Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Off-Season

It's hard being lazy!

After 10 months of training, racing and sticking to a strict schedule, it is time I took a little time off to let my tired body heal and prepare to build for the 2010 season. Normally, I'm amped up in the Fall to race and keep going; I usually have to force myself to rest and take time off, but this year I'm mentally and physically tired and ready.

It has been a long, disappointing season. From the broken bike parts to flat tires and all the DNF's that have me ready to shut it down and reboot.

I have to admit that the first days of this "off-season" have been a bit tough to adjust to no workout schedule and mentally separating from getting out the door every morning.

Over the last 24 hours I've settled into the down time and have focused on building the first part of my schedule and the subsequent training plan. I am hoping for big things in 2010 and really hope to take all the teachings, coaching and learnings from the past three seasons and create a really great plan for 2010.

Rest and eating time is wasting, only 10 more days of no "training". The hard training schedule will not be far behind with a target start date of November 2nd.

Time for a nap.
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Monday, September 21, 2009

Tour of the Catskills - Stage 2

Throwing caution to the wind was the theme of the day.

After my inability to hold back and be a factor in the race on Stage 1, I figured that I'd get on the front early to open up the legs but not create a break; if there were a break I'd go and sit on their wheel till the first KOM climb. Once over the first climb I wanted to get to the front and lead the decent as this decent is right next to our house and I know it like the back of my hand. After we hit the highway I would go with any and all breaks.

The plan worked just as I had planned out in my head. Out front warming up and opening the leg muscles, sitting on a few break attempts, leading the decent and back into the group on the main road through Windham.

At the Windham Ski Area a lone guy went out on the break. I was boxed in and took a few miles to get the opening to chase him down. I finally bridged up and the two of us opened a significant lead out to the major decent of the day. As we approached the decent he said "I'm not good at going down." I said, "sit on my wheel and follow, big wide road, easy."

I pushed on the downhill, using the entire road. I looked back about 2/3 of the way down and my break partner was way off my wheel. Oh well, I decided to keep flying down and figured I get caught on the winding roads leading to the big climb of the day. At the turn there was an accident and just as the group was catching me there was great confusion as to where we needed to go.

We all finally took a detour, following the pace vehicle.

After an pee stop (yes, a pee stop on a 2 hour, 50 mile race) by a majority of the group we hit a road I knew would intersect back with the race route. This is where I decided to go to the front and drive the pace to discourage breaks and weed out some weaker legs.

Back on the race route we wound through back roads and the guy who made a break earlier in the day jumped off the front again. I again went to the front and turned the screws to the base of the climb.

As we approached the climb I knew my legs were done in and just getting to the top was going to be a struggle, so staying with the pack was not an option.

I made the top after a pillow fight with my legs; oh my, were they soft and non-responsive, and proceeded to try and hammer the last seven miles picking off as many straggles as possible.

I hammered and passed two, crossing the line totally spent.

Again, I rode hard. Not effective, but I rode the 51+ miles hard...

It was a good first stage race for me with a lot of learning about racing, maybe next year I hold back and show my cards only when I need to; then again, I feel a bigger sense of accomplishment by actually riding hard and not following a bunch of dudes all weekend.

Duration: 2:29:24 (2:30:03)
Work: 2426 kJ
TSS: 264.3 (intensity factor 1.03)
Norm Power: 319
VI: 1.18
Pw:HR: -4.6%
Pa:HR: 28.29%
Distance: 51.871 mi
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 1344 271 watts
Heart Rate: 0 169 147 bpm
Cadence: 29 141 88 rpm
Speed: 0 51 20.8 mph
Pace 1:11 0:00 2:53 min/mi
Crank Torque: 0 1087 261 lb-in
Temperature: 66.2 87.8 74.8 Fahrenheit
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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tour of the Catskills - Satge 1

I'm not a smart bike racer.

In most if not all bike races I get impatient and hate riding/coasting in the group. I like to RIDE my bike, not just sit on it until a finishing sprint. For these reasons I usually got out and attack early and often to find myself back in the group for the sprint with no legs to contest. My reaction is always one of satisfaction that I actually rode hard and may have made some other people suffer in doing so.

