Sunday, May 16, 2010

AZ State Road Race Championship

This race has been a pain in my head for the last year. It was this race that yielded the most humiliating defeat of my entire cycling career. Hate is a word I don't throw around nonchalantly but I HATE this course. I see pictures of this course and my stomach begins to turn. Yes, it is possible to hate a road. I know this to be true because I hate that wretched 30 mile patch on AZ 188. I hate the first little burner hill and I hate the second little burner hill. After today I even hate the six mile downhill section. So it goes without saying that I hate, really hate, the six mile climb that never seems to end...ever.

James and I hit the road for Globe at 5am drinking coffee and enjoying an early morning together. We got to the race with plenty of time but everything went meshugina from that point. Long line for pre-reg riders. I blew my rear tire out riding to the start line. I pinned the wrong bib and had to re-pin. And the kicker...I lubed and donned James's size small shorts. Nice, eh?

The good thing in all this was the race was delayed a half-hour for some reason and this actually worked to my benefit with tall the chaos circulating. Meanwhile, I ride by the Marcucci's and they are wired tight and organized to the hilt. How do they do that?

The race started finally and GST and Landis attacked the field from the gun. I'm still confused at this strategy. I mean, what is it going to accomplish? Was anyone going to sit idly by in the first 7 miles on one of the few flat stretches? The attacks went nowhere and we settled down for the first wave of searing pain that would be ours on the first 1.5 mile burner hill. Yes, it did hurt. Last year it cost me 373 watts. This year the price went up to 376. I made it with the main group as the field split nicely in two. We hit the next climb just a mile later and this time I dropped off the back. Near the top of the hill a Landis rider caught up with me and said, "Let's go", and we did. We chased the entire way down that stupid six mile hill. It hurt even more than the uphill part. We traded short hard pulls until we made it back on. It was so sweet! With a lot of help I made it to the lead group of riders, (albeit half dead), and began to count the number of 45+ jerseys in the group. Still quite a few. In fact, I think there may have been more 45+ than 40+.

Now, at this point in the race it was evident to me that I was a rather large TT specialist sharing space with guys who could really climb. My people were behind us now. I knew that six mile climb was going to get out of hand so I pledged to myself that I would sit in the back and try to get as much recovery as I could so as to limit the damage on the long climb. Two riders, (GST and a team I didn't recognize), were 30 seconds up the road. Landis had two guys in the group. One of them was the dude that worked with me to catch back on, Lemke. The other was a familiar skinny dude that can fly and my guess was he was being protected for that last climb and flurry into the finish because Lemke was working super hard now to bring back the two man break. He asked another guy riding without team mates to help him but left me alone. I wouldn't have helped if asked. I don't have anything against those guys but I why should I help them reel these guys in only to blow up on that long climb? Unless they totally collapsed I was going to get dropped and so I planned accordingly.

At the turn around we learned the break was 45 seconds in front of us and the group chasing us was 45 seconds behind us. I knew I could out climb those guys so long as I didn't blow up. This is pretty much how it played out. Once we hit the climb the power meter began pinging off 330 watts which I just couldn't do at this point so I dialed in 290 and just let them go. There was nothing else to be done. Limit the damage by maintaining my gap over the chasers. One or two of the elite guys did blow up and I managed to keep them behind me. That long hill is really long. Did I mention that? It really stinks watching your field just go off into the distance. Pretty soon I couldn't see them anymore which was fine. No one came by me except one skinny junior from Tribe. This kid was flying. I caught his skinny, junior-geared rear end on the downhill but he took off on the next climb. We basically road the rest of the course together. He really helped me keep the pace up. I passed Jake who complained of flats, out-of-true wheels and a sore butt.

As I rode the last ten miles I kept creeping up on and passing fields. Each time my hopes would rise that they were dropped riders from my field but alas, only women, juniors and some really, and I mean really, cooked cat 3's. No one passed me except one dude in the last 1K. He was a rider from a different field so I just let it slide. If he were one of the chasers I would have put up a fight but as it was it was taking 178 bpm to hold 250 watts. Clearly, my day was coming to a close.

I have no idea what my placing was nor do I care. This is not about the other racers now. It is about that course. I know this isn't rational but it's honest. Last year I managed 210 watts from mile 42 to mile 59. This year I did much, much better. Last year I got passed by women. This year I was the Andy Kaufman of the biking world. James and I were looking at some race pics on the internet tonight and I shuddered. The shot contained all the surrounding hills and that weird rising/curving road that reminded me of all the pain the course inflicted on me, again. I vow to you now, that next year, I will ride that course 10 pounds lighter. Before I die I will do one race as a climber and it will be next May.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

A New Gear

I am now finishing up my second build phase and beginning the taper to my first seasonal peak. Something is fundamentally different with my engine. My power is up dramatically and no I am not doping. During my recent race simulations I sustained FTP for nearly two hours. Well, that means it is time for testing but I haven't found a convenient moment yet for this.

