We raced for Caroline today.
We kicked ass.
It was a good day.
Emily, Alex and I won the relay division (and that’s kewl). More than 1,400 people were competing today. Overall, our time placed us 60th out of 518 in the Olympic length triathlon. My individual cycling time (for a 40K) was 1:01:34 – which was 21st out of the 518 (ranking me 21st behind twenty guys under thirty years of age – all of which are pro athletes). Yep, we brought our “A” game.
Enjoy the images. I can assure you, EVERYONE enjoyed this REV3 even. Ride oneth.
Somewhere near Clarksville a bunch of cyclists assembled for the Sunrise Century Ride sponsored by even more companies. Seriously, about 300 cyclists showed up well before dawn supported by a sponsor list that looked pretty long too (the list was on the tee shirt).
What about the event?
Let’s cut to the chase. It’s fast, hard and not for those who “think” they can ride with an elite group. Let’s put it this way, the first rider popped off the back at mile 5.
Some 60 riders+ started in the elite field (of the 300 registered riders). By mile 40, the group was a little tighter as it totaled 27. At exactly 2 hours (!) or mile 55, the group was reduced to 23 – many of which were not contributing to the pace line.
Somewhere around mile 67 my legs began to feel heavy and sluggish. The originating “snap” was gone and my body was experiencing the first signs of fatigue. Each pull on the front was growing more painful. I LOL for a moment … thinking this was NOT like a Tuesday night ride (where we cover about 42 miles at an average speed of 23 or 24mph), it was moving much faster. When I looked at the bike computer as we covered smaller rollers, it read 28+mph. Trust me on this, it’s not easy cranking a bike along at 28 mph for 100 miles. Not at all.
At mile 71, after a sharp right turn, we began climbing a small hill and I noticed the wind had picked up – and was in our faces. The wind was just strong enough to create a few gaps in the field within a few hundred meters. First it was a single gap, then two – then three. I got “caught out” in the third gap and the first 12 riders began pulling away. My immediate reaction was, “this sucks … I’m about to ride the last 29 miles with five other guys and we’re not going to break the record.” Keep in mind NO ONE was going to slow down to help a dropped rider rejoin the group.
In the midst of ‘suffering’ I thought back to a race earlier this year in Lancaster, Pennsylvania where we experienced strong head winds and I remembered being caught in the gutter with no protective draft. The word suffering takes on new meaning when you can’t recover from the ‘red zone.’
With that race floating in my head I dug deep and realized “I can do this not matter how much suffering I experience. I can do this.” After a mile or so I was back with the lead group. The hard right turn and head wind reduced the remaining group from 23 to 15. Imagine, a small roller and a head wind had that much impact, but it did.
By mile 80 I was feeling better and got back into rotation and contributed to the paceline. Each time I pulled through my speed would slow to 27mph – then the next rider would push it back 28mph. The last 20 miles were uneventful except for the small town we passed through near Clarksville … where a lot of people were out and they cheered as we rode by. For an instant I felt like we were in a race somewhere and the attacks would begin again soon. Ironically – no attacks – no bursts – no surging. Just smooth tempo (at 28mph) all the way to the end. Really. Crossing the timing, finish line I breathed a sigh of relief.
The elite field covered 100 miles in three hours 44 minutes. If you wonder how fast that is – just try riding a bike at 27mph on flat ground and you’ll understand how fast we were moving.
100 miles – average speed 26.659mph – average heart rate 153 – touched max three times; my personal time across the line was 3:45:04. HOWEVER, our group was given the 3:44:54 designation. When you look at the video you’ll note that all of the finishers were within a second or two of each other, but the differential was a bit more. I’m pretty certain that has to do with the actual start time of the first rider leaving and not the actual finish. Nonetheless, it was 12 minutes faster than the old record, but most importantly a USA record for the fastest Century. What a nice cap to the 2008 year on the bike.
Saturday, September 6th was a nice day for the Oak Ridge Velo Classic Road Race. Overcast skies and low temps helped make the road circuit a bit more tame.
Racing in the Masters 30/40+ group, for me anyway, creates lots of angst – primarily because it’s full of Cat 1’s and Cat 2’s. The Oak Ridge RR was no exception. After exiting the neutral zone, we rode along at 24-25mph as means to warm up but also to force organization in the peloton. It’s typical in a Masters start, but important because it indicates who will respond to “tempo pace” and who intends on sitting in the back.
Approaching the first climb the leaders set a quicker tempo — which meant several riders got shelled out the back just a few miles from the word “go.” The pace steadied nearing the second climb, but kicked up again after we exited the feed zone. The change in pace meant several more riders were shelled out the back (a technical term for “dropped”). As we turned onto highway 61, I moved up near the front so I wouldn’t feel the yo-yo effect of pace changes. When we hit the rollers a couple of riders lost connection with the peloton without notice.
Lap two was identical to lap one in almost every attack – with the only difference being the faster tempo up the first climb. When we reached highway 61, I rolled slowly off the front and kept rolling. At the right turn off of 61 I had a :30 gap on the field – and I kept pushing hard. Naturally I thought I could maintain the gap, but had to LOL as soon as I hit the headwind. My speed decreased from 28mph to 22mph … and within two miles I could see the peloton closing on me. I sat up and rejoined the group. It was fun to attempt the break – even if it didn’t work.
Lap three was more of the same. We rode even harder up the first climb – at roughly 18mph and shelled the last remaining passengers. NOTE: I realize that 18mph seems slow, but let me tell you, it’s not very slow at all. It’s enough to push your heart into the red zone – within a few hundred meters. With all dead weight eliminated, the peloton was down to 14 riders. The pace eased up a bit after the feed zone and riders started chatting. No one wanted to ride hard at that point and our average speed decreased from 23 to 22mph within a few miles.
Nearing the last railroad track crossing (there were several that we crossed), I played it safe and stayed three-quarters back. This proved to be a tactical error which cost me several places at the finish. While I was attempting to bridge near the front, the four or five guys driving the train had already reached cruising speed, and the race was over for me. I crossed the line in 10th place overall – 5th place in the 40+ category.
RACE SUMMARY: 68 miles – average heart rate 135 – maxed once – average speed 22mph.
