Thursday, November 23, 2006

My starts are horrible

Slick Willy / BRC knows how to put on a nice race. Situated at Shedd Park in Lowell, the course had a little bit of everything. And, demonstrating the popularity of cross, the C race was stacked with close to 80 people, which made it the largest field. One of those people was a running friend who took a co-worker's challenge to do a cross race without even knowing what was involved. On his stripped down hybrid (which I stripped of the kick stand, rack, water bottle cage, and reflectors), he was set to go with a couple of other co-workers who similarly had no idea what they were doing.

Even being situated in the first row doesn't seem to matter in terms of my start, because I was adeptly able to go from first row to middle of the pack in a blink of an eye.The course started around a cinder track, which made eyewear somewhat necessary unless you want to be blinded by cinders. After the cinders, we went to a brief three step run-up, which some riders (like MRC's own Michael Cole) actually jumped without dismounting. But, he has skills and I don't, so off the bike I go.

The course then proceeded on a slight uphill to a fast stretch of path, leading to a steep hill. Choose your poison: run-up or small ring slog. Riding the thing was a lot easier than running it, but it did call for some strength. Being able to ride it on every lap was a small victory, but a victory nonetheless.

The top part of the course was pathway that was not technical, but also not terribly wide to pass people. A few sharp corners that led into a technical downslope hairpin section. The "Slick Willy" turn was an interesting addition, having riders go downhill into an immediate hairpin uphill. Didn't take long for this to get chewed up. On the first lap, I unclip my left foot to do the corner and, bam, the guy in front goes down and I proceed to ride over his back wheel. This took some skill, as I am not accustomed to riding over wheels. Rider and wheel were unhurt as I moved up a place!

A short fast section awaited us after we emerged from the downhill switchbacks, which then led into more path through woods. With some rocks thrown in, line selection was important and again, not much room to pass. After some up and down through the woods, we emerged into the only set of barriers. Being short, they were rideable to the better skilled, but since again I have no skills, off the bike and over the barriers (demonstrated here by Rob Bauer).

Then the fun began, with a fast lap around the cinder track past the finish line. I was able to really open the throttle on the cinders, passing a lot of people.

Other than the start, the race went well, with me riding aggressively and passing people on each lap. I was feeling very good, which made the poor start all the more painful. Also painful were the cries of my teammate Rob during my race "Don't touch the brakes! Why are your braking?? Don't brake!!" every time I was by his spectating position. Further adding to the pain was the lapped riders we started to pick up from the women's C race, the men's older guy race, and the C men who have never rode cross before (like my friend). There was some satisfaction in lapping my friend, even though he caused a gap to form between myself and a pack of three that I was going to take down on the cinders. This is the guy who always passes me at Mile 16 of the Boston Marathon. Revenge is sweet, even if it takes half a year and a change of sport to do it.

I finished 15th overall in the C race, which isn't horrible. I'm hoping to do better at Sterling, which is going to be hard because of the large field again. Then it is our club race in Wrentham. Dubbed the Lazarus Race because we cancelled it and then two days later secured a venue, a flyer, approval, and up on Bikereg it goes. We rode it yesterday and it will be pretty decent. Only three weeks to Nationals and then sadly season over.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A Tale of Two Races

Due to my inability to post last week about the Northampton cross race, I'll compare notes between two races that were very different in every way. Northampton is a "classic" comptemporary cross course, with lots of grass, a sand pit, a couple of run-ups, and brief pavement (and one set of barriers). Brockton is flat with no run-ups, some semi-technical single track, dirt paths, and one barrier. From what the Race Official told us at the start, this is what cross used to be like. The word of the day was "old school".

Adding to the discrepancy was the weather. Northampton started out pretty chilly. As I made the 1 1/2 hour
trek westward, the thermometer on the car hardly budged. Once I got there and was able to hit the course, we were warming up on frost-covered grass. Although, the sun was showing and things were get a little warmer. At Brockton, we were treated to a monsoon. Rain was supposed to hold off until later in the day, but it only managed to hold off until the start of our race. It poured the first two laps, trailed off to just rain the next couple of laps, and then by the time we finished it was just a "misting", which was interrupted by the monsoon. But, at least it was a warm rain.

