Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The long and winding (not to mention boring) road.

Work has been a bit tough the past couple weeks. I've had to take on alot more of the load personally as there was a bit of a meltdown in a work and personal relationship here. Communication is very important and it just didn't happen in this case. I tend to blame email on this sort of thing since it makes things extremely difficult to properly talk with others and conversations that should last 5 minutes take a day or more in this method. I'm a bit depressed about it since it feels like I'd lost a good friend in the process. I'm hoping we can work the differences out, but I think it might be tough.

I had planned a trip to Georgia and due to the workload had even canceled it. But on Thursday, I'd gotten enough of the jobs done that I felt I could blow off a Friday. So, I loaded the car up and started down the road. On the way, I stopped in for the Thursday night Morgantown training crits. They lasted 3 laps as organizer did a really bizarre endo and wound up on his face. After getting him packed off to the ER, we decided WVU might not like it if there was a second wreck in the race and we opted for a training ride. It was a nice 20+ mile ride with a couple big climbs and a tour through the downtown and campus area. Thursday night in town is ladies night at the bars so from a guy's standpoint, it's a good time to be in town. I really do want to go back to school. I don't want to take any classes, but I do want to go back to school. Once back to the car, I did my stumping to a couple other riders for the Enzymatic Therapy product, Fatigued to Fantastic. I can't say enough about this stuff. It really does help out. I'm just a couple weeks past one of the little warning attacks of chronic fatigue I have to deal with and I'm feeling one hell of alot better. I just have to remind myself to stay on it now. Afterwards, I got the car loaded up and did the next 3 hour leg of the drive(4 hours total by now). In the morning, I got myself ready, had a good breakfast and started on the next leg of the journey. I was hoping to make it in for the finish of the 5th stage of the Tour de Georgia. Unfortunately, I found out that they went a bit faster on that day and came in quite early. I was able to check the race progress via the notebook's wireless hookup. If you don't have a regular service aircard, one trick you can do is pull off at any exit where you see hotels at. Most have free wireless, though you do have to have a log in for it. I have found that Holiday Inn Express just make you click past the usage screen and then you're ok. Most Day's Inn and Super 8s are the same. Some hotels like Motel 6 charge for it - Jerks! So anyway, I finally found a hotel in Northern Georgia in the evening. It was a bit difficult since there was a big NHRA drag racing event in the area where I was looking to stay. In the morning, I drove to Blairsville to the start of stage 6 and met up with some people I needed to see for work before the start. I made the arrangements to link up with them after the stage and with work done for the time being, I drove to the finishing mountain. There was quite a few people on the mountain. I road it on a 25 and cursed the extra 20lbs I'm carrying right now the whole way. One way to tell if I'm suffering, is to listen to me and what I'm saying when riding. If I'm cracking jokes and making fun of myself, I'm hurting. I was doing a regular stand up act the whole way up. I knew I should've put the 27 on. I also knew that I should've put down the donut earlier in the day too(the day before too...). But there I was. I actually ran into a few people who were there from the Mid-Atlantic cross crowd. They recognized me even though I was in my WVU Healthcare kit instead of the Fort team's. I guess it's a good feeling to be seen and known. For the race, I was hoping Sevilla could pull something out. It was really good seeing him cross back to the front group towards the top, but unfortunately, his race form just wasn't quite as good as the others and he slipped off after passing the spectator area. After the race, I caught up with the guys who were in the race caravan and had a brief chat with them and re-established communication with a company after our contact had abrubtly left a bit more than a month ago. Hopefully work on the projects we'd been talking to them about can start.