This race capped a good year on the bike. For me racing started all the way back in February. Yes, February. My race-year is ultra-long and some might say pretty tough too. I traveled to Arkansas, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Kentucky, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama – and raced in 35 events. Whew.
Results for the year feel “ok” … not stellar but “ok.” Here are the National USCF/USA Cycling final results in the 40+ category – where I’m ranked among 4,284 riders in my age group. While I do not have a top 50 ranker (as I did last year), my overall rankers indicate improvement from 2007 to 2008.
Road Race: 221st (at 5.2% of top)
Time Trial: 115th (at 2.7% of top)
Crit: 600th (at 14% of top)
Stage Race: 352nd (at 4.8% of top)
The Tennessee-only results are as follows for the year (7th place, again):
For the State Road Race this year, organizers moved the race from Liepers Fork to a new location in Watertown, Tennessee. Although the road course was void of a significant climb, the 15 mile loop was full of rollers that when combined made for a difficult race.
The Masters 30/40+ group began 15 minutes late with a total of 39 riders. Little did we know the heat would reduce the field quicker than the attacks. Temps were moderate when we began and quickly soared near 90 and then to 94 within two hours of the start. The heat index was 104 – which reduced the ability to recover after hard efforts.
Lap one was marked with several attacks and counter-attacks. In fact, four riders were off the front within the first mile, but were reeled back in by mile 8. Coming through the feed zone as we completed lap one, I elected not to take a bottle. This was tactical mistake number one, and a serious one. In retrospect, I should have taken a bottle on every lap. The temperature was warm enough that a cold bottle of water would have lowered my core temp and allowed me to conserve some of my glycogen reserves. Live and learn.
As we cruised into lap 2, the attacks began again so I chimed in with my own and a group of 8 riders broke away from the pack. Within a mile the entire peloton was back together again; less another 7 riders. On the back section of the course, three rollers (back to back to back) were steep enough and close enough together that it was difficult to recover between them. This section allowed for a serious push by the strong men – and we dropped 3 more riders. Nearing the feed zone on lap 2, I moved over and snagged a bottle. “Whew – thank you cycling gods” was all I could offer. The bottle was a HUGE help. Most of it went down my jersey to cool my body and a few drops were my refreshment.
It’s not common to attack in a feed zone, but the leaders did just that – and we were pushing pretty hard before I could stuff the bottle into my jersey. The constant push from the front made it difficult to maintain contact with the leaders – and I truly believe it was more difficult because the heat was unbearable.
At one point I looked at my legs and arms and it seemed as if I had just stepped out of the shower. My sunglasses were stuffed in my helmet because the sweat kept pouring down my face. All I could think about was stopping the insanity by literally stopping. Yet, I kept moving.
By the time we hit those triple rollers, the lead group was down to 15 riders and we kept pushing. I maintained a mid-field position just to ensure I wasn’t yo-yoed at the tail end of the peloton. In the feed zone I attempted to snag a bottle but nothing was handed up. The leaders attacked again (just to make it interesting I’m sure) and I fell off the back. Thank goodness they sat up on the next downhill section to drink — that gave me enough time to rejoin them along with Dave Hickson.
At this point the peloton totaled 13 and none of the other riders were in sight. They had either dropped out of the race or were creeping along. Ahh, the triple rollers were coming again and I knew my expulsion off the back was forthcoming. I stayed intact on the first two, but the third roller came and I sat up. My body felt ‘cooked’ … I got chill bumps on my legs and arms (a first sign of heat exhaustion). I slowed and realized the last 9 miles would be soloville. Stars were moving in front of my eyes and I felt dizzy – my stomach cramped and I wanted to stop oh-so-bad. But somehow I kept rolling, keeping the air flowing over my skin. And too, I was concerned that anyone we had dropped might come up behind me and pass me. (Like that mattered at this point.)
Near the end of the race, I noticed a woman in the feed zone – and she was packing up her bags. I asked for a bottle and she said, “all I have is Gatorade and it’s sorta frozen.”
Had I not been in a race I would have stopped and hugged her. I said thanks and got moving again.
The icy drink felt so good tucked in my jersey – and I would have fought anyone for it at that point. Looking ahead I could see the finish line, so I zipped up my jersey and put my glasses back on. Passing over the finish line, a photographer pointed his camera my way and snapped a photo – I smiled big and showed him the “prize” I had been given. Frozen Gatorade. WooHoo!
When I stopped on the other side of the finish line, I opened the bottle again and within three gulps the bottle was almost empty. Stopping wasn’t such a good idea – so I kept moving. Heck, it was three miles back to car! I laughed out loud as I wondered why the hell I was riding around in Watertown, Tennessee in the middle of a HOT August day.
It remains a mystery.
After returning to the parking lot, I located a water hose nearby and stood under the cold water for about 15 minutes. Several other riders came over and did the same. We laughed at how “cold” the water felt — even though it wasn’t. The impromptu shower lowered my core temp and my heart rate too. What a day.
RACE SUMMARY: 5 miles of warm up (like we needed that). 60 miles of racing – average speed 22.9 – average heart rate 156 – over-maxed to 188 one time. Finished 13th overall and 3rd in Masters 45-49 – so I earned the Bronze medal. What I really earned was a 16oz cold Coke and another and another.
It’s hot out there. Ride with plenty of fluids.
Just a two-hour drive from Knoxville I arrived in Lebanon well before my start time. Imagine that – I arrived on time. Once I secured my race number, I drove out to the course and followed the road to the turn point. This would be prove to be most helpful – since I would have a better idea of what lay ahead in the race.
My warm-up went very well … but the heavy cloud cover kept the heat fixated near the ground. It felt ultra-hot.
Promptly at 10:43:30 I started. Once I left the start house, I slipped into pace and cranked the heart rate monitor near my red zone. The wind was blowing cross/head and it hampered my speed. Combined with numerous climbs (that came one after another), I felt sluggish on the way to the 20K mark.
I passed my one-minute man at the 10K mark and kept digging – then I passed my three-minute man at the 15K mark. After turning at 20K I felt the push of the wind at my back. I moved along at 30+ for a while – except for the climbs.
For a 5K segment I thought I might break one hour – particularly because I passed several people along the way. But, I was passed by the eventual winner in my group and the overall 40+ State Champ (Shawn Hurt).
