5/23/2012

Yesterday was supposed to be our recovery day, but with repeated attacks over and over and over, and then the relentless climb up Geyser Ridge it was anything but a rest day. Today’s ride was supposed to have the most climbing, but it is really how those miles are executed that make the difference.

After a poor night sleep, and a hearty breakfast I went back to the hotel room and lied down on the bed instead of getting ready. I was downright tired. I thought I was tired yesterday! The thought of skipping the day and staying in bed crossed my mind. For some reason I thought everyone would understand that and leave me alone, but I know that would never happen. Well, this is why I am here, so I got ready and headed down for the start. The pre-ride brief mentioned short cuts, and those sounded tempting too, but I knew that wasn’t really an option. Then Kevin presented the black jersey winners for yesterday’s feats, and I was awarded one for racing foolishly, not following the rules for my solo break by announcing “I am Thor, God of Thunder – All Mortal Men Weep in My Presence!” which is supposedly how I secured my fate to doing extra climbing and not coming anywhere close to KOM points or a stage win. I thought he was joking, but I just looked back at the rules, and he is right, it’s in the rules. Not that it matters anyway. There is no questioning Kevin because all judgments are arbitrary and final… and arbitrary.

With much hesitation I decided I would just hang back with Jeff who had just finished an Ironman on Saturday, and I would not attack or worry about anything that resembled competition. I’m not sure what I was thinking because even when I tried to take it easy I would end up near the front, or on the front. Our first climb up Mount St. Helena began just 10 miles into the ride. I wasn’t warmed up yet, and was gasping for air as I started the climb. “Why am I up front again?” Well, the group broke up quickly and I realized I was riding with the same guys again: Mike Armbruster, Mark, Mike Brown, Tommy, and Andrew. Uggghhh… I didn’t want to hang out with these guys anymore. Well, I also didn’t feel like drifting back down the hill to the next group. Oh yeah, Bobo was there too. He apparently found his legs today. Next thing I knew Kevin bridged up to us, and I chose to just sit back and relax. There came a point in the climb where there was a small dip and as the group started to ascend they slowed. I had generated enough momentum that I wanted to stick with it and surged past the group. Yes, of course it was interpreted as an attack that I would have to pay for later, but if I had allowed my wheels to slow before climbing again I risked being gapped.

I ended up finishing the climb with Andrew, who noted a 15% grade at one point. Overall I liked this climb much better than the climbs we did the last two days because I maintained some decent momentum through it. I earned 4th on the climb, but since KOM points only go to the top 3, 4th is essentially last.

An awesome descent into St. Helena and we met the van where Matty Matt had a box of awesome pastries. Donuts around cyclist are a dangerous thing. Imagine a piece of hamburger tossed into a pool full of starving piranhas. In fact we waited there so long, enjoying refined sugar and everything non-Paleo that everyone that did the climb rejoined us. It was a nice rollout from that van stop, but the single file pace line gradually became faster as we circled around a small lake. Gradually people started falling off. This was more what I was looking for today. There were no attacks, just a nice steady tempo pace, staying out of the red zone.

The next van stop was a nice casual stop. That’s right. I didn’t attack in the feed zone. Instead I enjoyed the break in Pope Valley, a rundown 4 corners town with a general store a market and a garage. There were a lot of tow trucks, tractor parts, and old tires. Our group at this point consisted of myself, Scott, Jeff, Andrew, Tommy, Mark, Bobo, Mike and Mike. We finally rolled on and our next climb was soon after. It was a long winding narrow road that went on and on, but I enjoy climbs like this. Although we weren’t near the KOM points, Jeff and I killed the awesome descent. We soft pedaled for quite a while before Mike, Mike, Tommy, and Bobo joined us. I wasn’t sure where Andrew and Scott were, but we were moving again. When we arrived in Calistoga we stopped on an earlier agreed upon lunch stop. What a great day! Tempo riding with breaks!

After we were done eating we started to become a little concerned about where Scott and Andrew were, but then they rolled up. Soon after, Kevin and Curt showed up. It was a long break, and then we found the van stop just a mile later. They were wondering where the heck we were. Nobody really thought to notify them, and I’m sure they would have like a sandwich too. Even though we had already eaten, we descended on the van as if we hadn’t eaten or drank anything for hours.