From there I continued on down to Atlanta and stayed with my brother and his wife for the evening. By now, I'd been driving for a total of 14 hours. Man it was beginning to suck. On Sunday, I got into town with zero issues and even found free parking too. There was a pretty good crowd, though it seemed a bit packed into just the start finish area. I filled up a schwag bag with souvenirs and even stopped by the Rock Racing booth and got some of the autographed posters. I have friends who are big Tyler and Freddy fans. Say what you will about this team, but they are the ONLY team to have an organized place where fans can meet and actually talk and get photos with the riders. This is the sort of thing that people respond to at a sporting event and can only be a good thing for the sport. Maybe more teams should take a look at what they're doing and start trying to one up them and we could actually get noticed much beyond our small little world. Once the day was finished up, I hopped back in the car and began the drive home. Crap, it was past 5. It was going to be a long one. This leg of the trip ended a bit earlier than I thought. I wound up having a headlight switch crap out on me when getting gas. I'd made to to 20 miles away from the WV border. After tearing apart the steering wheel a bit and realizing I didn't have all the tools to fix it I was going to need, I just opted to sleep in the car and finish the drive in the morning. Audis are nice cars to drive, but they suck for trying to sleep in them. I finished the drive home, Monday morning. It rained almost the entire way. At the end, I'd spent a bit more than 25 hours behind the wheel of the car in about 3.5 days. It was a good trip, but I really don't want to do that again for a while.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Use the force, Luke!

Well, I hit my second off road race of the year. Unfortunately, I'm in that land of single-speeders racing against geared bikes. The start was a long road ride and I forget that I have to lose some time there, otherwise I blow myself up spinning at 150rpms trying to keep up with the pack. I felt like crap for the first half of the race because I did it again. It took me about 40 minutes to start getting any kind of rythym going. I was catching people and riding thru them, but it felt slow. Then all of a sudden, I felt the body click into gear. Hard up over the climbs and ease off to regain myself when it flattened out and build the pace back up. Yeah, this is what it is supposed to feel like. I started zipping through the corners only touching the rear brake to kick the bike around when it needed it. I was feeling better and after the second time thru the pine section at the top, we hit the big descent of the day. Last year, my forearms, back and legs were a mess as I tiptoed down the drops and made sure I didn't hit the rocks or anything that could've ended my day or caused a flat. This time, something was very different. I saw the line. Nothing else. It was almost like it screamed at me "THIS WAY, OVER HERE'. I didn't see where not to go. I felt like Luke Skywalker streaking down the trench on the Death Star(They just ran every Star Wars movie on SpikeTV last week). Let go, Luke. Use the force. I didn't notice anything around me. The trees, the stream, the big rocks off the trail, none of it registered with me. I just saw the line and was bombing down the hill. The bike didn't even seem to be bouncing hard. I stayed light on the bike, relaxed hands, no brakes with the exception of the occasion spike on the rear to help steer the bike. I came up to the quick right into the rocky stream, slid the bike into the sharp turn and dropped down in without thinking. The bike was moving through everything. I was floating and it was a very damn fast float. In the pine section at the top, I was able to see that there were no riders for as much as a minute ahead of me. Blasting out onto the fire road at the bottom I was greeted with the site of about 8 or 9 riders just seconds ahead of me. By the top of the short climb up the rocky road, I was past all of them. At the finish, I even outsprinted a couple riders on geared bikes. I got the jump on them out of the final drop and gunned it in from there. In the end, I wound up finishing 7th in my race. Not a bad result considering I had to fight thru alot of sport and beginnger riders at the start who had the gears to pass me early on. A bit clearer thinking at the start and checking my chain tension which resulted in throwing the chain twice at bad moments of the race and I would have probably been 3 or 4 minutes faster and 3 or 4 places higher up. I've got a couple weeks to clean the bike and light sabre now. This result was encouraging since I was considering giving in to the dark side and getting a geared bike. The next race is coming in early May and I'll be there at the front end of it.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Going Great...until I wasn't

