Monday, June 30, 2008

Chillin' in Boulder

After shoehorning all my worldly possesions into my Honda Civic equipped with a Yakima rack and cargo box (the box was arranged by the great guys at Bike Authority) I set out to drive across the country. First things first: a 1.8L 4-cylinder engine does not appreciate having something with the aerodynamics of a toaster on top while being loaded with the contents (no furniture, thankfully), of a two bedroom apartment. Seventy-five miles per hour was out of the question. Even 65 was a challenge in a few places. So this was to be a slower than normal trip across the country. OK, that's fine. I made good time on Saturday, making it from Cleveland to Lincoln, NE, before stopping for the night. Sunday had me in Boulder, CO, by dinner time.

I opted to hang out in Boulder for a day, and visit with some family friends who live near the green space backing up to the Flatirons. Took the old road bike out for a spin this morning, and definitely noticed the altitude. The flats weren't too bad, but climbing was even harder than usual. Still lots of fun, though, since I had a great view of the mountains, and the sky was crystal clear. For lunch I went down to the Pearl Street Mall with Ed, my friend driving out with me. We had lunch and wandered for a bit. After dinner we drove up to Nederland, always a scenic drive. Tomorrow the plan is to head down to I-70 and stop at Zion National Park for the evening, then Vegas the next day, and into LA the day after that. Only three more days until LA!!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Damn Baby, That's a Good Ride...

Another excuse for poor performance flies out the window...

Much thanks to Sherman and the guys at Bike Authority for hooking me up with this sexy piece of engineering, and to the folks at Ritchey for making the most comfortable race saddle I've ever experienced (also awesome handlebars). I'll be taking it out on the team ride tonight, then back to Bike Authority tomorrow to be shipped to California.

Now back to packing...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Stage 4: More Flats

Stage 4

With three stages survived, twenty-five seconds behind first and a solid fifty seconds ahead of third in the general classification, all I had to do was survive for thirty-nine more miles and an excellent finish was all but guaranteed.

But who the hell wants to drive four hours and work that hard for a boring, second place finish? Not me! So as soon as the race started I began throwing attacks off the front, dropping back a couple wheels and recovering, and doing it again. I was working with Mike Abney again, but we just couldn't get anything to stick. The Buckeye Cycling team was out in force for Sunday's stage, and they were actually doing a good job of protecting their leading man. They were in front chasing down all my breaks, and they held the pace at a comfy 22mph for almost the entire race. On the final lap, the third place rider tried to make a break for it but was pulled back even faster than usual, since half the support he had organized (me) got boxed just as he launched his attack. With around a half-mile to go, a couple guys shot off the front, and I went with them. At one point we had about a five second lead on the field, but then the front guy just stopped working. I screamed at them to rotate the lead, hoping to ride into the sprint straightaway and pour every last watt I could into the pedals, but they weren't interested, so I shot in front and pulled the group through. Three of them whipped around me to sprint for the pay places, and I held on for fourth in the stage, and second in the GC. For my troubles, I added a Rudy Project Kontact helmet to my winnings for the weekend.

This is likely my last race before I move to California, unless I can find time to hit the state time trial in Groveport next week. Not a bad way to end my Ohio racing career. Hopefully my California days will see some glory, too.

Summer Solstice Stage 3: Time Trial

Stage 3

I've always liked time trials. There's something to be said for not being able to use any tactics on the bike. In time trials, the only tactics that apply are to keep the rubber side down, and go fast. No one to draft off of, no one to run into in a pack sprint to the line, just you and the bike.

It's also an event where your equipment matters. A lot. Aerodynamics are everything in a time trial, and since you're not likely to crash into anyone during the race, all sorts of fun new toys are legal: super-deep section wheels, disc back wheels, and aerobars all grace the various bikes specifically designed for time trials.

Unfortunately, the only TT specific equipment I have are a set of removeable aerobars for my regular bike. So I pulled those out, installed them after a very nice nap following lunch, and headed down towards Wilmington once more. This time the family decided to join me, and brought a picnic dinner along with them.

The start/finish line for the TT was the same as for the stage that morning, though the course ran in the opposite direction. Like Friday's route, this one was flat as a pancake, and only ran for seven miles, and had a downhill with a tailwind going out of the start and coming back into the finish. They even had someone holding riders at the start line so you could start with both pedals clipped in.