We only had about 30 miles left, but about 20 miles before the official finish since we didn’t want to be racing within Santa Rosa. The pace was swift, and became even swifter when the attacks began. Now we were down to myself, Andrew, Tommy, Mike Brown, Bobo and Jeff. So, yes, I did get to ride with Jeff today, but that was because he was killing it. Who would have thought multiple days of fast centuries would be a good recovery plan after an Ironman? Anyway, I joined in the attacks and tried to put the screws to Tommy. It was all done though when we hit the final climb. Even though it was short, I popped and was done. There was plenty of hard riding with Jeff, but the rest of the group was gone. We saw Mike Brown a little ahead with a flat, so we finished 4th and 5th. It was a great day, and I felt good enough after to get a short run in.

My ride here on Strava.

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5/22/2012

Tight legs, tight back. What the hell? Let’s go for it, or as something Kevin Childre would say “do something heroic”.

I suppose I’ve finally adjusted to the time zone change, or I am just tired enough to actually sleep. After a solid 8.5 hours of shut eye I was up and ready for breakfast. I wasn’t particularly hungry, but I knew I was headed back to Omelet Express. After a solid meal it was time to prep for the ride. Today and yesterday when I brought my bike out I realized it was overcast and rather cold. But both days the sun started to come out and I knew I wouldn’t need my jacket or arm warmers. Not the case for most of the other riders. It was cool at the beginning, but I prefer to stay a little chilled.

After a neutral rollout the pace stayed casual until Mark from San Clemente made the first move. I almost went with him, but realized my legs were not warmed up enough for an attack yet so I settled in at the front of the peloton with Tommy. Andrew said “I’ll get him” and took off after him. Actually there was Tod off the front too, but he wasn’t really enticing a chase. Our pace started to pick up when Tommy decided to start closing the gap, and I started to feel warmed up. As soon as the gap was closed I saw the opportunity to attack. There was a series of attacks, over and over and over. Myself, Mark, Mike Armbruster, and Scott Duncan were leading all the attacks for about an hour, and then Scott Waterman jumped in the mix. When I saw him I was surprised because I hadn’t been riding with Scott and I didn’t recognize him. I was wondering who the hell it was at first, but then I saw the black jersey he had just been awarded.

The pace was swift enough that we only had eight with us. I heard Tommy and Andrew talking about Tommy’s brother, Mike, having a flat and Kenny was back with him. I also heard them talk about blocking to allow Mike and Kenny get back to the group. I was slightly amused because every time Andrew or Tommy moved to the front I surged right past them. None of their blocking worked. I figured if I couldn’t race smart, I could race stupid and burn the few matches I had in reserve. I knew I was not match against anyone in this group on the climb ahead, but certainly not against Tommy, Mike or Kenny.

As we were rolling up to the van stop around mile 40, near the start of our big climb for the day, Andrew was pulling me back by grabbing my jersey and asking me to stop at the van. Again, I was currently tied for first with Tommy for the KOM title, I am no match head to head against Tommy on a climb. I had to resort to other tactics. I chose to forgo food and water (but in all fairness announced to all that I was going for it).

The climb up Geyser Ridge started off awesome. It had some rollers that provided my legs enough rest to create some momentum and charge up the next section of the climb. I knew their break would be short, and I didn’t have much time to get to the top. I saw a fenced off area at one crest and I actually hoped that was the top. As I would soon learn, it wasn’t even near the top. My legs started to lose all their oomph, and I was out of water. I began to hear some talking before me and I was hoping I was hallucinating rather than being wrapped up. I knew what was coming, but I was still motivated and kept pushing. I wasn’t going to give it up. I kept hearing “don’t race to lose” in my head. It wasn’t much longer when Tommy and Scott Duncan flew by me as if they were charging downhill instead of climbing. Geeshh. It was time to go after third place since there are KOM points awarded three deep.

I wasn’t hallucinating, but not thinking clearly when I came upon a T intersection that wasn’t on the route sheet. Of course it would have made sense that the climb was probably where the road when UP. Maybe I was hoping the climb was over. Anyway, the sign said Geyser 2 miles left and Healdsburg 9 miles right. Well, I think we are riding to Geyser. I started the descent and my Garmin started beeping “Off Route”. Uggghhh. I don’t want to climb up when I am finally going down. I actually went all the way to the bottom where the road ended at a gate with a large truck at it. Crap! I had to turn and start climbing back to where I was. When I got back on track I saw Andrew and Jerry Logan up ahead of me. I had no steam left though, and I decided I was just going to cruise in. Little did I realize this was no cruise. The climb was steep enough that I was having front wheel lift off. My 39X25 gearing wasn’t helping the situation. It may have only been a ½ mile further, I don’t really know. It felt like many miles. As I was trudging along with a cadence of about 40, Kenny flew by me. Ok, so that is what a hill climber looks like. Kenny just won the Mt Baldy climb for 50+ a couple weeks ago.