I was hoping to be a little bit smarter for this race to see where I could actually place.

Well, that was short lived. About 5 miles into stage 1 I got antsy and took off. My rationale was:
#1 I know the course and might be able to gain some advantage with my locals knowledge to run away and hide.
#2 If I could get to and up the first climb ahead of the group, I could create a small selection that would stay away to the end.
#3 I'm just a bad ass and am going to solo 40+ miles for the win.

I was caught, dropped and popped at the base of the first climb. What an idiotic move. That took no brains at all.

Cresting the climb I was passed by the wheel van and could see the main group down the road.

So, I spent the next 30 mile fixated on the back of the van chasing to get back into the main group. I would catch others who were dropped and ride with them for a bit and was so close on so many occasions to then turn a corner and be so far back again.

Finally, after riding my legs into the ground I caught the main group comprised of about 25 guys. I sat in trying to get some life back into my lifeless legs.

As we came out off the back roads onto the main highway and final climb, I mustered all my strength to stick with the group, yo-yoing off the back for about 3 miles until I settled into a pace I could deal with. Bye Bye pack and hello solo world again, this time behind the group.

Cresting this final climb it was a test against the wind to make it to the finish. I caught a few stragglers off the group and worked my way across the finish line.

Dumb racing. Hard riding. Maybe tomorrow I'll have learned my lesson and race the bike...

Duration: 2:38:16 (2:48:39)
Work: 2519 kJ
TSS: 275 (intensity factor 1.021)
Norm Power: 317
VI: 1.19
Pw:HR: 4.76%
Pa:HR: -7.5%
Distance: 52.729 mi
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 1052 265 watts
Heart Rate: 0 176 144 bpm
Cadence: 30 117 86 rpm
Speed: 0 51.8 20.0 mph
Pace 1:10 0:00 3:00 min/mi
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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Tour of the Catskills - Prologue TT

2.3 miles up hill, flat out, on the rivets!

No need for a TT bike, aero helmet, disk wheel or any of the TT specific gear. This was a straight up climb to the top as fast as you can.

I took a nap this afternoon. Yep, good rest and feeling calm for the start of this race. Too bad I woke up realizing I'd left myself too little time to pack up my gear, get to the race site and have a good warm up. IDIOT! My fault. Dumb move!

I scrambled the bombers as quickly as possible and got the the race start. Threw down as much warm up as possible, pathetic, didn't even break a sweat.

As I sat under the start tent, bike holder holding my fat ass up, I felt calm and relegated to the fact that I had to go hard and see if my legs would respond with no heat in them.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1...I was off.

I hammered. Blew through the first little hill and settled into a suffering rhythm. Oh shit, this hurt. Is that lactic acid I taste in my mouth? Searing pain in my legs. Breathing through my eye balls, ears and anywhere else I could find hits of oxygen to feed my burning lungs.

I could see my :30 second man ahead passing someone else. I focused all my attention on his back wheel and set into a harder pace. At this point I was not breathing, I was merely functioning on lactic acid as my fuel.

Lungs, head, legs, eyes, heart, etc. burning, I powered through the finish line. No clue how I finished, I was looking for so way to stop the nonsense.

Pedaling around for a minute, I brought everything under control except my heart rate. It was not elevated, just sitting at 120, but I felt like I was having a heart attack. This is what happen with not warm up, it is basically like jump starting my heart with a car battery.

I headed back to the car and got changed, slowly beginning to feel like my life was about to end and headed home

I ended up 21st; 8:22 forty seconds off the winning time. Not what I was looking for, but it could have been worse.
Duration: 8:17
Work: 202 kJ
TSS: 25.3 (intensity factor 1.354)
Norm Power: 420
VI: 1.03
Pw:HR: 21.7%
Pa:HR: -3.57%
Distance: 2.141 mi
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 1237 406 watts
Heart Rate: 124 169 161 bpm - this is bad
Cadence: 64 109 88 rpm
Speed: 10.2 29.2 15.5 mph
Pace 2:03 5:53 3:52 min/mi
Crank Torque: 0 1080 389 lb-in
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Monday, September 14, 2009

Mighty Hamptons Race Report - I actually finished!

