Tag Archives: Summer Series

Learning to act my age

Thursday evening was the first St. Francis Sports Medicine Summer Series at the BMW Performance Center Test Track in Greer, South Carolina. My team, Piedmont Orthopaedic Associates is putting on the six race series the last Thursday of each month during the summer. I had forgotten how fun that track can be!

I was a little nervous because my coach was having me “double-up.” This means I would be racing in two criterium races back-to-back. The first would be Category 4/5 where I would be racing with guys half my age. The second race would be the Masters 35+ event when I would get a chance to race with a good number of my teammates — most of whom are close to my age.

BMW Performance Center Test Track

The course for the first race of the POA Summer Series

Going into the 4/5 race, I tried to balance the fact that I wanted to do well with the knowledge that I would have to race another race which I thought would be a much harder race. I stayed in the field for about half the race and then decided to go for a prime. Moving up to the front, I wanted to stay there going into the east side of the course. I knew if I could make it through there in the lead, the prime would be mine.

After a smooth right hand into turn three, you straighten out for just a moment before entering a chicane before coming into a sharper right hand turn. Once you exit turn four you find yourself coming over a rise and through a very shallow curve. The result is that you don’t get to see the start/finish line until you start coming out of this feature of the course. That factors into the story later.

Heading for the prime - Photo thanks to Jake Strasser

Heading for the prime - Photo thanks to Jake Strasser

My attack worked to perfection and I came out of the turn leading and then just put the hammer down to take the prime. Jake Strasser and Tyler Crotts were right on my wheel. When we crossed the line, we just kept rolling in the attempt to create a break. Unfortunately, it didn’t last very long and we were brought back into the field.

Then it was time to think of the finish. My teammate, Billy White, got on the front and started to stretch things out. I put my eye on Kirk Flinte. He was sitting in most of the race and I could tell that he had his mind set on a good finish. It was time to try something new, so I decided to get on Kirk’s wheel and let him bring me to the front. It was time for me to come off someone else instead of the other way around.

It was working perfectly. We entered turn three and sure enough, Kirk started to make a move. I got on this wheel and hung there until we were entering the chicane. At that point my momentum started bringing up to the left of Kirk’s wheel right as we were entering the left turn portion of the chicane. He moved further left to set himself up for the sharp right turn. Unfortunately, this pushed me to the edge of road.

At that turn is a drop off where cars have worn a rut along the edge. I knew if I went off that, it would be trouble. So, I gave and “tip-toed” down the line. That caused me to lose my momentum and Kirk created a gap. To get wound up again, I came through turn four wide. The engine was winding up and I was closing on Kirk. I knew that I could catch him.

Then we came over the rise and started to come out of the shallow curve. Right in front of me was a lapped rider. Because I came up on him so abruptly, I couldn’t judge his speed or tell which way he was going. There was just enough space to his left that I could have squeezed through and to his right would have me going back into the field. I hesitated slightly to take it all in and decide what to do.

That pause cost me dearly. Four riders were right on my wheel and they went right. I picked up the pace again in an attempt to salvage what I could. The result was a 7th place finish. However, even Kirk didn’t take the win since Gordon Whittaker of Palmetto Velo had gotten off the front earlier and took the win.

Power and heart rate graph from Category 4 race

Power and heart rate graph from Category 4 race (click to enlarge)

As it turns out, the Category 4/5 race was harder for me than the Masters 35+ — and the finishing results weren’t that far off each other. I averaged 251 watts in the first race. We finished with an average speed of 25.5 mph. However, there were many more accelerations as the pace would come and go. My heart rate got up to 191 bpm with an average of 173 bpm. Compare that with the Masters 35+ race.

Masters race heart rate and watts graph.

Masters race heart rate and watts graph (Click to enlarge)

This race was completely different. First the numbers: I averaged 25 mph at 262 watts. My heart rate stayed below 187 bpm with an average of 171 bpm. Much of this can be contributed to two things. 1) the tactics were completely different. My job in the Masters race was to help control pace so that my teammates could form a break and get away. In other words, I was being paid to go slow! 2) the racing was much smoother. It was so much easier going through the turns. There was much less braking and accelerating. It was more of a constant flow.

I wasn’t so much nervous about the speeds or the close racing as I was about doing something tactically stupid that would cause me teammates to exclaim, “What were you thinking!?!” So, I started the race toward the back. I was feeling great as the 4/5 race was a good warm up. I found the wheel of John James and sat there.

If you have ever watched Rudy, you’ll know what I was feeling like. Things were happening around me, but I wasn’t sure exactly how to interpret it all. I was just glad to be there with the guys. I only knew that Rodney had gotten in a break and it was our job to hold a pace that would allow him to get away.

Then from behind me about halfway through, I heard Rodney yell, “Jonathan! Move to the right!” I immediately did what I was told and Rodney came blasting past me on my left. We were getting lapped. I was getting really confused. I couldn’t tell who was lapping us and who was in the field with me.

