Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Recent American social evolution as defined by children's alternate lyrics to Christmas songs

1. 1950s era

Deck the halls with Buddy Holly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
'Tis the season to be jolly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Don we now our day of peril,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la.
Troll the ancient Yule tide carol,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

See the blazing Yulbie Forest,
Fa la la la la la, la la la.
Strike the heart, enjoy the florist,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Deck the halls with bells of jolly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
'Tis the season to be jolly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

2. 1970s era

Jingle Bells, Batman smells
Robin laid an egg.
The Batmobile lost a wheel
and the Joker got away (Hey!)

3. Current era (2011)

Joy to the world,
Barney is dead,
We barbequed his head!
Don't worry about the body,
We flushed it down the potty,
and around and around it goes,
and around and around it goes,
and aro-und and aro-und it goooooeessss.

anyone notice a pattern?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Can I be honest?

I have had trouble with keeping my glass half full. This goes back as long as I can remember. My life has been one where, ever since I was a young child, I have lived in fear of the ground disappearing beneath my feet.

I have done everything I can to surmount this difficulty. Years of therapy, medications, lifestyle changes (both negative and positive) and embarking on long journeys of self-discovery.

Eventually I had to just change the way I lived my life completely. I said good-bye to the dissipation, the long nights and the rampant negativity in the music business. Yes, I still play music, but I have no longer any desire to go on the road, or to spend my life complaining about the way the business has changed or spend it killing myself slowly with drugs and alcohol, as so many others have and still do.

So I chose to remove myself from that life. I have done a one-eighty. I no longer live in the city. I live in the fresh air up on a country hill in the middle of nowhere.

I no longer eat poorly, sleep poorly, drink heavily, expose myself to smoking and drugs as I once did.

I have made health and fitness a primary goal in my life and arranged it accordingly. The fact that the music business has imploded has sort of made it academic that I need to go in a new direction anyway.

To that end (and obviously) I have been focused on the racing season each year. This one has been interesting in both positive and negative ways though. Honestly, I felt like I was coming into a peak in form going in to GMSR this year but I was wrong. The same god-damnable recurring nightmare that has been stage racing for me in 2011 has returned with a vengeance.

In examining the data from the one and only road stage that I completed (I went home after stage two) I realized that, even though I felt like I was doing efforts that were far-and-away record level, they were nothing of the sort. Certainly my heart rate was far too high. It was literally pinned at near max for the five minutes leading up to me getting dropped on a hill where I should not have, so something was wrong. I don't know what it was. Dehydration? Who knows. My weight was normal and I was drinking plenty.

I don't want to examine it any more. I realize that it is stupid to invest so much of my personal sense of worth into bike racing (especially when I have been placing myself in far tougher competition in the open masters than I would in the cat 3s) when it's "just a hobby".

But, as much as it might be just a hobby, I am used to doing things well.

No, that's not it. I am used to being the "best" at what I do. I did it in trombone playing. It took many many years to get there (and I realize the same would happen in bike racing although I cannot set my sights as high since I started as an older man and didn't bring much in the way of physical gifts.)

I was not gifted in music either. I sucked for a while at first but just kept killing myself until I perceived that I had surpassed all of the levels that I thought were significant. Perhaps it is unreasonable to have the same lofty desires in racing, but maybe I cannot change that part of my psyche.

Ever since mom abandoned us, and Dad became an angry, reclusive alcoholic, I have been taught that the only way to survive in this world is to take care of everything yourself. Hence, I have never felt like I could count on anyone (or any situation) to really be there forever, or when I truly needed it. After a long string of those whom I care for most disappearing out of my life it only served to reinforce this belief. It is still strong and I do battle with it to this day.

Where am I going with this?

It's not a cry for help. I am not asking to be "fixed". Far more than that, what I desire most of all is simply that all of the foundation of complex emotions that make up this be respected and allowed to exist as they are. Yeah, it's not pretty. Yeah, it's not necessarily looking at the bright side. Frankly, I am turned off by the namby-pamby positivism that is pervasive today. It's not a deep positivisim but just a series of "negative avoidance" situations where whenever someone might be unhappy about a situation, those feelings lead to isolation and being shunned by friends and/or electronic society.

In Beethoven's time, the entire palette of emotion was fair play for expression.

So, yeah, I'll be ok. I'll take care of myself (I am the only one who ever has, in the long term).

It will take time. But at the moment, it's not all right. It's not at all ok.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

It's been a while

It's been quite a while since I last updated this thing. 

It's been quite a while since I have wanted to. 

It's been quite a while since I have had much of anything to report (other than the usual bottom-of-the-standings reports) 

Nevertheless I have been racing a lot. Almost all of them in the 35+ or 40+. Certainly I had some nice successes early on in the season, but, as was expected, the more experienced racers have gotten their season form and now I am up against some tougher odds. That's not really what this is about though. If all that mattered to me was placing and winning races in the here and now, then the logical step would be to quit racing immediately. However, personal goals are important, especially when confronted with a situation where you are competing against people with 20 years of experience. It's not reasonable to expect that one can go from a 25 MPH time trial to a 27MPH time trial over the same course in one big jump. The only way to do it (sans doping or some other method of cheating) would be in steps. Perhaps those steps may not show up clearly on the results page, but if you track your progress over the long term (and especially look at personal milestones of power and such) then it does certainly show up. With that being said, I have made a few positive steps in the past several months of racing.

