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Category: workout (Page 2 of 26)

cycling log: 26 june 2010 (diabolical double)

Activity: road cycling
Location: McHenry, MD (Wisp Mountain Resort)
Distance: 125.88 miles (many steep and technical climbs and descents)
Duration: 9:21 (11:23 with stoppage time)
Weather: cool start, warm-to-hot from there, 59-92 degrees
Climbing: 15,500′
Avg HR: 158 (max 189)
Type: aerobic

This ride proves that there is always something more difficult to do on a bicycle.

Rudi at the startSince it’s unlikely that I’ll be riding the Great River Ride this year, I decided to add another longer challenge ride to my 2010 schedule. That came in the form of the Garrett County Gran Fondo, specifically the “Diabolical Double” route: a 126-mile route that climbs and descends river-cut ridges through the Maryland panhandle and parts of northern West Virginia. It’s a route that few have ever completed, and this year the organizers of the Savageman Triathlon decided to stage an organized ride on this route to test the mettle of local endurance cyclists.

I didn’t enter into this ride lightly. Friends familiar with the area said that the terrain was extreme, and that every climb would have a sinister element to it: steepness, exposure, road surfaces conspiring against progress. Naturally, this meant some breakneck descents, tempered only by the prospect of gravel washed over the pavement due to recent torrential rains. There was also the factor of distance between checkpoints/aid stations, which meant the possibility of running out of water or food at later points in the ride.

Rick & Mariette at the startBut this ride still proved inviting. The prospect of beautiful terrain (including the “Westernport Wall,” a 31% climb that’s featured in the Savageman race) and riding with good friends, Mariette and Rick, in an area that I hadn’t explored outside of winter months was too much to pass up. And I’ve been climbing really well on local sinister roads like Massanutten, Coxey Brown, Francis Hollow and Park Central, so I felt ready to give this ride a go.

And it was truly diabolical.

To quote (and second) Mariette:

“[The DD] is is the hardest thing I have EVER done on a bike, and I have done some hilly doubles and some hilly centuries. This thing is like doing Naked Mountain, then Massanutten, then Vesuvius and then doing them all over and over and over until you get 126 miles. But the scenery was kicker.”

She was right. And Rick added the following in a message to Kyle Yost, the course designer:

“I’ve done the Mountains of Misery Double Metric Century five times, and your ride is consistently harder… Same amount of climbing, but the Diabolical Double takes an additional two hours of a serious suffer fest. I really enjoyed the flat section at the end am only too thankful you didn’t chart a final climb any more vicious than you did… I assume you simply couldn’t find one.”

Again, spot on.

A quick summary of the course: starting from the top of Wisp Ski Area, the ride begins with a fast descent (I hit 57.1 mph on this first stretch – some nearly hit 60), then gives you a taste of the climbs to come about 10 miles in: a 1/2 mile stretch at 15-16%. From there, the hills became more and more extreme, adding fuel to the fire. It got to the point where 10% seemed like a mild climb and not something that, on a normal club ride, would be groused at. We hit 20-21% at least 6 times on this ride. There was also a 1.5 mile long dirt stretch, the last 3/10 of a mile being a 13-14% incline – more a job for a mountain or cross bike than a road steed, but we made it up, all the same.

Looking up the WallAnd then there was the Westernport Wall. It was an optional climb, not officially part of the course, but as Kyle said in the pre-ride briefing: you’re there anyway, so you might as well climb it. It’s a one-block-long stretch of poorly-paved road that is 31% for all but the last 10 feet of its length. Other than the residents who live on the road, nobody is allowed to drive it in either direction. In the Savageman Triathlon, any competitor who scales it without falling or dismounting gets their name on a brick at the climb’s summit.

And so I did – and I killed it! And truth be told, it was one of the easiest climbs on the ride, given the parameters are known (e.g. distance from bottom to top).