Well, the first mountain bike race started out fairly well with the exception of one small tiny little detail. My water bottle launched off the bike in the first 400 yards. The little voice in my head said 'STOP, GET THAT, YOU WILL NEED IT' and then the other little voice said, 'YOUR AT THE FRONT DUMMY, YOU'LL LOSE A TON OF TIME'(It sometimes gets a bit crowded in here). Would somebody please shoot that second voice for me. I might've lost about 30 seconds retrieving the bottle, but it would've also saved me big time from going into total cramp at about 2 hours into the race. I rode strongly, but without water til almost an hour in, it wasn't rocket science what was going to happen. I did manage to get a bottle from a rider in one of the earlier starting categories who'd snapped a chain and was walking his bike back in. I quickly pulled up to him and asked 'you dont need your bottle now, do you? Please give it to me.' Luckily, he did. It was unfortunately too little, too late. I was figuring the race would be about 1 hr 45 minutes. It wound up being a 2 hour race. I came in almost 2 hrs 30 minutes. Because of the cramping, I wound up losing at least 20 minutes as in the last few miles, every time there was even a slight rise on the trail, I couldn't even pedal. I lost 4 places in my race as I had to sit on a rock on the side of the trail sucking down what was left in the bottle. I'd lost the other 6 or 7 places as I limped in from there. I'm going out and buying a camel back today. I will be damned if I have another race where I drop out of the front 5 because of something stupid like a lost bottle.

Beyond the fact that I had some bio-mechanical issues, I actually rode a really good race. On a fairly non-technical course, made a bit tough due to slick conditions, I was holding my own against riders on geared bikes with my much lower geared single speed. Not too bad considering there was no logs or major rocks to go over and also quite a bit of roadway on the course. Shortly before the cramp, I'd pulled back a large group of riders and was starting to go thru them when the body told me to have a nice day. I know I would be right at the front of the race if I broke down and got a geared bike. It's nice to not have to deal with the extra work though and also, I'm not sure I can justify the 11th bike. Well, I can justify it, but it's really more the case of how much space do I have to store all of these things? I currently have 10 bikes (and use every one of them throughout the year) and around 15 wheelsets and it's getting a bit cramped in the basement. I'll have to sit and think on that one. It is only just one more bike.....

Saturday, April 12, 2008

First Off-road for the year

I'm hitting my first off roader this year. I have the ol' Rig set up as well as it's going to get considering it's fairly beat up right now. I do need to dump a few bucks into it, but it's ready for tomorrow. I'll be flashing on my mantra of 'NO BRAKES' for the most part. Last year, I probably lost more time on the downhills than I did on the climbs. Thanks to the early season training, I think I'll do fairly well.

I've been working on the body this past week to deal with the scare I had last week. It's been responding quite well. I was able to blow myself sky high in a training race after being at the head of every chase in the first 15 laps of our local training crits. 3 times, I was able to take it up over 35mph on the back stretch and be on the front of the pack for a total of 5 half lap pulls. That, with a batch of other short pulls sealed my fate when immediately after another of the big efforts, I chased onto what looked to be another group going off the field. After getting dumped, I kept a steady 35kph effort going til the pack came around. I had to drop it a bit since they were dicking around and not going very hard. When they finally came by, I dropped in at the back. They put in several hard efforts, but just sitting it at the back, I was not doing anything more than scratching myself wondering when they were actually going to speed it up. Then the field sprint came. The wind up came with 2 to go and I went to the back not wanting to interfere, but I came out of the final turn after having rolled past half of the field without trying. Then dumping it into the 53x12 and doing a calm sitdown effort, I rolled to a 5th place in the field sprint. If I'd tried, I could have taken it, especially as I went out of my way to stay wide of the field. Not bad, considering the effort I'd put in earlier. Maybe things aren't as bad as they seem.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Time to recharge the body