I completed the 40K race in 1:01:53 and was second – which earned me the silver medal (for the second year in a row). A good outcome considering that I’m not a time trial specialist.
This year the race organizer set up a podium and had a photographer snapping shots of those men and women who placed in their respective group races. A photo will surely follow soon.
Near Decatur, it was home of the 2008 Road Race Championship of Alabama … just at the base of a ‘sneaky’ little climb. Ok then. When I signed up for Masters 35+ I had no visions of staying with the lead pack. The ‘sneaky’ little climb, just one mile from the start of the race, seemed daunting. Naturally I assumed the strong men of the race would break it up right away.
Fortunately we tempo-paced the first pass, but we did drop four or five riders. It wasn’t that easy – but not too difficult either. The ‘sneaky’ climb was 2.3 miles in length. Just long enough to test your legs, and steep enough to feel it in your lungs. Within two miles of the ascent, you plummet over the edge. Literally FLYING down the other side. Whew. I was ULTRA thankful it wasn’t raining. I cannot imagine that descent in the rain.
On the backside of the course, after turning onto the next-to-last-leg (it was an 18 mile loop we rode three times) four guys on the front sat up (all at once – which is not good) and in doing so cut the on-the-road speed from 28mph to 17mph in an instant.
Four arms were not in place to guide those bikes. Those four riders were in front of me to my right. BLEH! Wheels touched and the man next to me went down … I NARROWLY missed his bike. The pack behind us wasn’t so lucky. Thirteen riders went down in a nasty crash (they were going 28mph). I looked back for an instant it looked “bad.” We went neutral to allow riders an opportunity to regain position. Then we rolled on.
As lap one wrapped up, I rode along full of trepidation. Approaching the climb (second time), the pace picked up and we tackled the first little kick in the road with tempo. And, it kept increasing. The lead group of riders strung out the peloton – and it grew smaller. Intermittently I wondered when I was going to get dropped … and the pace picked up again. But, I accelerated again, and stayed with the lead group. When we crossed the top I looked back and realized the remainder of the pack was not going to bridge the gap. Twelve of us got busy and started rotating. The remainder of lap two was without fanfare. We chased a lone rider (who eventually won), but it felt like a training ride as we rolled along at 28mph.
Approaching the climb the third time, the lead group of 12 broke up and was quickly cut to eight riders. Midway up the climb I was in third position, then three riders pushed hard and gapped us. Nearing the top of the climb I assumed we (the five of us just behind them) would bridge the gap. They were about 50 meters ahead of us … oh so close. Once they hit the descent, it was lights out.
The descent was scary fast. My bike accelerated as if it had a turbo hooked up. The descent is gradual at first — you’re traveling at 30mph — and then it just zips up to 50mph in an instant. The lead guys were going 53 or 54mph. (I realize that 50mph isn’t that fast – in a car. But is tear-smearing fast on a bike with just some flimsy Lycra pants separating precious skin from the tarmac.)
We were a group of 5 chasing 3 … and we never caught them. They eventually put a minute into us and we put over a minute into the pack behind us. I was so elated to be in a breakaway – surviving a hard climb (three times), that I mentally zoned out near the finish. Ergo, I didn’t remember the payout was for the first 7 riders! I finished 8th and clearly had energy reserves to beat two guys in front of me. Oh well, I laughed – and was thankful I had some things go ‘right’ for me: I stayed with the lead group on a serious climb even when my legs wanted to stop, I avoided a serious wreck, and I kept working with a small group even though it didn’t matter.
Recap: 55 miles, averaged 23.1 (on the flat portions we were over 25mph). Average heart rate 153; maxed at 179 once. Touched 50mph downhill. Placed 8th overall and finished 2nd in the 45+ — beating the State of Alabama 45+ Champ.
Dieter “Didi” Senft (born 1952 in Reichenwalde, Germany) is known as the Tour de France devil or El Diablo. Since 1993, he has been seen in the Tour’s many stages wearing his red devil costume and painting a trifork on the road some miles before he’ll show up. Senft attributes the inspiration for the costume to German cycling announcer Herbert Watterot who called the last lap of local criterium races, “the Red Devil’s Lap.”
He is also an inventor who has created over 100 bicycles, including the largest in the world. He is listed in the Guinness Book of Records.
On the 2006 edition of Tour of Switzerland, Didi Senft painted his signature trifork on the road the day before the competitors came by his door. But later that day the Swiss police came by and said it was illegal, and he had to pay a fine or go to jail. He was also forced to remove the painting from the road. This sounds like something the French would do, not the Swiss. I suspect Didi’s been carb-loading and readying his outfit for Saturday. It’s coming ….
Take a look at this photo – do you see what’s really going on with the riders? The untrained eye would not notice the significant effort nor appreciate the energy required to move “at speed.” When the casual observer sees a race, the typical thought bubble above his or her head is something along the lines of …”I can do that – it’s just riding a bicycle.” Some folks feel (and think aloud), “maybe I should ride my bike – or even race. Sure, I’ll give it a try.” Careful though – don’t be fooled into believing it’s easy to move fast – continuously and for long periods of time. It takes years of training to get there — if at all.
If you care to stress your heart, your body, your entire being – a bicycle is worthy of riding. It gives as much as you give – and then some. Ride because you love the bike and ride because you know it will extend life as we know it. Ride on.
Hot and hotter was the theme of the 2008 Settlers Life Omnium. 94 on Saturday and 95 on Sunday. Blue skies and a little breeze. Summer-time. More organized than in previous years, the recent version was lively on all fronts: road race, time trial and crit.
As I’ve learned from my recent adventures in racing, the fewer number of mistakes usually translates to better placing and more fun overall. This weekend I made several mistakes – one of which that continues to plague me (more on that later).
I lined up with the Masters 30/40 group and we left the parking lot ‘sorta’ on time. (Much better than last year where we departed an hour and twenty minutes late.) Within two miles three guys were off the front and beginning to work – and within another mile it was four. Our group settled into a simple and even pace that felt like a winter training ride not a race. Sure, on a couple of climbs we stepped up the pace, but overall it was steady and certain.
