Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Fly New Kicks

I was thinking back on my training this season and came to the conclusion that I cannot recall the last time my form developed quite as quickly or as sharply. In May of this year I was nowhere. My form was gone and my desire was less. Blame it trial in New Orleans, cold weather or my lack of enthusiasm to put in the miles and the effort needed at the time. However, somewhere along the line everything clicked again and my focus returned.

The problem is that I appear to have gone and broken myself, temporarily. My knee has slowly started giving me troubles over the past couple of days. It culminated on Saturday with pain so deep that I almost wanted to cry. However, following strictly the Topeka Rules of Cycling, I banished that thought from my mind as I would have clearly gotten my butt kicked when I voyage there later this Summer. Coach Adam and I have been working on figuring out what the problem is that caused my pain. However, in an effort to be good to myself and in the hope that money can buy happiness, I went out and bought a new pair of Time RS Carbon shoes. Now I'm officially super fly.

I had rode the greatest pair of shoes, Specialized Road Pro Carbons, for a long time. They actually replaced my original shoes which were hideous Italian made mistakes. I remember the day in Tuscaloosa that those shoes finally died. I was getting ready for a ride and went to pull on one of the straps and the whole damn thing just came off in my hand. In order to do a short ride that day I actually ended up getting a roll of packing tape and wrapping my entire shoe thick enough to hold my foot in the pedal.

Well my fancy new Time shoes have made me happy. They match the team kit (red/white/black) because everyone knows it's not necessarily how fast you are but how fast you look. They also are really comfortable and allow me to feel the pedals. I'm just going to have to figure out how to fix my brokeness first before the last races scheduled for the end of August.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Turn Left and Go Fast: Hunny Bop Crit

To date I have not been offered a spot with Denny Hamlin's No. 11 FedEx Toyota team. That's ok by me. I'm sure they are just waiting for next year to offer me a spot in NASCar as I am sure it would be very intimidating for me to roll up at Daytona next year on my Cannondale for my debut.

In order to prove that I am fast and have skills in turning left, I attended the Hunny Bop crit this weekend. The naming of a bike race is truly an art form, especially since they shift around in the calendar so much. I cannot count the number of Bunny Hop or Turkey Trot races which are actually held nowhere close to Easter or Thanksgiving. Thankfully the promoters of the Hunny Bop realized this and renamed their race.

The scene was set: 50 riders, 75 minutes, 100 degrees. The race was pleasant simple and easy...then we hit the first corner and that all changed. It was a wide open crit with plenty of room to move around and no need to hit your brakes through the corners. A flurry of attacks went up the road quick but nothing stayed away for very long. At about the 30 minute mark a strong break emerged with one of my teammates in it and the pace slowed just a bit, which was fortunate because I'm pretty sure we were about to go to plaid.

The break got about 30 seconds on the field and I thought it was gone. Then suddenly the gap came down...28 seconds...25 seconds...8 seconds...caught. The field ramped the pace back up and the attacks started all over again. I covered a jump and lit about every match I had. Right as I was about to snap I looked up and the guy sat up. I licked all my wounds and slid back into the field and the safety of the draft.

With about 5 to go I found myself in 6th wheel with my head down, in the drops, on the tip of the saddle and my vision going to red. I'm only hoping that there was at least one guy behind me who was having half the trouble I was with the pace. I stayed there for about a lap when the pace let up just enough for the leading train to get swallowed up by the advancing field. Cracked in two and with a teammate in a good spot for the sprint, I rolled in with the field and counted it a solid day of racing.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

MABRA Crit Championship: Exploring Scenic Hagerstown

Saturday saw another 14 minutes of anaerobic racing smashed in the middle of an hour long crit. It was a good course with a little bit of technical thrown into a hammer fest. Turn two was over 90 degrees and it came off a little twist of the road in the opposite direction you might want to drive your bike. A pair of crashes in that corner testified to exactly how quick things can get out of control.

The first 15 minutes of the race reminded me of that time that I hated life. I started in the back of the field because . . . I don't know that's where I have a tendency of starting when I cannot get into my pedals and feel like a Cat 5. Just as I was about to think of hitting the pool for a afternoon of suntanning, a hole opened up and I rode straight up to the front of the field. Once I was there life was a heck of a lot easier.

A big 'ol crash happened on the flat finishing straight two inches in front of me. Somehow I rode around flaying arms, wheels, water bottles and bodies. A quick compliment from a fellow bike race and we were off again. Somehow a field of 50 shrunk quickly to 35. With about six to go I rolled off the front and got about 20 meters on the field. I took a peak down at the PowerTap and made a quick calculation abut how long I could hold my wattage. However, in the time it took to do that math the field swallowed me up.