- I have achieved a sub-hour 40k (actually a sub-hour 40.4k) time trial. I have also done a 40k in one hour flat under pretty lousy conditions. 

- I have confronted the demons that have been tormenting me in criteriums. Prior to the Chris Thater, my previous two experiences in crits were 1. a horrible crash and 2. pulled/DNF. Hence I was uneasy about Thater, but I did it anyway. I tailgunned two hard races (35+ and the 2/3) and finished both. No crashes, no getting pulled, no getting lapped. Baby steps. I will establish some level of confidence with this and eventually work my way up to being a "player" in this discipline. 

- I have had a few power records of late. Most of them came on hills, but some came on flat sections. I am starting to feel much more comfortable with the 5 w/kg "Area" that most of the climbs in the masters require, although I'm still not quite ready to do it for threshold-length intervals. Close though. I did it for 12 minutes. 20 minutes is just 8 more. 

- I am starting to get that feeling of "these guys may be strong/fast/whatever, but they are just men. they are not superhuman and maybe, just maybe, I do belong here with them" 

- I have made some pretty nice discoveries about body position, pedal stroke economy and ways to minimize the use of energy and still go fast. 

Now as I sit here on the beautiful veranda of our lodging at Green Mountain in the morning, awaiting the second stage of the race, I realize that, yes, I will get there. It's no longer a question of if, but simply of when. And I will not stop until I get there.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Don't force it. Just ask. Ask quietly and expect it to be answered, but remove your emotional self from the outcome.

I think every religion has a version of this, and with good reason. It's how the game of life is played (as much as it may go contrary to what some of our culture desires.)

I have long known this technique, having first learned it on reading the Inner Game of Tennis back when I was a teen, then nearly memorizing The Game of Life by Florence Scovel Shinn over several years.

I have forgotten this over the past few years, but it never went completely away. More recently, as I find myself dealing with loss, loneliness and uncertainty about my future in work, business, love, it has become subsumed in a quagmire of emotions.

But, during the hard times, it becomes even more crucial to follow the path. I finally started again just recently. A matter of weeks even.

There is one constant these days. The bike. Music is still there, but it's mainly in my head. I am taking a bit of a hiatus from playing music at the moment while I sort out some of this stuff, but it will always be playing inside. The bike has been my companion though, and has helped me through times of friends leaving, work disappearing, loss of love, all of it.

So I am using the bike as a way to get back "on the path". I have been asking for little things along the way. Simple things like asking for just a little relaxation during a hard effort or asking for a quieter mind when the thoughts of "I don't know if I can do this" come up. I might ask for just a bit better mechanics in my pedaling, or just a bit more efficiency, or just a bit less effort for the same speed. Little tiny things.

The things that make up everything. It helps get me in the habit of staying on the path.

I had one primary goal with the Corning Circuit Race this year. I signed up for the 1/2/3 race as it was the longest race. Again, I was uncertain about whether I belonged in this field. I could have done the 40+ and been pretty sure of doing rather well, but I had a hunch that the right thing to do was to go for the tougher race.

Never violate a hunch.

My plan was simple. Stay in the race no matter what. Don't get dropped and a pack finish in the 1/2/3 is to be considered a success.

The field was small. 20 of us rolled out, including a few heavy hitters. Mt. Borah had four in the field, and Corning had three. I figured that once a breakaway with riders from both got off the front, it was going to stick.

The first six laps were tough. Numerous attempts were made by people to get away and were all eventually chased down. We would go from moderate to breakneck speed often, and the fastest laps for the pack in general happened at this time. My fastest lap was 8 minutes flat (something on the order of 25.5mph which is impressive on a lap with 65 feet of climbing per mile.)

By lap seven, the proper combination of riders made it off the front and the pack shut down the chase. I was expecting this and actually counting on it, as we still had over an hour of racing left to go. I made sure I didn't take any more wind than I had to during this time, conserving my energy for when the race would get hard again toward the end.

This slow pace kept up for laps 7, 8 and 9 until someone said that we were about to get caught by the breakaway from the 40+ (which had left one minute after us.)

I thought to myself "it's going to be Pete and Bruce".....

The car goes past.

Then, sure enough, Pete and Bruce, breakaway of two, way way off the front of the 40+ field. I was gleeful and shouted my encouragement to Pete. We cat-and-moused them for the rest of lap ten and most of lap 11 when I pulled our group off to the side to let them sprint for the win in their race, and then back to ours.

Attacks had already begun during the cat/mouse lap with the 40+ break, causing us to speed up a bit, catch the guy, slow down, and so on. Once the 40+ race was over, we had 4 laps left to go and our race was most definitely back on. Two guys had gotten dropped from the breakaway and were now dangling in front of us, as well as some guys in our field getting antsy to get clear for the finish. We were all pretty tired at this point, and our lap times were starting to suffer, but the racing was actually harder, since we would surge like crazy and string out chasing the attackers, then slow down dramatically looking at eachother once caught.

During all of this I was asking up a storm. Every time there was a surge and a little gap, instead of thinking about the pain or wondering if I could make it, I would simply and quietly ask that I could succeed in closing this break or jumping on this attacker's wheel, or whatever.

It worked, every time. I am not saying it did not hurt. It did hurt, but I didn't need to think about the pain since I was occupying myself with asking.