In Westernport was the fourth of five checkpoints on the route. The organizers required riders to check in at every checkpoint, such was the brutal nature of the ride. At certain checkpoints, it was possible to choose a shorter route, though checkpoint three is the “make or break” if you wanted to shortcut down to the 102-mile route. The checkpoints were well-staffed and equipped with plentiful food, water, HEED and ice (that last one was important as the elevation dropped and the temperatures rose – in Westernport it was 92 degrees, the hottest point of the ride).

The other challenge was that, after Westernport (mile 84), the next checkpoint wasn’t until mile 110, and there were three long, difficult, mostly-exposed climbs through West Virginia before said stop. Furthermore, this course is remote, and there are precious few convenience stores or vending machines along the way.

So when I started running out of energy around mile 92, I became a bit concerned. I slowed down my pace, which helped, but my bottles (even the slurry one) were dangerously low as the heat and sun exposure took their toll on me. Luckily, the town of Deer Park installed a spring water spigot at mile 103, and I made it there shortly after my bottles had run dry. I spent about 15 minutes at that spigot, dousing myself with the icy-cold water, refilling my bottles and eating some granola bar and energy gel. I felt renewed and carried on, Mariette and Rick ahead of me now due to my flagging energy.

The three of us at the finishThe remainder of the stretch to mile 110, and indeed to the finish at mile 126.88, went well: I rode strongly (and solo) for the remainder, and climbed the final hill up to the summit of Wisp (the lower half of which is a 14% grade) with strong legs, sprinting through the finish.

Rolling time: 9h 21m
Elapsed time: 11h 23m

Yup – almost two hours of stoppage time. Some of that was to take pictures, some was waiting for Mariette and Rick at the checkpoints, some was necessary recovery time. But it was necessary, as this wasn’t a ride to take lightly.

Of note:

  • Despite running out of water and getting into a slight energy slump, I didn’t cramp at all on the ride.
  • My low gear of 36/25 was a tad too tall, though I never had to resort to tacking or walking. 34/27 would be the ideal bailout gear for this ride – possibly even 34/29 or 34/30. Rick’s low gear was 39/28 and it was tough for him.
  • Having a positive attitude helped a ton.
  • The event staff were top-notch all the way around.
  • For the brave souls who want to try this ride on their own: be prepared with good brakes and a lot of food and other supplies, because some of the stretches between available supplies are very, very long. Checkpoints 2 and 5 only had supplies because of the event.
  • Also: if you don’t start and finish at the summit of Wisp, it’s not the real ride (there is a variation of the cue that starts and ends at the base of Wisp Mountain Resort, starting off the ride with a climb.

You can see a set of the pictures I snapped on the ride by clicking here.

cycling log: 30 may 2010 (mountains of misery)

Activity: road cycling
Location: Newport, VA
Distance: 102.7 (rolling with two long, steep climbs)
Duration: 6:21 (6:43 with stoppage time)
Weather: warm and humid, foggy/misty in the morning, 70-86 degrees
Climbing: 10,000′
Avg HR: 149 (max 187)
Type: aerobic

It’s been a while since I’ve written up a ride, so I figure writing this epic ride up is a fine place to catch up on things.

This season of cycling started slowly, due in no small part to the fact that DC had a lot of snow, both in December and February, with a colder-than-usual January. So the weather was great for skiing, and I managed to enjoy some of the plentiful snow up at Blue Knob, Pennsylvania, between some of the February storms.

This meant less time on the bike – at least less time that I’d use to build up to a ride like Mountains of Misery. I’ve trained a lot of hilly miles, working intervals, honing my cadence and spin, and shedding some winter weight to prepare for the climbs outside of Blacksburg, VA.

It was a lot of pain, but did it pay off? Would I beat my time from 2009?

First off, the day dawned humid and foggy. The temperature was rather mild (a t-shirt and shorts were fine just before dawn), and when Jonathan and I arrived at the Newport Rec Center, the foggy mist had just lifted from the town.

Mountains of Misery 2010: misty start

Our group of friends started in the fourth wave of riders: the ride organizers start waves of 40-50 riders every two minutes. They do this to keep the roads from getting too crowded, as this is not a closed course and they wish to keep riders safe and locals happy.