Not long after this, I started to feel really good — except that my mouth was getting very dry. I had used up most of my water in the first race and had forgotten to pick up a second one before this race. I asked John if I could have a swig of his and he handed his bottle over. It was just what I needed. After getting John his bottle back and started to move up to the front.

For nearly four minutes, I moved to the front and pulled the field up to catch some of the riders who had earlier lapped up and now were falling back from the winning break. Of course, I didn’t even know they were actually a lap ahead of us! I just knew that Rodney was long gone and it was time to pick up the scraps.

Yes, there was no way I was going to win, but this was my first ever Masters 35+ race. I wanted to go in the records with a decent finish. It felt so good to be there on the front just tapping out a tempo. Of course, when we got within a lap of the end, things around me picked up and I decided to play it safe and moved into the line.

Coming out of that last turn, I was still with the front of the field and starting to sprint with about 10 other guys around me. Some passed me and I passed some others. I set my mind on beating Steve Baker to the line. I kept closing on him and then threw my bike at the end. I really thought I had him by a tire width, but alas, the camera showed I was a fraction of a second too slow. I’ll get you next time, Baker!

It was a blast! I was very pleased with my 11th place finish — more pleased with it than my 7th place earlier. Mostly, I was glad that I didn’t get in anyone’s way or do something tactically stupid. I’m ready for the next one! Can we have another race next Thursday?

Less critical of the crit

Billy White told me it would happen. It has taken awhile, but what he predicted has come true. I’m actually starting to warm up to criterium racing.

It is a good thing too. Criterium racing is the primary way American cyclist compete against each other. When the summer months arrive, all across the country you will find racers going round and round on short courses. That time has come!

2010 Giant TCR Advanced with SRAM Red

My crit weapon of choice: 2010 Giant TCR Advanced with SRAM Red & Boyd wheels

The big daddy to kick off criteriums here in the Southeast is the Athens Twilight. No, it has nothing to do with vampires. The sucking going on will be competitors trying to gain an advantage – or merely survive – by riding the wheel of the racer in front of them.

Athens Twilight is now in its 30th year. The race has consistently brought over 30,000 spectators to watch the racers compete under the city lights. It is an atmosphere the fans and riders enjoy.

However, there is another criterium series kicking off. The 2010 St. Francis Sports Medicine Summer Race Series kicks off tonight at the BMW Performance Center in Greer, SC. The series returns to the track after a year away with racing at the old Greenville Braves Stadium. The performance test track was a favorite venue and you can expect fast racing — depending on the winds.

Check out the event page over at POACycling.com to learn more about the race. Especially if you are a cyclist just beginning to race, consider cutting your teeth out at BMW. Rather than really sharp turns, the Summer Series crits feature more sweeping turns that allow you to get more comfortable with the speeds often associated with crits.

What exactly was it I didn’t like about this style of racing? Part of it was simply that I’ve always thought that road racing was the purest form of bicycle racing. Varying terrain, distance, and team strategy over the course seemed more like the types of racing you see in the Tour de France.

However, more than that, I was scared. Crits typically are under a mile in length and involve at least four turns. Depending on the course, these turns can be rather abrupt. So, you have 40 guys going 25 mph into a 90 degree turn and it can be a recipe for disaster! My first ever race was a crit and I went down alone in one of these turns and dislocated my finger.

The crit is also hard. In road racing, you can more easily sit in and cover the distance waiting for the final move of the day. In criterium racing, you have to know how to handle your bike but you also have to know how to accelerate. Pedal… set yourself up for the turn… hold your line… hold your line… ACCELERATE! Pedal… Pedal… Pedal… set yourself up for the turn… hold your line… hold your line… ACCELERATE! Over and over you go.

However, I have come to enjoy the race as I have come to understand it better. Admittedly, it is also more fun as my bike handling skills have improved and my training has helped me learn to manage the acceleration. One of the things that makes it enjoyable is that there is continual action. There is very little of just sitting in and getting pulled along. You must be fully engaged for the entire distance.

Chasing down the leaders at the BMW Peformance Center

Chasing down the leaders at the BMW Performance Center

Tonight I should have double the fun. My coach has me doubling up racing the Category 4 race as well as the Masters 35+. I’ll finish the first race and then line up immediately for the second race. I’m glad he has confidence! Hopefully it will be contagious.

Come on and give a crit a try. You might find you like it… after awhile.

Thank goodness for Matt’s helmet!

It is Thursday night as I type this.  I just got back in from a trip to Columbia where I spent some time with my sisters. The only thing that kept it from being an absolute best day was that I missed the last POA Cycling Summer Series race of the year. Perhaps for my safety, I’m glad I wasn’t there.

My friend and teammate, Matt Tebbetts, was in the front killing it going into the final turn on the final lap.  No doubt he would have taken the final Cat. 4 race with the POA colors flying proudly.

