Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Racing season - phase 1 complete

The first part of my road season is complete. After my Rist race weekend, I took it pretty easy, and I'm taking it slightly less easy this week before I head out for a bike tour. So far this season, I've trained/raced over 2000 miles (plus a bonus ski race that my knee is still thanking me for), and ridden 9 races.

On Saturday, Christine and I leave for Bicycle Tour of Colorado. It's a week-long bike tour around southern Colorado with 470 miles of riding new-to-me roads in an area of the state I rarely get to. It's going to be a great time. I get to hang with Christine for a week (which is a rarity these days), plus I get to train (and not go to work).

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Austin - It's hot

After our race up Rist last weekend, Christine and I rushed off to Austin. Generally, I'd put a blackout on trips to Austin from about mid May to September, but our attendance we requested at a shindig down there in a swanky downtown loft. It was as hot as I expected. Maybe hotter.

The party was cool. Lots of people to talk to and some great food. Sunday morning, we got up and walked over the Whole Foods mothership (also known as Christine's go-to eatery) to get some breakfast from their taco bar. After that, we drove out to Texas hill country and did another road race.

I knew my legs would be completely shot after Rist, but I also knew I'd have oxygen on my side. Mostly, it was a good excuse to do something outside of Austin and I wanted to take the opportunity to get in another road race.

My Austin bike (my old Trek) is not exactly well tuned. I'm not there to ride it much, so it's never a high priority. When I pulled the bike out of the car, I noticed that there was a large chunk out of the tire. Just the right size for a piece of the chipseal to squeeze in and pop my tube. Fortunately for me, one of the guys there lent me his training wheel.

After making the equipment change and getting my stuff ready, I had exactly 0 time to warmup. I can't say I was disappointed. I mean, it was 90+ degrees outside. I was already "warm" enough. It was a really fun road course. Lots of rolling hills. And the best part: We had full use of the road instead of just one lane. They weren't wide roads or anything, but it was super nice to have that hard boundary.

In addition to my crappy tire, my derailleurs were also behaving like crap. The chain kept skipping teeth when I'd get out of the saddle. That made climbing out of the saddle very interesting and tiring.

I actually had a good time sitting in the pack and watching the race develop. I guess I'm usually either too tired or too focused on surviving to really digest what's going on. In the end, what really did me in was the heat. Late in the race, I started feeling pretty ill and I just had to slow down and make sure I wasn't about to become roadkill.

Racing in Texas wasn't all that different from racing in Colorado. There were some strong riders, and some not so strong riders. People who could ride a straight line and those who were a little less steady. And rest assured, there was some entertainment in the form of people chasing down and/or attacking their own teammates. Note - If you've got 5 people strong enough to be at the front of a group of 20 riders at the end of a race, you ought to be able to get someone to the line inside of 10th place.

After the race (and after I dumped as much cool water over my head as possible), Christine and I went to Pedernales State Park. Some friends had recommended it to us the night before. The Pedernales river runs through the park and it's a popular place for people to go hang out, tube, and swim in the river. I wish we had brought our bathing suits with us and had some more time. I looked like a lot of fun to swim around, but instead we just waded around in the water.

On our way back to Austin, we stopped for some BBQ at The Salt Lick BBQ. Delicious. One thing I can appreciate about the Austin area is that you can be chilling with some BBQ and the live entertainment is doing Whiskeytown covers.

One delayed (as usual) flight later, and I'm back home in Colorado.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Rist Hill Climb

26 miles, 3500 feet of climbing, and a lot of sucking wind. That's the Rist Hill Climb (which ought to be called a road race instead of a hill climb, but that's neither here nor there). I look forward to the Rist race for a couple reasons: It's one of the few races near my house, and I like climbing.

Thanks to Christine's earlier start time (7:30 AM), I got to Masonville plenty early to see her off, get ready, and actually warm up. I kind of pushed my luck a little with the warmup, but I made it back to the starting line in time to line up.

From the very start, the race felt quicker than last year. I didn't really spend any time at the front of the race, I just sat in and made sure I had space to get around people on the climbs if needed. I had one teammate in the group, and he did a great job of giving me a friendly wheel to draft. (Not only was Zach tired from working hard the previous day, he ended up getting a flat partway up Rist and had to ride to the finish on a rapidly deflating tubular. Anyone who rides a flat up at 12+% climb deserves a medal.)

Riding across the dams was hard as usual, with some accelerations and half-hearted attacks. You're not going to win this race for yourself on the dams, but it's a good place to soften people up.

