Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Ooops, I did it again.

Well, I had another helmet-busting accident on June 18th while training during a family vacation to the Outer Banks. Unlike my crash last September, this accident involved a moving car and resulted in my collar bone being broken.

I'm really bummed about this one, but it could have been way worse. I could have been much more seriously injured and at least I was able to meet some of my main goals for the year (race wins, upgrading to Cat3, a great finish at Mount Mitchell), but it looks like my racing season for 2007 is done. To make matters worse, this will put a major damper on much of the riding I was planning to do during our 5-week stay in Utah during July and August.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Say hello to the new Cat3...

As of the Cape Fear Road Race I had enough points to request a Cat3 upgrade which left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand I definitely feel like my results since March have shown that I'm able to hold my own against the 4/5 fields but on the other hand upgrading to Cat3 likely means I'll spend some time being pack fodder.

In the end I decided to go ahead and put in my upgrade request which was accepted. Now I just need to train hard and see how I do. Since I'm now able to ride in Masters events I may do so but the top 10 guys in those fields are really good riders, so it may be 2008 or even 2009 before I'm competitive--if ever.

Oh well, upgrading will help keep my motivation from stagnating.

Monday, June 11, 2007

2007 Assault on Mount Mitchell

Ever since entering this event last year, I have been preparing for the 2007 Assault on Mount Mitchell. I won't rehash the details of the event, but let's just say it's a truly epic ride with an extremely painful final 20 miles.

This year's weather was fantastic: overcast and relatively cool (especially as we got closer and closer to the Mount Mitchell summit) with no rain during the ride. I could not have asked for better conditions. Unlike last year when the rain made group riding uncomfortable, I had planned to stay with the lead pack this year and was able to do so without incident. At times it seemed like we were taking it pretty easy, but even so we averaged 22mph for the first 82 miles of the ride.

That left just 20 miles of pure hill left to conquer, for which my training had not fully prepared me. Yes, I had done plenty of long rides leading up to Mitchell but NO NO NO I had not done any sustained climbing like this. Still, I plodded along and only had to stop one time (a two-minute break to drain and refill fluids) during the entire event.

In the end, I made my time goal with several minutes to spare (chip time: 5:42) and finished somewhere in the top 20 out of a reported field of 800 riders. I'm happy with that, but I'm already scheming for next year.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

2007 Cape Fear Road Race

Even though it's a great course and it's an event hosted by my own cycling club, I hadn't planned on participating in the Cape Fear Road Race this year because a change in the dates of both this race and the Assault on Mount Mitchell meant that they would be two days apart. However, with a promise to stay in the middle of the pack until the final hill, I convinced my coach that it would be OK to enter the Masters 4/5 version of the Cape Fear race because it was only 34 miles long.

As it turned out, I almost ended up not making it to the race after all (the web directions were, uh, somewhat misleading) but I showed up just in time to assemble my bike and rush to line. No warmup--but it was hot enough outside that no warmup was necessary, ha ha ha.

Did I mention it was hot? Holy hannah it was hot! With Mount Mitchell looming on Monday, I followed my plan and just sat in toward the mid-to-back of the pack for nearly the entire race and tried to avoid pedaling at all costs. I had two water bottles for race and thought that would be enough. It wasn't. Had the race lasted even a few minutes longer I would have started getting dehydrated.

With the heat keeping everyone's aggressiveness in check, it was clear that the whole race was going to come down to the last 2K before the finish. There is a nice 200-foot climb over 1K (just long enough and steep enough that I had to go into the small chainring) and then a final 1000 meters of flat-to-slightly-uphill coming to the line. I could tell things were going to spread out a bit by the top of the climb so my goal was to be near the front.

With 2.25 kilometers to go, I made my way up the right hand side of the pack, went to the front as we worked our way up the hill, and kept trying to go hard without blowing up. At the top, there were two guys who had stayed with me and we had some decent separation on the field but there was still a long way to go to get to the line.

I let another guy come around me and he pulled for a bit and then slowed to play cat-and-mouse. He kept twitching his elbow to signal that it was time for me to come around and take a turn but I was having none of that. I yelled out "sorry, dude, but I'm not gonna pull through" but he kept slowing down until I was worried the rest of the field would catch us so I went to the front and headed toward the line. I knew the two guys would sit on my wheel and sprint around me when we got to the 200 meter mark so I saved just enough in the tank that I would be able to manage at least a meager sprint to keep things interesting.

My sprint is pretty weak anyway, and after four minutes of VO2Max effort I wasn't hopeful, but a top three finish would be better than getting swallowed up by the pack. Sure enough, one guy came around and so with about 150 meters to go I jumped up out of the saddle with just enough ooomph to pass him and hold it to the line for my second road race win as a Cat4.

Here's a photo of the sprint finish. The photographer apologized to me personally afterward for having mistakenly bumped her camera to the wrong setting right before we came over the hill, but the photo is certainly good enough to get the general idea:

Average power for the entire race: 179 watts (29% of time spent not pedaling)
Average power for last 4.2 minutes: 420 watts
Average power for the last 10 seconds: a meager 882 watts--but just enough

Now I gotta rehydrate, keep the legs up, eat, and rest. Monday's gonna be tough.