I rode the PA State Hill Climb Championships (who knew there was a "state championship" for such a thing) this weekend. I was not impressive.
A seven-mile climb gaining 1700 feet in elevation. Most of the elevation gain was in the first 1.5 miles and the last 2 miles, with a mostly gradual incline in between.
The night before I went to sleep with ugly reminiscences of past hill climbs. Specifically, that point in every climb where I was forced to watch the leaders just roll away because I just couldn't keep up the pace any longer. Heart rate pegged, fitness inadequate, and looking down at my wheels wondering who filled them with lead. I have vivid mental pictures of each failure. Two years up the final climb in the Edgar Soto. Last year up Big Cottonwood Canyon in Utah, Roan Groan in Tennessee, and two collegiate road races with significant climbs. I'm hanging with the lead group and slowly, yet rather suddenly, it just slips away. There was no acceleration. No attack. I just slowly, but unavoidably--as if Fate it decreed--begin to move backwards.
And that's what happened. Embarrassingly, during the steepest section of the last bit of the first 1.5 mile grade.
In this race, as has been my experience elsewhere, as soon as I can crest the hill I feel fine. Or, if not fine, better than those around me. As soon as I came over the top of that first steep section I screamed past three other danglers who weren't able to hold my wheel. I soon came upon another who was. We traded pulls up the shallow grade until a larger group of six or seven caught us from behind. The lead group had maybe 30 seconds on us. Until we began to climb again.
When the grade steepened again it was my turn to leave others behind. I remember looking back after maybe a half mile and seeing several riders still in tow. I accelerated just a bit and after maybe another half mile looked back to see only a single rider on my wheel. I made him take a pull.
With about a kilometer left I mustered together what was left of my courage, shifted to the big ring, and tried to drop my companion. The climb had taken its toll, however, and while I was able to pick up the pace considerably, there was no more punch in my legs. It seemed no difficult matter for the other rider to keep pace in my draft. I tried two more accelerations to drop him, and despite my weaving all over the road--weaving from exhaustion perhaps more than from tactic--the rider held my wheel and sprinted around me with maybe fifty meters to go. He came around with such a surprising burst of speed that I just sat up, hung my head, and wallowed in defeat.
Losing bike races is spiritually exhausting.
I finished ninth of 26 starters with a time of 30:10, a whopping 3:12 off the winning time. I was fifth in my age group, 30-39, though I got a trophy for forth, since first in my age group was in the overall top three. The cyclist on the trophy has a pony tail and breasts. I gave it to Audrey. The promoter didn't deliver on his advertised promise for t-shirts.
Monday, August 27, 2007
I rode the PA State Hill Climb Championships (who knew there was a "state championship" for such a thing) this weekend. I was not impressive.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Mark pushed me over to the Fat Cyclist's description of what he calls The Alpine Gauntlet. It was a fun, nostalgic read, because I've ridden those roads myself (with the exception of the Cascade Springs and Granite Flat spurs) and because the loop wraps around many of my old skiing haunts--South Fork, Primrose Cirque, the west face of Timp (down into Orem), Timp's north peak, and of course Sundance). But it was also worthwhile for this little gem near the end:
"I coasted the final two downhill blocks to my house, wrote down my final stats and steeled myself for what I knew would be the hardest challenge of the day: acting like I was fine and ready to go on a picnic, or to the park, or wherever else my wife wanted to go for the rest of the day, when in reality all I wanted to do was lay very, very still."
Exactly my predicament after every Saturday's long ride. Though often I'm not so good at acting. I wonder if fatty is.
at 2:49 PM
"It came down to a sprint, so we did the same thing as yesterday, w/ Ryan pulling first then myself w/ Matt leading the way for Scotty. The two pro riders got Scotty and Matt in the sprint but ended up w/ Matt and Scotty in the finish for our category and Matt winning the overall and Scotty getting 3rd overall."
What an amazing weekend for Matt & Scott. Congrats.
at 7:41 AM
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Bicycle racing is all mundane disappointments and grand triumphs. When taken together, the disappointments outweigh the triumphs about 100 to one. One triumph, however, is worth more than a 100 disappointments.