Lap 14, we are getting to the 2 hour mark in the race. Lots of guys got dropped. Some have already pulled out. It's starting to look good for me as endurance is one of my best traits. I was first wheel coming into the boot and going up the hill at what I thought was a reasonable pace. I look behind me and they have let me go. I give it a bit more gas to gain a bit of separation, hoping that they won't decide to chase until it's too late. The legs felt fair, but the power coming out of them wasn't terribly high, so this was iffy at best. I made it to halfway into lap 15 this way before getting caught and sitting up.

A couple of late attacks. I answered all of them, using my ask technique, plus downshifting and using a fast cadence burst which had been keeping me in the game throughout the race. We were together for the final sprint, but only 6 of us remained in the pack.

Yaco went early and I made a mistake. I should have jumped when he did. I had a hunch to do this and violated it. I had allowed feelings of fear and inadequacy to overcome it.

Never violate a hunch.

I waited for the rest of the group to sprint, lost the draft and sprinted in the wind for 10th.

Had I jumped when Yaco did I might have gotten 8th. Live and learn.

But I accomplished my goal. I survived a hard 1/2/3 race. I finished 10th in a race of 20 and never got dropped. And it was excellent practice for the Game of Life.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Is quality a losing strategy?

Everything breaks. It's just a matter of time. It has always been that way.

The only real question is how much time.

To misuse a term that has been misused often, it should be considered entropy (a gradual increase in disorder) simply fulfilling its purpose. So how much time is appropriate? If one were to construct a highly ordered system such as a stone pyramid, and then have the system reduced to completely random rubble in one year, I think that would be considered an inappropriately short time. Conversely, and at the opposite extreme, if I created something like a pastry, returned to it in a million years, and then found it to be exactly as I created it, that time duration would be excessively long. One always has certain expectations of how long lasting any object will be.

So have our expectations changed?

What brought this on was my steam iron. I don't do much ironing, but I do have to iron my gig clothes on occasion. I bought an expensive "best in class" iron made in Germany with all the bells and whistles. This was something you'd expect to last a long time, especially with the intermittent duty cycles to which I would be subjecting it.

It broke. The thermal cut-off switch failed, causing it to stop producing heat, even when at normal operating temperature. An expensive paperweight (and a few wrinkly clothing items to serve as the "paper" for now) with a non serviceable failed cheap internal part.

So I think to myself, how should I go about replacing it? Buy another highly-priced so-called high-quality item to take a chance on? Should I spend money on a product that will last? Didn't I already do this and have the plan backfire on me with a product that lasted only a few years and then fail, losing me a large sum of money. Why not just buy a cheap model with the expectation that it will fail within a few years? That way I won't be out too much money and the only problems would be increased landfill use and possibly a substandard ironing job.

(I'm not liking where this is going)

Come to think of it, I had been paying top dollar for a certain brand name of tubular tires. They had just come out with a "new improved" (more expensive) version. Every single "new improved" tubular that I had purchased had been rendered useless within a few months of installation by flats (which seemed to shred the rubber) or sidewall failure. It may be coincidental, but I did not have the same problems with the "old" version.

I decided to never buy another. I also decided to never buy another product from the expensive fancy German iron company either.

Hey, this is sounding familiar. I have a lot of tools in my woodshop. Many of them are old. Some of them are newer boutique tools, made by small companies. A few of them are mass-produced well-known items that have TV commercials and are sold in home centers and hardware stores.

Care to guess as to which of these three types are the ones most likely to fail?

I've even been told as much by people selling tools or refrigerators or water softeners or whatever. They don't make them like they used to.

So, we all have heard that axiom before, but is there an underlying purpose to it?

If I am certain that an appliance will fail, then why bother buying quality? Wouldn't I be more likely to be angry and not buy anything from that company again since I spent so much money and felt like I was cheated? Damn right I would!

So I decide to go and buy the cheapest iron I can find that will do the job, and expect it to last a year or two.



Multiply that by a few million and you get the math. That many people, whether they are consciously thinking it or not, are making the same decision every day. They've all been through this time and time again, with products that just seem to stop working far far before their expected time to live has expired. It has become part and parcel of our culture. We even have come to change the way we think about stuff like cars. I have heard that the average car buyer gets a new vehicle every three years or some such duration. Very little impetus to build a lasting product when the consumer is trained to expect that nothing will last, and the best way to deal with stuff breaking is to simply throw it away and buy another.

And the companies know it too. They know where their profits are coming from.

What is the eventual result of all of this? What happens when projected to its extreme conclusion? How will we be after one hundred more years of this trend? Will we laugh at anyone who labors to construct something good? A waste of time? Not fiscally sound?

Consider the fiscal viability of a Beethoven symphony.

Will such a thing ever be possible to create again?

I have my doubts.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Chain and Suck

(Strawberry Festival Road Race)

I have never done this race before. Every previous season I had been working on Father's Day. This year is different in a number of ways, with the most resonant reason being that I have about zero work, but that is an issue for a different post.

It's not an easy course, but I wanted to do a relatively long race (as my current build cycle is mainly about increasing volume and endurance.) I signed up for the 123 race, hoping that perhaps a whole bunch of 3s would sign up at the last minute and I'd have a decent sized field to hide in for a larger part of the race.

That was not meant to be. I'm not sure how many of us were lined up at the start, but I think it was less than 15 (and certainly fewer finished the race.) There was also an option to race in the 30+ and still be in the same field, but that was looking like a field of two, so I stuck with the 123.