I have to start with the fact that this is only the second triathlon of this long season where I've crossed the finish line. So, it is nice to write something that does not involve broken wheels, cut tires or flats.

Our family was invited to the Hamptons for the weekend by some friends as Will was competing in the Mighty Hamptons Olympic distance triathlon and he asked me to race as well.

Going into this race I was a bit down on my season and had pretty much packed it in for triathlon racing and have been focusing on bike fitness for my attempt to complete the Tour of the Catskills. I have not swam since the NYC triathlon and had been running just once a week since July as I have had a few nagging running pains. Cycling has been my fitness and racing outlet for the last few weeks so going into this race I knew I'd ride well, but that would be pretty much it.

An additional factor to the race was that on Saturday, I engaged in about 2 hours of vigorous backyard soccer with one feisty 9-year-old; I've never felt so old and sore before a race.

SWIM: I rely on my swimming background way too much and figured I'd have little trouble hanging with a lead group. This was a huge mistake, not keeping up on the swimming fitness and technique make for uncomfortable swims. When the horn sounded I took off, going hypoxic within the first 30 seconds, great idea, and kept on the toes of the leaders. The water was a bit rough and the course lay out was odd as it curved following the shoreline. About 500meters into the race I looked up to sight and see what this lead group looked like and to my surprise the leaders were all spread out and there was no group. I pick a set of feet and proceeded to swim like a drunken sailor. I began to struggle big time as I approached the turn around and just focused on staying smooth and getting through the swim. I was all alone on the last leg which indicated that I was way off the pace.
41st Overall - YIKES!

T1: This must have been hilarious to watch. My transition spot was as close to swim exit as possible and so I arrived at my spot well before I had settled down and stripped the top half of my wetsuit; my goggle were still over my eyes and I again went through my mental patient dance of trying to escape from a straight jacket. Finally freed from my shackles, I had a nice long run with the bike to the exit.
115th - BRUTAL!!!

BIKE: Finally on to something I knew I had the fitness for and confidence to put the hammer down. My first thoughts were on all the bad bike luck I've had this year, but that lasted only a second as I got focused and got into a rhythm. The roads were wet and a bit slick from the misting condition so I was overly cautious in the corners but went after it whenever I had some good long sections. I was picking people off and felt strong; I was really wishing the course was dry as I feel I have better bike handling skills and that is nullified with wet conditions. A little section of headwind towards the end, but a pretty fast uneventful bike.
5th - There we go!

T2: Great dismount, a lengthy barefoot run to my spot, but good quick transition.
6th -Solid

RUN: I'm a notoriously bad runner off the bike. I was told coming out of T2 that I was in 4th position overall, so I felt like with a mediocre run I could hold on to a top ten and more importantly be under 2:15 to retain my elite wave status for 2010. I saw my wife, son in his BOB and dog walking into the finish area as I was headed out on the run. What an amazing feeling to stop and give her kiss and say hello. My legs felt sluggish and tired; the backyard soccer and bike hammerfest was not helping. I fell into what I felt was a good pace and rhythm that I could hold for the entire 10K. I was passed by one guy early and wasn't passed again until two guys caught me in the last two miles. The good thing was, I felt little pain and actually felt like I was running, not shuffling. Looking up at the clock down the finishing chute I was happy to see that I would just get in under the 2:15 mark, which raised my spirits and made the race an instant success.
59th - could use some work, but good under the circumstances.

TOTAL : 2:14:09 13th OVERALL
This was a cool race. Good transition area; good bike course; flat run course and not too crowed. The swim course buoy placement could be better. All in all a great weekend with friends and a good race where I FINISHED!
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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Ride Along the Hudson

It has been something I've wanted to do ever since we purchased our weekend home in the Catskills; ride my bike from NYC to Windham, NY; apartment door to home door; approximately 140 miles.