John James told me what happened then.  Matt came in so hot that he started skipping his rear wheel. He was not able to gather it in and went down hard into the curb.  “He hit so hard there were pieces of helmet laying around,” John said.  He went on to tell me that it didn’t appear that Matt was knocked out. He was certainly in pain.

Matt ended up with three broken ribs and a collapsed lung.  I’ve got to think that he had some concussion.  I am certainly concerned about him.

I couldn’t help but think what if I had been there?  Most likely I would have been a bit farther back in the pack.  However, Matt and I do sometime try to hook up together.  Perhaps it was Providence that I missed my first Summer Series race of the year.

Get well, Matt.  Your Giant frame is on the way.

7 days left to help me raise $5000.
$1115 raised so far to fight cancer.
Give to my fight today!


Do style points count?

Last night was the final POA Cycling Team Summer Series criterium.  It is a good thing too.  By 8:30 the darkness was settling in making it hard to see.  Thankfully all the racers were off the course by then.  However, it wasn’t the darkness that caused the wreck… it was the rain.

Perhaps it was because I knew the SC Championship Road Race is Saturday, but I had a hard time getting up for this crit.  The facts that it was a race sponsored by my team and that my in-laws decided to come see me race had me cinching up shoes and climbing on the bike.  My plan was to just stay with the pack and keep my effort to a minimum.  The result was an almost best finish for the series.

Photo by David Hicks

Photo by David Hicks

Of course, taking it easy in a crit is a relative thing!  By the halfway point I felt like pulling off.  I was slipping off the back in the turns with a small gap forming and then working my way back onto the wheels in front.  It was taking a bit of work to do that.  Just a little after that, the rains came.

I did not want to be back there on a slick course, so I moved to the front.  During the brief shower I stayed on the front or in the top five or so.  This allowed me chose a better line going into turn four.  The first time I went through my wheels hit a pavement patch that was pretty slick.  It broke my rear end loose and I had to chase the bike out to the edge of the road.  I avoided that spot for the rest of the night!

The rain eased and so did I.  Suddenly, I was sitting in and feeling really good.  “Don’t do anything stupid,” I told myself.  “Saturday is more important than tonight.”  I started to think about how I was positioning myself in the pack.  This race could be a good learning experience.

I remembered something Jim Cunningham said at his criterium seminar.  Stay on the wheel.  If you ease off the wheel in front of you going into the turn, you are going to have to exert energy to catch back on once you are out of the turn.  I started to concentrate on staying right there on the wheel in front through the corners.

Just that little adjustment made a huge difference!  Rather than coming out of the turns dreading the work of trying to cover the 5 foot gap in front of me, I found myself being sucked through the corners.  The only downside is that it takes an element of trust to do that.  You are counting on the rider in front of you to hold his line and not go down.

The rains had moved through and the course was drying in spots, but turn four was still a little wet.  At three laps to go, I started to move my way up toward the top five riders in the field.  David Bright from Anderson and Peter Mathern had broke away and we weren’t going to catch them at this point.

Photo by David Hicks

Photo by David Hicks

Things were looking very good for me to have a top 10 finish.  I was marking Jae Bowen – the winner of the omnium – as we moved around the final lap.  As we neared turn four Jae and I lined up to come around the outside.  My idea was to keep as much momentum through the turn as possible.  That would give me a jump for the sprint to the finish.

Some riders came flying up to our inside.  I eased just a bit to adjust my line and a gap formed between Jae and myself.  Then I leaned into the turn.  The riders to my left moved slightly in front of me.  Then just as they were reaching the first part of the apex of the turn and I was still somewhat upright, one of the riders went down.  He split between Jae and me.

Immediately the rider beside him went down as well.  They were skidding across the wet pavement toward the outside of the turn.  Jae barely escaped while I adjusted my line slightly and eased my brakes hoping to squeeze through the shrinking gap before they closed it off.  However, the combination of changing my line and braking caused my rear wheel to break loose once again.

It was like slow motion.  I wasn’t fearful – until it was over – and I was seeing everything that was happening in a matter of seconds, but my brain was analyzing it in detail.  I knew if I kept trying to shoot the gap I was either 1) going to get taken out by the sliding rider, or 2) slide out myself.

Instead I gathered the bike and straightened up.  This put me headed for the curb and the water retention area where a rider a couple of weeks ago went down and got messed up pretty badly.  Thankfully, I had slowed enough so that after bunny hopping the curb, I was able to grab my brakes and keep from sliding down the embankment – or hit the stump I realized for the first time was there.

As I was hopping the curb, I could hear the sound of entangling bikes behind me.  I’m still not sure how many racers were involved.  I was just trying to get my bike stopped, back onto the course, and under power again.  As I moved back on I got my feet on the pedals and started to go.  Ugggghhhh.  I had too much gear.  However, I just pushed it up until I crossed the line.

Jae finished seventh.  Based on where he was in relation to me as we entered the turn I am pretty sure I was on my way to a top ten – my best finish of the series.  Still, as I crossed the line I was elated with whatever place I got.  For once I was right there in an obvious crashing situation and I avoided it.  What made me happy was that it wasn’t just luck.  Each move I made had an intention and I was able to react to avoid the crash.