Well, I found what has been dogging me. My body was giving off a few small signs of problems, but today, it gave me a much clearer signal. I thought my issues lately were being caused by lack of road training and the body being used to single speed mountain biking. Today, the body gave out in a race after 5 miles and there were a few muscle pains that suddenly showed up not long after. The ol' chronic fatigue thing is giving me the early warning signs. Luckily, I'm now fully awake to this matter. This seems to be a fairly common thing with endurance athletes. Over the years, I've found the things that kill me are stress at work and a calcium deficiency. A few years back, I wound up flat on my back for a month due to an attack. It was bad enough, that for me to get up from bed and go to the kitchen, all of 12 steps in the small apartment I was living in at the time, and make a bowl of soup, I would then be too tired to eat the soup. After a month of intense vitamin therapy, I did feel myself coming back around, but I still wasn't quite ready for much. It was then suggested by a friend that I add some Calcium and Magnesium to the fray. So, I popped out the the local witchcraft store (a cool little place called Nature's Way in my parts - any Gary Larson fans in the house?) and got a bottle of each. Now, I am a big believer in vitamins. I also realize that they are not a magic pill and that it takes a bit of time for these things to take effect. I was shocked that after 2 days of taking the added items to the vitamin recipe, I suddenly felt a massive power surge in the body. That weekend, I did 2 rides of 2 hours each and felt pretty good afterwards. It was explained to me that sometimes, when the body is depleted of something it needs, all of the sleep in the world isn't going to do much good if you don't make good on that depletion. Your body can be just too tired to sleep properly. In reflection of the past years, I have seemed to go in cycles. Usually the drop tends to go hand in hand with me changing the vitamin stew or stopping due to running out and forgetting due to the workload to restock. Besides the calcium and magnesium usually in a mix called Cal/Max, I also have relied most heavily on a product from Enzymatic Therapy called Fatigued to Fantastic. There are several different products in that specific line. The one I've used is the Energy Revitalization system. These have never failed to bring me back from the brink once I discovered them a few years back. The best thing is you don't have 8 million pills to take for it. One caplet and a powered mix that tastes pretty good if you toss in a capful of lemonjuice concentrate. Gotta re-order a batch of this stuff. Last year, I'd tried another product that wasn't too bad on the vitamin pills, but the recovery drink was good. Rapid Recharge was a good one, but the handful of pills for the vitamins just didn't do it for me. I'm online right now ordering up the Enzy products. Email me and I can let you know where to get the stuff pretty cheap too. Much less than what you'll see it at the local store for too. If you try them and I referred you, email them and say so. I'm trying to get some free stuff.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

He's down. Kick him!

I always have used my first couple races of the season to get my butt kicked. This one was especially tough as I really haven't been riding the way I should be right now. The work thing has me going in 6 different directions currently so I at least have an excuse. The start was more than a bit mixed up as the promoter certainly wasn't expecting the number of riders that were there. The 123s and 40+ riders were up near 60 and for the roads we were on, that was pretty much about the max. Unfortunately at the start, it seemed they changed their minds and wanted to give us a staggered start. And staggered it was. No one, apparently knew about this staggered start so the field was split immediately with some of the 40+ers going and the rest staying. I'd started and then held back. When the rest followed then, I thought, 'oh well, we are racing with the 123s'. Nothing in the world screws up a race quite like a couple mile sprint to regain a pack right from the gun. Especially when at the end of it, there was a long dragging hill to climb. The pack broke into 3 and my fat butt wound up in that 3rd part. After chasing for a lap and keeping close to the next group who was chasing the front group hard, realization hit in that it was that wonderful 'Thanks for coming, folks' time. So, now it was a fast training ride. We were in a group of 6 now and with the exception of 2 who didn't know how to push on the pedals when going thru to the front we were working steady. The 2nd time up the climb, one rider foolishly took off. I just thought, 'DumbA**, we'll see you back in a while'. (We did and he still didn't understand what I was talking about) I did have to think twice about that though when I found out the riders I was with had absolutely no understanding of how to in an echelon. How many years had these guys been riding? It's not as if it's rocket science, but everytime I pulled off the front, the others kept pulling closer to the side of the road opposite of the wind. Now we had a string of riders who were lined up in a cross wind, one behind the other. This was cycling 101 for God's sake. Apparently, they missed that class or blew off the required reading. The short story of it was that it was a smack in the back of the head to let me know just how much I am not ready for the road season. Gotta get on that bike more and make sure I don't lose the front pack next time. Oh well, next week will be here soon enough. Time to insert another quarter and try again.