As we ride away, I’m feeling awake and ready. But my drivetrain isn’t. In fact, shifting is off: sluggish, imprecise, and markedly different from how things were the day prior. I assess things as we roll to find that my rear derailleur cable’s housing is on the verge of snapping at the frame boss: it’s bent almost perpendicular to the boss, the cable straining past the angle.

Not good.

I soon learn to compensate for the shifting – adjusting the cable tension, learning to over-shift here and under-shift there – but harbor a sneaking suspicion that my rear derailleur cable could snap at any point along the course. I soldiered on, regardless, and our group made great time over the first 61 miles to the top of Johns Creek Mountain, the first major climb on the ride (and our first rest stop). I’d fallen behind the group on the climb, though not by more than 30-40 seconds from the next-slowest person.

Rudi rides MoMAs I pull into the stop, I get a tiny cramp adjacent to my left hamstring, but quickly stretch it out, refill my bottles, eat some food and take some electrolyte supplements. The rest of the group does the same, and we descend quickly back to the New River Valley.

Once in the valley, Joyce and Geoff ramp up the pace. This proves too much for my legs, and after two attempts to shepherd me back into the group, I wave them off. So I ride mostly solo for the remainder of the ride. Sure, I see friends along the way: Tim and Mariette, who are both having personal bests on the ride. But I knew that I had to ride my own ride, so to speak. Tim rode ahead, while Mariette wasn’t far behind me.

I had a lot of time to think along this stretch, which was good: in allowing myself to think about things other than keeping up with the paceline, I was able to allow myself to relax and save energy for the big climb of the day: the steep incline to Mountain Lake.

Two quick stops – one at mile 84 to top off on fluids, pop at Tums (for the calcium) and eat some fruit, the other at mile 94 to top off the bidons with ice – translated into increasing energy, and by the time I hit the bottom of the last, 4-mile-long climb, I felt great! I spun the pedals with a decent cadence and quite a bit of efficiency, passing many riders who had lower gearing than me (my granny gear was a 36/26, while many others were using a 34/27 or 34/28) and keeping up my pace even as the grade steepened.

By the rest stop 1.5 miles from the finish, my cadence fell a bit (the road pitches up to 16% at this point) but I was still in good shape. Just prior to this stop, the fastest double-metric rider, Scotty Weiss, passed me with a lot of speed and shouted words of encouragement (he was the only person who passed me on the entire climb). I asked the staff at the rest stop to dump two cups of ice water down my back, which brought instant cooling and a burst of energy (as did the playful pat on my butt from the very cute Virginia Tech student who applied the water).

I powered to the finish, finishing 25 minutes slower than last year, yet shaving 9 minutes off my time for the final climb – not bad, all things being equal. My derailleur cable held up (as I later learned, on two intact strands out of 16), I didn’t cramp (most of my paceline mates did on the final climb), and I still had something left in the tank. After a wonderful 30-minute massage and a recovery drink, I watched and cheered as friends crossed the line.

And after Chris finished his long, weary ride (he’d driven down from Princeton, NJ, the night before and was very tired), I hopped the van back down to Newport to claim my bike, hop in the car with Jonathan, and return to DC.

Next year, Misery – I’m aiming for a personal record.

(Click to see my 2009 and 2008 write-ups for this ride.)

cycling log: 18 january 2010

Activity: road cycling
Location: Dupont Circle > Glen Echo, MD > Seneca, MD > Dupont Circle
Distance: 49.3 mi. (flat to rolling)
Duration: 2:54
Weather: sunny and mild, northwest wind, 45-50 degrees
Climbing: 3,500′
Avg HR: 149 (max 187)
Type: aerobic

Given Monday’s holiday and the lovely, bluebird weather, it seemed like a great opportunity to take another ride on the newly-cleaned bike. The previous day’s rain had washed away much of the remaining snow and road salt, it seemed, and while the roads were damp, the sun was bright.

