now playing leapfrog with a guy in Minnesota kit.  He didn’t seem to want to work with me, and it looked like I was a stronger climber so I got ahead and went.  We needed to slow on the descent because of the aforementioned wreck.  Its never good when the moto-ref is telling you to slow and the next thing you see is ambulances (plural), police cars and a fire truck.  Tons of riders on the side of the road.

I hit the bottom and went back to TT mode.   By this point the 5s had caught and passed us.  Then the stragglers were coming by.  Who do I see in their midst? The guy in the Minnesota kit.  What pissed me off was we aren’t allowed to mix fields and this guy was pacelining with the 5s.  WTF?!? I’m out here working by myself obeying the rules and this douche is cheating for like 60th place.  I mentioned to him that the refs could DQ him for that and he shrugged.  Oh, well.

Around this time it was sunny and getting warm.  The arm warmers and leggings were too much.  The only thing I could do was strip off the arm warmers.  I’m glad that I’ve practiced that.  I’ve found the trick is to use your teeth so you can keep one hand on the bars.  The rain and sweat made them a little grabby but not a big deal.

Midway through lap 3 Jenny (Bishop’s) blew past me right after the descent.  It was like 4 miles later before the rest of the women’s field came past.  It wasn’t even close with her race.  I don’t think they realized that she was that far off the front based on the brief chat we had when they went by.

Lap 4 sucked.  The hill was just painful the last time.  About half way up I saw the Minnesota guy.  He was alone and knew that he didn’t have the 5s to help him.  That was all the motivation I needed.  I gained on him the whole way up the climb. I gained ground on the descent and when he slowed at the bottom, I blew past him, hit the turn onto the TT course and kicked into gear.  I knew that we had no more climbing so at that point it was whatever pace I could manage.  It turned out to be my 2nd fastest lap.

Met my goals for the day: didn’t get lapped by my own field and didn’t finish last.  It was also a good day because the team finished without an accident.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

OSRS 2 – New Haven

I spent a lot of this week thinking about my performance last week. I was comparing last year vs this and came to a couple of conclusions. The three months of base training that I didn’t have this year vs last year made a difference. In reality I hadn’t planned on even being ready for the spring when I made my plan this year. So, I reset myself to remind myself that this is training for me not a race. That bit alone helped with the race morning jitters.

All week the weather forecast for the day was changing. It was fairly consistent that there was going to be rain but the question was how much, how long and when. Typical weather forecast. On waking it looked like it was going to be cool and wet but low chance of rain until after the race. Looking up.

The other thing that was encouraging was there were a number of riders from 7 Hills registered in my category. That might be the encouragement I need to work harder/smarter.  It turned out to be a good number of us that did show: Dave S, Bagel, Jim P, Collin, Jeremy Bishop, Scott B, Brad and Guns.  We were split between the 3/4 and 4/5 fields.  GT even showed up to give us the prerace pep talk.

Collin, Jeremy, Scott and I went out for a warm up and brief strategy session.  Nice ride and a very calming effect for me.  We lined up and had a good size field.  The race starts off and it was slower than I expected.  It seemed like we were moving along at a noodling pace, not a race pace.  I was confident that it would pick up but I wasn’t complaining.  Doug and I had a nice chat on the first leg.  Very pleasant, if not different.

We hit the first hill and there was a little yo-yo-ing going on, but not terrible.  I hit the top just a few feet off the back and caught up on the down hill.  First big challenge down.  I’m pedalling along and I notice its getting harder to keep up my speed.  In the back of my head I’m thinking “I can’t be tired already…”  When I looked down, rear tire is flat.  Race over…

Made it a whole 3.5 miles. not even 10% of the race.  It took me 4x longer to get back to my car than I was actually in the race 🙂

Shit happens.  I’m a little disappointed but at least I got to have a nice chat with the guy driving the sweep car.