Saturday, March 24, 2012

On the Rivet

This last Thursday evening was the second Hammerfest and the weather was much nicer so about a dozen local riders showed up.  I was feeling pretty good as I have had the chance to ride Mt. Diablo more frequently and was looking to test my fitness against the established locals.  The pace started very high as the faster riders began to separate themselves from the rest.  I dropped back and settled into a good pace with another ride, trading turns at the front as we moved up the bottom of the climb.  By the pay gate I was 1 minute ahead of my personal best time and certainly "on the rivet"(see definition below).

1.on the rivet36 up2 down
Extreme physical exertion to the point of almost giving up. Derived from bike racing in the olden days when bike seats had rivets, and in an effort not to get dropped one would slide forward on the saddle to exert maximum pressure on the pedals.
The pace was kept very high as we continued to trade turns but the pace was starting to take its toll on me and I was less frequently able to take my turn at the front.  Heading up the last mile to the Junction, I was starting to crack and with about a half mile to go, I had to let my partner go as the gradient was taking its toll on me.  I made one final push and arrived at to the Junction in 26:00 a full 1:30 faster than I have ever made it to the Junction.  I was completely spent from my effort and it took a few minutes to fully recover and catch my breath.

Once everyone made it to the Junction we started the descent and I was happy to see that the pace was high even on the descent.  I have always thought that I was a good descender and I had the chance to really test out my skills in this group.  On the bottom half of the descent I had moved to the front and kept the pace very high and after a couple of minutes I looked back to find that I had ridden all but one rider off of my wheel.  Upon returning home I checked my data for the ride and found that I had improved my threshold power yet again to 280 watts (from 272 watts).  I still have a bit to go until I get to my goal of 300 watts but the improvements are starting to come.

The weather looks cruddy this weekend but a couple of rain rides will be a good recovery.

Rain, Hail, and Olive Oil

So I have been slacking a bit and haven't updated everyone on my race on Sunday.  I was lucky enough to have an 11:00AM start time on Sunday so I didn't have to worry about getting up early.  The race is called Bariani Road Race after the olive oil company that plays host to the start/finish line.  This was my first Cat. 4 race and we were scheduled for 50 miles of racing.

I didn't get to the race early enough to get a proper warm-up but as luck would have it, the pace wasn't really that high so I was able to warm up during the opening laps.  The course was a 10 mile lap of rolling hills with 1 short climb of about 800 meters in length.  Due to the local rules, we were only allowed to race on 1 side of the road and with a field of about 50 starting, that meant that the road was pretty cramped.  The first few laps were a pretty easy pace and it was obvious that nobody was interested in creating a breakaway and that the field would come down to a bunch sprint.

I spent the better part of the first four laps at the back of the field with the plan of moving up towards the front as the final climb approached with about 2 miles until the finish line.  At the back side of the course on lap 4 it started to rain on us and that only lasted for about 5 minutes but it was enough time to get everyone soaked.  On lap 5 we got to the back side of the course and this time it didn't just rain but it started to hail.  We were moving at around 25 miles per hour and at that speed the hail becomes very painful as it hits you.

No, this isn't me but it definitely felt like this for the last 15 minutes of the race.   This is actually Bernard Hinault in the 1980 Liege-Bastogne-Liege race.  By the end of the race only 21 finished out of 174 starters and Hinault was nearly frostbitten from the experience.

After the hail we only had about 5 miles to go and I proceeded to move up in the pack to be positioned to attack on the climb.  I almost crashed as I was pushed into some deep gravel and had both wheels start to dig in and slide but I saved it and kept moving up in the tight single lane that we were forced to ride in.  At the bottom of the climb I was towards the front of the pack but there were still about 20 riders in front of me.  I did my best to attack on the climb but was essentially boxed in as there just isn't enough space to moved up at times.

At the top of the climb I had passed about 5 riders and was about 15th wheel and this is about the time where I realized why Cat. 4 races will be harder.  From the top the speed only increased as everyone was starting to line up for the sprint finish.  From this point on the speed stayed around 30 miles per hour and it became increasingly difficult to move up in the field due to the speed.  I tried following another rider who was attempting to move forward but his efforts were short-lived and we were eventually passed by another 5 riders.  This spelled the end of my race as I was now too far back in the pack with only a few hundred yards to go.