Both races went fairly well. At Northampton, I was able to get a decent start, despite getting hit in the face by a pine tree branch in the first turn. Beyond that, it was just a matter of sitting in and suffering like crazy. There was no room for rest as you were always trying to gain a position or
defend a position. This was also a stacked C field, with about 85 other people racing. It was a smooth course with good terrain variation, which only added to the physical distress. Being only a 40 minute race, the suffering was short-lived, but intense. I ended up only doing 35 minutes with the way the lap count worked out, which was a little disappointing. That is the odd thing about cross: during the race you want it to end, but after the race you think you could have gone another lap. Although, as I stood at my car with my legs shaking from the effort, I was happy it was over.

At Brockton, the field was much smaller, perhaps 40 people. With the rain and long sections of pavement, people were going to be cautious. The single track actually ended up helping because it provided some recovery as you couldn't pass or be passed. But once out of the single track, it was back to full-speed ahead. There were a few tight turns on the course, but mostly full throttle. People were dropping out constantly either due to mechanicals or crashes. One guy ended up in the pond during a downpour section. The crowd was very supportive, yelling at him to get out of the pond and start racing again. It was an absolute mudfest, with pe0ple caked with mud after the race. It took one pre-soak cycle, one wash cycle, and one rinse cycle to get things clean. A good metric for a cross race.

In both races, I raced with teammates. The first was Steve Wright and myself going through the course
together. At Brockton, it was Tom Ball and myself. In both races I ended up finishing pretty well. Top twenty in Northampton, 11th in Brockton. Onto Lowell next weekend.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Canton Cyclocross

We received a pretty pounding rain on Saturday, which all but guaranteed the course for Sunday would be a mess. Of course, it wasn't, thereby proving the importance of "all but" in the previous sentence. While the ground was soft and did get torn up a little, there was only one puddle on the course, and that could barely be classified as a puddle. Otherwise, it was a beautiful course in Canton, at least for me since it did not require great technical skills (but good skills would be helpful).

There were around 85 people signed up for the C race. The course was pretty wide open, going through some grassy fields, some brief single track, onto a cement walkway, back onto some grassy areas, down a hill, up an embankment, around a running track, back through grass, then uphill on a road to a finish. Pretty long loop and it seemed pretty easy.

I had a pretty good warmup, getting a nice feel for the course. Then someone says, "Let's do another 1/2 lap." Stupid me says fine, and off we go. Rule number 1: Don't do any more warm-up when you feel warmed up. Rule number 2: Don't go tearing off with one of the A master's guy for a warmup when you're a C. Everything was fine until on right turn on the concrete when my bike goes skidding from underneath me. Rule number 3: Cross tires and pavement don't mix. It wouldn't be a warmup if I didn't crash. I was fine despite some road rash, bike was fine despite some road rash, and off to the starting line bleeding once again before the race starts.

I had a decent start. I wasn't trying to kill myself since it was a 40 minute race. Plenty of time for that on lap 4. But, very soon after the start, my bike started to feel funny. The back end of a little squirrely. BINGO! A flat tire. No problem because I put my spare tires in the pits. However, one small problem in that the pits are on the other end of the course and I now have to ride the course with a flat back tire. It was fine as long as I was on the dirt. Once I hit the pavement, it was like being on an ice rink. The running track was worse. I'm trying to make my way around, not getting in people's way too much, and getting passed a lot.

I finally make it to the pits, and the mechanic pops the tire off, new tire on, off we go. I've never ridden on my pit back tire, so let's see how this works. Everything seems to be shifting okay, but now I am hopelessly out of the hunt. So, might as well work on passing technique and get a hard workout in. Rule number 5: There is always something to be learned from a race. The next three laps went by pretty fast, considering I lost 2 minutes on the first lap, what was 12:18. The next three laps were 10:12, 10:10, 10:08. I was having a good time and it was a beautiful course. It was also a beautiful day, despite the 20-30 mph wind gusts.

Despite the appearance of a smooth course, there was a lot of carnage out there. People were going down all over the place on the cement. Rule number 6: Despite the appearance of a smooth track, you can't lose your focus. One guy washed out right in front of me on the first lap, and I had to swerve around him (with a bad back tire) lest I run over his head. I saw another guy in the shower with major road rash. He hit a bump in the pavement while looking behind him. Launch. Rule number 7: Don't look behind you.

I have no idea where I finished overall. It was good experience at a larger race. We had a ton of MRC guys there doing different races, and it was good to see everyone enjoying themselves. I figure I could have held my own toward the top 15 if I wouldn't have flatted. Live and learn. Possibly doing Northampton next weekend, but that depends on family variables.

