Monday, April 19, 2010

Winding Trails Fat Tire Classic MTB Race

After a hectic school week left me with exactly 1 hour on the bike since my last race, I lined up for the second Root 66 race of the year, the Fat Tire Classic.

Now, Winding Trails holds a special place in my heart.

1. It was the location of my first and second bicycle race, ever (last race of the season in 2001/first race of the season in 2002). (either 2001/2 or 2000/1, can't remember)
2. It's a fun course.
3. I hate it.

At it's core, the Fat Tire Classic is a roadie course. Technically, it's the easiest course of the series. Some dudes ride cyclocross bikes on it.

But all that is not why I hate the course, just a symptoms of the course itself. I hate the course because it is absolutely unrelenting.

This race is truly a time trial on knobbies. You'll never see closer time gaps in a mountain bike race than on this course. And while they have added some cool, flowing singletrack in past years and even more this year, it's still fast.

So, traditionally I post this at the end, mostly because I think it's just not all that interesting. But I was to stress how unrelenting this course is.

Zone 3 is over lactate threshold. zone 2 is lactate threshold. Out of zone is the time after I'd collapsed after the race and forgot to press the stop recording button.

Anyway on to the race.

The race's start featured a sandy uphill to split the pack up. The best line was to the left, so UNH's Jeff, Uconn's Adam, Uconn/Team Motor's (?) Dan and myself camped out literally ON the start line, freezing and shivering, waiting for the first call to the line.

I was determined to not start as hard as last weekend, but I wanted the front. My plan was to jump the line, hopefully form a front group with 2 or 3 riders, and then work together from there.

So I jumped, kept a steady pace, ended up at the front anyway, checked back, and...I had a gap. The sand must have wreaked havoc worse than I thought. Anyway, the emotion that accompanies a gap quickly overcame me, and I started thinking, in a quiet, soft tone...


Thankfully, I held back the urge, and kept a consistent pace. Looking back about a mile in, I could see 3 chasers. At a mile and a half, two, and by two miles, one chaser...who was closing in. Ugh.

He worked his way up to me on a flat, offered to work together, and then promptly gapped me on the next hill. I need to work on my hill climbing-I lost all three spots last week on hills.

Anyway, that was the end of the glory. Throughout the race, I faded. 25 minute first lap, 27.5 minute second lap, and a 28.5 minute third lap.

On the third lap, I'll offer a qualifier. I chose to slow down to pace myself with the eventual Mr. 5th place. I'd planned to recover, let him work and kick past him at the finish. Instead, he plowed through a 50 foot mud section way, way faster than I had the legs to do, about a half mile from the finish line. So there went that plan. My qualifier probably isn't worth much in terms of time, but I'll add it anyway.

So my pathetic showing in the mud had me checking behind me, to see if I could relax a little and coast into the line. Instead, up came 7th place. Great. I tried to put in an effort, but realized how gassed I was pretty quickly as he pulled in behind me.

He caught me on the flat just before a quick uphill kick to the line, and tried to sprint past me. I did manage to recover some dignity by starting my sprint at the right point, just as he pulled up beside me. He let out this horrible, gutteral sound (I later learned was a leg cramp), and pulled across the line in 6th place.

At which point I promptly collapsed. My sprint to defeat the leg cramper was the nail in the coffin.

So lessons learned.

#1. Pre-ride the course at, or close to, race pace- In our pre-ride, we'd assumed about 20-22 minute fast laps, which put our efforts at about an hour. riding ~5 minute longer laps doesn't sound like much, but it adds up. So definitely get a feel for the length of the course

#2. Nutrition- I have pre-race nutrition settled pretty well. My in-race nutrition sucks. I need to force myself to suck down a gel just before and during the first lap. I think it definitely would have helped that 2nd lap.

#3. Calm down at the start-Even if the gaps there, I really need to relax and follow a few wheels the first few miles. I am really murdering myself on the starts.

#4. Ride more- 1 hour in 1 week= not good.

Next week is up in Massachusetts, before the series takes a break and it's time to return to the tarmac. Never raced it before, should be fun.

Here's the totals/averages for the race.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Hopbrook Dam Mountain Bike Race

Today was my first "real" race of the year-before now, everything else has had "training" in the title. So, I kicked off my "official" racing season mountain bike style, at Hopbrook Dam in Middlebury.

So, 5.3 mile laps, and only two laps for sport (very short). The fact the race was only 10.6 miles turned this race into a sprint race of sorts. My final time was just over an hour, 1:00:39. Really kind of disappointing it wasn't 3 laps, but what can you do.

Anyway, here's my log.

I think the major obstacle each lap is pretty easy to identify. Very steep hill a 1/3 of the way through each lap. I was stupid the first lap and opened up way too hard, and ended up needing a couple minutes of recovery just as I hit the hill. Not good. I totally forgot how hard that hill was.

As you can see in #'s 2 and 3, I definitely wasn't holding back-average heart rate above LT, and the majority of the time spent in zone 3, just over LT. It hurt.