I imagine it looked pretty cool when I came out of the field and hopped that curb.  Sure, I didn’t win – or even place that well, but I figured I get a few points for style.  Even better than that, I didn’t break a shifter!

A race in pictures

I have the pleasure of having my own photographer for my races at the POA Cycling Summer Series.  My wife’s brother, David, has shown up for nearly every race and sometimes brings his camera.  He has a pretty good eye for good shots, so I look forward to what he comes up with.  Here are just a few of the shots that help tell the story of the race from July 30, 2009.

Talking with Luis during warm up.

Talking with Luis during warm up.

One of the best things about being on the POA Cycling Team is that it allows me to race with some guys that I have been riding with for years.  Luis is one of the guys in my category that I have ridden with the longest.  We go back some time on the Saturday morning Hour of Power rides.

Getting down a gel just before the start.

Getting down a gel just before the start.

I’ve learned that you need to have some calories in the old tank if you want to have the power toward the end.  Taking a gel just before the start allows it to start kicking in during the second half of the race.  Now, if I could just figure out how to put extra oxygen in a gel pack…

In the scrum at the start.

In the scrum at the start.

I got to the line a little late and ended up with nearly 20 riders in front of me as we left the line.  There were a good number of teams represented with only a couple of unattached riders.  My teammate Sam was one of the three ladies in the race.  The ladies and the Juniors were mixed in with us 4’s and 5’s.

Four POA teammates all together.

Four POA teammates all together.

The above picture is one of my favorites from the night.  You can see Matt coming into the center of the picture.  Luis is behind him and to his left.  I am coming up on his inside.  Between Matt and me you can see Billy in the background.  We just needed Sam in there and all of us would have been in this one shot.

Matt in the start of what would become the winning break

Matt in the start of what would become the winning break

That is Jae on the front.  He ended up winning the race.  Matt is right behind him and he took second.  Third in line is Peter.  He was in the break for a bit, but ended up sliding back.  I don’t know what his finish ended up being, but I know it was in front of me!

Not dead yet... working to control the front

Not dead yet... working to control the front

Part of the fun of the night was helping to control the front of the chasing field while the break built up a lead.  Of course, we were hoping that Matt would be able to take care of himself.  This was a pretty hot corner.  Later in the Pro 1/2/3  race a GlobalBike rider went in too hot and realized if he tried to hold it, he would take out most of the field.

He straightened up and bunny hopped the curb.  The only problem was that there was a water retention area on the other side.  He went over the curb, hit a root, and then slid down in the hole.  Thankfully, he missed the rocks at the bottom, but his back and knee got pretty skinned up.  Wonder how he has been sleeping lately?

So much for controlling the front... dropping back

So much for controlling the front... dropping back

If you click on the above image, it will enlarge.  If you look closer at me, you can see I am blowing out.  I’m trying to pull as much air into my lungs as I can.  Unfortunately, this night it was almost as though I had asthma.  I just couldn’t seem to get enough air into my lungs.  That is why I look like a blow fish.

A picture of me blowing up

A picture of me blowing up

Speaking of blowing.  This is where I blew up.  This would be in the last five minutes of the race.  I’m trying to hang on.  It seemed like every time I thought I might be recovering, it was time to climb that dratted hill again.

Well, I have one more chance at this course this year.  I need a new picture.  I need one of me coming across the line celebrating a win.  That is a picture I like to see in my mind.

What is wrong with me?

Before I jump into today’s post let me remind everyone here in Greenville that while you’re eating lunch, Bryant Young will be starting off on his individual time trial out in Bend, Oregon.  He has been keeping us informed of his attempt to earn a spot for the Para-Cycling World Championships at his website Amputeeinaction.org.  His start time is 9:35 out on the west coast. Give out a cheer for him!

Now, about last night… It was a fun race and yet a discouraging one.  It was great to see my teammate Matt Tebbetts fight it out with the winner and take a well-deserved second place.  It was discouraging because I actually saw him cross the line as I was being lapped.

The race started with me feeling pretty neutral. I had only ridden once since Saturday and that was an easy ride with my son. The reason for that was out of concern that I was worn out.  I have not been riding well lately and I hoped maybe that was the fix.

I got started a little toward the back of the field of 37 riders and it took me a number of laps on the .47 mile course to work my way toward the front.  So far so good.  It would have been better had I not needed to work that extra bit, but here I was in the first quarter of the race in a good position.

Blair was going prime crazy – he called a prime on the very first lap of the night.  Kirk Flinte decided that it was the night to rack up on all the goodies. He worked for most of the first half of the race winning them from out of a three rider break that dangled about 8 or so seconds off the front of the field.

For a portion of that I had a good view because I was pacing the chasing field.  I figured they would be coming back, so I didn’t push very hard.  I just felt more comfortable going through the corners when I was on the front.  Looking back, that might have been one of the things that got me later in the evening.