Footage of the race can be seen at:

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Thread City Cyclocross - Mansfield, CT

Third cross race, and it was going to be a chilly one. It is interesting to have a up-close and personal view of the weather and lighting changes as we plummet toward winter. We are now scrambling to get our rides in before sundown, which in New England is now around 6:00pm. Come daylight savings time, it will be around 4:30pm. Ouch. The air is getting a bite to it, and those humid days of training early in soupy air is over.

I had no idea what to expect from this race, but had heard that it was a good, low-key affair. I was hoping for a confidence builder as my cross skills get better. The C race was going to start at 9:00am, so I was there are 7:30am, one of the first cars in the lot. By the time you get there, get oriented, get the bike out, set the bike up, get your stuff sorted (what to wear, etc.), get to registration, get your number, get to the bathroom, get to the car, ride the course a few times, get back to the bathroom, tune the bike if necessary, get back to the bathroom, 1.5 hours doesn't seem like a lot of time.

I asked one of the guys on our team who pre-road the course what it was like. At this point, a significant pause before his answer can mean only a few things. A) it is soo good that it is beyond description; B) we're all screwed. It was B. He then proceeded to tell me it was not a cross course, but a MTB course. Great.

I tried to pre-ride the course with another teammate, but we couldn't figure out which way to go or where the course was going. Not a good sign. There was no less than 6 points where you HAD to get off your bike (unless you are that breed of psychotic cross rider who things everything is rideable). Two barriers, two beaches (one downhill and uphill), and two run-ups (one of which you should have roped in and used ascenders). Then there was a particularly sadistic off-camber which was otherwise known as a road embankment. During the pre-ride, I actually managed to crash and cut my knee open. Not a good sign.

At the start of the race, I actually had a pretty good hole shot and was placed well going into the first barrier. No problem. Then the off camber. At this point, I am positioned around 5th and trying to hammer this thing and get through it. No such luck as I slide down, taking about 90% of the field with me. Trying desparately to unclip, the front guy were rapidly getting away. Luckily for our team, we had two guys placed in the "break". No, this was not a plan ahead of time, but it worked out well for those guys.

After scrambling back on my bike, I was able to give chase without having lost too many positions. The effort was HARD the entire way as we caught the field in front of us. I went to that primal place of survival as I went around the course. At this point, finding a "line" gave way to staying upright. Everyone in my race was suffering as we went up and down and through sand and woods and other unspeakable horrors. The funny thing was, as the first lap went by, the course actually became fun. I don't know if I was happy or upset at the one lap to go sign from the officials. This would mean we only had done two laps of the course in a 30 minute race!

After seeing one lap to go, I figured it was now or never as I tried to up the tempo and pass whoever was around me. This strategy was working, and it was an interesting case of fitness versus skill. I have a lot of fitness (althouth not as much as I would like) but not alot of skill. There are folks in the race with a lot of skill, but not as much fitness. One this course, fitness was prevailing for me as I was able to keep it together and pass a few more people in front of me.

I actually almost caught the back of the breakaway, and given one more lap I would have made it. But, I'm not going to complain. I was able to do the off-camber the next two times around and not kill myself on any other section. As a team, we did very well with three guys in the top five of the C 35+ race. Other people had decent races as well, although one person vowed never to race in CT again.

Now, onto Canton Cyclocross this weekend.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Back on the Marathon Course

Yesterday marked my first return to the Sunday morning run on the Boston marathon course since Hailey was born. It has been a challenge rebuilding my fitness since then, and I still feel slow. Putting on winter weight doesn't help much. But, it was a nice day, and it felt good to hit the Newton Hills. We ran out to Mile 12 (just past Wellesley College) and back, making for a 19 mile day. Other folks getting ready for NewYork opted for longer. I was finished. Ended up doing 2:14 for the entire trip, 5 minutes faster on the way back. We were able to pretty much keep it under 7:00/mile pace coming back, with some miles being in the 6:40s. Surprising thing was it didn't feel too hard once I got into the groove. What hurt the most was the 1:45 it then took me to mow the lawn once I got home.

I guess that Dean guy was out there with a large crew, doing his 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days. Fortunately, we didn't run into him. It would have been a hassle trying to navigate around whatever traveling circus was there. Plus, when you can run into Karen Smyers and other such luminaries on a weekly basis, seeing Dean isn't all that impressive (sorry Dean). I once saw Elena Meyer at my chiropractor's office, and someone else saw Meb Keflezghi running on the Newton Hills. Lots of celebrities come to our humble running course.