I knew most of the riders in the race, and knew I was not among the stronger ones. I also had a pretty good idea of how the race was going to play out. It wasn't tough to see the tactic behind Mt. Borah's early move to put Hunter off the front and then sit in for a while, letting him get a bit of a lead on everyone which stretched out to have him still in sight but receding by the time we got to the heaviest climbs past the middle of lap one.

Then Housler made a move to bridge up to his teammate. Again, a move which I figured was going to happen, but from my standpoint of fitness was something I could do no more about than simply watch happen. The result from this move was disastrous for the field (I use that term loosely at this point. Is it still a field when you have only ten?) though as panic ensued and four or five riders went into full-on chase mode, dropping the rest of us.

I formed up with Sloan and we rode together for a while pretty well, then joined with two others from our field. It seemed as though these four would stick together for the last two laps but that was not meant to be either.

Bam! Just around a right-hand corner and onto a steep climb and I shift my front derailleur to the little ring (something that has gone flawlessly now for over two full seasons) and the chain falls off. I push the shifter back onto the big ring and spin. Nothing. Bike slowing. Crap.

I have to get off.

It's jammed.

I wrestle with it for a while (38 seconds!) and get it back on, throw my leg over and get started again.

Now they are so far up the road that I can no longer see them over the crest of the hill.

Well. So much for that.

I now have one and a half laps to finish this race completely alone. Crossing the line on lap two I am acknowledged and I keep going.

This is where things get weird. This course has a LOT of turns in it. Not all of them are really easy to see, and a few are missing markings. We've had a good set of marshals pointing us in the right direction for the last two laps and I thank them!

But somehow, some way, it was decided that I no longer existed out here. They were all gone. No cops, no signs, no marshals, no follow cars, no SAG vehicle. Nothing.

I can't really understand why either. Even though we had a tiny field doing three laps, and the vast majority of racers had only done one or two laps, it's not too hard to simply set an estimated time on the three-lap race. I was only out there for 2:36 anyway, but they still left their posts (I guess they were told "nobody is left, you can go home")

Crossing the line I got my DFL, and was told by the riders who came in before me that not all that much time had elapsed, so I guess the staff all left the course just a few minutes before I rode through.

Very humiliating and demoralizing, but at least the finish area was still set up (although they weren't watching for any more riders). It made me think of that stupid song "The Distance"

Perfect example.

Wishing I hadn't dropped that chain.

(Now I have one of those chain catchers)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Getting back on track - Wilmington/Whiteface Road Race

After the fallout from the crash, and weeks of pain and expensive road rash care, and a disastrously horrible Killington I decided to skip Rochester. I needed time to get my head clear and let my body heal some more. I still cannot sleep on my left side, but it is getting better, and all of the road rash has healed (thanks in large part to Tegaderm, what a lovely product!)

So I had been monitoring my power numbers and general feelings on the bike over the past few weeks, and decided to take a chance on the Adirondack Race Weekend. I had done it last season and knew what to expect.

The first day's road race is billed as 55 miles (although my computer read 58 or so when I finished the race) which has us doing three laps of the main course, with three ascents of the hill leading to the feed zone, plus the final 1.6 mile ascent of Whiteface (just up to Santa's Workshop where the finish line is). I have wondered what it would be like to climb the entire 8 mile Whiteface after a race like this, but I think it might just be too much for me at my current level of development.

The word for the day: rain, and lots of it. It would affect the race quite a bit, as some of the twisty descents would have to be a lot less speedy if we wanted to stay alive. Not very warm either, maybe 60 degrees at the start. I went out with arm warmers, base layer, and a vest and cap. My number was pinned to the jersey beneath, and hence the vest would have to be removed at some point before the race finish.

Again they ran the Masters 35+ and 45+ together, with separate scoring. We had 50 pre-registered, but the official counts were only at 42 by race start. We roll out, and immediately I sense the antsy feel. Riders are already fighting for position even during the neutral start. I guess it's going to be that kind of a day.

Unwilling to force the issue, I allowed myself to be shuffled back. I know this course and I'm not in any danger here tailgunning as long as I make it back to a reasonable position before the climb. I do this, sort of. Actually, I was near the back at the climb but with fresh legs I got a chance to see how my improved form would work on the first time up. I worked my way through the riders, passing those who were on their way out, and even working my way past some of the stronger ones in the middle. I crested the hill in perfect position, about 8 wheels back. From this point on, there was a lot less of the ants-in-the-pants coming from the pack. Maybe the climb burnt off some of the jitters.

(starting to think this might just work out well for me)

Of course, there was a break up the road at the time, and few of us were willing to do much about it, and they just got further and further away as the race went on. We would generally keep a moderate pace, only going hard on the climbs. The few surges were pretty brutal though, stringing us out at 30+ at times. You had to be careful not to get behind the wrong wheels on the downhills though. Some folks were downright timid today, taking the "slower in the rain" idea way past the point of usefulness and into the "forcing myself and everyone behind me to burn a match to catch back on because I can't go downhill" realm.

And a very strict yellow line rule made it tough to move up at times and I was bitten by this on the second time up the hill. The rider in front of me has clearly used up his energy, and is destined to be never seen again. He's hugging the yellow line and a line of riders is passing him on the right. I'm screwed. I wait until there's a hole. I go. I work my way back up through these riders only to see the inevitable attack and stringing-out of the field in front of me and a gap appears in front of some rider ahead. The gap grows larger. I know if I stay where I am, my race is over.