I rode from home, meeting the PPTC gang at Glen Echo just as they were shoving off on the official club ride. The route was one I know all-too-well, given it’s one of the old reliables when I want to go on an impromptu ride. The pace with the group was a bit fast, as folks who are in better mid-winter shape drove the speed up a tick higher than some of us (okay, namely me) wanted, but that’s fine. I rode with the group until the fork in the road in Seneca, where the others continued to get in their own 50-mile run (as well as a rest stop at mile 25), while I looped back toward DC, sans rest stop. So, aside from a quick stop in Glen Echo (as well as the requisite stop signs and traffic lights, most of which were brief trackstands), it was a non-stop 49.3 mile ride – not bad. And the average pace was decent for mid-January.

The best part? I was home around lunchtime, which meant I got to spend the lovely, sunny DC afternoon with sprite as we wandered around our fair city.

cycling log: 16 january 2010

Activity: road cycling
Location: The Plains, VA > Marshall > Upperville > Airmont > The Plains
Distance: 64.5 mi. (rolling)
Duration: 3:28
Weather: partly cloudy and mild, 44-50 degrees
Climbing: 4,000′
Avg HR: 152 (max 186)
Type: aerobic

The PPTC “Mild-Mannered Meander” ride was one of those rides that was lengthened out of practical necessity. Originally scheduled to be 48 miles, Sunday’s threat of pouring rain made many in the group decide to ride the original, longer version of the cue sheet.

And it was a great ride. There wasn’t a lot of “attack mode” in the group, save for Al, who rode off the front from the beginning and never really looked back. The rest of us rode mostly as a unit, save for the leader, Mark, who made a wrong turn along the way and met us at the rest stop in Upperville (where the BBQ slow-cooking in front of the town store was very inviting).

I was really only in shape for 59-or-so miles, as the group pulled away from me at that point and I didn’t quite have the extra energy to rejoin them. It’s the off-season, so that’s expected. But I only finished about two minutes behind the lot, so it’s not bad at all. I’m happy with how this ride went, for sure – but the cleanup of the bike, with all of the snowmelt and road salt residue, was hellish.

cycling log: 10 january 2010

Activity: road cycling
Location: Bowie, MD > Deale, MD > Bowie
Distance: 38.4 mi. (flat to rolling)
Duration: 2:14
Weather: sunny and cold, northwest wind, 24-29 degrees
Climbing: 2,200′
Avg HR: 150 (max 180)
Type: aerobic

I’ve been taking time off the bike a lot in the past 6 weeks. A lot of it was due to overtraining and burnout during the 2009 season, with the rest due to holiday preparation and other things going on in life. I managed to go riding on New Year’s Day, riding 32 miles in the annual “Circle of Cycles” at Hains Point, but I was nursing a sore leg from a high-speed, high-G recovery while skiing after Christmas.

So this ride today was my first ride in 2010 where I felt more-or-less ready for it (save for the fact that I’m far, far from peak riding shape). I was nursing a bit of shoulder pain, my previously injured left shoulder having been tweaked early on Saturday and the resulting pain remaining ever-present since. But I had to ride: to get out of the house, and I was one of the co-leaders, so off to Bowie I drove.

The weather was quite brisk, as the DC area has been in a cold snap since the end of December. A dusting of snow arrived heading into Friday, and that meant the possibility of some ice on back roads. Fortunately, the ice was minimal, save for an intersection where a spring-fed creek routinely floods the road. In this case, the result was an inch-thick coating of ice. So the seven of us walked carefully across the ice and continued (we’d see this patch twice, the second crossing being easier as some of the ice had melted during our ride).

The ride was done at a moderate pace, nothing crazy in terms of sprints (though I did take the final county line sprint, wanting to stretch my legs a little). Conversation was plentiful, and we made the most of a short-distance, off-season ride. It was a great first “real” ride of the year.