While racing Saturday with the team, I watched James, Steven and Brad ride away from me on Usery Pass. At this point in the race I had been doing more work than these guys but, still, when I hit the pass I could see that they were going too fast for me. To hang with them I would have to sustain something over 320 watts and hold it for almost fifteen minutes. Instead, I let them go, dialed in 300 watts and just held hit gambling that I could catch them on the downhill. The finish of that race is another story but it made me wonder if it isn't time to increase my FTP.

Yesterday I went out to that same 3.5 mile climb resolving to do three twelve minute repeats at 310 watts, (my former FTP was 292). Hitting the first effort I felt comfortable with my power fluctuating between 310 and 340 watts. My HR averaged right around 170 bpm and I felt pretty comfortable. When I got home I was pleased to see an average power of 323 watts for that effort. The second time up I managed 310 and finally 307.

While my endurance is still dubious with the cramping issues the elevated LT should lessen the impact. This increase in power means I have a bigger engine than I have ever had before which is making me contemplate the question, "how"? What is different this year?

One thing is the ability I have had to train outdoors. Overload is much easier for me if I feel the wind and have the distraction of moving scenery. I think another is the heavy emphasis on VO2max specifically 4 minute and Tmax intervals. My philosophy has changed from the past in that I no longer assign myself a number of intervals to complete. Instead, I assign myself a power to maintain and continue the efforts until I can no longer sustain the power. In some cases that has meant doing way more reps than I otherwise would have done. Specifying the number of reps may have done some psychological damage in that I shut down once reaching the required number of intervals. Lastly, just going out and riding as hard as I can for as long as I can has had some impact I believe. Setting out a course then riding it TT style aiming to hold 290 watts.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

San Tan Crit

Going for the "Full Dybowski" this Saturday:

Masters 40+
Masters 30+

Just two more years and I can try for whatever you call it when you add in the M50+!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


No biking for me this week. I am on the road doing the training thing.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Week in Review

Sorry it has been so long since posting but life has been pretty busy. Week before last I was flying quite a bit and last week I held a very busy bike camp here in Mesa.

Only Neal Blatt came out for a week of training but I hope to see more of you next time. If you want some personal testimony about the epic riding that took place talk to him. We put in over 25 hours of riding over intense climbs, brutal intervals, great food and incredible views.

Day 1, Sunday, we warmed up with a 1.5 hour ride around the Usery’s and up Usery pass. Day 2, Monday, we completed a 2.0 hour morning workout on Usery Pass, (Neal did 12 minute base LT efforts while I did 4 minute VO2max efforts), followed by lunch and light weightlifting. We rode a 2.0 hour endurance ride to Saguaro Lake in the afternoon.

Day 2 we rode from my home to Tortilla Flat and beyond to the end of pavement on the Apache trail. This was an incredible day as we had to battle stiff easterly winds for most of the ride out. The vistas are beautiful but the tourist density was way higher than I have ever seen it. Once you get into the mountainous area the climbing is of a switchback nature. We paused for a Kodak moment at the Canyon Lake overlook before gliding down to the lakeshore. Just a couple more climbs saw us descending into Tortilla Flat. Neal wasn’t hungry yet so we pressed on up the “Microwave” hill for another 50 minutes before reaching the end of pavement. The road just beyond Tortilla was flooded to about 3 inches. The rains are turning the wash there into a river and there was man panning for gold. He told us he had even found a few flakes. Neal’s Garmin reported the Microwave to be 5%-7% for about 3.5 miles. Once we made it up this it was easy switch backs to the end. After turning around we took guesses on how long it would take to get to Tortilla. I guessed 10 minutes. I pointed my bike downhill, recorded 47.4 mph on the Microwave and made it down in about 12 minutes.

The restaurant was so jammed with tourists I couldn’t see waiting so we rode over to the marina where we were seated in less than twenty minutes.

After lunch we climbed out of the there and returned to Mesa for a 4.5 hour volume and lots of great memories.