This past Friday, I finally had all the pieces fall into place to allow me to pedal the 140 miles. A great beginning to the Labor Day weekend with time to recover and get in a few more rides, the weather was perfect and I convinced my good friend PC to join.

We departed the city at 6:30am making our way up the west side of the city to the George Washington Bridge, across to 9W and headed north. The route was simple enough with a few detours, but basically we headed north on 9W.

Cruising through Nyack and on to Haverstraw, which is always a sketchy place to ride when going to Bear Mountain, we kept the pace conversational and enjoyed the fresh morning air. At our first stop on the north end of Haverstraw we encountered and interesting gentleman/street bum who thought he could shock us with a guessing game on his place of birth. "Born in Beirut, Lebanon" pulling a piece of paper out of his wallet to prove it. I think we won the game of shock when he asked if we were riding to Bear Mountain and we said we were going further to the Catskills. "Holly SHIT! That is far!"

Passing Bear Mountain, I was now on new roads, I've never ridden out of the city this far north before.Our first detour came at the town of West Point where we opted to take route 218 around the mountain. This turned out to be on of the most spectacular roads we encountered all day. A winding road through the trees, no cars, great pavement, opening up to a simple climb looking out over the Hudson along a cliff. Amazing.A quick stop in Newburgh for a Dunkin Doughnuts egg sandwich we were at or close to the halfway mark.

9W is nice but not the most scenic from Newburgh to Kingston and as the heat of the day replaced to cool morning air and the head winds from the north kicked up, we found this section to be grinding.

We both were suffering a bit when we pulled into a little Italian deli on the north side of Kingston and were very happy to sit, rest and refuel.

This was the scene of our second comical encounter of the day; a few overweight, rough locals were telling us about their friend who rides bikes and began asking us where we were coming from and to where we were headed.
"We started in the city at 6:30 this morning."
"Whoa, I don't even dive my truck that far."
"We are headed to Windham."
"You going the back way or straight up the mountain?"
"Straight up."
"You guys are F-ing crazy."

After filling the tanks, the little banter with the locals, stretching and reapplication of Aquaphor, we were refreshed and rolling at a good refreshed pace to Saugrities where we would make the hard left turn to climb in to the Catskill Mountains.

Just after making the left-hand turn on route 32 up the hill I suffered a flat rear tire. My summer of flat tires and wheel problems continues. We entertained ourselves during the tire change and were back on the road pretty quickly.

One last stop in Palenville before the road turned up to present us with the most difficult climb of the day; a four mile UCI rated category 2 climb into the town of Hunter.

We both made the climb relatively easily and continued the last few miles to our house.

Pulling into the driveway, we were pretty happy to be finished and very happy to be getting off our bikes.136 Miles
6000 Kilojoules of energy
8hours 15minutes
6 Gallons of Gatorade
6 Gallons of water
2 Cokes
2 Iced Teas
1 PowerBar
1 Clif Bar
1 King Sized Snickers Bar
1 Pop Tart
and A LOT of Aquaphor...
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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Big Indian Epic Road Race Report - A European one-day Classic

It is a rare August morning in New York that we wake up to temperatures in the 50's, but is has been commonplace to wake to the sound of rain this summer. It was the case on Saturday morning rolling out of bed to see the rain falling and feel the chill in the air as I let the dog out the front door.

Granted, I was at our weekend home in the Catskills where temperatures tend to be 10-15 degrees cooler than the city, but nonetheless, it felt like an earl spring morning.
This Saturday morning I was signed up for the Big Indian Epic Road Race. A first year event, 20 or so mile loop with a good 10plus mile climb and a crazy dirt road descent. With the weather the way it was, I gave a second, third and fourth thought as to whether I really wanted to venture out.
I was getting over a cold and had spent the night in the baby's room because my wife had come down with the cold and was a coughing, hacking nightmare.
Going on 4 hours sleep, I prepared the coffee and oatmeal while trying to convince myself that either it would be fun and good for me to get out and race or to pack it in to kick the lingering effects of my cold while relaxing on the couch. I doddled around getting my gear together, my subconscious knew exactly the final choice I'd make, and wondering what I garments I had that would both keep me warm and dry.