(Note that, as I restart the workout logs, I’m noting the sport in the post title. This is being done partly to make the Twitter links cleaner, partly to make them a bit more specific for folks who read the blog via RSS – all three of you.)

trip report: harpoon brewery-to-brewery ride (20 june 2009)

Activity: road cycling
Location: Boston, MA > Hinsdale, NH > Windsor, VT (Harpoon Brewery-To-Brewery Ride)
Distance: 148.0 miles (mostly rollers, some big, with one challenging climb from miles 91-94)
Duration: 7:41 (8:20 with stops)
Weather: partly sunny in the early hours, mostly cloudy for the remainder, 67-78 degrees
Climbing: 8,125′
Avg HR: 150 (max 188)
Type: aerobic

We ride north along Spofford Lake

This is the big ride of 2009 (at least according to my current schedule), and it comes far earlier than last year’s big ride out in California. This ride differed in two key respects:

1. It was a longer, point-to-point ride with less climbing; and
2. There was a lot of beer involved at the end.

This ride is sponsored by Harpoon Brewery and is a fundraiser for charities near and dear to them (they are highly involved in helping out in New England). The entry fee is steep, but with it you get a cool jersey, great support (including the Mavic neutral tech support cars and motorbikes), and an end-of-ride BBQ featuring a lot of Harpoon beer.

It’s a fine, fine ride.

The morning started off in Cambridge, where sprite and I were staying with our friends, Sam and Alexis. We had to get up early, as I had intended to start the ride at 7:45am and need to be at the brewery at Boston Harbor by 6:45, at the latest (according to the info packet I had). However, even on a sleepy Saturday morning, traffic doesn’t move slowly through downtown Boston due to poorly-timed traffic lights. On the way, we made a quick pit stop at a Dunkin Donuts in downtown (sprite made the fastest stop for coffee, OJ and a bagel I’ve ever seen) and made it to the brewery by…. 6:50.

Most riders had already embarked on the course, as the slowest riders were sent on their way at 5:45am. I was planning on riding with the 20mph group, but decided that maybe the 19mph group was a better fit, given my high level of fluster heading into the ride. It certainly caught sprite off-guard, as I left at 7:35, about 10 minutes earlier than originally planned. But she was sweet to drop me off at the ride start.

I ended up in a group of 20-or-so riders, most of whom either were members of the Team FuelBelt triathlon club or the Monsters In The Basement cycling club. I ended up slotting in with the Monsters, who were a group with a similar personality to my PPTC “wrecking crew” – it was a good and serendipitous teaming, as they invited me in to their group for the duration of the ride.

The route isn’t overly complex, as it basically stays on five major roads: Massachusetts routes 225 and 119 and New Hampshire routes 63, 12 and 12A. Yes, there are many forks in the road and other, smaller roads used, but over 85 percent of the ride features the aforementioned five routes. The entire cue sheet fits in one column on a single side of standard letter paper – that’s how easy the course is, in terms of linear routing.

And the climbing on the ride is fairly mellow. There are many rollers of various size, and a gradual rise into New Hampshire the account for the ride until mile 90. At this point, in Hinsdale, NH, the ride turns north onto NH63 and a climb called “The Leviathan” by the ride organizers. It’s no slouch of a hill, averaging around 4 percent for its duration, with a few stretches of 7-8 percent before its “summit” at mile 94. After this, the rest of the ride is rolling, including a covered bridge crossing of the Connecticut River a mere four miles from the finish.

I must have prepared well for this ride (indeed, I told sprite the previous weekend that I was ready after riding a really strong-yet-controlled pace for two consecutive 65-mile rides): I ate well and hydrated myself just enough. The bike, my Jamis Eclipse, was in great shape, with new tires and a more aggressive riding position that mirrors the Pedal Force (my usual road bike). And I had a good amount of rest.