The reason why is because it was very windy.  The headwind was pretty strong and being on the front allowed me to get the full brunt of it.  The wind seemed to be the worst right as you were finishing the climb into the turn at the start/finish line.

Then I did something else not so smart. Just as we were catching Kirk, Blair called for another prime.  I saw that there was just a small gap between us, so I decided to make sure Kirk earned this one.  I attacked out of the group and put a little pressure on him.  He still won it as we crossed the line with my wheel about at his pedals.  There was some more energy needlessly burned.

Things got fun when three other riders went off the front.  One of them was my teammate Matt Tebbetts.  I could tell from the make up of the riders that though it was a small group, it could be one to stick.  I started backing off and simply covered the front of the field.

Just as I was getting a little tired, Billy came up and took over the duty of controlling the front of the field.  Luis was there as well.  We alternated several times in the last third of the race.  It was cool to watch Matt and his group get farther away as we worked to control the pace.

I did feel sorry for the GlobalBike guys.  They are a strong team and you could tell that most of the riders were expecting them to do all the work.  Two of them moved to the front to try to get something going and I moved onto their wheels.  They gave it a valiant effort for several laps, but I would not pull through — no one else would either. Finally, they backed off.

Billy came back to the front and I went back. Then someone up front (maybe the GlobalBike boys again) ratcheted it up again.  We were nearing the last eight or so laps.  Then it hit me.  I couldn’t breathe.

I don’t mean that I was gasping for air and about to die.  I mean that I couldn’t seem to pull enough air into my lungs.  It was as though my diaphragm had tightened up and wouldn’t allow my lungs to fill.  My mid-section felt as though it was starting to cramp.

Perhaps it was the heavy, hot, humid air.  Whatever the case, my legs were feeling pretty good, but without being able to breathe I could not keep up the energy.  I slid toward the back.  I was trying to gulp in air and not get dropped.  It wasn’t working.

One time just as I was losing contact, Paul Mills came around (he was doing some warm up laps) and pushed me from behind.  It got me onto the rear again and I managed to stay there for a couple more laps.  Then things just shut down and with about three laps to go my motor just quit.

I got lapped two times before the race ended. I tried to help Matt out even then by calling out split times and cheering him on as he came by.  I took comfort in the fact that I had helped build those time gaps. It just was disappointing that I was unable to finish in the field.

There is something wrong.  I just don’t have it anymore.  Earlier in the year I was doing much better.  My first race was a fourth place finish.  The first POA Summer Series crits had me finishing 11th and 13th – in contention.  However, now I seem to be croaking at the end of every competitive ride I try.  Even the Saturday morning Hour Of Power rides have me sucking wind by the end.

Do I need to ride more? I don’t think it is that I need to ride less. Is it just that I need to make better use of the time that I do ride?  It is true that I race to ride, but I hate losing.  More than that, I hate not being in a position to win even if I don’t finish first.

Brain dead

It was the June segment of the POA Cycling Summer Series last night.  I arrived a little fearful.  My calf muscle had bothered me for the last couple of days and I had visions of it seizing up early on in the event.  Turns out it wasn’t my leg that cost me a good finish.  It was my brain!

In the cat 4/5 race we do 35 minutes plus 2 laps.  This means we normally get 35 laps or so in on the near .5 mile course.  We’ll finish up in less than 40 minutes.

Last night there were 37 of us lined up for the race.  There were a good number of GlobalBike club team members on hand and I figured they would give a good showing.  I had Sam, Luis, and Matt with me.  Oh, yeah, Tyler Crotts was there as well.  He factors into the story later.

Right from the start things got hopping.  Matt took off to start a break and I followed.  Five minutes into the race we had a gap on the field.  Unfortunately, my old body has to warm up before I can start doing things like that!

As we were rotating through, I started to struggle and said to my break partners, “I’ve got to back off.”  I didn’t want to hold Matt up if he was feeling good.  I realized I would just slow them down.  Later I learned that they thought I said, “Let’s back off.”  We all slowed and were caught.

It was time to go to mid-pack and recover.  One thing I’ve learned it that no matter how you feel, you cannot go to the rear of the field – at least not on this course.  I sat in and tried to recover.

Honestly, 15 minutes in I nearly pulled off the course.  I felt really, really bad.  Thankfully, I’ve been there before I knew I just had to ride through it.  I began to concentrate on staying near some of the GlobalBike riders and that took my mind off my body enough for me to effectively recover.

Twenty-five minutes in I started to find that I was unintentionally starting to make my way closer to the front.  I don’t know if it was because other riders were slowing or I was feeling better and speeding up.  Perhaps it was a combination.  One thing for sure, I was feeling much better.

That is when I started thinking about the finish.  It entered my brain that the race was 30 minutes plus two laps.  I decided that at 30 minutes, I would attack going up the slight incline on the backside of the course.  If I could get a good enough gap, perhaps I could hold on for the two or three laps I would need.