The summit was awesome (they usually are) and the view of Sonoma Valley below was incredible. I thought about stopping to take some pictures, but really just wanted to move on and minimize the gap between myself and the ten riders ahead of me (I discovered later that Mike Brown had passed me too when I was on my wrong turn). The descent was awesome, even though there were gravel sections and washed out sections that kept it interesting. At the bottom was the final van stop. It was my first stop of the day, 72 miles in, and I needed it. I downed two Cokes, ate some cookies, and filled my water bottles. Twenty five miles to go, and I was just going to relax and enjoy them, unlike yesterday which was team time trial turned solo time trial.

Nine miles from the finish I rolled up on a couple cop cars, and all but the first two riders (Tommy and Scott) were on the side of the road. I wasn’t sure if I should join them if they were in trouble for something, but it ended up being an accident involving Kenny. The info I have is third hand, so I’ll let him tell you the story if he wants.

We chose to end the ride there, and slow roll into the hotel. Besides the accident it was a great day.

Here is my ride today on Strava.


5/21/2012

Today’s stage left and ended in Santa Rosa. See map below.

Overall the total elevation gain does not reflect the difficulty of today’s ride. The elevation chart below shows some steep climbs and descents, where there were several 18% grades. The first climb was steady and warmed up the peleton well. I led the first long descent, and we rolled right past the first van stop at mile 20. Matty Matt took our picture as we flew by, and I’m certain it is going to be a sweet print since I was driving the train. It’s Matt’s birthday, so he deserves that treat.

As we approached the base of King’s Ridge (I was still driving) people started asking where the van stop was and whining that they had to pee. I was good to go. I had driven the train for 10+ miles AND I was the KOM leader, having won both hill climbs yesterday. I know, I don’t look like much of a hill climber, but I was off the front and had stolen the climbs from the climbers. I figured my only chance to get in the top 3 for either of the two climbs that had points for KOM was to push on and make the people that ran out of water or had to pee suffer. I figured even if I pushed on it would be a challenge to get any points, but it would be my only chance. Well, I gave in. The pee break turned into an eating break, and people needing water. World and National Champ Jerry Logan and National Champ Mike Freeman turned and dashed back to town to get water. I thought this is getting ridiculous, so I said “let’s go” and started heading up. It wasn’t long before I realized I was settling in at 8th on the hill. About half way up Mike Freeman came flying by me as if there wasn’t even a hill. I couldn’t believe it, especially since Jerry told me how he was planning on just sitting back and riding with Mike today. Jerry was nowhere in sight. Now in 9th I saw Andrew Lee falling back and pushed to catch him. Every time he looked back I got a little more motivated. At the crest, as he was coasting in for the van stop, I pushed by him for my very small victory of the day. Mike Freeman, Tommy Brown, Mike Brown and Kenny Rodriguez had already left the van and pushed on for the next climb.

To me it was a much tougher day than yesterday. The climbs were brutal, the descent fast and sometimes sketchy, and the flats on the way in turned into super fast pace lines and chasing. I finished the day 5th overall. The Brown brothers and Kenny rolled in first. Andrew and I had been riding together, but I got gapped on a short climb and I never could catch back up. I was time trialling it and could tell that the gap was slowly becoming longer and longer. I was praying that he would miss a turn, or stop to look at his route sheet, but he was on it the whole way in.

After the finish I did a short stop at the pool and spa, then it was Chilli’s for dinner. About an hour after that I went out for pizza and had a pizza. Still hungry when I returned to the hotel I had a King Size peanut M&Ms. I’m spent, and now it’s time to hit the sack to get ready for day 3 of 5.


5/20/2012

ToP is an annual 5 day club ride for the Canari-Navy cycling club. It is a race mostly because anytime you get two dozen “has-beens” that still want to prove something to themselves, or to their friends, it turns into a race. There are jerseys awarded, and there are teams, but both are quite arbitrary. Rules? Sure there are rules, but they frequently change depending on who you are talking too.