Saturday was a killer cross workout at Ghiloni Park in Marlborough. We spent some time spinning through the trails, generally screwing around. Then we set up a short course that included 5 hills in a row, each of increasing size. It is amazing what you can do in a park in terms of a workout. After doing 3 sets of 3 laps, I was cooked. Got off my bike and collapsed on the grass. Ouch. I'm sill somewhat lousy at cross, but my fitness helps get me through as other people are falling off the back.

If anyone is interested, check out the new evidence from Floyd Landis regarding the doping accusations. After reading what's on his webpage, you might think differently of his guilt.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Gran Prix Gloucester Cyclocross 2006

On a perfect autumn day in New England, the 2006 Gran Prix of Gloucester took place at Stage Fort Park, located right on the ocean in Gloucester, MA (of "The Perfect Storm" fame). Last year's Saturday day was witness to a perfect storm of sorts, as snow blanketed the area resulting in challenging race conditions. This year, the difference couldn't have been more drastic as partly sunny skies and a light breeze welcomed cross riders from as far as Portland, OR and the UK.

The setting was absolutely spectacular, with a course that had elements of fast single track, technical switch backs, and challenging run-ups (oh, and the dreaded sand pit). Being only my second cross race, I was just excited to pay only about $20 to ride around a course for 40 minutes. As people parked their cars, you could see them scurrying about with the excitement usually reserved for children on Christmas morning. Everyone wanted to unwrap the present that was the Gloucester course. I set about trying to get things together. It is funny no matter how carefully I pack my car the night before, it always ends up in a shambles as I throw gear around trying to find what I need.

After a good warm-up and getting my race number figured out, I went down to the start line. The race bible said that there was going to be a call up based on UCI points and registration (or race number). I figured I had a little time, and got down to the start with 10 minutes to spare. N0 call-up, no registration line-up, and the Men's C (my race) and B Masters were all thrown together, which meant that I was in the very back.

I decided to take it easy at the start, not wanting to be "that guy" who causes a major pile-up. Being at the back meant I was essentially screwed for any placement. This was doubly secured when going onto the grass off the pavement, there was a crash and we got held up as the front of the field roared ahead. My main concern was getting into a rhythm and riding my race (and having a good time). The course was great, the weather perfect, I was riding the Gran Prix race, and I wasn't doing housework. All in all, a good bargain.

I was basically red-lining the whole way, trying to make my move through the field as much as I could. I had a very solid race for my second race ever, passing a lot of people and not killing myself. I was a little slow in some of the technical sections, but that's to be expected at this point. I was very happy that I could get on and off of my bike without too many problems, and actually was able to use my mounting and dismounting to advantage and pass people on the run-ups.

The race went by way too fast. In fact, I only ended up racing for 38:30. The race is done by calculating approximately how many laps the leaders are going to do in a set time. So, it is not an exact science. The highlight was coming into the finishing area, which involved a fast section across dirt and grass, transitioning into a uphill climb on pavement. I was behind three other people coming onto the pavement into the climb (a short hill). At that moment, no matter where you are in the race overall, it becomes a dogfight to the line. As we wound up our sprints, we might as well been the leaders of the race. Digging furiously to the line, we were all trying to beat each other into the ground. I was able to sprint ahead, screaming out loud, and nip the other three guys at the line for 19th place overall. A small victory, but I'll take it.

The rest of the day was spent hanging out, watching races with the family, who came up later in the day. Both Amelia and Hailey liked the race immensely, although Hailey was more interested in a bottle and Amelia more interested in picking up stones. The men's and women's races were great to watch, and humbling to see the skill that they have. Lots to work on between now and Nationals in December.

There are some great photos out there of the race to see. Mine are at

They are a little small in Yahoo Photos, which is too bad because some of them are nice. Another good source for photos is under the Gloucester Gran Prix section.

Looking forward to the next race, and to next year in Gloucester when I am for sure going to race both days!!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Cyclocross Season and Family Distractions

Since my last blog, I had a baby. Not just me of course, but my wife did most of the work. Hailey Harris David was born at 4:15pm on September 8, 2006. A very welcome addition to the family, and she's been enjoying her new environment and doing baby things.