I dig deep. I pass all the riders around me and focus on the back end of that shrinking field in front of me. Keep your form clean! Keep your upper body relaxed! Keep breathing! I put my head down and look at the road. I keep pushing and pushing. We clear the attack zone ( I mean feed zone) and they are still drilling it but I'm making progress. Keep pushing! Go! Go! Go!

Shut up legs!

I make it.

No sooner did I arrive at the back of the now-much-smaller field then I receive a hearty pat on the back. Turns out I had pulled two riders all the way back to the field with my chase. Hopefully they will remember this if I need a favor.

Now there are maybe 25 of us left. The final lap plays out as expected, with no real issues until we hit that awful hill for the last time. I wasn't in good position but it didn't matter this time. I had kept in contact for basically the entire climb, but the attack came again at the feedzone, splitting the field into two groups, with me chasing them.

I had to chase for the entire distance to the corner to the return road, and then two more miles into it when I got caught by a couple of riders (including, in the best stroke of luck, one of the guys I had helped earlier) who looked after me for a bit. I skip two pulls, then go to the front and drill it, bringing us back to the field (now only 19 riders) and home free until Whiteface.

Having burned such a huge stack of matches in my chase I wasn't sure if I could do much on Whiteface, but I was already pretty satisfied with my race performance, considering the crash and loss of form, and was really just thinking of this as a "first race back" kind of day.

They go, I try to follow. It's not going to happen. I settle in to my rhythm and just deal with Whiteface on my own. A few glances at the power meter revealed that I was still able to push threshold, maybe a bit more even.

But that was not going to be enough for me to hang with these guys, at least not until I can up my threshold a bit more.

I cross the line alone, 13th in the 35+. Possibly 25th overall, and the last of the men still standing in the peloton. Everyone else was either dropped or DNF.

Getting back on track. Yes.

Monday, May 23, 2011

( Tour de Syracuse )


noun /məˈral/ 
1. The confidence, enthusiasm, and discipline of a person or group at a particular time

Mine was high. I had done a long build. I had tapered for a week and was looking at some really nice form going in to this weekend and subsequent weekend's A-race.

The Tour De Syracuse was not an A-race, but since it fell within the taper period, it would be a great warmup for Killington, since I would be just starting my peak. The crit is on day one. We had a pretty good turnout of riders in the Masters, but not excessively large, which is good considering how sketchy that course is.

I lined up in the last row, having taken a warm-up lap. Not the best place to start, but I was confident. I let the first quarter of the race play out as it was going to, and let my legs get used to the speed by tailgunning and figuring out which wheels to follow and which ones to avoid. There were a few of each.

I kept my eyes open for any moves that looked promising, but, as expected on this course, none really happened. It's just not all that easy to get away unless you have a tactical advantage, and no team seemed to be really working that. I watched for Pete and Dave mostly.

At no point did the race really hurt me, so I relaxed and waited for my opportunities to come. They did come. plenty of little holes would open up to be filled, and plenty of free rides to the front were given. Sometimes I would even turn them down, since it was a waste of energy to go to the front only to be shuffled for no reason. The time to be active wasn't yet here, but was rapidly approaching.

(At this point I began to realize that I must be on good form because I am doing a lot of nose breathing in this crit and others seem to be suffering quite a bit more. I make a note of this)

Well past the halfway point, and a lap after a prime, I take my first shot. We had strung out chasing someone down all the way to a point before the last corner when the field slowed an spread. Pete was in the front. Bam! I slowly accelerated around the outside and was at a pretty good delta-V by the time I passed the front. The next time I looked over my shoulder they were way back there, with my buddy doing a good job of blocking for me.

But nobody else went with me. Damn.

Fairly certain that a solo effort from me was going to fail with 8 to go, I slowed ever so slightly in the hopes that someone would bridge. No dice, but I still had plenty left in the tank when the pack sat on my wheel. A counter came right then (where were you when I went?) but was swallowed up before any gap was attained.

This was going to be a field sprint. You could smell it.

I resumed my mid-pack position and kept my eyes open. With one to go, there were a few Hail Marys and nobody was really concerned with them. Pete was right in the front so it was time for me to do my job. I hit it hard, came around the outside, tried to not pull a gap and let Pete jump on my wheel. Stringing out the field and hitting the climb as hard as I could, we nailed the hill at 8 w/kg, passing one of the Hail Marys near the top. First wheel, I bomb the descent hugging the curb, knowing Pete is on my wheel.

Perfect leadout.

We see the other two Hail Marys just ahead and he shouts "go go go!" I do. I use up my reserves until about 400m to go when Pete launches on the outside with maybe three in tow. The sprint is on.

I am still going as hard as I can, and there is no room on the inside to pass me with a huge curb there, but someone thought differently. I only saw him out of the corner of my eye, but he launched between me and the curb.

Not enough room. Not by a long shot. Only an insane person would do this.

He was big, and swerved right into my handlebars, snapping my front wheel sideways and sending me flying through the air, with limbs and bike parts going everywhere. The world goes black. The impact and tumbling starts, followed by a sickening sound and surprisingly painless feeling of being ridden over by numerous riders.