I did ToP last year for the first time, and it set me up well for my two key races of the year, Camp Pendleton Sprint Triathlon (3rd Overall), and Superfrog Triathlon (6th Overall). I wasn’t sure what to expect this year, but knew I wanted to do it because it’s a blast, but also because I knew the training camp part of it would pay off when by the time I get closer to my end of season races. Today’s route was from San Francisco to Santa Rosa. It was an awesome route with some sweet climbs with the first being up Mount Tamalpais and then several shorter climbs along the coast line, some with steep grades. The temperature was mostly mild, the highest being 82 degrees when we arrived in Santa Rosa. There were head winds that would rate as less than breezy by Chicago standards (~15 mph). Not a cloud in the sky all day long, and surprisingly mild traffic along the coast.

We started with a slow roll out, and we met at the base of the Golden Gate for a group photo. Then we were off for a leisurely roll across the bridge. The pace was very relaxed. It was going to be a long week. We had a long descent and I was near the back of the pack but even with a casual coast I managed to drift up to the front. Tod Neal and I were riding along, then Tod took a wrong turn. I yelled to him and he turned around, but at that point I looked back and no one was there. Hmmmm…. Where is everyone? Oh well, I started the climb up Mt. Tam, waiting for Tommy Brown to catch me. I kept it smooth, not knowing how my current fitness level would hold up. I summitted alone, and then on the descent I was again very cautious because I haven’t been doing any descents. I kept waiting for the bullet Andrew Lee to fly by, but he didn’t. It wasn’t until mile 45 when I was wrapped up by the Tommy and Mike Brown train, along with Kenny Rodriguez and Andrew. Hmmmm… Go figure. The four guys I went to dinner with. I was more spent than I wanted to be so I sat in, which fired up Andrew, so they punished me. The gap was significant, and it took me pushing 350+ watts for about 5 miles before I settled in. Then I got to hear their lectures about sitting in.

There was more painful climbs, but we ended up soft pedaling in together. Andrew is always up for a win though, so he let the rest of us take a wrong turn as he turned into the hotel parking lot first for the stage win.

Here is the Strava link of my ride. I highly recommend this route.

Tomorrow is more climbing, and steeper grades.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Without a great finish at Lincoln Park, I thought about letting this race report go. I’m out in Los Angeles on The Avenue of The Stars for a conference this weekend. Since I’m stuck here with no time to race (just a run in the morning and spin at Equinox in the evening), I might as well recall and record the pain I tried to endure last weekend.

Going into the weekend I was excited because I was going to get two days of racing in. Since I haven’t figured out how to place in a bike race yet, my best chance at upgrading to Cat 3 is to do as many races as possible with the hopes that I’ll get into better shape and figure out bike racing more. Leland Kermesse on Saturday proved to be painful. My heart rate was in Zone 4 or 5 for nearly 3 hours during that race, and when I got up on Sunday I realized my legs had been there too. Molly and I drove down to the race, while Chris was just going to let his son race (smart man), and Ruggles was going to ride his bike down to the start (really glad I didn’t do that). It looked like a great day, but Chicago often looks that way. Then you step outside and realize it’s bitter cold with ferocious winds.

My first race (Cat 4) started at 0830. I was lined up in the second row, and at the start the guy in front of me couldn’t get into his pedals (rookie). I was patient (super rookie fatal flaw) and after he finally got into his pedals I fumbled just long enough to find myself alone. Yeah, 5 seconds into the race and I’m off the back. I hammered for the next 35 minutes and got a great tempo workout in, just to finish 52/55. I saw fell ACC rider, Omar Patalinghug at the start, but since I rode alone the entire race our opportunity for team tactics was shot.

Molly did her race, and although she had been dropped too, she was able to out sprint a competitor for a nice finish. Sometimes we have to settle for the little victories.

My second race (30+ 4/5) started right after Molly’s. It was becoming windier, and my clothes were soaking wet from the first race. I was shivering at the start. Shivering is a great way to use up your glucose so that it’s not available for the race. The start was good, but I could only get my power up to about 80% of what it was in the first race. Fatigue was setting in quick, and I found myself off the back again. My finish was only slightly better than the first race. Again, I saw Omar at the start, but didn’t get a chance to work with him.

Third and final race finally came at 1230 (40+ 1-4). Ruggles showed up to go for the $50 bonus offered to the first finisher that also completed Leland Kermesse. I figured it must be getting a little warmer, and my clothes were soaking wet, so I decided to take off my windbreaker for this final race. First lap in I rolled out of the 180 degree turn into the 30 MPH headwind and realized two things. I was exhausted, and I was frozen. Why did I take my windbreaker off? Did I want to do 43 more minutes of this? I didn’t even want to do one minute. I rolled straight up to the truck and jumped in. Pathetic? Yes, of course! There really is something to learn from each race.