As for the race itself, mine was pretty unexciting. I led the race for about 1.5 miles with my stupid, uh, heroic attack off the line, and I hit the hill and lost 3 spots. After I got down said hill, I chased 2nd and 3rd place, who were always turning the far corner just as I entered a longer section. So I could see my targets, but never really pulled forward, and they never pulled away. Looking behind, I saw no one. Besides a couple ladies I passed and a dude with a flat tire, my only company the whole race were the random spectators walking the course. So after said 1.5 miles, my placing was decided-4th.

Anyway, all that loneliness leads to a huge mental battle. I suck at mental battles. They suck. So maybe it was good the race was relatively short. I found myself wandering across the trail, picking stupid lines, more out of boredom than anything. There was just no concentration.

So, my 4th place won me a pair of gloves. So I dug into the bin and found...Specialized Body Geometry gloves. I was so freaking excited.

I love Specialized Body Geometry gloves so much, I have used the same pair for the last 4 years.

They're falling apart. Each has at least 4 holes, all getting larger. The "Body Geometry" part of the Body Geometry gloves are falling off. The soft wiper portion of the glove has become a great exfoliater. They kinda smell funny. And. They. Are. Comfy.

My new gloves, with a suggest retail price of $25, left me paying an effective $8 for a great venue, a great experience, a fantastic hour of training, and a small list of things to work on in future races.

1. Concentration
2. Starts and Recovering
3. Concentration
4. Tire Pressure-needed a little less today
5. Concentration
6. Remember my technical skills
7. Concentration

Friday, April 9, 2010

Why Mountain Bikes Are Betther Than Road Bikes

In light of a mountain bike race I have tomorrow, I've been thinking about all the ways mountain bikes are far superior to road bikes.

Blasphemy, I know. Truth is, there's tons of stuff where road bikes trump mountain bikes. Ability to ride alone (or at least I am willing to, and not willing to ride solo MTB), racing dynamics (maybe not better, just different), convenience. Etc.

But anyway, there's some stuff that the road bike just plain can't match.

1. Training

Most people ride road bikes to train for mountain bike races. But riding mountain bikes can be an excellent training tool for road biking.

This is an easy ride from Case yesterday. The red line is my HR-and it's constantly fluctuating. Easy on an easy ride, mountain biking demands that you push hard at certain times. Race pace rides are even more brutal.

Which leads to the elevation gains. My computer, though not perfectly accurate, stated that I was moving uphill 50% of the time. Which means I'm either leaning back, holding on for dear life, or leaning forward, pushing a big gear.

Which leads to building muscle. Not just the force work you gain from climbing half the time (sometimes in way too low of a cadence to clear rocks). My lower back, triceps, and shoulders all burn the first few MTB rides of the year.

2. The Gear

Oh, the gear. I love gear. Short, medium, long cage rear derailleurs. Double or triple crankset. Flat bars or risers. Pedal choice. Full suspension design. Fork choice. Brake choice. Tubeless. Tubes. Sealant. And most importantly, TIRES.

God I love tires. There's so many. I look at tires for hours. I scrounge for reviews. I check the review boards several times a day to comb for new information. Wet, dry, slick, semi slick, knobby, casings, compounds, blocks, rounded, spacing, angles, size, etc, etc, etc.

My new rear mud tire.

Not the lightest. Not the fastest. But it'll grip like a mother. Dual compound (oh so pretty). 2.0 casing (smaller the better for mud).

Now, obviously this all exists for road bikes. But with road riding, gear is less important. It's just not as key as the rider. But MTB'ing requires you pay careful attention to what you ride, because what you ride dictates how you'll perform. A lighter tire may lead to a flat. A poor tread pattern choice will lead to no grip. Hydraulics are lighter than mechanical disc brakes, but they're harder to maintain. On and on.

I love gear.

3. Bike Handling Skillz

Back in the day, after racing MTB for years, I entered a couple cat 5 races. I raced two or three, plus some collegiate racing, and used my mountain biking as reason to upgrade early. I was petrified of the 5's. They're squirrely. They're not smooth. They're scared of each other.

If anyone wants to become more comfortable in a pack, they should do two things.
1. Ride in packs more
2. Ride mountain bikes

4. The Thrill

Screaming down some sweet downhill on a road bike is awesome. It really is.

Screaming down some sweet downhill on a mountain bike is bliss.

Taking rocks, roots, holes, switchbacks and making them your bitch is the greatest thing you can ever do on two wheels.

Railing corners hard enough that your front wheel begins to wash out is the second greatest thing you can ever do on two wheels.

Something on a road bike may take the third spot. Sprinting for a W is pretty cool. Railing corners (without any front wheel wash) also comes to mind.

5. Wheelies

Actually, I lied. They're just as much fun on road bikes. They're just easier on a MTB.