I open my eyes. I am laying in the road, halfway onto the curb. Two of the riders who rode over me are on the floor with me.

It takes a long time to get up. Nothing seems to be broken, but I am dazed, confused, and really banged up. Clothing shredded. bike is all messed up. Pain is starting to come.

And just the thought of "why".

Why would anyone do such a thing?

Pete got the leadout he needed to get on the podium with second place. Andy Ruiz was just a bit too fast for him at the line. I suspect that the one who caused the crash was also on the podium but I don't have proof, as I didn't see him closely.

Too busy being crashed out by him.

I asked the guys who rode over me...

"Did I make a mistake? Did I veer off line or do something stupid?"

"no, you were smooth and clean. That guy just swerved in to you."

But nobody could positively ID his kit color.



as low as it goes.

I had a hard time sleeping that night. Everything hurt. It took over an hour to clean and dress the wounds. My ankle was swollen, legs tightening up. Everything was starting to go stiff.

I skipped the TT in the morning but hoped beyond hope that I could survive the road race the next day, praying that I could salvage some form for Killington.

Legs were good for a while, even showing signs of that peak form during the first few climbs, but my heart wasn't in it. I was timid and unwilling to fight for position. On the wall I was near the back, and got gapped going in to the hard crosswind. I was not going to catch them. Race over.

Pete was having a bad day and I caught him at some point in the headwind section. We decided to finish the "race" but just treat it as a ride.

That worked for most of the day, but my injuries really kicked in in the last hour. A cramp-fest. The finishing climb I mustered all of 160 watts.

Limping back to the car, 60 watts.

Hard to even extract myself from the bike after that.

So now it's time to heal. It was supposed to be time to peak.

And all because someone decided that winning $20 was more important than anything.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

End of build - Bristol

It's been a long build. Base ended around the last week in february and I've been building ever since, with a proposed target of Killington. Because Syracuse is a larger event and happens one week before Killington it has to be considered part of the peak. Hence I am beginning my taper now.

Whew. It could not have come at a more needed time. As the chart clearly shows, I had a peak in performance at Hollenbeck's (which was verified by the race result as well). The build had to continue for another couple of weeks though and the inevitable fall from grace which accompanies a bit of training overload was bound to happen.

That said, I was not really off form for Bristol. Certainly I wasn't peaking, or treating it like an A-race. Neither had I made a mistake with feeding or hydration or intra-week resting. All of those ducks were in a tidy little row leading in to Bristol.

I just couldn't go fast enough.

That's my "excuse".

Of course, I knew going in to the race that I was a bit out of my league considering the field size and who was in it. Remember the Battenkill report? Well, Bruce Bird showed up for this race too, fresh off his beating of Roger Aspholm to win the 40+ at Battenkill. He brought with him a few teammates from Bloor, and we had a bunch of other Canadians come down from London and Kurzawinski (and possibly some other teams with which I have precious little familiarity).

I do know how to check race results though, and every name on the list was either RMMA.1 or RMMB.1. ouch.

So did any New Yorkers decide to show up to race for the jersey? Yes. A few. Maybe 6 of us.

Most of them were familiar to me. And most of them are fast 2s. I've raced against Andy Melnychenko and Dan Staffo before. I know what I am up against. The plan is to hold on for dear life as long as possible and try to have a fun day.

The field was only 18 strong. It was a bit windy. Not the ideal conditions if you want to hide in a pack and make the other guys do the work. I did my best, but it was not meant to be. Attacks came right out of the gate. Surges, spikes, Strung out lines, power climbs, grinds. You name it!

And we aren't even half way through the first lap.

By the time we get to the real climb, Egypt hill, I am still in the group and in decent position, feeling strong but a bit winded from the constant surging that has been going on. Bird and Staffo take off on the climb. 5 guys chase hard, thinking (incorrectly) that they can catch those two. 5 more guys are chasing the first 5. I am in the second 5.

I know who is in these groups and know where I stand. I am the strongest climber in group 2, but we are not gaining any ground on the climb. Two of the guys in my group are much stronger on flats and they start pushing the pace big-time to try and catch the other group on the 6 mile flat headwind section leading up to lap two.

And we did it! Unbelievably so, but it happened. We averaged 25 into that awful headwind and closed a several minute gap in the space of 6 agonizing miles.

Here was the cost:

two riders were totally shelled. I looked behind me and saw nothing but clear road. Once we got close enough to read markings on the backs of the riders up the road, my other two companions stood up and powered across the gulf of air, catching on.

I didn't make it.

The legs just couldn't take it any more. They wouldn't push any more. I had used up a big bunch of matches taking 350w pulls in that horrible chase and I had to helplessly watch them roll away from me. My race was going to be a time trial for the next 40 miles.


I thought maybe I'd have a shot at catching them on the uphill, and it looked like that was possible for a while, but by the time I got to the S/F line, they were out of sight.

At this point I had to make a decision. I reminded myself of the "don't quit" post that I had made recently. TTing for two hours is no joke, and it will carry a price, but I chose to keep going hard and hope that maybe I could find my way on to the NY podium somehow.

The second lap was mostly solo, but I did start to run into riders from other fields, mixing it up a bit here and there, passing, getting passed. the whole course became essentially dotted with little groups of riders from all the fields racing concurrently.

the second time going by the S/F line the sky turned black. We had been told sunny and mid 60s. What we got was a hard driving rain with a mixture of ice. I soaked through. Everyone soaked through. Nobody even had a vest. Totally unprepared.