I officially finished in 26th place and afterwards rode straight to my car as I needed to get my rain soaked kit off as soon as possible.  It took me about 3 minutes to get my gloves off as my hands weren't working properly due to the cold.  After loading up the truck I turned the heat on and thawed out on the ride home.  No races for a couple of weeks so it will just be training in the meantime.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Winter in NorCal/ First Hammerfest of the Year

Some would call this a disappointing week but I am trying to look on the bright side.  I travelled to Washington on Sunday to visit family and due to a busy schedule I didn't get the chance to ride until Thursday evening, the first Hammerfest of the year.

One of the great things about living in a bike friendly area is that we have local "races" every week once daylight savings extends the sunset past 7PM.  Our local race is lovingly known as "Hammerfest" and it happens every Thursday evening on Mt. Diablo.  This Thursday was the first of the year and I was very much looking forward to it as I thought I was starting to get fast enough to hang with the bunch.  The weather has been pretty poor all week in NorCal and the rain seemed to have scared away the majority of the locals as only 6 showed up for the first Hammerfest of the year.  I thought this would be a good opportunity to show my increased level of fitness but as fate would have it I was definitely the slowest of the group to show up.  The main group moved quickly up Diablo and they were definitely waiting for me to catch up at most points.

Pulled this little wonder out of my rear tire today.  Surprisingly, I don't think it actually punctured the tire. 
I spent the earlier part of today warming up for my race tomorrow (50 miles).  My warmup was on Diablo and I felt pretty good about my fitness level.  I pulled the above staple out of my tire at the end of my ride, I don't think it actually caused a puncture.  I am expecting tomorrow to be a pretty brutal day.  My first Cat. 4 race, rain, wind, and hills await me.  I have concluded that I will finish the race even if I get dropped by the field but the goal is really to hang around for as long as I can.  Wish me luck, a race report will follow tomorrow.

P.S. The pros just finished the longest race of the year (Milan - San Remo) just shy of 300 km's.  The race was finished in just short of 7 hours.  Also, the Daytona 200 was today and 2 NorCal kids finished 1st and 3rd.  I have been on the racetrack with both of them and can affirm that they are both very fast on a motorcycle.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Diablo Double

Mt. Diablo with snow on the top.
I was a bachelor today as Kelsey went up to visit her mom and our new niece in Washington (I am heading up there tomorrow morning).  So what would any married man pretending to be a bachelor do?  You guessed it, spend a couple of hours climbing Mt. Diablo in preparation for a race next weekend.

I was kicking around the idea of doing my first ever Diablo Double earlier in the week as I knew that I would be traveling at the beginning of next week and I wouldn't have the chance to train before my first Cat. 4 race next weekend.  I decided on Friday that I needed to do a long ride as my race next weekend is 50 miles and I haven't trained on a long ride in a couple of weeks.  I committed to doing the ride and planned on taking the first ascent at a very comfortable pace and then taking the second ascent as fast as I could.

A graph of the climb.  Elevation on the left with distance on the bottom.  The gradient for each section is above the distance.
I left at 10:30AM and began my first ascent after a quick warmup on the ride over.  I took the ascent as I knew I still had a second one to follow and arrived in 1:13:22.  I felt pretty good about the first ascent considering my personal record to the top was 1:08:40.  After a 25 minute descent to the bottom I turned around and headed back up for my second ascent of the mountain.

I upped the pace from the beginning and after the first quarter I was already 2 minutes ahead of my previous pace.  My plan for the second ascent was to go as consistently fast as possible to the 3 quarter mark of the ascent and then gut it out the last quarter.  By the halfway point I was about 6 minutes ahead of my previous mark and my legs still felt pretty good considering that I was over 2 hours into this ride.  At the 3 quarter mark my legs were getting that rubber feeling and my cadence had started to slow as the gradient is pretty unrelenting at this point.

I pushed as hard as I could until the last 100 meters of the climb.  At this point the rode kicks up to 17% gradient and it really puts you in the red no matter how fast you are going.  I made it to the top in a new personal record of 1:01:01, a solid 7 minutes faster than my previous record.  Some stats from my ride:

Total time - 3 hours 48 minutes
Total calories burned - 2354
Total distance - 51.5 miles
Total ascent - 6,522 feet

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

It Never Gets Easier, You Just Go Faster

I am sure that you have heard the phrase "records are meant to be broken" and on Sunday I had the chance to prove that phrase correct.  Kelsey and I were out late on Saturday night and I decided to skip the team ride on Sunday morning to get some sleep.  Plus the weather was supposed to be awesome on Sunday so I was going to go for another training ride on Mt. Diablo once it warmed up a bit.  After taking it easy on Sunday morning, I started to "kit up" for my big training ride.  I walked outside and the weather was perfect, 75 degrees and sunny without much wind.  This was the first ride in about 3 months that I didn't need to arm/leg warmers or gloves to stay warm.  On the warm-up over to Mt. Diablo I got a call and found out that I would need to cut my training ride short to get home a little sooner.