Around the time I started my move I looked ahead and saw there was someone else who had already attacked off the front.  It was Tyler Crotts – my trash talking nemisis.  Maybe the two of us could connect and help each other out.

The first part worked.  I came out of mid-pack and got a gap before there was any reaction.  I went through turn four and started to climb.  About mid-way up the climb I caught Tyler.  I looked back as I came around him to see if he was able come along.  Tyler wagged his head and stuck his tongue out.  He was done.  I was now alone.

Oh, well, I would just have to put my head down and give it a go.  After the first lap, I was feeling pretty good about myself.  As I would make a turn, I looked back to see the field.  As I came around turns two and three, I didn’t see any chasers.  Good.  Just nail out a steady pace and try to hold on.

It had registered vaguely in my mind that our race announcer, Blair, had not been calling out any lap countdown.  As I came around to finish my first lap on the break, he still was talking about me breaking away – not the amount of laps left.  Could I stay out here for two more laps?  It did help that I also heard the voices of people on the sidelines cheering me on.  I can’t remember who or what exactly they said, but it was a cool feeling.

The next time around was a heart break.  I had started feeling a little tired and wasn’t pushing it nearly as much as before.  It was about 33 minutes in and I heard Blair say as I passed, “5 laps to go.  5 laps to go.  Can Jonathan hang on?”  Funny, hearing those words completely demoralized me.  “No,” I thought to myself, “He can’t.”  Perhaps I could put pressure on the field to chase and allow Luis and Matt to sit in and then make a move.

I hung in there and lead another lap.  I made it around turn one and looked back.  When I was halfway between turns one and two I could see the field coming out of turn one.  I was done.  They caught me between turns two and three – right where I had started my attack.  I tried to stay on, but remember what I said about avoiding the back of the pack.

Three laps to go and Tyler and I were now riding along together.  We talked and still maintained a respectable speed over those last laps.  The last thing I wanted to do was to get lapped.  Number one, I just hate the idea of not finishing on the lead lap.  Number two, I don’t want to be in the way when the riders pick up speed!

We avoided getting lapped and as we crossed the line, we did it wheel-to-wheel so neither of us could say we beat the other (though I do have to point out that I was scored in 20th place – the last possible scoring position, I didn’t see Tyler on the scoring sheet).  It was a fun night.  Yes, I didn’t get the finish I wanted, but I definitely wasn’t just field fodder.

Had I not been brain dead and started my attack a little later, who knows what the evening might have held?  Oh, my calf muscle?  It felt great during the race.  However, by the time I cooled down afterwards, it was already tightening up again.  The Beautiful Redhead tells me that it is trying to send the message that I need to be on the bike more.  That would be nice…

That race left a bad taste in my mouth

It is Friday morning and I feel like death warmed over.  Last night was the second POA Cycling Summer Series race held at the Municipal Stadium.  It was the same tough course as last time and I’m pretty wiped out.

The POA Cycling Summer Series course

The POA Cycling Summer Series course

Racing in the first event of the night put me with cat 4 and cat 5 racers for around 35 minutes of looping around this old stadium.  I ended up doing 31 laps of the half mile track.  Let me point out that it is a pretty tough course.

You can see where the start finish is.  However, what you can’t tell is that it is at the top of a climb.  You take a left after the finish on somewhat of a flat.  The problem is that it is a short distance before you dive down and then turn left again.  Of course, everyone accelerates out of the turn and by the time you hit the next turn you are going up again.  The next section is short again and before you know it you are making the turn onto the finish stretch.  By the time you reach that point, the climb is a humdinger.

Basically, there is never any chance to recover.  It is hammer out of the corner, hammer out of the corner, hang onto the field, hammer out of the corner, and then suffer up the climb.  Repeat about every minute until you are done.  It is recipe for pain.

Suffering past the start finish

Suffering past the start finish

How did my race go?  Well, I met one objective.  I started on the front.

I managed to stay there for about 15 minutes as well.  Peter Mathern was up there as was his teammate Tony Warmuth.  Peter was off the front much of that period.  The temptation was to go with him and attempt a breakaway.  Peter does things like that.

However, I knew I didn’t have the endurance at this point to make something like that stick.  The problem was I was still doing a lot of work as at multiple points I was the one leading the group chasing down Peter.  This would not last.

My heart rate was over 180 by this point.  As a matter for fact, I was red lining it for 33 minutes of the 33 minute 48 second race!  I made myself back off and drop into the field in an attempt to recover.  The problem is, this course does not allow you to do that.  You have to be near the front or you must work to get to the front or get spit out the back.

So, for the first half of the race I stayed in the top five.  My hope was that I could recover and then in the last 10 minutes of the race make a move with someone like Peter to gap from the field and get a good finish.  Unfortunately, when the five to go call came I was about 20th.

The pace picked up and it was even harder to work my way up to the front.  I made it into the top 15 riders but could tell things were stretching out slightly as we made the turns and accelerations.  About this time my body started sending me signals that it was unhappy.