As I said before, time trials have always been something of a specialty for me, so I expected to do well in this one. And I did, right up until I hit the backstretch. The whole thing was directly into what had been a tailwind on the way out. My average speed had been 28mph going into turn two, and it quickly dropped to around 23, when my current speed started reading 20. Ouch. I pushed through as hard and as fast as I could, and turned back onto the finishing road where I quickly took advantage of the tailwind and the downhill, slight though it was. My finishing time was a 17:30 for seven miles, almost exactly 24 mph. This got me third place in the time trial (behind one of the Buckeye Cycling riders and the aforementioned Mike Abney), and landed me in second place overall, 25 seconds back of first.

EDIT: The correct standings, as reported at Ohio Valley Racing actually had me in fourth place for the TT. My time and overall standing were correct, however.

After the race my girlfriend and I headed over to Young's Jersey Dairy to get me some much needed calories. Their strawberry ice cream is probably my favorite in the world. Fortunately the Cat 5s had a 12:30 start on Sunday. Home again for some much needed ibuprofen and rest.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Summer Solstice Stage 2: The Rollers

Stage 2

Ah, rolling hills. There's nothing like going up and down all day to make you appreciate flat straightaways. Saturday's course, like Friday's was aptly named, as much of the course resembled a sine function. Still, the amplitude of these waves was pretty small compared to those at Chippewa or most of the other courses around here. They definitely played a part in Saturday's race, though.

Once again we lined up for a 12-ish mile circuit, three full laps this time, and were informed that part of the course followed a gravel road. This news was not welcomed by the peloton, but there was little we could do about it. So off we went, wary of what the course might throw at us.

On the first lap we found out. The second turn took us onto a freshly graveled downhill road, complete with an S-turn in the middle. Not cool! Fortunately no one got stupid and everyone slowed down. A few even managed to pick decent lines down the road, not helped by the six-inch deep gravel everywhere. At the bottom of the road was a bridge, blissfully clear of gravel. So everyone, myself included, sped up to try and catch those who picked a better line. This was very nearly a lethal idea, as the gravel started again after a semi-blind ninety-degree left-hand turn immediately after the bridge. The gravel then continued for three miles, or about 25% of the course, including several sets of rollers and another sharp left. After we finally got back onto real road, it felt like riding on glass.

Needless to say, the gravel had a large impact on the race. Many of the riders dropped back, severely impairing the GC hopes of several riders, including my new friend Mike Abney. I plunged down the hill and managed to catch back onto the lead group on each lap. Apparently the roving official went down it on his motorbike and was slip-sliding the whole way, too, so the officials changed the course for the afternoon starting groups. The Cat 5s were a little peeved by that, to say the least.

Once again every break attempt failed. I was feeling beat from my lack of calories at breakfast and lack of food with me on the course. I hung back during the field sprint, but still held onto ninth place. After a quick cool-down, I hopped in the car to head home for some much needed lunch and rehydration for the evening's time trial.

Summer Solstice Stage 1: The Flats

As my last post suggests, I spent this weekend at the Summer Solstice Stage Race near Wilmington, OH. Run by Ohio Valley Racing, this conglomeration of four races in three days had a good reputation among my fellow riders, and I had the weekend off from work, so I made the trek down to the Dayton area with my girlfriend (my wonderful, patient girlfriend who actually doesn't beat me when I ignore my spellcheck). Each stage will get it's own post, so stay tuned; there's more to come shortly.

Friday's Stage: The Flats

Despite the crummy weather, my dad opted to go down and watch me race. Even though he got lost when trying to find the course (it was a couple miles from the staging area, and not all the roads were labeled well), he managed to watch most of the finish. He also provided much needed support and patience while I waited for results and prizes. All in all my family was definitely incredibly supportive throughout this weekend, especially my girlfriend who was very understanding when I wasn't terribly attentive, being somewhat focused on kicking immense amounts of ass. At least the first day, it paid off.

Stage One was aptly named: the only things even close to hills were the overpasses across I-71. This 12-ish mile circuit was nicely paved, fairly clean, and pancake flat throughout. Due to impending doom in the form of thunderstorms, the 2.5 lap race was cut to 1.5, so the first time we saw the finish area was the bell lap. No one managed to get a break off the front, though several tried. With such a flat course blockers were really necessary, and no team had enough riders in the field to commit to a break and block. I worked quite a bit with Mike Abney from 7 Hills; we alternated lead for a while, but when it looked like we were both getting set up to lose on the last lap, we dropped back into the field to rest and recuperate for the inevitable field sprint.