Of course, this cuts into the training time a wee bit, so it's been tough to get things done. I haven't seen a swim in a month, despite having my wet suit in the car. I'm afraid to take it out, feeling as if that will be some kind of acceptance of the end of open water swims at Walden Pond. So, I keep it in there in some misguided attempt to hang onto summer. At some point, it will have to go under the bed and hibernate till next year.

The bonus of this time of year, however, is cyclocross season. I just started it this year, buying a bike from a clubmate. I keep wondering where this has been all of my life. It is the best time I've had on a bike. There is something about autumn in New England that compels you to ride a modified road bike (or cross bike if you have one) on the side of embankments while jumping over barriers and jumping back on the bike (risking all that men "hold" dear).

My first cross race was at Milford, NH. All went extremely well, except for not being able to unclip before the second set of barriers on the first lap, which of course meant that I went down hard, my Surly Crosscheck went down harder, and thanked me for my efforts by embedding a crank in my calf. First race, first lap, first wipeout. The cosmic forces were aligned.

But, I was able to use my base fitness to claw my way back in the always competitive beginner's race and finish top ten. I even had to do a sprint down the finishing straight and beat another guy buy a bike throw (pushing your bike forward in order to have your tire cross the line first).

Tomorrow, the big time: Gran Prix of Gloucester. This is cross in New England, in Stage Fort Park, on the ocean, with people coming from all around to do this race. Post to come.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Last Race, First Place (in my age group)

Surprising day at Cranberry Country Tri, that's for sure. We were racing in the middle of the EEE mosquito infestation zone, so first things first: put on the bug dope to avoid any mishaps. This is a nice race in a good venue. Lots of fast people show up here, so I was expecting nothing (coupled with it being my last tri of the year). A sold out field of around 522 added to the atmosphere on a pretty cold day for late August.

The race is set up as a .8m swim, 24.9m bike, 6.2m run. The bike course was altered for our "safety" right before the race, so the bike was a little long

Our group was wave 5 (out of 6), which is brutal because that means there's going to be a lot of traffic on the swim and the bike to weave through. The swim was an odd L shaped thing. I was hoping to have a fast swim, and had a decent start beside being pummeled at the beginning by legs, arms, elbows, the usual. Finally getting in my groove, I thought I was making good progress. Turns out that I "blazed" a 24:38, which was pretty disappointing (148th/522). At the time I didn't know it, but I had my suspicions. Not a great way to start.

Into the transition, I got out pretty quickly (by my standards) to get on the bike and start motoring. Just so happens that so did another person who was exactly the same speed as me. So, I had to ride with this other guy the entire way. Usually, company is great on the bike. But, not when you're not supposed to be drafting, and have to observe a three bike length zone. That meant I had to keep coasting at various points to stay out of his wake. Also, we were passing a ton of people, and over sometimes lousy roads. I tried to go past him, but he would pass me right back. So, I just sat in an figured I would conserve energy rather than waste effort repeatedly sprinting ahead. Ended up with a 1:03:16, good for 7th overall out of the pack.

Quick transition in T2, and onto the road. I was hoping to blitz the run in strong fashion. The legs turned over pretty well, and again I was passing a lot of people. It is a great feeling passing people in your age group. Pretty soon, I didn't see any other guys in my age group ahead of me, which meant (I thought) that the lead age group guys were way up the road and out of sight. I just tried to keep my own rhythm throughout the distance, keeping the effort high. My right Achilles started to twinge, a new feeling this season. I was attributing it to a chip strap that was too tight around my ankle (for timing purposes). Not time to waste to loosen it. I figured it's my last race, so even if I completely screw it up, I have some time to heal. Coming into the finish area, there was another guy in front of me in another age group. I had the momentary feeling of letting him finish ahead, but then dispelled it to race pace him in the finish chute. Went through the 10k in 39:18 for 14th overall.

This gave me a total time of 2:09:32. I wasn't terribly happy with the day after the race, and that feeling kept creeping in after the race. After I looked at the results and saw 1st in the age group, I was shocked. First, my time wouldn't have even placed in the age group last year. But, as Yogi Berra might say, "This year ain't last year." Second, I wasn't happy with my race overall. But, what the heck, someone has to win. The guy who came in second congratulated me and said he couldn't keep up with me on the run when I went by. That's a nice thing to hear. But, on the other hand, I was 14 minutes behind the winner. I know I'm not going to be that fast, but I figure I should be able to limit those loses.