[Fifteen minute edit: I can't believe how cheesy-lame that sounds. It stays, I suppose, because I wrote it, but my oh my, what drivel.]
Stage 1: 12 mile ITT
Friday there was nothing wrong with my PowerTap. Saturday morning, when I began my warm-up, I was getting nothing. Well, something a little more than nothing. It turned on. It registered my heart rate. That's it. I think the batteries in the hub may be dead. That is to say, I hope that there are batteries in the hub, and I hope that when I get them replaced that it all starts to work again. Regardless, I had no computer for the time trial, nor for any of the other weekend's events. Disappointment. (Non-power-types may think this silly, but not only do you get used to thinking of efforts in terms of power--which is especially useful in a time trial--but also some of the most useful data comes from time trials, so this was no minor disappointment.)
Anyway, the TT went ok. Not great. Ok. Considering.
I did a 10.75 mile time trial on Wednesday and was only able to average 299 watts. That's about ten percent off where I was in June. And that's about what I feel, about 90 percent.
Anyway, my fairly weak time was good enough for 18th in a 3/4 field of I think 41.
The warm-up rigmarole (notice the ghost of the photographer):
Ryan's "Mean Green Puke Machine." The thing weighs a ton. I love it.
Stage 2: 13 laps on a 1.56 mile circuit
This was a fun race on a fun course. A longish, not-too-steep climb just past the start/finish and a long descent with a fast, safe corner.
The race started off quick enough with a lot of guys trying to get away for a bit. I snapped off a couple of attacks, but they were half-hearted efforts and didn't lead to anything. But with a few laps left Carney got us organized--he, me, Matt and Scott. We held it together in a nice line near the back of the pack, and with one lap left Carney slowly moved us up. Along the way we tacked onto Ryan's wheel and with about 1/2 lap left he raced off the front with all four of us in tow. One by one we pealed off, then Matt took off about 200 meters from the line. No one got around him. Not even Scott, who finished second.
It sort of makes your chest swell a bit, that sort of team victory. Triumph.
Stage 2: 70 mile road race
My race ended early, about 20 miles in, with a broken spoke and a wildly out-of-true rear wheel. Disappointment.
All the more disappointing because it was such a fine course and such a fine day to run it on. On half the course the state police were running a rolling closure so we had the full road. The promoter combined the 1/2 and 3/4 fields for the road race and I think that helped keep the pace high. The temperature was hovering in the high sixties. Everyone was attacking. I spent some time in a short-lived five-man break. All in all, it was just a really great way to spend a summer morning. Until I started feeling the rear end of my bike going all over the road. Until I stopped, pulled off my wheel, and had to wait five minutes for the wheel truck. Disappointment.
I was home long before the race ended.
at 4:21 PM
Thursday, August 16, 2007
I had several suggestions on the handlebars.
Bontrager Race Lite OS
And I went with none of them.
The Eastons as well as the Race Lite OS would have required a new stem. The 3ttt was intriguing, but I wasn't sure about the funky swing-back top section. I'm not sure the advantage, as it seems to be effectively decreasing the length of your stem a centimeter or two, in which case, why not decrease the length of your stem? The Bontrager Selects would have worked fine, but I had already ordered my handlebars by the time that suggestion came rolling in.
So which handlebars did I end up with? The Ritchey Logic.
And at 210g (size 42) I think it beats out any other suggestions on weight. I guess I get to eat the Hershey bars myself.
Thanks to Mark, Marshall, and Gary for your suggestions.
Anyway, I installed the bars this morning. Preliminary tests (a few minutes on the trainer) suggest much improved in-the-drops riding comfort and control.
at 1:37 PM
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Saturday, August 11, 2007
I was lucky enough to get in a nice, long ride today. Sixty-five miles in 3:46 and over two quality climbs--Waggoner's Gap, northwest of Carlisle, and Doubling Gap, north of Newville and southwest of Landisburg. I'm not sure how much elevation gain over the two gaps. Probably just under 1,000 feet each.
Anyway, it was, like I say, a nice, long ride, and now, afterwards, I'm feeling right nice. I'm just a guy who likes to ride his bike.
Oh yes, and I took Hemingway along with me on this ride. A Movable Feast. One favorite morsel:
When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people, and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness, except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.