We exited the loop (the 20 mile extension) and returned to the “highway” where the pace quickened. In fact, we set a tempo up one small climb without regard for the Category 1 (yes, Category 1) climb at the end of the race. Naturally there wasn’t a feed zone so what you brought to the picnic is what you ate, drank or puked. Imagine that I didn’t bring enough fuel! Mistake two and three were layered upon my biggest mistake (number one), not fueling appropriately for the race itself.
Let’s back up. The prior weekend some of us (a few) accepted the Challenge – the English Mountain Challenge. Dehydrated and crumpled from the 109-mile adventure I never really recovered from the long, hot ride. My carb intake wasn’t near enough for the week nor was my rest. I awoke every day (Monday-Friday) exhausted. I felt like I could have gone back to bed for a few more hours each morning. Thus, my biggest mistake: arriving at an “A” event without the glycogen reserves to contest my position. Back to the race ….
Mistake two – not carrying enough gels (I took one) and mistake three – not carrying enough liquid (I took two bottles). My weak condition combined with inappropriate off-the-bike refueling was a sick combination. Rather than staying with the lead group, I bonked in the first ¼ mile of the final climb.
Sadly I suffered the last two miles – at one point ready to quit the whole race – I was that “done.”
Frankly, this issue has followed me for two years now. I start the season strong with consistent top 10 finishes, but when the season ‘heats up’ my performance sags a bit.
After reading a bunch about carb intake I realize (now) that my eating habits have been hampering performance rather than building it. Lack of carbs at key times (particularly after a workout) are actually reducing muscle mass. I’ll continue reading and learning to thwart these and other nutrition issues in the future.
Wrap up: 8th place in the 40+ and I was just glad to be done.
Now let’s move to mistake four, five and six.
I arrived early (imagine that) to find NO shade for warming up. It was 94 degrees so that sounds a bit funny to say, “warm up.” In any case, I moved up to a nearby hillside at the Borla Exhausts complex. My bike was ready in advance; check. My gear was ready in advance; check. My pre-race fuel (what it was) was ready; check. My watch was working; check.
My start time was officially 6:06PM – and I arrived at the start gate at 6:01; check. After circling for a few minutes I asked an official to provide the “official time” and affirmed it on my watch. I was told “we are running about 5 minutes late.”
Ahhhh. That was enough time to circle the entire route and be back in time for my start time. WRONG> we were not 5 minutes behind – we were 3:20 behind. BLAH. WTF cubed!
When I arrived at the start gate and saw another rider with a number that was behind me I asked the question, “where is my placing?” And the lead official’s response was, “you are late, you left 1:32, 1:33 … ago!” BLAH and WTF triple-cubed.
I hurled my water bottle in the grass and got on course with a very loud expletive – which was certainly heard by everyone in the area. I made SURE it was heard. It was like a set of rockets launched in my legs and I stormed away with fury. On the final portion of the course I clipped the corner and crossed the yellow line adding ten seconds to my overall time. When I crossed the small hill prior to the finish I was out of the saddle and I drove hard. My rear wheel was slipping and jumping sideways and I pushed.
With a 1:32 delayed start time, and the ten-second penalty I had a 6:57. That felt lovely. NOT. The real time was competitive (approximately 4:15).
SUMMARY: Get to the course early. Be ready early. When you arrive at the start house early (less than 10 minutes) DO NOT MOVE FROM THE AREA.
New day – new attitude – and new information. I drank sports drink prior to the event (a first). I actually consumed a gel pak ½ hour prior to my start (another first). I even warmed up using a mix of Gatorade and water (half and half); it seemed to have a positive effect.
The first 15 minutes were full-on and then the heat of the day (we started at 11AM and the temp was about 92) began affecting performance. We slowed a bit and then the second wave of attacks started.
Coming out of turn three I shifted down and stood up ready to jump on the back … then it happened … my chain wrapped up in my rear derailleur and my momentum jammed me into my bars and top tube. My left leg was coming up and smacked the left handle bar … which unclipped my left foot and my right foot slammed to the ground only after it bent my ankle out of position.
Both my “package” and my ankle HURT. Yes, I yelled out in pain. However, I got off my bike and remained calm. I was just thankful I didn’t face-plant it … and I was VERY close to going down hard. With my chain back on, I rolled to the official’s stand and asked for help: I got a free lap (the rule) and when the peloton rolled by I got a push-off to catch back on the end. I did and moved back into position.
I was timid about shifting – thinking something was broken but I quickly forget that and keep on doing my thing: racing.
Hurting I couldn’t stack up one jump after another but I held my own. I sprinted, if you call it that, and finished 5th in the Masters 40 category. I was thankful I had not gone down. Luckily I was able to ice the ankle after the race and walk around to capture photos of the other races.
SUMMARY: I will work on reducing mistakes. And I will be on time for TT’s.
8th – RR … 4th – TT (last) and 5th – crit. This “combination” placed me 2nd in the overall Masters 40+ Omnium with a payout of $40.
I left the race, went to McDonald’s, and I bought myself a cheeseburger Happy Meal. Race. On.
When the “A” ride rolled last night a few of us were tired from the weekend’s activities. Me? I was tired. My Saturday road race activities resulted in a 13th place finish (5th place in 40+). I wasn’t comfortable mixing it up on the front end of the peloton and thus sprinted from the back of the field. My sprint propelled me past 10 riders but 13th was all I could muster. Keeping in mind that 4 guys were already “in” because they broke away earlier in the race.
We covered 58 miles at an average pace of 24.1 MPH with LOTS of slow pace along the way. Average heart rate was 141 – not bad considering all the horses – and their crap in the way etc. etc. Later in the day we completed a 20K time trial. Once again I was LATE! I live close to the start point (closer than any one else) and was LATE~! Prior to my start, a junior came up and asked to borrow some chain/freewheel tools and I responded with … “I need to go.” I helped him anyway.
Um, I “thought” the start of the TT was at the “normal” spot. BUT NO!!!!!!!!!! IT was 3 f&#@* miles up the road. With just 7 minutes to my 5:37 start time, I had to time trial to the real start point. BLAH. No warm up, just hitting it hard from the get-go. My time reflected the “mistake” … Funny, several ‘competitors’ commented about how they beat me. HA. I defeated myself by not warming up properly, by being late, and by not knowing the location of the start gate. Last time I assure you. Mistakes are what separate us. Summary – 30:13 (with a :15 delay start) – I covered the first 3 miles (warming up) in 5:40 (Damn!~) – Average heart rate – 158.