I regrouped and prepared for another assault with about 2 or 3 to go because I was bound and determined not to be in the field if it came to a field sprint as my positioning this year has just been off. Sadly, at 3 to go we were strung out single file and it stayed there till the very end. As has been my habit this year I was way off target in my position and just rolled in with the field.

A couple good lessons came out of this race. I shouldn't be afraid of seeing power numbers over 500 watts because I can hold that and repeat that effort. It's always better at the front of the field. And, it's about time that I start finding ways to get in better position and take advantage of my form that looks like it is slowly coming into its own.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Sweet Home Chicago

I was able to go home twice within the last two weeks. It was great to see Mom and Dad and to have some decent pizza. I've missed being home but haven't missed the craziness that is Chicago traffic. Mayor Daley, in his infinite genius has put palm trees on the Oak St. beach.

That's literally a palm tree in front of The Drake hotel and the John Hancock building. I've spent a lot of time staying at The Drake which is just a great hotel. The rooms are huge and very plush. I mean you literally fall into the beds which is such a good feeling. My legs have been absolutely murdered these last couple of weeks.

Coach Adam and I have been trying to improve my crit riding ability and my power coming off the corners. At the crit in Tour of Washington I was putting out over 600 watts once a lap and that ate away at my legs (not to mention the random ambulance that was outside of the corner for half the race). This weekend is the MABRA Crit Championships and we'll see if my power has improved.

I feel that it's become a lot easier to put up bigger numbers repetitively and I'm hoping that it shows this weekend. When I first started training with a PowerTap I was impressed to see a number over 1000. I thought that it was crazy but now I hit those numbers two or three times a day during my normal workouts. I'll have to really open it up some day and see what my top number is now.

Monday, July 07, 2008

DC Cycling Has Been Invaded... bike riding Fred's like this dude and to me they are known as the Klingons. You guys know who you are. Yes you, the dude who wears his Primal Fear kit and the clip on aero bars on your insanely expensive Trek that you have no business owning. The same guy who hits Rock Creek Park like it's stage three of Le Tour and sucks my wheel while I'm heading out of the park like I'm on Cipo's lead-out train of old.

Seriously dude, I don't know you. I didn't set out to ride with you. I don't want to ride with you. You are literally just the guy I passed right before a stop light and you should disappear just as quickly. What's sad and worse is that honestly I fear that the klingon gets some kind of Saturday-morning-world-championship joy out of riding my wheel.

If your goal is ride with me to prove your fredhood, why don't you try riding the next 60 miles with me. You know the one's I do after I leave you in the park. Don't worry, I know you're probably confused by a lot of this so I went online and ordered a book on how to speak klingon and I am listening to audio tapes so in the future I can say get dropped in your native language.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Hill with a Chapel, North Cackalacky

I always attempt to pay great attention to detail, so in titling this post I sought out sources for the correct spelling of Cackalacky. I consulted the internet's more reliable sources including but eventually settled on the spelling above from wikipedia. A side-note, wikipedia should never be used in Court as a source for anything.

Let's not kid ourselves, Chapel Hill has legit riding. I spent the last half of the week in the carolina blue paradise that is UNC. As it is less than a 5 hour drive and only about a 1 hour flight I opted for the former and brought the bike with me. I wish there was some mathematical formula that would indicate when I should fly somewhere or when I should drive there. Some formula which says that the aggrevation of going to the airport, getting through security, waiting for the flight, dealing with annoying passengers and trying to leave the airport equals X number of hours of driving. So all you would do is add that total to the flight time and see which is shorter.

Something strange about NC roads. Not sure how it happens but all of a sudden they have a habit of turning to gravel for a short distance and then right back to beautiful pavement. Riding there really reminded me of the roads back in Jackson. The hills weren't that bad and the terrain was full of tall pine and small farms. There however seems to be an obsession with naming things boro: carrboro, tarboro, greensboro, hillsborough, etc...

After riding I hit up Spanky's and the Carolina Brewery, two local establishments. The former had a great burger and the latter had a pretty decent selection of beverages. I became intwined in a conversation with a New Zealander about sports and hush puppies. He had never heard of a hush puppy before and was confused about what it was. He didn't seem all that impressed with our explanation either. The bartender, a guy from Boston who does a local radio show, joined in and tried to explain. Looking back on that I see the irony of two guys not from the South trying to explain to someone not from America what a Southern staple is. No doubt it probably left him perplexed and heading for the nearest airport back down under.

All this time at UNC got me thinkng about the old days back on Mt. Oread. I decided while taking pictures around campus that I would pack up the soon to be new car and head on out to Lawrence for some much needed R&R and to get back to my roots. So in August I'm point the car west and rolling down 'ol 70. I'm not coming back until I'm satisfied. Or I run out of annual leave.