The snap was gone.  If it came down to a sprint I was going to have to really call on my will to make anything happen.  Like a snap of the fingers I went from feeling like I could go in a break to feeling like I couldn’t hang on.

Still, I determined I was not going to quit.  With two laps to go I was still in contact with the riders in front of me.  Then coming out of lap three I had something happen that has never happened to me in a race.  I threw up.  Thankfully, only a bit ended up in my mouth and the only thing I knew to do was to swallow it back down and keep going.

The bad news is that it caused me to lift just enough to get gapped going through turn four.  I had to stand and give it all I had to make contact with the group ahead.  By the time we reached the start/finish for the final lap I was back on but dangling precariously.

As we went through turn two one rider blew up and went rocketing off the back.  That caused me to take a look behind me.  There was no one there but that one rider.  Forgive me, but I realized that I wouldn’t lose any more places, so I halfheartedly entered turn four and began the final climb to the start finish.  Who knows, maybe someone else (other than myself) would blow up.

I was close enough to say I finished with the main group.  Turns out I was 13th – which was better than I thought I did.  The large number of lapped riders made things very confusing.

Here are my numbers:  31 laps for 33:48 covering 13.6 miles, max power = 1094 with an average of 272 watts, heart rate = 189 max with an average of 185 bpm, and the average speed was over 24 mph.  My 20 minute peak maximal power was 285 watts.  That was very close to my highest ever 290 watts.

I will note that on my Garmin the average power read 336 watts.  When I saw that, I nearly freaked out!  That would have been awesome – though I was perplexed because with a number like that I should have been pulling the field around all by myself.  Getting the data into WKO+ cleaned it up and gave me a much more realistic number.  Hey, it was fun while it lasted.

My plan was to finish within the top 11 riders.  So, I didn’t make that goal.  However, I felt very good about making some progress with my fitness.  I did not feel nearly as bad as I did in the first POA race (I finished better in that one, but did not feel nearly as strong).  It helped to know that I was one of the last men standing with a group that completely busted the field apart.

The plan now is to start focusing some on drills that will help me be a better criterium racer.  What are those?  I’m assuming repeats.  The constant accelerations are what wear me down over time.  I need to learn how to build stamina in those situations.  I’ll crack the top ten yet!

Discombobulated

I have been discombobulated by my recent riding schedule. Now here I am just a couple of days away from the second race in the POA Cycling Summer Series. Am I ready? I don’t know.

After Mitchell I was off the bike for a number of days. Partially because I didn’t want to get on the bike, but more than that I simply did not get the chance. Saturday morning I was able to get in a 50+ mile ride, and then yesterday I got a quick 17 miles in the saddle.

Discombobulated is a great word. It describes how I feel right now. In my mind I sense that I’m not ready for Thursday night’s race. My body doesn’t know what to tell me. WKO+ says I should be.

After yesterday’s ride I took a moment to check out my numbers in the training software. Perhaps you remember my post about my Power Profile displayed in the software. Things have changed a bit.

My latest Power Profile

My latest Power Profile

My 5 second peak time has improved dramatically. In yesterday’s sprint session I was putting out over 1200 watts – which compared to myself is pretty good. My 1 minutes graph has also improved with the 20 and 60 minute peak bars remaining pretty much the same.

Now take a look at the Performance Management Chart. According to what I understand the middle blue number is the main one to keep an eye on. The idea behind this chart is to show you when you are coming into form for a particular event.

Performance Management Chart

Performance Management Chart

You can click on the image to see a larger chart. TSB stands for Training Stress Balance, ATL stands for Acute Training Load, and CTL represents your Chronic Training Load. To put it another way, TSB shows your form, CTL gives you your fitness, ATL gives some insight into how you got there.

As you can see, my CTL was pretty much flat line from April to mid-May. According to this chart, I should be at my best fitness level of the year right now. However, the idea of a taper before an event is thrown out the window as you can see my ATL is a like a mountain compared to my past.

The thing that scares me most is the TSB. If you believe this chart, it appears to me that I am at one of the worse points of the year for my form. Of course, it is too late now! No way can I change things in three days.

If I was seriously training, I would use this chart by picking an event and then building a forward looking training program based on past training exercises. This would forecast for me what my graph would look like approaching the event. The idea would be to build up and then taper (ease up and recover) before event so you will be at your best TSB and CTL.

Any help out there? If you know about this kind of stuff, what would you say this chart is saying about how I am going about my riding? Any pointers?

I’m very close to considering getting a coach for next year. It would be interesting to see how some structure and motivation would compare to this year. At least I’m building a base of data to work from!

Cheese steak and heart ache

I set out to accomplish two objectives during the last night’s race.  My goals were to keep the rubber side down and finish in the top ten.  One objective was checked off my list.  The other one… almost.