Sunday-Sunday-Sunday: Crits are it and when you’re fit you’re fit. I started in my usual last place and moved up to 9th at the finish. Good enough. Summary: 7th place in the Omnium and 4th place in the Masters 40+.
I feel better now. Ride on.
Around the Crit Course at the Joe Martin Stage Race beautiful sights abound. Downtown Fayetteville is wonderful – lots of older restored homes with nice lawns and flowers. Churches are equally abundant and beautiful as well.
Imagine hundreds of bicyclists speeding by so much beauty and never noticing it. I was one of those “hundreds” who didn’t have time to notice … well … while on the bike. After my race I walked around the Crit Course and captured racer images and some scenic shots along the way. Who says cyclists don’t stop and smell the flowers once and a while.
The Joe Martin Stage Race took place May 8th – 11th, 2008 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Renamed after Martin’s death in 1988, the race has become one of the premier events on the National Race Calendar. The NRC is the pro and elite amateur cycling tour of USA Cycling. The JMSR is only one of two events in Arkansas on the NRC.
This year, as I did last year, I registered and raced in the Masters 45+ category. The field was mixed with Masters 55+ which made the entire event even more competitive.
Saturdays’ Road Race:
The weather was cool to start but warmed quickly. Most of the arm warmers were shed early – even prior to the start. Like most Masters’ races, the jumps and attacks were frequent and aplenty from the start.
In 2007 Bruce Tanner got off the front and completed the entire road race solo. I had an entire year to ponder why I was unwilling to bridge the gap to him. This year – my thought – if he goes, “I go.” More than enough impetus to jump when he jumped.
Ahh. He jumped. I jumped. And we were away. However, the field had another thing in mind. They jumped too. And the process began again. And again.
When we settled into a semi-pace line, three guys rolled off the front and no one chased. Then another rolled off the front and no one chased. Then another. Naturally we “looked” as if they were going to chase the five down – but no one wanted to chase.
On the first climb we pushed the pace and most of the field went into OD (oxygen debt) quickly. I rode with four other guys away from the pack and kept climbing. We crested the first climb and descended … only to have the pack rejoin. I jumped again and that was my first mistake. I forgot that another climb was coming – and it was longer and steeper. Ooops. My heart rate maxed quickly and I rode in second gear hoping to recover. I didn’t. And we went hard again.
I kept pushing through the pain – suffering was expected. Our smaller group began working together and slowly bridged the gap to the riders who were off the front. Within four miles we regrouped and what was left of the field (25 riders) rode together. Mindless attacks and jumps kept coming and going from that point onward. The wind was blowing so hard (25-30), it would be insane to consider rolling away from the field. Ergo no one did.
With five miles to go, jumps were more frequent and I thought that several of us had gapped the field … but they rejoined us. Then a final attack (which I doubted would survive) left us and stayed just 15 seconds in front. Because we were just two miles from the finish it would have been a huge gamble to bridge the gap – so I sat up.
Approaching the downhill finish the peloton began a surge and the pace increased dramatically. The faster we moved the bigger the gear we pushed and at 500 meters two guys jumped but were quickly passed as they ran out of steam. Around 250 meters I stood up and gave my best – finishing 9th across the line.
SUMMARY: 45 miles – average heart rate 151 – maxed twice – average speed 23.1 – 9th place finish (improved from 17th place in 2007)
Time Trail – the afternoon Day One
The TT for the Joe Martin Stage Race is held at Devil’s Den State Park. An uphill time-trial pushed all athletes to test their abilities and mental fortitude to overcome pain. Racers started every 30 seconds to race the 2.5-mile climb out of Devil’s Den State Park on Highway 170.
This is a race of truth – because it determines what you can do without a team or the peloton.
I arrived in time to warm up but with a light rain shower in the area, I elected to use the Cyclops tented area versus setting up my personal version. This proved to be mistake number two. While positioning my bike on the trainer, my front wheel turned to the left (slightly) and brushed the rear wheel of a guy in front of me (spinning on a trainer). Within a millisecond my front wheel deflated from a pretty incision on the sidewall.
“Bad, that’s really bad,” were the only words I could offer up. I just smiled and hung my head. The double oops was (and my third mistake) that I did NOT bring a set of backup wheels (from the hotel). My mind went out of control and I literally freaked out … but my outward appearance was cool, collected and calm. I felt like yelling “WTF!!” I didn’t.
Thankfully another rider loaned me a wheel. Ironically (!), it was an exact duplicate of what I use: a Reynolds DV. Exactly. I completed the warm up with the borrowed wheel, suited up, and pulled up to the line. Now we get to mistake number four: I took off like the TT was flat! I reached max heart rate just as the climb kicked up and I was cooked.
Naturally I had to slow down. BLAH. Once my heart rate dropped below 92% of max, I kicked again and pushed hard on my pedals. I passed two riders on the way up and felt painfully good all the way to the line. When I crossed the line at 11:16, I had bested my 2007 time by 32 seconds. Although a dramatic improvement, it was not fast enough to place me in the top five.
I finished 8th overall.
Ok then. Four mistakes and growing. Let’s review the others: I forgot a backup cassette for my crit wheels (mistake five), and the trainer wheel for the trainer (mistake six). WTF x 6. Interestingly, races like the Joe Martin are often won because you make very few mistakes (on or off the bike) – and six wasn’t a number I particularly like thinking about … or remembering.
DAY TWO – The Crit – Sunday, May 11th.
The field lined up with anticipation of the coming storm. The storm is what I affectionately call the first few laps of a crit – – fast paced, jumpy, borderline OD, and certainly danger in the corners as riders establish position.
Within five laps I was midfield and maintaining.
With four to go I was near the back of the field (what was left of it).
With one lap to go I didn’t move up – lazy I guess – or fearful of going into a corner four deep!
The seventh mistake: not moving up.