On Day3, we drove up to Cave Creek to ride out to Bartlett lake. We climbed about 1,000 feet to get to Bartlett Lake Rd which got us to 3200 feet. Down we went 600 feet in 3 miles before oscillating up and down for about 4 miles before descending from 3200 feet down to 1800 feet over 5 miles to reach the lake. From here we began interval work performing 12 minute LT efforts. Neal at 95% of FTP and myself at 100%, (Neal is still in base while I am in build training). We rode up that five mile hill for twelve minutes than returned to the bottom for another. After three I realized I was going to need water before returning to Cave Creek so we took a break and bought a bottle or two from the convenience store, (trailer), at the lake. The plan from here was to do intervals until we climbed up that long hill. I planned on two for myself and it almost worked out. As I was coming to the end of my second effort the hill changed to a descent for almost a mile before once again turning into a longish climb. I extended my interval to 15 minutes trying to put an end to all this. Fifteen didn’t do the trick but I had had enough and ended the interval workout. When I reviewed my power profile it revealed that I had completed an additional 12 minute interval on the way out to the lake completely by accident. I was simply trying to ride hard and managed a serendipitous twelve minute interval at a perfect 292 watts!

For me, this was the hardest ride of the week. We clocked in at three hours and forty minutes scoring 255 TSS points, 6,000 feet of climbing and a very sore taint.

On Day 4 we scaled back intensity and rode easy out to Fountain hills and back making a lunch stop at DJ’s. By this point the week’s volume had caused a saddle sore flare up making the last hour or so of the four hour ride pretty rough.

Day 5 we drove to Tucson and Neal soloed up Mt. Lemmon. I spent the day with Maria touring the University of Arizona. She auditioned for their theater program which is very competitive admitting only 12 freshmen each fall. Neal reported an epic ride climbing for over 20 miles to Summerhaven where he lunched on pizza.

Day 6 was race day but since it was Neal’s last day we got up early and rode for an hour and forty minutes. We kept things on the lighter side just enjoying the morning. We were graced to see a group of wild horses, (Red Mountain Brumby’s), crossing the road in front of us. We stopped to take it in and it struck me what a privilege it is to live where I do. Just an ordinary ride and I take in beautiful vistas and wild horses! Amazing!

The race was the Sun Devil Criterium which is an office job very much like the Allen Park Crit course with good pavement. James raced the 3’s and the Jr’s back to back. What a stud! He hung on to get a top 15 finish in the 3’s which was very gratifying for both of us. He got shucked off the back at Tucson a couple of weeks ago so riding well was a big confidence booster. Immediately after he jumped into the Jr race and did amazingly well considering he had ridden a 50 minute crit just minutes before. My goal was to sit in the pro/1/2 race. When I signed in I noticed I was the oldest rider in the field and immediately began to wonder what the heck I was getting into. It really stuck out to…21, 23, 33, 19…then, Darrell Anderson 48. Not only that but there were several pro’s signed up for the race. I saw at least one Kenda team member, some Oakley guys, (they had their crazy semi pick up truck with them), plus Chris Aten and his herd of Bike Haus riders. Eric Mercott was there with his body builder legs. Sal S________, (can’t remember Sal’s last name…he is going to Belgium to join his team shortly). You get the idea. My whole thing was to survive this without a humiliating DNF.

There was an acceleration early on that made me think I was in trouble. Someone was drilling it at the front and I was up over 500 watts trying to stay on. If this kept up I was toast! Thankfully, it was the only one of these and the race settled into a back and forth rhythm as attacks were made without success. The thing with this field was that they went really hard then went ridiculously slow with the pulse of attack and catch. After about forty minutes I realized I was feeling strong and fresh; that familiar feeling from the past when you sense that the riders around you are wearing down. This shocked me greatly but I was still not willing to race. I wouldn’t call what I was doing racing. Racing means you are attacking, chasing and being a player. What I was doing was almost like sitting on the sidelines and watching. I’m not proud of this but even at this point in the race I was concerned there was some surprise that was going to drop me off the back in the last twenty minutes.

In the end I had poor position on the last turn, a rider caught his pedal and went down in front of me and it was really over. Mercott won his 5th race of the season and I settled for a pack finish. Chris Aten just missed the podium in 4th place. Not bad for a guy who says he can’t sprint!

It was obvious to me that I had way over estimated the effort level required to race this thing. This was just one race and next time it might be totally different but it was far from the hardest crit I have raced. I guessed a normalized power of 260-270 watts but I even overestimated that as it showed a measly 255 watts and a TSS of 75 points.