Waiting for the start

Waiting for the start

It was the warmest temperature for a race in quite awhile.  As I pulled into the parking lot of the old Municipal Stadium I could see my teammates already working up a sweat trying to set up and get the route cleaned up.  I joined in, but am afraid I was more in the way than helpful.

Then it was time to get on the bike.  As I was spinning along I started to have some bad feelings.  I was not feeling very snappy.

You may laugh, but one of my mistakes of the day was I had a business lunch at City Range.  I should have gotten a salad or something.  No, I had to go and get a cheese steak sandwich.

By three o’clock I felt like I needed to go take a nap.  It was as though all the blood in my body was taking the oxygen away from my legs and lungs to my stomach.  Now as I was circling the course my legs felt heavy and I was still feeling lethargic.

I got up on the line as we were about to start.  There was a good sized field.  It was a mix of category 4 and 5 riders.  I wanted to be up front so I could avoid any crossed wheels and to be in position to react to any moves up front.

Then Blair and the officials decided to take the field around the course for a couple of pace laps so we could be shown the proper lines and get an understanding of the layout of the course.  I made the mistake of sitting back and letting the field pull be me around.  As we finished the second lap and stopped, I was at the back for the start.

Then we rolled off for real.  For the first several laps, I just stayed in and tried to position myself so I would be out of trouble.  After a number of laps, things began to stretch out and I could see a gap forming on the front between some riders and the field.

Trying to hold my own in the turn

Trying to hold my own in the turn

I was feeling like crud.  From the very beginning I felt like I was chasing.  That feeling that you can move anywhere at anytime wasn’t there.  It was replaced with a feeling that if anyone did something drastic, I would be left sitting.

The gap was growing and I began to move myself up toward the front.  There seemed to be some loose organization to try to bring the break back.  I joined in.

We were about a third through the race and I could see that the riders off the front were basically doing just enough to maintain the distance.  Here I had a choice; I could stay where we were and launch an attack at the end of the race in hopes of overtaking them at the end, or I could work to bridge up to them and then recover before the finish.

Bridging the gap

Bridging the gap

I moved to the front and started to pull and the field stretched out even more.  It would have been nice if I could have bridged over and stayed away.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t fast enough to build a big separation.  I basically pulled the field up to the break and those riders gave into field.

It pretty much wiped me out.  I got on the wheel of my teammate Matt who had followed me up to the break.  There were multiple times at that point where I felt like getting off the course.  Hearing the encouragement from spectators helped keep me in there.

Matt giving me a break

Matt giving me a break

About time I felt like I could make it another attack came.  I couldn’t go after them.  There was a lot of chatter in the group about who was going to do the work to bring them back.  The way I saw it, I had done my job on the first break and those guys could fight it out on this one.

There was a point where I realized I was racing for a top ten.  There would be no win tonight.  I looked around at the riders.  I knew what was going to happen.  The three man break would stay away.  There was a particular rider that I knew would attack for fourth place.  It would be a field sprint for the rest of us.

The sad thing was that I knew what was going to happen but felt helpless to do anything about it.  I had to save myself to just hang on.  There was no chance to take control.

Sure enough, the rider I had marked attacked in turn three.  I let him go.  I set up for turn four with the plan of letting it all hang out on the climb up to the finish.  It felt good to start moving up past some of the riders ahead of me.

Digging for the line

Digging for the line

As we neared the line, I could see that I had the possibility of getting one more spot.  I moved up beside him and he looked over.  He started to react but it was a little late.  We neared the line and I threw the bike forward to grab the spot.

A friend told me as I came off the course that he thought I might have gotten 9th or 10th.  After the way I felt out there, that would have been a happy result for me.  I would have to wait until the results were posted to find out.

As I was loading my bike into the car I discovered I had a flat tire!  I must have picked something up during the race that caused a slow leak.  Wow, had I had a flat at the wrong time out there and my objective of keeping the rubber side down might have gone out the window.

11th.  I got 11th.  Just one pass away from my goal.

The questions I ask myself are 1) Was my ride indicative of my fitness overall or was it just a bad night?  2) Will I ever learn to understand what is going on around me and, more importantly, know how to act to turn it to my adavantage?  I guess only time will tell.

Here are the numbers for the night: 28 laps around a .45 mile course for just over 30 minutes.  My max power (1094 watts) during the race happened early on the second lap.  I averaged around 1:06 per lap.  My peak 20 minute reading from my Quarq CinQo Saturn was 291 watts.  The number for the entire race was 287 watts.

The bottom line is that I was putting out about the same power as I typically do.  I just felt a lot worse doing it.  Also, what the numbers don’t show was WHEN I was using the power.  That is what I’ve got to learn.  I feel that I misuse my power – wasting it on wrong moves or doing more work on the front than I should.  What I’m saying is that with a little more intelligence, I could probably place higher without using as much energy.

There are still more opportunities ahead.  I’ve just got to put more effort into improving my stamina and my intelligence.  First intelligent thing to do?  Avoid cheese steak sandwiches the day of a race!