When I crossed the line I was 13th and the position slotted me in the GC (Grand Classification) at 13th overall. Good weekend, but the same exact placing as 2007. Except this year I improved my RR and TT finishes.
From Friday to Sunday I was a photo hound who captured images via my Canon 400d. I snapped 1600+ photos and that left me feeling pretty good. Mostly because the images are nice reminders of why I’m in this sport called bicycle racing.
I’m looking forward to 2009. I’ll be back in Fayetteville for the 32nd Joe Martin Stage Race, and I’ll stay in Arkansas another week to participate in the Tour of Arkansas the following weekend. Yeah.
Within the last month I’ve met two Commissaires. First, I met Ellen Dorsey at the Tour de Ephrata and now, Dot Abbott at the Joe Martin/2008. Ms. Abbott is an international Commissaire – – which basically means she is qualified for UCI events domestically and abroad. And that translates to queen of the event hands down. Shall we bow? Seriously, she’s super nice and all about business. When asked how she manages such a large event (Joe Martin), Abbott said, “it’s just management … people are people and in this case the volunteers help make it much easier.”
Within eyesight there were at least three dozen volunteers helping make the 2008 Joe Martin a successful event. Here are a few candid photos of folks doing their thing – making it easier, safer and much smoother to enjoy for all the athletes. Thanks.
The photos are few in number because the pros were moving … as if they didn’t (!) ascend the 9 miles to Mount Gaylor. They came up on us very quickly – jumped by us quickly – and were GONE.
After a brief ride on my bike this morning, I took a quick shower, ate some lunch and visited Wal-Mart. Yeah. I bought the Canon EF f/4.5 70-300mm lens for my 400d. Alas, most of today’s photos resulted from my purchase. I’m certainly no professional – but I do enjoy capturing what I see. These are from the top of Mount Gaylor – from what’s left of the tourist stop on Highway 71. Prior to I-540, this was a stopping point for lots of travelers …. today it feels like a ghost town.
The 31st edition of the Joe Martin Stage Race kicked off today, May 8th in Fayetteville, Arkansas and will continue through Sunday, May 11th. More of “this” please.
When the late Joe Martin began the Fayetteville Spring Classic cycle race in 1978, he might not have realized it would become one of the longest and continually held races in the country. Renamed after Martin’s death in 1988, the race has become one of the premier events on the National Race Calendar.
The NRC is the pro and elite amateur cycling tour of USA Cycling. The JMSR is only one of two events in Arkansas on the NRC. The three-day, four-stage race will offer more than $55,000 in cash and merchandise to competitors across 11 categories. This year event planners are expecting 700 riders with approximately 1,000 support personnel for the three-day event. From the front lines tomorrow many cameras will snap the action and follow the peloton throughout the 110 mile road race for Elite men and Pro Women. It’s time.
These are some of the images that seem to stand out in the sea of images I captured while standing around after my race. Enjoy.
The time trial, for Masters men, started early. Burr is what I added to “Pain Mountain.” It was 46 degrees when we started (my start time was 8:10), a little wet (just rained prior to the start) and misty.
Lots of guys were on road bikes and that made me wonder, “what the hell am I doing with my TT bike?” It didn’t matter at that point because I left my road bike at the hotel! I strolled over to a guy who was preparing some wheels for a team and asked him to help me with my rear disc wheel. In getting it pumped up I asked if lots of guys were on TT bikes. His comment: “The first 5 or 6 miles are the race and a TT bike will give you an advantage.” With the tire and the insights I started to warm up.
Naturally I like to push my luck in getting to the starting line on time. I rolled to the start area with ONE minute to spare. Literally. I pulled off my rain jacket and clipped in my pedals.
Somewhere at mile 4-ish, I passed my thirty-second man, then my one-minute man, then my minute-and-a-half man … but that was mid-way up Pain Mountain. Ha.
Pain Mountain is an 18%-20% grade in the steepest section. Clearly I had the wrong gears … as I almost ground to a halt. At 1Km I clicked over to 23 minutes … and it took me another three and a half minutes to climb 1Km. WTF! Let me tell you – I can climb but not on a TT bike, with the wrong gears, slipping tire, stabbing pain, etc. etc. A little easier gear (I had an 11-23 on the rear) would have helped. I finished at 26:29 (8 miles total).
Later in the day I learned that I was 10th overall – with just 19 seconds separating the guys in 5th through 10th position. I kept imaging a different gear selection and what I “could have done.” Ok – next year. I was happy to pull a 10th place finish.
I left the area and drove back to Lancaster. I ate a Mickey D’s Egg McMuffin and then I stopped at Sheetz and got a breakfast burrito to go. I drank more coffee … I went in and packed … I showered (again) … I readied my road bike. I left.
CRIT Time. First, I dislike crit racing. I’ve had two lovely wrecks in crits and both ended in concussions. My policy is to start at the back and work my way up. Crazy policy but at least I have the opportunity to either be dropped or move up.
The short version: I moved up to 20th place in the crit and never worked that hard. We averaged 25.8 for 22 laps. Pretty fast considering that we slowed up with 7 lead changes.
SUMMARY: 17th in RR, 10th in TT and 20th in Crit; 16th overall and I was happy to walk away from the weekend with some lessons to help me in the future. One thing I learned – in a Masters field full of CAT1/2’s you can bank on it being fast, intense and competitive. I believe the Tour de Ephrata is on my list of repeats for 2009.
Photographs from the 2008 Tour de Ephrata on Elco Road.
The Amish countryside near Myerstown gave a few hundred racers the opportunity to test their ability to push, recover, and push even harder. The weather in the early part of the day was sunny and clear. Within hours however the skies clouded up and the temperature dropped significantly.
Let’s see how this short and painful road race unfolded.
Accustomed to jumping from the get-go – that’s exactly what I did. It was met with frowns and some odd looks. By the first turn the pace heated up. I held a line and got pushed aside. I touched a guy on the hip and it offered up some words that didn’t feel right. He ended his sentence with “fuck you.” Several of his teammates from the “Spinners” did more of the same – three of which pushed me out of the pace line. I suspect my jersey was foreign to them and they had no intentions of allowing me to stay in the pace line. Within the next mile the field jumped three times and five guys were off the front.
