Archive for October, 2009

It’s that time of the week — the rehash of my rotten results in the most recent installment of the Cross Crusade. I continue to not get any faster but I haven’t given up the fight not to be last. This week I wasn’t last by two finishers. David Hart and Craig Austin both finished behind me. Apparently, I was within spitting distance to three other racers. I never lost sight of Roger Joys out on the open areas. I think I spent most of the race 20-30 seconds behind him and there were two other masters between him and me.

I’m wondering about Craig Austin. Specifically whether he’s racing the 35+ A race because it fits his schedule. I’m pretty sure that he hasn’t been forced into any upgrades and he’s been dead last a couple races thus far this season. That dude has my respect — I know it’s psychologically difficult to go out and race hard knowing you’re going to be at the very tail end of the field.

Of my three races, this was the worst one. Everything got sorted out on my end of the field during the second lap. I was stuck where I was and wasn’t very close to anyone until the fast guys started coming by. I used those guys (and women) as rabbits. I tried to stick on their wheels as long as I could except in instances where I might be impeding actual racing. So if three of four guys came by in a clump, I’d try to stick to the tail end. That worked pretty well on the wide open sections but not so much on the twisty parts.

The section of the course that ate me alive was the little side hill. The whole course was slippery and I went down on the wide off camber corner just after the long straight and prior to the bog. But I managed to find a decent line through that corner eventually. The same couldn’t be said of that nasty side hill. I never figured out how to keep any speed through the entry chicane and the exit was even worse. On the last lap, I tried an alternative line and ended up slipping out and rolling back down the rise backwards. Both times I unexpectedly dismounted (the off camber sweeper and the side hill exit), I could have benefited from a solid goofy side remount.

Another race in the books and another less than stellar performance to brag about on the blog. My asthma was exceptionally bad after the race. Once I got home, I coughed all night long with some pretty bad spells where I was gagging so bad I thought I was going to puke. My chest rattle would have been an excellent noise maker at the race. The new medicine I’m trying out is helping but not enough, apparently. I’m not really sure whether I’m breathing in my prodigious post nasal drip or whether my lungs just aren’t happy with colder weather. Maybe some of both.

Next week is a bye for me since It’s my youngest son’s birthday. Frost will be be five on Monday but we’re doing his party on Sunday. My next race will be PIR which I can label the return to the stroke — same race venue one year after my “event” last year. Here’s to hoping I’ll have a more enjoyable outcome this time.

I’ve only raced two races and I’m already planning for next year. I expected to be off the pace this season but not to the extent that I actually am. The combination of me getting slower and everyone else getting faster has put me at the back of the pack. I’m still going to get faster by the end of the season but that’s going to be a relative term. Maybe I’ll be up in the mid 30s. Let me rephrase that, I hope that I’ll be up in the mid 30s by the end of the season.

I’m still going to go out and race every week. I’m going to try hard to be competitive with whoever I happen to be around. Perhaps I can use this humbling experience as a great big motivator to get my ass in gear during the off-season.

On another note, I was erroneously placed 15th in the initial results from Sherwood. I immediately sent an email message to the scorer (that’s the superhero Candi Murray to of most you) protesting my result. I knew that I should have been placed somewhere between Thom Kneeland and David Hart. That eventually put me in 43rd place. The morning after the results were posted, I received an email from one of my competitors which made note of my 15th place. I think he was distressed that I was incorrectly placed since that would have an impact on his points.

You see, sometimes Candi sends out a correction email if there are scoring errors and no such update had been forthcoming. The updated results had been posted to the OBRA web site though. I think my pal had expected to see a correction email. Since it didn’t come, he might have thought that no one (including me for potentially nefarious reasons) had yet resolved my incorrect scoring.

Or I could just be reading the whole thing the wrong way.

See, it looked great until I rubbed the tree!

Image courtesy of Oregon Velo.

I raced at the Sherwood Forrest Equestrian Center on Sunday. It was the third Cross Crusade series race and it was very hard. Not only was there a big hill, but the course followed horse trails — which means lots of bumps from hoof indentations when the ground was soft. About the only smooth part of the course was the partially graveled climb to the top of the course which was deja vu from Ranier last week.

This week I staged at the back of the pack which is more appropriate to my current abilities. On the start, I was able to move up some places through the off camber turns but then I didn’t have much to answer with through the middle of the course. Then the hill pretty much finished me off. I might have been dead last after a lap.

Actually, I probably wasn’t last since it seemed like a couple of people passed me on the second lap. I managed to sort of race with a few people through those early laps and made a couple of passes. I saw plenty of guys on the side of the course with mechanical problems so the course took a heavy toll. The ironic thing is that I’m not counting how many guys are in front of me so dudes dropping out for mechanicals don’t help my estimation of my results. I look at how many finishers there were between me and last place. The more, the merrier. A whole stack of DNFs after the last finisher don’t mean jack to me.

I went back and forth with David Klipper Hart a couple of times. He’d get me on the hill and then I’d catch up and then eventually pass him in the middle section. After a few laps of this, I was able to stay ahead of him up the hill and distance him through the technical sections.

Each lap jackhammered my arms and back and the hill was a culminating insult to my lumbar region. Ouch, ouch, and ouch. On the plus side, my handling is okay though there are some spots know I need to work on. My fitness is a big sucking pit of despair and I can only do so much about that. At least I didn’t have any thoughts about abandoning the race. And Molly Cameron mercifully lapped me (for the second time) a minute or so prior to the finish line, thus denying me the “pleasure” of an extra lap.

Let me just say that these races are humbling. I knew I wasn’t going to be in the front but I had expected to be somewhat further up the field that I am. It’s still fun to get out and race and see all the cool cats in my race and hang with the team.