There is not one thing you can wear that will keep you warm and dry in a bike race. Warmth needs to come from riding hard and letting the internal furnace do its job, while just succumbing to the fact that water will penetrate every layer of clothing.

I finally loaded my bike on the roof of the car, gear bag inside and started the 20 minute drive to the town of Big Indian.

Big Indian, not so much a town as it is a fire station and a parking lot. I pulled into "town" where I saw a few other hardy souls preparing for the race, good sign.

Once I was checked in, it was back into the car/dressing room to make final preparations and cherish my final moments of dry warmth.
Ten minutes before the start of the race I slinked out of my warm dry cocoon to make an attempt to ignite the furnace and generate a little warmth in my muscles before the race start. Wet within 30 seconds and feeling a good chill, I lined up with my designated start group. The race director proceeded to review the rules and course layout and ended with "because of the weather and we don't have big numbers, we will all start together."

I really had no idea who any of the other riders were and what category they were racing. I liked this fact, it is nice to race without labels.
We worked our way out of "town" in a bunch. Oh do I love the spray off the back wheel of the bike in front of me, road grime never felt nor tasted so good.

Five miles into the race the group was still intact, my shoes full of water and feeling as though I was draped in a wet towel, the pace was pedestrian and I was really starting to feel a chill.

We started to climb, nothing too steep, just a gradual rise in the road. I needed to get warm or I knew my fingers and toes would not be last. I made a move off the front thinking that going hard for a few minutes would get the blood flowing to warm me up and put me into a mental state where I was not thinking about how much road water I had ingested and if the guy in front of me was paying attention.
I was off the front, warm and breathing hard enough to eliminate the distraction of the rain. Looking back to see if I had anyone looking to join my posse, I saw one brave soul and the rest of the bunch either too cold and wet to realize what had just happened or too smart to make this big an effort so early. Now warm, do I sit up and rejoin the bunch or join my new riding partner to try and build a break? Once last glance back, one more trying to bridge the gap and the rest looking around at one another. We slowed a bit to allow the third passenger in our train to couple on and then proceeded to work on putting distance on our chasers.
I was the oddball in this group of three as the makeup of the break was two small rabbits and one large elephant. The rabbits smartly tucked in behind the elephant for the benefit of the draft to the base of the climb. Making the break, attempting to stay away and driving at the front had me very warm and feeling like I was breathing through a straw.

We hit the base of the road kicking up to a nice 14 percent grade and it was anchors away for this big hairy mammal, while the two little jackrabbits danced on their pedals up the hill like it was nothing. I made every attempt to hang on to their wheels, breathing through my fingernails, eyes bulging out of my skull and heart pound like a jackhammer, I wanted off that bike; I wanted to lie down on the side of the road and die. I found something inside to keep the pedals moving in circles and my break buddies in sight.
The hill hit its peak and the asphalt ran out. We were now descending on a muddy road with skinny tires, oxygen deprived and not seeing clearly. This allowed for no rest and kept the heart rate at an uncomfortable level. I caught the number two guy and hung with him, making the decision not to test my luck on the slick mud.

Back onto a real road and the smoothness of the asphalt gave the false sense of safety. Blazing down at speeds over 50mph we worked to try and catch the lone leader. The conditions were making that effort difficult and dangerous. Rounding the last corner, on the road leading to the finish two miles away, I was locked into a battle not to be caught by the chase pack and the thought of the podium.

We worked in tandem to maintain our lead and in the final stretch I had no legs to contest a sprint; across the line in third place overall.
A really terrific race, cool course with conditions that made me feel like I was a part of a European one day classic. I happily took my third place winnings and returned to reality where I treated my wife and son to a great lunch and beers (formula for my son, of course) at the local brewery.
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