Jean, Neal and the kids congratulated me on finishing. It felt good initially but after looking at the file and reflecting I have to say I did not race even close to my potential. Even at my lofty age, it seems like I can open gaps and accelerate at an above average level. Just to check I would glance back occasionally to see what my acceleration had done and could see a descent gap. My max power for the day was just shy of 1200 watts and this wasn’t the finishing sprint. In a practice race earlier in the season I managed just shy of 1400 watts in an attack so even in that respect I was racing below my potential. So, I have to say I am content that I met my goal but disappointed that I didn’t make any adjustments and summon the courage to gamble a little more. I will certainly race differently next time.

Monday, February 08, 2010

The Slacker

Feeling motivated last night I set the alarm for 4:15a hoping to have enough time to catch the 5a Brumby ride. The ride out is 7 miles from my hom$e. Early on it became apparent that I was going to miss them so I gambled on which route they would take to Usery. Well, Like most things I guessed wrong. I knew I would run into them if I just rode the oppoisite direction around the loop.

It was inky black riding in the desert at night. My headlight gave me just enough light to be recognized and see the road but not enough to really gain perspective on my location. Having ridden this route at least a hundred times I knew where I was based on the grade of the hill and which gear combo I needed to ride it.

Just before Usery Pass I saw multiple headlights making the turn onto Bush Hwy. This had to be them. I turned around, slowed and waited to catch on. When I did I was shocked by what I saw. Twenty riders riding wheel to wheel in pitch black conditions cutting through it with twenty or so headlights. One rider had a wicked strobe for a tail light. This thing would go off bright every few flashes. I learned to just look away before it blew out my retinas.

Some of the group were obviously experienced racers and others were not. Imagine how freaky it is riding a choppy paceline up and down hills in those conditions.

Some tri-dudes went to the front and drove the pace into the 30's. (I only know this because I checked my max speed after I stopped at Starbucks where I am now hiding out). Going fast w as fun and felt effortless but I still couldn't tell where I was. I was surpised when I realized we were on King Kong hill. I was number 2 wheel most of the way up until 2-3 dudes srinted for the top. My bike needs a twist on the limit screw as it is jumping on and off my 25. All the way up the hill I was fighting to keep the bike on the proper gear. No way I was going to sprint. I need to take a look but I am also concerned my right shifter is failing. I really hope not. Dura Ace shifters are waaaayyy too much $$$.

Did I mention it was 46F at ride out? Given it was cold, my bike needs some attention, I can't see my power output, the Brumby's have all gone to work and I have had zero caffeine I pulled over at Starbucks. The sun is now coming up and I think I will re-mount my trusty steed and head over to Usery Pass for some hill repeats. Have a good day all!

For my DNA homies, this MWF group rides out of Val Vista and Hermosa Vista at 5a. Mondays and Fridays they ride straight up McDowell to Ellsworth. Wednesday they take Thomas to Recker through Red Mtn ranch to Power. The ride is fast but not super challenging until you get to the hills.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Flapjack TT Report

We hit the road at 5:15 am to pick up Jake and make the trip down to Picacho. We made a quick pit stop in Casa Grande before arriving at ride out at 7:30am. Jake and James went out first and I tried to get slotted last so James and I could share my gear. No dice. I had to ride out only 20 minutes after him. Sorry Jim!

The course was 20K with the first half into a quartering headwind and uphill around 500 feet. I hit it a little hard going out. It had been since last April since riding a TT and I was antsy and choppy in metering out my mojo. It really became a sufferfest early on as I was balancing on the razor's edge between LT and VO2max range. It took forever to get up that hill, turn around and get going in the right direction. Still, I wasn't feeling great going downhill. I was still fighting to ride steady. My power would be down at 260 watts then 330. It was just crazy. Riding along I thought it was going to be a very disappointing result.

When I saw the 1,000m sign I drilled it up to 400+ watts to blow myself up. That was a long 1,000 meters my friends. It hurt...bad. I kept the power up though and rode through the line to snag a 29:00 good for first place in the master's 45+ and top 5 overall, (I think). The beautiful thing was I managed 301 watts which puts me in basically the same form I had in August of 2008!

James set new power records but had a disappointing time. Check his blog for details. He rode his road bike with aero bars, rear wheel cover and no aero wheel on the front. He was wearing his old Chrono helmet too. I think the crosswind and his set up sank him. He still won his age group but we are flumuxed on the time. It just isn't making sense. Next weekend I suspect things will be different when he gets all my aero stuff for the Valley of the Sun.

Flapjack TT

The truck is loaded up and we are out the door to race the Flapjack TT! The Black Widow was in classic pre-race mood yesterday so fingers are crossed!