We reached the base of Rist with a fairly large group (I think, I didn't actually spend time looking back). Things heated up quickly as there were several really good climbers on board. I've ridden with some of these people on group rides, and seen them hang with cat 3's and better. I wish they'd go ahead and get the mandatory upgrade already. :)

I got dropped early on the climb this year. A little before the first set of mailboxes. I was bummed because I made it so much further with the leaders last year. I was cramping up pretty bad, and had to really take it easy for minute while I had a stitch in my side. I don't know what that's all about, but the cramping is annoying. After I recovered, I was able to settle into a good rhythm. I caught a friend a couple miles from the top and we climbed up together for most of the rest of the way while we chatted.

When we got up to the top, I was pretty shocked when I looked at my time. According to my clock, I finished in 1:34:50. To put that in perspective, I rode the same course last year over 4 minutes slower. I finished in 14th this time, whereas last year I was 7th. Go figure. The whole group went ahead and got quicker. Damn. So, while I'm bummed that I didn't place better, I'm happy to see that I'm significantly faster.

My day of speeding around wasn't over yet. Christine and I had a 3PM flight to Austin to catch, so I had no time to hang around at the finish. I hooked up with another local rider for the ride back down to Masonville. It's a rip-roaring fun ride through Buckhorn Canyon. I should mention that the other dude is a 200+ pounder so while he's coasting along, I'm in my 53x11 pedaling hard. I was happy to have the motivation to ride fast because I really needed to get moving so we could make our flight.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Hey, guess what? I'm still alive. My workload is cutting into my spare mental time, so blog posting has gotten pushed aside.

Last Sunday was the return of a classic road race - The Morgul-Bismarck loop. It's a course that was used back in the 80's for the Coors International Bike Classic and was featured in the movie "American Flyers". I've ridden the course a couple of times on my own, but it was cool to finally get to race it.

This race was part of a multi-day event in the town of Superior, the Superior Morgul Classic. As far as road races go, this was the most organized and most well run event I've done. They seemed to have everything dialed and it made for a great experience.

I entered the race with no goals other than to test my climbing legs and do what I could to help out a teammate who was fighting for an overall podium spot. From the beginning of the race, I went to the front and kept a steady pace on the early climbs. I normally don't spend that much time sticking my nose in the wind, but given my goals it seemed appropriate.

My legs did not feel great to begin with. The first trip up the infamous "Wall" was a little shock to the system. But I forged on and managed to hold my position until we hit some downhill stretches. The same lightness that makes me a good climber also means I have to work harder on the downhill. People would be coasting going by me while I'm pedaling in my 53x11. Kind of demoralizing. Normally I can do alright by drafting but I wasn't really diligent about that this time. The high-speed, narrow lane, and my unfamiliarity of the course put me into "self-preservation" mode and I decided to keep a safe distance.

I worked my way back up to the front until we hit some dicey stuff through a neighborhood. There were curbs, cones, and even a poorly placed cop car to contend with. Again, I find myself near the back just as we approach The Wall again. Figuring that I don't really care whether or not I get dropped, I powered up to the front again. I was whooped, but I was glad to see that other people were climbing slower too.

The next lap went about the same way - lead on the climbs, trail off on the descents. This time, leading up to The Wall, we passed a different group of racers. Only, I didn't know we were passing them. So I was happily on the back of that group and then I noticed a gap opening up. I didn't have the legs to close it, and I was off on my own with one more lap to go.

Honestly, I would have liked to have just stopped right there. But then I looked at the time and thought I might catch Christine on the road if I kept riding. I didn't work super hard that lap. I mostly just enjoyed the nice riding weather. There were a couple of people from my group who also got dropped and they were apparently still interested in racing each other. They sat on my wheel for a bit and then attacked each other around me. I was happy to let them go and do their thing.

I didn't quite catch Christine. The final time up The Wall, I could see her ahead and I tried to catch her before the finish line. I didn't quite make it, so after I finished I dug deep and caught her on the downhill. That may have been the hardest effort all day. :) We chatted for a minute and then she went on her way to finish her final lap.

In the end, I got what I wanted out of this race. I know where I stand climbing-wise, I got a great workout for the day, and my teammate ended up nailing 3rd overall.

Next up - Rist Canyon Hill Climb. I'm pumped for this race. I'm going to go into it more rested and in better shape than I did last year. After the race, Christine and I head to Austin and I may do a race there on Sunday. Hopefully the plentiful oxygen makes up for my tired legs.