A lot of riders quit at that point. I did not. I got so effin angry that I started shouting obscenities to no-one in particular, alone on the course, hoping there were no spectators around the next bend. There weren't. It was raining too hard.

The anger made me go faster. I was determined to keep going in this race even if I got struck by lightning (which was a possibility at this point).

The last time through the descent and flat section I hooked up with a couple of riders and did my best to take my pulls. I was spent, but determined to be completely out of gas at the line, and Que Sera Sera from there.

On the final climb I lost them, passed a few from who knows which field, got passed by a few, and made it over the line.

10th, out of 18, and the 4th New Yorker. I missed the podium by one spot.

After looking at the file from the ride I realized that I didn't have a bad legs day. It was certainly not a peak performance by any stretch of the imagination, but my numbers were not all that far off. I was just in a small field stacked with 1s and 2s and here I am, fresh off a 3 upgrade, in a race that blows apart on the first lap. I did what I could.

The only record set was in the duration. 2:39 at .98 intensity. That means the Normalized power for the entire race was only 2 watts below my set threshold. Tough day.

Should I bump up my threshold? Probably. Am I going to do it? Probably not until my taper is going well and I start to see some of the benefits from all of this building I have done, and get a proper time trial in. Last thursday night's race was another indicator that it's time to taper.

Here's a report from the race winner:

Note that he seems to treat reporting the same course with far less expression of pain and agony. I guess that is what it's like when you have the strength to just ride away from everyone and win races by minutes.

Some day.

Monday, May 2, 2011


By the numbers (or how to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory)


This is my third time doing this race. I did it in 09 and finished 17th. I did it in 10 and finished 44th. Not exactly the most impressive numbers there.

Here's another set of numbers: 22 miles per lap with 1300' of elevation change. Much of it coming in two climbs with the first one being a steady 5 minute effort that happens beginning about 5 miles into the race. Sounds tailor-made for me, right?

Well, things didn't work out the past two years but this time I came more prepared. I have been closely monitoring my VO2max workouts and hill repeats of 5 minutes or more, looking for improvements and even spotting a few of late.

Hence, after making the decision to race masters this year (it seemed like the best choice for a good result considering how the 3/4 race played out for me last time) I also decided that there was only one way to get a good result on this day. I pretty much announced my intentions to the rest of the team guys in the race before we started. I would follow the wheels of the strong guys on the big climb. If they were not pushing it, I would go to the front and drill it. The hope is that by the time we reach the top, the field would be shredded and we'd only have a few left, then duke it out from there.

Things worked out almost exactly as scripted with the addition of a few attacks on the hill. Being first wheel or close to it I tended to just keep dieseling hard up the road and that was usually enough to slowly reel them back in, or sometimes other riders would come around and fill the gap. I actually glanced down at the PM (something I almost never do on race day) just to make sure I was not killing myself or going too easily.

5.3 watts per kilogram for the 5 minute hill. And you might have me to thank for that if you got shelled. Sorry.

I looked back at the top and tried to count the riders. It seemed like most of them were still there. Damn. Well, maybe I wasn't seeing straight.

My major card played now, I slotted in to the field for the flatter and downhill sections of the race. Things were a bit on the squirrelly side for a 35+ race so I had to leave a bit more space and tended to draft off to the side a bit to get more of a picture of what was happening in front. We strung out a lot. More than I expected, and the surges were fairly tough as riders tried to go clear with regularity, only to be pulled back or kept closely in view. I did notice that I had been wrong about my count before. Dead wrong. There were only 20 of us left and the race had begun with 51 riders. With only the strong left in the field, the second part of my strategy would come into play. My work was done on the big hill. Now I would sit in for the duration of the race until the wall, do my best not to be a hero. Let the other guys do the chasing, then make sure to keep pace on the inevitable wall attacks.

Again, the chess match played out exactly as scribed.

And, upon reaching the top of the wall, only ten remained. We regroup. We attack. We string out. We come back together. At some point soon afterward I think I hit my daily max power in one of these surges that brought us quickly up to 32mph on a flat. On a day where I figured on no sprinting that was 750w or something.

Stabel made a last-ditch effort to go clear with a mile and a half to go, but he wasn't really gaining much ground on us, so no real surge was necessary. He was pulled back before the final turn onto the finishing climb. Did I say climb? I meant cliff.

That stupid wall has killed me every time. I think they keep moving the finish line further up the wall every year. I got a free tow to the front by a rider and then made my move as the grade steepened. Only two riders in front of me and rapidly closing I had this one in the bag.

paper bag.

wet paper bag.

very wet, soggy, shredded paper bag.

why is the finish line so far away?

why does it seem like I cannot keep pushing? why is everyone sitting down and slowing?

I am about to die so I have no choice but to sit down, shift down and survive the rest of this wall. I watch three riders do the same, right in front of me. Dammit. If only I had ...

If only...

ehhh, screw it. I did my best. This wall was just a bit too steep and a bit too long.



I had a look at the final push to the line. I didn't set a one-minute record but came close to it. I did, however, count the duration of the push.

1:45 fully into zone 6. Total anaerobic for almost 2 minutes. No wonder I hit my daily heart rate max of 188 going over the line, staggering to the edge of the road and then staring at my shoes hyperventilating for what seemed an eternity.

