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.