And it showed on ride day. I was always in good spirits with a lot of energy in the tank. My first rest stop, at mile 52, was a bit longer than I’d like, but it went well, with a lot of free Clif Shot Blocks available (I stuffed my jersey with the things – they’re tasty). At mile 56, we called the Mavic cycle to aid a cyclist whose loaner wheels (from Mavic) weren’t holding air. And the third stop at mile 89 was unplanned, but one of the Monsters met up with his family at this stop. Stopping near the bottom of a climb is usually tough, but we made this stop quick and got on our way.

The Leviathan was tough, but I set into a spin pace and did just fine with it. Our group would reconnect after big features like this, which was for the best and kept folks’ spirits high. The next official stop at mile 97 featured musette bags with goodies and water, but the way it was setup didn’t allow for a smooth, pro-style hand-up, so we stopped to use the loo and refill bottles.

Monsters near the top

At this point, we were rejoined by the FuelBelt triathetes, which was an interesting experience. First, we ended up with a monster-size paceline of 16 riders. And of that group, only the Monsters and a few of the tri-folk were taking pulls (mostly by choice on our part, as we scoped out the FuelBelt riders and found that most weren’t the best paceline riders). It could have been irksome, but two of the FuelBelt riders took great, strong, steady, long pulls for the group. And they happened to be the only two women in the group – and one of them had never been at the lead of a paceline before. It certainly didn’t show, and we averaged almost 24mph for the 26 mile stretch to the final fuel stop of the ride before Vermont.

At this point, a few of the Monsters were shelled from the crazy effort we’d just made, and we all welcomed the cold sodas and fruit and the salty pretzels at the rest stop. Never before had a Pepsi or Mountain Dew tasted so good! We refueled and stretched, and let the FuelBelt crew ride ahead, as our group wished to stay together. And I admit, I got jumpy as we neared Windsor, and jumped ahead of the group until the covered bridge crossing of the Connecticut River, where I stopped to take a picture of the sign over the bridge. Regrouping in downtown Windsor, we rode together for the remainder of the ride to the brewery.

After 148 miles, the journey was complete! And my legs were ready to ride another 30 miles, at least – as I said earlier, I was prepared!

But the lure of a hot shower, a massage, fresh barbeque and cold beer was too much to pass up. It was a fitting end to the ride, and sprite met me a short while after I finished to give me a ride back to her folks’ place in Connecticut.

It was an awesome day and a superb ride – one that I’d happily do again, though I’d want to bring a few more of my PPTC friends to share in the experience.

(Click on any of the pictures to see my full set from the ride. Click here to see a full album from Will Williams of the Monsters – you’ll see more pics of me riding there.)

Me with the Monsters In The Basement crew

I really need to mention the debt of gratitude I owe the Monsters for their overall support of me. Their club support driver, Ian, provided me with water and soda along the way, treating me as a member of the team the whole day. It was really great, and made the whole day much more special. And to Peter, Will, Philip, Dan, Dave and Todd, a tip of the hat to y’all for being so nice to a stranger from the south. C’mon down to this area for a ride sometime: Mountains of Mistery, Mountain Mama, Civil War Century, you name it!

workout log: 26 april 2009

Activity: road cycling
Location: Marshall, VA > Markham > Paris > Bluemont > Airmont > Marshall
Distance: 55.0 miles (hilly with rolls)
Duration: 3:07
Weather: sunny and hot, 83-90 degrees
Climbing: 4,557′
Avg HR: 155 (max 188)
Type: aerobic

PPTC “Backwards Blue Ridger” ride. After yesterday’s hard ride, I was a bit torched coming into this one. I’d repaired some of the flaws, though: I had a new FSA chainring installed on the bike, and I’d taken my allergy meds (somewhat doubling up, just so I wouldn’t run low during the ride). But I hadn’t properly refueled the night before, and I knew that going in (hydration wasn’t the issue – glycogen stores were).

