It's been an interesting year so far. I started out by doing almost no riding the first couple months. A few mtb and road rides here and there, but nothing on the order of the mileage that I used to do in the winter. I got to Southern Cross at the end of February with only about 800 miles. I've also done the 'Just say no' when it came to the trainer. I have found there is nothing more mind numbing than sitting on the trainer in the basement grinding away at it with the exception of maybe watching television shows like American Idol or any of the other countless reality or competition type shows.
My main activity this past winter was cross country skiing. This year, I logged in more than 500 miles on the sticks. My fitness level was definitely there but the main lesson learned was that it didn't translate well to the bike initially. My running was way up there though. By early April I was hitting a 7 minute mile average over 8 miles. This would be decent for me if running was the main focus. But, the bike beckoned and in late February, Southern Cross loomed large. I'd gotten a decent start but the lack of miles played up way sooner than I'd imagined and I was having leg cramping issues as the demands I was trying to place on them proved too much for what they were ready for. I fell way off the pace and in comparison to my 3Peaks result last September, it was an embarrassment. Oh well, back to the drawing board.
March was just a depressing time of the year as it was just cold gray suck here in PA. I used to live for these kind of conditions but not being able to get outside everyday as I'd used to be able to (thanks real life). My first road race in March was a disappointment again but it showed my leg strength was there and things were improving. Each day when I got on the bike, I was feeling stronger. I came up that little bit short at the Morgantown Road Race but could tell things were going well. Another cold rainy race in Salisbury, PA the following week built a bit more character and then it was time for the Clarksburg Criterium which also served as the West Virginia State Championships. I had two goals at the race. Help my teammate Ted win a state title and get one of us over the line in first place overall. The field was a bit on the small side but we rolled out. It was a combined field of 40+ and 50+ riders. Within a few laps, local legend Gunnar Shogren took a flyer and got a good gap on us. Skip Rodgers took up the challenge to chase him down and once he got clear and no one else went, I thought to myself, this looks good. They're both strong and 50+ and if I got across, they wouldn't be sitting up. I launched it across to Skip and we slowly drew Gunnar back. At a point, he wisely pulled up and we linked up and it was a 3 rider group. The riders in the pack were already thinking 'Thanks for coming folks' at that point. Several strong laps later, we caught sight of the tail end of the field. Now I usually feel that lapping the field just to show you can is usually an ego thing and for a moment, I was thinking 'keep the group small'. Then I remembered, I still had a second job to do which was help my teammate get his title. I'd already got the 40+ race in the bag so I could afford to go be the helper for Ted. We caught with around 8 or 9 laps to go and I quickly positioned myself up with Ted and after a couple flurries of attacks from Gunnar and JR, we went into the final couple laps. Several of the other riders were reminding me that I didn't have to sprint. Well, that didn't mean my job was done. I pushed to get Ted up to JR in the final and gave a wind up but unfortunately, things didn't work out as planned and Ted had to brake in one of the final turns. I hollered at him to keep pushing to the line. He did catch up to JR but that was it. He was happy with the silver though. It was a good race overall for us.
Each week I've been seeing a bigger jump in my form and a couple weeks later, things came good at the Greene County road race. After an eventful evening the day before and the following morning concerning an old relationship which saw my personal balance a bit upset, I got on with the day. Because of the previous days events, I'd forgotten my lightweight carbon wheels and had to make due with a set of 95 Campy Ventos with a set of training tires. Crap! This wasn't going to be fun. As it turned out, those wheels climbed pretty well. While they certainly weren't light(I gave up about 2.5lbs or more in wheel weight to most people there), they were very responsive to each push of the pedals. I also got a good break on the downhills and flats as these wheels just keep on rolling once up to speed. I'd made it thru to the final climb and was with the leaders and my lack of cleaning my chain caught up with me. A bad shift and a dropped chain that wrapped around the crank bad stopped me a few miles out. I was looking at a win there for the 40+ group but now I had grimy hands and was hoping not to get caught out and lose 3rd. In the end, I had several minutes to spare but I'm still kicking myself for that one. Onward and upward!