Not knowing anyone in the race, I would assume the few guys that launched an attack were actually elite riders who were Pros or CAT1’s. They were away – and with a strong and steady headwind for half of the course, we weren’t going to catch them unless the group worked. Clearly no one wanted to work. However, the pace and the movement on course felt more like a crit than a road race. How I wished we had a real hill to climb – to weed out some of the followers unwilling to work.
The smell of fertilizer and chicken houses (grow-out houses) was all around us … it was strong. We were in the middle of farming country with many growers laying down fertilizer most of day. I stayed near the front and worked – not with “bridging the gap” in mind – with the hopeful attitude that a few of use might make a break. No luck. Not on any lap.
The last leg of the race had us fighting a terrific cross wind and it meant that most riders were in the gutter with nothing to do but push.
The “sprint” started sooner than expected, and with about 500 meters the group strung out. I went into my best TT position and pushed. I passed six guys and crossed the line 17th. Glad to be “DONE.”
Afterward I spoke with Ellen Dorsey, UCI Commissaire about the interaction on-course. Funny, we both agreed that the rider’s sponsors wouldn’t appreciate showcasing a “tude” while racing. Moving onward – yes.
SUMMARY: 35 mile circuit race – average speed unknown (computer didn’t track it) – average heart rate 161 (whew) – new max heart rate at 191. 17th place in a field of 62 riders.
Ok then. I left on time and had an open road with lots of po-po in the way. No less than 6 before I left town. My happy ass is en route to Ephrata, Pennsylvania — near Lancaster, PA. My pal Jojo and I stopped along the way to pick up some of his friends.
(L to R: Sneaky, Red, CrossEye, Slim, and Popeye)
The attached photo depicts the mod-squad – some real punks if you ask me. Thank goodness they sat in the trunk and were a bunch of funky monkies. Then, when we got to the hotel room — Mr. Bigshot — Jojo — was the first one to call for a beer! Showing off. (He puked about 2AM!).
Alright. The road is calling and I’ve got a buck-twenty-five in the morning. I’ll catch up on the photos and travel talk later. Best get the mod-squad up and fed. peace.
The short version: the weather was perfect, the road course was rolling and fairly nice, and the field was full with ample competition.
Now the up front shiznet: Awoke early. Ate early. Left late. Drove fast. Over 100 at times. Missed the turn. Went 19 miles to far (out and back). Got a ticket (75 in a 45). Yelled FUCK as loud as possible while getting the ticket. Officer returned with a “tude.” Reduced the ticket to 55 in a 45 (Yay!). Got directions. Asked if the posse was coming – “no” was the response. Arrived in time to fill bottles, finish suiting up, pump up tires and lock the car. Rolled to the start without a minute to spare. Again, I missed the MASTERS field. WTF.
I had every intention of making the MASTERS field today. After all, the reason I traveled 200 miles was to ride with the MASTERS. The race series separates the 35+ from the 45+, which I like a lot.
Oops. I didn’t make it. I rode with the CAT3’s again.
The start was without the fanfare – as I imagined. I was “cold” so there would be a few miles of “warming” up — and I was right. Within two miles we were hammering. Oh boy. Since I was pissed at the situation (that I got myself into) I elected to jump … and jump again. The first six breaks I chased down and loved every minute of it. Nothing like a ‘racing warm up.’
Near the end of the first lap (27.5 miles per lap), we cruised hard toward the finish area and it was our opportunity to view the road, the narrow road with a faded yellow line and the assigned area (both lanes) for sprinting. More of the same from the first lap followed the start/finish line. Attacks, bridging, more attacks, working hard, etc. Soon after the first lap, I rubbed wheels with a CAT3 woman riding in our group and nearly went down. Yes, this event was full of shiznet.
The last few miles were much like the first few miles. I sat in 8th place riding toward the finish, but a little wheel rubbing from someone in front of me sent the field flying to either side of the road, and several of us touched our breaks for just a second to avoid what we thought was a crash. Thank goodness the two riders that touched stayed upright. The race, however, was over for those of us who touched our breaks.
SUMMARY: 55 miles total racing. Nine hills with one real climb. Average heart rate 140. Maxed at 189 which is a new “high” for me. Oldest in the peloton by 6 years. Average speed 24.1. Placed 18th.
I’m really tired. Friday started with a couple of “huddle” sessions then we met some. Umm. Meetings with interns, met with my bike mechanic while cramming my sandwich down. Met again with my interns.
Met with colleagues. Supped, drupped, hupped, cupped, bupped, etc. Then packed it up and traveled 200 miles to Statesville, North Carolina. The best part of today was dinner: 7oz filet medium rare, fresh asparagus, salad with plump tomatoes, fresh bread with cheese, the Buckler non-alcoholic beer, a Sam Adams real beer, and relaxation. I packed the dinner – and enjoyed eating it. A lot.
Tomorrow is going to be race-day. Best get some shut eye and mentally prepare. Good night.
Yesterday was very stressful. On a bunch of levels. I then picked my ass up from my chair in my office, packed my bags and headed out into the pouring rain – to drive in heavy traffic. More blah. The trip to Asheville felt like the spin cycle was stuck and I was just getting wet to no end. On the other side of the mountains the sky parted and I saw a glimmer of blue – but then the sun set on me.
I traveled to Greenville, South Carolina again for a race. Another in the Hincapie Sports – Spring Training Series. I elected to travel on Friday because the race started at 9AM this morning … so I camped out at the Hampton Inn. Luck would have it that I found a Whole Foods Market – and that made the trip delightful. My daily ration of asparagus and some tasty tenderloin – along with the requisite after-dinner sweet treat – some non-alcoholic beer and I was set. The asparagus was grilled and the tenderloin med-rare and ready to eat. YUMMY!
I checked in – unpacked and ate. 5AM was coming soon enough – so I tucked in early.
Sure enough the alarm clock worked as planned. I ate (leisurely) – readied my bike – showered and shaved … and strolled to the race site. I was early and there was no line. So far (at that point), great.
When I returned to the car and began the ritual of pinning my number, picking my wearables, finding my drinks and gel-paks … I noted (in HORROR) that my helmet was missing. Ooopps. Prior to the baby going waggghhhh I realized that I placed it in my street clothes bag – NOT the cycling bag. With the helmet in hand I made a vow to use my check list from now on – no questions.