The ride was fast to the base of Naked Mountain, and I got a good start up the mountain. But Jonathan launched a furious pace up that I couldn’t match without going into the red for a long period of time – a recipe for disaster when the heat is so furious. I realized that I needed to cut down the intensity of the ride to get any benefit from the effort, and I did – most clearly shown in my slow, crawling ascent up Mt. Weather. The rest of the A-class riders dropped me here, which was fine, as I wanted to keep my HR from spiking. I made up a lot of ground on the descent (broke 50 mph for the first time on Mt. Weather Road during the drop onto VA Route 7), and arrived at the Bluemont Store only a few minutes behind the leaders.

After a long rest break (most of us had ridden the Apple Blossom ride on Saturday, and were showing the effects of the heat and effort), we forged on to the rollers leading back to Marshall. I rode strong with the lead group until mile 45, and then had to fight to catch back up with them. Once I did, they kicked it up another notch about 3 miles from the parking lot, and I let them go. T’was better to save the effort for another day.

This weekend of rides was my first all-out shelling of the season: I’d spent my energy and had nothing left to give. I ate a good post-ride meal, drove back to DC, and took a 2 hour nap – rest that was most necessary. I know that I need to rebuild my energy stores for next weekend, when SkyMass and Nokesville beckon (at least these rides are in a more logical order: big hills on Saturday, flatter spinning on Sunday).

workout log: 25 april 2009

Activity: road cycling
Location: Boyce, VA > Rockland > Stephens City > Middletown > White Post > Boyce
Distance: 64.2 miles (rolling)
Duration: 3:21
Weather: sunny and hot, 81-90 degrees
Climbing: 3,000′
Avg HR: 164 (max 190)
Type: aerobic

PPTC “Apple Blossom Bouquet” ride. This was a bit of a hammerfest, and I easily won the first county line sprint, even with some other race horses in the pack. The combination of the heat and the pollen (I’d forgotten to take my allergy meds in the morning) took their toll on many in the group. For me, though, the icing on the cake took place during the second county line sprint: I had the easy break and then POW! My new chain fell off the big ring, mid-sprint. I tried to re-rail it, and it kept coming off. It turns out that I’d bent the chainring! Ouch! I was very lucky not to crash, and I still took second in the sprint while spinning madly in my small ring-small cog combination.

I had to ride in the small ring for a few miles after that, which allowed the rest of the pack to move on at a faster pace. However, thanks to Jason’s inquiry, I managed to straighten the ring using vise grips, thanks to the tools of two amateur truck mechanics (thanks, guys!). Jason and I eventually caught up to the pack, which had been slowed by a field of roofing tacks that punctured one rider’s tire.

After the regroup, we rode out the last 20 miles of the route, though we missed the cues at White Post, which meant that the classic, over-the-hilltop finish sprint was missed and the distance shortened by a few miles. Given the unseasonal heat, not many were fazed by this (save for Jonathan, who had totally planned out his victory move). All-in-all, a good ride, though I was quite spent at the end.

workout log: 18 april 2009

Activity: road cycling
Location: Thurmont, MD > Caledonia Valley, PA > Gettysburg-Liberty Valley, PA > Thurmont
Distance: 90.0 miles (hilly)
Duration: 5:32
Weather: sunny to partly cloudy, 70-79 degrees
Climbing: 6,006′
Avg HR: 149 (max 188)
Type: aerobic

An impromptu ride with Ed and Chris on a new route that Ed scouted out during the winter. This ride had everything: some big hills to start things out, old-growth pine forests, placid mountain lakes, rolling orchards and traverses through Civil War historic sites. I had a good time on the big hills at the beginning, though my long-distance climbing strength isn’t where it was in 2008. We took some long breaks during the ride to take in the scenery. This will be a good club ride during the summer or fall.

workout log: 13 september 2008

Activity: road cycling (racing)
Location: Barnesville, MD
Distance: 37.5 miles
Duration: 1:46
Weather: sunny and muggy, 75-84 degrees
Avg HR: 170 (max 188)
Climbing: 3,800′
Type: aerobic (!)

My first-ever road bike race: the Giro di Coppi.