That field sprint was to be held on a narrow road recently soaked with rain. No one had clarified whether the yellow-line rule was negated in the last 200m (some races it is, and others it isn't), which led to an even tighter finishing sprint since no one wanted to get DQ'ed for crossing the line at the end. With around 150m to go, one guy from Buckeye Cycling Club went up the middle through a hole that was maybe 45cm wide. With him off the front people started moving. I planted myself on the white line and hauled ass up the side. Along the way another rider started to come over into my line and we bumped shoulders. Unfortunately he went down, taking another rider with him. The rest of the sprint was clean, and I wound up taking second place by several bike lengths. Prizes for this race were a case of Gu and some Performance gift cards, both of which will find good use in the coming months.

As it turns out, the rider who went down in the sprint was the sole Cat 5 from Stark Velo in attendance this weekend. He was pretty scraped up, and his rear derailleur was trashed, but he fortunately had spares of both with him. After claiming my winnings for the evening, I headed home to prepare for Saturday's road race.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Summer Solstice Update

Just a quick update before I go bolt the aerobars onto the bike in preparation for tonight's time trial. The Summer Solstice Race goes well. I took second in yesterday's stage, and ninth today. The GC is still very close, and tonight's time trial is likely to be decisive. The 5/Cit pack is definitely one of the faster I've been in, and no one seems to mind working. Now back to the bike!

Monday, June 9, 2008

California Dreaming

On June 27, 2008, I will be leaving Ohio.

For my entire life, I have lived in Ohio. I was born in Dayton. I grew up in the house my parents bought when they got married. College was a big step for me; moving to Cleveland was the furthest I had ever been from home, and I stayed here after graduation--and for most of the summers before graduation. Even then, my parents were less than four hours by car, and I would certainly never think of flying to go see them. I have family all over the state, too: Cleveland, Akron, and Dayton. Such has been my life for the past twenty-four years.

As my regular readers know, I vacationed in SoCal at the beginning of April. While I was there I realized what I had been missing. This is a place where I could train year round, outside. I would have, at my fingertips, all manner of parks, forests, and wilderness in which to pass the time. When I tired of living deliberately, I could return to a bustling metropolis with many highly regarded medical centers, all of whom demonstrated a need for nursing staff. As I returned to Cleveland, I vowed to explore this opportunity more.

And so I did. Thanks to several weeks of phone tag, faxing documents, writing large checks to government agencies, and playing the waiting game, I will be starting work in the Liver Transplant Surgical Sub-specialty Intensive Care Unit at the University of California Los Angeles Medical Center, Westwood Campus, on July 7. Since the commute would be prohibitive otherwise, I will be moving to Los Angeles on July 3. Since I'm driving out, I leave Cleveland on June 27, with plans to visit several national parks, Boulder, CO, and Las Vegas on the way out. The next several weeks will be a whirlwind of planning, finalizing a few things on the LA end, and compressing my life into a 2003 Honda Civic Sedan with an extra eleven cubic feet of space, courtesy of the fine folks at Yakima and Bike Authority. So if you're in need/want of some furniture drop me a line; I'm looking to be rid of most of what I have here, and most of it can be yours for the cost of coming to get it. I have bookshelves, a couch, chairs, dining room stuff, you name it. Please come get it. Please...

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Racing for Alex

Today saw me getting up at 0515, hopping in the car along with Michael L. and my girlfriend, and driving down to Mahoning County for the Race for Alex. Alex is a cyclist who also happens to be recovering from a spinal cord injury; the race was held as a fund-raiser for him. If the 54 riders in the 4/5 pack were any indicator of the fields for the other races, they did pretty well (entry was $25 each).

I was not in top form today. In fact, I was in pretty crappy form today. I got chewed up and spit out very early on, managed to hang on within striking distance through the first lap, and got dropped for real after the second lap. Potential excuses were rampant: my bike grappled with that of another rider on the first lap and I got kicked out to the side over the center-line thus ruining my poise and concentration, I was coming off night shift Friday night, my frame/wheels are vertically stiff and laterally compliant. Or maybe it's because my lazy ass hasn't seen a bike saddle since the last time I posted. Yeah, definitely the equipment.

Other than my lack of badassery today, the race was actually really awesome. We had five riders in the 4/5 pack, and Pete S. managed to pull out a 5th place. The course itself was a smoothly paved 5-ish mile circuit with some decent rollers. The corners were clean, registration was a breeze, and the weather was great.

Today's performance has led me to realize that I need to practice more. To that end, I've decided that I want 200 miles ridden by next Sunday. I'll try to get a more focused plan together soon, but that is the base goal. So if you're looking for a riding partner this week give me a call. I'm probably up for it.

Oh, and I'm likely moving to California in July. More on that later.