Now that the season is over, there are a lot of positives to think about. I might get Honorable Mention in the USAT rankings. Maybe an outside show at All-American. But, there is a lot of room to improve. Back into the pool. Back on the indoor trainer. Another winter trying to grind out the hours preparing for next year.

In the interim, it's time for cyclocross season!!! Good times, muddy bikes, cold beer, steep hills, high barriers, and overall screwing around. Time to "transition" from tri-geek to cross-geek.

Monday, August 21, 2006

No Hilltowns - Onward to Cross Season

Hilltowns ends up being cancelled due to lack of volunteers. Just shows that without the volunteers, races do not happen. Period. Renews my determination to thank at least one volunteer at every race I do. Really too bad for a classic race to be cancelled. Hopefully next year will turn out different.

But, that did allow me to crank up a solid training weekend, with about 14 hours of work between swimming, biking, and running. Plus, I had the chance to start learning how to do cyclocross. I haven't been on trails in about 15 years, since I went head first over my handlebars and really had bad road rash on my shoulder. It was something to get back on a trail, on a cross bike no less, and try to attempt flying dismounts and mounts. The dismounts are easy because in tris this is how I get off the bike going into Transition 1. However, we never get back on the bike. This meant that the remounting proved to be somewhat of a challenge. But, after two practice sessions I started to get the hang of it. It is really nice to have a diversion from the roads after a whole season of road riding. I'm starting to catch the cross bug, and hopefully soon can try a race without killing myself or someone else.

This weekend is the Cranberry Country Tri, an olympic distance race which could be my last one of the season (baby pending). I was able to borrow a pair of Cosmic Carbone SSCs from a teammate to try and potentially buy. I am very fired up to have something resembling aero wheels on my ride. I'm going to give them a try tomorrow and see what happens. Hopefully speed to burn.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Greenfield Tri - New England Club Championships

I'm a little late in getting this post up after the race on Sunday. Truth is, I was pretty dead to the world on Sunday after I got home from the race, and didn't have time to do it yesterday. Here's the summary.

The Greenfield Tri takes place in an ideal location, with a wonderful transition area and a swim in a small river. I've heard a lot of good things about this race from people who have done it, including a covered bridge and a hill with switchbacks on the course. The profile of the course isn't bad, with some steep uphills followed by a lot of time to build speed and recover.

I was particularly hyped up since this was to be the New England Club Championships. My club, the Minuteman Road Club, has been having some pretty fantastic results this season, and I expected we had a pretty good chance to do well in our division. But, we had some people out because of having just done the Lake Placid Ironman, plus the usual summer traveling. So, we went with a smaller than usual crew, but one that is stocked with some great athletes.

I approach all my tris the same: survive the swim, hammer the bike, hunt people down on the run. This was going to be no different. My swimming has improved volumes, but it is still not my strong suit. But, at this point, I am used to being hit and kicked, and that is a major part of the battle. As the gun went off, I tried to get in a groove. Because we were swimming in a river, there was little need for sighting because all you had to do was follow the shore or the "lane line" that was in the middle of the river marking the out-and-back. Plus, the river was so shallow you could see the bottom and thus get your bearings easily. I was able to keep a decent rhythm, and was out of the water in 16:59 (covering 800 meters). Not a great time, and slower than I would have liked, but good enough for 21st out of 173 competitors.

My T1 was not great either because of some problems getting my leg out of my wetsuit. But, after a minor delay I got out of there in 1:20 and hit the road on the bike. I was hoping for 1:20 to cover the 30.4 miles, which meant 20 minutes per lap (four lap course). After the first hill, I was getting into a rhythm and starting to peg people who had finished ahead of me in the water. My cycling has been pretty strong from riding with roadies and doing road races, plus putting time on the bike in training. Through the covered bridge I hit the major hill with the hairpins. From my watching of professional cycling, I know to stay to the outside of hairpins, as it is less steep. I guess most of the competitors don't watch cycling, as they took the inside line and I cruised by more people. End of the first lap in about 19 minutes, ahead of schedule.

As I built my rhythm, I was able to really start to crank on the bike. One of my teammates who is a powerful cyclist passed me, but I was able to reel him back in and we yo-yo'd each other the entire way. I then passed another super fast teammate, who was pretty shocked to see me go by. I was totally grooving on the bike, having a good time on great pavement on a very nice day. Can't get any better than that! It is the best feeling having traffic stopped for you so you can blitz into corners, power through them, and generally hammer down the road. I was disappointed when it was over, but happy with my time: 1:17:41, good enough for 3rd fastest time overall and a 23.48mph average.