With that, I have to pack for the race tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Steps to Becoming a Cycling Badass

1. Register to race a classics monument
2. Have a mechanical at an extremely inconvenient time (someone said if someone has a mechanical there, they will lose the race)
3. Receive an 8 second bicycle change
4. Rejoin group
5. Attack group
6. Attack/ride away from breakaway companion from previous attack-bonus points for doing so on the Muur
7. Win-by over a minute

And viola! You're a badass.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

April 3rd- Plainville Spring Series

With the inspiration of a leader's jersey to defend, I headed to the Plainville Spring Series this morning to support my team-mate, Pete, in the 4/5 race. I meet Pete for the first time as we're prepping, and I greet my friend Chris, a Uconn team-mate, who will be flying Colavita colors for the day.

I ask Pete what he wants from me for the day. He asks me to go for the primes to take the pressure off him. Done-I have my orders for the day.

As the dew burns off, we wait for 10 minutes on the line, waiting for 9:00 to tick over. In the meantime, we receive several tips from the series coordinator, ranging from race tactics to race nutrition.

Uconn/Colavita Chris

We start and as I move up a few places down the middle, I begin to turn, while my neighbor doesn't. We tap handlebars, and I get yelled at by a couple people. Kinda my fault, but I felt like I was holding the correct line through the turn. Whatever.

So, here's my HR log for the race. Steady red and green lines are respective averages for the race.

First spike is from a cash prime, I hit my max speed of the day there. A few spikes responding to attacks and prime #2 (got boxed in, Stefano, #2 overall, managed second), followed by...

That long, horizontal steady line on the HR register? That's a 5 lap, 3 then 4 man breakaway. The pic above was the beginning of said breakaway. For the duration of the breakaway, I posted an average HR of 190 (Lactate Threshold is 176), and was becoming severely cooked.

The whole reason of the breakaway was actually a points prime, which my team-mate Dan O thought was at 15 to go, rather than 10 go to. So, with a Cheshire guy, Chris, and myself away, we were joined by Stefano, placed #2 in the overall.

In any case, we did stay away, and I held Stefano off for top points to limit his gains on Pete.

After re-integrating into the field, I surprised myself for feeling so good after our 4 man effort. Recovered well all towards 5 to go, and then pulled up to the front, with Pete on my wheel.

Lucky we picked then to move. As we moved up the left, there's a pile-up to the right side. Chris gets caught, but stays upright, but Dan O (pre-mature prime sprinter) goes down and bangs his knee. Get well soon, Dan.

After a rider organized neutral lap, we start burning into the final four laps. On the bell lap, I put in as hard an effort as I can, and though I have no pictures from the front, I'm happy to say Pete managed 2nd place after getting knocked off his line in the sprint.

All in all, an excellent, rewarding day. Totals for the race, as well as HR zone percentages, posted below.

Zone 1- Endurance

Zone 2- Lactate Threshold

Zone 3- Over Lactate Threshold

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


School, vacation, work, and cycling have all distracted me from posting. Plus, I just couldn't get into it.

So, restarting. Reflecting back over the last months, I have a lot to talk about.

1. CVC-specifically, how great it is to be on a team
2. Toys-new computer = very cool. I'll be posting ride data much more regularly
3. Crashes-the trials (literally) and tribulations of a teammate
4. Job-I have one. Sweeeeeeet. Now only 10 more years until corporate burnout and I start a bike shop. I guess there will be coffee too.
5. Lactate Threshold Test-cool
6. Bethel Crits-mostly ties into cool computer outputs
6. Coffee-haha. I've drank two cups in the last 4 weeks. It's been all carbon.

This is more of a mental list for me than of any interest to any of you reading.

In any case, since it's most logical, I'll start with #5- Lactate Threshold Test

My numbers:

My Lactate Threshold = 245 watts, 176 HR
So, at LT, i'm at 3 watts/Kg right now

And for comparison.

Lance Armstrong's LT = 493 watts, 178 HR
6.75 watts/Kg


I don't have a power meter, so I've been basing my training on HR values. It's well documented that HR is subject to a stupid amount of variables, but the basic idea is still there. Next post I'll go into more detail, but here's one of the data outputs from last week's Bethel Cat 4 race.

Blue is altitude, Green is Speed, and Red is Heart Rate. The first major elevation was a sprint for a prime ($20 in pocket-woo!), and the second spike was an attempt to break away. Didn't work.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I thought I was cool

So today we had a team ride out of Uconn, with a starting temp of 19 degrees. Awesome. There were two of us, waiting for a third, Caitlin. We're dressed to the max- I had no less than 19 individual articles of clothing/gear on my body (I cheated-gloves, etc count twice). But nevertheless, I felt like I had a fat suit on. Ryan was similarly dressed, and even used ski goggles for the occasion. Everyone else bailed.

Except Caitlin. When I saw her, I did a double take. She had a flimsy jacket. A lightweight set of tights. No booties. Her ankles were bare. Gloves were so thin I could see through them. Small headband on-hair showing through her helmet. No face protection. Mid-ride, she had frost and icicles forming on her chin. We rode for 2:15.

Oh. My. God.

She didn't complain once. Incredible. And I thought I was cool for going out today.