Ruggles stuck in the pack and did pick up the $50 bonus. I was much happier once I changed out of those wet clothes and got to watch a great finish. Oh, and Chris’s son did win his race, so there was another victory for the Activator Cycle Club. We may need to build a junior team.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Category 4, 100K

Located in Leland, a bustling village of 1000 youthful residents and farmers, this kermesse is well known by Chicagoan’s as a hellish road race. Some even ask if it’s a road race or a cyclocross race because 1/3 of the 15 mile loop consists of loose gravel roads. I had read Adam Zucco’s 2011 race report, and instead of gravel it was mud. Oh, and rain, and sleet. I’m sure there was plenty of wind as well, but that’s pretty much a given around here. I tried to be tough this winter, and even though the winter was ‘mild’ it was a challenging transition coming from San Diego. I waited until a couple days before race day to see that the weather should be about 40 degrees sunny before preregistering. Molly chose to register day of race after I had drug her out to Beloit for the promised 60 degrees which never went above 39.

The race was put on by Flatlandia, a very appropriate name for a cycling club in this area. I represented the Activator Cycling Club in Lake Bluff, along with Molly Cook (Women’s Cat 4), Bob Ruggles (40+ 1-4), and Chris Harold (Cat 5). I could have raced with Ruggles, but opted for the shorter race with a larger field. After learning that the Cat 1-3 went off with the Masters, I was convinced I had made the right decision. Maybe, maybe not. Bike racing is a strange beast, one I have yet to conquer and I was faced plenty of struggles in the Cat 4 race that I hadn’t anticipated.

The first mile was a neutral rollout, and we had 12 Cat 1-3 women ahead of us. The next thing I knew the 12 women were scattered and drifting back through our pack, scattering the Cat 4s and then the first sharp right came. It must have only been two miles in, and I was gapped with about 60 people ahead of me. I didn’t dare look back, but met up quickly with #115 from xXx Racing. We tried to catch the peloton, and at five miles in I was becoming fried, and started seeing the pack drift away. Uggggh! No whiners in cycling! There are plenty of those elsewhere.

I saw the peloton hit the first gravel road, and all of a sudden they weren’t so tight. The field was beginning to stretch out and a dust cloud was being blown directly behind them by the 15 MPH headwind. I hit the gravel with #115 and we started gaining on people that were falling off. It took a couple miles to catch the first one, but as we were solo riders, they weren’t going fast enough to want to rest behind them. The gravel was very loose, and felt a bit sketchy, but I quickly learned that other riders couldn’t keep up with #115 and me.

We were finishing the first loop of four and I saw a couple riders ahead in the feed zone looking back at us, waiting for us to come so they could jump on our wheel. They jumped on, and did a little work at first but they were slow. We picked up another xXx Racing guy that put in a good effort, but there were three of us working, and two coasting. I called them out because I was getting pissed that the rotation always stopped with me, so I signaled to #115 and we bolted as we headed into the gravel. The first chance I had to glance back and I couldn’t even see the other three. We quickly came up on another group of five and sat in for a minute. I’ll admit, #115 pushed hard and got up there while I struggled to slowly gain and earn my rest. The benefit for going in the red (in this case) was more rest. Fortunately my HR dropped quick enough, but we were only 25 miles in and I thought “Okay, I got a good hour long tempo workout in. I’m done. At least I’ll cruise with this group for 35 miles and finish.” People that know me know that cruising wasn’t going to happen. We hit another gravel section and one of the group attacked, but I was right on his wheel (where I was intending on sitting) and #115 was on mine, but when I settled in he kept going. I figured he was going to pull a bit, but no, he was just going.

“Anytime you go to the front you are attacking” –Ruggles, c. 2012

My delay caused me some pain, because when he was about two bike lengths ahead I said “screw it” and went after him. Again I looked back and the other five were well behind. I chased, but couldn’t actually get into his draft. We ended that loop and hit the feed zone again. #115 was well ahead, and again I figured it was over. He looked back, and I could tell he was going to wait for me, so I pushed it before he changed his mind. We had been hammering together for 90 minutes, but his first words to me were “sorry to drop you”. “No problem” I replied. After all, it is bike racing. I was hurting, but I figured we were all hurting, so screw it. Since he waited for me I chose to put in a solid effort right away and we had an awesome two man paceline, bringing the speed up to 23+ MPH with a strong crosswind. We met up with two other guys about five miles later where we caught our breath, then we hit the gravel again and left them. I hated the gravel until I figured out I could drop people so easily (except #115 who was just as strong if not more beastly in the loose stuff).