Now for the run. As I came into the transition area (with two of my teammates in two), another teammate who was spectating yelled out "You're all racing for second". That meant someone was waaay up the road, and the rest of us were going to battle it out. I knew I needed a good transition, and decided to forgo the socks for my running shoes. I've never run 7 miles sock-less, but drastic times call for drastic measures. I flew out of T2 in 43 seconds, but 17 seconds behind on of my teammates who was now up the road. He was the least of my worries as another guy went flying by me with the kind of stride that said "Don't even think about it."

I know 7 miles is a long way, andthe best thing that you can do is hit your stride and run your race. I wasn't worried about catching anyone initially, but getting in my rhythm and getting comfortable after the bike. My ankles were pretty tight after my bike, and it took a while to loosen up. My plan was to keep my teammate in sight until mile 5, and then make something happen. As the miles went by I felt progressively better, until mile 5 when I had to do something or settle for fourth (number two was still up the road, but faltering a little bit). I quickened my pace and locked my eyes on the back of the person in front of me. At one point he turned around and looked behind him, and that was it. Never turn around unless you can do something about it. At mile 6 I passed my teammate, who gave me words of encouragement, and I continued to hit the gas. By the time I hit the finish line, I was feeling my stride and hammering downhill. End result of the run: 45:22, or 6:18/mile, and 4th fastest run time.

My final time was 2:22:00. I was hoping for a little faster, but couldn't complain too much. The best part of the whole thing was I took third place overall, the first time I've ever been on the podium in a tri. I was pretty fired up, as it is the culmination of a lot of hard work (especially in the pool). It's nice to have a good result and have no regrets.

Actually the best thing was the award ceremony, as my club took honors in most of the categories. Then, for the club championship, we edged out a team victory in Division 4 (based on club size). Annie, another teammate, also took third for the women, and we had a good time comparing trophies.

It was a heck of a race, one that I would recommend to anyone and would like to do again. But, the race is over, and this week it was back to training. Big bike race coming up: Tour of Hilltowns. It's an epic event with an intimidating profile, and I gotta get ready for the suffering.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Pat Bell Time Trial

Went and did the Pat Bell Time Trial last night to get a good effort in before racing this weekend. I think it was about 95 degrees, which didn't help matters much. I've only done this once before when there was a massive wind on the course. I don't know what was worse.

The time trial is an informal affair where people keep their own times over a course that is about 11.7 miles with a lot of rolling hills ( There is a nasty hill toward the end. Definitely favors someone with a lot of explosive power, which is not me. I ended up with a time of 28:20, which is 24.8mph average. Not great, but an 8 second improvement over my last time here.

I think part of the problem was my fatigue from the race on Saturday, coupled with a 17 mile run on Sunday. Those things can catch up with you. I also need some new wheels! The once that came with my Cervelo are not very aero or fast. I swear I was towing an anchor.

Overall, it was a good workout in the heat. I went out this morning to try and beat the forecast of triple digit temperatures. Was out for about 45 minutes before a mechanical brought me home. That's okay because I need the rest.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Cyclonauts Road Race

Saturday was the Cyclonauts Road Race in Monson, MA. The race is 56 miles long, with some decent hills and an uphill finish. Along with myself were about 9 other guys from the MRC in the Cat 4-5 race. This was my first race against Cat 4's. Since I have had decent form in the hills, I was hopeful of a good finish. Here is the profile of the race:

The day was going to be hot, and the race started out pretty easy. Being a Cat4-5, there were a few sketchy rides who were having a hard time maintaining an even pace and holding a straight line. But, that smoothed out after the first 45 minutes or so. Plus, the pavement was pretty chewed up in spots, with some big holes. One of my teammates hit a hole hard and had his handlebars rotate about 4 degrees. Another guy flatted, and he wasn't the only one. I think the SRAM car was pretty busy all day with neutral support. Given that they had Zipp 404s as replacements, I should have aimed for some holes myself.

Things were mostly casual during the first half. We had a few gradual climbs, but nothing that bothered me much. The first major climb was the one through the finish line. The finish is about 1.25 miles uphill, but the climb continues past that. The climb got pretty steep up towards the top, but again nothing too crazy at the pace we were going first time around. I knew that the next time around for the finish would be a lot more difficult.