Alright then. Today’s little adventure was 60 miles of rolling hills and a couple of short climbs in the hinder lands near Greenville. The wind, as usual, made its presence known early – clocked at a steady 20mph. And 8 miles of the 15 mile loop were “in the wind.” Oh boy.
RACE TIME: The field was the same size from the prior weekend with some new faces – and some friendly ones that I recognized. Although the first mile was neutral, a hog-dog took off and led for the first lap. Whatever. I stayed near the front and worked – and worked. Three attempts to break away with a couple of guys only motivated the field to jump on us. Some guys tried to get away – with the same reaction by me and the rest. The second lap (15 miles each lap), we were catching the group in front of us and the group behind us was catching us. Big ooops. Now what? The marshal whipped his motorcycle up beside me and said slow down – you need to ride neutral. For the next 5 miles we did just that – ride slow.
On lap three some guys broke off the front and a small “band” of us reeled them back in – and yes, they were very annoyed. This kept happening and I felt like – at some point – a group would bridge away. Nope. Not today. The wind was too strong and the climbs were just steep enough that several us brought the field back up to the ‘jumpers.’ As we passed the finish line for lap 4 the field looked anxious and the tempo really heated up. My heart rate maxed out twice as I attempted to stay with the first 8 riders. I wanted the guys in that small group to be comfortable with my presence so it didn’t look odd when we made the last climb of the day.
We when did make the final climb of the day some fools jumped around us (passing over the yellow line) – the marshal honked his horn and it created mayhem on the front. A guy dropped his chain and before I knew it, the first 8 or 9 guys were now 14 and I wasn’t with them!!!!
With a ½ mile to the finish (slightly uphill), I got on the bridge of my saddle and went into the best time trail position I could muster up – my legs were screaming with anger – my heart rate was 94% of max – and slowly I began bridging the gap. Reiterate – s l o w l y. I just about called it a day and sat up but realized I was nearing those “jumpers” who crossed the yellow line and skated away. At the 200 meter sign I stood up and I promise you – uphill, in the wind, I was going (maybe) 21mph. HA! I held off a couple of guys who wanted my slipstream and I almost got the “jumpers.”
Race Day Two done: 60 miles – rolling with two climbs – 22.8 average speed (we had 15 minutes in neutral) – average heart rate 147 (maxed 2 times) – finished 5th. Collected $20 bucks and headed home – 200 miles home.
OH. Rumor had it that George Hincapie was going to race with the Pro1,2 but never did show. I doubted the rumor – I mean – would George risk a crash in a Podunk race just to whip some ass? No. He’s headed to Europe for a few months to really race. Ride on and good luck George. Maybe we’ll see you next year.
I drove 200 miles (one way) for a race at Donaldson Center Industrial Air Park in Greenville, South Carolina today. Sponsored by Hincapie Sports (that’s George Hincapie, Lance Armstrong’s chief lieutenant for all of his seven Tour de France wins), this is the fifth year of the series. A few years ago the fields were small and tight. Bicycle racing popularity has dramatically influenced field size – meaning more racers for each category.
Even the women’s field was full today.
Alright – the loop around the airport is six-something miles. Lots of wind and a couple of decent climbs make the course tough … with wind, but not so much if the wind isn’t blowing. Today it was howling at 20+mph. Blah. I started on the line at the right and quickly moved my happy ass to the first corner in the front. I had no intention of dealing with a full field, navigating the first turn of the first race of the season. Oops, the freakin race computer didn’t work. Ergo – I had only my heart rate monitor to refer to for “data.”
Somewhere nearing the 3/4 portion of the first loop a couple of guys jumped — I did too. The peloton picked us up quickly. The race continued and three guys went — I did too. The third surge was met with more guys than the last. The fourth surge and two of us were away … swept up within a 1/2 mile. Again the field surged (each time into the wind, not with the wind) it was becoming harder because there was no true recovery between surges. Near the section where the wind switched from “in your face” to “at your back” a group of two went hard. They moved away very quickly.
Ok. We’re (the field) now shooting it out for third place unless we catch them. (I doubted that because David Grice from Hearn’s Smith Barney was one of the two).
The field pushed hard on the second loop near the first climb … and the front of the field surged again. With the wind howling in our faces – someone kicked it one mo’ time near the top. Thanks goodness I was near the front otherwise I would have been dropped. (Yet another reason to be in the front!) I had very little ump in my thump, but somewhere in my heart rate monitor I saw some room to go with them. I’m glad I did. We were first a group of four – then five – then six – and me seven; we time trailed into the wind and within one mile we had a :40 gap. “FuckinA!”
I think we wanted to break away – more so because it was safer – and secondarily because we knew we’d have a better chance of placing if we gapped the field. I kept looking at the heart rate monitor, and it read ‘high’ numbers. At 92% (of max) there wasn’t much room. I wasn’t breathing hard, but the lactic acid in my legs made them feel like lead. I kept telling myself it didn’t matter … this was a first race … “it doesn’t matter!” i.e., no points for USCF ratings, so I dug in way deep.
On the fourth lap, the two guys in front of us were 1:20 and the field behind us was 1:20. The time gaps (front and rear) stayed pretty much the same for the remainder of the race. Three guys attempted to gap from the field to us but we re-grouped and rotated pretty hard for a couple of miles before they got sucked back into the field. It was a hard race – especially because I had not trained (yet) in those heart rate zones (90 to 95% of max).
My mind kept struggling with WHY? And WHY was I doing this – how crazy is this??!! I mean, you can be fit by riding your bike and hitting the weights a couple days per week. BUT you will not be super-fit if you don’t train to race – and then race when you can. And the real answer to WHY is this: the season is VERY long. It starts in February and we continue racing through September.
RECAP First race: Donaldson Center Road Course — average speed 23.8 — average heart rate 154 — touched the max heart rate twice — finished 8th. Out of 54. (and it was a three-way tie between 6,7,8 and I was on the outside of the camera so I got the number 8. The guy on inside got the 6 and the guy in the middle who truly was 6 got 7 — so I’m way-ok with where I finished. We dropped the damn field and that felt good.)
Good day, good first race. Ride on.