With about 17 miles to go, we were caught be three guys just as were rolling into a gravel section. This last gravel section was with the wind, and a little bit smoother, and the three riders were able to stay with us. As we began our final lap I was trying to get a good paceline going because we could go 23 MPH and were picking people off. Each one we passed was another place. Two guys wouldn’t pull through though, and I don’t think it was because they couldn’t. I yelled at one of them to ‘pull through’, and he said ‘I’m staying right here’. Screw it. I can play that game too, so I rolled back and sat on his wheel, and we went 18 MPH. It was stupid, but at that point there was only one person I wanted to beat, and it was the guy (Bikes Not Bombs) that was looking to beat me with a sprint when there were a lot of places ahead of us to make up. I cruised for a while, and my HR went down to 118, the first time it had been below 150. I actually started to feel good. With ten miles to go I decided I was at least going to push the pace enough so that that Bikes Not Bombs guy would have to work a little. They all held on, and #115 was the only one to help me (of course). We rolled into that final stretch of gravel and they were holding on there too! One thing that I learned in this race though was that even though I took all the turns into and out of the gravel rather slow and cautious, I still managed to create a gap on those turns. This time I went for it a bit more aggressively out of the last gravel section. #115 rolled around me, so I jumped on his wheel. I looked back and the gap was huge. My legs were on fire just trying to stay on #115’s wheel, but I decided that at the 200 meter sign I was going to go for it. I tried to ramp up my best sprint and went across the road to avoid him slingshotting past me, but I couldn’t even get ahead of his front wheel before my legs retired. It was #115 finishing 22nd, and me 23rd.

Yeah, no whining in bike racing, but damn it could have been a much different race if we hadn’t been dropped minutes in.

Activator Cycle Club had 4/4 finish, no awards this time. Our own celebration at Bull Moose Bar and Grill in Sandwich, Illinois (yup, Sandwich) was enough for us this time.

Cheers, and thanks for reading! Strava


Date: 31 March 2012

Location: South Beloit, IL

With a couple weeks of great weather, Molly and I have been back on our bikes. The weather hasn’t been as good after those two weeks of feeling like summer, but we’ve been trying to keep building our cycling fitness. With that, we are looking at doing races on the weekends. This week we had the opportunity to go somewhere new and race at the Blackhawk Farms Raceway in South Beloit. Friday night we checked weather.com and found out the weather was supposed to be sunny with temps at 53-60 degrees. We were excited because it has been rather cold this week. The drive was about two hours, so we were committed by the time we got there, even though we were surprised to find out it was freezing! Technically 33 degrees is not freezing, but it sure felt like it.

Molly did the second race of the day, women’s category 4. She finished with the pack, 9th of 16. The course was a 1.7 mile loop with several turns. I didn’t get to talk to Molly to find out any details of the course because my first race was next.

I raced in the category 4/5 race. It was a decent field of 72. I was surprised at how squirrely the race was. I kept hearing brakes squeaking and could even smell them burning. There was one point on the course that was a pinch point and several of us rode through the grass to avoid getting hit. Amazingly there weren’t any crashes. The speed wasn’t especially quick, and I probably could have won a prime when I was positioned well near the front but was saving it for the finish. Unfortunately I just could get the position I wanted for the finish, and ended up 45th overall, 26/34 cat 4s.

I was planning on only doing one other race, the Masters 30+ 4/5. It was too cold to stand outside and watch the race, so I decided I might as well do the cat 4 race that was immediately before the Masters race. This one was smoother, but there were still a lot of brakes and rubber burning, and there were some young guys that weren’t riding that smooth. One rider almost went down in front of me when he was pedaling through a turn and his pedal hit the ground. He apologized to me. I didn’t really care, but I lost some of my position in trying to avoid him if he had gone down. Another rider ran onto the grass to avoid him. This race I kept pretty smooth. I kept adjusting my position near the front without getting involved in attacking or pulling. I couldn’t get a good position near the finish though and ended up with another pack finish, 42/50.