Yup: in all the years I’ve been riding a bike, I’ve only ever raced on the mountain bike. And that was in the late-1980s and early-1990s when I was still a Utah resident, when a Slingshot bike was about as full-suspension as things got, and Suntour was the alternative to Shimano in drivetrain components.

So seventeen years after my last full-on foray into the land of bicycle racing, I decided to dive into the land of USA Cycling road racing. My friend, Darren, asked me about a month ago whether I’d be interested in racing the Giro, which is the final race in the MABRA Championship series. His team, DCMTB/CityBikes, had an extra entry slot for the race, and he thought that the rolling, hilly course would play to my strengths and improve the team’s chances of doing well. I thought about it for a moment and agreed to race.

Since Darren and his team are primarily a mountain bike squad, they’re all ranked Category 5, which is the beginner’s league in road cycling. As I’m not a licensed racer, not only did I race Cat 5, I had to buy a one-day racing license at the venue (no big deal, though the organizers had to scurry to get a day-license form from officials). Unlike the other teams at the race, our squad didn’t have any rollers or stationary trainers to warm up before our starts. No matter, though, as there was a one mile neutral roll out (from the staging area at Monocacy Elementary School to the course loop in “downtown” Barnesville) to get the legs moving.

And once we hit the course, the pace wasn’t exactly breakneck. In fact, Darren had to tell me to scale back my hill pace (which is fast as-is) to keep from stringing things out too early. So Darren, Matt and I (the entire Team DCMTB/CityBikes squad for the day) stayed close to the front of the pack, keeping an eye on the dynamics of the pack. Other teams had more folks in the mix (especially All-American Bike Club and NCVC), and there were some non-affiliated folk as well. But we were the smoothest riders in the pack: consistent pace, predictable. That’s the thing with Cat 5: you have some folks who should be ranked higher, and some who are definitely still learning the ropes (I was a quick learner, due in no small part to the fact that I ride with a lot of current and lapsed racers).

Our strategy was to attack at the end of lap two, during the last 200 meters of the uphill grind to the start/finish line. I worked my way to the front, with Darren and Matt on my heels, and at the 200 meters-to-go mark, I made my move: a shot up the hill, going from 15 mph to 21 mph quite quickly (I love the Garmin’s ability to record this data). As we crested the hill and rounded the corner into the final 12.5-mile lap, we were joined by two other riders (one from AABC, the other from the University of Maryland team). I’d given a lot in the attack, so I wasn’t as quick to get into the paceline with the others, but I found my pace and legs again by the turn onto Slidell Road. However, my shifting was skipping a bit in the higher gears, which was perplexing. I soldiered on, and our group built a one minute lead on the pack by the last sharp turn of the course, about 3 miles from the finish.

Darren dropped off, leaving four of us to contest the finish. I was feeling really strong, and was preparing for a sprint finish when I heard the sound:

“Pling… ping, ping, ping…..”

And my chain spun freely.

Shit!

I didn’t know what was going on, but I was able to upshift to my 12-tooth cog – my next-to-highest gear in the back. I tried to downshift, but no luck: lots of chain skip. The other three raced ahead, and I was perplexed. The race marshall asked if I wanted to turn back to get the metal piece that had fallen off, but I figured I was going to muscle through to the finish, come what may. So I settled into my 50-12 gear (not good for climbing, but my 34-12 was skipping like mad) and POWERED my way up the final two hills to the finish. I saw the finish sprint happen some 30 seconds ahead of me (my powering did make up a little ground) as I fought up the hill to a 4th place finish.

Not bad for my first try, right?

When I got back to the car, I assessed the damage: I’d sheared off the 13-tooth cog (third-from-highest) from my cassette. Damn! I’d never heard of this happening, but it explains why my shifting was erratic on the last lap: the cog must have been cracked and bent at that point, and my push to the finish sealed the deal in terms of snapping it off.

Whee!

So I sacrificed a cog, cost myself the chance at a top-three finish, but still finished a strong fourth. Not bad for a newbie, right?

ETA: Darren has posted his write-up of the day’s events, as well! T’was fun racing with you, sir!

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