After the first loop, things heated up a bit. There were some attacks off the front, including some guys from our team. At one point, one of our guys got off the front with two others who were unattached, and a few of us starting blocking and slowing down the pace. I thought they were going to have a chance to get away, but they were gradually brought back, as all the breaks were. It became pretty clear that the race was going to come down to the last hill, so I started to sit in and conserve energy.

The hill started after a sharp right-hand turn. Going toward it, I got on the wheel of one of my teammate, who then promptly took off like a rocket toward the front with me in tow. It was a great move, and I was at the front positioned perfectly for the last climb.

As we started up, I went to attack and then everything went badly. Both of my quads started to cramp massively and I couldn't get any power. The pack I was trying to stay with was moving away, and I couldn't do much. Myself and another teammate were working together to bridge to them, with the peloton behind us not gaining any ground. I tried to relax my legs and get into a rhythm, which I was barely able to do. I had another teammate up with the group, so we had 3 guys positioned in the top 10. I was gunning as much as I could toward the finish line, but couldn't go much faster, and ended up either 9th or 10th. We had one teammate 7th and another 8th. So, three MRC guys in the top 10, which isn't too bad.

I'm disappointed at the result, because I was hoping for and positioned for much better. I have not idea what happened to my legs. I have been doing mostly tris, and this was my first road race since the Hartford Crit in May. So I don't exactly have race legs right now. But, I should have done a little better if the circumstances were better for me. Oh well.

I did learn some nice lessons as a result of the race, though.

1. Again, big thanks to Rob my teammate for sprinting me up the side going toward the final corner. It worked really well. I yelled to Rob that I was on his wheel, and he took off. I just wish I could have done something better with it. So, lesson one is communication is key.

2. I'm still pissed I didn't place better. I was RIGHT THERE with the front group and feeling pretty good. Don't know what happened, but what are you going to do. A positive lesson was don't give up on it no matter what. I was able to regroup and give it another go before the end of the hill. Lesson two is don't give up on the race until it is over.

3. The race is an organic, ever-changing thing. It is hard to have "a plan" at the start that is going to be executed exactly as expected. That said, it is important to be able to recognize what is happening at that time and react. When either Todd or Rob went off the front, Kevin and I immediately were at the front and starting slowing the pace of the group. That was pretty cool. Lesson three is recognize and react.

4. Despite "only" being a Cat4-5 race, there were still some strong guys there at the end. I know there was talk before the race about it not being challenging enough, but I didn't hear too many people complaining about the pace being too slow. Things were firing at the front toward the end. Talking with people in the other races, it seems like they had a similar experience to ours in terms of tempo and pace. Lesson 4 is don't judge a race or cyclist by the category.

5. It was really cool seeing everyone at the finish line cheering the team on after their race was over. I didn't see any other teams there doing the same. And we cheered everyone over the line no matter how far back. That is why we race with a club. Even though we didn't win, we were there in numbers and people saw that. What's more, we were there after the race was over as well. Lesson 5 for me is it is better to belong to something than to nothing.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Two Races - Two Results

Since the last post, I've done two tris and had two pretty good results. In Holliston, I was able to finish 5th overall and 1st in my age group, which netted me a free bike fitting at FastSplits (score). They do a really nice job there, and I highly recommend it.

Then this last weekend, I did Newburyport Sprint Tri. I was hoping for a good result, and was able to net a 6th overall (2:00 behind 5th). There were a lot of really fast people there. The swim was in the fog, in between boats, without being able to see the buoys. I was glad to get out of the water alive. Plus, with all the flooding into the Merrimack River, I was happy not to have broken out in a rash afterward (sewage issues). The bike was fun, despite the rain. I've actually become so accustomed to riding in the rain, I look forward to it now. Amazing what you can get used to. I averaged someone in the 23 mph range, which was good considering the conditions. I thinik I was in the top 10 bike splits. Then, on the run, I was able to power through the 3.3 miles (it was advertised as 3, but the GPS doesn't lie) doing 5:55/mile pace. The whole experience took 1:09:00. But, for 6th overall and 3rd in my age group, I left with nothing in terms of prizes. What a drag. At least it was good training.

Two more tris left for sure: Greenfield and Cranberry Country. Then hopefully Firman 1/2 Ironman for the last one. I can't believe there aren't that many tris left. I'm knackered from the training and racing. This weekend a 56 mile hilly bike race (CAT4/5). Probably followed by a 17 or 18 mile long run on Sunday. Ugh.