This season I’m doing the Chris Carmichael “Time Crunched Cyclist” training plan. I think CC talks a little too much about Lance but otherwise, the concept appears sound. He spends a good many pages talking about the science behind the plan and cites a number of compelling studies. It was enough to convince me. Since I only have between five and eight hours a week to dedicate to training, the plan’s six hours a week fit right into my sweet spot.

I like to ride my bike and the problem with training is that it is rather removed from actual bike riding. Each session has a specific goal and the “ride” has to fit within time constraints and heart rate zones. Since there are so few hours a week, most of the sessions have high intensity. Coupled with the intensity are days of rest. So there isn’t even an opportunity to head out for a casual ride between training sessions otherwise, you won’t be ready for the next intensity session. Each week has three days of intensity (like two interval sessions and a race) and one day of endurance riding. That endurance ride is as close to real riding as you will get.

I’m willing to put up with all this structure and lack of riding fun because in addition to my joy of riding my bike, I have a rather pronounced competitive streak. Cyclocross scratches that itch. Since I’m so competitive, I am compelled to train. Thus, I am able to sacrifice some fun riding days for the increased performance actual training will (allegedly) deliver.

I’m in the middle of week three of the program. This past Sunday was my first race so this is the first week that I’ve done intervals after a race. Tuesday’s session was pretty hard. I hadn’t fully recovered and my legs were screaming. Today’s session was much better and my legs felt some snap to them. As the weeks go on with races, I’ll adapt and that Tuesday session after a race won’t hurt quite so bad.

The plan comes with some caveats. The first is that it is really geared for races of three hours or less. The program is eleven weeks long and peak performance occurs between week 8 and week 12. Some well trained athletes may extend good performances another 1-3 weeks beyond that. After one round of the plan, you have to take at least four weeks and preferably six weeks for unstructured riding before starting the plan over. All that meshes well with a cyclocross season — in fact, one of the test dummies for the plan was Taylor Carrington, a Colorado cross racer who managed a 20th place in the USAC Cross Nationals elite race last year using the plan.

Right now I’m not riding too fast but I hope to improve from week to week. If everything goes well, I should have a respectable showing at the USGP races. I suppose it would help to drop a couple pounds too. I felt that anchor around my waist holding me back at Ranier. Plus, no one seems to want to take pictures of the fat guy.

I raced my bike and I didn’t die – or suffer any brain damage. That’s saying something since I suffered a stroke during the last cross race I did which left me with a permanent blind spot just off the center of my vision. I’m cleared to race this year and I had been planning on lining up before this past weekend but a calf injury and a nasty cold left me sidelined. So this was the big return to racing.

I was pretty nervous driving to the race. I’m overweight and under trained and wondered what real racing conditions might do to me. I was certainly hoping that albuterol, which I discontinued using after the incident, was the secret ingredient for my stroke recipe. I’d never raced Rainer before though it had been part of the Cross Crusade for a few seasons and my pre-ride was an eye opener. Just riding the course at a moderate pace was hard. The circuit is dominated by a big climb, the first part of which is slightly loose dirt/gravel with the balance being pavement. I could tell the race was going to hurt and I just hoped that I wasn’t going to finish last.

Through the call-up and random seeding procedure, I staged perhaps third row. After the whistle blew, I held my own through the gravel and then started hemorrhaging positions as we turned onto the paved climb. People just flew by me and I had nothing to counter with. By the time we crested and turned onto the dirt, I was pretty far back and tasting metal in the back of my throat. I managed to hold my own through the rest of that first lap, eating the dust of over a hundred riders, until it was time to climb the hill again. The second time up the hill, I got passed by the balance of the field save a couple of souls slower than me.

Thom Kneeland passed me on the second trip up the hill and he gave me an encouraging pat on the back. I managed to hang with Thom through the second lap but he gapped me on the climb to start the third lap. Then I caught up through the rest of the lap, passing him on the bumpy off camber section prior to the pit chicanes. He was to be the only person I passed all day. Thanks Thom!

I was actually disappointed that Thom didn’t keep the pace because it would have been much more fun to have ridden with someone over the balance of the race. As it was, I rode alone the rest of the way unless you count getting lapped by most of the A field, some of the masters’ A field, and getting caught and dropped by by about half of the women’s A field. The hill was lined with folks cheering, ringing cowbells and generally causing mayhem. I was lucky enough to have a couple of cheering sections. And a note to Mike R., if you are planning on running beside me, it’s proper etiquette to give me a push.

After a few laps, I felt that I had sufficiently suffered enough to recall exactly how hard racing was. Perhaps I could drop out and regroup for next week. Maybe starting out with baby steps was the best idea with this return to racing. Sometime after I had had my fill of going up the hill, I looked at the lap counters and was dismayed to see 4. Four! Cripes, and Babcock, the race leader, had already lapped me so I was looking at how many laps really remained for me.

It was bargain time and I told myself that I would do a couple more laps before dropping out. And when I had done a couple more laps, I figured that I could certainly do a few more. And who knows, maybe Babcock would lap me again and I’d be done a little early.

I managed to be fast enough to not get lapped a second time by Sean Babcock and won an extra lap. I heard that he was about a minute behind me as I took the bell. Toward the end, David Diviney, another masters racer, came around me. I was determined to stay glued to him and try to get that lap back from him (figuratively speaking). Unfortunately, my calf gave a little twinge on the run up and I had to back off. I’m sure that David would have smoked me on the climb but at least I would have felt like I was racing for a few minutes.

I managed to place 39th out of 42 finishers to avoid DFL. Hooray! I’m back racing and am looking to improve through the season. I hope to be pinning on numbers into December. See ya’ll next week.