I seem to remember Seldom Seen Smith expressing similar sentiments, if in not quite as eloquent (is Hemingway eloquent?) prose.
It is a beautiful thought. And what's more, it's true. And really, what more can you ask of a thought than for it to be true?
at 6:11 PM
Thursday, August 9, 2007
Feedzone. Dirty. Hot. Like so hot and dusty you can't breathe dirty and hot.
Can you see that cloud of dust behind my tire?
Hairy podium glory. I finished third...
...probably because look what the competition was using for their energy drink:
Don't forget the competition below. I've got one suggestion for Easton EC70 (or EA70) and one for 3ttt Morphe (by email). I know there are more of you happy with your handlebars...
at 12:24 PM
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Crow. Feed it to me.
I've been yammering for months about how great and cool and superior the classic bend road bar is and how foolish and silly and poser these new-fangled ergonomic bars are and now I'm eating crow.
New bike. New bars. The Ritchey WCS Classic Road Bars......and I hate 'em. The problem is the curve. I simply can't ride with my hands in that curve with any comfort. The bottom bit of the bar is comfortable, but I can't reach the brakes from down there. So you get in situations where you'd like to be in the drops, but you'd also like to keep a finger on the brakes--like going down a hill at 50mph, or for the duration of any crit, for example--and you're screwed. And in this case, discomfort --> dis-ease --> s l o w . . .
So...a contest (!) for my readers!
I need new bars. Talk me into your favorite bar and win Hershey (PA) chocolate bar(s)! More succinctly, be the first person to suggest the bar that I eventually buy and you win. When my bars are in the mail so will yours. Ah yeah, baby. Reading this blog just got exciting.
These are my restraints:
(1) I'm not going to spend $200+ on carbon bars, so don't even suggest it.
(2) They have to come in a 40cm width (I don't expect you to know if your favorite bars come small, but if they don't I can't get 'em and you won't win).
(3) My present stem will accept only a 25.8 clamp diameter, but I'm not ecstatic about my stem, so for the right bars I'd be willing to get a new one.
(4) The less expensive the better.
(5) But light is better still.
Submit your suggestions as comments. Comment early. Comment often.
Ready. Set. Go!
at 8:30 PM
Things are feeling much better, thank you. Well, the shoulder is feeling much better. The fitness... Well, we'll see.
Sunday I had a nice 2.5 hour ride on the streets of Philadelphia. The shoulder didn't really start to ache like it did last Friday. There's still plenty of muscle soreness, and some things I just can't do--put my left hand out to signal a left-hand turn, for instance. Tuesday, I got in a little intensity before heading to the park with the team to hang with the cops and firefighters for National Night Out. The shoulder felt fine. I even got out of the saddle a few times, tentatively, without pain.
Tonight, two minute intervals--two minutes at 350 watts, two minutes as easy as possible--up the +/- five-mile climb to South Mountain. The pain that effort induced had nothing to do with the shoulder.
Tomorrow, I've my follow-up doctor visit. After I get my new X-ray I'll try to get before/after pictures up and that will hopefully be the last you'll hear of this silly break and recovery.
at 8:17 PM
Friday, August 3, 2007
Made it outside today. Twenty-six days after the break. I've lost all my form.
It felt really great to make it outside, and it felt really great to ride 90 minutes and feel relatively comfortable (at about an hour my shoulder started to ache a little, so I packed it in from there). But it did not feel particularly great to be working so hard and going so slow.
Granted, I've put in some hard time on the trainer this week, and I've been lifting weights steadily for the past three weeks (squats, lung-squats, though without much weight--mostly a lot of reps), and some of the fatigue I felt today could be from all that. Though, still, I didn't feel so froggy. And that's disappointing.
at 10:41 PM
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Riding a trainer in July is psychological torture.
Twenty-three days since the break and counting...
After having time to digest it a bit, I've decided on my favorite performance of the tour. This:
Stage three. Cancellera's late-stage attack with just enough gas to hold off the sprinters. This is how I aspire to win bike races.
If you haven't seen the helicopter footage of the stage end I highly recommend looking it up.
at 10:48 AM