The last race was Masters 30+ 4/5. The first lap was fairly slow. I decided that I hadn’t been able to get into a good position for the sprint on the last two races, so I would try to create and get into a break. Immediately after the first lap I went for it, but when I looked at my 3 second average power was 600+ watts, which I knew I wouldn’t be able to sustain for long, and then I looked over my shoulder to see the train on me. Well, I started something, because there was a series of attacks. No breaks lasted long. In fact, I didn’t see any races that were won by a break. It was a fun race though it was much faster and much smoother than the previous two. My fastest lap of the day was the final lap of my third race, averaging 27.0 mph. I felt good, and I thought I was in a fairly good position. The finish was ¼ mile away following the last turn, and the next thing I knew was a swarm of riders flying by me. I quickly changed positions from the top 10 to 39/50 overall, 24/28 cat 4.

It was a blast, but I obviously have a lot more to learn about bike racing, specifically sprinting.

See full race results here.

See GPS files on Strava here: 4/5, 4, 30+ 4/5.

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It’s hard to believe that we’ve been living in the mid west now for six months already. Even though we are constantly being reminded of how this winter was milder than anyone could recall, and record high temperatures that had been standing for 90 years were being broken, it still seemed damn cold to us. I pretty much gave up trying to ride my bike, except for the three mile commute to work. I ran a fair amount, and started swimming occasionally after the New Year, but truly enjoyed a real off season. Without working out much, we explored a lot of what Chicago has to offer. I still haven’t answered the question of what people do with their time, because I still got in about five hours of exercise most weeks, and we did a ton of stuff, yet it seems that a lot of people moan about having no time for anything.

The past two weeks we had a great break in the weather. I was excited, thinking spring was finally here, but kept hearing how temperatures were 30+ greater than normal. It was a good time to get on the bike, however, and we heard about criteriums over three consecutive Sundays being held just a 30 minute drive from us. Molly wanted to do some crits, and I hadn’t done any in about 20 months, so we went for it. We had a blast, getting back on the bikes, and racing for the first time in months. Molly did one race each day, 35 minutes +2 laps (0.7 mile each). I did two races each day, 40 minutes +2 laps. My laps were also back to back races. It was great doing six races over a 15 day period. They were close enough that I got to see how my comfort and skill improved with each one. The intensity was awesome too, because I tend to do a lot of long zone 2 workouts.

Our team is Activator Cycle Club. It is new, and associated with Activator Cycles which is just two miles from our house. I have no doubt that the team, its group rides, and the races will continue to grow. We had six riders at the first date, and three at the second and third.

Below are some pictures I took of Molly’s races.

My files are all posted on Strava. You can see them here.

I’m fortunate to be selected as a Strava ambassador for the second year. You don’t even have to own a Garmin to use Strava now. They have free apps now for android and iPhone, both for running and cycling. You can do a lot with the free version, but you can try the premium membership for a month free. Use the code cook12 to get the free one month trial.


March 10, 2012. It seems ridiculous that it has taken this long to get out on a Saturday for a good ride. Actually it is ridiculous. But here in the Midwest, cycling is not quite the same as Southern California.

I am not sure why I hesitated when I saw a post from my new team, Activator Cycle Club, that there were criteriums just 20 miles up the road over the next three Sundays. I suppose it’s because I haven’t been riding hardly at all, and don’t exactly feel in racing shape. It could be that I am a little in disbelief that we are entering spring. Mornings of 20 degrees and 20 mph winds haven’t been that unusual. Occasionally the sun does come out during the day, and it looks warm through the window, which is completely deceiving because it is rarely above freezing.

Finally I realized I’ve been waiting for the weather to become tolerable, and I’m not sure how much longer I can wait. Today is was 28 degrees in the morning, but at noon it warmed up to 48 degrees, so Molly and I joined in with Activator Cycle Club on an easy spin before tomorrow’s races. The winds were still fierce, but it felt good getting back out on the road.

Details of today’s ride are here. Tomorrow should be interesting. Who starts their training with a race?


For most of us, exercise should be a part of our daily routine. I find people are much more likely to say they have no time to exercise than they are to say they don’t have time eat, sleep, use the restroom, bathe, etc. Of course not doing one of those essential activities would have major consequences. Lack of exercise also has consequences, many of which are easy to ignore until years later.

Yesterday I had two encounters where I was asked by triathletes how I train for an Ironman. The question initially struck me as odd, because training for an Ironman is much like training for any other triathlon. Basically it begins with a lifestyle of daily exercise.