Everybody's doing it! why be different?

4th is good. I get points. Happy.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Why you should not quit

I wanted to.

I wanted to turn around and go back to the parking lot. I didn't.

(Binghamton Circuit Race)

This was one of our local races. It's a course the club does twice a month. I know the ins and outs of it. I know where I am strong, where I am weak, where the potholes are, where the wind will hit you, where the places to hide are, where the places to attack are.

And I know that the course doesn't suit me on a windy day. Oops, I forgot. It was also 42 degrees and driving rain.

I wanted to quit before we even started the first race. I wanted to quit when I was hitching up my trailer and the rain was turning to ice pelting my face that morning. I wanted to go home and go back to bed.

I didn't.

The first race, cat 4, was surprisingly well-attended considering the conditions. It was even fast at times. We had three. I was expecting to have nearly ten from our team but a whole lot of guys bailed. I can't say I blame them, but wish they had come. This did not give us much of a tactical advantage however as Rogue had better numbers and several other teams had decent representation as well. Honestly I don't think tactics made a difference in this race except for perhaps one or two moments. The rest of the time it was very predictable. Someone would launch an attack, or just look like they were going to launch an attack, or simply stand up to pedal, and the whole peloton would react immediately. It was Pavlovian.

I concluded that my original strategy of trying to get away early was doomed (especially with a south wind pushing you back on the downhill and back straight) and binned it. Mike and I had discussed some rapid-fire attacks later in the race in the hopes of catching them when they were tired, and we fell back on this strategy.

Mike had the legs to make a great gap on one of his attacks, getting a good 15 seconds on the group, but it was not going to work. The surge came rather quickly and he was caught before we hit the S/F line. After his second attempt was reeled in I countered on the top section of the hill, going clear after a prime lap and getting a bit of space but the wind blast at the top was enough to keep me from really getting much out of it. I was caught before the middle of the flat section.

This was going to be a field sprint. Everyone seemed to want it that way. Or so I thought.

One to go, and Rogue sends one of their guys up the road right after the S/F line. I hesitated.


Should have followed him. I had a hunch that this one was going to work. This was verified when his team came to the front and set up a nice false tempo that gave him an excellent gap which was increasing. Finally the bike race felt like a bike race. I made a move to bridge, dragged a few with me, made it to within 20 meters, failed. The rest of the pack had caught up to the back end of us at that point and I drifted back.

From the back I could see how things were going to play out for the field sprint. Mike chose to move up on the inside. I followed him up that way, hoping to get a clear channel from that point. He nailed it from the bottom of the hill and basically dropped me. I did my best to wind it up from there but never found the right gear. Overgeared is not the way for me to sprint here, and the inside was way too tight. I had to stop pedaling twice to keep from crashing into weaving and slowing riders.


unhappy. a frustrating race with a lousy finish. I have yet to do a cat 4 race that I didn't feel frustrated and tense during, or after.

At this point I want to quit again. I am having visions of burying my bikes in the back yard and taking up knitting. Shivering, cold, wet, grouchy. Not wanting to discuss the race.

I did not quit.

Reset. Change all clothes. Put new number on. Eat a sandwich. Drink a Red Bull. Make a phone call. Go back to the trailer and warm up some more on the trainer. Find some happiness again. Line up again.

The second race might just be a better one for me. It's a combination field. P123 and Masters. We all race together. The pace is hotter. The tactics are, well, they exist. People know how to handle their bikes for the most part.

And I am coming in to it tired from the first race. This might be a good thing. It has in the past.

Nothing to lose here, I play it safe and just look for good wheels to follow. I am playing this one as a race of attrition, expecting the higher pace and longer duration to take a quarter to a half of the race and then whoever is left will have to sort it out. The biggest difference in pace happens on the uphill, where the field will push it all the way past the line and to the top of the hill before slowing. It means you need to suffer for at least 30 seconds longer. That gets tough after a while. Being tired is a plus though since the endorphins are already kicking in.

Finding a good wheel was not as important as figuring out which wheels NOT to follow. Some guys would open up a gap in the windy section and you had to go around them and close it. That was brutal, and nearly took me out of the race with about 4 to go. I chased all the way to the little riser before the flat in the back of the course. Dragging a few riders with me, finally flipping elbow and hoping they would come around.

They did. Saved.

And the pack finally spread out a bit. This was a hard race and things strung out much more than they usually do. People were hungry for a win. Lots of them. Lots of 123s.

I tend to measure the toughness of a race by the number of times I have fantasies about quitting. By that metric this was a very hard race.

Very hard.

But once I caught back on after that agonizing chase I realized the pack was considerably smaller.

I am going to finish this one in the lead group. Heck, I might even do well in this one. Dammit! I am going to make something of this race!

1-to-go. Regrouping. Slowing. No attacks. It's going to be a field sprint. Find a spot. Be patient. Wait and see. Remember what you learned from the mistakes you made in the first race.

Getting close to the final hill... And a hole opens up in the middle! Fill the hole and get to the outside!

I do. I hit the base of the climb and click down a couple of gears. Sprint! Go Go Go Go!

I picked the proper side and the proper gear this time, kept the power on all the way to the line.


It's all in the split...

how many masters are in front of me? how many behind me? how many are 123s?

about 20 minutes later Lloyd pushes money into my hand. What's this?

"you won the masters 35+"


"no, really, you won."


Why you should not quit.