Truer words have never been spoken.
After this news I quickly decided that I was going to try and beat my personal record (28:35) to the Junction on Mt. Diablo (approximately halfway up Mt. Diablo).  From my experience it is best to try to keep a consistent pace and build on that as I get closer to the Junction.  I started well and increased my speed slowly until the Pay Gate when I just barely beat my best time to that point (14:04).  I knew I was riding well but I had to remind myself to stay consistent as I was still a few miles from the Junction.  I kept building my speed until the finish and by the end I had set a new personal record of 27:37.  The scary part is that the local record is 21:36 so I am still 6 minutes off the pace.  It was a very tough ride and the picture above is of the inside of our team jersey collar and it rings very true: "It Never Gets Easier, You Just Go Faster". 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

It's Always Sunny in Danville

I know that most of the country has had a pretty mild winter but it was 70 degrees and sunny here in Danville and it will most likely be around 75 and sunny tomorrow.  Granted it did rain for two days earlier in the week but who am I to complain.

A view from almost all the way up Mt. Diablo.  We live in the valley just at the bottom of the mountain.
I decided that today I would go for a ride up Mt. Diablo to continue to build the climbing into my legs.  I had a couple of rides during the week at work and was feeling pretty good for this weekend.  I kept a good tempo to the halfway point (The Junction) up Mt. Diablo and actually set my second fastest time to that point (29:20).  I was less than a minute off my best time (28:35) and I didn't feel like I was really struggling or pressing the pace and it was definitely windy.  I rode another quarter of the way up the mountain at a slower pace to the spot you see above (Juniper Point) and called it a day.

New helmet and sunglasses.  Kelsey thinks the sunglasses look ridiculous but they work great.
Planning on going on the team ride tomorrow and it looks to be a tough one.  I am starting to get an understanding of how my body reacts to different training patterns and hopefully this will help in preparing for races later in the year.  I still have a long season ahead of me and I am trying not to peak or burn out too early.

Friday, March 2, 2012

A little bit of history

Let's go back about 2 years.  Kelsey and I had just moved to California and I was very excited about heading over to my first motorcycle track day.  Motorcycle track days are basically practicing for motorcycle road racing and quite possibly the most fun you can legally have.  As the year went on and I became more interested in going faster at the track, I realized that my stamina on the motorcycle was pretty poor (I would make it about 4 laps before my quads would start to shake).  After some reading I found that all good motorcycle racers train their bodies by riding a road bike.  So naturally I went out and picked up a road bike in order to get myself fit for the racetrack.  Another year later and I had a second two wheeled interest and I was ready to join my current cycling team.

Ben Spies - You might notice that he is pointed towards the grass in this picture.  He is actually sliding the rear tire while accelerating out of the turn (hence all of the dark lines on the pavement).

Imbedded into the above story is the fact that I love motorcycle racing.  Bicycle racers are some tough hombres but in my mind motorcycle racers are the bees knees.  They combine physical strength, mental fortitude, and whole boat load of guts to take a two wheel rocketship around a track at speeds that most of us will only reach in an airplane.  

Remember physics class in high school... I think this breaks all of Newton's laws.
I follow at least 3 major motorcycle racing circuits and the best of these is MotoGP.  They ride prototype motorcycles as seen in the pictures above and the best riders in the world all show up for the throwdown.  I have plans to go back to the racetrack later this year in between bicycle races but as that won't happen until at least May I am stuck watching videos like these below to stoke the motorcycle fire.  The top video is of Casey Stoner (the current world champion) and the bottom video is of Ben Spies (the first American to win a race in 5 years).  It's also worth noting that Ben Spies sponsors/races a Texas based cycling team.

On a separate topic, Kelsey and I just finished going the whole month of February without eating any fast food (yes, we love fast food and we know it is bad for us).  For March I have committed to spending a half hour each day working on my spanish speaking skills with the Rosetta Stone program.