Three weeks ago Molly and I arrived to our new home in Great Lakes, IL. We have never been in this part of the country, and knew nothing about the area. The day we arrived I spoke with Marty Taylor who has been here for a while and he told me about a Tuesday evening ride with Alberto’s Cycling. I showed up there, unfamiliar with the route and the group. I tried to keep things mellow, but fell into the pace line rather quickly, which consisted of about 6 of the fastest riders. I hadn’t done a lot of pace line riding in San Diego, so it was pretty fun riding the flats at 27-30 MPH, until I was in the front and missed a turn (I didn’t know we were turning!). Time trialing at 30 MPH then wasted me for the second half of the ride. I was accepted into the group, and they told me about their weekend rides.

That Saturday I rode 11.5 miles to Alberto’s. Minutes after I started it began to sprinkle then pour. I arrived soaked, and chilled. Two people (one of the owners and an employee) were there, and said that because of the rain they weren’t going to ride. In a way, I was relieved, but I also realized that the ride was conditional on the weather. They even said that the Sunday ride probably wouldn’t happen. I rode home and got 25 miles in at least.

Sunday morning actually looked good. I rode to the shop to see if the ride was happening. Sure enough, no rain, and the ride was on. About 2 miles into the ride and it poured. A flat in the group had us huddled under some trees while the rain dumped on us. I saw rain coats start to come out, but all I had was a rain sponge. To my surprise I saw a couple other groups riding by in the pouring rain as we stood there. Flat fixed and we went on. I was waiting for someone to pull the plug. It sucked, I was miserable, and I would have gladly followed someone else’s suggestion of calling it a day. Hmmm… that never happened. It wasn’t even suggested. Sixty miles of not being able to feel my waterlogged toes (toasties don’t do a good job keeping water out of shoes) I finally made it home, and soaked in a tub for 40 minutes to defrost. I think the last time I took a bath like that was… probably never. I would have used bubbles if I had them.

Out of the tub, still wrinkled (I don’t think the bath helped with that), I got online and ordered a Computrainer. It was only September, and the Midwest weather was likely to get worse.

A few days later Molly and I toured some of the local bike shops. Activator Cycles, just 2.2 miles from us in Lake Bluff hosts a fast mountain bike ride Thursdays from 6-8 PM, year-round, regardless of weather. This caught my attention. A group that is close, late enough to make after work, and a ride I can rely on. That and I have a 3 year old mountain bike with less than 100 miles on it. The first Thursday we had high winds, 25 MPH with 60 MPH gusts. Molly questioned my sanity (a regular occurrence), and I shrugged my shoulders and replied “they said regardless of weather”. Sure enough, there were about 8 of us there, and it was brutal. The wind was one thing, but the trails were flooded, and it was dark-dark-dark. I worked to keep up, but was gapped rather quickly and I just couldn’t catch up. Nick, the owner, fell back and decided to show me the route since it was my first time out.

The next day my Computrainer showed up, and so did the sun. It was gorgeous out and I did some exploring of some new routes that I found on ridewithgps.com and mapmyride.com. Molly and I did a Tandem ride west of us on some decent roads and also took bikes on the train into Chicago where we started orienting ourselves to this amazing city. Then I did a 108 mile ride north of us. I was surprised though when I rode about 70 miles in Wisconsin without even a glimpse of a convenience store or a service station. The roads were great, very little traffic, and a few nice rollers. The day was warm though and I went about 90 minutes without any water or food.

The following Thursday’s Activator ride had great weather. I was determined to stick with the group, but my lack of experience and poor handling led me to going off the trail into a ditch. My chain popped off and I tried to catch the group, but never even got a glimpse of them. I finished the ride with Dean who had also fallen back. This Thursday, my third time out, it was raining, windy and cold. I contemplated using the Computrainer for the first time, but remembered my resolve to stick with this group through the year even if it was my only ride outside some weeks. Four of us headed out and again I was dropped. This time I got lost in the trails since I was riding by myself. The trails were covered with leaves and I went off them several times because it was hard to make them out. So far it’s been rather humbling, but I figure the only way to get better is to stick with it.

This morning even though it was only 48 degrees and raining slightly, I figured the weather was bad enough to give the Computrainer a try. First impression: very nice. I still have a lot to learn about the programs, but I can tell that it will be a great tool to keep me in shape through the harsh winters here.

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